A morning at Western Treatment Plant

Just look at the calendar!  It’s the end of April already.  Although I suppose a look out the window at anytime would confirm it is coming on to winter.

I make no excuses, I like to go to the Treatment Plant in the afternoons.  The light just runs down the roadways at a better angle.  Because there are so many limitations about position in Werribee getting the light direction is one of the keys to great photos down there. So daylight saving is my friend in all this endevour.

But come winter, well, things change a bit.  The sun is down by 5 pm, and so there is little time to get about the places we like to work from.  So for the next few months, we are back to early morning starts. (No point getting there at lunch time as the birds are past the hungry at all costs mode).  The light is harder to work with because the angle of the early morning sun is always lower and 3/4 backlight at best.

So in keeping with all that we loaded the car in the evening, set the alarm, and ventured out just as it was breaking daylight.  A better run down the Ring-road too.

As soon as we turned of the freeway onto Point Wilson Road, we found some Red-rumped Parrots.  A short distance along and Flame Robins were on the fence.  And on the Paradise Road, and the road to Ryans Swamp, past the pumphouse.  And a lovely Brown Falcon who sat motionless on a fence post and stared us down.  I edged the car past it, on the far far side of the road, and with the long 500mm had to shoot vertically to get it all in. And then it flew. So I got a crop, but am pretty happy with the result.

More Flames down at Chirnside Road gate, and then a fruitless search for Swan J19.

We travelled back along the road to the Bird Hide and in quick succession scored a lovely Swamp Harrier, a pair of White-bellied Sea Eagles and a Buff-banded Rail.  Not content we stopped near the Outflow from Lake Borrie and were entertained by five Black-shouldered Kites who  seemed to be enjoying the light breeze and playing a game of ring-around-a-rosie, from the outflow sign and a large bush.  No aggression, just plain fun.

More Flames along Beach Road, and a tree full of lovely yellow/green parrots.

We trundled down 29 Mile Road, and were amazed to find a single male Nankeen Kestrel,- the first we have seen at WTP (I had heard of it from reports on Victoria BirdLine.).
It hunted up the paddock, dive-snatched a mouse, and sat on the fence line to consume it.  So I moved the car forward a bit, it moved up about 3 posts.  I moved again, it moved up 4 posts, I moved again, and it moved even further.  A game of diminishing returns for me, and a success for the Kestrel.  Still I managed to get a few record shots of it at work.  Must go again. Hope its still there.
The farm management were in the process of some controlled burns on the grass lands, and amongst the smoke could be seen 5 or 6 Whistling Kites waiting for some action.  They seemed to be calling to one another, which is such a great sound, sends shivers down my spine.

Brown Falcon in early morning light. It allowed us to bring the car with in about 10m, which meant with the long lens I had to shoot vertical to get it all in.
Just airborne. I waited, as it went though all the pre-flight checks, and probably was a little too early on the shutter. Was shooting vertical, so had to put up with a horizontal crop in the end.
This one is at Chirnside Road Gate
It made a turn out of the waterway just in front of our position. The early morning light filtered through the mist has kept contrast down, and highlight the wing and tail feathers. No clever post processing, just a little lightening up on the head.

Out and about at Woodlands

We tracked down to the Back Paddock area today to see what the state of play with the Robins was looking like.

We managed to find a couple of small hunting parties and a few isolated birds, but not a much else.

Ran across my friend Neil, and his bother, and had a good chat about things photographic and bird, so that made a good day of it all.

Several Grey Shrike Thrush came by and were hunting in their usual efficient manner, as well as Brown-headed Honeyeaters and a few Sitellas.  Probably the bird for the day was a Fantail Cuckoo, who with its friend sat in the sunshine and seemed to enjoy being the ‘model’ of the day.

We also took a walk about the Woodlands Homestead, and spotted a Brown Falcon at work out toward the airport, but not much else.  Am planning to cut along Moonee Ponds Creek down to the Billabongs, and see if there is any Flame Robin activity down there, but will need a clear day to do all that.

Wonders of a little rain

After a couple of days of what can only be described as ‘typical’ Melbourne weather, the clouds eased off a bit, and the biting chill was gone from the wind.  So we both ventured out to see what the rain had done in the park.

We quickly found a number of Thornbills and Pardalottes who were enjoying hunting in the sunshine.
Also found a few robins Scarlet is still there and his Red-capped consort has taken on a particularly brilliant orange/rust coloured cap.

A small group of Dusky Woodswallows were enthralled with a small lump on a tree high up and spent a lot of time squabbling and mobbing one another, for what we suspect was a pool of water built up in the node on the tree.

And a lovely Redcapped Robin male danced by and posed against a freshly built spider-web.  Pity the light was just overcast at the time as the web would have glistened in the sunlight.

Red-capped Robin male and a spider web contrast.
Dusky Woodswallow flock taking a drink from a small pool of water high up in a tree.

The boys are back in town. Arrival of Flame Robin males

I have been waiting anxiously for about two weeks to write the Headline. Each trip to the forest would reveal one or two females, and some unattached young males.

