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Posts Tagged ‘plover’

The small seaside village of Iluka is a very quiet, relaxing place on the north side of the mouth of the Clarence River in Northern NSW.  It’s a place far away from the hurly burly of the daily life of cities and towns.  As a holiday destination, Iluka’s neighbour across the river, Yamba, is a much bigger and livelier place.  But I wanted a quiet place to recharge my batteries, to slow down and enjoy the gentle things in life.  I found that place in Iluka.  So why not come with me for a quiet stroll along the riverside.

P1240838  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240838 © JT of jtdytravels

This walk will take us along the edge of Iluka Bay, a man made safe harbour and refuge on the edge of the river.  This was the first view from the path I followed down to the river.

P1240843  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240843 © JT of jtdytravels

There to greet me were two of those well known and much loved birds of the waterways, the Australian Pelican, Pelecanus conspicuillatus,  a very conspicuous bird.  We are so used to seeing pelicans in Australia that we often pass them by without stopping for a good look.   Common though this bird may be, there are some things we might not all know about this bird.  Here are some points of interest that you can use in a Trivia quiz!

1. There are seven species of pelicans in the world, all of them black and white except for the brown Pelecanus occidentals. That’s a pelican we have seen in the Galapagos Islands.

2.  Pelicans have a wingspan of 2.3 m – 2.5 m.  They need those big wings to help lift themselves off the water.

3. And even when they do get airborne, Pelicans can’t sustain flapping flight.  But they are excellent soarers, using the thermals to remain in the air for 24 hours at a time, covering hundreds of kilometres in search of food and water in dry seasons.

4. A Pelican’s skeleton weighs only 10% of its total body weight.

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P1240969  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240969 © JT of jtdytravels

That famous bill is about half a metre long.  Perhaps some of you will be familiar with Edward Lear’s rhyme about the Pelican’s long bill and massive throat pouch:

“A wonderful bird is the pelican; His beak can hold more than his belly can; He can hold in his beak enough food for a week; But I’ll be darned if know how the hellican! “

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P1240820 ©

P1240820 © JT of jtdytravels

Of course pelicans are much heavier with a belly full of fish and, after eating, they just cruise around or rest on a safe rocky ledge like a break water.  I expect this pair are ‘locals’ and don’t go far from ‘home’ at Iluka Bay where there’s plenty for them to eat.

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P1240813  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240813 © JT of jtdytravels

They no doubt wait for the next fisherman to come back through the breakwater with hopefully a load of fish – and fish heads that are not wanted!  And at the end of this bay is the harbour for the professional fishermen.  It’s a very good place for a pelican to live.

P1240815  @  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240815 @ JT of jtdytravels

Further along the beach, an Australian White Ibis was searching for food. This bird comes with a real tongue twister of a name; Threskiornis moluccus.  Using their long curved bills, they dig up food from the mud.  They eat invertebrates.  Best of all they seem to really enjoy mussels which they open by whacking the hard shells on a rock.

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P1240824  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels.com

P1240824 © JT of jtdytravels.com

I had hoped there was a path along the breakwater but it’s just a jumble of very large rocks protecting the bay from the river currents and strong tides.  This breakwater is essential to Iluka because the Clarence River is also known for very large floods.

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P1240814  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240814 © JT of jtdytravels

In a park beside the bay, is a rather smart looking shed for the rowing club and other aquatic sports.  The mural is very much in keeping with the scenery.

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P1240822  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240822 © JT of jtdytravels

A Masked Lapwing, Vanellus miles novaehollandiae, kept an eye on me as it searched for insects.  Since it lives, nests and feeds on the ground, it is always wary.

This fairly common Australian bird is also known as a Masked Plover, a Spur-winged Plover or just Plover.  The distinctive black neck stripe on this bird distinguishes it as an eastern state variety.  The northern variety has an all white neck and larger wattles.

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P1240826  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240826 © JT of jtdytravels

A new addition to the foreshore here is a very good and solidly built workout station.  I tried it out with a lady who had ridden her bike down to do her morning exercises.  It was a very pleasant way to do exercise while looking out at the bay, the boats and the birds.

P1240853  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240853 © JT of jtdytravels

Walking back towards the other end of the bay and the professional fishing harbour, I enjoyed some shade in the heat of the day.  The path is in excellent condition and used by walkers and bike riders.  There’s one thing that is very certain about this village; people are encouraged to get out and about and enjoy the delightful environment. And they do.

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P1240829  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240829 © JT of jtdytravels

Even this pretty pigeon was out for a walk and followed along with me for quite a while.

P1240840  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240840 © JT of jtdytravels

Among the usual seaside flowers was this unusual one that I had never seen before.

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P1240832  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240832 © JT of jtdytravels

But this magnificent flower of the coral tree, one of the Erythrina family of plants, is well known to me.  It reminds me of our wonderful, kind neighbour, “Gran”, who lived next door to us when I was a child.  Between our house and hers was a row of coral trees and  seeing these splendid red flowers always brings me a special sense of joy as I remember her with love.  Our own Grans lived far away.  She was our special Gran.

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P1240861  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240861 © JT of jtdytravels

A white heron flew down to try its luck in the waters beside me.

I love to watch them stalking their prey.

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P1240862  ©  JT  of  jydytravels

P1240862 © JT of jydytravels

As usual in most Australian water ways, a couple of ducks came by to see if I had some food for them.  No such luck.  There’s plenty of natural food for the birds here. These ducks are Pacific Black Ducks, Anas superciliosa, a very common duck.  It frequents all types of waterways and feeds mostly on seeds, especially of aquatic plants. However, they also like to eat small crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic insects.

