Notes to readers of this Blog


NOTES TO READERS OF THIS BLOG

Thank you for dropping by to check out my blog. You will see a lot of other Blogs about birds I follow down the left hand side. I strongly encourage you to check some of these out as well, they are entertaining and I love to see birds from all over the world, I hope you do too.
Cheers,
Richard

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A day that started and ended with a Hobby and a Butcherbird with some others in between

This morning I was up early, just before the sun broke above the surrounding hills. An Australian Hobby had caused the White-plumed Honeyeaters to send out the alarm call so I went outside to investigate. It had decided sitting on the power lines not far away was as good a place as any to greet the morning, much to the chagrin of the smaller birds around. Interestingly, one of the birds not so afraid was the Pied Butcherbird. It sat about 20 metres away and stayed there for quite some time, long enough for the sunlight to hit the hills in the background. Eventually the Hobby flew off, and the Butcherbird continued foraging and feeding on the insects in the grass below its perch for about an hour in total.

Australian Hobby


Pied Butcherbird

I spent the majority of the day in and around my mobile office and was amazed at the variety of birds that frequented this small patch. A Collared Sparrowhawk flew past at one point, Magpie Larks, Willie Wagtails, Yellow-throated Miners, Crested Pigeons and a lone Peaceful Dove that sat with the pigeons on the power lines. I was delighted to get another visit from the Red-browed Pardalote and managed a few more photos. I noticed the crown puffed up as it was making its noise.

Red-browed Pardalote


I played around in photoshop just for fun with the photo below, taking out the majority of the colour except for the bird. I actually like the adjusted one of the two.


After the work day had finished I needed to enjoy some quiet spaces and headed out to an old favourite spot. I had in my mind to take some photos of the dust settling over the road with some spectacularly coloured hills in the background. Although it didn't quite come out the way I had imagined, it was still close enough to add to this post.

Dust settles as the sunset lights up the hills

On the way to my "quiet space", I came across a pair of Major Mitchell Cockatoos by the side of the road. They didn't fly off as I was expecting and managed to get some nice close-ups.

Major Mitchell Cockatoo





Once I had arrived at my quiet place, there were only a few birds around, one of which was a Rufous Whistler chasing amoth. The original photo (the first of the two below) was "washed out" due to the sun position, but as with the Pardalote photo above, I had a bit of a play with colour and light and like the altered image better this time as well.

Rufous Whistler catching a moth



As I drove back, feeling refreshed from the hum of the day, I came across an unusual sight. The light was fading and I knew the photos wouldn't be very good, but I've added a photo showing my two original birds from the morning, although not the same two. Sitting perched on a bare tree were an Australian Hobby and a young Pied Butcherbird. The day had come full circle.

Australian Hobby and Pied Butcherbird

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Red-browed Pardalote, Southern Whiteface, Fairy and Tree Martins

Red-browed Pardalotes are around Central Australia most of the time, but recently I have been hearing and seeing a lot more than usual. Generally, these cute little birds are elusively in the tree-tops, and I have struggled to get good photos showing their unique characteristics. Recently, this changed. I could hear two birds piping away to one another and eventually located them in a nearby shrub. Camera in hand I warily approached the bush, but unlike previous experiences, the birds didn't fly off, maybe they were too interested in one another to worry about me. Alas they were behind the spindly leaves of the tree for a really good shot, but even so, being this close demanded the photos to be taken. One of them was more in the open than the other so I concentrated on that one. I clicked off a few photos and then realised the shots would be about the same so unless the bird moved, I was to hold my fire. Eventually it did, and to my delight, it flew onto a nearby wire fence. It wasn't too far away from where I was but I didn't want to get too close, and instead hoped the lens would reach far enough. The bird did fly off and I was delighted with some of the photos taken of the bird inside the diamond shapes of the fence.

Red-browed Pardalote

 



The Southern Whiteface is another bird I seem to encounter a lot once I leave the main town area of Alice Springs. They can be quite noisy and their twittering to one another can be frustrating as being so small they can be very close but still unseen. This one was far more obliging.

