Winter has Arrived

Wanderer Butterfly

Wanderer Butterfly

It took me a while to get used to the reversal of seasons having moved hemispheres, to think of July as winter and Christmas as being in summer, but I’m getting used to it now.  What I didn’t allow for was that not everything swapped with it.  For instance, I looked for lambs in spring, in September. Wrong.  And butterflies in summer. Wrong again.  A lot of what happens in spring in the UK actually happens in autumn or winter here.  In the summer, it’s so dry that food is sparse.  There aren’t many flowers and the grass dies off.  When it starts to cool down and then rain in autumn, the wildlife springs into action.

Lake Joondalup

Lake Joondalup

It’s started to rain regularly now.  Not much so far, but enough to cover most of Lake Joondalup.  And with it, many of the water-birds have returned.  Hundreds of ducks, along with shovelers and grebes were resting in the middle of the lake.

Spoonbill

Spoonbill

A spoonbill and a heron were making the most of the rain too.  They went into hiding with the arrival of several dogs playing, but I managed to get one picture of the spoonbill just in time.

Elegant Parrot Pair

Elegant Parrot Pair

The pair of elegant parrots were perching near to where I saw them a couple of weeks ago, in Franklin park.  I’m hoping that maybe they’ll hang around to breed there.  I also hope that one day they might sit a little bit closer to the fence so that I can get a clearer look.

There are some fairly spectacular spider webs around too at the moment.  This one was in Franklin Park.  I think it’s an orb-weaver (based on 5 minutes on google images), but I could be wrong.

Golden Orb-weaver (probably!)

Golden Orb-weaver (probably!)

 

Little Egret

Little Egret Fishing

Little Egret Fishing

This week little egrets have been visiting Lake Joondalup – the first time I’ve seen them there.  I’ve seen one or two in the distance since I’ve been in Oz, but this was the first time I’ve seen them fairly close to.

Little Egret

Little Egret

 

Maybe they’re here because so many lakes have now dried up after the long summer.  I counted 15 great egrets too.  So, how do you tell the difference between them?  Obviously the ‘great’ is bigger than the ‘little’, but that’s not much use if they aren’t standing conveniently together.  The best way is the beak colour.  The great egret has a yellow beak, the little egret has a beak which is mainly black with a bit of yellow at the top where it meets the eyes.

 

Little Egret

Little Egret

 

They have an interesting fishing technique.  Their ‘Great’ cousins stand dead still, watching the water, then dive their heads in when they see their food.  The lillte egrets do a very graceful ‘dance’ over the water.  little hops and flaps, and tapping the water surface with their feet.

 

Little Egrets at Lake Joondalup

Little Egrets at Lake Joondalup

Unfortunately, they don’t do a very good job of posing.  Firstly, they stand on the side of the lake which guarantees that the sun is behind them, so nearly all photos are in silhouette.  Secondly, they like to wade to the areas which are hidden from the path by trees.  I know they’re there, but can’t get to them.  This picture was taken from quite a distance from the wooden walkway, but there was no way of getting nearer – very frustrating.

 

Little Egrets

Little Egrets

 

Good News and Bad News

Male Rainbow Bee-Eater

Male Rainbow Bee-Eater

It’s time for an update and this week I was going to share good news and bad news.  It’s now renamed Good News and Good News.

Wagtail Chicks Feeding

Wagtail Chicks Feeding

Let’s start with some good news.  The Willie Wagtails who nested outside our house successfully raised 2 chicks who are now announcing themselves noisily in the street every morning.  This is also great news for the dog who was divebombed every time he went for a walk or for a wee.  For the past few months he’s been harassed by magpies, magpie-larks, wattle-birds and wagtails almost every time he’s been for a walk.  Now that the chicks have all left their nests he can walk in peace!

 

Empty Osprey Nest

Empty Osprey Nest

This is how this section was going to read:         Next I have to share some sad news.  Not long after I last posted about the ospreys, I went to take some pictures and see if the eggs had hatched.  All I found was an abandoned nest.  There had been a really bad storm just beforehand.  I can only speculate that it might have been the strong winds that did the damage.  Worse news still, I haven’t seen either of the adults since.  Hopefully they’re fine and I’ll see them soon along the coast.

