Monday, 4 November 2013

First week of November - Nesting waterbirds

Well, its been a couple of weeks since my last post, and Herdsman Lake is starting to show signs of a potentially exciting summer. The water is receding, and large, tantalising mosaics of mud and grass are forming on the edges of the lake.

Two White-winged Trillers called from the flooded gums this afternoon, my first since the early arrival in September.

Black-fronted Dotterel. Two were in the grass on the western side,
replacing the Red-capped Plovers that nested last month.
A Black-winged Stilt squatting suspiciously on an island of bricks.

Two pairs of Great Crested Grebes are nesting among the Typha
near the wildlife centre.

A colourful Glossy Ibis foraging in the mud.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Second week of October

There were more birders than birds today on my only visit to the lake this week. And they all seemed to be looking for the now all too familiar Freckled Ducks. But today it was different. The Freckled Ducks were extremely tame, feeding right beside the path within metres of the passing hordes. The picture below was taken with my iPhone.
A very tame (female?) Freckled Duck
A pair of Rainbow Bee-eater have set up shop at the sand mound, but there was no sign of the Red-capped Plovers seen a week earlier.

I'm off to Broome tomorrow, so won't be able to report until the fourth week of the month. I hope I don't miss anything too special while I'm away!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

First week of October - Fledgling Red-capped Plover!

On the 2nd of October, Ross Jones revealed more than 10 Rainbow Bee-eaters were at Byford. It meant they were back, and it was time to get down to Herdsman Lake and find one for myself.

I started out at the Heron Place carpark and worked my way around the lake in an clockwise fashion. Eleven Barcoo Bantams were skulking on the lawn at Maurice Hamer, and by the time I'd got to the end of this stretch of park, I'd already seen around 40 species. Floundering my way through the Flooded Gums towards the Settler's Cottage, the distinct yet distinct calls of Rainbow Bee-eaters were echoing from the sand mound. Unluckily, a passing Australian Hobby sent them on their way before I could get a photo...
The passing Australian Hobby
With all these Oriental Plovers showing up on the east coast, I thought it was worth a look in the grassy areas to the north of the sand mound. Upon arrival, I flushed a cat, which flushed a Red-capped Plover, which flushed the camera from my pocket. With the cat safely scurrying into the nearby neighbourhood, I suspiciously scanned for more. and soon found another gorgeous adult, and with it a very large chick!

Red-capped Plover adult (above) and fledgling (below)
Bumping into the Herdy Bird Nerds near the Baumea (?) bird hide, I witnessed the experts in action, meticulously ageing a mist-netted Yellow-rumped Thornbill from its tail feathers, and blowing on the belly of a Silvereye to see if she was broody. With overhead Little Eagle, Australasian Darter and Australian Ringneck adding to my morning tally (up to 63), it was time to move on.

A Weebill and Striated Pardalote singing along Jon Sanders Drive was the feature of the often lifeless north-eastern stretch. Arriving at the Wildlife Centre I slowly scoped for Freckled Ducks, which I hadn't seen in a while. Nothing. Until I saw the one right in front of me.
The only Freckled Duck left at Herdsman Lake?
Black-winged Stilts were my concluding bird for the 5hr walk, unless I can count this Mallard as number 70? Please?
Nesting note - apart from the fledgling Red-capped Plover, other new arrivals this spring included 2 Musk Ducklings, and Dusky Moorhen and Buff-banded Rail chicks.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Fourth week of September - Chestnut Teal

Continuing with the duck theme from last week (not much else going on when the place is flooded), Jaime and I came across this teal. It was swimming with an obvious Grey Teal, but was slightly bulkier, and much darker, especially around the head. Having grown up on the east coast where Grey Teals are the novelty, it is always nice to pick out the familiar Chestnut Teal from the west coast flocks.
Chestnut Teal - you can see a hint of green above the eye (female or immature male?)
Photographed through my phone and binoculars

Friday, 20 September 2013

Third week of September - Long-awaited Mallard

I've had a terrible time trying to see a Mallard in Australia that is at all comparable to the wild-type birds I've seen in the northern hemisphere. Usually they are grotesque, pale and fat, and can usually be hand-fed. So, you can imagine my excitement when I saw this drake sitting on the grass at the southern end of Herdsman Lake. I'm ticking this one for my Herdsman Lake list (#110), and my Western Australian list (#366) too!

Mallard drake - a little messy, but note the green head, narrow white collar
uniform dull yellow bill, pale grey body with darker back
Overall, the abundance of ducks is pretty low, and the last of the Freckled Ducks have left, but the Australasian Shovelers, Grey Teal, Pacific BlackBlue-billed and Musk Ducks can still be easily seen.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Second week of September - An early White-winged Triller

My earliest spring White-winged Triller alighted atop a dead swamp paperbark this week. She didn't stay long enough for a photo, but she had beaten last years first triller by 22 days.

Here's a few of the local birds seen during the week:

Nankeen Night-Heron - found in the canopy of swamp paperbarks on the west side of the Wildlife Centre
Sporadic at Herdsman - a pair of Silver Gulls have recently called Maurice Hamer home 
Eastern Great Egrets have exploited the high water, and are often seen on the lake's edges

Saturday, 7 September 2013

First week of September - Story of the Barcoo Bantam

Rain is keeping water levels high at Hersdman, so nothing has really changed from last week. The long-staying Freckled Ducks and even longer-staying (over a year now) Black-tailed Native-hens can easily be found mixed with Glossy Ibis and Eurasian Coots along Maurice Hamer.
Freckled Ducks continue (to sleep) at Herdsman Lake
While watching the Freckled Ducks, an elderly man approached, and unexpectedly asked if I knew an ancient name belonging to the native-hens. I didn't, but made an educated guess at Green-and-red-billed Desert Chicken or something along the lines. Without hesitation, he irrupted into the first passage of 'A Bush Christening' by Australian poet Banjo Patterson:

                  "On the outer Barcoo where the churches are few, 

                          And men of religion are scanty, 
                   On a road never cross'd 'cept by folk that are lost, 
                          One Michael Magee had a shanty..."

Turns out, we were both staring at Barcoo Bantams. 
Two of seven Barcoo Bantams at Maurice Hamer Park
Nesting note - the bush birds are starting to hatch young. I've seen Red Wattlebirds and Welcome Swallows delivering items to nests this week.