alaskabirder

Its a Great Day to Bird

Month: November 2017

Winter Wonderland – November in Homer, Alaska

On October 31st, I returned from Australia (where temperatures reached 96 degrees F the day before we left to return home) to winter temperatures, icy roads, and snow.  What a difference a day makes.  I thought I would share a little of my life this past month.

COASST Surveys

I conducted my monthly COASST (Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team) survey at the Anchor Point beach in early November.  The survey requires that I walk from the parking lot to mouth of the Anchor River and back – over 2 miles round trip.  I usually go after a high tide, but in the winter that isn’t always possible due to lack of daylight, timing of the high tide, and weather.

My November walk required that I start on a “high” incoming tide.  I thought we (Jack and I) had given myself plenty of time to complete the survey, but after finding three dead birds (Horned Puffin, Common Murre, and Northern Fulmar), we barely made it back to the parking lot in time before the beach was covered in water.  I need to be more careful next time.   Despite the rising tide, it was a beautiful day.  I  spotted a group of nine Rock Sandpipers and a lone Sanderling feeding at the surf line.

Head and beak of the dead Northern Fulmar (found the bird almost covered by sand)

Dead Horned Puffin – also found covered in sand

Rock Sandpipers

Sanderling

Beautiful Sunrises

One thing I love about winters in Homer are the sunrises.  They can be quite colorful.  The month has seen a lot of sunny days (which I love), although that usually means colder weather.  The winds, at times, have been brutal making walks barely tolerable.

View from my home

Kachemak Bay Birders – November Field Trip

It seems strange not to be birding every day.  I miss it.  I like traveling to new places and seeing new birds and their environment.  I’m ready to leave again.  However, we’ve decided to spend the winter in Alaska.  So will make the most of it and get out and see our area birds.

On November 18, eleven hardy souls joined Michael Craig, our trip leader, for some birding on the Homer Spit.  The sun was out, windy, and while it was chilly, I think everyone enjoyed seeing the birds.  One or more of us spotted 29 different species, including a Belted Kingfisher, which usually has migrated south for the winter.  The wintering Rock Sandpipers were in evidence (in large numbers) along the banks of the boat harbor.  Fun to watch them bath in the cold waters of Kachemak Bay.  You wouldn’t catch me dipping into those waters regardless of the time of year.

Several of the birders checking out the fishing lagoon for birds

Belted Kingfisher at the Petro Marine fueling dock

This was just a small number of the Rock Sandpipers present

Rock Sandpiper

Project FeederWatch

Project FeederWatch (https://feederwatch.org/), a program sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, began mid- November.  Since we are going to be in Alaska this year, I decided to participate again.  For two consecutive days a week from mid November to mid April, you count the total number of birds by species seen at your feeder during the day.  You can choose to observe mornings, afternoons, or all day – and for as long as you like (never taking your eyes off the feeder to less than a hour watching the feeder).

The first week we actually had six different species come to our feeder: Pine Grosbeak, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Gray Jay, Pine Siskin, and Black-billed Magpie.  Pine Grosbeaks are the predominant visitors, and generally feed throughout the day, whereas the chickadees and nuthatches generally feed in the early morning and late afternoon, and the Pine Siskins only in the morning.  The Gray Jay only came once.  The magpies travel between our house and the neighbors house.  I usually bang on the window when they come as they tend to dominate the feeder, especially if there is suet present.

We’ve also had a Sharp-shinned Hawk in the neighborhood who is marauding the birds at the feeder.  The end result is that the birds flush – being chased by the hawk –  and occasionally flying into our windows.  This has resulted in four dead Pine Grosbeaks, three within one week.  Distressing to say the least.  I painted the living room windows (where the strikes have occurred) to see if that helps, but may need to take other measures like putting up a net to catch the birds and bounce them away from the windows.  But then does the hawk getting better access to the bird?  Or do I stop feeding the birds for several weeks to see if the hawk moves on?  Such a dilemma.

This past week we’ve had Gray-crowned Rosy Finches coming to the feeder.  On the second count day, we had three Rosy Finches, the next day the number of Rosy Finches increased to twenty, and the following day we had up to 50 visiting our feeder.  When there are fewer numbers of Rosy Finches at the feeder the birds tend to stick around and feed.  When the number gets too high it seems the birds spend most of their time scattering and in flight.

Pine Grosbeaks at the feeder

Gray-crowned Rosy Finch and Pine Siskin feeding on the ground below the feeder.

