Monday, March 17, 2008

The Thief...

Bron and I headed down to the Devonport waterfront last weekend for the sole purpose of photographing birds in flight. I was going to do the photographing, and Bron said she would be the bait. (i.e. the one who holds or throw the food up in the air so I can get birds in flight).
We got there about 6.00pm. Beautiful night – a little bit of a seabreeze. We headed into the fish and chip shop, bought them all wrapped up in newspaper, then headed out to the waterfront. I couldn’t believe just how busy Devonport was – lots of people doing the same thing – eating fish and chips in the park and feeding the birds. We couldn’t find a bench, so we sat on the low wall and decided to eat our fill first and then feed what was left over to the gulls.

We sat and watched the activity on the water – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many ships come and go in the short time we were there.


Then five minutes later…

Then another five minutes later…

One good thing about eating fish and chips is that they’re really filling. Which meant by the time Bron and I were finished, there were still heaps of fish and chips and two potato fritters left. So I got my camera out and got Bron to hold the chips. As I thought – the seagulls just came down and took the chips right out of our hands. Very very strong beaks too… ripped off Bron's hand in seconds...


Actually – this is the original, but I couldn’t resist doing the above one, I have always wanted to do a horror/macabre image but thought it was hard doing manipulations. It was surprisingly easy!!


And so I got some seagulls in flight – I’m rapt with the results as they are extremely difficult to get right…


I then really started noticing that the stronger and bigger gulls were taking over. Big, with black coats, grey eyes and yellow beaks – they are quite handsome birds. So I did some internet research and found that they are actually Mollymawks, and not just ‘big seagull’s’! Wikipedia let me know that…

Mollymawks are a group of medium sized albatrosses that form the genus Thalassarche. They are restricted to the Southern Hemisphere, where they are the most common of the albatrosses. They were long considered to be in the same genus as the great albatrosses, Diomedea, but a study of their mitochondrial DNA showed that they are a monophyletic taxon related to the sooty albatrosses, and they were placed in their own genus.[1]


Mollymawks have what has been described as gull-like plumage, with dark black backs, mantle and tails and lighter heads, underwings and bellies. The heads of several species are often slightly darker grey, or have dark around the eyes. The bills of mollymawks are either brightly coloured orange or yellow, or dark with several bright yellow lines

When I started feeding the mollymawks chips, they were quite wary of me at first, wouldn’t take chips out of my hand. I’ve decided they’re quite intelligent birds as within half an hour I had them doing what I wanted, so close that I was using my macro lens and getting some great close up shots…


and...

However – they are thieves. I have proof. The first living proof was just last year. We were at our favourite place for the day – in Tawharunui. A fabulous beach that is also a protected marine park. You’d think then there would be plenty of fish for the Mollymawks to eat and never go hungry. But no – they’re picnic raiders. Here’s the proof…


See – a WHOLE sandwich. Lettuce and all. A thief for sure. Then on Monday, I spent the day at Tawharunui with friends. On the way up there (it’s about 1.5 hours drive), we stopped at the service station and I bought a drink and a summer roll which is a nougat muesli bar. I was looking forward to having it as part of my lunch. As soon as we got to Tawharunui, we decided to go for a swim straight away seeing the water was excellent, and the sun was hot. We swam in crystal clear waters for about an hour, but then I got cold so decided to go back and get my towel. As I came up the bank, I noticed a Mollymawk on our picnic blanket. Then I noticed he had my summer roll in his beaks still in its plastic wrapper. I gave chase. I caught up with it about 25 metres away, so hoped to scare it off before it picked up my summer roll again by waving my arms and yelling loudly. Fat chance. It just picked up the summer roll and flew far far away to places I will never reach unless I grow wings myself. I kissed my summer roll goodbye and went back to our picnic blanket. It had completely shredded the plastic bag it came out of as well!


Later the same Mollymawk sat on a rock and laughed a me. It still hasn’t been forgiven!

12 comments:

Bron said...

Ow, my arm hurts..........

Great shots. But next time I am putting the chips on a stick...

mjc said...

ROTFL! I love your 'macabre' shot. (Sorry, Bron).
cheers,
Melissa

Abbie said...

Robyn, somehow these time zones things messed me up. I have to remember that what is today to me is yesterday to you!

I have every intention of coming here before you had your surgery. I want to wish you the best of luck and I'm praying that everything will go smoothly..

Fingers crossed.
Ears crossed.
Toes crossed.
Hell my legs are even crossed!!

I will be looking forward to your update!

Anonymous said...

I'm just damn glad I hit one with a rock and it dropped my sandwhich. Except it dropped it in a place where a gator was laying.
it fell in the water. The seagull tried to go back for it. Just as it got it again..SNAP! The gator got it. The rest of the seagulls flew off. They knew I mean business. Justice done!

icemother said...

Thanks for the link.. I wish I could work out how to put it on the desktop. I have a few stories to catch up on.. liked the seagull one and I am looking forward to seeing how to convert the slides.. looking forward to seeing you back on the computer.. love Liz

David said...

Robyn since my sudden and unexpected deafness last fall, I have discovered that my visual senses have awakened to an unbelievable new level. Having said that, I wanted to tell you how amazing your pictures are on your sites. I spend a lot of time enjoying your pictures. I am a huge wildlife lover and so enjoy these bird shots. Your photos are "food for my new appetitive"
Merci!
David

kw said...

hahaha! OMG! You're hilarious! And I love your pics and I learn so much from you. If you lived here we could be "birders" together, cuz I DO go birding from time to time and I think you would like it. We have lots of birds where I live. I guess there are birds everywhere.

David said...

Your site is eye candy always with the amazing shots.
Any update for us on your surgery?
We wait with worms on tongues (baited breath)

cillana said...

Great shots! Love the gull stealing your hand. That is funny. Great PS work on that too.

Just one thing to point out. Those ARE gulls, not albatrosses. The bill is totally wrong for an albatross. So is the behavior. That there is a genuine sea gull (just a big one). Don't ask me which species. I have a hard enough time telling the different US gulls apart let alone Australian ones. He has beautiful eyes though.

Robyn said...

Hi Cillana,

the top three photos with the red beaks are gulls, but the others with the yellow beak are Mollymawks, or medium sized albatrosses as I've explained in the blog. I got mosst of the information from wikipaedia. They are endemic to the southern ocean, so really they're a native to NZ. I haven't seen them in Australia, or anywhere else for that matter.

Cheers
Robyn

Anonymous said...

Hi robyn.
Your previous correspondent was right.That is NOT a Mollymawk, it is a Black-Backed Seagull. See
http://www.nzbirds.com/birds/blackbackedgull.html
for starters or Google Black-Backed seagull.

sp00k

cillana said...

Sorry, had a brain fart. Forgot you were from New Zealand. Zarafa is from Australia, you are from New Zealand. Must get that straight in my brain. Both places have cool birds though. :D

Thanks sp00k for the ID.