Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

January 12, 2010

Stockton Sandspit and the Wreck

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 3:01 am

Stockton Sandspit and The Wreck

12th January, 2010.

I finished off my adventure to the west with a morning at the Stockton Sandspit. It was high tide and not the best time to be there, but oh well, you can’t win them all. I went down the northern side, and disturbed either a crake or a rail. I couldnt get a photo because I was too surprised to see one at that end. Luckily I was ready when this Mangrove Gerygone flew into the mangroves.

Mangrove Gerygone
Mangrove Gerygone (Gerygone levigaster)

There were a whole bunch of birds on the centre lagoon. A pair of juvenile Pied Oystercatchers with their parents, Black-winged Stilts, Australian White Ibis and two or three hundred Eastern Curlew.

Eastern Curlew
Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis)

There were a mob of Red-capped Plovers and a flock of Red-necked Stints who later took off and flew west when I surprised them. A group of Red Knots were also grazing on the grassy section in the lagoon. Then I saw another bird watcher, and it was Mark Young, from Sydney. If you go to his blog, he will probably tell you all about the day from a different perspective. I showed him the next bay, which had nothing, so then we went to the wreck along the Stockton foreshore. There were a few Pacific Golden Plover and an entourage of Grey-tailed Tattlers sitting on the rusting hulk.

Pacific Golden Plover and Grey-tailed Tattlers
Pacific Golden Plover and Grey-tailed Tattlers

We took a few photos and then I spotted this White-faced Heron who had caught a prawn. “Don’t come the raw prawn with me, mate”.

White-faced Heron
White-faced Heron (Ardea novaehollandiae)

I had trouble identifying this Common Tern at first because I thought it might have been a White-fronted Tern but I was wrong, again, D’oh!

Common Tern
Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

After that, I left Mark to it, he was going back to the sandspit to wait for the waders to come and feed there. Two hours after high tide is the best time to go there.

Stockton Bird List 12/01/10

Superb Fairy-wren
Eastern Curlew
Black-winged Stilt
Silver Gull
Australian White Ibis
Rock Dove
Pied Oystercatcher
Mangrove Gerygone
Common Myna
Little Pied Cormorant
Little Black Cormorant
Red-capped Plover
Intermediate Egret
Red-necked Stint
White-faced Heron
Spotted Turtle-dove
Pacific Golden Plover
Grey-tailed Tattler
Australian Pelican
Olive-backed Oriole
Common Tern
Red Knot
Crested Tern

November 27, 2009

Stockton Sandspit 091127

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Stockton Sandspit Bird Photography

27th November, 2009

This morning I actually got out of bed and went birding. I know, its monumental. I got there about 6:30am and walked towards the northern end of the sandspit and there was this Black-shouldered Kite sitting on a low bush branch. I am not sure if he is a juvenile or not, it seems to me that he might be. Please comment if you know.

Black-shouldered Kite
Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris)

There were quite a few Black-tailed Godwits and Bar-tailed Godwits inside the lagoon when I first arrived and they moved onto the beach. I timed it really well because the tide was just starting to go out. That is the best time to go there. About two hours after high tide. There was a big flock of Eastern Curlews on the grass as well. The area has signs out warning to not go close to the lagoon section because the Pied Oystercatchers are trying to breed. Down on the beach I spotted this Gull-billed Tern flying around looking for some dinner. This one is in non-breeding plumage.

Gull-billed Tern
Gull-billed Tern (Sterna nilotica)

Every now and again, the Eastern Curlews get spooked and up they go. They fly around in a circle and then come back down. When they first come from Siberia they are usually a bit nervous. This one is half way round his lap. ha ha.

Eastern Curlew
Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis)

There were a couple of Little Terns who were feeding just in front of all the waders who were parked on the mudflat. These ones were in breeding plumage and you could quite clearly see the yellow beak and yellow legs, as well as the white patch on the forehead. They are classified as a Threatened Species in New South Wales due to nesting at flood-prone locations and predation of eggs and chicks by feral animals. So please keep your cat inside at night and keep your dog on a leash when going for a walk in the bush or along the beach.

