How many waders?

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How many different types of waders?

If you look closely at the photograph you’ll be able to pick out three species, two Red-necked Stints (paler), the larger Double-banded Plover and a male Red-capped Plover at right. The Double-banded Plover is a trans-Tasman migrant that visits Australia in reasonable numbers outside the breeding season. We seem to get one or two at Cairn Curran most autumns. It’s the odd-one out in the flight shot of my previous post – the fourteenth bird from the right.

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Double-banded Plover, Cairn Curran, 23rd March 2015.

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The size difference between Red-capped (front) and Double-banded Plovers is pronounced.

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Double-banded Plover in shoreline pose.

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Male Red-capped Plover.

Thanks for stopping by!

Now is the time each year when we farewell flocks of migratory waders, as they make their extraordinary journey back to their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere.

Earlier in the week at Cairn Curran I came across this flock of Red-necked Stints, mixed with a two other wader species (of which I’ll post later), sheltering from a brisk southerly by the shoreline. The birds were quite tame and allowed me to approach within ten metres … patience and slow wandering movements were the key.

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Red-necked Stints at Cairn Curran, 23rd March 2015.

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The birds were using shallow depressions and mud barriers to shelter from the breeze.

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Red-necked Stint in non-breeding garb.

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Some of the flock were feeding in the shallows, fuelling up for the long haul ahead.

Like most of the migratory waders, Red-necked Stints undergo a remarkable plumage transformation in preparation for breeding. This change begins before the birds arrive at their breeding grounds, with some individuals (like the one pictured below) starting before they leave Australia.

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This individual is transforming into its breeding plumage – you could almost think it was a different species.

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Part of the flock in flight – there is another wader species in here with the stints … can you spot it?

Come late September and the stints will be starting to arrive back in Australia – it’s sad to see them depart but I wish them ‘bon voyage’.

Shrike-tit memory

Many years ago I banded birds, as part of the CSIRO Bird and Bat Banding Scheme, to contribute to better understanding of the movements and life history of Australian birds.

One vivid memory was catching a family party of Crested Shrike-tits at one of my banding sites, near Stawell in central Victoria. The sensation of being bitten by a shrike-tit is still with me after 35 years! What a beautiful species they are. This male featured in yesterday’s post, arriving to drink at a small waterhole along Mia Mia Track. I thought it worthy of a few extra images.

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Crested Shrike-tit, Mia Mia Track, 22nd March 2015.

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Sharing the perch with a Fuscous Honeyeater.

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They seem to have a permanent startled look!

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The sudden appearance of a raptor overhead provoked this response.

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What a great bird – that bill certainly looks formidable.

Three specials

A special few minutes yesterday afternoon beside the Mia Mia waterhole. Once the usual honeyeater contingent had drunk their fill this lovely trio slipped in for a quiet sip.

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Male Crested Shrike-tit, Mia Mia Track, 22nd March 2015.

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Eastern Yellow Robin in late afternoon light.

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Black-chinned Honeyeater.

With like-minded folks

Over the past couple of weekends Chris Tzaros and I have conducted our autumn series of bird photography workshops. In total, thirty enthusiastic photographers from across Victoria visited Newstead to participate – it’s been great to meet all these like-minded folks and to share ideas and tips. It’s been fascinating again to see the range of capabilities, experience and gear that people have brought to each workshop. Chris and I have certainly learnt some new things as well which has been terrific.

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Australian Owlet-nightjar by Gary Oliver.

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Chris Tzaros explaining the depth-of-field – aided by a pair of cooperative, early arriving Swift Parrots!

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Focused on the task at hand!

One of the participants, Ian Smissen, has written a nice critique of the workshop at his terrific blog, A Passion for Birds. Its well worth a visit!

Our next workshops will be in Spring 2015. Please contact me geoff.park@naturaldecisions.com.au if you’d like to reserve a spot.

A conference of honeyeaters

A short, sharp shower last week in the Mia Mia has left a few small puddles for the birds. These watering points are a wonderful attractor for honeyeaters. Here is a selection of shots, taken from the car and featuring four different species: Yellow-tufted, Fuscous, White-naped and Brown-headed Honeyeaters.

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Brown-headed Honeyeater, Mia Mia Track, 19th March 2015.

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Fuscous (at left) and Brown-headed Honeyeaters.

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Fuscous Honeyeater unhappy with a juvenile Brown-headed Honeyeater (note the pale blue skin over the eye).

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A party of Fuscous Honeyeaters.

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Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters drinking.

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Fuscous Honeyeaters and a lone White-naped Honeyeater.

What good is this?

Well pretty damn fine if you’re an antechinus … it’s actually a palace!

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Old Red Box stump, Mia Mia Track, 19th March 2015.

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Yellow-footed Antechinus emerging from its palace.

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Checking if the coast is clear.

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What a lovely creature.

Mia Mia Track is an absolute hot spot for Yellow-footed Antechinus. At one stage yesterday morning I was watching four individuals simultaneously.