Gray-crowned Rosy Finch

Base of the feeder – Rosy Finches

The latest casualty of the Sharp-shinned Hawk saga – Male Pine Grosbeak. These deaths break my heart.

Eveline State Recreation Site

Winter is a fun time to check out the animal tracks traversing the park and adjacent roads.  I followed one and it lead of a hole.

Snowshoe Hare (???) or as I like to call them – Spruce bunnies

Someone dragging his tail – Red-backed Vole?  And if so, then what made the other tracks?

Our neighbor’s dog acts like a fox – jumping into the snow to check for critters.  Does he hear them like foxes do?

Neighbor dog – Chaz

Living near the park has been a godsend.  During the non-snowy months we walk the trails regularly.  During the winter if the snow is too deep we walk the roads near the park, otherwise we walk the trails.    The lighting in the mornings and late afternoons has been wonderful to capture the beauty of the area.

So what beauty and delight will December hold?  More Birds !

Sydney Australia and surrounds

26 October 2017

Yikes!!!  As we departed Perth today for Sydney, we were given a farewell of strong winds during take off and we sure felt it.  I don’t think I’ve ever had such a rough take-off in all my years of flying.  And I hate taking off more than any other part of the flight.

The four-hour flight was pretty uneventful after the take-off to shortly just before the landing.  Luckily the strong storm system due in Sydney around the time we were scheduled to land did not arrive till 6 hours later – where we had heavy rains, thunder, lightning, and strong winds.  Even so, it was a little rough (landing).  I’m not a fan of flying.

We are staying with another friend of Lisa’s – Leah.  Leah used to work with Lisa at the Alaska Department of Natural Resources in the 1980s.  Now she lives in Sydney with her husband.  Leah was kind enough to pick us up at the airport –  she lives about an hour away, and just around the corner from the Royal National Park (a birding hotspot).

27 October 2017

We woke to strong winds and heavy rain – remnants of last night’s storm.  The forecast was for skies to clear mid-morning, so we took the train into downtown Sydney, visiting the Royal Botanical Garden and the famous Sydney Opera House.  Walking through a park downtown, we saw a Laughing Kookaburra sitting on a construction fence while a guy on a dozer was working nearby.  The kookaburra was unfazed by the turmoil – a city bird.

At the botanical gardens they had a great “pollination” display, with a wall of live vegetation.  Pollinators (e.g., bees, bats, butterflies, and birds) are important for crop production.  One in three food items requires pollination.  Just think of the foods we wouldn’t have without pollination – apples, almonds to name a few.  Yay for pollinators.

Leah took us for a drive through Royal National Park, stopping at Wattamolla to check out the rugged coastline.  We did see several Humpback whales, along with lots of shearwaters (seabirds) and several Albatross (too far out for me to identify).  We also got a nice look at two familiar birds: New Holland Honeyeater (a pollinator) and White-browed Scrubwrens.  Little did we know that two sought after birds: Southern Emu-wren and Chestnut-rumped Heathwren were lurking within the heath shrubs.

Heard the Powerful Owl and the Southern Boobook Owl hooting away tonight.

Nothing much disturbs the Laughing Kookaburra on the fence

Closer view

Noisy Miner

Rainbow Lorikeet

Masked Lapwing

Pollination Garden Wall

Beautiful Orchids in the garden

Plants on the wall spell “pollination”

This was the best part of the Royal Botanical Gardens

Sydney Opera House

Water taxi

Trains are very popular in Sydney

Coastline within Royal National Park – at Wattamolla

Coastal Heathlands

28 October 2017

Today we drove 2.5 hours to in hike the Blue Mountains National Park.  The park is the destination for a popular trail – Wentworth Falls, which we took.  If you are afraid of heights this is not the trail for you.  I am, but I went down, then up the steep slopes along the mountainside anyway. My legs felt like rubber when reaching the bottom and the top of the precipitous trail.  The setting, however, was beautiful.

Since it was a Saturday the trail was busy, busy, busy.  It is amazing what people will wear on their feet to walk dangerous, mountain trails.  The rock steps were wet in places and it would be very easy to slip and fall.  Luckily we didn’t see anyone who had fallen.

When one is clinging to a wire handrail, holding on for dear life you don’t spend a lot of time looking for birds, although we did see a few species along the trail.

Blue Mountains National Park

Upper part of the falls

There is a rock bridge to cross over the stream before the stream makes its second descent

Leah and Lisa

Yes it was a very steep decent and climb back up

You would (or maybe not) be surprised at what people wore on their feet to do this hike – dress shoes (think shoes with heels) and flip flops to name a few.

