Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Caspian terns, Phillip Island

These pictures were all taken last weekend while walking along a stretch of beach which extends from Cowes to Observation Point at the northeastern corner of Phillip Island.

This is the closest I have been to a Caspian tern (near Silverleaves, Phillip Island)!
Five things I have learnt about Caspian terns 
  • I believe that their name relates to the region of the Caspian Sea. The name Hydroprogne caspia was given in 1770 by the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas who led expeditions into "The East" visiting the Russian provinces, Ural Mountains and Caspian Sea)
  • Their distribution is widespread, but scattered, occurring in Eurasia, North America, Africa and Australasia
  • They are the world's largest tern with a wingspan of up to a 1 metre
  • They can be quite dispersive. In Victoria we see them a little less in the winter months.
  • Males and females are alike. Non-breeding birds have lighter flecks in that impressive black cap
They are a pretty regular sighting at Rhyll Inlet's Observation Point which I visited at the weekend (ostensibly to see if any migratory waders had arrived).

Looking towards Rhyll from Observation Point
This Caspian tern dwarfs these Red-necked stint while sharing a bath

Observation Point often has good numbers of Pied oystercatcher
Red-necked stint, Red-capped plover and a lone Hoodie (blurred top left) making use of the seaweed
Hooded plovers
I caught up once again with some of my banded friends. I have been photographing the bird at bottom right for some 5 years - What a trooper!

Red-capped plover
Australian White ibis crossing Westernport Bay from French Island
Grey fantail are often seen where the trees meet the beach
On this day Willie visited the beach as well
I have not noticed Willie wagtails with such brown on the wing before. I am wondering if these indicates an immature bird.
A few other beach scenes follow. The return trip had me looking into the setting sun. The clear waters of the bay were lent a metallic sheen and there were ships to be seen.

The container ship Ambrosia
What's that I spy? A tall ship at the Cowes jetty?

Closer inspection reveals the Sydney based Soren Larsen.
You can find out more about the history of this restored tall ship (and star of The Onedin Line BBC television series) here.

Sharing with Wild Bird Wednesday

Bird on!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Birdsong from Doongalla in The Dandenongs

You sort-of "had to be there" but I felt immersed in bush and birdsong at the Doongalla section of the Dandenong Ranges earlier last week. The video doesn't really do it justice (you may turn your speakers up a little ....)

What can you hear?

I do remember the first time I heard a Crimson rosella making its "Honky tonk" call. "What was that?" This was the first time I had been able to watch a bird at close range make the call. I was intrigued that such little bill movement was required for such a resonant piping!

Crimson rosella
Laughing kookaburra perching and stretching a wing. Another flew to the ground having spotted something of interest. 

Australian King-parrot
Eastern yellow robin not far from its nest
Not a great shot of a Red-browed treecreeper but I see these infrequently so this was a good day!

You can read more about the history of the Doongalla homestead here (go to page 3 of this pdf file which is a chapter from a local history written by a Richard Coxhill). The house was destroyed by bushfire in 1932 and the property eventually bought by the State Government. I cannot believe that it once looked like this:

Doongalla Homestead c1910 from Richard Coxhill's "History of the Basin" (photo credited to a Fergus Chandler)
Bird on!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Doongalla hollows and nests

There was a definite Spring feel in the air at a recent visit to the Doongalla section of the Dandenong Ranges National Park this week.

Hollows were being explored by rosellas, lorikeets and tree-creepers.

Surely bigger than you need Crimson Rosella?
Rainbow lorikeet
A White-throated treecreeper disappeared into this hollow with some nesting material
This Eastern Yellow robin visited the nest briefly. Closer inspection revealed no eggs at this stage

More photos and a little video (I was immersed in forested gullies and bird calls) to follow!

Sharing with Wild Bird Wednesday

Bird on!