Little Tern
Little Tern (Sterna albifrons)

There was a couple of Red-capped Plovers who were feeding along the edge of the beach. The Red-capped Plovers are resident at Stockton Sandspit and usually breed up on the island each year. Check out his head, its the same colour as the brick behind him. Too funny. And also note the size of the mangrove tree seed/ling beside him. That will give you some indication of the size of these little blighters. 🙂

Red-capped Plover
Red-capped Plover (Charadrius ruficapillus)

There were about half a dozen Red-necked Stints who were walking around behind the Red-capped Plover. It took me a while to work out the ID for this one, so thanks to Mark. 🙂

Red-necked Stint
Red-necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis)

There were a few Curlew Sandpipers who were hanging out around the back of the Bar-tailed Godwit pack. I almost forgot to mention the thousands of Red-necked Avocets.

Stockton Sandspit bird list 27/11/09

Rock Dove
Magpie-lark
Common Starling
Common Myna
White-faced Heron
Black-winged Stilt
Gull-billed Tern
Little Tern
Chestnut Teal
Eastern Curlew
Pied Oystercatcher
Superb Fairy-wren
Intermediate Egret
Black-shouldered Kite
Masked Lapwing
Bar-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwit
Red-necked Avocet
Australian Pelican
Red-capped Plover
Curlew Sandpiper
Red-necked Stint

Recommended Resource

Field Guide to the Birds of Australia (Helm Field Guides)

October 15, 2009

Bar-tailed Godwit from New Zealand

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 9:17 pm

Please find attached two photos of the Bar-tailed Godwit with the engraved white leg flag BLN that we observed at Stockton Sandspit on 2 October 2009. These photos were taken by Steve Happ.

Bar-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)

Thanks for the pictures. Another bird stopping short in Aus. This was banded 14.02.09 aged 3+ and it is the first sighting since banding. It was seen at Stockton Point by Steve Happ, Liz Crawford and Chris Herbert

Australasian Wader Studies Group

Bar-tailed Godwit
C8698 BLN
was banded at Miranda on the Firth of Thames
14.02.09
aged 3+
and this is the first sighting

From: AWSG Leg Flag Sightings

Sighting details:

A Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica was sighted by Steve Happ, Liz Crawford and Chris Herbert at: Stockton Sandspit, Hunter Estuary, near Newcastle, NSW, Australia 32deg 54min 0sec S, 151deg 48min 0sec E on 2/10/2009 with flag(s) as follows:

LEFT leg: nothing/unknown on tibia (upper leg) above metal band on tarsus
RIGHT leg: white engraved flag on tibia (upper leg) above nothing/unknown on tarsus

This bird was flagged Miranda Firth of Thames, approximate co-ordinates 37deg 10min S, 175deg 19min E, which uses the flag combination White Engraved, on 14/02/2009.

The resighting was a distance of approximately 2187 km, with a bearing of 276 degrees, from the marking location.

The flagged bird was identified as female.

———

Please find attached the official recovery report for the New Zealand-flagged Bar-tailed Godwit (White Engraved ‘BLN’….Y8698) that was sighted on the 2/10/2009 at Stockton Sandspit, Hunter Estuary, near Newcastle, NSW, Australia by Steve Happ, Liz Crawford and Chris Herbert.

Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme
Marine Initiatives Branch,
Marine Division
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
Australian Government
environment.gov.au

Please note that as the two or three character alphanumeric code on the engraved flag (or five-character individual colour-band code) has been identified, this record will be ‘officially’ processed as a recovery by the ABBBS. Once this has occurred the attached ‘interim’ flag sighting report will be deleted. The banding details were as follows:

Band Number: Y8698 (engraved flag BLN)
Date of banding: 14/02/2009
Age of bird when banded: 3+
Locode: NZWS34 (Miranda Firth of Thames)

Bar-tailed Godwit Migration Route
This is a possible migration route for this bird. (My hypothesis only)

Here is my theory of the migration route based on the work of the satellite trackers, taggers and Rob Schuckhard.

