Sunday, January 20, 2013

Back to the Lockyer Valley (Part 1)

While I still have some time before I go back to work I decided to go back for a follow up visit to the Lockyer Valley. I was hoping to find a few of the species that I didn't see a few weeks ago, that have been recorded in the area of late. I won't include a list of all the birds that were seen as this would take much too long. The species are the same as the last trip (Refer to Older Post) plus a few others.

This time we left at a more reasonable hour to arrive at our first destination: The University of Queensland, Gatton Campus around 8:00 a.m. Just before we arrived at Lake Galletly, a bird calling out caught my attention. I pulled over and saw several Brown Honeyeaters but I knew the call was from a different bird. After looking through the trees for a few minutes I found the bird I was after. It was a Yellow-rumped Thornbill. There were several in the tree. This was the first definite sighting I have made of these birds. Unfortunately the photo isn't the best.

Brown Honeyeater

Yellow-rumped Thornbill
Once we arrived at Lake Galletly we went straight to the bird hide. I was shocked by the quantity of birds that were here today. Unfortunately none of the species I didn't get to see last time were here again. I was happy with the photos I took though. I have seen over one hundred Royal Spoonbills and thousands of Intermediate Egrets before but I have never seen either with visible breeding plumage, even though I have seen them during breeding season. I was very pleased to get both of these birds today with their breeding plumage. Not long after I took the photos the birds moved from where they were roosting to feed and you couldn't tell that they had their breeding plumage. It only shows when the are relaxed, sunning themselves or preening. The big difference from this trip to Lake Galletly from the last one was the quantity of Magpie Geese. It was one of the biggest flocks I have seen and definitely the biggest gaggle (more accurate name for a flock of geese) I have seen close to the east coast of Australia. There would have been well over one thousand, and this Lake isn't that large!

It was great to see some Purple Swamphen hatchlings running around the bank plus I saw the baby Australasian Grebe that I photographed on the back of the mother in the older post from the Lockyer Valley. Due to the position of the hide, afternoons would definitely be better to take photos as the light at times was blinding off the water and it made taking the photos a little more challenging.

A Purple Swamphen with 2 very active hatchlings

Update of the Australasian Grebe and the baby: hasn't the baby grown in 3 weeks!

One of the 3 gaggles of Magpie Geese on the lake

A Magpie Goose posing for the camera

Another gaggle of Magpie Geese plus a few other species around them

A pair of Grey Teal on the island in the middle of the lake

A pair of Hardheads and a camera shy Eurasian Coot

Some of the Magpie Geese in flight

A small flock of Plumed Whistling-Ducks were also seen

Intermediate Egret in breeding plumage

A White-faced Heron enjoying the company of the Royal Spoonbill

Royal Spoonbill in breeding plumage

The Black-fronted Dotterels are surprisingly well camouflaged on the rocks 
The Cattle Egrets were still there also. Last time I was here the eggs had just recently hatched. Now the chicks are moving around the trees. Unfortunately many dead babies were seen beneath the trees, but this was minimal compared to the quantity of young that was still alive. If the babies fall from the tree the parents will not feed them any more. Sometimes the babies can climb back up the tree but if they are unable to get themselves back into the tree near the nest they will die of dehydration or starvation. While we were there we placed about 10 chicks back into the trees. I know we shouldn't intervene but it's hard to walk past knowing they will die a slow and painful death for nothing.

One of the many Cattle Egrets in breeding plumage

One of the many nests of chicks (3 to 4 weeks old)

A pair of Pink-eared Ducks with some Grey Teal

A Red-kneed Dotterel wading on the edge of the lake

A small flock of Black-winged Stilts
The next stop was Lake Clarendon. Last time I was in the Lockyer Valley I didn't go here as I was told it is usually pretty quiet for waterbirds. I was glad that we did stop in, as I sighted and photographed my first Glossy Ibis and I got to see some Cotton Pygmy-Geese with goslings. There were lots of species here too. There were a few dozen Black Swans, heaps of Australasian Grebes, Darters, Little Pied Cormorants and a few other species that were seen at Lake Galletly.

