09 February, 2011

Eyebrowed Thrush

More photos of the Thrush. These from Jun Matsui

08 February, 2011

Terry's Strange Thrush

This morning my friend Terry Heidenreich rang to ask if I was interested in a strange bird in his garden. Now, Terry is a very good birder so my system went to high alert.

He said it is a thrush or that type of bird, hops quickly across the ground and will sit still for some length of time. It appeared to be hunting for worms. When it flew into a tree he could not find it. He told me that the bird was the colour of a Bower's Shrike-thrush on the head but browner on the back. Terry spoke of a long white eyebrow and black whiskers edged with white. The throat is white but he thought the chin is black. He was confident it was not in his Australian or PNG field guides.

Despite not having eaten breakfast I jumped into the car and headed straight round.

Terry showed me where he had seen the bird a couple of times and I settled down to wait. I later went for a walk around his property and along the road checking out areas of similar length grass. Eventually I left birdless. Well not really but without having seen the target.
Terry rang a little later to say he had seen the bird in the same area again and that the bill sometimes looked yellow and sometimes yellow with a dark tip. Now he had seen the bird front on and the belly was white and the flanks were buff. Michelle, his wife told me the sides of the breast were yellow-brown. He saw the bird again in the afternoon so round I went yet again.

Going on Terry's description the best we could do was to consider Eyebrowed Thrush. This time I got glimpses of the bird as it hopped through ankle length grass on the edge of longer grass. It really did look like a small thrush. Although my views were really poor and my attempts to photograph the bird equally so I was able to confirm many of the field marks. When I saw it fly, I noticed that the under wings were uniformly pale except for a hint of darker edging to some feathers, the belly was white and the sides of the breast were a warm colour.

Having looked at pictures on the web I think there is a good chance that this is a first year male Eyebrowed Thrush.

06 February, 2011

Yasi, another cyclonic event and her aftermath

Yasi was a huge category 5 cyclone which at one stage was heading just north of us. This is the worst case scenario for us as on the east coast the strongest winds and greatest rain come on the south side of the eye. Then it looked like we would experience it straight on and in the middle of the night. Fortunately for us the cyclone headed a bit further south.

The photo above shows Maria in our cyclone cubby. The table just fits between the washing machine and the shelves in the laundry. Behind and to the side we close off with mattresses to slow down any flying debris. In the shelf we had food and water, first aid supplies, torches, radio and a few tools in case we needed to dig our way out. We also had a waterproof bag with a couple of changes of clothes, money and important papers in case we had to evacuate after the storm passed. I am glad we prepared so well as we were able to relax. I went to sleep listening to "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" and Maria said she enjoyed listening to my soft breathing.

Only one fatality so far and that person seems to have become overwhelmed by fumes from the diesel generator he was running in the small closed room where he sheltered. No serious injuries ether which is great but many people injure themselves when cleaning up
The most significant damage to our house occurred as I was closing the LAST window. I pulled off the clasp. An immediate repair was called for and completed. There was a little leak in one corner of the house. I have been on the roof and sealed anything which looks like it could be the problem but still cannot understand how the water got in.
As evening deepened and the winds strengthened this pair of Northern Sedge Frogs seemed to use the tape on the windows as a stairway.
The afternoon of the cyclone Maria and I were walking in town when a sea bird flew over. Believe it or not I did not have my binoculars around my neck! It is a standing joke in our village that I remove them to take a shower. I think it may have been a Great-winged Petrel. The next morning I went to Tinnaburra on the local water reservoir and saw more birds not usually there: 4 Common Terns, 1 Lesser-crested Tern, 2 Crested Terns, 5 Gull-billed Terns (not all that unusual), 1 Pied Cormorant and a Little Egret. Saturday afternoon I found this adult male Lesser Frigatebird flying around and then roosting for the night.

26 December, 2010

Beautiful but Vacuous

On Boxing Day we had some friends over for breakfast and had an unexpected visitor dropped in.
He certainly got everyone's attention. Perhaps he was after the young wallaby in the bag behind her but it was getting hot under the roof and he wanted to shift. He had tied his rather fat middle section in a knot and jammed it between the iron and the flashing. It is probably not the same snake as features in http://alanswildlife.blogspot.com/2009/06/ceiling-carpet.html as I think this animal is smaller. Shorter that is; it is certainly fat.

