Category Archives: Birding

Curracurrang Cove, Royal National Park

Spent a pleasant enough spring morning on Sunday doing the Wattamolla to Curracurrang Cove walk at the Royal NP this morning – further training for my trip to Bowra in … not very long at all!

The highlights were several – a pod of around 30 Bottlenosed Dolphin, Tawny Crowned Honeyeaters a-plenty, a Peregrine Falcon buzzing a small group of feeding Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, and around 30 other bird species. Not much in the way of landscape shots, as it appears that half of Sydney was also enjoying the sunshine, but I hope you enjoy this Tawny-crowned Honeyeater sans right foot. I’ll upload some more if I get a chance to process them before I go away.

Tawny-crowned Honeyeater – Gliciphila melanops

Deer Pool, Royal National Park, 26 August 2012

Royal National Park heath, with Little Marley beach on the horizon.

With some lovely late winter sunshine and some nice weather, we decided to go down to the Royal National Park and do the walk to Deer Pool. Highlights were the wildflowers in full show, and bird wise was a Little Eagle, and a Brown Goshawk (record shots below).

Little Eagle, top and bottom – even from >1km away, he was looking at us.

All in all a lovely walk, and one I can recommend to everyone.

I’ll upload some more images later on.

Sydney Pelagic – 14 July 2012

Official trip report here.

 

As promised in my post after the May trip, I was out on the July one. This was possibly one of the nicest days out at sea – it was a beautiful warm, clear, sunny and fairly flat day out. Only 1 person was sick that I saw, and yet again, it wasn’t me. I also brought my mum and dad out with me on this trip, as a significant birthday gift for my mum. Some of my dads shots will be linked to from here later on.

Providence Petrel

As it was fairly calm, I was hopeful for some sea-monster sightings, and wasn’t disappointed. We saw Humpback Whale, Southern Right Whale, Dwarf Minke Whale, Shortfin Mako Shark, Short-beaked Common Dolphin, and False Killer Whale was also seen, but not by me. Bird was it was down on numbers and diversity, but we managed Little Shearwater, White-faced Storm-petrel and some juvenile albatross, one of which is the subject of a seperate post here.

Fairy Prion

I’ll be back, probably on the September/October trip. Maybe October, as I’ve got a trip to Bowra in September…

If anyone out there reading this cares to look at the post about the possible Grey-headed Albatross and offer an opinion, that’d be great!

Wandering Albatross

Grey-headed Albatross?

Big edit:

Ok – it’s not a Grey-headed, and Nikolas has posted why here. That’s the sort of thing I wanted to hear – a reasoned explanation why.

———————–

This is a more detailed post about the juvenile albatross that was seen and photographed on the July Sydney pelagic. At the time, consensus seemed to be that it was just a very dark hooded Black-browed Albatross, but the white cheeks were something of interest. I’ve been going through my photos today, and I’m all but convinced that it is now a Grey-headed Albatross, or that I can’t interpret plumage descriptions and this is just a very dark hooded Black-browed Albatross, or that there’s loads of incorrect ID’s out there on the internet (well, we know that this last part is true, but anyway…).

The bird in question

This shot is almost identical to the bird seen yesterday, and at a similar time of year – yesterday’s bird has a slightly whiter chin, and the cheek patch goes back a little bit further. This discussion, and in particular the head of the second bird in the thread is quite similar, and while the underwing doesn’t match yesterday’s bird, the ones further down that are mentioned in Nikolas’ post with photos that Raja took and was ID’d as a 2nd year bird certainly have a similar underwing. The top left and top right bird in Nikolas’ post is all but identical, I would say.

Flight shot showing collar and underwing

HANZAB (vol. 1A, pp. 319-320) describes the juvenile plumage of Grey-headed Albatross and states that the cheeks are the first to go white, and has a description of the neck colouring consistent with this bird. Re: Black-browed Albatross, no mention is made of cheeks going white prior to the rest of the head plumage, which his bird definitely has. On p 320, it states that eye colour is as adult – “dark brown”, and that can be seen in this bird. Contrast this with Black-browed Albatross on p. 298 which states that the eye in juveniles is black-brown. I call this eye light-brown, but colour judgement is always a matter of perception – it may be a light based issue – it was a sunny bright day at sea. The bill description for GHA is “mostly medium to dark brown-grey, contrasting with grey-black ungues” which this bird has. For BBA, the description (p. 298) is “culminicorn and ungues black-brown… rest of bill, dark olive-brown”. The image of GHA on page 305, plate 20, looks pretty good for a match with this bird – I accept that the plate image has a darker hood than this bird.

Shirihai doesn’t go into extensive discussion about seperating juvenile/immature GHA’s from similar species, but in the top left image on page 125, does mention that when plumage is “still fresh, the grey hood appears more complete (often with characteristic pale fore-cheek area) and easily eliminates juv Black-browed/Campbell Albatross. … unlike later note uniform dark bill.” – which is what this individual doesn’t have – a uniform dark bill.

