Saturday, 12 December 2015

Birding in Australia: Shiny Flycatcher...

Today I am sharing pictures of a wonderful little bird that was shown by Mr Murray 'The Boatman' during our Daintree river ride. 

The bird described as Shiny Flycatcher at some places and Shining Flycatcher at other - is a flycatcher where the male is entirely glossy with iridescent blue-black colour and the female has a Glossy blue-black head and a bright rufous chest.

Shiny Flycatcher, Male

Shiny Flycatcher, Male

Shiny Flycatcher, Male

Shiny Flycatcher, Male
 The female can be easily mixed up with Asian-paradise Flycatcher female had I spotted it by myself.

Shiny Flycatcher, female

You will have to pardon my photographs that are not the best I could take as the boat was moving, the light under the rainforest canopy was nothing to talk about and the ISO had to be ramped up to 1600 to get meaningful pictures. The bird inhabits mangroves,rainforest, pandaus, creeks and swamps. We saw the two three birds all over the perches over water and among the stilt roots of mangroves. The call was clean 'whit', 'whit', 'whit'.

Shiny Flycatcher female in a nest.

We were also lucky to see two nests, which were typical nest that I have seen so many times of Asian-paradise Flycatcher, basically a upright fork, but in this case both over water. The nest was rounded cup of bark strips and looked like bounded with spider web.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Dusky Crag-martin...

It is so bloody painful to enter into the realm of Swallows, Martins and Swifts. I do get amazed when someone can just look at this variety of birds and say - 'Oh - that's so and so...'

My handicap other than these remains in Raptors and Warblers. It would be some day when I gain some confidence recognising any of these varieties confidently. All the same there had to be a time I jump and start learning. The decision to jump into this came about a week back when I saw two small birds (looking like martins) sallying repeatedly infront of my window in the hotel where I was staying in Hyderabad. So I decided to click some pictures and then get down to identifying them.

Like all other things - like the saying goes - there is a lot to transverse between cup and the lip. The first problem that cropped up was that I could not open the window of my room, when I called the hotel housekeeping - they said the hotel had a policy to keep the windows closed. It took me two days just convince the hotel manager to agree open the windows as the camera refused to focus through the glass.

Thereafter next few days whenever I got time and was infront of the window - the birds were absent. Finally when I did get them back - I realised that to focus on such small birds flying was a test of my and my camera's ability. I would say the camera was always upto it - it was me who was fighting. The Canon 7D mark ii with 100-400L mark ii lens the kit was fully capable of giving me the best I could expect. 

Another problem that I did not foresee was that I was on third floor and the bird spent more time at or below my eye level. At that levels the clutter of buildings and the trees around made the camera refuse focus on the birds. Whenever the birds were above the eye-level - the sky was too bright for these dark colored birds. The respite came today finally with clouded skies. This is the best I could hope for - at 1/5000 shutter speed I had to crank up the iso so please do not mind the poor shots. 

Now let us see why this 'is' Dusky Crag-martin. Firstly - Swallows and martins are different from the Swifts -wherein they (Swifts) have nervous flight patterns and thinner wing. The Swallows and martins have grafeful flight, broader wings and prefer high exposed perches.

Crag-martins are larger than sand-martins. The only Grey-sand martin which could have overlapped the range here has a whitish (silver-grey) throat and breast. So that bird is also discounted. Another bird that would have confused me here was the Eurasian Crag-martin but that is paler and has bigger spots on the tail than all other crag-martins.

Dusky Crag-martin are 13 cm birds that are all-dark brown with streaked pinkish buff throat and breast. The strongest identification is that it is uniformly dusky brown with inconspicuous blackish streaks on rufous throat and breast. It also has small white spots in nearly square tail when fanned. All this may not be evident on the highly cropped and brightened photographs above but it was true on all these counts.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

White-bellied Drongo...