Stream before the falls

Fan-tailed Cuckoo

Male Eastern Spinebill

29 October 2017

We hired a local guide Steve Aston-Smith with Royal Birding to take us birding in Royal National Park.  This park is located a short distance from where we are staying with friends.  And a sunny, beautiful, warm, Sunday brought out hoards of Sydney residents and visitors.  Luckily they didn’t start arriving until after noon so our morning birding wasn’t too disturbed.

One of our target birds was the Superb Lyrebird.  This is the bird made famous by David Attenborough in a video.  The bird is also known as the chainsaw bird since it is a mimic and can mimic man-made sounds like camera shutters and – you guessed it – chainsaws.  See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGxcw1tbjkE  We did hear the bird mimic other bird’s calls, but not to the extent in the video – maybe because the bird breeds (and thus signs and calls) in the Australian winter and we saw the bird in the spring.  Great bird.

Another target bird was the Southern Emu-wren.  This bird likes short heath vegetation so we left the forested areas in the park and went to Wattamolla to search for the bird.  Walking to the area favored by the Emu-wren and the Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, we spotted the Rock Warbler (another bird we were hoping to see) hopping along the cliff face.  Guess that is how the bird got its name – Rock Warbler.  I think we may have seen this bird two days ago, but didn’t get a good look at it, or know what it was.

We moved on to the heathland habitat to search for the Emu-wren and Heathwren.  Steve heard the heathwren and we tried calling out the bird, but no luck.  We walked further along (me with sore thighs from yesterday’s hike) and flushed a Southern Emu-wren, but I didn’t get a good enough look at the bird to feel comfortable “ticking” the bird on my list of birds seen.  This is one species I really wanted to see and see well – with the beautiful rufous body, with its blue throat and chest.  With the name “wren” in its name, its tail sticks up in the air at 45 to75-degree angle, just like our American wrens.  We continued walking through the heathlands and final saw, not one but four, Chestnut-rumped Heathwrens.  And we got good looks at the birds  – meaning we saw the entire bird, not just parts of it.  Sweet!

Afterwards we went back in to the forest and continued to search for additional birds and have lunch.  We got additional views of the Superb Lyrebird.  As it was a very warm day, we concluded our tour with a stop in a neighborhood bordering the park to search for the Powerful Owl.  Steve said there was a family of owls here – male, female, and chick – but we only saw one.  Since the neighborhood kids were in the area playing, he suspects the mother and youngster went deeper into the park.  But oh what a beautiful view we got of this ‘powerful’ owl.  We were more than happy to see just one.

National Park symbol – Lyrebird – for New South Wales

Pond near Audley Village within Royal National Park

Lady Carrington Drive (now a trail). This road is a hotspot for birds in the park.

For the first part of the trail starting at Audley Village, the vegetation on the right hand side of the trail is quite dense.

Beautiful Firetail

Satin Bowerbird – Male

The Satin Bowerbird’s “Bower”. They like to decorate it with “blue” objects.

Hatch year Rock Warbler – clinging to the side of a cliff face

Coppertail Skink

Large-billed Thornbill

Superb Lyrebird

The National Parks in Australia are actually managed by the different states, and very rarely do they get the money they need to manage them properly. Here an old, dilapidated picnic table

King Parrot

The highly sought after “Powerful Owl”

Eastern Water Dragon

30 October 2017

We leave for home tomorrow so today is a lazy day of catching up on emails, blogs (me), packing, updating our species lists, and just relaxing in the heat (89 at noon and 96 around 3:00 pm – too, too hot).  And to think we will be going back to temperatures ranging in the 20-30s.  What a difference that will be.  Luckily, most of the trip has been with cool weather (late winter, early spring).

In all it was a great trip.  Australia is a beautiful country with  great birds, many of them endemic to Australia.  I need to review my field notes and verify my bird sightings, but I do know I observed over 400 bird species while in Australia, of which at least 90 percent were new species.  I would highly recommend a trip here to experience the beauty and fascination of Australia, whether you are interested in birds or not.  I hope to come back and visit the Northern Territory, Tasmania, and the northern half of Western Australia.

IT WAS A GREAT TWO MONTHS OF BIRDING

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Western Australia

16 October 2017

Flying from Melbourne to Western Australia resulted in the addition of three extra hours of daylight and several time zone changes.  We caught an early morning flight to Perth and was met by Lisa’s friend Andrew.  Andrew and his wife Merilyn have graciously offered to show us around parts of Western Australia (Perth and points south) for the next ten days.  Sweet.

