Friday, June 23, 2017

Australian Ravens batter spiders and bowl crickets

Ants? Not so much. Spiders? Yes, yes,yes.  Crickets? Rare treat! Closer look at Australian Ravens ripping into leaf nests this week (earlier post, June 18) came up with bad news for leaf-sac spiders.

Rough counts show 30-40 maturing spiders per nest. Some must escape as nest is pierced after being torn from tree and dropped or flown to road.

So local Australian Ravens (Torresian Crows too? Probably, but only ravens seen) continue to poke into road metal, digging safety-seeking spiders from under loose stones.

Much better than spiders must be biggish, juicy tree (Raspy?) cricket within its near-identical leaf nest, created for protection from dehydration or while moulting (up to 12 times).

Judging by ravens' behaviour and leaf litter left on road the birds don't or can't distinguish between spiders' and crickets' nests.

Rarity of definite cricket nests found prevents even the roughest of estimates of spider-cricket nest ratio.

And the ants? Live nests are so firmly anchored the ravens cannot hope to dislodge them. Perhaps their attacks on old, dead nests have another prey in mind? Questions, always questions.










Thursday, June 22, 2017

Tough to stalk the stalk-carrying Black-necked Stork

Here's Mr Sneaky, whose nest is just behind us - somewhere. He's sneaky because he takes different routes out and in on flights to collect grass for nest lining. And he always carries the grass so it covers the left side of his head. How sneaky is that? Tough to stalk the Black-necked Stork.

Nor is it easy walking through high guinea grass and swampy sedges to say good morning to Black-shouldered Kite. Bird considered the friendly greeting, shrugged the black shoulders, and delivered the old cold shoulder.

Much friendlier, fast-maturing Australian Hobby. Gidday, I shouted from Payets Tower in the Town Common. Gidday yourself, bird said. Well, maybe it didn't. But it did cast careless look at me before going back to ignoring efforts by Whitebreasted Woodswallows to move it on.

And old mate White-bellied Sea Eagle put up with considerable inane conversation before letting loose with an excretive expletive and departure as I got too close to perching place near locked gate at turnoff to Bald Rock.

Just across road on the same morning, Rainbow Bee-eater shows at its best in cool early light. But - always a but - it ignored the two perches free of distracting foliage. Easy, sez you, clone em out. Now, there's the problem. All that lovely background is full of subtle colour changes, making cloning nigh impossible to conceal.


The question seldom ever arises with Tawny Grassbird. Here's a bird that delights in tormenting. Pops up for a split-second, dives back into thick grasses. Or emerges from tangle of twigs and poses against the messiest of backgrounds.


Often in the same habitat as the grassbirds, Red-backed Fairy Wrens oblige by moving through trees and clearer foraging spots. Not too sneaky. Not too shy. Not too quick. Only ... only the red and black males don't oblige near so often. However, all things come ...


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ravenous ravens hit road for alfresco antipesto

Australian Ravens love roadside picnics. They don't bother with baskets and blankets, preferring to drop the food down to the road and there dig into the alfresco antipesto. Ant nests are torn down and ripped apart.

But top of the wish list lately seems to be leaf spiders' nests, much harder to find being rarely more than three dangling leaves stuck together. Young spiders don't look very filling. And may make a run for it once the leaves are pulled apart. The ravens - all in final stages of nest prep - hunt for every last one.


And by the look of it in the Common this morning get grumpy when the food runs out.






 

Friday, June 16, 2017

You're telling birds to live in holes like this?

Think it's tough finding a home these days? Well picture a world where millions of prime sites are destroyed daily. So eight visiting Sulphur-crested Cockatoos get excited by burned-out trunk a self-respecting bird wouldn't have pooped in years ago.

Didn't take long for the raucous inspectors to recognise an unlivable hole and move on.

At almost same time five Red-tailed Black cockatoos show interest in Moreton Bay Ash just 40 metres away. A few tentative  nibbles at the bone-hard wood ends any hopes of enlarging holes. The five fly to top of another ash to crunch on nutritious nuts.

Close by, male Black-necked Stork, having found right site, makes way, sneakily, to northeast with another delivery of grass to line nest (usually wide platform).

Just up the road, Australian Raven selects somewhat scratchier lining for typical large messy bowl of twigs, near top of another big ash.