The great news is that I have now seen the ospreys, mum on the nest and dad perching nearby.  Hopefully they’ve laid a new clutch of eggs and soon I’ll be able to get those long awaited shots of some chicks.

Straw-Necked Ibis

Straw-Necked Ibis

 

This pair of straw-necked ibis have been spending time at Lake Joondalup.  I’m not sure whether they bred this year, but I was really pleased to get this shot of them.  The little specks around them aren’t from a dirty lens – they’re tiny flies!  They were surrounded.

 

 

Pair of Rainbow Bee-Eaters

Pair of Rainbow Bee-Eaters

 

I was out walking recently  and came across this pair of rainbow bee-eaters.  Yet another colourful surprise.  They’re fantastic.  Very colourful in flight but way too fast for me to get a picture.  It’s the first time I’d ever seen one so I was really pleased that they both opted to rest at the same time.

 

My last picture to post is of a young pacific gull.  I don’t think it’s this year’s chick, more likely a couple of years old.  It hangs out with a flock of ordinary seagulls though and not with other pacific gulls.  He looks very out of place next to them since they are bright white and also only half the size.  I’m growing quite fond of him as he regularly turns up on the beach when I go to watch the sunset.  So here it is, on the beach, just before sunset .

Immature Pacific Gull

Immature Pacific Gull

 

 

Kookaburra

Kookaburra with lunch

Kookaburra with lunch

Pair of Kookaburras

Pair of Kookaburras

 

As a blog about Australian birds, you’d really have thought that there would have been a post on a kookaburra by now. It featured in my Top 10 Classic Australian Birds and is one of the best known Australian birds around the world. However, I couldn’t get good enough photos to do it justice. It was always obscured by a twig, or grainy due to the dark, or blurred because it decided to shake at the wrong moment. Well, his time has now come. Mainly thanks to a pair of them at Lake Joondalup.

 

 

Laughing

Laughing

 

I  hear their signature ‘laugh’, more often than I see them.  It sounds a bit like excited monkeys shouting to each other in the trees. Since they’re in the kingfisher family they prefer to be near water, although you can find them in gardens or in the bush. Lizards and small snakes are more likely to be lunch than fishes though.

Fantail trying to steal lunch

Fantail trying to steal lunch

 

 

 

This kookaburra almost had lunch stolen from its beak by a brave and opportunistic fantail.
 

 

 

Staring contest

Staring contest

 

 

 

I was challenged to a staring contest – and I didn’t win.
 

 

 

 

Sitting in tree

Sitting in tree


 

Little Corella – with a big attitude

Little Corella coming in to land

Little Corella – Coming for a drink

 

Little Corella Face

Little Corella Face

 

They might look cute but these fellas have a big attitude. My friend was complaining recently about birds swooping at her outside her home and it turned out that they were Little Corellas. I think that they’re only likely to swoop at people when they are breeding though. When I was taking pictures of them at Lake Joondalup one tried to chase off a pigeon that was feeding too close. When the pigeon didn’t move, the corella grabbed it by the tail and screeched at it while dragging it along.

 

Little Corella

 

There are often a few mixed in with the Long-Billed Corellas at Joondalup and they tend to be quite aggressive to their Long-Billed cousins. They seem to be less friendly and confident so it’s harder to get close for a photo.

Little Corellas by the road

Little Corellas feeding by the road

 

A couple of months ago I was driving along when a massive flock of Little Corellas appeared ahead.  They landed on the verges, on the central reservation and in the trees. I pulled into a car park and managed to get some pictures on my mobile phone (apologies for the quality). Some were eating seeds from cones in the trees, the rest were grazing on the grass roots. When they fly over they make quite a racket, chattering and screeching so it would be hard not to notice them. They’re sometimes found on their own or in a pair, or sometimes seen in these huge flocks.  In fact,  sometimes they’re in flocks of over a thousand and are now considered by many to be a pest.  If you are a farmer and a thousand of these appear to feed on your crops it must be hard to see a cute side. I hope this flock sticks to the verges and parkland where we can enjoy them without them being a nuisance and hopefully I can get some photos of their chicks in a couple of months time.

