Sunday, May 26, 2013

Several Photographic Firsts for Me

Over the last few weeks I have been going with a friend to do most of my bird watching. We have done a few trips at night to look for owls and we have had a few trips during the day to get decent photos of a few scrub birds that we have been chasing.

About 2 weeks ago I noticed the Varied Sittellas had returned to my property. I have never seen them here at this time of year before. Usually they are present here just before the wet season starts and usually only stay for a few weeks. There must have been 30 or more. I rang my friend who has never seen them to come over. We both got some good photos of them, considering their size and location in the trees.

Varied Sittella

Another Varied Sittella

The Varied Sittellas are usually found in this type of tree

After photographing the Sittellas for a while we went for a quick walk around the property. We didn't get far and it started raining. Before we left to go back to the house I got this quick photo of a Brown Honeyeater.

Brown Honeyeater

We decided to go for a drive towards Pomona. As we were driving into town this Pied Butcherbird was seen on the power lines. A terrible photo but the best I could get in the late and overcast conditions in a hurry. It's funny, I see certain birds like this and don't bother taking a photo generally as they are so common. I'm going to start taking photos of these common birds too.

Pied Butcherbird

We headed towards some of the creeks and tributaries that feed into Six Mile Creek just out of Pomona as we knew there were Brown Thornbills and other small scrub birds. We both wanted to get a good photo of the Brown Thornbill. The sun came back out, but it was getting quite late to get good photos. Before we saw the Brown Thornbills we saw some Brown Gerygones. I was pleased with this sighting as it was only the second time I had seen them and the first time I had photographed them. They came quite close and we got a few good snaps. The Brown Thornbills came out in large numbers but it was too dark to get any decent shots.

Brown Gerygone

Another Brown Gerygone

The same Brown Gerygone from above

Another photo of the same Brown Gerygone

A few nights later I went back out around my property to have a look around for the Masked Owl I had heard a week or so prior with my friend. I didn't find the Masked Owl but I did hear it clearly again, and it was quite close. I did find a Barn Owl just near the shed and a few other birds like Purple Swamphens, King Quail, Plumed Whistling-Ducks, Laughing Kookaburras and Pacific Black Ducks.

Barn Owl

Laughing Kookaburras roosting at the top of a big gum tree

Unfortunately the Collared Sparrowhawk has been harassing my aviary birds again. As soon as you go outside he takes flight and stays at least 60 meters away at all times. This photo is poor quality but good enough to identify it.

Collared Sparrowhawk
Last weekend another friend and I went out to look around Kandanga. We didn't actually go out looking for birds but we did see and hear heaps of birds. Just as we were about to leave I noticed the camera in the back of the car and a few seconds later a Fan-tailed Cuckoo called out in the tree above us. Within minutes we could hear and see about 6 of them moving around in the trees. I have seen them before but this is the first time I have photographed them also.

Fan-tailed Cuckoo
Last weekend my friend and I went back to the same spot to get a good shot of the Brown Thornbills. We saw a few Brown Gerygones again but the Brown Thornbills were in fairly large numbers. We left it a bit late again so the lighting wasn't as good as we had hoped.

Brown Gerygone

Brown Thornbill

A pair of Brown Thornbills displaying

This weekend I went back to the creeks and tributaries that feed into Six Mile Creek to get some good shots of the Brown Thornbills. This time it was mid morning so I had plenty of good light available. I saw a few Brown Gerygones again but the Brown Thornbills are very aggressive towards them, and as soon as they came out from the foliage they were chased off by the Brown Thornbills.

Brown Thornbill

The same Brown Thornbill

Another Brown Thornbill

The same Brown Thornbill from above

Brown Thornbill

While I was watching the scrub birds all around me, a Willie Wagtail came in and landed close by. It was enjoying the warm sun. It must have felt unthreatened by me and within a minute it decided to sun itself for a few minutes before taking flight to catch more of the plentiful insects that were flying around.
Willie Wagtail

Willie Wagtail sunning itself

The next visitors to make their way to me were several Fan-tailed Cuckoos. They were taking advantage of all the caterpillars in the trees. As soon as I moved to get a closer shot they flew deeper into the scrub, but before they flew off I managed to get a few decent shots.

Fan-tailed Cuckoo having a caterpillar for breakfast

Another Fan-tailed Cuckoo with the same type of caterpillar

Fan-tailed Cuckoo roosting in the tree

Fan-tailed Cuckoo

Another Fan-tailed Cuckoo roosting in the tree

Willie Wagtail looking for insects

After a while the Brown Thornbills seemed to move away from the area where I was sitting. As a result the Brown Gerygones moved into the area. They too were feeding on the bounty of caterpillars in the trees.

Brown Gerygone feeding on a caterpillar

The Brown Gerygone after eating his meal

Brown Gerygone

Another Brown Gerygone

When I got back home I had a quick look around before I had to leave again. Heaps of birds were out today. There were dozens of Grey Fantails and Eastern Yellow Robins, many Striated Pardalotes, White-browed Scrub-wrens, Red-browed Finches and many others.

Grey Fantail

Red-browed Finch

Eastern Yellow Robin

Eastern Yellow Robin looking for insects

Eastern Yellow Robin

Another Eastern Yellow Robin

A few friends and I have made a few trips in the last few weeks to a private property just outside of Pomona. On the first night we didn't see much and just before we were about to leave a small bird flew close to our head. We heard it call not long later and it was a Owlet Nightjar. Within minutes we heard about 4 calling out. We only saw one in the torch beam but before we could get a photo it had flown off. That night we did hear a Masked Owl calling out too, but it was a long way off.

