Monday, September 21, 2009

Shipwrecked in Port Augusta

Each time I come to Whyalla, I have to cross the top of the Spencer Gulf at Port Augusta. The bridge is a concrete monstrosity, but running alongside is an old wooden bridge, and alongside that is an old shipwreck. On the way home on Sunday, I needed a break, so I stretched my legs by the old bridge. The old bridge is still intact, and is still used by pedestrians. As you can see, the lighting is solar powered. I googled the shipwreck, and found out that it is the remains of Old Jany, a barge used to carry traffic across the gulf to Port Augusta West before the Great Western Bridge was completed in 1927. There were also a few flowers out, proving that spring is well and truly on the way. I have not managed to identify any of them.........any budding botanists out there?? Update: 23/09/09 - I am very impressed!! With your help I have managed to identify all three flowers. The top one is Echium fastuosum "Pride of Madeira", The middle one is Osteospermum sp. "Cape Marigold" and the bottom one Convolvulus cheorum "Silver Bush". The sad thing is that none of them are native to Australia!!. Well done to Jenny and Frank, and also to Carmela a colleague at work.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Adelaide Hills

On Saturday I took Peter and Margaret up into the Adelaide Hills. It was still very windy, but we found a few sheltered spots and saw a few birds. On the way we stopped at a small reserve and amongst other things we found this Noisy Miner nest with three young. We planned to have lunch at Cleland Wildlife Park as they were keen to the Rainbow Lorikeets gathering for their daily feed. They were not disappointed. Cleland is a great place to have a close encounter with lots of native wildlife. We wandered through the various enclosures and aviaries and got close looks at some birds we had seen and others that we didn't have time to look for like Bush Stone-curlew and Yellow-billed Spoonbill. There are also lots of wild birds around the park, and we saw Laughing Kookaburra (surely the iconic bird of Australia) and lots more Superb Fairywrens, this time snapping the male. As we walked around the lake we found a Pacific Black Duck with ducklings and also a confiding Great Egret. From Cleland we made our way the short distance to Belair National Park which is a local hotspot for Koalas. We found the Koala after a short search, and on the way out we also saw our first wild Kangaroos of the weekend before saying our goodbyes as they continue their holiday in Australia.

Whales, Winds and Wrens

This weekend I had arranged to take a couple of visitors (Peter and Margaret Swan from Scotland) out and show them some of our wildlife. Earlier in the week someone had mentioned that the whales at Victor Harbour were being very co-operative so I decided to try them. So on Friday morning we headed south and went to Basham Beach a few Km east of Victor. (This shot was taken using my new lens). The forecast was for hot winds from the north, and they weren't wrong. We had winds of 60kph (37mph) gusting up to 90 kph (55 mph). This made whale watching "interesting" and birding virtually impossible!! But the whales were very co-operative, and when we arrived there were two adults and two calves very close into the shore. As we watched we picked up many more whales further out. I estimate at least a dozen, ranging from 30m to 300m from shore. After whale watching we headed east to Goolwa to look for migrant waders (shorebirds) on Hindmarsh Island, but it was far too windy and also a little early in the season so we saw very few. We did see a couple of very smart Caspian Terns though. On the way home we called in at Laratinga Wetlands, but the water levels were too high to spot any crakes. We did see three Australian Shoveller which I hadn't seen here before. And as the wind died down as evening approached, the bird song started, and we saw lots of Superb Fairywrens. This shot of a female was about the best I managed.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Western Australia - Pilbara

