Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Tin Can Bay: Shining Flycatcher, Black Bittern, Bush-hen, Ground Parrot, Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin

Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin_
A lovely encounter with Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins, Pale-vented Bush-hen, Black Bittern, Ground Parrot and Shining Flycatcher were the highlights of a three-day visit to Tin Can Bay.

Pale-vented Bush-hen
We stayed at the Top Tourist Caravan Park in Tin Can Bay. A pair of Pale-vented Bush-hens were very vocal in the maleleuca swamp at the back of the park and the birds would sometimes feed in the open, with no coaxing required. A second pair of bush-hens could be heard calling in the swamp.

Pale-vented Bush-hen

Noosa Plain, Cooloola
Following an early morning drive to the Noosa Plain nearby at Cooloola, five Ground Parrots were flushed at different spots from the main telegraph line road along a 400-metre stretch over about 20 minutes. This is an unusually high density of this species and it was apparent that the birds were feeding on grasses in relatively open areas along the road.

Ground Parrot
 I even managed a distant if poor shot of a Ground Parrot in flight.

Teewah Creek
 No visit to the Noosa Plain is complete without dropping in to the beautiful Teewah Creek.

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo
 A group of 8 Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos were feeding in bushes on the Noosa Plain.

Grey-tailed Tattler
 I spent a morning kayaking along Snapper Creek, Tin Can Bay. Quite a few tattlers were roosting in the mangroves at high tide.

Snapper Creek, Tin Can Bay
I tried a bit of Black Bittern playback and a bird responded. A fine male soon flew in, and although I could see it well just a few metres away, a profusion of mangrove leaves prevented a picture. I've rarely encountered Black Bittern in mangroves and when I have the birds have been secretive.

Shining Flycatcher - female
I had more success with Shining Flycatcher, seeing a total of seven - two pairs and three single males - in the mangroves.
Shining Flycatcher - female

Shining Flycatcher - male

Dolphin feeding station
Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin
This morning we visited the dolphin feeding station at Norman Point, Tin Can Bay, where Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins have for many years been coming in to feed on fish handed to them under supervision by visitors.  The animals are remarkably tame, placidly allowing a steady procession of visitors who are  allowed to hand-feed them small fish. It is a magical experience to spend a good 40 minutes or so standing knee-deep in water watching these animals at such close quarters.
Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin
A pair of dolphins were present during our visit but up to six members of the pod come in each morning to be fed.
Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin
One animal surfaced with an empty wine bottle finely balanced on its snout; the dolphin spent some time swimming about with the bottle.
Dolphin feeding at Tin Can Bay
Visitors pay $5 to enter the feeding site which is on the property of a local cafe, and another $5 to feed a fish to the dolphins. The funds supposedly are spent on managing the site and feeding the animals, though it is fair to say it is a lucrative money spinner for the cafe owners. Visitors from around the world are attracted to Tin Can Bay by the dolphins. The animals have apparently been coming in to be fed here since the 1950s, when an injured dolphin that beached itself was hand-fed by locals until it recovered. 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Nesting Grey Goshawk, Barred Cuckoo-Shrike, Bush-hen, Bandicoots & Gliders in the Garden

Grey Goshawk nestling
A pair of Grey Goshawks are successfully raising a single fledgling on their nest in a tall creekside eucalypt near Cooroy. During my visits to the nest I have seen only the large female goshawk in attendance.

Female Grey Goshawk with nestling

Barred Cuckoo-shrike
A few Barred Cuckoo-shrikes are out and about, with this one seen in wet sclerophyll forest behind Wappa Dam, near Yandina. Others have been seen at Little Yabba Creek recently. Rose-crowned Fruit-Doves have returned in good numbers, with plenty of birds calling throughout the Sunshine Coast hinterland at sites where there was no indication of their presence a couple of weeks ago. White-eared Monarchs are also highly vocal at several sites; this morning I had a couple of pairs along the Maroochy River.

Barred Cuckoo-shrike

Pale-vented Bush-hen
A pair of Pale-vented Bush-hens are showing well at the North Arm site where I have recorded them annually. I had excellent, prolonged views of both birds this morning. Interestingly, the bush-hens had not apparently been present at this site in recent weeks, and their reappearance (or vocalising) coincides with the first decent rainfall for a long while. Lewin's Rail has also been calling at this site.

