Common Ghost Crab (Ocypode Cordimanus)

Australia has six known species, of Ghost crabs.

These little crabs are so good at camouflaging with the sand, thus their name, making it difficult to see them during the day, if for whatever reason, they happen to leave their burrow.

Ghost crabs are found on open sandy beaches, where they live in their immaculate burrows, (some known to be more than 4 feet), near the intertidal zone, in the dry sand. They are nocturnal and remain in their burrows to keep cool during the day and warm during the winter.

They can hold oxygen in their air sacs for about six weeks, handy when you hide and live under the sand.

During the night, Ghost crabs, fix and repair their burrow and feed on a variety of plant and animal debris that has been washed ashore.  These omnivores can even catch insects in mid-air; due to their 360 degree vision, that allows them to see in any direction.

Ghost crabs breathe through gills, which they keep moist at all times, by various methods, such as taking the moisture out of damp sand.

An interesting thing to do whilst relaxing on a quiet beach is to listen for the Ghost crabs, very distinct, bubbling sounds! They use their gill chambers to produce bubbly sounds.

The female Ghost crab incubates 1000’s of eggs inside her flap, and once matured, these eggs become marine larvae.  Mum releases her offspring into the sea, where they remain for about two months before returning back to the shore.

Did you know that the Ghost crab’s burrows are regarded as valuable ecological indicators for quickly assessing the impact of human disturbance on beach habitats?  And, they can travel across the sand up to 10 to 15km/hr.  Yes, they are fast movers, and that is why they are so hard to catch.  Isn’t it interesting that their generic name is ocypode, which in Greek means, fast -foot.

I remember one day while I was drying off after a swim, I decided to read and relax, I saw movement in the corner of my eye, and I spied a tiny Ghost crab, well camouflaged with the sand, right next to a small burrow. I went to pick it up and it quickly fled into its hole. I started digging but there was no way in this dry sand that I could find it.  The crab had dug down so deep; apparently, they can construct long pathed tunnels, to who knows where… hence another reason for the name, Ghost crab.

Of course, afterward I realised I should not have dug into his home, all that work would have been destroyed.  I vowed not to do that again.  We need to be sensitive to the ecosystem that in some environments are quite sensitive, the softer our footprint is, in the natural environment,  the better for us all; flora, fauna, marine life, and us humans.

By M.A.Loveday ND (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife/ Lover of Nature)

References: PDF Brazilian Journal of Oceanography 57(2):149-152 / Coastal Habitat Awareness Program –OCCI / Ghost crab a tool for rapid assessment of human impacts on exposed sandy beaches. ELSEVIER. Biological Conservation. F.Barros 97 (2001) 399-404 / Personal observations.

 

 

 

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Magpie-Lark (Grallina cyanoleuca)

Also known as mudlark, Murray magpie and Peewee.

One of the most fascinating attractions of these Magpie-Larks, and something I enjoy the most, is to listen to them sing.

They sing in duet, each partner sings their notes about a second apart, one sings, ‘peewee’ and the other responds with, ‘wit’. This singing makes it difficult to know there are two birds singing, tricky.

Other interesting points 

  • When other birds enter their territory, they will stand side by side and sing out their melody (keep away).
  • Known to have a partner for life.
  • Diet is carnivorous, consisting of a variety of small creatures, e.g. insects, spiders, worms and lizards. See them as a natural insecticide, helping to reduce the numbers of unnecessary bugs.
  • Peewee’s find their food by walking through fine soft patches of ground/grass areas.
  • They build a very interesting nest, made out of mud, and lined with fine bits of grass matter.
  • Peewee’s have up to 5 chicks with an Incubation time of 18 days, and the young fledglings are ready to leave the nest within 3 weeks.

In my book, ‘Emily’, I love to share about nature; I developed a fictional wildlife park, ‘Green Coastal Wildlife Park’, to teach people about the wonders of the environment, aboriginal culture, the Australian bush and beach, native plants and animals and the connection of each, and the characters of the book, as well.