1. Bird is in New Zealand in February 2009.
2. Flies to Yellow Sea in China around april-may ’09
3. Flies to Alaska in May 09.
4. Breeds in Alaska from June-July
5. Flies towards New Zealand ~ September 09
6. Does not have enough fat reserves at Fiji, makes decision to fly to Australia instead.
7. Rests at island near New Caledonia, forget which one.
8. Flies to Queensland
9. Flies down to Newcastle, seen on 2/10/09
10. ??? Will fly across to New Zealand, when?

If anyone wants to modify that theory please do so.

October 4, 2009

Hunter Wetlands Bird Photography 091002

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Hunter Wetlands Bird Photography, 2nd October, 2009.

Little Egret
Little Egret (Ardea garzetta) in breeding plumage

Kooragang Dykes

Today I went for a boat ride along the Kooragang Dykes, just over the river from Stockton Sandspit. Liz and Chris asked me to come along to take photos of any birds that were tagged or banded. We did find a number of birds that had been banded, a Pied Oystercatcher and a Bar-tailed Godwit. I would be interested to know where they came from. The weather was a bit sloppy with a south-east wind chopping up the river somewhat. Also the tide was going the opposite way to the tide, so that did not help the general bumpiness.

Pacific Golden Plover
Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva)

There were a mob of Pacific Golden Plovers roosting along the dykes – about thirty or forty of them. I also spotted at least one Grey Plover with the Golden Plovers and could clearly see the black armpit as he flew away. About ten Pied Oystercatchers were there as well and one of them had a band on. A Little Egret in full breeding plumage was feeding at the edge of the water where the tide was running out. I saw a pair of Eastern Curlews and about twenty Black-winged Stilts with a few young ones amongst them.

Pacific Golden Plover
Pacific Golden Plover

There were a few Curlew Sandpipers amongst the Golden Plovers and about forty Common Greenshanks were roosting closer to the water. I got a good look at a Pied Cormorant sitting on a dead branch.

Pied Cormorant
Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius)

Common Greenshank
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)

Stockton Sandspit

After we pulled the boat out we went over to Stockton Sandspit to see if there were any Bar-tailed Godwits over there. We had the obligatory morning tea, and thanks to Liz and Chris, they had a spare cup. I forgot to pack some lunch, again! There were a few Bar-tailed Godwits over at the Sandspit, as well as some Eastern Curlew and Black-winged Stilts. A big mob of Bar-tailed Godwits with Red Knots were feeding on the sandbar with the usual mega-flock of nervous Red-necked Avocets.

Common Greenshank
Common Greenshank

A few little Red-capped Plovers were running over the mud flats like hyperactive schoolkids and a Caspian Tern and a Gull-billed Tern were hiding amongst the Bar-tailed Godwits and Red Knots. We saw at least one Bar-tailed Godwit with a band, but I could not make out the numbers on it.

Eastern Curlew
Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis)

Kooragang Dykes and Stockton Sandspit Bird List 2/10/09

Pacific Golden Plover
Pied Oystercatcher
Sooty Oystercatcher
Little Egret
Curlew Sandpiper
Common Greenshank
Grey Plover
Chestnut Teal
Australian Pelican
Eastern Curlew
Black-winged Stilt
Bar-tailed Godwit
Red-necked Avocet
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Red-capped Plover
Red Knot
Australian White Ibis
Whimbrel
Superb Fairy-wren
White-faced Heron
Little Black Cormorant
Pied Cormorant

Here is Liz’s bird count:

Species – Kooragang Dykes 2 October 2009 [9.10 – 9.55am]