After settling in at Andrew and Merilyn’s lovely home we went to nearby Herdsman Lake Regional Park.  With skies threatening rain, and wind gusts over 25 mph., we forged on.   Despite that, there were a fair number of birds present in the park.   We were rewarded with lots of Purple Swamphens  seen feeding on the grass in the park.  An Australian Raven was being harassed by a Red Wattlebird and, funny thing, the Red Wattlebirds were being harassed by smaller birds.

We saw four Long-necked Turtles.  After a good rain, which Perth recently had, the turtles come out of the water to lay their eggs.  Andrew said they usually go to neighborhood gardens for egg-laying as the soil there is softer than in the park.  Of course the poor turtles have to negotiate crossing the busy roads.  Not all of them make it.

We also got to see some young hatch birds:  Swamphens, Moorhens, Ducklings, Grebes, and Coots.  I realized that while we’ve seen a fair number of young/baby birds over the years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen baby herons or egrets.  I hope someday to see them.  Guess I am never in the right place at the right time.

After Herdsman’s we came back for afternoon tea (coffee/tea and a sweet treat), then went out again to Bold Park, a forested park near Andrew and Merilyn’s home.  Not much was moving due to the wind and it seemed as thought any bird landing on a tree  was soon blown away.  We were fortunate to briefly see a White-cheeked Honeyeater, which is a new bird for us.  It was also good to just get out and walk.

Dusky Moorhen with a reed stalk

Eastern Great Egret – a different species than our Western Great Egret (although it looked the same to me at first glance)

Baby Great Crested Grebes – love the striping on their heads and neck

Pair of Great Crested Grebes

Purple Swamphen – one of many. Don’t you just love their feet (well toes actually).  So big.

Can you see why they call this a (Western) Long-necked Turtle. Kind of freaky looking to me.

Dusky Moorhen with chick

Little Egret

Eastern Great Egret …

… looking at something in the air or on the ground

Australasian Shoveler

Herdsman Lake

Pacific Black Duck – probably one of the most prolific ducks in Australia (or at least the one we saw the most around Australia)

Pacific Black Duck and Eurasian Coot

Pair of Australian Wood Ducks

Australasian Grebe

The strong winds ruffling the feathers of this Purple Swamphen

Black Swan with cygnets

Black Swan cygnets

Yes, during breeding season Australian Mapgies (which aren’t really magpies) will swoop down and attack people. Some people have been serious injured (eye injuries mostly) by these birds.

So small, but look at those feet/toes – Baby Dusky Moorhen

Again a Purple Swamphen with ruffled (wind blown) feathers

Australian White Ibis (aka Sacred Ibis)

Little Corellas

Yellow-billed Spoonbill

Baby Australian Wood Ducks

This guy did not want to hang around for a photo – Purple Swamphen chick

Purple Swamphen (did I mention we saw a lot of them)

The Dusky Moorhens have a yellow-tipped bill

Willie Wagtail – this guy loves to wag its tail back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

Australian Wood Duck family – there were several at the park

Eurasian Coots

Great Crested Grebe on a nest

Grey Butcherbird at Andrew and Merilyn’s house

White-cheeked Honeyeater at Bold Park

Rainbow Lorikeets. These birds are not native to Western Australia but have been making their way west from eastern Australia. They are loud, and roost in large flocks. While beautiful birds, they are not well liked in many places because they displace other birds during breeding.

17 October 2017

Today we went to King’s Park in Perth, spending the morning birding the grounds.  Surprisingly we didn’t see any new birds, but lots of beautiful flowers and great views of the city center.  From there we went to Alfred Cove to check out the waders.  Here we saw the usual suspects (ducks, herons, egrets, cormorants), plus several Fairy Terns (a new species for us).  We were hoping to see some shorebirds, but the water was too high.  We ended out the day with a short trip to Freemantle, a nearby town with some old historic buildings.  The town was hopping with tourists.

I plan to do a separate blog on the flowers of Australia, so many of the photos I took of the flowers in King’s Park will appear in that blog post.

Perth downtown skyline

Banksia species

Australian Raven and Laughing Kookaburra

One of my favorite Australian species

Australian Ravens are  …

… very vocal. I don’t think he wanted the Kookaburra nearby. Must have been a nest with chicks close.