A pair of Black Swans taking to the air (Would have to be the longest run-up before take off I have seen)

Glossy Ibis

Female Cotton Pygmy-Goose with her goslings

The male Cotton Pygmy-Goose wasn't far behind

Glossy Ibis in flight

Two Glossy Ibis fighting (This went on for over 10 minutes)

An Australasian Grebe taking to the air (Grebes usually only take to the air at night to travel)
The next stop was Seven Mile Lagoon. Last time we were in the area we ran out of time to have a good look, and to be honest we couldn't really find how to get down to the lagoon from the road without going through people's properties. This time we parked the car and walked down beside the drains that carry the water into the lagoon. The birds were abundant here with a good variety of species too! The main species were Pink-eared Ducks and Australian Wood Ducks. Pink-eared Ducks are not that common in the area but are sighted regularly in smaller numbers if conditions are right. Obviously the conditions are pretty good at the moment as there were more than 400 of them. The picture below is just a small part of the flock that was in the air, plus many more were in the water too! There was even more Australian Wood Ducks than that, probably double the quantity.

A small part of the flock of Pink-eared Ducks

Straw-necked Ibis

The Pink-eared Ducks coming in for landing

Some of the Pink-eared Ducks on the lagoon

A small flock of Glossy Ibis that were seen

 Whistling Kite

One of the many Whistling Kites that were eating a carcass close to the bank

This lines the edge of the lagoon which is probably the main food source for the Pink-eared Ducks
Not long before we left a bird flew out from beneath some of the sedge in the paddocks beside the lagoon. It would have to be one of the more bizarre flights I have seen. This bird hovered in flight and went up, then it lowered itself before rising up again, and this repeated multiple times. It was like it was in slow motion. It flew, if you want to call it that, about 50 meters away and landed at the base of some more sedge. While it was flying it was also making a strange call. The bird call it reminded me most of was a Chiming Wedgebill, even though it was quite different from this call.
I was very keen to find out what this bird was as I knew I had never seen or heard a bird like this before. As I approached the sedge where it landed it flew off again, as it had moved out about 10 meters from where it landed. It repeated the same strange flying pattern and call. I managed to get a photo of it flying but it is one of the worst photos I have taken. This has been zoomed in and cropped to actually see the shape of the bird. I am very keen to find out what this bird may be as I have looked through books and listened to bird calls of all the birds it could be and none match this bird. If anyone can help me identify this bird please post a comment. As a result I think I will have to go back to see if I can find it again and obtain a decent photo.

A picture of the unknown bird
After leaving Seven Mile Lagoon we dropped in at Atkinson Dam. Very few birds were present here today. One pair of Australian Wood Ducks with some ducklings and one pair of Cotton Pygmy-Geese. Other than that a few Purple Swamphens and Eurasian Coots were seen near the bridge crossing. I was shocked by the small number of birds in such a large area, especially when I know it regularly has many species in good numbers.

A pair of Australian Wood Ducks with their ducklings
The following day I went out birding on my property. I was attempting to get a better photo of the Spectacled Monarchs. I did see them but they wouldn't come out from the dense foliage today. While I was looking for them in the tree tops another bird caught my attention. I saw it had some black and white on it. I assumed it was a Varied Triller as they are found on the property. Much to my surprise it ended up being a White-eared Monarch!!!! Firstly these birds are found over quite a large area but are uncommon throughout most of their range. In some places within their range they are considered to be endangered, like around the Sunshine Coast. On top of this they are only meant to be found in rainforests and mangroves. I have a very small strip of rainforest on my property that follows one of the creeks. It's barely rainforest to be honest but it has some characteristics of sub-tropical rainforest. I found this bird in this area and he gave me quite a show. He came down and was very inquisitive of me and the call I was making. He showed very well for about 15 minutes before I left him be. They have so much personality. This would have to be one of my new favourite birds. They have a lot of personality, an interesting call and I love the little crest!! A very cute bird all round.

White-eared Monarch
More updates and pics each fortnight.

If you're interested in my blog check out my site below by clicking on the link.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Trip to Bundaberg

During the last week I went to Bundaberg to see my folks. I always love going up there to visit them on their property at South Kolan. Usually there are lots of varieties of birds on the property. Some of which are similar to the species here but there are many different species as well.

Before I left I had a quick walk to the dam as I could hear the wrens calling out. I noticed several male Red-backed Fairy-wrens with a few females. Walking back to the car I saw about six Peaceful Doves in the tree beside me. They are a regular on the property but it's not common for them to stay perched when you approach them.