Southern Whiteface



The Fairy Martins and Tree Martins can be hard to distinguish when they are flying, but much easier once they are perched. Zooming around collecting insects above water and then sitting on nearby fences to preen themselves, seems to be their main daily activities. Here are some who have become tired of the insect catching :-)

Fairy Martin



Tree Martin



Monday, 18 August 2014

Budgerigars, Zebra Finches, and there is nothing common about the Common Bronzewing

The birding action is everywhere around Central Australia, with a variety depending on which direction you head from Alice Springs. South of town there are lots of Budgerigars and Zebra Finches, around town there are still Redthroats, Fairy-wrens, lots of Thornbills and the usual plethora of Black and Whistling Kites, not to mention the ever-present Australian Ringnecks and the White-plumed Honeyeaters. West of town sees the Southern Whiteface and Thornbills in numbers, and the occasional Common Bronzewing, not to mention Brown Falcons along the roadside. The red-capped Robins seem to be everywhere too.

First up is a few photos of the Budgerigars.Knowing that the first photo is the one people will see first, makes it a hard choice. Although the one I have chosen isn't the crispest of shots, as I looked at it a thought went through my head from some 70s/80s cartoon show "Everyone Split" and I also added "man with a camera!" The birds all scattered in different directions.

Budgerigar







There were probably over 100 birds in the group near me. The noise they made seemed like a lot more than that, especially when the alarm call was sent out by a White-plumed Honeyeater nearby. The whoosh as all the Budgies flew off together from the tree-tops was amazing. I eventually saw an Australian Hobby but wasn't sure if this was the cause of all the alarms. Interestingly, a Whistling Kite flew overhead and the alarm wasn't raised, and the Budgerigars all sat where they were.

The above photos were taken around a puddle, and where there is water, there are Zebra Finches.



One bird I see more often at dusk around water sources rather than during the day in the open, is the Common Bronzewing. In my opinion, the naming of this bird is up there with the Black Kite (that isn't Black), the Singing Honeyeater (that doesn't sing) etc. etc. When you see the amazing array of colours in the wings, as well as the striking markings it has on its head and neck, surely there was a better option than the word "Common". I'm sure there is a very good reason, and after this post I'll be looking up the bird in my birding apps and on the internet, but regardless of what it says, I think the powers that bereally should have another go at the naming of this species.

Common Bronzewing


Friday, 15 August 2014

The smaller birds - Zebra Finch juveniles, Red-capped Robin and Inland Thornbill

You know a bird is small when a Fairy-wren looks large in comparison. The wind chill factor in Central Australia makes it hard to get motivated to even go looking, but I found a nice thickly treed area the other day.

In total, there were four juvenile Zebra Finches in the group. They huddled up eventually, but it started with a couple on different branches, until ultimately all 4 sat on the same branch.


The Red-capped Robin in the photos below was one of a few I saw. I was trying to be patient and wait until it landed on a lower branch with some yellow wildflowers in the background but it decided the perches I had identified weren't good for spying food, so I dipped on the wanted photo, but still managed a few shots.
Red-capped Robin






The Inland Thornbill in the photo below was one of a pair that was flitting around and chattering amongst the trees. I was intrigued by the up-turned tail, like a Fairy-wren. I hadn't really noticed this before, and the sounds the thornbills were making was unusual, making me wonder if they weren't perhaps using mating calls. Unfortunately I've misplaced my sound recording machine as it would have been handy to record the calls being made by both birds. I didn't see any indication of a nest, but they could have been building one further into the scrub.

Inland Thornbill

There were a number of other small birds in the area I didn't manage decent shots of - Splendid Fairy-wren, Mistletoebird, Western Gerygone as well as Yellow-rumped Thonbills. I did have a very inquisitive young Thornbill, I think it was an Inland variety but couldn't be 100%. It came to within 1 metre of me on a branch, and checked me out for probably 5 seconds, before moving about the bush and then off to another one from the back of the bush. There were a couple of striking parts to this - firstly, how close it came to me, and secondly, it was tiny. Pizzey and Knight state the Inland Thornbill's size ranges from 9.5 - 11.5 cms. I doubt this one was the 9.5 cms, more like 7, so I am wondering if it perhaps wasn't a juvenile Slaty-backed Thornbill which is supposed to be 9.5 cms only. They are supposed to mix with the Inland Thornbills, so perhaps this was what it was, but without a photo I'll never know. such is life in the birding world.