Bird(s) of the week: White-bellied Sea Eagle…and more
Earlier this week I drove out to the west coast of the NT’s Gulf of Carpentaria for work. On the first morning out bush I was lucky enough to be up before dawn and wandered down to the foreshore to see what might wander past and into my camera. I’d seen a pair of adult White-bellied Sea-eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster) the previous evening and the next morning I spotted this bird about a kilometre away roosting on the highest branches of a dead tree.
There was plenty of other birdlife up and about to keep me busy but I kept an eye out for this bird to make its first flight of the day. Luckily for me she – that’s my guess anyway – flew past close enough for me to grab a few shots.
I’m happy with this one because it shows – I hope – the immense power that these birds have from their large wings and massive chest muscles that drive them…
Brahminy Kites (Haliastur indus) are another relatively common fish-eating hawk around our coasts and this adult bird shows off its gleaming white head that contrasts so beautifully with its chestnut body plumage.
It was a busy morning down by the barge landing. I heard what I first thought were Barramundi chasing bait fish around in the shallows below the rocks and after a while wandered over for a look and found this Pied Cormorant (Palacrocorax varius) caught up in some discarded fishing line that some fool fisherman had discarded. It all ended well because just as I came back with a knife to try to cut it free it had done so by itself.
For good reason it doesn’t look very happy here but it was soon back out chasing fish around with no apparent ill-effects.
I’ve not run into a Striated (Mangrove) Heron (Butorides (Ardeola) striata) before so I was happy to get a reasonable shot of this individual as it was poking around on the mudflats. It was rather shy and kept scooting off into the mangroves every time it saw me poking around.
Later that day I pulled into the shade along the banks of a glorious billabong just off the road. As I got out of the car for a nature-stop a thousand birds rose up from the water. This immature Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) aka Jabiru was one of them. I’ve seen quite a few young birds around the Top End recently – maybe last year’s record wet-season was a boon for this most striking of our waterbirds. All legs and beak!
These Royal Spoonbills (Platalea regia) were part of a large flock on the billabong and rose en-masse into the air, making long, lazy circles before cautiously settling in a far corner of the billabong.
That afternoon I camped at the Roper Bar Store and wandered up the the top of the hill behind the store to see if I could pick up some elusive mobile signal. Also cruising around was this Black Kite (Milvus migrans) which cast a beady eye at me as it passed.
The next day I pulled into my favourite roadside stop for a coffee and a stretch and came across this beautiful Red-winged Parrot (Aprosmictus erythropterus) picking seeds out of the unripened seed pods of a Kapok Tree (Cochlospermum gillivraei).
And a day later I came across another – several hundred kilometres away – picking seeds form the ripened seed pods of the same bush.
Also around – I’d been hearing and chasing them on-and-off for two days – were plenty of Red-backed Fairy-Wrens (Malurus melanocephalus). This is the best shot I managed to get of these very elusive, but very common, little birds.
This is the brightly coloured male bird.
I was shooting around my favourite piece of waste-ground in Katherine (waste ground always seems to be good for birds) looking for Gouldian Finches (Erythrura gouldiae) without success. The early morning air was full of the calls of Eastern (Common) Koels (Eudynamys orientalis) and Pheasant Coucals (Centropus phasianinus) (of which I found a dead road-killed specimen a few weeks ago) and I caught this male in glorious breeding plumage.
And finally – but no less worthy, this Crested Pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes) wandered past within range of my lens. Looks quite coquettish don’t you think?