Male Red-backed Fairy-wren
Peaceful Dove
Just after I left home I got some diesel from the Matilda service station at Kybong. After I finished pumping I saw a Restless Flycatcher sitting on the shrub beside the pump. It was about two meters off the ground in the open and about 3 meters from me. I quickly got the camera out but by then it was gone! An opportunity missed to get a perfect photograph. I decided to have a look at the ponds behind the service station where I could hear it calling out. Much to my surprise there were lots of birds in the camping area there.

There were Purple Swamphens, Dusky Moorhens, Pacific Black Ducks, Restless Flycatchers, Willie Wagtails, Grey Fantails, Australasian Figbirds, Grey Shrike-thrushes, White-breasted Woodswallows, Grey-crowned Babblers, Cattle Egrets, Intermediate Egrets plus many other really common birds for the area.

Grey Shrike-thrush

A Grey-crowned Babbler having some breakfast

A White-breasted Woodswallow cleaning itself after eating

An Australasian Figbird catching some morning sun

Male Restless Flycatcher

Pacific Black Duck
After spending most of the day at my parents property I decided to go visit a friend at Bargara. Before I went to his house I dropped in at the creek and tidal area towards Windermere Road. This area can be hit and miss for birding. Only a few birds were seen this time. Often there are several species of waders in the tidal zone.

Female Rainbow Bee-eater

Australian White Ibis

The next day I went out birding back on my parents farm and very few birds were seen. Both Mum and Dad said that recently the birds seemed to have declined in numbers. Possibly due to the dry weather. All that was seen were a few hundred Brown Honeyeaters. I was shocked by the amount of these that were around. I have never seen them in such large numbers anywhere. Usually on the farm you may only see a dozen or so on a trip around the property.

The following morning I went out early to see if I could have some better luck. I was pleased to see a few other species but still only in low numbers, except for the Brown Honeyeaters again. There were Bar-shouldered Doves, Peaceful Doves, Common Koels, Pheasant Coucals, Rufous Whistlers, White-browed Scrubwrens, White-throated Honeyeaters, Channel-billed Cuckoos, Red-backed Fairy-wrens, Silvereyes, Chestnut-breasted Mannikins, Double-barred Finches plus a few others.

Rufous Whistler

One of the many Brown Honeyeaters

White-throated Honeyeater

White-browed Scrubwren
After birding at my parents I went for a drive towards Moore Park. Not long after getting out the car I heard and saw two birds flying just above the tree tops. I got my camera to take a photo but it was too late. I am certain that they were Double-eyed Fig Parrots! I saw a few Little Lorikeets earlier but they sounded slightly different. I have seen the other two races of Double-eyed Fig Parrots in north Queensland so I am aware of their call. Maybe they were Little Lorikeets also but I know in my mind what they were. As a result of this sighting I drove to one of the Cluster Figs that I knew of in the area. The tree had no sign of the Double-eyed Fig Parrots, surprise, surprise and there was no sign that any birds have been eating the figs. I continued to Moore Park where I knew there was quite a large number of fig trees. These are all Sandpaper Figs and Moreten Bay Figs though. Again no sign of any Double-eyed Fig Parrots and no sign of any of the figs being chewed. Maybe I was mistaken but I know next time I'm in the area I will be more aware.

Pair of Black-shouldered Kites on a Cluster Fig Tree

Some of the figs on one of the Cluster Figs
On the way home I stopped in briefly at the rest area on the north side of Gympie. A few species were present.

Royal Spoonbill

Magpie Geese

Dusky Moorhen
After arriving back home I spotted these two sitting in the trees near the house. The camera was in my hand so I couldn't resist taking a few shots and it was a good chance to practice my low light photography as well.

Lewin's Honeyeater

Grey Fantail
This last photo is a very special photo. This is Borris. I have to admit that this photo isn't actually mine. It was taken last week by one of my students I taught last year. The photographer's name is Kruze McDonald and he is only 5 years old. Last year I use to show a photo to the class and talk about the picture. Most of the photos were of animals, in particular birds but also of landmarks around Australia, different environments and trees. The idea of this was to settle the students but also to make them more aware of Australian wildlife and Australia in general. This definitely influenced the students as I noticed their appreciation and knowledge of animals and the Australian environment grow throughout the year.

Keep up the great work Kruze!

Borris the Torresian Crow
More updates and pics each fortnight.

If you're interested in my blog check out my site below by clicking on the link.