Harrison doesn’t offer too much to the discussion apart from stating that on “average: juveniles show a darker head, breast band and underwing, but there is some overlap (especially in D.m. impavida underwing). Most reliable character at this age is bill colour: Grey-headed fledge with wholly blackish bills, Black-browed with greyish or horn-coloured bills, tipped black)” (Harrison, 1983, p 231). As the discussion above and HANZAB mention, the bill colour isn’t an entirely complete ID factor.

Onley and Schofield state that juvenile GHA’s have a “hood paler than adult[s], usually with whitish cheeks. … Underwing mostly black, with slightly pler grey central panel to inner wing. Bill dark blackish-grey with dark tip.” (Onley & Schofield, 2007, p. 138). For Black-browed Albatross, no mention is made of a white cheek as part of the moulting/aging sequence.

This page has all the shots of the bird I’ve got here, and some others, at a larger size. I’ve done nothing to these images – they’re straight off the camera, converted from RAW to JPG and resized – nothing else has been done. I can provide the original images if they’ll help the discussion.

I am entirely open to this bird not being a Grey-headed Albatross and just being a particularly dark-headed Black-browed Albatross – as noted in many places on the net, these are difficult birds to separate at these ages. If this is your belief, please give reasons – I’m just trying to learn more about differentiating juvenile and immature albatross.

Cheers
Troy

 

Bibliography

Harrison, P. (1983). Seabirds, an identification guide. Beckenham, Kent: Croom Helm.
Onley, D., & Scofield, P. (2007). Albatrosses, petrels, and shearwaters of the world Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Shirihai, H. (2008). The Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife (2nd ed.). London: A&C Black.
Steele, W. K., Davies, S. J. J. F., Ambrose, S. J., Marchant, S., Higgins, P. J., & Peter, J. M. (1990). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand & Antarctic birds. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

South Coast Trip, 26-29 May, 2012

Just back from a relaxing trip down to Kioloa, which is about halfway between Ulladulla and Bateman’s Bay, on the NSW South Coast.

Merry Beach, Kioloa

The weather was pretty good, the birding relaxing, and the sightings fairly reasonable. Funnily enough, the best birding was actually had around the caravan park, near a very degraded, stinky drain/creek. 68 species were seen over the 4 days we were away, with the highlights being looking down on a Peregrine Falcon as it cruised along the cliffs at Snapper Point; having a pair of Sea-eagles fly low over me while I surfed at Merry Beach, before they settled in the trees on the head-land above me watching me be awesome (haha!); three Hooded Plovers (2 adults, 1 juvenile) at Racecourse Beach at Ulladulla; and some of the most cooperative thornbills and robins I’ve met. Here’s a few shots from the trip for your enjoyment.

Eastern Yellow Robin

Brown Thornbill

Until next time.

Sydney Pelagic – 12 May 2012

Roger McGovern’s trip report is here, and my Flickr gallery here.

Habitat shot of a Providence Petrel

Went out on the May pelagic trip on board the Halicat with Bernhard (some of his shots here) on the weekend. It was a fairly quiet, but good trip. Highlights bird wise was easily Black-bellied Storm-petrel (which I didn’t get a photo of, but Raja did), finally getting some photos Providence Petrel, and sea-monster wise was quite easily the False Killer Whales. I’ve never seen them before apart from in the books, and they were awesome (some photos taken by Rohit here).

Campbell Island Albatross

Apart from that, there wasn’t much in the way of numbers of birds or diversity of species – I only took 750ish photos (down from my normal pelagic rate of ~2000) and after getting rid of all the overexposed, out of focus and blurred shots of ocean and wingtips, I have only got about 170ish shots to choose from – further evidence of the quiet nature of the trip. Plus it was quite rough on the way out – a fact not lost on the 4-5 people who were violently ill for much of the voyage. Fortunately I am yet to be sea-sick, and having now survived a couple of fairly rough trips, I think I’ll be right as long as I keep dosing up on the meds!

I’ll be back out on the July trip, which will be full of hot albatross action.

Youngish Black-browed Albatross

South coast of NSW

On the weekend, we had a quick trip down to the south coast of NSW to see how many northbound migrants were still around in breeding plumage (none in breeding plumage, not many that look to be staying for winter) and how many of our NZ friends have arrived to not freeze for their winter (plenty of Double-banded Plovers and a few White-fronted Tern). It also gave me a chance to give the new camera a whirl, and I think I’m in love with it. That’s probably for the best given it costs lots, hey?

Lake Conjola - Hooded Plover country

Fairly early Saturday morning we loaded up the car and drove out – destination being the very lovely Milton Country Cottages at Yattah Yattah. This was our second stay at this place, but unfortunately it was to be probably 1 or 2 days too short. If you go, you should really try and stay for at least 2 nights. We/I get no monetary reward for plugging the cottages – they’re just a very nice place to stay in a very nice part of the world run by very nice people.

