Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Fun Facts About Birds in Australia/New Zealand

Tim is my friend and coworker. He is a great guy but definitely NOT a birder by any stretch of the imagination He is a tech geek who takes tech as seriously as I take birding. He regularly sends us emails with interesting tech news. Today's tidbit reminded me of our trips to Australia and New Zealand many years ago - before blogs were invented. I thought I would pass along some interesting facts/stories.

Tim sent a link to a story about how Sulfur Crested Cockatoos (think Barretta's bird from the old TV crime series) are tearing apart the Internet cabling in Australia. Here is the link to the article: 

Its all true. Everything in Australia can kill you or disrupt your life. Even seemingly innocent birds! I’ve seen these birds in action. When I was at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney, I watched one of the buggers follow a gardener around a fountain and pull out every flower that the guy planted. When I asked why the gardener didn’t shoo the bird away, he told me that they were protected species. He must have planted those flowers 3 times before the bird got bored and flew off. 

Here is a photo of the bird in the garden. Keep in mind, that the photos posted in this blog were taken with FILM (remember that?). I dug out the old photo albums and took iPhone photos of the photos to post here. 

Crested Cockatoos gardening
Hysterical! He was even showing a friend how to do it. "Look mate, just grab it by the flower and yank".

We saw other cool birds in Australia including the iconic Kookaburra. We sang the song alot.

Kookaburra sits in an old gum treeMerry, merry king of the woods is heLaugh Kookaburra, laugh KookaburraHow gay your life must be

This is the best photo that I could get. Back then the photography skills weren't what they are today (LOL). 

Kookaburras sitting in a gum tree
Connie and I took another trip to New Zealand in the 90's too. There, we were warned about another parrot-type bird called a Kea that would remove the rubber gasket around the windshield if you left your car in the parking lot for too long without feeding the birds. People regularly came back to the lot to find the windshields out of the car or at least, the wiper blades removed. Here is one in action on our rental car! 

Kea in action
Other tourists told us to feed the birds so that they left our car alone. Thankfully, we had some grapes in our lunch bags. These fuckers shake you down for food. Here is Connie feeding one. 

Connie shake down
They are pretty big birds with sharp, curved bills. They are prehistoric looking parrots. 

Our favorite birds of New Zealand had to be the penguins. We saw a few different species but finding the Yellow-eyed Penguin on her nest was amazing. They burrow holes in the hillsides along the coast. 
Yellow-eyed Penguin on nest
Ah, good times down under for sure. I highly recommend making the trip. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

There's Bird Chasing, Then There's This

One of the best things about Florida is that the birds are pretty tame in many areas. They are used to people walking, jogging, driving and boating by them. They are used to people with cameras snapping photos of them. But even though they are pretty tame, you still have to go out and find them like I did at Babcock-Webb NWR.

That's great, but what about this:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
What about when the birds come right to the front door? This Yellow-crowned Night-Heron did just that. Here is his Dad or Mom sitting on Steve's railing. Notice the Halloween lights!

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Steve has names for all of the birds. Here are a few close up photos. I actually had to back up into the house to get in focus.

You can see the reflection of the front door in the bird's eye.

Why do the birds come to the front door? Because the neighbors feed them fish from the local bait store, that's why. Here is Lori with the Night-Heron and a Great Egret.

Lori and friend
The Night-Herons prefer clams, so of course, we obliged.

We had a lot of birds in the yard. Check out the Great Egret video.

And a herd of White Ibis too. I say herd, because they move together more like dinosaurs than birds. This one posed in front of the garden.

White Ibis

Fun times!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Babcock-Webb Again

Connie and I have this nasty habit of bringing cold weather to Florida when we visit. Makes it difficult to plan outings on the boat or other outdoor activities. On this trip, I ended up at Babcock-Webb National Wildlife Refuge a few times in the early morning even though it was pretty cold. I was really lucky to find a few interesting birds and get some photos starting with these VERY accommodating Limpkins. Connie and I first saw a Limpkin 25 years ago near Orlando. They are usually very secretive wading in dark places. Notice how bland their plumage is to hide them in the marsh and the swamps. This one seemed quite comfortable in the sunlight. He was even squawking loudly.

 After a while, he sauntered across the road like he owned it.

I found another one in a pond right at the park entrance. This one was more interested in finding a meal than worrying about me.

I also had good luck with a few other birds along a pretty deserted gravel road in the park. This juvenile Black-crowned Nightheron was trying to blend in but I found him anyway.

Black-crowned Nightheron
This Boat-tailed Grackle was grackling away.

Boat-tailed Grackle
This Green Heron posed for a long time and didn't care that I was practically standing right underneath the tree. They usually skiddadle as soon as they see you.

Green Heron
The best find of the day was watching 2 Red-headed Woodpeckers grabbing acorns from an Oak tree above my head. They also ignored me as I stood directly under the tree. This one flew into the same Pine tree as the heron. I guess he didn't want to be left out of the photo shoot. You can clearly see why this species is the owner of the name "Red-headed".

Red-headed Woodpecker
On the way out, I re-found the Purple Gallinule family feeding in the Alligator weed. This time, I got better photos. Check out those giant yellow feet. I have no idea how they navigate on the tiny stems.
Purple Gallinule
The juvenile struck a nice pose too. He navigated up in the weeds as if he has been doing it for years.
Juvenile Purple Gallinule

We killed some time with bird friends at the house too. More on that later.