Wednesday, 29 April 2015

April Birds

This post shows just a few of the birds I have encountered during the month of April.

Working backwards, we'll start with this Eastern Great Egret (Ardea modesta) at the Tamar Island Wetlands on the 26th April. 

Eastern Great Egret - Ardea modesta

While in the Launceston area over the weekend I saw several species that I don't get to see around home. These include:

Black-fronted Dotterel (Elseyornis melanops) at Tamar Island Wetlands on the 26 April. Dusky Moorhen (Gallinula tenebrosa) at the Pitcher Parade Reserve on the 26 April. Dusky Moorhens are uncommon in Tasmania. Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) at Cataract Gorge on the 26 April. Cataract Gorge is one of the few places where these feral birds are considered tickable. Also Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia) ay Queechy lake. Question: Why are these spoonbills building a nest in April? Is that normal? There are only a handful of Spoonbills in Tasmania so I'm not too familiar with them.

Royal Spoonbills - Platalea regia at Queechy Lake (Nest building in April? )

Royal Spoonbill - Platalea regia at Queechy Lake

Best of all were two Tawny Frogmouths (Podargus strigoides) at Cataract Gorge.  This is not a great photo as, for one thing, you can't see their faces. On the other hand, it's the only shot I have of these birds as I hardly ever find them so I'm happy to have got it. .

Tawny Frogmouths  - Podargus strigoides at Cataract Gorge

On 25th April I had Common Bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera) and Noisy Miner  (Manorina melanocephala) west of Launceston. (I'm not complaining that I don't get Noisy Miners at home)

Common Bronzewing - Phaps chalcoptera

On 23rd April I was surprised to see a Pink Robin (Petroica rodinogaster)  in the backyard. This is a new bird for the "Backyard List". I usually see Pink Robins in the wet forests along the creeks and rivers. My backyard merges into dry forest on a rocky north facing slope. After reading up on the subject I found that Pink Robins disperse into dry forest and coastal scrub at this time of year. That explains why I haven't been able to find them down at the Emu River. It doesn't explain why they haven't been seen here in previous years. I didn't get a photo of the Pink Robin so I have included a couple from a previous encounters.

Pink Robin - Petroica rodinogaster

Adult Male Pink Robin -  Petroica rodinogaster

The Spotted Pardalotes (Pardalotus punctatus) have been quite vocal just about everywhere I go lately. This one was in the backyard on 19th April.
Spotted Pardalote - Pardalotus punctatus - in the Backyard

Also on the 19th I had a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)  fly over the backyard but it came and went before I could get the camera into position. 

On April 15th I saw my first Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) for the year in a paddock between Wynyard and Table Cape. At Rocky Cape, on the same day there was a Black Currawong (Strepera fuliginosa) just above the high tide mark. This is a bird I usually see up in the hills. The best bird on that day was the Striated Fieldwren (Calamanthus fuliginosus)  that featured in a post a couple of weeks ago. ( Click here )

On 13th April I came across two Fan-tailed Cuckoos (Cacomantis flabelliformis) at Fern Glade. Most of it's associates would have already left for the mainland at this time of year. I've seen them as late as May 28th and as early as August 16th so it's always hard to say whether they are early, late. or one of the few that overwinter.

On 1st April I was able to photograph a Bassian Thrush at Fern Glade. That photo was included in an earlier post. ( Click Here)

Also on the 1st I had a Tasmanian Scrubwren (Sericornis humilis) in the backyard. This is a bird I hear regularly but it seldom reveals itself from among thick undergrowth.

Well this is a just a few of the 87 species I've seen during April. I hope you enjoy seeing some of them.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Striated Fieldwren

... and a Penguin Story (below the photos)

The Striated Fieldwren (Calamanthus fuliginosus) could easily be dismissed as just another little brown bird, but, on closer inspection,  it is seen to be beautifully marked and full of character.  Getting a good view through the binoculars is always a special moment. Getting a half decent photograph to capture those moments has always proven to be more difficult. I have plenty of shots of blurry flying objects and tails sticking out of bushes etc. 

