Wednesday, March 26, 2014

On the move! Birds of Phillip Island

It's one of those times of year when movement of migratory birds is imminent. Some of our non-breeding visitors are starting to get colour such as some of these Bar-tailed Godwits below. Numbers of Double-banded plover are increasing as they arrive from New Zealand and I have seen my first sightings of Cattle egret for the year.
Bar-tailed godwits, Observation Point, Phillip Island, 22 March 2014. We can play Spot-the-whimbrel!
Landing gear down! More godwits on the move.

Three of the small group of five whimbrel seen at the weekend.
Caspian terns and Pied oysterctachers
"Godwits at front, Pied oystercatchers at the back please and … Smile!"
Now what do we have here - brown, big and fat among the stints & Double-banded plover?
Why it's one of three Curlew sandpiper getting a little breeding colour
Curlew sandpiper, Observation Point, Phillip Island
Arrived at high tide to a different shaped spit than what I was used to - many Black Swan awaited

iPhone view of the main spit attracting the swans, godwits, oystercatchers and terns
Stints, Double-banded plover and the three Curlew sandpiper found a home on a second "mini spit"  (above and below)

I'm not a cat person - greeted by a neighbour's cat on the loose on return from my walk.
Sharing with Wild Bird Wednesday!

Bird on!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sooties & Hoodies, Kitty Miller Bay, birds of Phillip Island

I've just returned home from a most pleasant Phillip Island weekend culminating in a Kitty Miller Bay sunset. At high tide there were only a few birds on view and in fading light even fewer photographic opportunities.

I have found Kitty Miller reliable for Hooded plover, Pied and Sooty oystercatcher, White-faced heron, cormorants and there is generally a resident Black-shoulder kite hovering somewhere nearby. I can also remember seeing Red-capped and Double banded plover, White-fronted chat, European Goldfinch and Greenfinch.

Sooty oystercatcher
Hooded plover. As I was taking the shot I had the feeling that it was sort of standing in the back yard or even living room of "it's place"
One of three Hoodies present this afternoon at Kitty Miller. I am in inclined to find a little of this banded bird's history 

My focus shifted from the (absence of) bird photography opportunities to the light from the setting sun. Apologies for not being able to exclude a few pictures!

From the car park. Late afternoon light, Kitty Miller Bay, Phillip Island

Looking east from the Kitty Miller Bay headland, the wreck of the Speke can be seen at left
Wreck of the Speke

Pyramid Rock on the horizon, Phillip Island

Looking towards Seal Rocks (just visible on the horizon at left). People would be settling in for a Penguin Parade along the beach on the other side of this headland.
  • Eremaea bird list for Kitty Miller Bay
  • Another enthusiast's field trip to Kitty Miller Bay (not a birder - a rock fossicker! Funny how people find interest and delight in different things at the same place. Fancy obsessing about some particular niche of nature (wink, wink) - how weird are those fault-finding, mud-worrying volcano-pokers? (Just stole all those names from this piece on Geology at Uncyclopedia).

Bird on!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Kelp Gulls & Little Penguins, The Nobbies, Phillip Island

While Australia's endemic Pacific gull is the most common large gull seen around Southern Victoria I read that the Kelp gull Larus dominicanus has been moving in on its territory since the 1940s. Kelp gulls breed on many Southern Hemisphere coasts. In Australia they compete with Pacific gull as they share similar habitat, diet and behaviours (including dropping molluscs from a height to smash them).

It was a long time before I started to recognise that not all the large gulls I was seeing were Pacific gulls. I have since become aware that a particular rock stack at The Nobbies on Phillip Island is a popular site for Kelp gull which actually breed there.

Here are some shots taken on a recent dull Saturday.

Kelp gull, The Nobbies, Phillip Island
Kelp Gull, Legs and bill colour much more insipid than Pacific Gull
I wonder who is studying these guys?
Phillip Island is well-known locally for its Little penguin colony. Man-made nesting boxes seem popular at The Nobbies (both for the penguins and interested humans who watch from boardwalks). I think this must be a moulting phase for many penguins as the kids counted some 32 penguins on our visit.

Little penguin, The Nobbies, Phillip Island
"The Nobbies". On the horizon at far left is Seal Rocks …. 
…home to a colony of Australian Fur seals (you can just make the seals out in the above photo)
A Cape Barren Goose begrudgingly left the road as we drove back (iPhone shot from the car window)
Bird on!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Avian Liquorice All-sorts, Port Fairy

Within 5 minutes and 20 metres of each other were a collection of peculiarly coloured birds at Port Fairy the other weekend. All three were birds I don't often see. Three times I found myself thinking how strangely these birds were "put together".

The always nervous Black-tailed Native hen is mostly drab but has an alarming yellow eye, green and red bill and striking red legs (and it gets it's name from a black tail!?).

Black-tailed native hen - no large groups here but 5-6 birds momentarily in bright sunlight.

A single Pink-eared Duck refused to cooperate but its impressive shovelling bill can be made out on this photo as can it's zebra markings and pink "ear".

Australian Spotted crake was equally noncommittal but also has some garish colourings on bill and leg.

Australian Spotted Crake
All birds were seen at Port Fairy's Russell Clark Reserve which was conveniently located between our digs and the Port Fairy Folk Festival. We walked past daily. The reserve is actually used as a temporary  car park for the festival.

I sat for a while to view and photograph the crake which was on yonder island ….
… the usual local gang of thugs was also present ….
… and came to check me out (iPhone shots now) …..
 ….. which of course attracted the attention of the constabulary. So much for going under cover!
To my left our rented house, my right the music festival, behind me the Southern Ocean, in front of me a wetland!
Alas only one long weekend!
"Reverse charge call". The first time I've seen a Hoodie's nesting area roped off on the "dune" side preventing access to the shore line. The scrape was apparently on a short peninsula. The dune is behind me! We watched the hoodie for a while (sans camera, we were actually at the beach swimming!) and were thrilled to count five Ruddy Turnstones as well.
Returned the next day but found none of the above but a White-faced heron ...
 …. and some other locals. Always impressed at that bill! Long-billed corella.
Between Acts, Stage 1, Sunday Evening, Port Fairy Folk Festival
Decidedly birding theme to this year's festival featuring local gull, "mutton birds" (Short-tailed shearwaters), Hooded Plover and Pied Oystercatcher. Wins my vote! I wonder home many of the 12,000 patrons were as impressed as me!

Experience more at the website Port Fairy Folk Festival Worth a look! Hear some tunes!

Bird (& folk) on!