You may remember on Australia Day last year my wife and I visited Long Reef Aquatic Reserve and blogged it, yet again a week before Australia Day we visit again at low tide a few hours before sunset. The Australian flag is the first thing you see flying in the bay near Fisherman’s Beach, Collaroy in Sydney. As we walked along the path that leads to the reef we heard this unusual bird calling. It didn’t fly off but continued its call. It was an immature Eastern Koel, a wonderful find. It resembles the female in the ‘light morph’ but has darker eye markings. Being young it appeared to be waiting for its surrogate parent to feed it. It had the beautiful classic striped tail of the Cuckoo family. The mature male appears black (iridescent blue-green sheen) with red eyes and a white beak. These birds migrate to Australia during the Summer months to breed, returning to Indonesia and New Guinea in Winter months. Like other Cuckoos, the parents lodge their eggs in the nests of other large birds to be raised by them. In this case we were not sure what bird is raising this one, we saw a scuffle between several birds nearby.
A little further on we heard and saw the Red Wattle bird displaying his bright red wattle. Before I became a birder I use to think, like many Aussies do, that this bird was called a Wattle Bird because it hung around Wattle Bushes, which are common on coastal Australia. I later found out as I got into birding, the wattle was the small bright red projection from the side of each cheek. Click on photos to enlarge them.
Nearby this Spotted Turtle-Dove sat high in the hot sunshine catching the cool north-easter blowing in off the ocean.
On the fence near the golf course at the top of the hill this Crested Pigeon posed while I took his photo.
Finally, we walked very expectantly down onto the reef, which was still draining as the full low tide kicked in.
The reef is very extensive and at low tide, is the feeding ground of many varieties of migratory and non migratory waders and shore birds. We are always excited to visit this reef as we never know what we will find.
We walked passed this very amazing volcanic tessellated section of reef, but sadly when we arrived we saw hardly any birds at all on the reef in usual places, even the Cormorants were down to one bird, it was initially disappointing, and we were puzzled as to why so few? It was almost full low tide and we saw nothing as we walked further onto the reef. My wife prayed an earnest prayer asking God to ‘show us what our eyes could not see’.
We felt disappointed but felt moved to press forward toward the far end of the reef where we usually see many birds, and eventually we saw our first wader, this little Red-necked Stint. Then the birds started flying in from everywhere, and this Ruddy Turnstone almost got an unexpected bath, but was unperturbed by the wave crashing next to it.
Within minutes birds flew in from all directions in front of us at the edge of the reef to feed. They kept their distance from us. We saw Ruddy Turnstone, Red-necked Stint (non-breeding) as their neck is not red and Pacific Golden Plover all feeding together and moving together, as if one flock.
When birds of different species feed and move peacefully together in perfect harmony as if they all were of the same specie, this is known as a Mixed Feeding Flock or MFF
One bird which seemed quite alone, fending for itself was this Grey-tailed Tattler, extracting flesh from the small limpets and other shell fish on the rocks with its sharp beak.
We delighted watching these birds feed together in perfect harmony. It was interesting to see the size difference from the tiny migratory wader the Red-necked Stint to that of the larger Golden Plover.
I love seeing the Golden Plovers golden patterned coat in bright sunlight, though clouds came over and later rain, so I did not get that privilege this time around.
Ah, the Sooty Oystercatchers also arrived, these are always seen here, now things are looking normal again.
My Bird of the Week – The Red-necked Stint
The Red-necked Stint is Australia’s smallest wader, found in large numbers on rock platforms and muddy sections of inland lakes during the summer months around coastal Australia, feeding on insects and small invertebrates. The reason we do not see the so called ‘red-neck’ is that it is breeding plumage, and these birds fly to Siberia to breed during our Winter months. For it’s size it is extremely fast on its legs and in flight, and very given to flight at the slightest approach.
We delighted in that as we stood still they moved closer, but due to their tiny size I always have had trouble getting clear footage. On this occasion a flock of about 50 birds flew in with more being added by the minute. The whole flock may instantaneously burst into flight spontaneously, as this flock did for us when a Nankeen Kestrel passed. At first we did not know what was spooking them, as they flew in perfect flock formation for several minutes circling about over the reef. Look carefully and you will see Ruddy Turnstones among the flock also.
These birds were our gift or highlight of our visit as they swirled around the sky over the reef before us, in the sunlight. It can be difficult from a distance to differentiate the Red-necked Stint from the Sanderling (our next smallest wader) as they look very similar. The Sanderling has dark wing markings, but the deciding factor is the dark line on the tail of the Red-necked Stint when in flight, but are only visible when viewing from above.