Monday, January 20, 2014

Red-capped plovers nesting, Observation Point, Phillip Island

These teensy little fellows are found throughout Australia. Measuring in at 14-16cm the Red-capped plover is the smallest shore bird I see. It is my understanding that they are at the end of their breeding season for Victoria. I have certainly noticed many distraction displays over recent months. On this day I walked right into a nesting site on my walk towards Phillip Island's Observation Point.

Red-capped plover Caharadrius ruficapillus

Pizzey describes the nest as a scrape in the "sand, shingle or bare ground; scantily lined with shells, stones, plants". This nest then, must be some sort of mansion!

With the bright sunlight affecting the screen, I didn't check this iPhone photo which is bizarrely totally out of focus. I have still included it as it shows the clever location of this nest.
Red-capped plover eggs - hopefully not hard-boiled after Victoria's recent heat wave.
The usual summer collection of birds at the end of the spit.
Bar-tailed godwit 
Crested tern and Pacific gull
Crested tern
The "red-billed" birds seem to be sticking together - Pied oystercatchers and Caspian Tern
It was Race 6 at Rhyll Inlet when this group ran along the mudflats to join a bird that was calling loudly

I missed out on Hooded plover, Eastern curlew, Whimbrel and recently seen Fairy Tern but I'll be back!

 Bird on!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Another Phillip Island cormorant, Swan Lake

There are five species of Cormorant in Australia and all can be readily seen at Phillip Island. Yesterday's post focussed on the Black-faced cormorant and featured a photo of an old jetty which was being used by three cormorant species. The detour to the jetty was actually a drop-in visit on our way to Swan Lake. No sooner had we reached the first of Swan Lake's two bird hides when a fourth cormorant species was noted.

Little black cormorant, Swan Lake, Phillip Island
Other highlights included seeing a good number of duck species. After many years of not seeing Freckled duck there continues to be a group readily seen from the northern bird hide.

Freckled duck, Chestnut teal with Black swan, Swan Lake, Phillip Island
Australian wood-duck, Chestnut teal & what I suspect are a two female Hardheads
What a hotchpotch of species on what must be prime real estate!
Two Yellow-billed spoonbills and a Royal spoonbill (at left)
Yellow-billed spoonbill demonstrating some breeding plumage
A distant but unmistakable silhouette of a Musk duck in profile
For mid summer it's a pleasure to see a good amount of water in the lake and so many different species (34) readily viewed from the well-placed hides.

Bird on!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Black-faced - a handsome cormorant, Birds of Phillip Island

'Traveled with Richard and nephew Moses to Cat Bay at the weekend which is reportedly a haunt for Black-faced cormorant. Unlike the other cormorants we see in Australia this fellow sticks to the coast and offshore islands of southern Australia. As a result, it is a cormorant that one has to go and look for rather than encounter incidentally. Having said that it is my experience that they are extremely sedentary - returning to a previous black-faced haunt is generally successful.

Black-faced cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscescens
This particular haunt is Flynn's Beach at Phillip Island's Cat Bay. It is easy to see the remains of an old jetty looking NE from the Cat Bay car park and on it there are often cormorants. I understand the jetty was built to unload passengers visiting a Phillip Island resort lodge in the days before the large bridge at San Remo. Guests would stay at the lodge and be taken to see the nightly arrival of a colony of Little penguin Eudyptula minor. This event is now promoted internationally as the famed Penguin Parade.

With binoculars check from the car park for the presence of cormorants and then enjoy the beach walk. The old jetty pylons may be approached from the Cat Bay or Flynn's Beach car parks. There is also an unmarked management track that leads from the main road opposite the Penguin Parade buildings. This is hard to find but leads straight to the pylons.

Black-faced cormorant, Flynn's Beach, Phillip Island

One of those iphone panorama shots (markedly exaggerating the curve of the bay)
Seven Black-faced cormorants - also a Great cormorant (top right) and a Little pied cormorant (middle right)

Comparison view Black-faced and Great cormorant
Little pied coromorant
On this occasion we did approach from the dune lending this initial view of the scene:

The birds were quite relaxed with our presence, only the Great cormorant flew off. I have found another reliable place for Black-faced cormorant is the Port Fairy's Moyne River rocky breakwater. Again the bird tolerated very close inspection:

Black-faced cormorant, Port Fairy
Perhaps not so endearing close-up but generally the striking pied look with brilliant white and no other colour makes for a generally handsome cormorant ("no other colour" except for that piercing green-blue eye)!

Also likeable 'cos they enjoy a good laugh!
Sharing with Wild Bird Wednesday

Bird on!