Australian Ringneck

Baby Australian Wood Ducks

Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo. These birds feed on nuts called “honkey nuts”

Hatch year Red Wattlebird

Striated Pardalote – these birds have an easily identifiable two-note chip

18 October 2017

Off to Denmark, with an overnight stay at Narrogin.  Although Denmark is only a 5.5-hour drive from Perth, we were booked at Barnia Mia to see some animals that only come out at night.  Our first stop of the day was at Bungendore Park.  We didn’t see or hear much, but as we were leaving Lisa saw a small bird that didn’t look familiar.  It turned out to be a female Western Spinebill.  A new bird for us.  We got some decent looks of the bird, but hope to see a male later.

From Bungendore Park we drove to the Dryandra Woodlands, which recently became a National Park.  This is a small area of woodlands in Western Australia.  Most of what we’ve passed through on our way to the woodlands was farmlands.  We checked out several places hoping to see the Numbat, a small marsupial with a very long tongue.  This marsupial is diurnal so we were hoping to see it crossing the road or eating alongside.  No such luck.

A big problem in Australia is the introduction of Red Fox, which prey on native animals.  The population of marsupials have declined considerable as a result of the Red Fox and feral cats.  The government of Australia has an active program to rid the country of these two nuisance species, including the use of poisons.

This is the bait used for feral cats

These signs are spotted frequently in National Parks and nature reserves. 1080 Poison is used primarily to eradicate Red Fox.

We did get several new birds in the Dryandra Woodlands, including the Rufous Treecreeper – a pretty little treecreeper.  There were lots of them present.  We also got to see and hear the Western Gerygone, which has a beautiful song.  Hard to miss this bird’s song – very melodic.

We stopped for dinner at Old Mill Dam (dams here are essentially ponds) to eat dinner.  When we got there we saw several Short-billed Black Cockatoos (aka Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos).  They come to the dam to drink before roosting for the evening.  We got good views of two on a dead tree limb, but too far away for decent photos.  There were at least three other cars in the parking lot, and several people walking around with large-lens cameras.

After dinner we drove to Barna Mia, which is a predator-proof sanctuary located approximately 170 kilometers southeast of Perth.  For $20 Aussie dollars you can experience up to six possible nocturnal creatures eating food put out by staff.  We got to see four of the six animals: Bilby, Boodie, Mala, and Woylie.  I didn’t take any photos and later wish I had.  Fun to watch these animals eat and look right at you as they are doing so.  Sometimes they would run right past your feet.  If you are ever in the area, stop and partake of this experience.  Well worth the money, which goes to the conservation of these animals.

Rufous Treecreeper

Rufous Treecreeper

These are one species of trigger plants. According to the International Trigger Plant Society (yes, one does exist) All three flowers have their triggers cocked back, waiting for an insect to arrive to drink nectar. The jostling of the insect sets off the trigger, which then strikes the insect, covering it with pollen. The insect then moves to another flower, this one ready to pick up pollen from a visitor, completing pollination. For more information check out: https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=trigger+plants&ei=UTF-8&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-002

Dragon Orchid

Red-capped Robin – Male

Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoos came to the Old Mill Dam to drink

Yellow-rumped Thornbill

We did see a lot of Rufous Treecreepers in  Dryandra National Park

19 October 2017

We spent last night in a hotel in the town of Narriogin.  After an early morning breakfast it was off to Denmark with several stops along the way to check out birds (Lisa and I) and flowers (Andrew and Merilyn – well Lisa and I checked out the flowers too, and Andrew the birds).

At our first stop – the Foxes Laire – near town we were rewarded with a great sighting of a Red-capped Parrot – a new species for us.  We also saw a fair number of Brown-headed, White-naped, and White-cheeked Honeyeaters.  These birds were busy feeding on the flowering trees and shrubs.  At one point, four juvenile birds flew to the shrubs within five feet of Andrew and I.  Busy little birds, feeding away.

At our third stop, where we had lunch, Lisa and I were walking around checking out the birds when I spotted a Western Yellow Robin.  We had been hoping to see this bird, and after several days of trying we were finally rewarded.  As Jack would say – timing is everything.

We arrived in the town of Denmark around 2:30 pm, and stopped for mandatory afternoon tea before heading out to check the ocean and nearby beaches for waders (shorebirds to us in America).  We did see several Pied Oystercatchers and a single Sooty Oystercatcher.  Otherwise, no shorebirds.  Andrew thinks the water was too high, and maybe a tad bit too early for waders.  We did see two juvenile Pacific Gulls.  Pacific Gulls have huge bills for a gull.  Hard to miss.