The following trip we heard numerous Owlet Nightjars. They stretched the entire property. At one time we could hear 6 calling out. It may have been the same birds following us along the whole property or they may have been much more numerous. We saw them dart out just above our heads several times but were unable to get a photo. Finally we heard one calling, then it flew and we heard it land in a tree nearby. We were lucky enough to be able to get a few very quick photos before it flew off again. They are very difficult to photograph at night as they don't like the torch shining on them at all and they seem to be able to throw their voice quite a distance which makes them hard to pinpoint.

Once we finally got a photo we were very excited as it is the first time we've seen them, other than flying and it is the first time I have photographed them. Just as exciting was the fact we heard the Masked Owl again, a little closer than last time and we heard the very distinctive Powerful Owl calling out. I couldn't believe my ears. My friend was sure to. It sounded like it was a long way from us though, which is highly possible as their call can be heard from over 1km away. We heard it call several more times over the next hour or so, each time getting closer to our position. We will definitely be back to see if we can get some better photos of the Owlet Nightjar and to hopefully locate and photograph the Powerful Owl and Masked Owl. Unfortunately the scrub on this property is very dense and hard to move through and we don't have access to it on a regular basis. Hopefully my friends can organise for me to get to the property again in the near future.

Owlet Nightjar

Owlet Nightjar again
More updates and pics coming soon.

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Birding at Night Around the Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Over the last few weeks a few friends and myself have been going out regularly looking for owls and other night birds. This was triggered by two things. Firstly, one of my friends saw a Southern Boobook Owl sitting on her fence. She managed to get an amazing photo of it too! Then a few nights later she was walking not far from her house and she come across a Barn Owl. Secondly I have just purchased a good quality flash unit. A Nikon Speedlite SB-910. Now I have the tools to be able to get the photos at night.

We have been focussing in a few main areas where we have sighted the Barn Owls regularly. This is on the way to Imbil, on the outskirts of Pomona and Cooran. The Barn Owls have been sighted in these places each time we have gone out looking. On the outskirts of Cooran there are 5 or so individuals within a 1km stretch of road.

I have always been intrigued by owls but had never seen any in this area. Not surprising though as I have never really looked for them as I never had the equipment to be able to get good shots at night.

The first night I went looking with my friends we only saw the one Barn Owl. It was right beside us but unfortunately it flew off onto a dead tree about 60 meters away before any shots were taken. I was pleased with this photo considering the distance at night!!

The first Barn Owl located

A few nights later we saw a few individuals and this one was in a much better place to photograph. The photos below and the one above were taken on the outskirts of Pomona.

A Barn Owl from our second expedition

The same Barn Owl from our second expedition

Another Barn Owl from our second expedition

A different angle of the Barn Owl above

A few night later I went out towards Imbil. I saw another two Barn Owls that night also, close to the side of the road.

A Barn Owl heading towards Imbil

The second Barn Owl heading towards Imbil

Barn Owl heading towards Imbil

The following night my mate and I went out for another look towards Imbil again and out towards Cooran. I was pleased to locate a few frogmouths and owls. The next three photos of the frogmouths I am unsure about. I think they could be Marbled Frogmouths due to the colouring of the eye and feathers, they have the longer bristles above the beak, the beak is shorter and the most distinguishing feature between the two is the graduated tail, which this bird definitely has. I know Tawny Frogmouths can be more brown in colour too, especially the females. The main thing that makes me unsure is the length of the tail. The tail for a Marbled Frogmouth should be longer and they usually come to a point. Also they were just outside a section of rainforest, which is only very small. If anyone could verify these photos for me would be greatly appreciated. As they are more likely to be Tawny Frogmouths I will label them as such.

Tawny Frogmouth
Tawny Frogmouth
Tawny Frogmouth
A few minutes after locating the frogmouth above I located a definite Tawny Frogmouth perched in a tree. This photo is not as clear as he was at least 35 meters from me.

Tawny Frogmouth

On the outskirts of Cooran five or more individual Barn Owls were spotted within a 1 km stretch. A couple of them did show well. I could get within a few meters of a couple of the birds. The whole time you could hear them calling back and forth to each other. They have an interesting call that is easily identified.

A Barn Owl on the outskirts of Cooran

A Barn Owl  perched on one leg

Close up of a Barn Owl's head

A Barn Owl on the outskirts of Cooran

The last few nights I have had a look around hoping to see a Southern Boobook or a Masked Owl. I have seen heaps of Barn Owls in all the same locations but none of the others as yet. Last night one of my mates joined me in looking for about three hours. We heard two Masked Owls flying through my property. We attempted to follow the call but once they had landed they stopped calling before we could locate them. It was a definite call as it can be distinguished from the other owls relatively easily.

On my property there were at least 10 to 15 Southern Boobooks calling out most nights during the Summer months. I haven't heard them for at least two months. I am unsure of why they have stopped calling though as they are meant to stay within their range. I will keep on looking anyway for the time being as I know they were common here not long ago and now I have heard the Masked Owl on the property I will hopefully get to photograph it in the near future.

One of the Barn Owls from the last trip
More updates and pics coming soon.

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