Sunday, 19 August 2018

Miscellaneous Birds - July 2018

Inevitably, for various reasons, I hit periods with little or no photo subjects and material for blog posts. Also, inevitably a miscellany of bird photos taken here and there that do not fit into blog posts accumulate in my photo files. Now is such a time, so here is an offering of miscellaneous photos captured in July 2018 along the NSW north coast.

The warm clear July days on the NSW north coast now seem a distant memory as I sit at home in East Gippsland Victoria preparing this blog on a cold (it was 10oC outside at midday), wet and windy Sunday in August – mind you I am not complaining. After all it is still winter and we are in the grips of a serious drought so any rain is much appreciated.

Descriptions of the photos and comments are contained in the photo captions.

Please click on photos to enlarge.

Black-fronted Dotterel at the Byron Wetlands.

Juvenile Royal Spoonbill – the grubbiest Royal I have ever seen – more like a White Ibis (Bin chicken). Perhaps this bird will improve its personal cleanliness as it matures?
An adult Royal Spoonbill – an improvement on the juvenile above but still not as pristine white as the Royals mostly are.
Silvereye feeding on a Coast Wattle badly infested with scale insect – there were at least a dozen Silvereyes busy removing scale.

Black-backed Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen race tibicen – we have the White-backed Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen race tyrannica here in East Gippsland.
Great Egret preening - even in dull light the feather details stand out.

Double-barred Finch – a common species in northern Australia and not found East Gippsland. 
Rainbow Lorikeet - while the gaudy vibrant rainbow colours are not visible in this back view, even the green back is intensely vivid.
Australasian Figbird – adult male – Figbirds are rare in Victoria though I note that one found on the Mitchell River in Bairnsdale was reported on Birdline Vic on the 6th of August 2018 – a blue star award for a very rare winter sighting for this mostly summer visitor.
Little Wattlebird – probably the most numerous and conspicuous bird in the northern NSW coastal habitats where Coast Banksia was flowering - closely followed by White-cheeked and Brown Honeyeaters and then Noisy Friarbirds.
Brown Honeyeater on Banksia serrata flower spike – a small but noisy honeyeater.
Noisy Miner – a honeyeater with a sometimes well earned bad reputation.

Eastern Osprey on the estuary at Red Rock – they are common along the northern NSW coast and adjoining rivers and estuaries. 
Same Osprey as above - I couldn't resist including two photos of this magnificent bird.

Blue-faced Honeyeater – a juvenile with a green face foraging for insects and spiders under Coast Banksia bark.

Bar-tailed Godwits on the estuary a Sawtell – note the bird on the right is missing a foot and part of its leg – it is surprising how many water birds I see missing legs and feet!

The Australian Brush-turkey – a megapode – is very common on the eastern slopes of the Dividing Range and in coastal habitats along the NSW coast north of Sydney. This species seems to be doing especially well in areas close to human development including urban areas.
This bird has lifted a wing to expose feathers to the sun.
Pied Oystercatchers in flight off the Red Rock headland.

With spring only a bit over a week away, perhaps my bird photography opportunities will increase as the weather warms up and the days lengthen?

Sunday, 12 August 2018

White-cheeked Honeyeaters

On a recent trip, we found large numbers of White-cheeked Honeyeaters (Phylidonyris niger) along the NSW north coast especially where Coast Banksia (Banksia integrifolia) were in flower.

The Australian Bird Guide Menkhorst et al describes this species well, “Sedentary or local blossom nomad, highly nectivorous; also catches insects by sallying. Gregarious, noisy, pugnacious and conspicuous.”. This is also a good description for the closely related New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) which is common in East Gippsland. The White-cheeked is not found in East Gippsland though there have been a few reports of rare individual birds – for example one was sighted on Raymond Island on the Gippsland Lakes in the last year or so.

While the White-cheeked Honeyeaters were very numerous and active, in fact I would say hyper active - like kids on red cordial at a birthday party, I found them warier than the New Holland and harder to pin down for photos. I did catch up with one in the Arakwal National Park on the coast just south of Cape Byron. Most of the White-cheeks were busy in the Coast Banksia flowers where nectar was clearly the attraction. However the bird in the following photos was chasing insects – I suspect this bird had young it was feeding in a nest as it was gathering insects and not eating them as it went.

Please click on photos to enlarge.

Note the insect protruding from the bill.

Another name for the White-cheek is Moustached Honeyeater which perhaps better describes the white cheek patch which is not a patch but rather a fan-shaped plume. The white feathers emerge as a tuft of feathers from the cheek and fan out in a plume. This is obvious in the following photos.

Like the similar New Holland, the White-cheeked Honeyeater has a bold and conspicuous yellow panel on the folded wing – the yellow outer tail feathers are also conspicuous.

South of Byron Bay at the small coastal township of Red Rock I found a very confiding juvenile White-cheeked Honeyeater in salt and wind stunted Coastal Banksia on the headland. The trusting young bird emerged from the dense banksia every time I walked by its location on the climb to the headland.

Juvenile White-cheeked Honeyeater – note the yellow gape and the rather dishevelled appearance.

Even though the New Holland Honeyeater’s range overlaps with the White-cheeked along the northern NSW coast, over a three-week period during July and early August from Byron Bay to Gosford, we did not see one New Holland which was a little surprising given the habitat looked perfect for them.