Monday, October 28, 2013

Sunday at the beach with Joy

Last week a report was put on “Birdline Victoria” about a Sanderling being seen at Bancoora Beach. I had never heard of Bancoora Beach so, like we all do these days, I googled it. Bancoora Beach, it turns out, is at Breamlea, right next to 13th Beach and I know where that is so on Sunday morning Joy and I headed for a day at the beach. We wanted to see the Sanderling. And Hooded Plovers live on the beach there too, and are always nice to see.
Bancoora Beach at Breamlea

It turned out to be a perfect October day for the beach with no wind, a little bit of sunshine and a near empty beach (near empty of people that is). With the tide way out a few people were walking their dogs along the water’s edge, and out on the smallish waves a group of hardy surfers in wet suits were riding down slopes that reflected silver, white and green in the morning sunlight. On an arm of rocks that went out into the ocean a small group of fishermen were casting lines and watching the surfers.
Surfing and fishing

In case you're wondering, this ride ended badly just after this photo was taken

First we chose to walk west, until we finally came upon a small group of Ruddy Turnstone turning over seaweed on the beach, and beyond them we could see at least two Hooded Plover. There was no Sanderling to be seen so we turned and headed back down the beach. 
Ruddy Turnstones turning over seaweed

About 500 metres past the Breamlea surf life saving club we finally found the Sanderling, in fact two of them. And with them were three more Hooded Plover, a Ruddy Turnstone and a Red-necked Stint.

Sanderling with a dainty morsel

Hooded Plover. Normally they will look for a bigger windbreak to sit behind

Red-necked Stint, Hooded Plover, Ruddy Turnstone and Sanderlings

Red-capped Dotterel with a very large sand worm, which was swallowed whole ...
and I think it nearly choked him.

We then drove around to Barwon Heads to check out the mud flats in the river. There were at least 12 Curlew, some 60 Bar-tailed Godwits and many stints, sandpipers greenshanks. My numbers are a bit vague because when we got out of the car we both realised – we had not bought our scopes! Bother!
Bar-tailed Godwits with Barwon Heads in the background

Bar-tailed Godwit

Greenshank with a very spiky  crab....

that looked very uncomfortable to swallow

As we sat on the bank of the river eating lunch we started thinking about how to make things happen on a birding trip and came up with:
1/  If you want to find some really interesting looking waders on a mud flat – leave your scope at home.
2/  If you want to see a rare bird, or an ordinary bird doing something rare – leave your camera in the car.
3/  If you want to see a really special bird, a new "tick" perhaps, and can't find it – leave your binoculars at the car when you give up the hunt and go behind a bush for a “call of nature” break.
4/  If you want every bird for miles around to disappear – slam the car door.
5/  But conversely – if there are no birds in sight, get someone in the group to SNEEZE really loudly. It is amazing how often little birds will suddenly appear on top of a bush to see what the noise was.

An interesting thing at lunch was, we found a new bird for Australia, an Iridescent Wader. Well, actually, it was originally a ship assisted bird but is now well established and is known to most people as a Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). And normally I think they are very vulgar indeed but yesterday they came very close to outing Sanderling as “bird of the day”. There was one particular starling in a group of 7 or 8 that flew out onto the mudflat and started drilling into crab holes, just as any other good wader would do, until it dug out one of those round mud-flat crabs. When it had the crab out on the sand it seemed to roll it around a bit, and then ate it. Fascinating. And to make the event even better the starling was in full breeding plumage, shining and flashing as though it had been anodised. Really, they can be very beautiful.
First you open your beak and make the crab hole bigger ...

then you jam your head all the way down the hole ...

and grab the crab and drop it before it can nip you.

From the way the feathers are all fluffed up I am not sure if this crab bit the starling's tongue, or if it just tastes really sour.

All text &images © Jenny Spry

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a very pleasant day, and I agree that Starlings can look pretty special!