Monday, June 29, 2009

Black-shouldered Kite

Driving back and forth to Whyalla as I do, I cover many thousands of kilometers every year, and it is inevitable that a number of birds fall foul of this. A couple of months ago I sadly hit a Black-shouldered Kite, one of a pair that was hunting low over the verge. It was a glancing blow, and I hoped that the bird managed to survive the impact without serious injury. This week, at about the same spot, I again saw a pair of Kites. Hopefully it was the same pair. As it was a nice evening and the light was still reasonable, I did a quick U-turn and tried a couple of shots. When I first came to Australia five years ago it seemed that these lovely birds were everywhere, but over the past couple of years they appear to be declining. These shots were mainly taken in 2005, the first was digiscoped with my Kowa 823 and Nikon 995 combo.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Talking about the weather

For the last few weeks there have been some lovely cloud formations here in the evenings, but I have not had my camera with me!! On Tuesday, the clouds were particularly stunning, and I also finaly remembered that I have a camera on my mobile phone! So apologies for the quality of the first photo. I am now carrying my compact camera with me to and from work so hope not to miss any future oportunities. This got me thinking on some of the multitude of weather types we are lucky to enjoy here in South Australia. In the summer it is regularly over 40 C (104 F) and in the north can get close to 50 C (122 F) and that is in the shade!! When the wind is coming from the north, we are prone to dust storms, and on the way back from Whyalla I frequently see "dust devils" (this one is as I am approaching Port Augusta). Spring and autumn usually bring a few showers and with them the rainbows!! This one has a faint secondary bow above the main one. We don't get thick fog very often as it is just not humid enough, but we do get some early morning mist. This shot was taken a few kilometers from home along highway one heading north towards Port Wakefield.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mid-Winter at Kaurna

This morning we had the lowest temperature in Adelaide so far this winter, a chilly 5 C (41 F). By 9:30 it had climbed to 10 C (50 F) and a beautiful sunny morning, so Maryann and I decided to walk around Kaurna Wetlands Park.
We walked the perimeter and saw 27 species in the 2 km (1.25 Mile) walk.
I live at the southern end off the park, and here it comprises small pools and channels surrounded by sparse eucalypt woodland. The northern end is flooded at the moment and holds a few waterbirds including Pacific Black Ducks, Grey Teal and Australasian Little Grebe (a first for me at the wetlands) and has many Welcome swallows hawking over it surface.
On the walk. I spotted a Musk Lorikeet high in a flowering eucalypt, and as Maryann was watching, a Rainbow Lorikeet flew in and perched in full view. This beautifully colourful bird is extremely common across southern and eastern coastal areas of Australia.
The path verges and any open areas of grass (and my back yard!!) are covered in soursob (Oxalis per-caprae) an invasive weed originating from South Africa.
Amongst the common birds seen were another two firsts for my park list, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Spotted Pardalote.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mallee Birds

In my last post I mentioned some of the other birds I heard and saw while photographing the Mallee Emu-wren at Hattah-Kulkyne National Park. The habitat there is Mallee which is characterised by smallish multi-trunked eucalypts usually growing to less than 6m (20ft) with an understory of scrub and/or spinifex. This habitat is prone to bush fires, and indeed many plant species require a bush fire to promote regeneration. I have birded fairly regularly in mallee in both Victoria and South Australia. My favourite areas are Brookfield Conservation Park and the Birds Australia Reserve at Gluepot both in the Riverland in South Australia. And so to the birds: Firstly a male and female Chestnut Quail-thrush.
Southern Scrub-robin and Striped Honeyeater
Mallee Ringneck and a female Mulga Parrot
And finally, a couple of real special birds. Malleefowl and the endangered Red-lored Whistler
One of these photos is a "cheat", taken in captivity at Cleland Wildlife Park in the Adelaide Hills........any idea which?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mallee Emu-wren

