Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Courting Cuckoos

In April I had the great pleasure of attending the Birds SA Easter camping trip. Our destination was Caroona Creek Conservation Park, a little known park just north of the more popular Red Banks Conservation Park, and north-east of Burra, SA. The park is a mixture of saltbush and chenopod mallee, along with the jutting rock faces of Tourille Gorge.

Caroona Creek Conservation Park

I won't bore you with all the details, but suffice to say it's a stunning place, especially since they'd had good rain in the prior two months to our visit. Bird life was quite abundant, although somewhat patchy as it has a habit of being out in the mallee. After a couple of days of hearing what I believed to be a Black-eared Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx osculans), I finally came across one. Much to my delight, this bird also lead me to a second Black-eared Cuckoo and I felt very privileged to be able to witness and photograph (albeit poorly) what could only be courtship between the two birds.

Given that there is no sexual dimorphism in this species, for the sake of simplicity of this account, I'm going to call the first bird male, and the second bird a female. I have no idea how accurate this assumption on my part is.

The male bird was looking for things to eat, in this case, it turned out to be hairy black caterpillars that he pulled (or attempted to) from the leaves of the mallee trees.

Looking for caterpillars

Attempting to remove a caterpillar

A bit of extra effort required...

After having caught the caterpillar, I had thought that he would have eaten it. This is when he began courting the female bird (which I hadn't yet noticed). He held the caterpillar in his beak, bobbed his head and tail, and made repeated soft calls, which can only be described as a shorter, softer version of the normal advertisement call.

After a bit of effort on the male's part, the female finally approached and he held the caterpillar out to her.

Handing over the meal

There seemed to be a bit of reluctance in giving up his hard won caterpillar

Once he had, I suppose the female thought she got a pretty good deal, and just took off. Seems the male has his work cut out for him in attracting this lady.

It was a pretty exciting experience, especially since it was the first time I'd even seen Black-eared Cuckoos. So to see two engaged in this behaviour was certainly a treat (and explains why I stuffed up so many camera settings).

As a side note, from what I could determine from online resources, the caterpillar appears to be a species of day-flying moth, possibly the Mistletoe Moth (Comocrus behri). Source:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New Experiences

Well a lot has happened since my last post. I spent a week and a half in Victor Harbour in October last year (missed the whales by a week), managed a few lifers while down there, and got to see a few species I hadn't seen in many years. A real treat. I visited the Goolwa barrage and poo ponds, Hindmarsh Island, and for the first time in my life, the Murray Mouth. It was fantastic to see it flowing out to sea with all those waders present. My fiance and I also took a boat ride with Big Duck Boat Tours and had a fantastic time, highly recommended.

 Eastern Reef Egret, Egretta sacra, Encounter Bay, SA

Silver Gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae) savouring a fishy morsel, Encounter Bay, SA

View of the Murray River Mouth

Cape Barren Geese (Cereopsis novaehollandiae) and their friend, a White-fronted Chat on Hindmarsh Island

November saw me camping down near Naracoorte at a friend's property. I was confused by possible Forest Ravens, but was lucky enough to see a pair of endangered Red-tailed Black Cockatoos (about 30 minutes before we left to head home). While down there we also visited Bool Lagoon which is a stunning site. Such an expanse of water and so many birds, Magpie Geese and Australasian Bittern were new birds for me there.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Calyptorhynchus banksii ssp. graptogyne, near Naracoorte, SA

I've had a bit of a slow start to 2014. While out on an owling trip in January with some friends, I managed to roll my ankle jumping out the back of the ute. Despite the injury, I pushed on to get a nice image of a Stubble Quail, first time I had seen the species. We also saw plenty of Barn Owls, a Southern Boobook, Brown Goshawk, Tawny Frogmouth and a couple of Owlet-nightjars.

Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) with a mouse

Male Stubble Quail (Coturnix pectoralis) near Owen, SA.

Barn Owl, Tyto delicatula

The ankle injury left me out of action (except for a couple of outings to a wetland I only just discovered existed which probably made the injury worse). This was also well worth the effort as I managed to finally see Pectoral Sandpiper and Long-toed Stint, along with getting some amazing shots of White-winged Fairy-wrens. I'm hoping to write up a proper entry describing this location at some point, as it's somewhat a part of the Greenfields network I've previously posted about.