White-cheeked Honeyeater

Australian Ringneck Parrots

Brown-headed Honeyeater

Andrew and Merilyn checking out the flowering plants

Spider Orchid

Western Grey Kangaroo with her Joey (baby Kangaroo)

Western Yellow Robin

View from Andrew and Merilyn’s place in Denmark

Eastern Osprey

20 October 2017

In the morning I walked Andrew and Merilyn’s property in search of birds, finding a Western Rosella (parrot) on the telephone wires and a Red-winged Fairywren flitting amongst the ferns – two new birds.  There were a number of Baudin’s Black-Cockatoos flying over, along with lots of Red Wattlebirds and New Holland Honeyeaters.  After breakfast, Lisa and I birded the neighborhood.  There were lots of birds in the dense vegetation, including a female and male Western Spinebill.  Glad we got a good look at these birds.  We had seen the female Spinebill briefly the day before.

We then went to several beach locations  with Merilyn and Andrew looking for the elusive Hooded Plover, which remained elusive.  Considering there are only 600 Hooded Plovers left in the world, it isn’t surprising we didn’t see the bird.  I was so hoping to see this species, but maybe next visit to Australia.  We did get some really good views of the Baudin’s Black Cockatoo.  No flyovers here, although they did fly in and land on vegetation a short 50-feet from us.  It was easy to see their long bill, plus the red eye ring and black bills on the male, and the black/gray ring and light colored bill on the female.  Yes, that close.  Well not that we could see these features with the naked eye, but we could see them very well with our binoculars.

The beaches we visited were beautiful.  Lots of impressive large rocks, and at Green Pools the beach was very inviting. I could have gone swimming in the ocean if I had brought my swimsuit.  The weather was sunny and in the 70s.  Lots of people out enjoying the beautiful weather.  At Elephant Rock we had a Sooty Oystercatcher on the beach sticking its long red bill into the sand for worms.  Every once in awhile the oystercatcher pulled out a long worm, consuming it.  The bird didn’t seem to mind people walking the narrow stretch of beach.

Australian Ringneck – here the “28” subspecies so named because its call sounds like “twenty-eight”. Hmmmm. I wish I had known that when we saw the species so I could agree or not about the sound of its call.

Red-eared Firetail – feeding on grit along side the road

The beautiful “Splendid Fairywren” – male

Grey Shrike-Thrush. We were told they weren’t really a shrike and they weren’t really a thrush.

Female Splendid Fairywren

Australasian Pipit

Australasian Pipit

No dogs OR cats are allowed in National Parks or nature reserves . Of course not everyone heeds the sign.

Silver Gull

Baudin’s Black Cockatoos

Honkey nut – main food source of the Carnaby’s and Baudin’s Black-Cockatoos

Greater Crested Terns on a rock at Green Pool

Andrew on top of a rock

Sooty Oystercatcher with a worm

The narrow beach where we found the Sooty Oystercatcher

Here the oystercatcher is looking for more worms. The name oystercatcher is a misnomer.

Splendid Fairywren – Male

The fairywrens are my Australian favorite bird species.  These birds were photographed in Merilyn and Andrew’s yard at Denmark.  What a fantastic yard bird.

21 October 2017

Our goal today was to find three birds: Noisy Scrubbird, Western Bristlebird, and Western Whipbird.  When I say find, I mean hear the birds.  All three birds are very elusive and hard to see.  The favored habitat is thick coastal heath.  And guess what?  We didn’t see them.  I don’t think many people do as there aren’t very many photos out there of the birds.

Our first stop was Cheyne Beach where a friend of Andrew’s had given him some advice at where we might find the Noisy Scrubbird.  No luck.  These birds breed during the Australian winter months, so that is when they are most noisy.  They get their name for a reason we were told.  I just wish we could have heard the bird calling.  We did find the White-breasted Robin, which we have been trying to find for the past two days.  This is a small gray and white bird, and he showed himself nicely at the parking lot where we had lunch.

After lunch we went to Two Peoples Beach to look for the Western Bristlebird and Noisy Scrubbird.  We were checking out the coastal heath shrubs when we heard the Western Bristlebird.  The sound was very close.  We looked and looked, but didn’t see the bird.  We waited until the bird called again and then walked into the shrub.  At one point I must have been awfully close to the bird because it stopped calling mid song.  But try as I might, I could not see the bird or even movement within the shrubs.  When we next heard it, the bird had moved off a short distance.  We probably spent a good 30-45 minutes looking for the bird and seeing absolutely nothing.  The vegetation is quite dense and the birds use the tunnels through the vegetation created by small nocturnal animals.  Thus, it is very easy for these birds to move through the dense vegetation undetected.

