Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Colour! Lorikeets and gum flowers

They're still at it ...

Six weeks ago I posted some pictures of Rainbow lorikeets feasting on a flowering Silver princess gum in our front yard. That post heralded the start of winter flowering period of this tree. Looking back at the shots I can see that they were taken with some late afternoon sunshine.

Well there is precious little winter sunshine in Melbourne these days. Instead we have the expected dull cloudy skies, wind and daily showers.

Every now and then we have some higher cloud and the camera comes out ...

Got the itch?
Putting things back in place after a good scratch.
Flowers hang, so feeding is upside down!

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Bird on!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Suburban White-necked heron

Over the last 18 months White-necked heron seem to be popping up more frequently in southern Victoria. I went several years prior to this without seeing one at all.

They are even appearing in in the suburbs. This one was spotted at a man-made chain of ponds fed by freeway run-off alongside Heatherdale Creek in Ringwood (Melbourne, Victoria - see geotag).

White-necked heron Ardea pacifica in non-breeding plumage. There is a little of the plum colouring that would indicate a breeding bird but the absence of colour on the breast and line of spots down the front of the neck tell otherwise.
White-necked heron beside the Eastlink bike trail, Ringwood

A very "suburban" view!

In my earlier years I remember this bird going by the name Pacific heron which somehow seems a better name! Some sightings data ....
2001 and 2004 look to be the best years in recent times for White-necked heron in Victoria (screen grab from data). The data also suggests that the spring months September - November are the most likely.
And a few other birds photographed this day ...

New Holland honeyeater
Eurasian coot
Pacific black duck
Bird on!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cattle egret

The bird that has attracted my interest this week is the Cattle egret (Ardea ibis on the Australian fauna list, Bubulcus ibis everywhere else!). The interest arose after a highway sighting of a good sized group near Grantville in southern Victoria. I had seen them in the same spot two weeks earlier so was braced to slow from 100kmh, make use of a couple of U-turn lanes to get back to the spot for some roadside photos.

Cattle egret - today's pictures have them at the treacherous end of the cows!
From a Victorian's perspective Cattle egret are a little novel. Their presence is somewhat seasonal appearing mostly in winter and not in the numbers seen up north. They are a relatively recent arrival in Australia (about 1950 I think I have read) and as many would be aware the global range of this species has increased dramatically over the last 100 years.

I am yet to witness breeding plumage in Victoria but I have seen others' photos of birds in Victoria with much colour.

I counted around 90 birds in this paddock which is far more than I have seen before.

Sharing with Wild Bird Wednesday

Bird on!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Urban Ecosystems (or "It's time to clean the gutters!")

Only a few weeks ago I was cleaning out the roof guttering at my parents' place when I came across a sizeable chunk of bone 4 metres up. I assumed a scavenging bird must have raided someone's rubbish.

Last week I saw this Little raven Corvus mellori on my roof. It had just found this morsel. I don't think it was found in the gutter (it looks like a piece of sausage) but there does appear to be a sustainable ecosystem happening there! It's time to get the ladder out!

I hate that job!

I am reminded of a day I heard the unusual calling of Wood duck close at hand. The drawn out nasal repeated "gnow" is about as unlike "quack" as you could possibly get! Not having any of their favoured habitat close at hand (they like grazing on grassed areas close to water and trees) I wandered out of the house to find a pair on the roof!

Wood duck Chenonetta jubata
Bird on!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Kimberley Reserve, Chirnside Park

This reserve is on the urban fringe of eastern Melbourne. It is probably most recognised locally as the home of the local footy and cricket clubs with two ovals at its southern end. A chain of man-made ponds extends northwards fed by storm water drainage. The reserve has a crushed gravel walking trail along both sides of the wetlands. This is well utilised by walkers with dogs - a good 50% of which were off-lead during my visit (despite signage making it clear that this was prohibited).

The eremaea list impressed me so I was bound to be disappointed of course! However nice views of this White-plumed honeyeater as well as sightings of Hardhead lifted the spirits (which weren't really all that low given it was a spankingly sunny winter's afternoon!).

It's good to see Australasian grebe getting their colour back making them easier to differentiate from their Hoary-headed counterparts!

Kings in Grass Castles
I was intrigued by these clumps of reeds. Are they planted that way or are they growing naturally. The Purple swamphen loved them
Hardhead and Grey teal

Purple swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
Little pied cormorant
Large block residential living in Chirnside Park - where the suburbs are taking over the paddocks
Each pond had a low wall and covered drain
Urban fringe - Google Maps satellite image of Kimberley Reserve

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Bird on!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Winter breeders active at the Island

It was charming to see several families of Cape Barren Geese parading at several Phillip Island locations the other day. Each family consisted of parent birds and three chicks.

When I last saw this particular bird a month ago it was nesting (image). She also had a brief go at me (image)!

A second Cape Barren goose family at Fishers Wetland
Phillip Island Cemetery (there were at least 20 swamp wallaby) 

Masked lapwing are also ground-nesters. The "nest" reference is made loosely as they appear to lay their eggs just about anywhere! This pair of chicks were seen at Silverleaves, Phillip Island.

Masked lapwing, Phillip Island, 4 August 2013 
Both Cape Barren Geese and Masked lapwing are no strangers to defending against threats. This was evident at the weekend:

Distant view of a trio of Masked Lapwing providing feedback to a Swamp harrier
Cape Barren Goose, Fishers Wetland, Phillip Island

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Bird on!

Monday, August 5, 2013

There for the "ticking"! Red-browed finch

I'm sure many birders wonder about birds they've unwittingly walked past or under without realising. It must happen every day. We do rely on movement or noise.

I had just turned away from photographing a New Holland Honeyeater to spot a group of a dozen or so finch feeding on the grass within metres of me. A couple of birds obligingly perched briefly then returned to the fray.

I turned from photographing this New Holland honeyeater and encountered these finch

The striking thing was that after this introduction they disappeared but without flying away. Whatever interested them was deep enough in the grass root and stem system to require a little grass "burrowing". I was about 5 metres from the birds but couldn't get a clear view of them!
The birds are here at the bottom left of the picture but can't be seen!
From a distance the grass did not appear long. This is a parkland adjacent to a freeway and transmission lines. There is a bike trail with a steady flow of cyclists. The scene made me ponder just how often I might walk, jog or cycle past an unseen something I would happily stop for!
I spent some 20 minutes waiting for some individual shots!

Red-browed finch

What's Mick got?
Bird on!