Red-capped Plover - Charadrius ruficapillus

We headed down by the coast, and came back via the Southern Highlands. The paces I wanted to check out included Shoalhaven Heads, Lake Conjola and Burrill Lake. I saw 69 species over the weekend, with the high lights being Osprey, Lesser Sand Plover, Hooded Plover and a close encounter with a very tame Eastern Reef Egret, before it got scared away by a dog wielding person, who was intent on seeing what I was up to. Way to go, champ…

All in all, a very pleasant way to spend a weekend. We’re going down again in a few weeks time, but even further south, so this was a recon trip, if you will.

Until next time.

Eastern Reef Egret - Egretta sacra

Boat Harbour – 20 March 2012

One of the things I love about my job is flexi time. Being the busy start of the year, I accrue silly amounts of the stuff, and I have to take it, particularly when the tide is right, and the weather is all good. So it was, that I left work at about 1ish on a Tuesday afternoon and headed down to Boat Harbour at Kurnell, with a view to seeing how many more Double-banded Plovers have arrived, and to see if anything interesting was about.

Double-banded Plover - one of 13 individuals


There were plenty of Double-banded Plovers, well up on the 2 or 3 I’d seen a few weeks ago. The Stints are also starting to colour up, and there was a Sanderling about as well. I didn’t manage to photograph the Sanderling, but I did get this shot of a very, very pale Stint that has me thinking Sanderling – have a look and let me know what you think.

The other highlight was this Nankeen Kestrel which posed nicely on a fence post for me. In the fairly harsh direct sunlight it was hard to get a nicely balanced image, but it’s ok I think.

Nankeen Kestrel

More shots of the trip are in the gallery.

Sydney Pelagic – 10 March 2012

There is a trip report from Roger McGovern available here, and I’ve uploaded a whole swag of photos to the gallery – you can look at them here. I’ll link directly to the album when I manage to sort that out – getting used to new software!

I’m becoming a huge fan of pelagics. I was constantly worried about getting sea-sick and/or having a massive panic attack at being stuck on a boat. I’ve now realised I don’t get sea-sick, and thankfully my anxiety days seem to be behind me. March 2012 was my 5th pelagic, and easily the best one I’ve been on yet.

The birding highlights were many – White-chinned Petrel, White-necked Petrel, (brief) Red-tailed Tropicbird, (very distant – for me) Bridled Tern, cooperative Bullers – unusual for this early in the year – and Shy Albatross, all the Jaegers (Pomarine, Long-tailed & Arctic), and 6 varieties of Shearwater (Flesh-footed, Wedge-tailed, Fluttering, Hutton’s, Short-tailed & Sooty). And conditions were calm-ish. And there were heaps of dolphins everywhere, launching totally out of the water and everything. At one point Nikolas was saying there were Pan-tropical Spotted Dolphin – certainly the dolphins I saw at that point that were very close to the boat weren’t smooth grey like the bottlenose dolphins I’m more familiar with… but I don’t know much about mammals except that they have hair and produce milk, so I’ll defer to the experts.

Not much to say here that isn’t in Rogers report I link to above – so yeah – here’s some pictures.

White-chinned Petrel

 

Bullers Albatross

 

Flesh-footed Shearwater

 

Shy Albatross

I can’t make the April trip, but I’m definitely looking at the May and June ones.

Until next time!

Common Tern

 

Headed down to Boat Harbour in Botany Bay National Park today. This is easily the best place on the south side of Sydney for shorebirds, and possibly one of the best places in Sydney for terns. I timed my visit for high tide, and with the howling southerlies, I was hoping that something interesting might have blown in. On the way to the rock shelf, I saw a Short-tailed Shearwater in very close. I’m going on the pelagic out of Sydney this weekend, so unless that gets cancelled, hopefully I’ll see plenty more this week. There was also a Jaeger of some description, but I didn’t get good enough views to ID.

Common Tern in the midst of a large flock of other terns and gulls.

On the far side of the rock shelf was a large mixed group of terns and gulls, with a few Sooty Oystercatchers scattered among them. As I approached, I had high hopes for something interesting being in there, and wasn’t totally let down! There was a Common Tern on one edge of the group, allowing fairly close approach. I think the wind took all of the birds steel away from them, as I was able to get extremely close to the birds.

Common Tern - Sterna hirundo longipennis

According to HANZAB, the Common Terns we get in Australia are of race longipennis, which means this guy is getting ready for the flight back to eastern Siberia.

Other migrant news includes Ruddy Turnstones that look to be colouring up, the Red-necked Stints are getting rufous, and there’s a pair of Double-banded Plover. I didn’t want to disturb the birds as they prepare for departing for migratory flights and/or recover from crossing the ditch, and with threatening rain, I went back to the car, quite content with the mornings trip.

Want to see the full list of birds? Click more…

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