There are two places where I can usually be sure to find these birds. The coastal heath at Rocky Cape and the heathland around Ronny Creek (near Cradle Mountain). Last week I was at Rocky Cape and after a bit of a picnic lunch at Burgess Cove my attention turned to the birds. The funny thing is, I was patiently scanning the area with the 'noccies  when a family member, in excited and not so quiet whispers,  pointed out the Striated Fieldwren perched on a bush directly behind me.  It turned out there was actually a pair of them. I fired off a couple of over exposed shots while the birds went about their business, flying low over the heath, moving from shrub to shrub.  Fortunately they were still fairly close and about a dozen shots later I came up with the two you see below. After years of trying, persistence and patience paid off.

Striated Fieldwren - Calamanthus fuliginosus

Striated Fieldwren - Calamanthus fuliginosus

Coastal Heath at Rocky Cape (Table Cape in the distance)

On a different subject, you can see the entrance to a cave in the middle of the large rock outcrop. That's North Cave. It's an old sea cave formed at a time of higher sea levels. It's about 6 metres in height and around 60 meters deep. You're not allowed in there these days as it contains archaeological remains of aboriginal occupation (middens, etc). However, 28 years ago (Aug. 1987) I did venture down to the very back of the cave where I found a lone Fairy Penguin (Eudyptula minor) in residence. It thus stands as the biggest penguin burrow I've ever found :-)

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Eastern Barred Bandicoot

... Perameles gunnii
On Monday night we were honored by a visit from an Eastern barred bandicoot. In the nine years at my current domicile we have had some good views of the more common Southern brown bandicoot but this was our first encounter with this small nocturnal marsupial (a bit smaller than a rabbit).

Eastern barred bandicoot, Perameles gunnii, in the backyard

It was first spotted, from the lounge room window, hopping about in the the front garden. It then made it's way up the driveway to the backyard. I grabbed the camera and we went out to have a closer look. We soon found it foraging away under the Nectarine tree. That's when I discovered I had no memory card in the camera. I watched it for 2 or 3 minutes while someone ran back to the house for the memory card. It just stayed there going about it's business only a couple of metres away. Of course, once the camera was set up and ready, the bandicoot's sixth sense (camera detection and aversion) kicked in and it started getting nervous. The end result was one useable but blurry photo and one wonderfully clear recollection of the encounter.

The Eastern barred bandicoot is extinct in South Australia. In Victoria it is 'critically endangered'. Here in Tasmania it has already disappeared from some areas and overall numbers have declined since the early 1990's. Fortunately it is still common in some localities. What a privilege it is to find it in my own backyard.

Below is a photo of the more common Southern brown bandicoot, also taken in the backyard.

Southern brown bandicoot, Isoodon obesulus

Linked to Saturday's Critters  and Camera Critters

Monday, 13 April 2015

A Closer Look at a Fern

.....specifically, the Sori and Sporangia.

I spent some time photographing a fern today for the purpose of learning more about these pteridophytic plants. I particularly wanted to have a closer look at the little spore containing receptacles that are found on on the underside of fertile fronds.

Fronds of the Kangaroo Fern -  Microsorum pustulatum
The Kangaroo Fern, Microsorum pustulatum, in the above photo is growing on the trunk of a Tree Fern, Dicksonia antarctica. If you look closely at the enlarged photo you can see the rhizomes working their way through the fibrous trunk of the Tree Fern. On the upper surface of the fronds you can see little dimples marking the locations of the reproductive structures which are on the underside. These are the spore containing structures that I wanted to have a closer look at.

Turning the frond over we can see these raised spots arranged along the underside. These are known as sori, or in the singular, a sorus. On this specimen the sori are about 4mm in diameter. . So where are the actual spores? Let's look closer!

Each sorus is tightly packed with sporangia

This photo shows that the sorus is actually tightly packed with little capsules known as sporangia (singular, sporangium). Notice that the sporangia are open to the air. In some ferns there is a little cap that covers them until they are mature. The cap is known as an indusium. The presence or absence of an idusium can be a useful feature in identifying ferns. Another useful feature for identifying ferns is the shape and position of the sori.