Eastern Curlew [50]
Common Greenshank [60]
Grey-tailed Tattler 1
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper [5]
Curlew Sandpiper 3
Pied Oystercatcher 14 Yellow flag H7
Pacific Golden Plover 55
Grey Plover 1
Little Egret 3
Great Egret 1
Caspian Tern 3
Australian Pelican 44 1 dead
Pied Cormorant 8
Little Black Cormorant 8
Darter 1
Royal Spoonbill 1
White-faced Heron 5
Chestnut Teal 40+
Brown Honeyeater H

Species – Stockton Sandspit 2 October 2009 [10.15 – 11.13am]

Black-tailed Godwit y
Bar-tailed Godwit y White flag BLN
Red Knot y
Black-winged Stilt y
Red-necked Avocet y
Gull-billed Tern y
Black-shouldered Kite 1

September 24, 2009

Stockton Sandspit Bird Photography 090924

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Stockton Sandspit Bird Photography 24th September 2009.

5:30am! What sort of time is that to get out of bed? Well this morning I was keen to get out and about after the red dust storm that blanketed Newcastle yesterday. The wind was still blowing a bit from the south-west and it was a bit cold. I drove over the bridge to Stockton Sandspit and went for a look. The tide was a fair bit out, so I was hoping for a few migratory waders. But there were about 3 Eastern Curlews on the mud flats, a bunch of Black-winged Stilts and a few Red-capped Plovers on the shore. doh!

Red-capped Plover
Red-capped Plover (Charadrius ruficapillus)

A couple of baby Red-capped Plovers were on the sandy grit in the center island section, near the lagoon. As I was heading to the car park, a juvenile Brahminy Kite flew over.

I then went around the corner to Fern Bay for a look, but there were only a mob of Chestnut Teals, Grey Teals and some White-faced Heron sheltering from the wind behind the mangroves.

Common Starling
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Stockton Bird List 24/9/09

Crested Pigeon
Common Mynah
Little Pied Cormorant
Eastern Curlew
Black-winged Stilt
Pied Oystercatcher
Red-capped Plover
Superb Fairy-wren
Common Starling
Chestnut Teal
Grey Teal
White-faced Heron
Brahminy Kite

July 29, 2009

Stockton Sandspit 090729

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Bird Photography at Stockton, 29th July, 2009.

This morning I drove over to Kooragang Island and went to the extreme South-east tip to see if there were any raptors fishing. But there was nothing – not a thing. Not even a seagull. So I drove over the bridge to Stockton and stopped at the Boat Ramp, hoping to at least see something. There were about 3 Australian Pelicans sitting on the break wall and that was about it. Again, not even a seagull.

Superb Fairy-wren
female Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)

So I went to the Stockton Sandspit and parked under the bridge and went for a walk around the sandspit starting at the northern end. There were some Brown Honeyeaters twittering away in the northern end Mangroves, but I could not see them, they were staying well hidden. I walked past the mudflats and there were a couple of water birds and a dead Pelican on the beach. It was a very dismal day. The wind was howling from the north-west and I guess the birds were still in bed and staying there.

Superb Fairy-wren
dominant male Superb Fairy-wren

I poked around in the bush at the southern end of the sandspit and there were a colony of Superb Fairy-wren and some Brown Honeyeaters. I also heard a Little Wattlebird but did not see him. I went over to the other side of the channel hoping to see a Double-barred Finch but I had no luck. It was one of those dud days. Nothing happening at all so I just went home. doh!

Stockton Bird List, 29/7/09

Superb Fairy-wren
Brown Honeyeater
Australian White Ibis
White-faced Heron
Little Wattlebird

June 12, 2009

Stockton Sandspit Bird Photos 090612

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Bird Photography at Stockton Sandspit, 12th June, 2009.