The day was quite windy, which didn’t help any in our search for the birds.  We left the area empty handed except for hearing the Western Bristlebird.  We felt fortunate enough to have had that opportunity.

Banksia flower

New Holland Honeyeater

More Splendid Fairywrens …my favorite…

Grey Fantail

We’ve seen a lot of these birds

Golden Whislter – Male

Banksia flowers

Another type of Grass Tree

This is a sundew species

An orchid

Australian Pelican

22 October 2017

Today we drove to West Cape Howe National Park in search of the Western Thornbill.  This bird likes forested areas and we stopped at two different areas to search for the bird.  As you can probably guess we didn’t find it during the first stop. We heard a lot of birds, but didn’t see much.

Our next stop was Shelley Beach.  Here we got really good looks of the White-breasted Robin.  Funny how you look and look for a species and then once you finally find it, they show up everywhere.  The bird was hawking, although Lisa did see it drop to the ground and grab a worm.  The bird was found adjacent to the parking lot and the restrooms, and rarely flushed when someone walked by to use the facilities.

In a grassy area near the parking lot were four Red-backed Fairywrens – two males and two females.  I had seen one briefly two days ago, but today I got excellent looks and some fairly decent photos.  It was fun to sit and watch them search for food, always flitting about.  They don’t hold still for long.

We then proceeded to our second forested area to search for the Western Thornbill.  This time we did get the bird, and we didn’t have to walk far into the forest.  We didn’t get the best looks, but enough to identify and enjoy the bird.  We also saw two Grey Fantails flying about – fun to watch them fan their tales – with one of them going to a nest.  It looked as though they were “feathering” their nest.  The nest was a small, round cup high in a tree.

Our final stop of the day was Monkey Rock near Denmark.  We did a short hike to the rock and got great views of the surround area.  On the rocks, we saw several skinks – Mourning and Common Southwest Ctenonus.

Tomorrow we leave Denmark and head back to Perth.  Our time here has been great.  This part of Western Australia is beautiful with its sandy beaches and rocky coastline.  And Andrew and Merilyn made it special.

Australian Magpie – yes this is the bird that likes to attack people during the nesting season.  As you can see from its beak, you wouldn’t want to be a recipient of its attack.

White-browed Babbler looking for grub on this post

White-browed Babbler

White-breasted Robin.  I didn’t notice the twine on the tree until I saw the photo on my computer

Is there grub below

Red-backed Fairywren – Male, of course

Wild Wysteria …

… up close

Andrew, Lisa, and Merilyn on Monkey Rock

Andrew taking in the view from Monkey Rock

Mourning Skink

Common Southwest Ctenonus

Another “mourner”.  This one looks like it had recently ate

Australian Wood Ducklings – these ducklings had just crossed a busy road with its parent

23 October 2017

Left Denmark today.  We really enjoyed our time here with Merilyn and Andrew.  What great hosts.

We did make several stops along the way to bird and for Merilyn and Andrew to note what plants were in bloom.  They do this whenever they go to Denmark and back.  They have set places they stop on the way to and from Denmark.

At one stop we had a Fan-tailed Cuckoo calling.  At first we weren’t sure what it was, with Andrew thinking it might just be the cuckoo.  So we played the call and sure enough the bird came swooping in to check out the competition.  We had some great views of the Cuckoo, but not very good photos.  As we were driving out there was a Stubble Tail, which we’ve seen in other parts of Australia.  Here the coloring was not as black or dark as in New South Wales or Queensland.  When you get too close to these reptiles they stick out their black tongue.

At another stop – Sullivan Rock – we got to see an Echidna (aka Spiny Anteater, although not related to the South America anteaters).  This is a small solitary, egg-laying mammal with course spines and hair.  When approached it will try and burrow into the ground or vegetation, which tried to do when we came close.  In a way, its spines remind me of porcupine quills.  At this same location we also saw a Rock Dragon.  We’ve seen more lizards in Western Australia than any other location to date.

Yellow-rumped Thornbill

A spider that Lisa almost walked into – and it was big

Fantail Cuckoo

Stubbie Tail (aka Bobtail, Shingle-back – note black tongue

Rock Dragon

Echidna …

… here trying to hide in the vegetation

Western Gerygone

24 October 2017

We arrived back in Perth yesterday.  This morning Lisa and I went back to Bold Park in the morning and birded.  We had some great views of the surrounding area, a beautiful walk in the park, and enjoyed lots of various parrot species flying about, including the Rainbow Lorikeet.

