Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Red-cheeked Parrots mating; Iron Range.

Last month, on 8th September, I was at Iron Range with friends and was lucky enough to be standing in the right place to see a male Red-cheeked Parrot fly into the crown of an emergent forest tree. When I put my binoculars on the bird I saw that it had joined a female and was regurgitating food to feed to her. I watched the birds for the next 18 minutes as the male fed the female, they both preened, the female signalled to the male that she wanted to mate, the male approached the female, climbed on her back, mated with her and flew off. The female stayed and preened for about another 9 minutes and then flew off in the same direction as the male. The actual mating took approximately 20 seconds and the birds were together in the tree for approximately 12 minutes. From when the female first indicated that she was ready to mate she did not move from her selected branch so perhaps she had chosen her preferred mating location in the tree and invited the male to come to her.

The following is a photographic record of the event. All images were taken using a Canon 7D MkII with a 100 - 400mm L series zoom lens. Over the full 18 minutes of the event I took 200 images and I have selected 35 of those images to record the mating. Each image is captioned with the time in hours, minutes and seconds. 
081859 Male arrives in tree and feeds female. Male's tail is fanned

081903 Male regurgitates food for female, still with tail fanned

081923 Food is regurgitated to bill and it can be seen that it is a fruit containing large, white seeds

081925 Male feed female

081929 male and female move apart 
081950 Male still has slightly fanned tail

082002 birds move further apart


082016 male cleans bill on branch

082124 Female fans tail to indicate she is interested in mating


082204 Female starts preening

082243 both birds continue preening




082645 Male stands upright and fans feathers on belly. Female moves into what appears to be a pre-mating position

082709 male moves closer to female and still has belly feathers raised

082713 Male fans tail and moves toward female

082715 distance shot to show bird's location in tree

082717 male moves toward female with vent feathers raised

082723 Male climbs onto female and mating begins






082743 Male drops to a lower branch

082919 Male has flown from tree and female starts preening






083654 Female finishes preening and after this image she flew off in the direction taken by the male

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Hunting Skulkers

The grasswren was just north of Whyalla and Secret Rocks is about 15 km east of Kimba on the road to Whyalla. 

Last week I chased two more species for my Australian list, Western Grasswren and Copper-backed Quail-thrush. They have been sitting over the boarder in South Australia waiting for me for a while now so I packed the car and headed west. I left home on Tuesday morning and spent the night at Waikerie in SA. I could have gone further but being school holidays I decided to use a motel I had stayed in before when I have been going to Gluepot. On Wednesday I got to Whyalla at about 1300 and drove straight into Wild Dog Hill Park to have some lunch and a first hunt for the Western Grasswren. I stopped beside the entry road, got out of my car (luckily with my camera) and squeaked once. The grasswren jumped out of a bush, looked at me, ran along the track for 5 metres and disappeared. I spent the next hour looking for it or another one and only found a few fairy wrens.
Not the best photo but it was on the run

With the grasswren under my belt I decided to head straight for Lake Gillies where the Copper-backed Quail-thrush live. Along the way I stopped at Secret Rocks which was another place that Birdata said that quail-thrush had been found in the past. I walked around for about an hour but the place was dead. Next was to get to Kimba and look for somewhere to stay. I got a room at the caravan park motel and it is a great spot with nice rooms and a friendly group of people who run it. Thursday morning I went straight down to Lake Gillies and spent 1/2 the day beating every bush I could find but no quail-thrush. I trudged all over and movements caught my eye, a lizard, babblers, butterflies, but none of them morphed into a quail-thrush. Bother.
Crested Dragon, Ctenophores cristatus. In the one second view I had with peripheral vision as it headed for cover the colour was good and the run was good ... but when I got the binoculars on it my hoped for quail-thrush had morphed into a lizard, sigh

White-browed Babblers were everywhere.