Emily the book is available from Amazon and other online stores.

by M.A.Loveday ND (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife. Lover of Nature)

 

Wikipeadia, BirdLife International (2012), Backyard buddies, Personal observations

 

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Holiday Birds

The Common Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea), also called the Eastern Koel

Common Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea), also called the Eastern Koel male c

In my book, ‘Emily’, I love to share about nature; I developed a fictional wildlife park, ‘Green Coastal Wildlife Park’, to teach people about the wonders of the environment, aboriginal culture, the Australian bush and beach, native plants and animals and the connection of each, and the characters of the book, as well. It is amazing how the more I share, about these subjects; the more I learn, the more my passion grows.

One day, as I sat in my garden, sipping on my tea and watching the nature that surrounded me, a male Koel, which I had noticed for a few years, jumped onto my blueberry bush and ever so gently ate three of my choicest berries. When he had had his fill, he jumped onto the edge of the bird bath to have a drink, and that’s when he saw me, and that’s when I took his photo.

Two weeks later, I saw, and managed to take a photo of the female Koel; this experience made me curious to know more about these striking birds and about some of their amazing character traits!

 female koel c

Here are some of my interesting facts; I thought might be nice to share.

The Koel is a member of the cuckoo family, it is also known as the rain bird or storm bird, as its call is usually more prevalent before or during a stormy weather.

The male has glossy black feathers and red eyes, where the female has glossy brown upperparts, heavily spotted with white, and a black crown. The upper parts of her body are generally buff-cream with numerous fine black bars, she has dark eyes; very pretty.

The young resemble the adult female.

Behaviour

 Like I said above they have some amazing traits, being migratory birds they fly into Australia from their northern winter homes, New Guinea, Indonesia and possibly the Philippines to breed in late September and October.

What they do then, is find a ready-made nest, then lay one single egg in the nest and leave.  Once the egg is hatched the chick forces the other eggs and hatchlings out of the nest.  The chicks then becomes very vocal and demanding, cheeping constantly, while the foster parents, who are usually natives, and smaller in size, desperately search for food.

These foster parents are usually the Red Wattlebird, Noisy Friarbirds, Large Honey Eaters, Maggie-Lark and the Fig Bird.

Numbers of the Koel are increasing due to the abundant increase of their host.  During the breeding season they are found in Northern & Eastern Australia, South to Nowra, New South Wales, and tend to leave southern Australia around March.

The Koel adult is usually a shy bird; they can be heard more than seen.

Habitat

They are found in tall forests, woodlands, plantations and seen also in suburban gardens.

Diet

They love their fruit meal, for example, berries, with a special preference for figs, taken directly from the tree.

I think they like grapes and they definitely like my blueberries.  I have a fig tree too, now I know who has been nibbling on these.

It is lovely having a garden that can be a haven for birds, and small animals. I always have the birdbath filled with water especially ready for the hot days; I never use chemicals like herbicides, pesticides or weed killers in my garden, it will only affect these beautiful animals that visit, and the environment, not good for them or me.

If you would like to read my book ‘Emily’, which is a story about Emily’s journey of love, it showcases the Australian beach and bush, and good clean concepts of relationships. It is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Angus and Robertson/Bookworld, and other online stores.  It is available in paperback and ebook, so you can enjoy this beautiful story.

Love and Appreciate the Gift of Nature

By Margaret Ann Loveday ND  (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife.  Lover of Nature)

References:

Field Guide to the Birds of Australia, Wikipedia

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Nature is Full of Miracles

Margaret Ann Loveday ND – Sunday, June 07, 2015

Dolphins are beautiful, social, extraordinarily intelligent and altruistic animals

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Today there are many recorded activities of dolphins with humans, dogs and even cats.  They are curious animals and quick to work you out , to see if you are friendly, worth playing with or are in need of being rescued, for example,  drowning.

They like to play or play-fight with each other, making bubble rings which they form in the water, or playing with seaweed.

Dolphins have several highly developed forms of communication, one in particular is the signature whistle, which allows other individuals to recognise them.

In my book ‘Emily’, a dolphin called Zoe and Emily have amazing interactions and communication together.

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Above is a picture of a dog that was rescued by a dolphin, it is a true story written by Taewood, in February 2011.  This dog had been missing at sea in Florida US for fifteen hours, this beautiful dolphin came to the rescue…love saves the day!

 

 

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The White-Bellied Sea Eagle

In my book ‘Emily’, the concept of ‘Green Coastal Wildlife Park’, was a perfect way of high-lighting environmental issues and subtly bringing awareness that love is an important aspect when it comes to our natural environment. This extends to respecting and embracing our natural flora and fauna that we need to protect.