At 24 cm this bird is 6 to 7 cm smaller than the Black Drongo that is extremely common in the entire sub-continent, this White-bellied Drongo inhabits the entire central and south India (South of Himalayas, East of Haryana and Gujarat upto West Bengal and South upto Sri Lanka). It has a grey throat and atleast a white vent.
The juv of Black, Ashy and Crow-billed drongos may have considerable white on the abdomen but these are scalier on them and not solid white as in the white-bellied.
Though I had seen this bird off and on, I used to be always confused as I had never seen this much white belly on any bird. It is today after seeing this bird and cross referring it with 'Ripley Guide' that I am listing this as my lifer.
White-bellied Drongo

The bird was spotted in Nehru Zoological park, Hyderabad on 29 Nov 2015

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Birding in Australia: White-fronted Chat

A beautiful bird of honeyeater family found in the Southern Australia and Tasmania. The male has a white face surrounded by a white band on the breast and head. There are no subspecies recognised in this family.  They are 11-13 cm and weigh around 13 gm. 

Male White-fronted Chat
This is an endemic species of Australia and though it is Least Concern as far as the species is concerned - it is listed as vulnerable in New South Wales and Threatened in Adelaide-Mount Lofty region where it is much rarer.

The fun fact about this species is that though they are Honeyeaters, the White-fronted chats do not feed on nectar. Instead they run along the ground feeding on insects. They however have the same brush-tipped tongues as the other honey-eating members as honeyeaters.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Whiskered Yuhina: The commonest of Yuhina

There are six Yuhinas in India. The Whiskered Yuhina is one of the most common ones and unfortunately the only one that I have ever sighted. This is a bird species of the white-eye family Zosteropidae. The range extends across Himalayn forests in Northern India to North Eastern states, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and down till Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical most forests.

Whiskered Yuhina - one of the rare moments it sat still enough for me to click a picture...

It is sometimes found in mixed hunting parties with other Yuhina and fulvetta species. It is - as said earlier the most common of the yuhinas in the Himalays. It is one of the birds hunted by livestock herders of Northeast India.

Only thing is that I will have to travel East to Sikkim and beyond perhaps to sight the rest of the Yuhinas...

Friday, 20 November 2015

Lifer update: Little Forktail

The Forktails as a group are very distinctive pied, entirely 'Riverine Chats' and are generally long tailed. These birds songs are reduced or absent, and voice typically consists of buzzes, rattles or high pitched short whistles.

The Little Forktail is the smallest of the forktail with short, notched tail with black in the centre and the whites in the sides. The bird is about 12 cm and occurs in NE Afghanistan, N Pakistan through Himalayas to NE Arunachal and S Assam hills.

Little Forktail

It spends its summers from 1800-4000 m and moves down in winters to 1000 m (Locally 300 m) (Oct to Mar). It pumps and flares its tail like a Plumbeous water-redstart.

I got this lifer on a day - when I was almost bored to death and decided to go out birding in Lower Himalayan hills near Chandigarh at a place called Chakki Modh.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Pale-billed Flowerpecker...

There are a total of 44 species of Flowerpeckers .

Pale-billed Flowerpecker, also known as Tickle's Flowerpecker. It is one of the tiniest bird of India. At 7 to 8 cm they are bigger than the smallest bird of the world by full one to two cm. It is fun seeing it hanging from a branch pecking flowers or hunting spiders during the breeding season. 

The Flowerpecker eating spiders from their webs

This bird is intact quite common. The range extends from south India, Sri Lanka and all the way to Bengal, Myanmar and further south. In india one can see it along with the sunbirds in parks and any places with flowers. It has a pinkish (Pale) curving beak from where it gets its name. The bird is plain brownish to a little olive green. The underside does not contrast with the upper parts. The Sri Lankan race is slightly smaller than the bird in India.

The diet includes pinching small ripe fruits and sipping juice. Small berried of Loranthus is also swallowed whole. The bird also sucks nectar from flowers.

The nest of this bird is like a small purse made of cobwebs, fibre, moss and down suspended from a tip of twig in a tree. The opening is a slit in this purse.
The Pale-billed Flowerpecker photographed in Botanical Gardens of Hyderabad

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Birding in Australia... Australasian Darter

Australasian Darter
Let us start from the basics, almost every continent has it's own Darter and all are fairly closely related. Asia has Darter called Oriental Darter and America, Africa and Australia have the Darters named after the respective continents. That makes 'four' living species out of which three are fairly widespread and common but the fourth listed as near-threatened.

