Maybe I should change the header on this blog to say, "...an emphasis on birds" :-)
While on a shopping trip today we took a quick diversion in search for any easy targets for the new lens. Well aside from Silver Gulls, you don't get much easier than Masked Lapwings. It was actually raining at the time so it was also a good test to see how the lens would go under such conditions.
I don't think anyone in eastern or northern Australia would be unaware of these birds. Their noisy call is often heard both day and night. Just about every playing field, school yard, and air field will have at least one. There are two races of Masked lapwing. Our Tasmanian birds belong to the race novaehollandiae which also occurs through most of south-east Australia.
Their natural habitat was originally grassland and salt marsh and they are rarely far from water. The adoption of the man made habitats of pasture and lawn caused a huge increase in their population through the first half of the 20th century. The presence of humans does not deter them and they will even nest in the most unlikely places such as footpaths. Their nest is just a simple scrape lined with a few bits of straw or twigs. They usually lay 3 or 4 eggs. In 2006 I noticed one pair nesting on a busy roundabout. Unfortunately, the chicks were killed by the traffic but the parents nested again at the same spot. So far as I could tell, this time they succeeded.
Not only do they nest on the ground, they also feed on the ground or on tidal flats. They are surface feeders, primarily taking worms and other invertebrates although they have also been recorded eating seeds and leafy vegetation from time to time.
The breeding season is anytime from June to December. During this time they are seen in pairs or perhaps 3 or 4 birds. However, non-breeding birds in Autumn and winter will gather in large flocks. Recently I noticed a flock along the shore of well over 100 birds. However Michael Sharland in "Birds of Tasmania" talks of flocks of over 1,000.
Another common name for this species is Spur-winged plover. You can see the spur quite clearly on the left hand bird in photo #1.
(Click to see larger versions of the photos)