Emerald Dove
In the garden at Ninderry, Emerald Dove is usually a scarce visitor but a pair have been frequent visitors lately. Also in the garden, a Northern Short-nosed (Brindled) Bandicoot has taken up residence.

Northern Short-nosed Bandicoot
Northern Short-nosed Bandicoot
Squirrel Glider

A less welcome find in the garden was this dead Squirrel Glider. It was killed by a neighbourhood cat which I had noticed on several occasions, late at night, lurking in the area where the glider was found. The cat, needless to say, is presently the focus of my undivided attention.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Lady Elliot Island Part III - Turtles & Snorkelling

Greg Turtle
The birdlife on Lady Elliot Island was superb (see here for a post on terns and here for a post on birds other than terns) but other wildlife did not disappoint.

Turtle leaves beach trail
The island is a major breeding ground for Green Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles and our stay coincided with the nesting season. The first turtles emerge as darkness falls, leaving a distinctive trail in the sand as they haul themselves up the beach to find a place to lay their eggs.

Green Turtle digging nesting chamber
During a couple of excursions in the vicinity of the resort and airfield I found four Green Turtles in various places laboriously digging large holes in the sand in which to lay their eggs. Each Green Turtle comes ashore to nest only every 5-7 years and they are not sexually mature until they are 30-40 years old.

Green Turtle
Often a turtle expends considerable energy digging a hole before deciding it is not suitable for some reason - it then calls it quits and returns to the sea, presumably to try again another time.

Green Turtle laying eggs
One of these turtles was found laying eggs right in front of the resort. About 70 eggs were laid over a period of about 30 minutes. The turtle then covered them with sand and returned to the water. This turtle can expect to lay several clutches during the nesting season.

Snorkelling on Lady Elliot Island
Snorkelling the coral reefs around Lady Elliot Island is exhilarating. It is possible to walk a few metres from your accommodation around high tide to snorkel in the island's shallow lagoon. The best snorkelling, however, is a 5-10 minute walk from the resort to the island's southern shore at the Coral Gardens, or at the Lighthouse. The reef edge is a short distance offshore with a spectacular variety of fish, turtles and corals on offer, but be wary of venturing too far out due to strong currents.

Green Turtle feeding on jellyfish
I saw numerous turtles during my twice daily snorkelling excursions. The Green Turtle in the images above is feeding on a jellyfish. The turtles are fearless of people and it is possible to follow and watch them at close quarters.

Green Turtle

Manta Ray
One of the specialties of Lady Elliot Island - and the island resort's logo - is the Manta Ray. As many as 300 of these magnificent rays frequent island waters at certain times - a substantial proportion of the entire Great Barrier Reef population of the species.

Manta Ray
I saw several Manta Rays while snorkelling off the reef edge; the one in these images had been tagged by research scientists. These are big fish and the initial contact can be a tad scary as this huge black creature appears seemingly out of nowhere.

Manta Ray
The rays are extremely graceful in their movements.

Bird Wrasse
It was a challenge to identify some of the many fish frequenting the reef. I'm grateful to Chris Gurraway, a resort staffer and diver, for the lend of his underwater camera to capture a few images. The fish above is a male Bird Wrasse. The male is much more colourful than the female: I was unaware that some fish were sexually dimorphic.

Blackspot Damselfish
This damselfish is large and secretive, preferring to hide under reef outcrops.

Brown Sweetlip
Brown Sweetlip are large, formidable-looking fish.

Clams of various shapes and sizes are frequently encountered while snorkelling.

Coral outcrop
Hard, colourful corals in excellent condition fringe Lady Elliot Island in a broad band.

Leopard Shark
I was pleased to encounter this large Leopard Shark patrolling the reef seabed.

Lined Surgeonfish
Many reef fish are brightly coloured.

Picasso Triggerfish
Some, such as this triggerfish, have the slightly unnerving habit of nibbling snorkellers.

Rainford's Butterflyfish
Three-spot Cardinalfish

Lined Butterflyfish

Saddled Parrotfish

Scissor-tailed Sergeant
These small black-and-white sergeant fish were inquisitive and endearing.

Scissor-tailed Sergeant

Blue Linkia Starfish
Starfish of various colours and shapes are common on the reef bed.

Coral spawn
From the air as we approached and departed the island, extensive brown plumes of Trichodesmium, also called sea sawdustcould be seen in the sea.