Friday, October 25, 2013

Bird Week Day 7 - Woolamai hoodies

This pair of Hooded plovers is another that I have found myself visiting semi-regularly. I pass them on the beach section of the Cape Woolamai walking trail. They endure considerable traffic living on Woolamai's well-known surf beach (my visits aside)! It is my impression that breeding seasons for these guys are not as successful compared with the "Silverleaves" pair (see My Hoodie Hero!).

Hooded plover, Cape Woolamai, September 2013
I love how this angle of view returns the bird to an egg shape! 

My scene

Well it's the last day of Bird Week 2013. Go and vote for Australia's Favourite Bird. I'll leave the final word to John Clarke!

Bird on!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bird Week Day 6 - The Problem with Corvids

I feel that there has been some renewed interest in correct corvid identification in Australia. Sean Dooley's well-written article The Trouble with Ravens in a March 2012 edition of Birdlife Australia's magazine recounted the evolution of his own assumptions with differentiating (in his case) between Australian and Little ravens (as a school kid I might add!).

Sean describes how some of the features that the field guides have us rely on to "assist" with corvid identification are really not that clear cut and that some regions do not have the mix of corvids that we thought might have existed.

As we become more experienced bird watchers there does develop a greater sense of being able to recognise "something different" from what we are used to seeing. It appears that with corvids this skill is not so useful. For me, a Melbournite, I have had to adjust to not immediately thinking "Australian raven!" when a "crow" looks a bit larger than usual or appears to have prominent throat hackle feathers or has a particularly long trailing call. I am now more aware that in the parts of Victoria I most frequent the prominent raven is said to be Little raven Corvus mellori.

Just look at those hackle feathers! Silverleaves Beach, Phillip Island, 2 January 2011
As a result I find that I am now generally leaving corvids off my lists altogether unless the bird has all the identifying features of the dominant corvid species of the region. If there is any doubt the record will be "unidentified corvid".

Correctly some moderators of Eremaea Birds are going through older lists and asking birders to review their corvid identification. This has prompted me to review my old Phillip Island lists that feature Australian ravens. This is because Little raven are considered common there and Australian raven unlikely to occur.

Now I don't usually photograph corvids. As Sean Dooley mentions "ravens and crows often feel like background noise". But there was one day in early January 2011 when I was drawn to observe a trio of ravens while walking along the beach east of Silverleaves on the northern most part of Phillip Island (see location geotag, I have been quite particular). The birds were perched on a prominent bare branch of a dying Coastal banksia. I can't recall the call but there was something different about these birds and I found myself gathering a case for them to be Australian raven. I remember thinking they "seemed" big and the throat shackles were bearding very nicely.

Little, Australian or Forest raven?
I see that field guides also record Forest raven Corvus tasmanicus as sometimes being present in southern Victoria. I have never identified these birds so cannot really assess whether the bill is "massive" enough, the hackles are typical or whether the tail is pointing downwards enough.

Any suggestions?

Is that tail pointing downwards in a Forest raven fashion?
I trust my birding instincts enough to believe that I don't really think I was watching Little ravens on this day.

However I suspect I will be adjusting my list to un-tick Australian raven and record ....

Unidentified corvid
Bird on!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bird Week Day 5 - A Peregrine & Pardalote Day, Phillip Island birds

"Peregrine" and "Pardalote"- two gorgeous sounding words that also just happen to be associated with the most wonderful of creatures!

Falco peregrinus arises from the Latin per and agri - literally "from abroad" or subsequently "wandering". I gather the northern hemisphere peregrines are inclined to migrate. I had jumped out of the car recently at Oswin Roberts Sanctuary (Phillip Island) and had one of those great car park moments when you know the birds are "on"! Looking up I saw the silhouette of a falcon purposefully gliding across the small arc of sky I had vision of. 'Grabbed the camera and managed one shot:

Peregrine falcon flying over Oswin Roberts Sanctuary
My impression is that the name "Pardalote" is a name known only to birders or those that have had a close experience with these beautifully marked birds. I  gather that Pardalotus refers to being "spotted" and arises from Greek origins. Although I could hear many Spotted pardalote on this day at Oswin Roberts (I am inclined to think of it as Ozzie Bob's) it was the Striated pardalote that was providing most photo opportunities:

Striated pardalote checking out tree-hollow nesting options, September 2013
The next three photos were taken within a minute or two of each other when passing through a small-bird hot spot!
Brown thornbill, Oswin Roberts Sanctuary
White-browed scrub wren, Oswin Roberts Sanctuary
Superb fairy-wren, Oswin Roberts Sanctuary
Oswin Roberts Sanctuary is also good for honeyeaters (in addition to those shown Wattlebirds, White-eared honeyeaters are also common) ...