Closer view of the sporangia

Getting up close you can see that each sporangium is a little capsule. These capsules open when mature. The microscopic spores are then released to be spread by the wind.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Ferns Along Seabrook Creek the Frenchs Road Nature Reserve.

Anyone interested in ferns would thoroughly enjoy visiting the Frenchs Road Nature Reserve. The site consists of 34  hectares of remnant forest along Seabrook Creek, not far from Somerset and Wynyard in Tasmania.

Quoting from the sites information brochure:

The native vegetation of the Reserve is predominately of two types:
  •  Dry Stringybark (Eucalyptus obliqua) forest on the drier and low nutrient slopes with Tea Tree and Wattle.  
  • Wet (Stringybark ) forest in the lower areas and along the creek (riparian zone). This wet forest understorey consists of majestic tree ferns with epiphytic ferns, tall blackwoods (Acacia melanoxylon) Tasmanian Pepper and the occasional Sassafras and Myrtle-Beach.

The purpose of my visit was simple. No, not ferns. Birds! I was particularly looking for Pink Robin and Scrubtit.  Unfortunately the birds had other plans for the day. There were plenty to be heard but very few to be seen aside from a Grey Fantail, a Superb Fairy-wren, and a Brown Thornbill. Honestly, that was it! I see a greater variety of birds in the town centre. Next time I'll have to go a little  earlier in the day, when the birds are more active.

Watch the video and listen to the invisible birds :-)

Despite the lack of avian accompaniment I still enjoyed my short walk along the damp and ferny banks of Seabrook Creek. Since the birds refused to co-operate, my attention soon moved on to the ferns  (they can't hide). I came home with several photographs needing to be identified. While reading Gouldiae's Blog recently I was motivated to learn a little more about our local ferns and this was an opportunity to get started. Currently my only reference on the subject is a small book with black and white photos from 1975. Unfortunately that book is temporarily packed away in storage so I resorted to the Internet to identify them. Feel free to offer corrections :-)

Kangaroo Fern - Microsorum pustulatum

Fishbone Water-Fern - Blechnum nudum

Scrambling Coral Fern - Gleichenia microphylla

Bat's wing fern - Histiopteris incisa

Manfern or Soft Tree Fern  lining the bank - Dicksonia antarctica

For a "A Closer Look at at a Fern", click here.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Some Birds for Your Viewing Pleasure

First up, and the one I'm happiest with, is the Bassian Thrush. This was spotted at Fern Glade near Burnie, Tasmania. When disturbed they often run a few metres or fly to a low branch and then stand still pretending you cannot see them. Theoretically this should give one an opportunity to grab a shot. The problem is they are usually deep among the tree ferns or some other very dark place making photography rather difficult. This one was foraging among the leaf litter and slowly worked it's way out into a slightly more open area. Out of half a dozen shots this was the only one that was at least worth keeping.

Bassian Thrush,  Zoothera lunulata, lurking in the shadows, at Fern Glade, Burnie, Tasmania

Next up is one of Tasmania's endemics, the Yellow-throated Honeyeater. This was at the George Town Wildlife Sanctuary.

Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Lichenostomus flavicollis  at George Town, Tasmania

I put in a big effort to get this next photograph traveling at least 50 metres on foot into one of the deepest, darkest, corners of my backyard.

Spotted Pardalote, Pardalotus punctatus, in the Backyard

The last shot is not so recent. It was taken back in October at Granite Island, off Victor Harbour, in South Australia.

Female Nankeen Kestrel, Falco cenchroides on Granite Island, S.A

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Peewee or Magpie-lark

Grallina cyanoleuca
This is a very common bird throughout mainland Australia but is absent from Tasmania so I was happy to get some photos while visiting Adelaide.  It has many common names including Peewit, Peewee, Mudlark, Murray magpie and Yilimbirraa. I was brought up using the onomatopoeic name Peewee although the accepted common name these days is the Magpie-lark.

Plucky Peewee Pauses Precariously Upon Pointy Perch

 The Magpie-lark -  Grallina cyanoleuca