Our wildlife depends on us to maintaining  the health of the environment,  and the balance of all this is  important to all our futures.  

The White-Bellied Sea Eagle also known as the White Breasted Sea Eagle.(Haliaeetus leucogaster)

                                                  They are protected by law

CCCCwhitebellied sea eagle- upcloseI call them our precious majestic bird

Short description

  • The female is slightly larger than the male, and can measure up to 90 cm long with a wingspan of up to 2.2 m and weigh 4.5 kg.
  • The call is a loud goose-like honking, especially during the breeding season.
  • A young white bellied sea eagle in its first year is predominately brown. This brown colour then starts to diminish by gradually being infiltrated with white until in reaches adulthood by the 4th or 5th year.
  • This species breeds from around the 6th year onward.
  • Their life span is around 30 years.

Their Home and Nest

  • The nest is their castle, signifying power, authority. It clearly marks their chosen territory, in other words, they are politely making it clear, ‘keep away from my property, house and family!’
  • They usually choose tall trees, often used as a perch to survey the surrounding area, near water with some forest cover. It is here where they build their nest, usually sited in the fork of large trees (mostly in sheltered eucalyptus trees), overlooking bodies of water.
  • Cliffs are also suitable nesting sites.
  • The nest is a large deep bowl constructed of sticks, branches and lined with materials like grass, green leaves (believed to be for hygiene purposes) or seaweed.
  • Yearly renovations result in nest getting gradually bigger, old nests can become enormous, some measure up to 4.5 m (14 feet) deep and 1.5 m (8 feet) wide. Now that’s pretty big!
  • A breeding pair knows their own roles to partake through the process, the male becomes more active, having fun by spending 3 to 6 weeks building or renovating the nest before his mate starts to lay her eggs.

CCCCsea eagles nest

 

 

CCCCCwhite-bellied sea eagle2nest

Breeding

  • Normally two eggs are laid and they are incubated over 6 weeks before hatching.
  • Initially the male brings food and the female feeds the chicks, both parents feed the chicks as they grow larger.
  • Hatching is 40 to 44 days and nestling 65 to 70 days. It has been recorded that fledglings are fed for about 3 months, after this, they can remain around the parents’ territory for up to 6 months or until the following breeding season.

Diet (Feeding is carnivorous)

  • They usually hunt and consume a wide variety of animal prey, mainly aquatic animals, such as; fish, eels, porcupine fish (deadly to humans), water rats, turtles and sea snakes. Other animals they are know to eat, is the blue tongue lizard, and some birds.
  • Eagles often catch a fish by flying low over the water and grasping it in its talons.  On sunny days it flies directly into the sun or at right angles to it, so it doesn’t cast a shadow over the water and so, sneak up on its prey.
  • They are skilled hunter’s, and if they are desperate for food, they can attack prey up to the size of a swan, and even eat sea gulls.
  • They also feed on carrion such as dead sheep, birds and fish found along the waterline.

CCCCeagle getting fish    CCCCCsea eagle taking off fish

Interesting facts  

Much of the white-bellied sea eagle’s behaviour, particularly breeding, is not well known.

  • Nests are a territorial marker and it is used for breeding, feeding, protecting the family, protection from any intruder(s), a sleeping and surveillance platform.
  • Eagles have one mate for life, however if one dies it quickly seeks a new mate.
  • Courtship is for life and it increases during the spring.
  • Eagles are often seen perched high in a tree, or soaring over waterways and adjacent land.
  • Eagle’s like to breed and hunts near water, because their main diet consists of fish.
  • The male’s honking call is higher-pitched, more rapid and is among the loudest and furthest –carrying of all the Australian bird calls.
  • Some nest sites are continuously occupied for many years, (e.g. 50 yrs).
  • They are found in higher numbers where there is little or no human impact or interference.
  • Estuaries are a favourable habitat.
  • DDT was once a widely used pesticide in agriculture and was found to have a negative affect on wildlife, particularly egg thinning and subsequent breakage.

The eagle is revered by indigenous people in many parts of Australia, and is the subject of various folk tales throughout Australia.

The white bellied sea eagle was and is important to different tribes of indigenous people across Australia.

