Notes to readers of this Blog


NOTES TO READERS OF THIS BLOG

Thank you for dropping by to check out my blog. You will see a lot of other Blogs about birds I follow down the left hand side. I strongly encourage you to check some of these out as well, they are entertaining and I love to see birds from all over the world, I hope you do too.
Cheers,
Richard

Monday, 1 February 2016

Spotlighting Buttonquails and backyard bird visitors

Buttonquails are annoying birds in the wild. Or so I thought. During the day you can almost step on them, then they flush and fly only 10 or so metres away and then scurry off along the ground, well away from where you saw them land. I have had this experience on many occasions. The only way to tell what you just saw and I.D. them is if they call after landing. Last week I saw and heard Red-chested Buttonquail. After discussions with a friend, we decided to head out spotlighting over the weekend. There is a stark difference in their behaviour from day to night.

Although we didn't manage to see the Red-chested, we did stumble across a number of Little Buttonquail. They might fly when flushed, but not 10 metres, normally under 5 metres, and easy to follow with a torch. Then they just sat in that spot. A very different night time experience, allowing for (finally) some photos of Little Buttonquails in the wild.

Little Buttonquail



After the excitement of the spotlighting, I was in for a few more treats over the weekend. After many overhead noisy flights, one male Cockatiel decided to check out mybackyard. It was hard not to notice he was there, constantly calling. I love these birds, strikingly patterned on their faces.

Cockatiel


Next was a Black-faced Cuckooshrike. There have been a small family of these flying around the neighborhood and occasionally they sit in the large gum, normally up high, but this one came in for a closer look.

Black-faced Cuckooshrike

While the Cuckooshrike and Cockatiel were hanging around, I had a third visitor, although this one was up high in the gum. I watched as the Pied Butcherbird listened and then found the cicada. All the White-plumed Honeyeaters were sounding tempered alarm calls, but I was thinking, "if you get rid of a few cicadas from the tree mate, go right ahead". The cicadas have been very noisy. The butcherbird managed to get rid of this one.

Pied Butcherbird 


Friday, 29 January 2016

The rain has been and the birds have followed - back in familiar territory

After a long time neck-craning, it is nice to be back in the smaller trees and familiar territory of the Northern Territory. It was interesting to go from the straw-coloured grasses of the last part of SA to the lush green in the NT from the border all the way up to Alice springs. Alas the Poo Ponds are closed, so the unusual waders like a Ruff will probably be missed, but the budgies are back, Crimson Chats everywhere, and another lifer for the year, Red-chested Buttonquail. They are slippery little buggers, but identifiable by their "Oooom" call. They almost wait until you step on them, then fly off and quickly run along the ground away from where they land. As yet, no photos, but hopefully in the coming days/weeks.

Some birds are much more photogenic and co-operative.

Here are a few since I arrived back in Alice.

Painted Finches



Crimson Chats


Brown Falcon

Pied Honeyeaters


White-winged Triller

Spinifexbird

Grey-crowned Babbler

Australian Ringneck

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Gluepot Reserve trip report and photos

Having driven past the turnoff to Gluepot numerous times, this year I had the chance to finally visit. I wondered as I drove up the track from Taylorville Station what exactly I was expecting. After seeing so many beautiful photos of birds I hadn't seen, I suppose I was expecting quite a lot. Malleefowl wandering around, large flocks of Scarlet-chested Parrots, Mallee Emu-wrens hopping about the camping areas, Striated Grasswrens sitting atop the spinifex grasses.

The first nice surprise was the road into Gluepot. I don't know if it is always as nice to drive, but there was a very comfortable, non bone-jarring track all the way to the Visitors Centre. The first sign I saw said something about a walking track that was 10 kms long. In the heat of summer I thought to myself I probably would give that one a miss. Stopping in to register and pay for my stay (a very paltry amount), I was struck by the ease of finding information in the Visitors Centre. No-one around, but fantastic displays and resources, both free and for sale. I was a little sad to see the polo shirts weren't in my size, but I can always order them online.