The name is Darter as the bird swims underwater and then 'Spears' the fish to impale them by its 'Dart like' beak. It then surfaces - tosses the impaled fish free - and then swallows it headfirst. To stab the fish they have strongly developed muscles in the neck at the 8th and 9th vertebrae that is used to flex and stab the fish below water.

The bird while underwater is absolutely sleek and looks like a snake or a eel propelled forward by powerful feet. These are one of those birds whose wings are not protected with wax like secretion that keeps other waterbirds wings dry. That does help maintaining the buoyancy under water but have to be dried. That is a typical sunning posture that you will find these birds in - after hunting/swimming.
The 'Dart like' beak of the Australasian Darter

The Australian Darter is called Australasian Darter and is found in almost entire Australia (baring the very centre) Indonesia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. They are fairly big birds - 85-90 cm in length and weighing almost 2.5kg. They are also called 'Snake-birds' due to the long necks and only the necks remaining above the water when swimming. 

These birds inhabit freshwater or brackish wetlands more than half a meter deep with fallen trees, logs and vegetated banks. They are also found in the saltwater or estuarine environments - but less commonly. 

I had the good luck seeing these birds in both - the north eastern coast, Daintree and Melbourne also

Friday, 6 November 2015

Birding in Australia: The Megapodes of Australia...

There are three Megapodes in Australia and there is only one Megapode in India and that too in some islands of Nicobar.

The three Megapodes of Australia are
1. Malleefowl: that inhabits the central and southern Australia and that which I did not have the opportunity to see.
2. Australian Brush-turkey: The one that inhabits the rainforests of Australia and that I saw off and on almost till short of Sydney.
3. Orange-footed Scrubfowl: That inhabits the northern rainforests that I saw in Daintree.

Let us kill the fun facts of the birds falling under 'Megapode'.
Firstly Megapode means "large foot" (Greek: mega = large, poda = foot). They are also known as the Incubator birds or the mound-builders. They are stocky, medium-large chicken-like birds with small heads and large feet.
Secondly, they build large nests in the ground that are bedded with peat/rotting compost and covered with sand to insulate the nest to incubate the eggs. The amount of heat is tested by the parents and the sand insulation and in some cases the compost is varied to maintain the ideal temperatures. The nests can be 15 feet wide and upto 4 feet high nest mound.
Thirdly, when the chicks arrive they hatch with open eyes, full bodily coordination and strength, full wing and downy body feathers and are able to run, pursue prey and in some species fly the same day they hatch.
Finally, they are distributed around the pacific tropical islands and numbered 30 species. The man has managed to bring this number down to around 19 to 22 at present due to hunting/habitat destruction and introduction of rodents and foreign species like cats, dogs, snakes etc.

The two birds that I saw of the three...

1. Australian Brush-turkey: A common species that I saw on the very second day of my stay and then continued to see off and on, here and there. The bird otherwise is found in Eastern Australia and is an inhabitant of Tropic Australia along the east coast. Despite the similarities in name, looks and otherwise - it is not related to the American turkey. I was told that this bird has partially survived because "it does not taste good". Though they are sometimes hunted by the Aboriginals. Lucky for the bird I guess. The red wattle on the male is more prominent and becomes redder and bigger during the mating season.

Like I had said before the nest is huge by all standards. It is almost 4 m across in this bird's case and 1 to 1.5 m tall. The nesting is a communal ritual. The temperature of the mound is maintained by the turkey by checking it by sticking its beak in the mound. It is said that the temperature also dictates sex ratio like some reptiles. Some fun facts about the bird are that though the population now is stable - in 1930 the bird was approaching extinction. Secondly the tail feathers of the birds are standing vertical. Sorry for the pictures not showing the full tail as the birds usually popped up too close to me all the four five times I sighted them. Now I wish I would have taken a few more snaps.

2. Orange-footed Scrubfowl: This is the second megapode that I saw, though the sightings are primarily in the extreme North of my visit, North of Cairns and in Daintree. The Red Hill house in Daintree where we stayed had one nest right there with the male roaming around and visible off and
Orange-footed Scrubfowl

Notice the powerful feet of the bird.
on.  This is a chicken sized dark coloured bird with Orange feet and a pointed crest at the back of the head. This bird has five sub-species and the consensus is that the populations are stable. The fun facts about this bird is that the construction and maintenance of the mounds may reach a 4.5m (15 feet) height and almost 9m (30 feet) across and takes place throughout the year.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Birding in Australia: The Ibises of Australia...

