Wednesday 30 August 2023

Wild Bird Wednesday 579 - White-Headed Stilt

I never tire of seeing White-Headed Stilts (Himantopus leucocephalus) - and I know I have shared pictures of them before. 

The combination of the simple, elegant plumage, the crazy long longs and bill just seem to fascinate me.  They are not normally hard to find in some of my regular birding spots, but when I find them, I always feel like I have seen something worthwhile! 

This bird ('these birds' if you count the one in the background) was feeding in a temporary pool in the Point Cook Wetlands.  It did not stay for long - but looked great while it was there.

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Wednesday 23 August 2023

Wild Bird Wednesday 578 - Cape Petrel

The Cape Petrel (Daption capense) is a very distinctive black and white petrel which can be found off most of the coast of southern Australia.  In my (very) limited experience it is one of the easiest birds to identify on pelagic trips.  Many of the other birds - especially the other petrels - have only slight differences in plumage, but the Cape Petrel is very distinctive.

The Cape petrel, also called the Cape pigeon, pintado petrel, or Cape fulmar, is a common seabird of the Southern Ocean from the family Procellariidae. It is the only member of the genus Daption.

The bird probably looks most like a pigeon when it lands on the water.

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Wednesday 16 August 2023

Wild Bird Wednesday 577 - Black-Tailed Native-Hen

The Black-Tailed Native-Hen (Tribonyx ventralis) is very closely related to the Tasmanian Native-Hen (Tribonyx mortierii) and shares many behaviours.  However, the Black-Tailed Native-Hen can be found over much of Australia, while the Tasmanian Native-Hen is restricted to (you've guessed it!) Tasmanian.

The Black-Tailed Native-Hen is also not flightless - although its first instinct when stressed is to run, it can fly well.  In fact, after good breeding seasons this species can fly long distances and arrive in large numbers in locations a long way from their breeding sites.

I found this bird - which may have just been a single bird - in the Point Cook wetlands, and although it never came close to me, I was able to get some decent enough images.  High mega-pixel cameras to the rescue once more.

The Black-Tailed Native-Hen is a large dark bird, reaching about 38 cm in length and weighing around 400 g (0.88 lb). It has an erect tail and almost entirely brownish-grey and green feathers. Its long legs and lower bill are a pink-orange colour, while the upper bill is (sort of) apple green.

Hope everyone is well.  

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Wednesday 9 August 2023

Wild Bird Wednesday 576 - A Bird in the Hand

Last week I spent a day at Barry Beach, trapping and banding (ringing) Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers.

I have managed to miss most recent banding trip because of other commitments - so I was pleased to be able to make this on, even if it did mean a 5:30am wake up!

Barry Beach is about 2.5 hours from Melbourne, and is a sandy stretch of beach that is actually made up for dredging spoil from a nearby port facility.  However, I don't think that you would know it's not 'natural' - and the oystercatchers seem not to see this as a problem!

Oystercatchers are one of my favourite birds - and here are two pictures of the species we were trying to trap.  (These are older pictures, not taken on the day)

Pied Oystercatcher

Sooty Oystercatcher

Oddly, these pictures show the species in the opposite habitats I would associate them with!  Pieds are fond of sand and mud, and Sootys are often associated with rocky shores.

As you can see this Sooty Oystercatcher has been banded, and has a metal ring on its right leg, and a white plastic one on its left.  

To catch these birds it is necessary to find where they roost, and then set nets in this area.   The nets are rather large, and are deployed by explosive cannons!

This is the net drying after use.  

The rope in the foreground is the back of the net.  This is anchored to the ground, and the rest of the net is concertinaed onto the back of the net in a narrow strip.  This means that the front of the net is on the top of this stip.  There are additional ropes on the front of the net that are attached to the 'projectiles' that are fired by the cannons.  A huge amount of care is taken to ensure that when the net is fired no birds are harmed.

Cannons and projectiles after use.  They are indeed rather large and heavy!

Once the net has been fired - or deployed as we call it - all hell breaks loose as we extract the birds, and make sure that they are safely transferred to large keeping cages.  At this stage nothing is more important than the health of the birds - and speed is of the essence!

Once the birds have been removed from the nets and placed in the keeping cages they are 'processed' - which means having bands and plastic 'flags' put on their legs, and having their vital statistics measured.

A sooty oystercatcher having a band placed on its leg.

A Sooty being aged

A Sooty having its 'head-bill' measured

Ageing a Pied Oystercatcher based on its plumage

Pied Oystercatcher having its bill measured

Weighing a Pied Oystercatcher

A Pied wondering what the heck is happening!

A unique 'leg flag' (colour and number) means we can identify the bird in the field without the need to
re-trap it.

A pied Oystercatcher looking surprisingly relaxed - turning this species upside-down does seem to calm them down.

Once the birds are fully processed they are released back into the wild.  The data we collect is used to study breeding rates, bird movements and to help identify areas in need of protection.  

It also a great way to spend some time and see some birds in the hand - or lap, as the case may be!

As ever to join in with WBW click on the link below.  SM

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Tuesday 8 August 2023

A Winter Weekend.

I spent this weekend at Eildon, which is about 2 hours from Melbourne.  Heavy frost and thick fog, followed by bright sunshine.  Sunday started at -1C, which was brisk, and peaked at about 13 which was wonderful!

Have a great week!  SM

Wednesday 2 August 2023

Wild Bird Wednesday 575 - Bullers Albatross

Back to my last Tasmanian trip for WBW this week.

The Bullers Albatross (Thalassarche bulleri) is a lightly built, small albatross.  It breeds on islands around New Zealand, and feeds in the seas off Australia and the South Pacific. After Shy Albatross this was the most abundant species we saw on the pelagic trips out from Eaglehawk Neck.

As you can see they are a rather splendid bird.  Like almost all albatross this species is threatened by forms of squid fishing but also (bizarrely) by the introduction of a flight rail - the weka - on to one of its breeding islands. That being said, a number of the breeding colonies are expanding, so the Bullers Albatross is considered 'near threatened'.

The bird is has a wing span of just over 2 meters and weighs in at about 2.75 kg.

If you get a chance to go on a pelagic trip, grab it with both hands!

As ever, to link up with WBW click on the link below.  SM

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