Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dalmeny wildlife (South Coast, NSW)

Over the last few days I have stayed with my brother Brendan and his wife, Beth, at Dalmeny, NSW.

I have been away from Robbo for a few days, for medical tests, and then I took the weekend off and went south, to stay at Brendan and Beth's place, just north of Narooma, on the far south coast of NSW. I have visited with them before, but not for some time.

Unfortunately, I got caught out without my camera being fully operational, as I had spent Wednesday with Alan Stephenson and Colin and Mischa, checking out yet more rare Orchids in the Shoalhaven region. I will have photos later on. Trouble was I took lots of "flash" images, and I ran my battery down, without having brought my battery charger with me on my trip.

So, when I got to Dalmeny several days later, and I wanted to take some images of special wildlife, my camera would not display its "menu" data (nor "review" images I had just taken, so I was literally "shooting blind", without even being able to set the exposure time and aperture. That's really amateurish of me.

The first images are of a very co-operative Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia), which was feeding beside a "boardwalk" in the estuary at Narooma. The beak is wonderfully adapted to feeding by "dabbling" in the estuary environment, amongst water weeds, hunting by feel for shrimps and other small aquatic creatures. As the bird feeds "blind" - i.e., by feel, the broad soft beak is an advantage to it. Other "wading birds" of similar size, such as the Herons and Egrets, have forward focussing eyes and razor sharp beaks. That enables those birds to see their prey firstly, then seize them with great precision. Spoonbills have eyes placed on the side of their heads (for good all-round vision) and they are working with a beak form similar to two kitchen "spatulas". This structure, with greatly increasing the "touch sensitivity" of their beaks, compared to a Heron or Egret. The Birds in Backyards website says: "The spatulate bill has many vibration detectors, called papillae, on the inside of the spoon, which means the bird can feel for prey items even in murky water and can feed by day or night."You can see the yellow eye-lids, and the red mark above the beak, in the middle of this bird's forehead. Click to enlarge the image.When feeding, the bird sweeps the bill sideways, through the water, "dabbling" the beak open and closed quickly, all the time, until it feels an object it wants to eat (there are fine sensors in the beak to tell the difference between a prawn, a fish or a crab - and a stone). Once it decides the object it has touched is "food", it "freezes" for just a moment, and then literally throws its prey down its throat, by a very fast reverse neck movement - bringing the beak suddenly backwards, then opening the beak and straightening its neck out forwards again, swallowing the prey. In this image, the prey has just disappeared backwards, down its throat. The entire movement was too quick for me to capture on my camera. High definition video cameras come into their own for capturing such moments.Here is a tame (but entirely "wild") Red-necked Wallaby, (Macropus rufogriseus) having breakfast in Brendan's back yard, just below the back patio. There are apparently three of these Wallabies which live near Brendan and Beth's house.
Here is a totally wild Fur Seal, "sun-bathing" (*** see note below) in the estuary at Narooma. It was just floating there, with its front flippers folded across its very full belly. The Seal was mostly just floating on its back, and lowering its head backwards into the water, and looking around underwater. It would bring its nose up to the air briefly, about every minute or so, and resume its restful sun-bathing, while paddling very slowly backwards and forwards, using just one of its rear flippers. The other rear flipper (foot) was held out of the water for extended periods of time. You can see that the left (rear) flipper is quite dry.This Seal was in the stone-lined entrance to the Estuary, known as Wagonga Inlet, just inside the breakwater. It was in a corner of the channel, out of the main current, which was flowing into the Inlet, very fast, a mere 30 metres away from this Seal. Several powerful fishing boats came into the Inlet, while this Seal was just floating the day away, without a care in the world.
You can see how close it was to the rock wall, from where Brendan was watching it. Fur Seals live at Montague Island, some 9 Kms off the coast from Narooma.

(***) Apparently, this habit of "waving" flippers out of the air is part of a thermo-regulation practice, to help cool the animals down. (So perhaps it was not "sun bathing" after all). That interpretation of the behaviour surprises me, given that they live in relatively cool water (compared to the air temperatures, anyway). But then again, I am not a Seal, nor a Seal biologist.


mick said...

Either you or the camera is pretty smart, I reckon, because you got some good photos! Its fun to be in someone else's territory for a while with different things to see. Love the seal!

Denis Wilson said...

Goodness me, Mick, don't you sleep?
There was a lot of luck involved in those "blind" shots. Some experience, but mostly guess work.
I like the seal too. Glad you did too.

mick said...

Some birders like to hear the dawn chorus and some prefer to find the night owls. Don't know which is best but I know which I prefer!