While birding trip in Australia, Ibis were the birds that I saw common, most of the times purposefully flying overhead to some distant place. There are three Ibis in Australia
1. Glossy Ibis
2. Australasian Ibis
3. Straw-necked Ibis

Okay let’s get some facts out of the way before we see the ibis of Australia. Firstly India too have three ibis and one of them is common to Australia - that’s the Glossy Ibis. Before that Ibises are a group of long-legged wader birds. They all have long, down-curved bills and usually feed as a group, probing mud for food items. Most species nest in trees, often with spoonbills or herons. There are total of 28 Ibis as of now and two extinct species.
The next fun fact is that the African sacred ibis was an object of religious veneration in ancient Egypt. In town of Hermopolis, Ibises were specifically reared for sacrificial purposes and archaeologists have found the mummies of one and a half million ibises and hundreds of thousands of falcons.
It may come as a surprise to many but the northern bald ibis is likely to be the first birds off the Noah Ark as a symbol of fertility and a lingering religious sentiment in Turkey helped the colonies there to survive long after the demise of the species in Europe.
The mascot of University of Miami is an American White Ibis.
Starting with the Australian Ibises.

1. Glossy Ibis: Also known as Black Curlew, the Glossy Ibis is the most common of all the Ibis in the world. Infact they inhabit the world, scattered in the warm regions of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, the Atlantic and the Caribbean regions of Americans. It is thought to have originated in the Old World and spread
Glossy Ibis in breeding plumage
naturally from Africa to North America in the 19th century. The species are migratory.Unfortunately this is also one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds applies. These Ibis are threatened by wetland habitat degradation, loss through drainage, increased salinity, ground water extraction and invasion by exotic plants.
Glossy Ibis
The birds are brownish in the breeding plumage and glossy black in the non-breeding season. The Glossy Ibis feed in very shallow waters and show a preference for marshes at the margins of lakes and rivers - but also can be around lagoons, flood plains swamps, reserviors sewage ponds etc.

The diet varies according to season and is dependent on what is available. Prey includes insects, dragonflies, larval insects leeches, mollusks and occasionally fish, amphibians, lizards, small snakes and nestling birds.

2. Australian White Ibis: Well this was the most common Ibis that I encountered in Australia - almost entire East-coast I traveled expect of the very south. Historically I was told that the bird was rare in
Australian White Ibis in a park

Australian White Ibis
the urban areas but has done so from 1970 onwards. There is a strong debate whether to consider it a pest of vulnerable species. Populations unfortunately has disappeared from natural breeding ground such as Macquarie Marshes in North-western Wales. Despite this they have been culled in parts of Sydney due to their smell and intrusive nature. This behavior of man, where we find the smell not upto our sensibilities or poop on cars a problem and where he feels that he is the 'master of all' will continue our conflict with nature. This is also a sister species to the sacred ibis of Africa and Black-headed ibis of Asia (Including India).  

3. Straw-necked Ibis: This bird too is found in most of Australia, New Guinea and parts of Indonesia. The bird is so named as the males have distinctive straw like feathers on their necks. 
Straw-necked Ibis
These are fairly large birds that are around 60-75 cm. Males have longer bills. The adaptation of Straw-necked Ibis has been less than the Australian White Ibis so is seen lesser. I did have sightings, but regretfully I waited for perfect moment and missed even record shots baring the ones of this Ibis in flight around Melbourne. So I am sorry for no pictures - you will have to go online to search for some of this bird.

The birds are extremely nomadic and are constantly on the move in search of suitable habitats that they are getting lesser and lesser these days. 

They say the birds are the barometer of the environment we live in. They are finding more and more difficult to survive the human onslaught. Teach everyone to respect mother Nature. May you always hear the bird song...

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Birding in Australia: Swans, Geese and the Ducks...

Birds of Australia held my fascination for a some time now. This island Continent got separated from the mainland some million years ago and the Birds and Animals developed in an unusual way in their own right. Then one day I decided that I have to just get up and go. As I had expected the birding in Australia was a fantastic experience - intact once a lifetime experience. The chosen area was the Eastern Coast - and I, along with my uncle did a very hectic trip covering Daintree in the North along the coast and Twelve Apostles in the South. 