Making itself at home - but almost certainly not looking to nest - Northern Fantail goes quietly about its business.But not quietly enough. Gentle 'chuff chuff' gives it away. Not a common visitor to the Common, I'm told.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Welcome to the world of almosts

Close. Almost. Not quite right. One of those mornings in the Common today. Started with Brown Goshawk. Flew from ground and stayed in shadow and behind twig. Big adjustment made to lighten image.

Rainbow Bee-eater stuck  tight to branch and flew off before I could adjust camera angle inside Troopy to get full tail in shot.

Suicidal Black-fronted Dotterel walked along road even as traffic passed within two metres. But just would not look my way. And flew off teasingly whenever I tried to walk up on it.

Nothing new in grasses and branches getting in the way of course. Thus, Brolga the other day.

And Crimson Finch.

And Pheasant Coucal.

And Blue-winged Kookaburra.

Too difficult to fix many untidy images, but clone tool and tight cropping can work wonders. Others must be cast aside and prayers offered for better luck next time.

 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Stork carries grass first, babies arrive later

Biggest grassbird ever in the Town Common?  But most hide in the grass not behind it in the air. Male Black-necked Stork (Jabiru) heading nestwards this morning. Breeding soon, I expect. The nest? Best guess, somewhere just north of golf course, perhaps where mangroves meet the trees. Local pilots possibly know. (They may also know whether resident Ospreys sometimes sitting on nest are just fooling around or have decided on two clutches within a year.)

Also in the air today, White-necked Heron, Three seen, but outnumbered elsewhere on the flood grasses by White-faced Herons (14 seen together yesterday morning).

Also snapped yesterday. young Brown Falcon, presumably one of a pair seen at some distance today.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Zorry! Zose Zittings zey izn't zere

Longish walk for bung knee today in quest of info from the field after hearing of purported Zitting Cisticola sightings in the Town Common. Four kilometres, four hours and 54 Cisticolas (yep, 54!) later and nothing but Golden-headeds. Zip Zittings. Zilch Zittings. Zero Zittings. Okay?

Not much room along the bund between Freshwater and Bald Rock given the hordes of Cisticolas, but Little Pied Cormorant spied chance to drop in on two pals.

Also crowded with action, paperbarks and eucalypts at walk's outward end (for me), with both Helmeted (above) and Little Friarbirds prominent, though neither species calling, unlike plenty of honeyeaters and others.

Bit of luck too, catching the only Australasian Grebe seen, coming up with green frog. Probably regular enough part of the diet, but I can't recall any similar sighting. Sorry about image; long way off.







Sunday, June 4, 2017

Whipsnake too fast for skink

The action came almost underfoot in the Common today with a Lesser Black Whipsnake whizzing from long grass after striking Striped Skink.

Sorry about image quality. Too close for long lens on camera so had to press Ipod into service.

Also close to underfoot, but far enough away for lens, female Leaden Flycatcher obviously enjoying bit some morning sunshine.

And showing off some 'under foot', Red-backed Fairy-Wren takes an unexpected jump, No flash being used so jump just one of those things.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Grey Goshawk brightens up the mornings

Been a bit grey at times this week but that's a good thing when it's a Grey Goshawk in the trees. Taken me more than six months to catch up with and capture an acceptable image of the species in the Town Common. Thanks owed to Spangled Drongos for flushing bird three mornings in a row.

Technical bit may be of interest. Top image: 600mm lens; above: 600+1.4x=840mm. Locked tight on sturdy tripod. Cropped to more or less same size bird. As usual (in my experience, especially at long distance, as here) prime lens alone outdoes same lens plus converter. The pros mostly disagree - and produce better results. You pays your money ...

It's not been all grey. Caught juvenile Brown Goshawk at start of soar into the blue. Almost certainly same bird shown in post last week. Also hounding and hunting other birds lately have been mature goshawks, at least one Collared Sparrowhawk, and a young Australian Hobby. Raptor-ish days!



Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Preening exclusive for this blog

When Birdlife Australia set up preening comp I was so thrilled. Imagine my devastation when told it was for birds, not members. Trooper that I am, decided to soldier on anyway. Golden-headed Cisticola on guinea grass stalk yesterday flew in to pose, exclusively for this blog.

You know how some birds are. Teasing. Playing shy. But at heart always looking for that hot deal with a bigger channel. Perhaps I'm being used?

Doubts. Misgivings. No matter, beauty's a cruel mistress.