We headed back to Andrew and Merilyn’s house for lunch, stopping at Perry Lake Reserve – across the street from Bold Park – to check out one of the lakes.  At first it didn’t look like there were any birds on the water, but when we got a closer look we found all kinds of birds.  There was a pair of Dusky Moorhens with a chick.  The chick had already developed its bill like mom and dad, but otherwise was a little fuzzball.  The European Coots had four youngsters that looked as though they had hatched only a couple days ago, except for one young bird that looked much older.  Then, not to be left out, the Grey Teals had one duckling.  The presence of a Brown Goshawk in Bold Park might be why there was only one duckling remaining.  Finally there was an Australasian Grebe with two chicks, also quite small.  So a pond full of chicks.

We also found White-necked and White-faced Herons, two Nankeen Night-herons, a Little Pied Cormorant, Purple Swamphen, and the surprise and delight of the day – a Buff-banded Rail,  of which I almost got a photo.  Those birds can sure move fast.

We spent a leisurely afternoon at Andrew and Merilyn’s home, with me being able to catch up on my blogging.  Tomorrow is our last full day in Western Australia.  I have really enjoyed this part of Australia, but I am sure it is because of our gracious and generous hosts: Andrew and Merilyn Burbidge.  Thank you for everything.  You are always welcome in Homer, Alaska, or wherever we may live.

Long-billed Corella

White-cheeked Honeyeater

This Long-billed Corella is in its nest hole. Lisa scratched the tree and the corella popped out to see what was going on.

Downtown Perth from Bold Park

We went to an overlook area and these etchings were on the railing going up to the overlook area.

View of Downtown Perth from the overlook

Eurasian Coot and chick

25 October 2017

Today we headed south to check out some possible waders (shorebirds) at Peel Inlet.  And indeed we did find some: Bar-tailed Godwit, Great Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, and some smaller shorebirds that were just a little bit to far away to identify even with my spotting scope, and the wind and rain.  In addition to the shorebirds there were a fair number of Australian Shelduck.  These are really beautiful ducks, but in the few times we have seen them they’ve been too far away to get decent photos.  Dang.   Also at this area we had some really nice views of the Red-capped Parrot – a colorful parrot species.

Our next stop was the Creery Wetland Preserve, but not much activity here with respect to shorebirds – except for the Common Greenshank.  We checked out two other spots before settling in at Cafe 158 for lunch.  They serve breakfast all day long, and since I like breakfast  I ordered the French Toast.  Haven’t seen french toast on the menu at any of the places we’ve eaten breakfast on this trip so this was a real treat.  We then hit the road again to check out the Lake McLarty Nature Reserve, a Ramsar site.  Ramsar sites are internationally significant wetlands.  I concur that this is a great wetland site.

At McLarty we had our best bird sightings for the day.  The lake had over 50 Black Swans, with many taking care of cygnets (baby swans).  There was also a fair number of Shelducks present.  At the parking area we heard a raucous call and found a young Galah high in a tree screaming for its meal.  Galahs nest in tree holes and the youngster had its head sticking out the hole and one of the parents was busy feeding the youngster, jamming food into its demanding mouth.

We took a short walk down a dirt road and saw six or more Regent Parrots fly into the trees.  Two sat nicely on a branch for us.  Took us a while to identify the birds because in Western Australia they are more green than yellow, like in other parts of the country.  We think there was a nesting pair nearby as there was at least one adult who stayed and kept watch over us as we watched.

Walking further down the road we were treated to four different raptor species:  Osprey (sitting in a tree near a very large nest – we couldn’t tell if there was a bird on the nest), Whistling Kite (also sitting near a large nest – and again we couldn’t tell if there was a bird on the nest), a Nankeen (aka Australian) Kestrel (got good views of this bird in flight, when it was hovering), and two (Woohoo!!!) Swamp Harriers.  We think the Swamp Harriers had a nest in the reeds along the lake and a Whistling Kite was harassing the harrier pair – probably trying to steal eggs or chicks to feed its mate or own young.

Alas it was time to head back to Perth.

Red-capped Parrot

Nankeen Night Heron

Boardwalk at Creery Wetland Preserve

Eastern Osprey

Here is its nest

Regent Parrot

Even in Australia they have these hilarious signs … okay, maybe not so funny

Tomorrow we say goodbye to Andrew and Merilyn (they have been great hosts), and head to Sydney for the final part of our Australian journey.  Until then …

IT’S A GREAT DAY TO BIRD

 

 

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