I then drove out at about 10 kph back to the highway, looking and listening, with no luck and headed back to Secret Rocks for the afternoon. Finally at about 1700 I saw a quail-thrush flush from the base of a dead tree. Sigh, not a great look but hey it was a look. And the bush flies!!!!!!!!! Zillions of them all around me every time I got out of the car.
Every now and then my concentration would waver and I found other things to photograph

Female Mistletoe Bird

On Friday morning I tried a new quail-thrush site from Birdata about 22 km east of Kimba at a really filthy, toilet paper strewn highway pull off. Sigh, why couldn't people have hung on until Kimba? On the map above it is on the highway about 5 km from the west edge of the green rectangle marking the park boundary.

Anyway there I was at about 0515 and I could hear quail-thrush calling so I wandered into the Mallee. It took me about 3/4 of an hour of twisting and turning as I chased down calling birds but finally I saw one just before it jumped from a branch and disappeared. I then spent about 2 hours searching the mallee with no further luck. They are there, I know, I saw one, I heard more than one calling, but once they stop calling the ground cover is so thick they are totally invisible.  I considered staying another night and trying the next morning but the forecast was for thunder storms and wind. I gave up and pointed the car east for home.
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

Rufous Treecreeper

On the drive home I was amazed at the number of men in their forties and older who were seeing Australia by pushbike. Their bikes had large saddlebags and panniers and one man even had one of those prone bikes that he was peddling steadfastly toward Horrock's Pass, one of the steepest windingist bits of road I have seen in a long time. Perhaps the most determined tourist though was the guy walking down the road pushing a large, rectangular cart. As I drove past he gave me a big smile and waved. Good on him, I admire his effort and I hope he has a wonderful time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

King Island

King Island and a rough idea of where I drove on the island. Map thanks to Google Earth

King Island lies about halfway between Victoria and Tasmania and for Australian birders it has two major draws. First, it has a number of races of Tasmanian birds that are endemic to the island and for those of us who care about such things they need to be found and seen. Second, on King Island there are three introduced species that are hard or impossible to find anywhere else in Australia and if one keeps an Australian life list they, at some point, need to go to King Island.
View of the bright green pastures of the island

The fishing harbour at Currie

Common Pheasant. They may just be an introduced bird but they are very beautiful

Both the pheasant and peacock were very shy and hard to get near but very common. All three introduced species could easily be found in one day.

Apart from birds King Island is also known for organically grown and produced beef and cheese. I tried to find a place to have dinner that served King Island beef but the two places I found that may have served it both closed before 6 pm. Maybe the Golf Club served local beef but I didn't try there. Local cheese can be purchased at very good prices when their shop is open, between 10 am and 4:30 pm, which is not good when one is dashing all over the island looking for birds. Ah well, I am sure most tourists find the time OK and not many birders go to the island so, no complaint. 

Wild Turkey. Again, very beautiful with the iridescent colouring on the feathers

Two Tom Turkeys showing off to the females

I stayed at the Island Breeze Motel which was really nice and has beautiful views from every room. One interesting thing I found though was, while everyone is very friendly and giving the discrete "two-finger-lifted-from-the-steering wheel-outback-style-wave" to other drivers is almost mandatory, if you ask directions to birding sites like parks and reserves many locals have no idea where they are. I highly recommend getting all your information sorted before you go.
There are literally thousands of Wallabies on the island and care needs to be taken when driving

Indian Peacock
Indian Peahens

For birders in the future Greylag Geese have also been free ranging and self supporting on the island for many years and will possibly, one day, be added to the Australian list, as have the other introduced species on the island. It will require a BARC submission of course, and someone willing to prepare one. The last BARC submission for the Greylag Geese on Norfolk Island failed to pass by one vote.
Bull Kelp, Durvillaea potatorum, drying on racks. The kelp is collected by locals from the rocks on the west coast of the island and delivered for processing into a huge range of products from food thickeners, dentistry products, paper coating, toys, explosives, ceramics and more.

The old King Island Dairy factory

West coast beach

Black Currawong, race parvior

Crested Tern

Olive Whistler
Young Elephant Seal "hauled out" on a beach near Currie.