The list of Swans, Geese and Ducks of Australia are as given below. I had a great opportunity to see a great majority of them. I could photograph almost all expect a few species that just ignored me or were too far away for any meaningful photograph, though I could see them - the pictures were a no no.

Let’s first see the list of birds that are there in this category and the ones that I saw. Then I shall try to pick up some best pictures of these birds that I got there and put them up here. Well there are 24 birds that are in the category of Swan, Goose or Ducks in Australia. 

Serial No Name Seen Photo Remarks

Magpie Goose
Magpie Goose Yes Yes

Swan, Geese & Ducks
Spotted Whistling-duck No -

Plumed Whistling-duck Yes Yes

Wandering Whistling-duck No -

Musk Duck Yes Yes

Freckled Duck Yes Yes

Cape Barren Goose Yes Yes

Black Swan Yes Yes

Mute Swan No -

Radjah Shelduck Yes Yes

Australian Shelduck Yes Yes

Australian Wood Duck Yes Yes

Pink-eared Duck Yes Yes

Cotton Pygmy-goose No - Seen in India
Green Pygmy-goose No -

Garganey No - Seen in India
Australasian Shoveler Yes Yes

Northern Shoveler No - Seen in India
Grey Teal Yes Yes

Chestnut Teal Yes Yes

Northern Pintail No -

Northern Mallard No -

Pacific Black Duck Yes Yes

Hardhead Yes Yes

Blue-billed Duck Yes No


In addition to that there is one, the Magpie Goose that does not fit in anywhere really. It is neither a Swan nor a Goose so it is put up somewhere in these categories but does not fit in really. That takes the score to 25. Well out of these I was lucky to see 16 and photograph 15. Well then there are three of the ducks that are migratory and I had seen them earlier in India - well well well, that’s not a bad score by any means. This is one category of birds that I am really happy with. That is perhaps because of the two great birders who took me out birding and of course we were trailing all along the East coast helped.

The Magpie Goose: The odd living fossil. It is a species found in Northern Australia and in Southern New Guinea. Magpie grease are the birds with black and white plumage and yellowish feet. The feet are partially webbed and needs on plants in water and on land. Unlike the true geese, the moult is gradual, and there is no flightless period. 
The 100mm Lens could not do justice to the amount of birds at this place.
Foreground: Plumed Whistling-ducks
background: Magpie geese

The lone Magpie Goose picture where the partial webbed feet can be seen.

 These geese are found in a variety of open wetland areas such as floodplains and swamps. They are colonial breeders and can form large flocks upto thousands of individuals. I saw this bird (a few hundreds of them) along with the Plumed Whistling-duck at the University of Queensland (Gatton Campus) lake. It was a great sight. I also saw a few specimen at one odd place in Northern Queensland.  Seeing the bird was a great experience. I had read about this bird but was not sure that I would be seeing this. It was a great experience - especially seeing it in these numbers.

Four young swanlings or cygnets. They are more greyish-brown
with pale edge feathers visible in this picture.
The Black Swan: The Next was the Black Swan that mesmerised me. Ofcourse I knew that the birds existed, I saw the pictures here and there - but I was not prepared for what I saw - the grace, the beauty - I was with my mouth open and staring. Well it so happened that we were driving for the 'Twelve Apostles' south of Melbourne, infant the southernmost point we intended to visit. I saw these birds and I was not on the wheel. I immediately told my uncle, who was driving the car to slowdown and get on a road branch that led to a huge pond. As we came closer the bird grew in size - till it was huge - standing almost more than 1m tall. The black swan grows 1.1 to 1.4 m. Next day was my full day birding day in Melbourne and I saw literally thousands of them in the water treatment plant of Melbourne.

The Black Swan

By the way, there are some fun facts that goes with these birds, firstly there is a movie named after these birds and then there is a 'Black Swan Theory'. If you have not heard about it then it might be a good idea to google it. There was also a New Zealand Black Swan that I believe has been hunted to extinction. These birds have been introduced as ornamental birds in many countries around the world and those that have escaped the captivity have been known to form stable populations in England, US (Florida) and elsewhere.