Examples from Wikipedia:

  • The guardian animal of the Wreck Bay aboriginal community, it is also the official emblem of the Booderee National Park, and
  • Botanic Gardens in the Jervis Bay Territory.
  • A local Sydney name was gulbi, and the bird was the totem of Colebee, the late 18th Century indigenous leader of the Cadigal people.
  • The Mak Mak people of the floodplains to the SW of Darwin in Northern Territory, who recognise its connection with ‘good country’.  It is their totem and integrally connected to their land..
  • The Umbrawarra George Nature Park was a Dreaming site of the bird, in this area known as Kuna-ngarrk-ngarrk.
  • It was symbolic to the Tasmanian indigenous people – Nairanaa was the name used there.
  • Known as Manulab to the people of Nissan Island, the bird is considered special and killing is forbidden. Its calls at night and it is said to foretell danger, and seeing a group of calling eagles flying overhead is a sign that someone has died.
  • Local Malay folk talk tales tell of the bird screaming to warn the shellfish of the turning tides, and a local name burung hama siput translates as ‘salave of the shellfish’.
  • Maharashtra coast, their name is kakan and its call is said to indicate the presence of fish in the sea.

Love  Nature

Love our environment and look after it, let us keep our footprints as light as possible in this planet we call home.  

Another reason why I have written ‘Emily’, and placed the characters, in an Australian beach/bush setting, was to bring notice to the beauty of the nature that surrounds us all, to love nature is to care for it, even in the simple things we all do everyday.  Like reducing chemicals on our garden and changing our washing powder, all these small actions when we get together is a huge action towards a better environment and that in turn protects our own health, everyone around us, our pets and native animals.  Margaret Ann Loveday

www.amazon.com/dp/0992477409

References: (BirdLife International 2005e; del Hoyp et al.1994  / Oslen, P. 1995 / Marchant & Higgins 1993 / Clunie 1994 ) / National Parks and Wildlife / Wikipedia)

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The Australian Pelican

In my book ‘Emily’ I have encompassed many messages of love, and this includes the love and appreciation of the natural environment, including the wonders and the beauty all that entails.  The wildlife that depends on the health of the environment, the flora and fauna that rely on each other, and the balance of all this and how  important this is to all our futures.  It is about love.

The first post is all about the quirky, Australian Pelican, or as us Aussie endearingly call them, ‘Peli’s’…

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Pelicans are a majestic bird found on every continent except Antarctica.  There are eight different species of pelicans in total.  The pelican commonly found in and around Australia is the Australian Pelican.  They have black and white feathers on their back, tail and wings.

Interesting facts

  • Males are generally larger than the females and can weigh up to 10 kilograms.
  • Have bluish/grey webbed feet.
  • They are the largest pelican in the world.
  • Australia’s largest flying bird.
  • Their lifespan in the wild is ten to thirty years.
  • Pelicans are communal birds that dwell together in large groups by bodies of water.  Groups of pelicans are called pods, scoops or squadrons.  They like to rest and nest together.  They will travel long distances to find where all their needs can be met: clean water, food, resting and nesting spots.
  • At night they like to go back to sleep at their favourite spots.

The pelican habitat is anywhere there is clean water, such as; sheltered bays and beaches, lakes and lagoons close to the sea and coastal swamps and rivers.

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Wings

The average wingspan of the pelican is 2.3 to 2.5 metres, at times reaching up to 3.4 metres. The pelican can fly to a height of 3,000 metres, and using thermals, it can reach speeds of up to 56 kilometres an hour.  They cannot endure long flights of flapping, so they fly from one thermal to another, with less effort for sometimes over 20 hrs.

Though they are considered heavy birds they have air sacs in their bones and under their skin, that contribute to their buoyancy.  The air sacs also improve their aerodynamics, by using these air sacs they can stiffen their wings and feathers, which make them more streamline.

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The Central Coast of New South Wales in Australia is a popular hangout place for Pelicans.

The Entrance is now been internationally recognised as, “The Pelican Capital of Australia”.   Why is this so?

It started over 25 years ago, when the ‘Fish and Chip’ shop across the road from the waterfront, fed the pelicans with their fish scraps and unsold fish; they did this every day at 3.30 pm.  One day the owners of the shop didn’t give them attention … and these very resourceful ‘peli’s’ decided one by one to jump out of the water, cross the road and head straight to the fish shop, demanding their handouts.