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P1240856  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240856 © JT of jtdytravels

On just about every coastal walk in Northern NSW you will come across the glowing pink flower of the Mesembryanthemum, a native of South Africa.  And since this flower’s name means ‘midday flowering’, you’ll see them at their very best in the heat of the day.

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P1240865  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240865 © JT of jtdytravels

There are several paths back up from the river to the village.  This one was a little steep. A tree on the side of the path seemed to grow out rather than up, its trunk an art gallery of lichen.

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P1240950  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240950 © JT of jtdytravels

Grevillea is one of my favourite native Australian flowers and this one was a real winner. These were growing in someone’s front yard.

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P1240951  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240951 © JT of jtdytravels

Beside it, this beautiful creamy Grevillea was just beginning to uncurl.

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P1240871  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1240871 © JT of jtdytravels

A standard garden plant in any northern NSW coastal garden is the bougainvillaea.

They provide wonderful splashes of colour – mainly reds and pinks.

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P1240874  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1240874 © JT of jtdytravels

After a delightful morning walking by the water, I returned ‘home’ to the Iluka Motel for lunch, a rest and a quiet read on my private back patio.  This is a great country motel and I can’t thank Margaret and Les enough for the warmth of their hospitality.  I’ll be back!

Jennie

Photography ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

PS.  A good place to look for information on the water birds I had seen on this walk is

 http://www.birdsinbackyards.net

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Racecourse Beach, Ulladulla, NSW      ©  JT  of <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

If you take a walk along Racecourse Beach at Ulladulla at any time of the year, chances are that you will meet only a handful of other people.  And the odds are even better that those people will walk right on by and not even notice a tiny bird that makes its home on the beach and in these sand dunes.  It’s hard to see – it’s tiny and it’s so well camouflaged.

Look in the centre of this beach shot – see the bird?      ©   DY   of <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

It’s not until this petite bird moves with its scurrying ways that you realise that it’s there at all.  It runs quickly along the sand before pausing suddenly.  As you approach, it flies off  for a just short distance and then begins to hunt for food again.

Three species of little plovers live in this area – but which of the three is this one?

Red-capped Plover (Charadrius ruficapillus)      ©   DY   of  <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

A closer look shows the reddish cap, clean white brow and breast and the sandy coloured back of the Australian native Red-capped Plover (Charadrius ruficapillus).  This bird was on the beach on its own but they are often seen in pairs or small groups. Red-capped Plovers frequent dunes, beaches, river banks and the margins of inland lakes.

Red-capped Plover (Charadrius ruficapillus)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

We watched in fascination as this tiny bird, only 15cm high, ran towards the incoming wavelets to catch the tiny insects off the surface or crustaceans turned over by the waves.

Rock shelf at Racecourse Beach, Ulladulla, NSW      ©   JT   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

At the northern end of Racecourse Beach is a large rock shelf where we found the other two species of small plover – again both well camouflaged and very hard to see at first.

Well camouflaged Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

This small native Australian plover (20cm), sometimes called a dotterel, is fairly rare on the NSW south coast.  It is more commonly found in Tasmania, along the coastal areas of Southern Australia and the south west of WA.  It frequents ocean beaches, sand dunes, estuarine mud flats, exposed reefs as well as inland salt lakes in Western Australia.

Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

It’s a shy bird and easily disturbed so we had to move very slowly towards it.

Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

 But patience was well rewarded with a good look at this well marked small bird. It’s entirely black-hooded, including the throat and shoulders, broken only by a very smart looking white nape band. The back is light-grey brown with a touch of black on the tail. The red bill is tipped with black. The red eye ring is rather lost in the black face.

Double-banded Plover      ©   JT   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

While watching the Hooded Plover, another bird flew in , so tiny it was almost invisible.

Double-banded Plover (Charadrius bicinctus)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

It was not at all shy, came close and posed very nicely to have its portrait taken. This was the Double-banded Plover, a trans-Tasman migrant. It breeds in New Zealand in  summer  and visits Australia during the winter months.  It was probably a fairly new arrival.

Double-banded plover (Charadrius bicinctus)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

In New Zealand during the breeding period in summer, this bird sports a clearly defined black collar and deep reddish buff breast band.  But when it’s in Australia during winter, these markings are muted, appearing as the softer buff coloured breast bands seen here.

Double-banded Plover (Charadrius bicinctus)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

This is definitely not a shy bird. It seemed to be just as interested in us as we were in it!  While in Australia, it frequents seashores and mudflats of eastern and southern coasts.

Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

Sharing the rock shelf with the plovers was a Sooty Oystercatcher.  Not as common as the Pied Oystercatcher, this shy bird inhabits undisturbed ocean shores, preferring rocky ledges and reefs.  It feeds on crustaceans, sea worms and molluscs using its strong, stout bill to break open shells and to prise limpets from rocks. There was plenty of food here!

Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus)      ©   DY   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

Not even a rising tide with its crashing incoming waves deterred this bird from its search for food. It’s a very solidly built bird with entirely black plumage and that makes it very difficult to photograph unless it can be shown against the white of the waves.

Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus)      ©   JT   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

But again patience was rewarded, and as the bird approached us, I was able to get that conspicuous red  bill… and the red eye that is usually somewhat lost in the black face.

Seagull      ©  JT   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

The only other bird on the rock ledge that morning was the smartly dressed but very common sea-side bird, the seagull.

Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis)      ©   JT   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

And close by was yet another of those much rarer birds, a petite Hooded Plover.

Racecourse Beach rock shelf, Ulladulla, NSW      ©   JT   of   <flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels>

 Once again the tide was on the turn – it was time to go and leave the birds in peace.

Photography   ©  DY and JT   of  ‘jtdytravels’

More of our travel, gardens and nature photos are on:

 flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

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