This morning I went to Stockton Sandspit to have a look for raptors. I found a couple but the shots were not that great, but I did see and photograph a Double-barred Finch for the first time, so I am happy about that. Yesterday I went out to the Stockton Channel at dawn and it was bitterly cold. It was absolutely freezing and the wind was howling a gale. It was so miserable, plus there were no birds at all around. I just went home. This morning was cold but I took a beanie and some gloves to fend off the icicles.

I had a look at the boat ramp and the wreck in the northern Channel of the Hunter River. There were a few pelicans and seagulls but no raptors. I drove around to the Stockton Sandspit and went for a walk along the river side. There was the Pied Oystercatcher with one foot, an Australian Raven with half a loaf of bread in his bill, some White-faced Herons on the center grassy bit. Further on the beach there was a Whimbrel, a few Crested Terns and Gull-billed Terns, about 80 Bar-tailed Godwits, and a solitary Grey-tailed Tattler.

I scouted around in the bush at the southern end of the Sandspit and spied a couple of Brown Honeyeaters.

Brown Honeyeater
Brown Honeyeater(Lichmera indistincta)

A mob of Superb Fairy-wrens were flittering around in the scrub and the grass. This pair were huddled up together and preening each other. It is a male and a female. They were quite cute.

Superb Fairy-wren
male and female Superb Fairy-wren(Malurus cyaneus)

I walked out to the south-east end of the Stockton Sandspit and saw a White-bellied Sea-eagle wheeling about near the bridge. He straightened out and headed up Fern Bay to the north, looking for his breakfast. At the car park, the usual mob of Superb Fairy-wrens were mucking about. This popinjay was posing for the camera. What a ham!

Superb Fairy-wren
male Superb Fairy-wren(Malurus cyaneus)

The strange thing was there was a Double-barred Finch sitting up on the fence railing with the Superb Fairy-wrens. I had never seen one there before, plus it was the first time I had seen one of these beauties.

Double-barred Finch
Double-barred Finch(Taeniopygia bichenovii), race bichenovii

Stockton Sandspit Bird Species List, 12/6/09

Pied Oystercatcher
Australian Raven
White-faced Heron
Gull-billed Tern
Crested Tern
Whimbrel
Bar-tailed Godwit – 80
Grey-tailed Tattler
Masked Lapwing
Royal Spoonbill
Australian White Ibis
Superb Fairy-wren
Little Wattlebird
Brown Honeyeater
Black-winged stilt
Double-barred Finch
Little Pied Cormorant

June 4, 2009

Stockton Bird Photography 090603

Bird Photography at the Stockton Channel, 3rd June, 2009.

This afternoon I dropped in along the Stockton Channel as I had something to do over at Stockton. I stopped at the usual places – the boat ramp, the point, and at the wreck, I spotted this juvenile Striated Heron that was sitting on the wreck. He was right in the line of the sun, so I tried to move around a bit so that the sun was not blowing everything out from behind and he flew off north towards the mangroves. Juveniles seem to be spotty or streaked and later on the adults lose these striations. The Striated Heron belongs to the Group: Ciconiiformes and Family: Ardeidae.

Striated Heron
juvenile Striated Heron(Butorides striatus)

After that, I headed towards the bridge and checked in the bay, just to the east of the bridge. There seemed to be a lot of fish chopping about in the bay, with pelicans and terns fishing. I often see the raptors flying in this area, so I am thinking that this bay is a great place for watching birds catching fish. Here is a Caspian Tern with a big fish in his mouth. I am not sure how he is going to get this down. Thanks to Tobias for the correction to my original identification, which was a Crested Tern.

Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern(Sterna caspia)

I parked under the bridge at the Stockton Sandspit, and as soon as I got out, the tribe of Superb Fairy-wrens were hopping about in the gardens in the car park. So I snapped a female(see edit below). Notice that there is some blue and white tips in the tail of this female. Superb Fairy-wren belong to the Group: Passeriformes and Family: Maluridae.

Edit: This photo may be of a male Superb Fairy-wren who is in the first year, after the first moult. Thanks to David Stowe for the correction.