I looked to see where everyone else was camping. Ummm... there was no-one else there. Amazingly, aside from the Rangers, I had two complete days to myself to explore this amazing conservation reserve. For whatever reason, I chose the Grasswren Campsite. With map in hand I headed off, full of the grasswrens hopping around near the campsite. Didn't quite turn out that way, but the camping area was better than I had expected, fairly open, well treed, well maintained and a dunny. I found my campsite, number 19, that had a table and chairs and set up the swag and unloaded all the things I'd need over the coming days and nights - cooking gear, torches, solar shower etc.

Sitting down having a munch on some food, I wanted to soak in the atmosphere. I was here. Gluepot! But there was something missing. It was a stinker of a day, but the lack of birdsong was a bit of a worry. Still checking for the Malleefowl wandering around on the ground and the Scarlet-chested Parrot flocks I was sure I'd see, I decided to wander around the camping area. The first thing I saw was a rather large Sand Goanna. Glad I'd picked the campsite I had because it was under the only other site with a table and chairs. Oh well, so long as it kept to its site, I'd keep to mine and we'd both be happy. It was a good reminder to ensure no food was left out and no scraps left after meals.

I decided leaving everything out was probably ok so long as it was inside locked boxes. My first stroll was onto the other side of the road from the campsite and immediately started hearing a lot more birds - Babblers, Weebills, Grey Butcherbirds, White-fronted Honeyeaters, Striated Pardalotes .... mmm ... not really Malleefowl or Mallee Emu-wrens. Back to camp and through to the other side. Even less noise here, and I quickly realised I could actually lose track of where the campsite was. Still steamy and hot, not the best thought and I hadn't brought my water bottle. Lesson number 2. Always take water, no matter how short the walk is likely to be.

After a rather pleasant but a tad disappointing couple of short strolls, I decided it was time to check out the bird hides. There were water tanks and water feeders at each hide. Surely there would be more bird action here. And there was. Maybe I had expected too much, but the expectations became much more realistic with this first experience at the Hide. Mulga Parrots provided the first of many wonderful photo opportunities, but they had to share their water with a few others. The main bird species by far at almost all of the hide water troughs was the Yellow-plumed Honeyeater. Sometimes up to 30 of these honeyeaters would be flitting around the troughs. Late in the afternoon I decided to return to camp, have some dinner and return to the Hide closer to dark. This was a good plan as I had a Little Eagle fly through and then perch just beyond the water trough in a tree. At this range (about 10 metres) Little Eagles don't look so little, and the talons look extremely large. Soon after the Little Eagle flew off (alas it didn't have a drink and give even closer views), the Common Bronzewings started to appear - first one then five then over a dozen. The light was fading and I tried to get better shots changing the settings on the camera, until in the end I just enjoyed the show.

Back to camp, a quick shower, and then download the photos for the day.

The next morning I woke up early, the Owlet Nightjars that had started the evening before had returned for their roosting trees during the day. Although I only saw an outline of one in the fading light the night before, both early evenings and early mornings I was at Gluepot was a cacophony of Owlet Nightjar calls. Off to the Grasswren Trak, surely I would see some grasswrens there!

Well, no. Gluepot when I was there was becoming a little frustrating. None of the "common" birds I was hoping to see, and lots of the same birds. White-winged Choughs, Grey Currawongs, Rufous Whistlers, but really, nothing of the "new" species. Until the last part of the Grasswren Trak. I now knew the walk had taken longer than I had expected, and I was on the service road returning towards the Grasswren Hide, when I heard a new call. Finally! Now what was it that I'd checked before I'd left the car? Thankfully this particular bird was very accommodating, and just in case I hadn't seen it properly, came over to the roadside and perched in a tree, calling loudly. A Striped Honeyeater. Yay! A lifer, maybe not the one I was expecting, but it was nice to see one. I managed some fairly decent shots before it flew off toward the Hide area. I had run out of water and decided that was a good place to head to, and back to the car. I could see the Hide in the distance and was basically starting to think about what I was going to do next when two large birds alighted from a bush only a few metres in front of me. I was delighted when the two Southern Boobooks perched only 15 metres from the road in clear view. A great photo opportunity taken gladly. My spirits perked up and I continued on back to the car. Consulting the map I worked out my route for the day, basically going from Hide to Hide. The rest of the day was spent at Hides or on long walks. Despite seeing quite a few different species, nothing new turned up for me that day. The list was growing but I was starting to feel a little disappointed that I hadn't even seen some of the very common birds for the area that I had never seen.