The Cape Barren Goose: If there is a competition of peculiar water birds then here is another one -
Cape Barren Goose
As I kept creeping forward the birds were ready to take flight. Fortunately we
entered the hide and the birds continued grazing for some time before taking flight.
the Cape Barren Goose. This of course was one of the target birds that I had requested Mr Tom Tarrant taking me out for birding to show me if possible. He said the chances were 50:50. I guess I was lucky, we were going towards one of the hides in the Water Treatment plants when I held Mr Tom's hand and stood still. He asked me - What ?? and there next to the hide two most beautiful water birds stood. I slowly started taking pictures, click, move a few steps closer, click click and repeat. Finally these remained to be the only birds that we saw that day. The birds were majestic and beautiful in their own sense. The fun fact but these birds are that it is still being debated wether these are to be classified under the 'True geese' or 'Swan' Family. Though these birds have been listed as least concern in their conservation status - these are the rarest of the Geese in the world. I have talked about the Western Water Treatment plant of Melbourne above and would like to clarify for anyone who hopes to go birding there. You need government permission and a key to enter the water treatment plant. The plant is huge and there have been times that people have lost their way once inside.

After these Geese and Swans - let's get down to the ducks.

The Plumed Whistling-duck: India has two Whistling ducks and Australia has three of them.
Plumed Whistling ducks 

Plumed Whistling-ducks swimming wit the plumes showing prominently 
I was lucky to see one of them in Australia. The bird is also called Grass Whistle-duck and breeds in New Guinea and Australia. It has the characteristic plumes arising from its flanks. I saw these birds in Brisbane area while birding with Mr Gavin. I saw these in hundreds and were beautiful. The whistling ducks give a characteristic whistle while flying and that gives this bird its common name. Unfortunately I did not come across these birds anywhere else but I was given to believe that they are fairly common. I saw these birds in good numbers in University of Queensland, Gatton campus lake.

A male Musk Duck with Leathery lobe underneath the bill.
The Musk Duck: Another peculiar duck of Australia, unfortunately for me, Like some other ducks and birds it is the only living member of genus Biziura. It inhabits the southern Australia and Tasmania. A New Zealand relative is now extinct. The bird has a peculiar musk odour that emanates during breeding season and that gives it its name. The bird pictured here is a male and has a distinctive leathery lobe underneath the bill during the breeding season. The female that I sighted did not have this lobe but were easily recognised as this species. Off the breeding season the sexes are difficult to tell apart, i was told. This duck is highly aquatic and stiff tailed. This species prefers deep, still lakes and wetlands with areas of both open water and reed beds. They seldom emerge from the water and are awkward on dry land. They rarely fly: take off is made with difficulty, and landing is a clumsy, low-angled affair with no attempt to lower the feet. However, at need musk ducks fly swiftly and for long distances, with rapid, shallow wing beats.

In the water, musk ducks display an effortless agility, twisting and turning on the surface with both feet and tail. In general, musk ducks remain in the water all day long, alternately loafing and feeding energetically, though they sometimes emerge to sit on a log or on dry land for a while. They stay on the water at night, sleeping well out from land with the head tucked into the body or under a wing.
Musk ducks are very much at home below the surface, slipping under head-first with barely a ripple, and staying submerged for as long as a minute at a time, often resurfacing only for a few moments before diving again. 
A female Musk Duck: Notice the peculiar feathers. (sorry for bad shot)
I only got a few sightings and some record shots of a male and female. Though this bird was on my list - so was very happy to see it but I should have got better sightings...

The Freckled Duck: A dark duck  with a peaked crown and deeply scooped bill profile. This is a moderately large, broad-bodied duck native to Southern Australia. Although protected by law in all states, Freckled ducks continue to be poached. During the 1979–83 drought the population was reduced by 5 percent. There have been steps taken to require shooters to pass a waterfowl identification test in Victoria (the state where freckled ducks are most vulnerable) and to make pre-season surveys of freckled duck numbers in wetlands so as to temporarily close areas to shooting. 
The Freckled Duck. Check out the profile of the bill as described. (female and only bird I saw)
This duck is protected by law. It is a dark coloured duck with fine off-white speckles all over. It is easily identified by its large head with a peaked crown. In dry years, the ephemeral wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin and Lake Eyre disappear and freckled ducks migrate to permanent water in coastal regions. This concentration in populated areas, coupled with their habit of circling repeatedly at low altitude when disturbed (even when being shot at) makes them particularly vulnerable to hunting. 
The base of the bill of the male is red in colour unfortunately I saw only one specimen and that too a female. This was the last target bird of the day and I almost got late as I was to fly out that day to India. But I am glad that I did see it, though in a hurry.