'Beautiful but vacuous' just about sums him up.
All hands action stations! The snake could not be budged despite Andrew and Tony's best efforts. Not forwards, not backwards. I went on the roof and loosened the ridge capping enough to reach in under and try and push him out. No go. Andrew wanted to have a go on the roof. With Andrew holding on to the middle of the snake I was able to feed it backwards, bit by bit into the space and Andrew prevented it from tightening the knot. Once he had the head out he was able to pull the snake through with a bit of shoving from underneath. During all this the snake made no attempt to strike at any of us though it would have had plenty of chances and must have suffered some pain when snagged on sharp iron.
Only when the dog came in close for a sniff did the snake become defensive. See the lovely blue of his mouth. Dog backed off and no harm done. Everyone got to pat or hold the snake before we released it in the back shed.

I wonder if I could fit it with a ring like the Chinese do with cormorants and train it to catch rabbits for my dinner?

I really will have to find a way to seal this gap. Christmas day spent cleaning up from a cyclone and Boxing Day morning spent rescuing the snake. The kids may not even remember this as the operation could not compare with creating their own puppets & play.

25 December, 2010

Christmas Cyclone

Woke early this morning to strong winds. My wife who was in Darwin for Cyclone Tracey 36 years ago does not sleep in such circumstances. I tried to go back to sleep but she woke me to say a cyclone was on the way.

Quickly we picked up the light things on the veranda to bring them inside. I filled a jerry can of water. Little time to prepare but it was only a category 1 and a small system too. It came ashore to the east of us. The eye passed very close but it was not organised by that time and we did not have the dead calm but light flukey winds. Strong winds started up from east of north after dropping when they were westerly. Corn and bananas flattened, lots of leaves stripped and rain horizontal.

Not the Christmas present we wanted, Cyclone Tasha!
. Wonder if the strong winds from the other direction could stand my fruit trees up again?
The small wetland below our house is a lake at the moment. Petersen Creek is running a banker and daming our small stream. The sun came out, sort of, and allowed for a clean up. Not one's usual Christmas clean up.

From http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/12/25/3101567.htm?section=justin

Flash flooding is expected to inundate far north Queensland after a category one cyclone crossed the coast this morning.

Heavy rain and damaging winds are expected to continue after Cyclone Tasha crossed the coast south of Cairns, near Gordonvale, about 5:15am (AEST).

The cyclone has since been downgraded to a tropical low.

Wind gusts of up to 105 kilometres per hour were recorded off the coast and about 100 millimetres of rain in the space of an hour.

Flash flooding has already trapped a family of three on the roof of their house at Woopen Creek near Babinda, south of Cairns.

Forecaster Clare Richards says areas around Tully have seen falls of about 200 millimetres in the past 24 hours.

Surprise Disguise

If you go down to the woods today you're in for a big surprise
If you go down to the woods today there's something there in disguise
This butterfly was taking advantage of the lull after the winds of Cyclone Tasha when it came to grief. Flower spiders turn up when plants flower and lie in wait. In this instance it has caught a small blue butterfly on an exotic Hoya flower. Maria thinks that the abdomen of the spider looks like an evil elf's face.

22 December, 2010

Fairies at the bottom of the garden

Down at the bottom of my garden, where things are a little wild...
.. behind a palm frond of the thorny Wait-a-while ...
.. is the beautiful little nest of a Fairy Gerrygone. The palm has spines on its leaf stems and climbs with nasty recurved hooks. This makes it a tough place for a tree-snake to hang out. The funnel shaped awning on the left helps to restrict the activities of those brood parasites the cuckoos. I think they were successful in this because there is more than one chick in the nest. You can tell by the noise they make.
Here is a bird on its way to the nest.
You can tell that this is the dad because of his moustaches.
Here he is feeding young. Passerines produce their faeces in a little sack which their parents remove from the nest, dropping it well away. This gene would be one I would nominate to be entered into the human genome.