Female White-winged Fairy-wren

Pectoral Sandpipers, Calidris melanotos, at Whicker Road (Magazine Creek) Wetlands, SA

Male White-winged Fairy-wren, Malurus leucopterus

Female White-winged Fairy-wren

So after a couple of expeditions, I kept off of my foot as much as possible and only now, 3 months later, am I finally getting out and about again. It's a great feeling to be seeing and photographing birds again. I've been going a bit crazy, but who am I kidding, it was far too hot to be out looking for birds anyway. While I love summer, 45 degrees is not my ideal weather for tramping through the bush.

The past couple of weeks have seen me revisiting my local patches and on a few outings with the Birds SA group where I got to reconnect with a few species that I haven't seen/photographed in some time.

Male Chestnut Quail-thrush (Cinclosoma castanotum) calling, at Swan Reach Conservation Park, SA

Here's hoping for a bird-filled 2014.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Spring Sensations

There's no doubt about it, spring is here. While we've had a bit of a rough start here in Adelaide with some pretty wild weather, it seems that things are finally calming down and the days warming up. The mild weather has meant more chances for birding, and I've really been enjoying getting out and about on a more regular basis. Good weather, also means good photography, and I'm finally pleased to be getting some nice images again too. I had fully intended on writing another blog sooner, but between work, winter weather and wisdom teeth removal, things have been pretty busy.

Fortunately, with our good conditions here in Adelaide and the dry conditions inland, it seems like we're going to have a good influx of seasonal visitors. There's also already plenty of breeding going on, the resident red wattlebirds at my place already have one almost independent young and everywhere I've been I've seen adult birds collecting food for their chicks.

Musk Lorikeet, Glossopsitta concinna, at Cobbler Creek Recreation Park

However, no matter what the season, the birding tends to be what you make of it, and you never see the seasonal visitors and occasional vagrants unless you go out and look for them in the first place. The same goes with resident birds, there's been white-winged fairy wrens at Whites Road Wetlands for a very long time, but I'd never found them before until I asked somebody exactly where to look, then find them I did. That occasion gave me my very first views of a male bird, and though a very large crop of a poor photograph, I feel compelled to share an image.

Male White-winged Fairywren, Malurus leucopterus, at Whites Road Wetlands

A few days prior to visiting Whites Road, I had been up to Pengilly Scrub to check for seasonal visitors. That visit was my first experience of Rufous Songlark, and they absolutely filled the place. It was near impossible to hear any other bird due to the constant calling of them, they drowned everything except the woodswallows out. Because of this experience, I was able to immediately ID a Rufous Songlark at Whites Road from the call. It's strange to come across something you're sure you've never heard before, then all of a sudden it's everywhere.

Kestrel morph Brown Falcon, Falco berigora, at Pengilly Scrub

After seeing a couple of reports of Blue-winged Parrots at Pengilly Scrub, I once again made the trip up in an attempt to see them. I did my research before-hand, double checking the difference between them and Elegant and listened up on the call. After about 45 minutes at the site I heard their distinctive call as I flushed them out of some long grass and managed to get my eyes on one before it landed. Again, the image is terrible, but the birds were very flighty and would never have let me anywhere near them. Then again, photographing birds isn't always about the quality of the image, it's also about the moment.

Blue-winged Parrot, Neophema chrysostoma

The time spent at Pengilly also allowed me some great opportunities to photograph some nesting woodswallows, this pair were particularly obliging and I have included some video from that session with them.

Dusky Woodswallow, Artamus cyanopterus

All that's left to do now, is to keep going back out into the great outdoors at the promise of more birds, more photography, and more fun.

Black Swan, Cygnus atratus, on nest. Greenfields Wetlands (North Magazine rd site)

Friday, June 7, 2013

May Meanderings

While I haven't got a particular story to tell from one exciting outing, I have been out a few times in May (apart from Gluepot) and so I just thought I would share a few of the images that I've captured this month. They're not all spectacular, but we'll say they have character!

First up, this New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) taken from my lounge room window. The light was poor, but they never perch there when the sun's out!

While this is a terrible image of all of the species in it, it's the closest I've ever been to a Freckled Duck! Stictonetta naevosa at Greenfield's Wetlands (Nth Magazine Rd).

Black Swans (Cygnus atratus) at Greenfields Wetlands, seems to be the time of year for them there.

You may find that the remaining images have somewhat of a similar theme to them....

Galah, Eolophus roseicapilla, in the park behind our house. I'd been keeping an eye on the birds feeding on the lawn all day, then finally the sun crept down enough for some good light and I crawled my way around to take some shots.