The Radjah Shelduck: A beautiful bird that I saw in the extreme North of my visit to Daintree in Australia. I was t ago for a river cruise of the rainforest with Mr Murray (the Boatman) and arrived (like always) early. There while waiting for Mr Murray I saw a family with three chicks, a duck found in New Guinea and Northern Australia along with some islands of Maluku.
Radjah Shelduck

The Rajah Shelduck with Chicks.
Though a least concern, it is a protected bird in all states of Australia and there are penalties for harming or disturbing these birds. The problem is the destruction of habitat of this bird. I have come across so many birds at so many places that seem to sense that there is protection for the birds at a particular place and they shed the fear of man and gives a great opportunity to share a bond with them. This was the only sighting of the bird I had in Australia.

The Australian Shelduck:  A graceful goose-like bird that is once again protected
The vary group of Australian Shelduck. The females are with white around the eye.
under the National Parks and Wildlife act (1974). The males are mostly dark with a chestnut breast. They have white neck collars and dark green heads. The females are similar but with white around the eye. The birds breeds in Southern Australia and Tasmania and move further north in winters. It is an extremely vary bird. Though the birds were at a distance - still peering from my Binoculars I almost fell in love with the bird. This bird was sighted by me in Water treatment plant, Melbourne.

The Australian Wood Duck: If there was a water bird that I saw as common as the Rainbow Lorikeet, then it was The Australian Wood Duck. I saw this bird virtually along the entire East coast of Australia - other than the extreme north of my visit in Daintree. t has the range covering almost the entire Australia and Tasmania with some small exception of extreme North Australia and South Central Australia. It is also known as the maned duck or the maned goose. This 45-51 cm duck looks like a small goose. The only relative to this duck was the New Zealand flightless duck presumed to have become extinct around 1870. It is classified as a game bird in Australia and licensed hunting takes place of this bird in Australia. 
Australian Wood Duck
I have a wonderful experience seeing this bird and a wildlife marshal in Sydney. We had just arrived at the Sydney Opera house and decided to walk to the Botanical park also. Enroute there was one pair of Australian Wood duck pair that was acting very aggressive and appeared to be looking around.
The Wood Duck clicked with mobile in Sydney
Botanical Park
The wildlife warden who was on round came and saw the duck and started checking the drains around there. Suddenly one person on a bicycle came and took out a chick from his pocket - that chick has probably dropped sea ward through a drain and this person pick up the chick from the pier and got it up. The family suddenly complete ran to greet the chick and another one popped from underwing of the female. It was great seeing the person who recovered the chick, the warden who was troubled by this behaviour of the ducks and the ducks themselves. I was so engrossed witnessing this that forgot that I had a camera and the mobile to capture the story so perfectly. I did take some pictures of the pair with my mobile but - missed as the story thereafter presenting itself.

 The Pink-eared Duck: is a species of duck found in Australia. It has a large spatulate bill like the Australian Shoveler but is smaller at 38–40 cm length. Its brown back and crown, black and white barred sides and black eye patches on its otherwise white face make this bird unmistakable. Juveniles are slightly duller, but otherwise all plumages are similar. Its vernacular name refers to a pink spot in the corner formed by the black head pattern; it is only noticeable at close distance however, making the seldom-used Australian name of zebra duck more appropriate.
The closet shot I could corp out of the Pink-eared Duck. The pink is very prominent.

The flock of the Pink-eared duck was fairly large and this is one of the shots
Unfortunately all ducks had their bills in water so not a great shot but will do.
 It is the only living member of the genus Malacorhynchus; a closely related, but slightly larger extinct form from New Zealand was described as Scarlett's Duck (Malacorhynchus scarletti). This peculiar duck may be most closely related to the shelducks but its relationships are enigmatic. Widely distributed throughout Australia and highly mobile, these ducks can appear anywhere there is standing water, especially in dry inland regions, where annual rainfall rarely exceeds 15 in (380 mm).

