Little Black Cormorant and…
Being a herper from days long ago I was certainly aware of the potential for finding special squamates in the land of spectacular and dangerous reptiles. But, with little time in the right habitats, I did not get my hopes up for finding much. As Collin and I were making our way south, we stopped at a bridge that crossed a stream that drained the tropical rainforest we were driving through into the Tasman Sea. As I watched and photographed a cooperative Little Black Cormorant, I picked up some motion on the other side of the stream.
Out of the vegetation lumbered this huge varanid, a lace monitor! The lace monitor is the second largest monitor in Australia and this individual was a full-sized adult. I estimate its size at 4.5 – 5.5 feet in length.
Lace Monitor (Varanus varius)
I’m sure the monitor could have made a nice meal of the cormorants, but none of the few birds that were within viewing distance appeared to be too concerned. The lizard took a small drink and then continued downstream before being lost in the vegetation. What a treat!
I had come across Lapwing species in Brazil. These are pretty interesting birds – often colorful, loud, large and not too off-put by human activity. They are classified in the family Charadriidae that includes the plovers and they always remind me of our Killdeer. Most birds in this group use alarm calls and maybe injury feigning to protect themselves and their nests and offspring. These guys have similar tools, but look closely at the next image. Can you see their special weapons?
Yes, these guys pack a little something extra in those wings. Also known as the Spur-winged Plover, the Masked Lapwing uses those spurs in territorial conflicts with one another as well as against potential predators that may be after their nests and developing chicks. Humans have been known to be struck by these not-so helpless birds.
White-bellied Sea Eagle at Wilson’s Promontory NP, Victoria Australia
The first place we explored during our single day at Wilson’s Promontory National Park was Miller’s Landing and it’s associated trails. Miller’s Landing is a north-facing beach that leads to a healthy and productive inlet and marine sanctuary. The chances for finding all sorts of birds and other wildlife were high. We just needed to get lucky. After a few minutes of walking along the coastal mangrove marsh at low tide, Collin and I got a show that I’ll never forget. I only wish we had a spotting scope to see it better. After passing nearly overhead in a horrible back-lit situation, we watched this impressive White-bellied Sea Eagle fly off shore and into the inlet. We thought that would be the end – watching it fly until we couldn’t see it any longer. But this bird was on the hunt.
White-bellied Sea Eagle – on the hunt
I’m not sure of the species, but for the next several minutes we watched this eagle hunt and eventually capture a duck. Without stopping to rest, this eagle hover-hunted, trying time and time again to capture a duck that was diving and putting up a fight. I couldn’t believe this large bird had the stamina to continuously try at capturing this bird without rest.
White-bellied Sea Eagle – the struggle continues
Collin and I were the only humans on the beach and the only ones fortunate enough to observe this struggle. Although difficult to see in detail from our position, we could tell the duck was trying its best. It lasted at least 5 minutes and perhaps as long as ten. Eventually, the eagle won its prey, perhaps taking it to a nest nearby.
White-bellied Sea Eagle – the conclusion
Superb Fairy Wren
Among the most well known and sought after of Australia’s passerines are the Fairy Wrens and probably none is more popular than the Superb Fairy Wren that is found in New South Wales and Victoria in southeast Australia.
Superb Fairy Wren
Confident and brash, these guys have the personality of a chickadee on a mood-altering substance. On a couple of occasions, Collin and I found ourselves face to face with these guys at an arm’s length, being the apparent subjects of their songs and scoldings.
Superb Fairy Wren
The Fairy Wrens are sexually dimorphic, with males having an eclipse phase in the off-season where they molt to an appearance similar to the females. These birds tend to be found in family groups of 5 – 10 birds.
Variegated Fairy Wren
I found this Variegated Fairy Wren foraging among some low trees in a parking lot for Sawn Rocks at Mount Kaputar, NSW.
Soaring Black Kite
Considered by some to be the most abundant member of the family Accipitridae, the Black Kite is found throughout the old world. Populations of this species winter in the tropics and spend their summers in northern Europe, Asia and in Australia. Their diet is varied and consists of whatever they can catch, including carrion. This was one of the first Australian species I came to know. One morning I watched a group of at least 15 of these birds roosting in freshly plowed fields within the Monsanto research station we were visiting. I assume they were attracted to this area due to the mice and other rodents that were finding food and shelter among the large dirt clods.
Fievel’s no good horrible very bad day
The original carry out
Black Kite juvenile
Black Kite juvenile (I think)