 

Little Corellas

Little Corellas

Musk Duck – A Very Strange Australian Bird

When I looked this duck up in my bird book, the first comment in the description was ‘A very strange duck’.  Not particularly ornithological, but very true.  As Australian birds go, it’s not as strange as some (think emu or pelican), but still strange.

Musk Duck - A 'very strange' Australian Bird

Musk Duck – A ‘very strange’ Australian Bird

This is a male, with a rather odd flap of skin under his neck.  The females and the young don’t have one, it just develops on the males as they mature.  It doesn’t have a normal ‘quack’ either.  When he’s displaying, the male can manage a combined grunt and whistle at the same time, while the female grunts.

Musk Duck Swimming

Musk Duck Swimming

 

 

They aren’t terribly agile in flight, so they avoid flying most of the time, but they are incredibly good under-water swimmers.  They spend long periods under-water, hunting along the mud on the bottom of the lake or marsh.

 

 

Their tail is different to most ducks too.  When they are under-water, it fans out and helps with balance.  When they sleep, they fan it out on the surface.  And when he is displaying, the male fans it out and flips it over his back to impress the ladies.

Musk ducks are only found in Australia, and only in the south-west, east and south-east.  It gets its name from the ‘musky’ odour it gives off during the breeding season apparently.  I can’t confirm this, but if I ever get close enough to sniff a breeding duck I’ll be sure to let you know.

Musk Duck

Musk Duck – Lake Joondalup

Lake Joondalup

I visited Lake Joondalup on my first trip to Australia and couldn’t get over the number of parrots there were (these turned out to be corellas).  I vowed to go back again if ever we moved here – and now I do, regularly.  The lake is home to resident and migratory water birds, and the surrounding parks and woodland are home to many other birds and wildlife.

long-necked turtle

Long-Necked Turtle – Lake Joondalup

One of my favourite things to see there is the aptly named long-necked turtle.  It’s not easy to see one and it helps if it’s very sunny so you can see through the water clearly.  I’ve seen them from Neil Hawkins Park (on the West bank, near to the centre of Joondalup).   There’s a walkway onto the lake where you can look for them, and you can usually see plenty of the less shy waterfowl too. The park has a play area and plenty of barbeques, so it’s usually full of families.  The resident long-billed corellas live there and are very friendly.  They can normally be found on the lawns in the day, along with the pigeons.  Gallahs nest there and I also sometimes see ringnecks and rainbow lorikeets.  Due to the amount of wildlife in the reserve, there are plenty of birds of prey there.  Swamp harriers often cicle over the water and eagles occasionally visit.

Lake Joondalup - Dry

Lake Joondalup – Dry

 

 

Further South, by Edgewater, is Picnic Cove.  Another play area, more barbeques, more water birds.  And also (although I’ve never seen them), tiger snakes.  During the summer the water level drops.  By autumn, the water almost disappears at Picnic Cove.

 

Lake Joondalup

Lake Joondalup

Spider at Lake Joondalup

Watch out for spiders

 

Once the winter rains come and it starts to fill again, plenty of birds arrive to breed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a 16km circuit of the lake that you can walk, run or cycle that takes you by the lake and through the woods.  In the summer you’ll see spiders with enormous webs in the trees.

 

 

What might you see there:  Shoveler, duck, black swan, Australian Shelduck, musk duck, long-billed corella, gallah, rainbow lorikeet, ringneck parakeet, pink eared duck, white faced heron, white necked heron, spoonbill, egret,  kookaburra,  black shouldered kite, Australian kestrel, swamp harrier, wedge-tailed eagle, white bellied sea-eagle, pelican, buff banded rail, black-tailed native-hen, chestnut teal, ibis, red-kneed dotterel, whiskered tern, hoary-headed grebe, Australasian grebe

 

Black Shouldered Kite

Black Shouldered Kite

 

Long-billed Corellas

Long-billed Corellas – Lake Joondalup