The Australasian Shoveler: The Australasian shoveler is a species of dabbling duck in the genus Anas. It ranges from 46–53 cm. It lives in heavily vegetated swamps. In Australia it is protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, 1974. They occur in southwestern and southeastern Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. 
The Australasian Shoveler: a record shot only - highly cropped.
The male has a blue-grey head with a vertical white crescent in front of the eyes. I saw a few ducks but do not have a shot that I can call - a good one. All the same I am inserting here for record sake. A fun fact: Courtship flights are common in the morning & evenings mostly, where the duck is followed in a short rapid flight by one or more (usually two) drakes. This tests the speed & agility of the drakes. The duck may be biased in picking the 'winner' in these tests however, especially if she has paired with one of the competitors. She will even sometimes excrete mid-flight on a perusing male if he is especially not to her fancy. There is a clear & unexplained sex ratio difference with a lot more males to females. This difference is not present in broods of ducklings however. Males with a lot of white breast feathers are not usually paired. These white feathers are often a sign of an older shoveler as first year males almost never have them.

The Grey Teal: It is a dabbling duck found in open wetlands of Australia. This is a mottled brown duck with white and green flashes on its wings. The male and female grey teal share the same colouration, in contrast to the related chestnut teal, whose male and female are strikingly different.
Grey Teal. Though I saw this duck a number of times - the only picture I clicked was this one and recognised the species only once I was post processing this picture.
The grey teal has almost identical colouration to the female chestnut teal and the Grey can only be distinguished by its lighter coloured neck and paler face. The grey teal is a gregarious species. In Australia it is nomadic, rapidly colonising suitable habitat following rain. In 1957, large numbers fled Australia, moving to New Zealand to escape drought. It is widespread throughout its large range and is evaluated as a least concern. This bird can be mistaken for a female Chestnut Teal.

The Chestnut Teal: A dabbling duck found in Southern Australia and is protected bird of Australia. It is slightly darker and bigger than the Grey Teal. The female - as written earlier is almost identical to the grey teal.
Chestnut Teals in the foreground with a lone male in the right side.
This teal is commonly distributed in the South-eastern and South-western Australia while the vagrants occur elsewhere. This bird prefers coastal areas and is indifferent to salinity. The fun fact about this bird is that the female Chestnut Teal has a loud penetrating 'Laughing' quack repeated rapidly nine times or more.
The Chestnut Teal at the Twelve Apostles
I saw this bird South of Melbourne in the water treatment plant and at the Twelve Apostles, the southern most point of Australia I visited. 

The beautiful Pacific Black Duck: Pictured in Eynsebury
The Pacific Black Duck: A fairly common duck that I saw in Australia (not as commonly seen by me as the Australian wood duck - but nevertheless common). It is also a dabbling duck found in mush of Indonesia, New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand and many islands in the southwestern Pacific.
Pacific Black Duck (Record Shots)

It is called Grey Duck in New Zealand. The New Zealand subspecies has declined sharply in numbers, at least in its pure form, due to competition from and hybridisation with the introduced mallard. Rhymer et al. (1994) say their data "points to the eventual loss of identity of the grey duck as a separate species in New Zealand, and the subsequent dominance of a hybrid swarm akin to the Mariana Mallard.

The Hardhead: Its a funny name if you think about it - Hardhead. (Also known as white-eyed Duck)
The Hardhead: Pictured in Eynesbury
and is the only true diving duck found in Australia. It is a member of Pochard group. Small ducks (45cm), they are coming in the South-East Australia and I saw this bird during my last day of birding in Australia in Eynesbury. 

The Blue-billed Duck: I did see one female blue-billed duck in far distance and am not including it as a good sight so would like to see it again if I was to ever get an opportunity. It is supposed to be a small Australian stiff-tailed duck The male is known to exhibit a complex mating ritual and has been listed as Near Threatened due to drainage of deep permanent wetlands and peripheral cattle grazing, salinisation and lower of ground water.

So well that's it, a great birding trip to Australia, but like I have said so many times before - birders like me are extremely greedy people - always asking for more. If I ever get an opportunity in my life - Australia I am coming back...

Next I will try and cover some more birds that I saw in Australia...