My only other trip Western Australia was a twitch. Probably the longest twitch I have done, or ever will do. It involved two flights, a lot of frequent flyer miles and a hire car and was over 3500Km (2100 miles) each way. I left Adelaide early one Saturday in June (luckily it was a long weekend) and arrived in Karratha mid afternoon with not enough time to get to the bird before dark. I used the last daylight birding around the local area, and saw some birds that are never or very rarely seen in South Australia. Not far from the airport I found a very jumpy flock of Star Finches (1st tick) which, after I studied the photo, also yielded 3 Zebra Finches. Down on the beach was a co-operative Eastern Reef Egret, and nearby a Brown Honeyeater. Next morning I drove to Whim Creek, a tiny iron ore mining town, and the unlikely location for the bird. It had been seen for a couple of weeks frequenting the only green area for hundreds of Km. A small lawn in the mining company housing area. (the "housing" was actually a collection of small pre-fabricated single person tin shacks). I arrived at shift changeover time. Those going on shift just finishing breakfast, those going off shift hitting the steak and beer!! all at 7:00am. Bizarre!! By now the miners were used to the odd birder hanging around and they were very friendly. After a couple of hours, the bird slowly crept out of the shrubby border, and began feeding on the lawn (tick 2). In the end, after watching it off and on for about 3 hours I headed back to Karratha, stopping on the way for Spinifex Pigeon(tick 3), and at some mangroves by the ore terminal in Dampier where I saw Mangrove Fantail, Dusky Gerygone,Yellow White-eye, Grey-headed Honeyeater and the gorgeous White-breasted Whistler (Ticks 4 - 8), I only managed a photo of the latter!! As I was leaving, an immature White-bellied Sea Eagle flew over. Next day was another early flight back to Adelaide. Feeling satisfied, and happy that the twitch had gone to plan. Was it worth it? You bet it was!! Ha!! You thought I'd forgotten..........This was the target - Red-legged Crake. Notice the change in colours when the sun is out!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Western Australia - Perth

This weekend was busy, so I didn't manage to get out birding. I did purchase a new lens though, a 10-20mm ultra wide-angle. I hope to test it out soon and post some of the results. So it's back to the archives again. A few years ago I took a short holiday to Perth. The main targets were the local endemics. first stop was Kings Park in Perth. Not much birdwise, but there were some lovely Kangaroo Paws. Next day was taken up with a trip to Dryandra State Forest for Rufous Treecreeper and the rare Numbat (a small marsupial). I did see a Numbat tail disappear into a hollow log, but the treecreeper put on a much more satisfying display. A trip to Rottnest Island is a must if in Perth. It is the stronghold of the Quokka, another small marsupial. It is also good for birds and I managed to get my first decent shots of White-fronted Chat, one of our most striking birds. This male Musk Duck also put on a good show. On the last day, we headed into suburban Perth, and saw Western Spinebill, Rufous Whistler and the western race of Splendid Fairywren.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Vacation 3 - Great Barrier Reef

Our final days were spent in Cairns, where we had booked a day out on the reef with Seastar. Their new boat heads out to the reef at over 24 knots and is amongst the first to leave cairns so you get quality time out there. First stop was Michaelmas Cay, a sand island in the outer reef. It is a protected area with limited access. We were the first to arrive, and I had arranged that we were on the first shuttle to the beach. This is Seastar, and you can see the dark area of coral between the beach and the boat. The most common bird on the cay is Sooty Tern - probably my favourite tern. Also on the cay are Bridled, Lesser Crested and Crested Terns. This time we only saw Crested. There are usually some Brown Boobies there too. They always seem to stay on the opposite side of the cay. Last time I was here it was breeding time with lots of chicks around and many birds still on eggs, but this visit is earlier. This is an immature Sooty Tern probably one of last seasons young. Another common birds there is Common Noddy, It flies differently to the terns and doesn't seem to soar so much. After 2 visits I still haven't got a decent flight shot of one!! I also did some snorkeling there, and used a waterproof disposable camera - the shots are not brilliant, but gives you an idea of the reef. There are lots of fish including these Big-eye Trevally, Giant Clams, and many different coral formations. Just before we left, I concentrated on flight shots, then after I had packed my camera away for the last shuttle back to Seastar, firstly 5 small white terns and then 2 frigate birds flew over my head!! I think the terns may have been White Terns, and the Frigatebirds were Greaters, but I am not sure. I did get shots of more Sooty Terns though.