Today, I rugged up, and to my surprise, the weather held nicely most of the morning. At one stage I was pondering why I bothered with the rain jacket at all, as I sat in the sunshine and watched the few female Flame Robins and a couple of juveniles hunting along a roadway.  But by late morning, the weather had, I had to admit taken a turn for the worse. A distinct and sharp turn for the worse and black clouds rolled in, and rain began to fall.  Time for the car.  I was about 1.5 k down the range, so it looked like a bit of a slog out in the wet again.  I don’t mind being wet, its the expensive camera gear that I worry about.  Afterall I’ll dry out, but the gear being wet means another trip over to Ross, at The Camera Exchange, to buy new stuff.  He likes that arrangement.

Ever the optimist, I took the longer way round, down toward the small creek line, and back through the open scrub.  And there on the stumps, the branches, the small trees, and the old spikey bushes, were “The boys”. In the rain. The past couple of years, there has been a small band of males, three in total, and they have travelled and hunted together, but today, not only were the three working hard, but they had acquired two friends, making a total of five.  Add that to the 3 already here and we now have at least 8 males, and at least that many females, and a similar number of juveniles.  A flock in the making.

Interestingly enough, I did recognise features on two birds from last year.  They are a bit distinctive,  now it may be they are entirely different birds, but I think the odds are in my favour.  Mr Gingertop is back, and Mr Misplaced Chest feather is here too.

So as the rain fell, the shutter clicked and the birds fed it was just about as good as it gets.  Lunch-time became a thing of the distant future, and I could always use the excuse that it was raining, and I waited at the shelter for it to finish…

As it turned out, the rain passed by, the sun came out and the birds spent an hour or so in the one area, then typically on the turn of a wing they were gone.

I have put most of the images from this morning on a page here.  Click here to visit, or on the Tab in the header.

Flame Robin Male, in the process of a wing stretch. He is cleaning up after a passing shower of rain.

Scarlet Robin female

The weather man kept me out of the bush this morning, predictions of rain, and overcast don’t exactly excite me to take expensive photo equipment to the bush.  But as the morning progressed into increasing sunshine, my decision was beginning to look like a bit hasty to say the least.
Still I had the rounds of shopping to do, and if I worked on a scheme, I could get the shopping done, have a coffee, and still make it Woodlands in the afternoon sunshine. Say no more grab the shopping list, and load a camera and head on out.

As it turns out the forest was a little quiet, and after a fruitless search I was on the way back to the car, when I spotted some movement among the trees. The early morning mist/rain, had left a small pool of water which was just the ticket for the small birds and about 10 assorted robins, and some wagtails, a bunch of very aggressive Grey Fantails, were taking it in turn to give the feathers a bit of a going over.

One that stood out was a Scarlet Robin female.  It is the first really good sighting I’ve had so far.

So maybe the weather man did me a favour after all.

One of three female Scarlet Robins that are in the park area at the moment. Not sure yet of attachments to males, but each female seems pretty independent.

Looking for Flame Robins

Over the past few days I have been out and about on other things than birds at Woodlands.  Including a day up at Murrindindi with the Midweek Bird group. It is the first time I have been there since the horrific fires, and I was a bit hesitant about going. Tragedy is not something I am readily drawn to.  It is as they say nice to see the amount of regrowth, and in some cases  along the river the understory has taken on jungle proportions. Which made it hard to find birds, but none the less we managed between us about 40 species. Highlight of the day were some Scarlet Robins in the carparking areas.  I think they appreciated the open area for their wait and pounce hunting.  One seemed quite unconcerned and approached quite easily to with 4-5 metres. So some good shots were acquired.

This morning the sun was up bright and clear and I went for a look at Woodlands. Down at an area rapidly getting the name “Three Ways”.  It is where tracks T junction. After some time waiting, eventually a number of Flame Robins appeared.  There are two males and females, and a few immatures.  They worked over the area for about an hour, which was a good way I reckon to spend my time.  Then like always, a turn of the wing, and they were gone. Not to be seen again.

Feeding very close to my camera position.
RIght at the end of my focus on the camera, I had to pull back a bit to get focus.

More Images in the Flame Robin Gallery


Flame Robins at Point Cook Costal Park

The Green Walks in the Parks group had a day at Point Cook Costal Park.

As soon as we arrived Dorothy spotted a Flame Robin male on the fence behind us in the carpark. And I hadn’t even gotten out of the car yet!

The robin was easy to work with, and I managed a few shots of him on the fence line. Then we moved toward the homestead and there were at least two more pairs working the paddock by the trackside. They made a great sight in the early morning sun, and I probably would have stayed there all day, but we did the walk with the group instead.  Good thing as we crossed two Brown Falcons, three Black-shouldered Kite, and at least one, possibly a pair of Kestrels. (its that who saw what, when thing of spotting in a group). The Kestrel male moved over head with his lovely chireep chireep hunting call.

To add to the day, a Whistling Kite lazed its way along the on shore breeze, looking for prey.

With all that activity, we just have to find time to go down there again.

