Martin mystery

I’ve been making regular evening visits to the Newstead Cemetery over recent weeks – chasing some decent shots of Rainbow Bee-eaters … so far without much success. On almost all visits I’ve been intrigued by the following behaviour from Fairy Martins. Small flocks of the birds, perhaps 30 in total (mixed with a few Welcome Swallows and the odd White-backed Swallow), mill over the cemetery before dusk. Small numbers then descend to areas of mainly bare ground to pick what appear to be tiny food items. The photographs below were of birds that alighted no more than a few metres away – inspection of their chosen sites revealed no real clues, other than a few fallen seeds. I was expecting to see insects, perhaps flying ants or something similar that might have brought the hungry martins to earth. Has anyone else observed this behaviour?

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Fairy Martins feeding on the ground, Newstead Cemetery, 22nd November 2014.

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Fairy Martin front-on … the chestnut crown is distinctive.

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Searching for ?

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Can anyone shed some light on the mystery?

 

Degustation in the bird world

Some time spent yesterday at the Nankeen Kestrel nest revealed a wonderful assortment of ‘dishes’.

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Nankeen Kestrel nestlings, Moolort Plains, 22nd November 2014.

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The female arrives with a snake … or possibly a legless lizard?

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The female delivers the meal.

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The male arriving with a spider …

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The impending arrival of the parents is greeted with excitement!

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… and this time with a small skink.

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The male about to depart the hollow.

You’ll be pleased …

… to learn that the pair of Wedge-tailed Eagle nestlings that I’ve been following are doing well. Last evening I had a rare, but brief encounter with one of the parents, visiting the nest with a rabbit. Not happy with my arrival it headed off and left the young eagles to devour the carcass.

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Wedge-tailed Eagles (approaching fledging), Newstead area, 21st November 2014.

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The adult about to depart, flanked by the young eagles.

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Note what looks like a magpie or chough feather behind the rabbit carcass.

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The larger nestling attacking the rabbit carcass.

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The colour difference between the youngsters is quite pronounced.

Both of the young birds look very healthy but, the smaller individual is quite a bit lighter and more honey-coloured, typical first year plumage. It will be interesting to compare these differences when they fledge, as males are about 25% smaller than females.

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The smaller, lighter coloured youngster flexing its wings.

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Their barely feathered necks give a ‘vulture-like’ impression.

It’s a little difficult to gauge how close they are to taking their first training flights – it will certainly be a wonderful sight!

Down by the waterline

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Black-fronted Dotterel, Cairn Curran, 15th November 2014.

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Female Red-capped Plover

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Red-necked Stint.

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Sharp-tailed Sandpipers foraging along the shoreline.

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In sync … Red-necked Stint and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers preening.

Feeding station

At this time of year its common to see young birds perched, waiting to be fed by their parents. These Welcome Swallows were part of a small party, including some Fairy Martins, that had set up a feeding station at Cairn Curran. The adults were hawking for insects over the water, returning at regular intervals to feed the youngsters.

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Fledgling Welcome Swallows, Cairn Curran, 17th November 2014.

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II

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III

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IV

Three by two

Here is a set of observations from last Monday evening at Cairn Curran. The light was great, not a breath of wind, and the sight of a majestic White-bellied Sea-eagle in the distance capped off a nice hour before dusk.

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Australian Pelicans, Lake Cairn Curran, 17th November 2014.

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On reflection…

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Yellow-billed Spoonbills take flight.

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A parade of spoonbills.

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White-bellied Sea-eagle over Captain’s Gully Creek.

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If you could be a bird …

Old friends

A little while back Frankie alerted me to the rediscovery of the ‘Newstead Natives Frogmouths’.

Late in the winter they were busy lining last year’s nest, preparing to breed again in the same site as 2013. Then, they just disappeared, only to happily reappear a little further up the hill at Alan’s! It’s lovely to see these local favourites again.

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Tawny Frogmouths near Newstead Natives, 16th November 2014.

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One of the youngsters is quite a bit larger than the other.

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Pretty cute!

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Classic frogmouth poses.

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The female alone … but not far away.