Just landed, which is why he's all ruffled. 

Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus), caught mid-flap. Really special when you get to capture this in my opinion, it only adds to their beauty.

The same lorikeet, but in sharper focus this time, haha.

Eastern Rosella (Platycercus eximius) male. 

The female of the pair, she was checking out this hollow, though I could have told her it was too large and saved her the trouble. I appreciated her sticking around for some shots though, it's not often I get to photograph these beauties.

Last, but certainly not least (especially with that voicebox), a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. Beautiful birds, when my family lived in Melbourne my bedroom was on the upper floor of a two story. One Sulphy used to perch on the gutter above my window at 6am and screech his head off! 

That's all for now, I hope you've enjoyed the brief insight into my May birding. I'm looking forward to this month, after all we've got a long weekend now and I'm hoping to tick off a couple of easy year birds that I'm missing.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Whirlwind Gluepot Adventures

Recently plans were made to meet up with some Feathers and Photos members for a journey to Brookfield Conservation Park. Much to my delight, some late changes were made to these plans and we (Chris, Rich and I) ended up heading out to Gluepot instead. Gluepot, being the wonderful mallee and spinifex dune habitat that it is, is quite a drive away and so there I was hating myself as I dragged my sleepy body out of bed at 3am to prepare for the journey.

At 4:30am Rich and I arrived at Chris' place and we all jumped into his car for the rest of the drive. There was much talk about what we wished we see over the course of the day. Our first bird for the day was a Laughing Kookaburra as we waited in the dark at Waikerie for the ferry to take us across the river. We arrived at Gluepot just as dawn was breaking and soon after driving through the gates we spotted two emus. We met up with another F&P member who had been camping at Gluepot for the past couple of days, and progressed to our first stop with high hopes of regent parrots, the Grasswren Hide. Here I was treated to not only some great birds, but Rich was kind enough to lend me his 300mm for the day, and I also got to try Peter's 400L for a short time in the hide!

Mulga Parrot (Psephotus varius) pair.

Female Regent Parrot, Polytelis anthopeplus.

The activity at the hide was incredible, mallee ringnecks jostled with mulga parrots and grey currawongs for the best drinking spot. Soon after they were joined by a flock of approximately 15 regent parrots, a life bird for me and a stunning one at that. The noise and activity escalated before most of the birds spooked. We didn't have to wait long however and most of the birds returned, the first flock of regents was replaced by a smaller second flock and we also got to see striped honeyeater and common bronzewing. The lighting was fairly poor with a bit of cloud, but the experience was just magic.

Grey Currawong (Strepera versicolor), clearly top-dog at the bath

Male Regent Parrot, Polytelis anthopeplus

Striped Honeyeater, Plectorhyncha lanceolata. A striking bird, even with it's monochromatic feathers.

Some opportunistic hunting around the hide found some white-browed treecreepers, no decent photos, but great to see. Our next task proved near impossible. We pulled over at a spot that is renowned for red-lored whistler and striated grasswren. After much time walking and searching, and more walking and fruitless searching, we finally found a wren. It ended up being a variegated, but we did find a striated grasswren a short time later. I managed to get my very first feeble glimpses, but it was enough. We did find two whistlers, but they were both female goldens, there was much disbelief!

For lunch we planned a drive to old Gluepot, here we decided we could look for the reported major mitchell's and eat lunch in the hide, a brief side-stop on the way in a little active patch of mallee found us quite a few species for the day list including jacky winter and white-fronted and white-eared honeyeater. We arrived at old Gluepot in separate cars, three of us first in the one found a flock of 8 major mitchell's. We were all thrilled and started our approach for some better photos. Unfortunately, Peter who was driving to join us flushed a flock of white-winged choughs whose alarm calls flushed the major mitchell's! The first thing Peter did on arrival was ask us if we'd seen any majors...! Nobody was thrilled.

Major Mitchell's Cockatoos, Lophochroa leadbeateri.

The hide at old Gluepot was a haven for the honeyeaters, spiny-cheeked, brown-headed and red wattlebird flitted here and there and bickered about this and that while we ate lunch. A fruitless search was conducted afterwards in the direction the major mitchell's fled to, though we glimpsed a wedge-tailed eagle overhead and Chris found a stunning owlet-nightjar. Just as we planned to move on from old Gluepot we all heard a single unmistakeable call of a major mitchell. We all hurried in the direction, there was much more fruitless searching.