Still struggling for a decent photo of White-naped honeyeater I'm afraid
New Holland honeyeater
Yellow-faced honeyeater
I generally don't leave Ozzie Bobs without seeing an Eastern Yellow Robin at some stage
Dusky woodswallow numbers are seasonal - they are starting to increase again now that Spring is here
Fan-tailed cuckoo 
Grey currawong
iPhone shot of the park's eastern boundary and adjacent farmland where Swamp harriers and Whistling kite are often seen.
Whistling kite
Even by Ozzie Bob standards this was a pretty productive morning!

Sharing with Wild Bird Wednesday

Bird on!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bird Week Day 4 - Oh my, Woolamai! Birds of Phillip Island

White-fronted chat, Cape Woolamai
A few pictures today from another rewarding early morning walk to Cape Woolamai. When the weather is right it is a place worth getting up early for! It appears that there is always something to different of the feathered kind to see and the views are exceptional!

Good-sized meal for a Chat methinks!
Australasian pipit perched on some Cape Woolamai pink granite
Australian magpie chases down a Brown falcon to provide some feedback

These shots were taken within two seconds. When checking my pictures later the magpie appears to end up with something in it's bill that is not there in the first two shots. I am assuming that the falcon is now short a couple of feathers!

A contemplative Australian magpie. I remembered later that Collingwood had just been knocked out of the AFL finals. 
We surprised each other. One shot and this White-faced heron was off!
On the day of my walk in late September 2013 I took a few snippets of video:

The trail starts from the Woolamai surf beach car park and follows the beach until the cliffs commence. Hooded plover are commonly seen along this stretch (but that's another story). Steps take you to the top of the cliffs and shortly thereafter the trail splits into a circuit. Of late I have tended to take the "western" arm as this follows the ocean enabling me to keep an eye out for distant albatross. Sometimes I return this way as well. The views are spectacular. Taking the other arm will certainly add to your Woolamai day list as it passes through heathland (Superb fairy-wren, cisticola) and a good stand of banksia which is full of honeyeaters (wattlebirds and New Holland Honeyeater dominate).

Throughout the cape there is the opportunity to see raptors (Swamp harrier, Peregrine falcon, Nankeen kestrel, Black-shouldered kite and White-bellied sea eagle).

If the weather is unpleasant (either too warm or too wet and windy) do not take a young family - this is an 8km round trip!

Before your walk you may like to read the Phillip Island Nature Park's Nature Notes for Cape Woolamai.

The kids trudging, January 2011

Early morning view from the beach
I had forewarning of this burn but was relieved to find no evidence of it!
Up on the high ground
Much higher up now looking back towards the beach that was the starting point. Much rain has created fresh water pools on top of the headland.
The destination!
Bird on!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bird Week Day 3 - Rufous whistler showtime, birding Phillip Island

Rufous whistler (AM - as in all images on this post), Silverleaves, Phillip Island (October 2013)
I am learning that this is the time of year for Rufous whistlers to become particularly active and garrulous. Most of the year I am accustomed to views in the canopy such as this:

In late Spring they are much more noticeable and seem to spend a lot more time in the lower branches.

These are not great shots but I did really enjoy watching this fellow go through his see-sawing dance routine at eye-level.

I will try to find out whether they are semi-migratory or whether the late Spring sighting peak at Phillip Island is due entirely to the beautiful clatter they make (the graph below represents frequency of Rufous whistler sightings at Phillip Island over the last 20 years):

Screen grab from Eremaea web site
The following photos were also taken at Silverleaves but in November 2012. I don't for the life of me know why I haven't posted them before (but I feel they deserve the Blogger image "X-large" option!).

Bird on!