1st January, 2016
The "Ruff". A rare migratory wader species that spends some time in Australia after breeding in Eurasia.
Hello followers, I am still alive. Instead of pushing out a weekly blog that may not have much information, I decided to share when I have things that may interest you somewhat. I have had some quiet spells but I have managed to visit a few places and do a few releases. I hope you enjoy reading the next few stories and if there's anything you want to hear more about or see more of, please leave a message at the end of the blog!
I have visited two new locations over the past few weeks along with one or two places that I visit from time to time. The first location which I will speak about will be Nathan Road Wetlands which, is suitated approximately 100km's north of my residence on the Gold Coast. I have been monitoring some bird watching sites for a few weeks as they had a sighting of an extremely rare wading bird called the "Ruff". As I am trying to expand my knowledge I thought I better make the trip up to try and locate this bird. Upon arriving I found it extremely hard to locate the tidal flats in which this bird amongst other wading species had been calling home. Access to it was through dense bush with a walking track that had barely been for lack of the better word "made".
At this stage I was only wearing a pair of canvas shoes but walking through the marsh I soon realised a pair of Gumboots may have been preferred. After making my way through the wetlands I arrived at the flats. There were a few wading species available such as Black Winged Stilt, Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper and a few duck species such as Chestnut Teal and Pacific Black Duck. The "three amigos" to which they had been referred to that were causing some fuss were not present on arrival included, Pectoral Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and Ruff. As I arrived in the middle of the day I did not stay long, due to how harsh the sun was. I surveyed the area for about 1 hour and decided to come back late afternoon!
On my arrival back I found the Ruff, he was on the opposite side of the flats so was very distant. I spent a good 4 hours waiting and waiting. Due to the nature of the wetland I had to walk as close as I could (and this is where gumboots would have been handy as I ruined my shoes walking almost knee deep in wetlands mud) to get good views of the birds. I had my tripod so set it up and waited.
Nathan Road Wetlands. As you can see the large water expanse was what kept me from getting too close from the birds.
As the sun started to drop a few other birds made themselves present. The Ruff showed and I spent most of my time focused on it. Buff Banded Rail, Purple Swamp-hen and an adult and juvenile Red Kneed Dotterel showed but I could obtain good photos. I was happy with my Ruff photos even though they were still at distance and an hour before I left the Wood Sandpiper also showed. About 70 metres away I spotted Glossy Ibis but were just way too far. These are a spectacular bird in the right light, I hope to obtain photos of these one day!
On the way out of the wetlands I located a Rufous Morph Tawny Frogmouth. This colour only occurs in females of 2 of the 3 subspecies. First time spotting one so was quite interesting to see.
Overall I was pleased with my results from this location, I am unsure if I will visit again anytime soon as reports are saying the wetlands is drying up quick!
Wood Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Ruff & Tawny Frogmouth from Nathan Road Wetlands
The second location that I have spent some time at over the past few weeks was a new one for me. It is Sandy Camp Road Wetlands, situated in Wynnum in North East Brisbane.
This is quite an interesting place that you can easily spot 40-70 species on a day if you are "TWITCHER" inclined. I am not, lol. Finches, wrens, waterbirds, fly overs by raptor species, waders, kingfishers and bush birds. Lots of variety here for everyone. For me, the highlight of this wetlands was FINALLY coming face to face with a species that has eluded me since I started birding just over a year ago. The Pacific Baza aka Crested Hawk. They are a somewhat common species in SEQ but spend most of their time in the forest canopy so it is not always an easy task (Well for me it wasn't). More on the Baza later.
During my 3-4 visits here I witnessed Willy Wagtail raising 3 chicks in the wide open, burning midday sun, I located a Sacred Kingfisher nest with chicks, a variety of bush birds, a Black Bittern which has evaded my camera and of course the Baza.
A hardworking Willy Wagtail mother attending to her chicks
The Sacred Kingfisher nest was a special find. They nest in disused termite mounds on trees and this was only 5-6 metres off the ground. They are quite clever as the make sure their entrance hole is away from any direct sunlight and the surrounding trees made this quite difficult to get good light.
I heard the chicks calling so I stuck around for 20 minutes and found the parents returning every 10-20 minutes with food. I tried to take some photos of the parents mid flight entering the nest but as I was handholding my lens it was very hard. I left the Kingfisher and decided to come back another day with the tripod.
On my return I set up my tripod but was fairly limited in space due to surround wetlands and thick foliage. I had to manage with what I had. I set up the frame with a small part of the nest in it and manual focused. I waited for the kingfisher and pressed the shutter when I saw it coming in.
I was somewhat happy with the results and did not return after my few visits to allow them to raise their babies in peace.
The next re-telling brings a smile to my face as it took me over a year to find these guys. The Pacific Baza! One of our smaller raptor species, they are unlike any other. They inhabit wetlands and bush areas and feed on small insects such as mantids, cicadas, amphibians and the occasional small rodent. Their call is very unique and they hunt within the canopy rarely in open air for long and hardly seen on the ground.
I was doing a lap of the wetlands here when I heard a call that I know very well. I looked around a small pond and what did I see, a juvenile Pacific Baza. It was very far away but I knew if I waited or at the very least came back another day they may be around. My patience paid off eventually, on the 3rd visit I heard the calls and found two juveniles! I was unable to locate the parent but both juveniles were flying in amongst the thick eucalypt canopy. I waited...
Over the next few hours I witnessed a juvenile fly to an open branch, both juveniles calling for food and the parent fly out of no where to offer a mantis and fly off. It happened too quickly. I am pleased with my photos, I would have liked a flight photo of them but that proved very difficult given the conditions.
Don't you agree that this raptor is a beautiful bird?
Adult Pacific Baza that I spent about an hour with watching it hunt. This images are my first of 2016!
Raptor rescues are becoming very quiet now. As much as you want to be doing them all the time, when it is quiet it means that not as many are being displaced as juveniles or being injured. Over the last 3 weeks I have had only 2. 1 Juvenile Boobook Owl that needed to be reunited after it's tree had been cut down. The other was a Barn Owl that was entangled in barbed wire and spent about a week in care before needing release.
I successfully reunited the Boobook with at least one of it's parents present. The Barn Owl was a successful release also! So as they were my last rescues and releases for 2015 I am glad I was able to help so many last year!
Barn Owl affectionately named Shadow on release night
As 2015 drew to an end, I looked back at all the hard times, the disappointments, the heartbreak and all the other negativity that I focused too heavily on. I decided that 2016 was the year of ME. I have just signed up for a Cert IV in Captive Animals which, once completed will allow me to be able to work within a zoo environment. I think this will suit me. I just need to find time to juggle all things life. Full time work, full time study, continuing on with my Faunagraphic brand and of course Animal care.
I want to surround myself with those who are supportive of my aspirations and those who share the same interests, morals and ideals as I do. If those people are both of those in one, that is a bonus. I need to use 2016 as a stepping stone to a person that no longer worries about what others think about him, to a person who is strong minded and focused on his end goals.
I leave you with short footage of the Pacific Baza Juveniles calling for food. I wish you all the very best for your personal journeys in 2016 and of course to those who want NEW BEGINNINGS.
Renae Bellion Barryon January 1, 2016
Fantastic Matt ,great read and you already know how much i love your photos !!
i will continue to follow your journey on all levels into 2016 the of Matt wishing you all the best for the future