Superb Fairy-wren
Superb Fairy-wren(Malurus cyaneus)

And here is the male showing off with breeding plumage.

Superb Fairy-wren
male Superb Fairy-wren(Malurus cyaneus)

Bird Species List, Stockton Channel, 3/6/09

Superb Fairy-wren
Black-winged Stilt
Bar-tailed Godwit
Caspian Tern
Crested Tern
Eastern Curlew
Red-necked Avocet
Brahminy Kite
White-bellied Sea-eagle
Striated Heron

May 16, 2009

Stockton Bird Photography 090516

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , , — admin @ 3:28 am

Bird Photography at Stockton, 16th May, 2009

And the Headline for today is:

It can’t get any worse than this!

Well, I thought yesterday was a crummy day that turned out to be not so bad, but today was the absolute pits. Almost. So let us start this tragi-comedy, this Beckett reworking of Waiting for Birdot. This morning I went over to the Stockton side of the Hunter River in Newcastle, NSW. I was hoping to find and photograph a Brahminy Kite that I had been told was seen there during the week. The day was yucky and windy and freezing cold into the bargain, so it was not a good start.

So, I went on the western side of the river, along Kooragang Island, and saw a few terns and cormorants. Nothing doing here, thought I. Except for a runny nose and a cold. I drove over the bridge and saw a Nankeen Kestrel hovering over the river, so I screeches to a stop and get out the camera, ready to rock and roll. But the kestrel flew off down the river and no photos.

I drove down to the boat ramp and took some photos of some silver gulls flying around, moved further on and took some photos of some terns, then drove over to the Stockton Sandspit. There was a fisherman pumping for worms, a few Chestnut Teals, Australian Pelicans and this poor Pied Oystercatcher that had some fishing line wrapped around his leg. It seemed that the fishing line had cut off his foot and he only had a stump. It made me feel so sad and angry.

I went down past the bridge and saw a few White-faced Herons and Australian Ibis hanging out on a a spit of sand to the east of the bridge. And here is a healthy Pied Oystercatcher.

Pied Oystercatcher
Pied Oystercatcher(Haematopus longirostris)

Well that is about it. Only one photograph worth posting. And a windy blustery day that I should have been indoors hiding from.

Bird Species List, Stockton , 16/5/09

Australian Pelican
Little Black Cormorant
Chestnut Teal
Silver Gull
Australian Hobby
Pied Oystercatcher
Pied Cormorant
Nankeen Kestrel
White-faced Heron
Australian White Ibis

March 25, 2009

Bird Photography Stockton 090324

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Bird Photography at Stockton, 24th March, 2009

Today I went to the Stockton side of the Hunter River to look for the Pacific Golden Plovers that hang around the wreck. But they were not around. There wasnt much of anything around. I took a few photos of some Welcome Swallows and Magpie-larks but nothing turned out very well.

I then went over to the Stockton Sandspit under the bridge and walked towards the sandspit. There were a few Eastern Curlews with a flock of Silver Gulls and some Pelicans. There was a flock of Bar-tailed Godwits feeding in the shallow water. I do not think there were any Black-tailed Godwits with them as far as I could tell.

The easiest way to tell Bar-tailed from Black-tailed Godwits is to see them in the air. Notice the tail feathers on these Bar-tailed Godwits. The Black-tailed Godwits have a solid black bar at the end of the tail with white on the rump. They also have a white stripe on the wing.

Bar-tailed Godwits

Here is another shot of some Bar-tailed Godwits in flight.

Bar-tailed Godwits

After the Bar-tailed Godwits had flown off I noticed some smaller plovers on the beach. There were a couple of Lesser Sand Plovers(Charadrius mongolus) who were fossicking on the beach with some Red-capped Plovers.

Lesser Sand Plover

The Lesser Sand Plover was formerly known as the Mongolian Plover.

Lesser Sand Plover

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