In the “mythical” pink

My birding photographer mate Rod is determined to shoot a pink robin and we have covered some territory in search of this elusive bird.

He once saw one at the top of Mt Mangana and we stop there in the hope that it may reappear. We have done that half a dozen times on excursions, even trudged several kilometres through dense bush, but alas, no pinks.

I had taken to jokingly referring to them as the “mythical pinks” until one day recently, while sitting near a pond for nearly an hour half way up the mountain, Rod whispered the magic word: pinks.

He had seen, but unconvincingly snapped, what he thought was a pink robin that had disappeared into the thick bush. So we sat for another half an hour until we both decided enough was enough.

Making our way down Rod was out front and I turned to the left and there, about 2m from me, was a mythical pink. I slowly raised my camera while quietly calling to Rod.

The pink just sat looking at me as I snapped away. Rod, Rod I called and he turned, cursed the pink was too close to focus with his monster lens, and then it was gone.

“I guess you got some nice shots then,” said Rod through clenched teeth.

Life can be a bastard some times…and beautiful at others.

Lapchicks survive to squawk another day

lapwing_chickOne month on and a lot has changed in lapwing country. Two of the original four chicks have survived and are acting like typical adolescents. The above image is one of them, now nearly as big as their parents.

The ‘take cover’ squawking of the parents is endless, but now the chicks act with indifference to the parental warnings and continue wrenching worms out of the ground.

I’m not sure if they have taken to the wing yet, but I have seen some young lapwings flying awkwardly and for a lapwing that sort of flying is either adolescent or anathema.

Our little world in Lunawanna is abundant with chicks of all sorts at the moment, demanding food from daybreak to dusk.
beautiful-firetail3This fluffy beautiful firetail chick was groomed fastidiously by a parent bird. I took these images in the bush near our home shortly before Christmas and turned one into a Christmas card for some select friends.

Beep, beep, cheep, cheep.

Talking about chicks . . . How about this one? The offspring of what is known colloquially as Turbo Chicks this sure-footed youngster is a baby Tasmanian Native Hen.

You only see them in Tasmania as they became extinct on the mainland with the arrival of the dingo and if there was no other reason to come to Tassie, these birds would be it.

tasmanian native hen and chickThey can’t fly, but their lack of avian prowess is more than made up for with by their land speed. And even at this young age they can run like Usain Bolt!

During the mating season the birds can be seen chasing each other over the hills and dales like road-runners and at night when the real mating starts the noise can be really sleep-depriving. The hens sure enjoy a good roostering.

I encountered this family of mum, dad and four chicks at Adventure Bay on the east side of south Bruny yesterday. Capturing them was a work of art because the parenting skills of the adults matched that of the masked lapwings of previous posts.

If you click the smaller image you will get a good view of mum, chick and a wallaby observer.

A mother’s chick is another’s dinner

161206pied_oystercatcher_chick2wAnother species that is currently attempting to multiply on southern Bruny Island is the pied oystercatcher.

161205sea_eagle_juvwThis week I took the image above of a fortnight-old chick at the top of Little Taylor’s Bay on the south island.

Initially there were two, but the couple are now down to one offspring.

A few minutes later, as I was turning to go home, I caught sight of this immature white-bellied sea eagle perched in a tree overlooking the tidal flats seeking its dinner.

It was about 300m from where the oystercatcher chick was gamely stumbling over rocks trying to find sustenance before nightfall.

Life can be tough, even on Bruny. The magnificent young sea eagle is, according to all accounts, a regular along the tidal flats of Little Taylors that is on the right as you head out to the lighthouse along the appropriately-named Lighthouse Road.

Lapwing chicks: and then there were two . . .

On the subject of irrational likes and dislikes of creatures I’d like to record my changing emotions towards masked lapwings.

Sure, there’s not a lot to like about these birds, known locally as plovers.

Famous for building nest (if you can call them that) in inappropriate locations, a couple of their species decided this Spring to breed on our lawn.

Now every time we open our door we are met by alarming squawks of which there seems to be at least two varieties: The first shorter ones are alerting their young to danger and to immediately take cover. The second are meant for we humans and are unmistakable warnings not to approach.

The lapwings will take to the air and swoop. They are armed with strong bills and also prehistoric spikes on their wings like some throw-back to when they were dinosaurs.

But in their defence I would have to say they are outstandingly good parents (though the chicks probably would disagree because of the incessant nagging to “take cover”).

They split care of the chicks between them. Three for mum and one for dad. The parents never stand together. They are always about 20m apart giving them a broader area over which to detect perceived danger.

One will take to the air if their danger alarms are not heeded and the swooping begins, often the parent manoeuvring to attack with the sun behind. It’s an alarming experience.

Our pair hatched four chicks about three weeks ago. Today’s count is two. My bet is one of our locals cats (feral or neglected) got the first and yesterday probably a forest raven the other.

From Day One the chicks are self-sufficient. Not once have I seen a parent feed a chick, as do other birds for weeks. The cute chicks are out there drilling down into wormholes and slurping down big grubs right from the get go.

But, apart from the full-on parenting skills of their parents, they are sitting ducks, so to speak. Swamp harriers are said to time their arrival on Bruny to coincide with the lapwing chick arrivals and certainly raptor activity is increased at this time.

I must admit that I have become quite attached to these little chicks that are occasionally paraded across the lawn by parents squawking at us as though they own the place. Perhaps they do…

Questioning base instincts

Late Spring on Bruny Island and the aggression borne of parental protection is peaking.

As a lover of birds I sometimes question my like for most and dislike for some, a concerning avian racism.

Once I was asked to do a survey on sparrows and the last question was: Do you like sparrows? I questioned my database for quite some time and eventually deleted all the negative stuff and came down to: They are just like the rest of us; here doing our best.

In Australia we are surrounded by what is referred to as introduced species: swallows, starlings, blackbirds, European goldfinches for example. Since my epiphany on swallows I have come to refer to them as migrants, most of who have come by boat.

The other day, while sitting around my pond in the bush (more about that in future posts) with some visitors from Britain, a family of six black-headed honeyeaters alighted in the shrubs right above our heads.

Young ones and their parents, chittering away and chasing each other as they do. One stopped and stared down at us from a twig. I told the guests that he was saying to his family: “Oh look, Brits over-wintering on Bruny.”

As I began writing this first post for Bruny Island Birds there was a commotion outside. Wattlebirds and dusky wood swallows were bombarding a forest raven that was carrying off what appeared to be a chick.

My wife was shouting abuse at the “f-ing crow” and back to me came the avian racism. Those bloody arrogant crows (read forest ravens). Then I remembered the image I snapped last week (above) as a forest raven put its life on the line defending its young.

I remind myself again: Most of us are here just doing our best, raising kids or whatever.