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Acanthagenys rufogularis.

Giving up on the majors we headed back towards the Grasswren hide. We stopped along the way when a chestnut quail-thrush dashed across the road in front of the car. We ended up sighting two but we couldn't get them to cooperate for photos. Meanwhile, a southern scrub-robin was having a bit of fun with us as we were stalking the quail-thrush. We ended up spending quite some time trying to get the little fellow to cooperate, but I think he outsmarted us nearly every time.

Southern Scrub-robin (Drymodes brunneopygia) finally caught in the open!

The final stop was some searching around the grasswren hide, we came across a nice little patch where we tried to get a red-capped robin to perch on an attractive looking branch. Ten minutes later, he had landed on everything but the branch we intended. Still, we ended up setting ourselves up near a perch he was using and came away with some shots from there instead. As it was getting near dark, we returned to the homestead and walked to the dam hoping to see some nightjars hawking for insects. The night was too cool but I did get to see my very first splendid fairy wren (a female of course) and the dam was abundant with bronzewings on dusk (and a nasty feral cat).

Male Red-capped Robin, Petroica goodenovi.

Overall, it was a productive day and we netted 45 species, 3 of which were new for me and I brought my year list up by approx 20 species! Besides seeing the birds though, it was simply great to get out with like-minded people and enjoy the day seeing, photographing and discussing birds with them. So thanks to them for a great day. :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Greenfields Wetlands

After struggling to find detailed information on these wetlands, I've taken a bit of time to explore them a little so that I could share some information about them. Thanks is owed to Tony for his original information which enabled me to find the northern Magazine rd site in the first place.

Greenfields Wetlands are a series of man-made wetlands which were created in three stages in 1990, 1993 and 1995 and consist of three main sites (two of which I've visited recently).

The Watershed site: Google map with marker 
-Accessible directly from Salisbury Highway in both directions, the entrance and parking area is as for the Watershed Cafe.
-To the extent of my knowledge, the Watershed trails are accessible only during opening hours of the Watershed Cafe from which a key must be obtained for the gate. Although this information is second-hand to me from some time ago, I will update this blog when I find out.

Magazine road South: Google map with marker 
-Not accessible from Salisbury Highway, the turnoff for these wetlands is off of Cormack road. The wetland entrance is at the end of Magazine rd where there is an open gate in the fence.
-The walking trails consist of one main trail which forks at the pumping station (or at the grey fenced in box, whatever it may be).
-The fork to the right crosses Salisbury highway (though I've never taken it that far) and joins the northern section of Barker Inlet Wetlands. See here: Barker Inlet Wetlands brochure (While connected to Barker Inlet Wetlands, Magazine road South is still known as part of Greenfields, at the very least for the purpose of eremaea listing, as I checked with them regarding this issue as I wasn't 100% sure)
-The fork to the left can cross the wetland on a rocky divide, this may be seasonally underwater and may restrict access to the further reaches of the wetland at some times of the year.

Mud map with parking area (P) and walking trails (green and yellow)

-I'm unsure as to how much further the green trail continues as when I visited I didn't take it all the way, parts of the track further up seemed quite overgrown, but it may have just been overdue for a tidy-up.
-Views to the water at this site can be somewhat obstructed at times, but there are also plenty of easy viewing points.

Magazine road North: Google map with marker 
-Accessible directly from Salisbury highway in both directions (at the blue marker on the map), this wetland is visible directly from the road. The parking area and walking trail is located two hundred meters or so up the road (from the blue marker) on the right hand side next to a gate for the salt works.
-This location has a bird hide along the main path (keep to the left/straight), the sun sets behind it so the best time to visit the hide is from the afternoon onward. Views to the water are largely unobstructed on both of the trails.
-This area of wetlands is fantastic for waders and other water birds due to the varying depths and sizes of ponds, and the expanse of mud flats that gradually become exposed over summer.

Mud map of parking area (P), bird hide (H) and walking trails (green and yellow) at Magazine road North

-I'm unsure as to how far the walking trail extends beyond the hide as I have not yet continued past the hide.
-Looking out from the northeast corner of the yellow trail is an expanse of samphire flats, and is the best area to look for White-fronted Chats.

I hope this has been even the tiniest bit helpful to anybody who wants to visit these locations. I felt it was important to share as there have been many occasions when I've been seeking Information on birding sites and it isn't accessible, easy to find, or even written about at all! So if this helps even just one person, I will be happy.