I (Margaret) remember seeing the ‘Pelican Feeding’ when I was a child and I am glad that this ritual still continues through the generations. It is such a sight, these beautiful wild birds are real characters, they just love to be given fish left overs and put on an act for everyone to enjoy.

So today, we can enjoy these Pelicans 365 days a year at 3.30 pm, putting on a show as they get fed with love.   In 1996, The Entrance Town Centre Management built the feeding platform for these pelicans known as, ‘Pelican Plaza’, and this is now sponsored by local businesses within and around the Central Coast. The attraction has also become a very important project not just to entertain and educate residents and visitors alike, but it has become a checking point for any injured Pelican.

Nearly every week they have rescued a pelican with a fishhook or from fishing line entangled somewhere on the pelicans body, or a boating accident.   On the weekend we attended the ‘Pelican Feeding’ with other friends and the commentator shared about a pelican that someone brutally injured; its pouch was cut and other parts of it’s body was injured. It was taken into the vet and has now been released back into the wild and healthy once again.

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Are they dangerous?

No, they will not chase or hurt anyone, or want to attack.  Sometimes you can even pat them,  they will quickly let you know if they don’t want you to touch them, and they will either;

  • Turn around walk away or fly away,
  • Make their bird sound and do the yawn and stretch with a scorchy noise, to let you know,  and
  • If you persist the Pelican can use its hook at the end of their beak to hurt.

Are they playful?

Yes, pelicans are often playful and curious animals. They have been seen playing with things like plastic bottles,  throwing them up in the air and catching them and doing that over and over; they have also done this with seaweed.  Sometimes they have trashed the bins to find a suitable play toy.

Diet

Australia pelicans mainly eat fish but they can eat turtles, crustaceans and tadpoles.  They have even been seen drowning and eating seagulls when in dire need or stealing other birds’ catches.

Australian pelicans like to hunt fish in groups.  They flap their wings against the water and glide skimming the surface in order to scare the fish to shallower water where they can catch them easily.  Pelicans can also sense their prey moving below the surface of murky water using their sensitive bill.  When eating a fish the pelican will manoeuvre it to go down its throat, headfirst so that the spikes of the fins do not damage its throat.

The Bill

The bill can be up to 40 to 50 cm long and it is recorded to be the biggest of all bird bills in the world

.pely 1

Pelicans are known for their long bills, being forty to fifty centimetres long, but even more so for their large bill pouch.  The pouch is used for many things; it can hold up to thirteen litres of water and is good for scooping up fish.  When they scoop up the fish they also collect water in their pouch.  To resolve this, the pelican puts its head down on its breast to cause the water to flow out leaving the fish.  Pelicans can also use the pouch to cool themselves by swinging it from side to side.

When the female pelican is ready to conceive her bill turns reddish pink in colour, so the male can see her, as to spark an interest.

Breeding and Nesting 

They breed from the ages of 2 or 3 years, depending where they like to hang out, for example:

  • Winter – tropical areas
  • Spring –  South / East Australia
  • Anytime – After big rainfall inland areas

The pelicans nest is made out of feathers, leaves and sticks.  One to three eggs are laid and both the parents share the job of incubating the eggs. After 32 -35 days the eggs hatch.

While in the egg the pelican chick communicates with its mother, by messaging to the mother if it is feeling to hot or cold.  This communication before hatching is mastered and the unborn learns to take commands from its mother, forming a close bond, this then enables the new born chick to identify its parents.

The first chick is the biggest due to the fact that it receives most of the food and on some accounts even attacks or kills the other chicks in the nest.

When the chick is hatched it has a large bill, bulging eyes and its skin is in the appearance of bubble wrap due to the air pockets under the skin.  The baby’s faces are spotted and their eyes are any shade from white to dark brown.  Through these variations the parents can tell their own chicks from the hundreds of others.  After about a month the chicks are old enough to vacate their nests.  Creches are formed of about 100 young pelicans, where they learn to fly and survive; after two months of this they are independent.

Often Seen

Roosting on the rock platforms, jetties, sandbanks, swimming in lagoons, bays, estuaries and watch out,  telegraph poles!

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Written by Margaret and Sam – Wildlife Warriors, Carers and Lovers of Nature…

samand i

Margaret’s book ‘Emily’, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Angus and Robertson, and other online stores

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