And the bush has friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him, In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended, And at night the wonderous glory of the everlasting stars.

Banjo Paterson (1889)

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pelagic Birding

After my last pelagic birding trip about 16 years, which was a little like the picture (well maybe not quite that bad, but it felt like it), I'm booked in for one tomorrow. An all day sea-birding adventure beyond the continental shelf, the first ever autumn seabird trip off Perth.

A chance to see Arctic, Pomarine and Long-tailed Skuas (Jaegers) which may be on the move, plus a whole host of wonderful albatross, petrels and shearwaters. Hopefully I'll be better than that last trip, where I spent the second part of the day staring at the floor, slowly nibbling my 2 foot bread stick with people throwing up all around me! For those who have seen the movie The Big Year, it's probably going to be like the scene where Bostick keeps saying 'Pitching and tossing, pitching and tossing'.

Oh well, must get my seabird numbers up, so I'm armed with my supply of sea sickness tablets, some salty chips and the good old trusty bread stick!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Birder Evolution

Birding is often an obsessive and competitive hobby or sport if you want to call it that. You have to be in top form to be the best, this comes with lots of training. This video shows that in time, you too can evolve to be like this fellow!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Backyard Galahs

A short fauna survey up near Onslow is on the cards for this week, so my wife and I decided to have a nice glass of wine and enjoy the warm autumnal afternoon in the backyard before I leave. As usual I was getting my camera gear ready before the trip, this time outside, when our friendly galahs turned up early for a drink from the birdbath. I couldn't resist taking a few shots in the fading light.

We have three birdbaths in our bush garden, but the 12 or so Galahs that visit, always prefer the blue ceramic birdbath. Maybe it's the easier to grab the rim? 

Usually they only stay about ten seconds, just long enough to get a good drink.
For wild birds they are quite freindly and will let you sit within ten feet of them!

A Red Wattlebird looks indignant when the big and noisy Galahs turn up. Most of the time he's busy chasing away the smaller honeyeaters, such as New Hollands and Browns, from nectar rich Grevillias in the garden.

Four Galahs at a time are the limit for this birdbath, so three is quite comfortable. I have seen more trying to land at times, only to end up knocking the others off into the bushes.

My wife and I always get excited when we see these wild beautiful birds in our garden and think how lucky we are to have them visit.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Importance of Remnant Bushland

Yesterday I was involved in a habitat survey on a number of small farms about an hour's drive east of Perth. The main part of the survey was to record the number of potential habitat trees for the endangered Carnaby's Black-Cockatoo, but also to record the fauna found in the survey area, especially in remnant bushland left on the farms.

Despite many of the remnant areas being damaged and degraded by years of local timber-cutting and grazing animals, such as goats, sheep and cattle, most larger woodland blocks still held surprising numbers of bird species. These remnant blocks become especially important if they are of a large size and have interconnections with each other or large bushland reserves. Many in the survey area did just that, and at the end of the day we had recorded 40 species of birds using and living in the area.

Most of the birds were those that you would expect to be found in the woodlands and forests east of Perth, such as Scarlet Robins, Red-capped Robins, Yellow-rumped Thornbills and Inland Thornbills, but a couple of gems that are generally harder to see close to Perth were also found. Family groups of noisy White-browed Babblers were in the area, as well as the beautiful and often shy Western Yellow Robins.

Hopefully as our knowledge of the importance of remnant bushland grows, many of these remaining areas on farms will be preserved and even regenerated to provide habitats for our declining fauna. I was happy to hear that most, if not all of the bushland blocks on the surveyed farms are planned to be retained.

For some more info on the importance of remnant bush and tree-planting on farms, see Cunningham et al.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Images of the Pilbara

Life has been fairly busy lately, with autunm fauna surveys in full swing and more vagrant bird species appearing in Western Australia. Now a very rare Grey Phalarope has turned up at Greenough, about 4 hours drive north of Perth. I hope it stays around until the weekend, it might be a nice time to visit that part of the country!

During a recent Pilbara fauna survey, I captured some of these landscape images (as well as some fantastic fauna). Time was very limited for fauna photos, as this was an intense Level 2 fauna survey, plus we had to get out of the area on time, as a huge weather system (which has now turned into a cyclone) was bearing down on the area.

The Pilbara is a magical place, especially during the early morning light.

The seasons have been good here this year, with lots of rain and many beautiful pools in the gorges still full of water.

Different habitats for wildlife, rocky cliffs and gorges, eucalypt and acacia lined creeks and vast spinifex grasslands.

A great trap site along a cliff, but the Torresian Crows were a nuisance, throwing the traps further down the cliff every morning, after learning how to get the bait balls out.

A lone white gum watchs over the treeless spinifex hills.

One of the trap sites on the spinifex grasslands.

With the good seasons, the Little Button-Quail have had lots of young, like this cute little fellow.

The little guy has to watch out, as this Spiny-tailed Monitor (Varanus acanthurus) would love to have him as a snack!

The survey comes to a close, just as the storm clouds start to roll in.

More beautiful hills in the morning light.

Time to head home, after another wonderful survey in an amazing ancient landscape.