The last morning at Gluepot was again an early start and a quick trip to the Grasswren Hide. Nothing new, but I had read a bit more on some of the flyers I had taken from the Visitors Centre about potential sites for different birds. The Grasswrens were supposed to have been seen on top of a spinifex covered red sandhill on my way out of the Reserve so I stopped the car and headed into the scrub. I probably was hopeful but not expecting to see much. I made it to the marker on the sandhill and despite looking and listening heard absolutely nothing nearby. I turned around and started to walk back to the car when I noticed two birds hopping around under a bush. when someone named the "Shy Heathwren", I think they forgot to tell these two about the "shy" part. One of them almost took a peck at something next to my shoe!. They moved quick and in shadows, and even though the photos I managed weren't spectacular, I had at least seen one of the "common" birds at Gluepot.

I think the time of year I was there was probably not the best time for seeing the species I was really looking for. I can't fault the setup, and the chances for wonderful photos is the best I have come across. The camping sites were as good as you could expect and the Visitors Centre has a lot of wonderful information. I'd recommend anyone not from around the area to call in and spend a few days. It was a worthwhile trip, and I'll be back.

Here are a selection of photos.

White-fronted Honeyeater



Mulga Parrot



Southern Boobook



Striped Honeyeater


Varied Sittella

White-browed Babbler


White-browed Treecreeper

Brown-headed Honeyeater

Chestnut-rumped Thornbill

Common Bronzewing

Grey Butcherbird

Little Eagle





Shy Heathwren

Woodswallows

Yellow-plumed Honeyeater


Murray Sunset National Park to Lake Cullullinane

After the excitement of Hattah Kulkyne, I set off for Murray Sunset National Park. Although this was in my original plans, I had intended to enter via the south end of the Park, but, as I drove up the highway I saw a sign and headed to the North-eastern corner instead.

I had only just entered the Park boundaries when I saw a small flock of medium sized birds fly off from what turned out to be a puddle. I decided it was worth checking out what these birds were. I was surprised and happy to see Banded Lapwings through the binos, so sat and waited in the car, in the heat, with the flies, until they started walking back towards the puddle. 5 of them, and whether it was my mind playing tricks on me or the heat of the day haze, they looked bigger than the ones I had seen in the NT previously. It was a nice tick to get started for the Park.

Murray Sunset is another potential place to see the Malleefowl. There are some really good displays showing what the nest looks like and what sort of terrain I should be looking for. Alas, no Malleefowl again, but I couldn't help but see the Bluebonnets. There were small groups everywhere which eventually turned into a larger group. They were tricky to get decent photos of so I ended up going at about 10 km/h and taking photos on the move, just to try to capture how many were in the group and the scenery I was driving past. I wouldn't recommend this as a photographing method, but the result was ok.

Bluebonnets

Banded Lapwing

I had thought I would camp here for the night, but the flies were pretty horrendous during the day, so I was figuring with another 5-6 hours of daylight, I may as well keep going and keep away from the flies.

I continued up to Mildura, stopping in at the Kings Billabong Bird Hide, not one of the most exciting birding experiences, and it was a hot 5 km walk out to the hide and back. About the most exciting thing I took photos of was a large skink/lizard at the Hide itself.


There was also a close encounter with a very large Grey Kangaroo, who watched me closely as I walked towards its family, but I had also seen then and ensured they moved on before I got too close, but he kept a watchful eye on me and continued to bound parallel with me until they were gone.

Kangaroo

There were a few birds around, here are a couple. Peaceful Dove followed by Varied Sittella.



It was back on the road again, the intention to get to Renmark if possible, but I ended up staying at Lake Cullillinane. On the way I came across a small family of emus, one of my all time favourite birds, and couldn't resist stopping on the side of the Sturt Highway to take a few shots.

Emu



Finally pulled into Lake Cullullinane for the night. It had been a big day. I was at first delighted to see the Little Corellas hanging around in largish numbers. I was soon to realise there were more than I thought and they would be here for the night to keep me company. I did enjoy this scene below, where they were acting like Cormorants on a fallen tree in the lake.

Little Corellas