A recent post on SteveB's blog Shooting my universe triggered a lovely memory of my attempts to see and photograph the Mallee Emu-wren (Stipiturus mallee) in Victoria, Australia in 2006. There are a few birds that really capture the imagination of a birder. For me it has always been the large and the small. I have a fascination with the Heron family (more of that some time in the future) and pelicans, and also with tiny birds. It started, as a novice birder in the UK, with Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits, wondering at how these tiny birds manage to migrate 1000's of Km each Spring and Autumn. In Australia, whilst most birds migrate much less here, there are a number of tiny birds that look almost to fragile to fly. One of these is the Mallee Emu-wren. This tiny bird weighs in at a maximum of 6.5g (less than 0.25oz) and is highly endangered due to habitat loss. It is close to extinction in South Australia and just clinging to survival in Victoria. Follow this link to go to the federal Department of the Environment web page for this species. As I read more about this bird I knew that it was going to be number one on my wanted list. I spoke to a few birders and it became clear the the best chance was at Hattah-Kulkyne National Park in Victoria. So one weekend in early 2006 I decided on a day trip (almost 400Km - 250 Miles each way) to see and photograph this bird. Well, I spent three hours in breezy conditions, getting spiked by the spinifex and never even had a sniff of the bird!!. A few months later, another opportunity came for me to visit the area for a day. This time I had researched more carefully and was armed with half a dozen GPS co-ordinates from a 2 year old breeding and population survey. It was going to be a doddle!! At the last site (not actually in the national park) just as I was giving up, I heard and finally glimpsed the bird. And that was it!! despite searching until dark, nothing!! Then in September 2006, I decided that a weekend trip was the way to go. So I packed up my trusty Subaru Forester, and headed East. I concentrated on the same site that I had seen them before, and again had a few tantalising glimpses just before dusk. So one pre-dawn spring Sunday morning, I was sitting hidden in a bush waiting.........and waiting. As the sun came up, so the birds began singing. Southern Scrub-robin........Chestnut Quail-thrush.......both good birds, but not THE bird. Then I heard the tiny call I was waiting for. Slowly the birds approached and I began shooting.............

This shot has been my most successful photograph to date, being used by Birdlife International for the worldwide launch their Red Data book for 2008.

What a magical moment...............

Monday, June 8, 2009

Gulf St. Vincent

Today is the Queen's Birthday public holiday in Australia, so I got to go birding again!! As one of Adelaide's best birdwatching sites, the St. Kilda saltfields, is currently closed to birdwatchers, I decided to go birding around the same local area. I covered the area from St. Kilda to Port Gawler along the coastal plain just North of adelaide on Gulf St Vincent. Most of the area inland of the coast is agricultural land, predominantly cropped for food. Again, there is a lot of water around, and this spreads the birds out. Paradoxically, a roadside pool that I know which usually has water (and therefore birds) in the height of summer was dry!! This section of coast is mainly mangroves though we have none of the mangrove speciality birds seen in other parts of Australia.

Behind the mangroves is an area of tidal Samphire flats that hold another South Australian endemic the rosinae race of Slender-billed Thornbill There were plenty of herons around, with White-faced Heron and Great Egret in equal numbers.

Cormorants were also well represented. This one, with it's vivid green eye, is Little Black cormorant.

The most common parrot today was Red-rumped, a delightful grass parrot. Of course, Magpies were everywhere.

As were Silver gulls.

As I was making my way home from Port Gawler, the road was being swamped by the incoming tide which was moving at a great rate of knots!!

Winter in the Adelaide Hills

Yesterday I took a drive into the Adelaide Hills. The hills have a great range of deciduous trees, and I was told that this year the colours have been fantastic. Unfortunately I left it a couple of weeks too late so did not get to see the trees at their best. I headed up to Birdwood, and then south to Mount Barker, and back up through the Basket Ranges to Adelaide. On the way I passed the Murray Bridge to Onkaparinga Pipeline that delivers a majority of Adelaide's drinking water from the River Murray. It is almost 50Km (30 Miles) long and carries up to 514 Megalitres (135,000 Gallons) per day. I also saw a gully containing about 10 curious structures built of stone. None appeared to have an entrance and I have no idea why they were built or what they are for. If anyone has any ideas I'd love to hear from them. On the bird front, the most numerous bird seen was Adelaide Rosella, a parrot endemic to South Australia which was treated as being conspecific with Crimson Rosella until fairly recently. There is a lot of water about, and every farm dam (pond) had its resident group of Maned Ducks, but more numerous on larger bodies of water were Pacific black Ducks. There were lots of groups of Australian White Ibis as well. And another favourite - Purple Swamphen