Male Flame Robin. Hunting from the fence line at the Point Cook Costal Park

Black Swan at WTP

There is a banding program with the Black Swans run by www.myswan.org.au  and today we had the chance to get up close and personal to J19.  Now this is not going to be a tirade on the fors and againsts of banding, but they are doing some interesting work in collecting data about the swan’s movements and mating and breeding.

So we decided to adopt J19.  Turns out it is a female, about 4 years old, or at least if I figure out the numbers that is when she was banded. She was banded at Albert Park Lake and has been there for about three years.  She seems to have first been sighted at WTP in January 2012.  At the moment, because of the huge population of juvenile birds, there is much pairing going on I suspect.

She is up in 145A Lagoon Area at WTP, and we will keep a check on her movements if at all possible. I will open up a blog page just to keep updates. See blog Here  J19 info

Here she is.

J19 in her best dressed banded number

Also found a co-operative Brown Falcon.  It stayed on the post as I inched the car closer and closer. Just managed to slip away a split second before I could get back on the camera.  Love the backwards glance.

Brown Falcon

Just as we were leaving with the sun setting as I was closing the exit gate on Paradise Road, Dorothy spotted a Buff Banded Rail hunting in the mud-flats. Dieter who was with us thought it was quick enough to be a road-runner.

The sun was well set by the time we were on the road home, but the Rail did provide a few minutes entertainment.

Buff-banded Rail. The blue spots are reflections of the overhead blue sky. We have a photoshop trick to fix that.

Flame, Scarlet, Red-capped Robins on a sunny day

After a week of fairly average weather, it was nice to see the sun beaming through this morning. That was enough to put all other jobs on hold, load the car and head for Woodlands.

The forest had a lovely smell after the rain, and it was looking quite crisp.

To add to the enjoyment within about 5 minutes, we had our first Flame Robin Male, and followed it up very fast with another male, a female, and some juveniles. They didn’t seem in any particular hurry and cruised around an open area feeding as they went.  Then the local Scarlet Robin popped by, and he is still with his red-capped escort, although she spent a lot of time preening while he flew about in ever broadening circles.  Henny and Penny two redcaps in the area popped by for a visit, and Penny does look the part in her new winter dress and a distinct orange/red cap.

The pair from down near the three-way junction also put in an appearance, but a lot further away, too far to pursue.   Time just seemed to stand still as the birds hunted and chased around the stump area we propped on.  Then off course it was back to the real world, so we went by the powerline area near the dam and found another pair of co-operative Red-capped Robins.   All in all over four hours had gone by, we had collected our share of vitamin D for the day, a nice collection of images and a collection of good spots to check in the future.

Flame Robin male. He has an interesting red feather just under his chin that breaks the sharp black line on his mask.


The local male. He was as busy and as vocal as usual. His consort spent most of the hour or so in a nearby tree tic'ing at him and ignoring his circle flights.
A juvenile (perhaps). There are several similar birds already in the park.


This Grey Shrike-thrush came to find a space to pulverise its insect prey and to enjoy the meal.

Now we have a Male Flame Robin

After our profitable morning in the park on Friday, it was necessary of course to go back and see what was happening and to take out the real camera/lens.

Andrew was happy to come along and because of things Monday was the planned day. Start early was also the order of the day. The weatherman, kindly or unkindly warned us of rain, but hey, what would he know!  By the time I peeked out the window in the early morning pre sunup, it was  clear sky. Of course it would be.

So Andrew and I went on down the range and soon located a pair of Red-caps. That was predictable.  A female Flame Robin, that was hoped for and expected, and a lone male Flame Robin, which was a delight and completely unexpected.  So the day looked good. A highlight of the day was a young redcap that was feeding about 5 metres from where Andrew had the camera.  It took off and headed straight for where he was standing and was obviously going to land on the small stick at his feet. At what must be the very last moment it dug in a wing and turned in the other direction. Landing about 5-6 metres from us.  Had it continued on its path and landed on the stick, it would have been the closest I have been to the robins.  Both Andrew and I were grinning and laughing at how close the encounter came.

We also found some Scarlet Robins and the family of Choughs.  But then it started to rain.  Did I mention rain.  In the end, nothing for it but to slog out back to the cars.  Still raining.

But we have at least one male Flame, two male Scarlets and a number of female Scarlets. There is also a number of juvenile Flame Robins and one very fine looking female.  More will come of all this.

Flame Robin Juvenile
Flame Robin Male. First occurrence for us in the park this season. Nice to have him back

A little bit of a trip round Heathcote

Sonja was going up to check on a area for the Melbourne Birdlife Photogroup outing in May and offered for us to tag along.  Two phone calls later to cancel important events and a quick scan through an empty diary soon lead to saying “Yes, Please”.  So we went.

We picked up Damien in Heathcote and after a pleasant coffee at the Bakehouse we went to Costerfield and a small dam behind the main street hall.   It was it must be said, pretty quiet, but among other things I heard a Scarlet Robin, so it was hopefully going to be a good day.

Several stops later on the way to Dargyle Picnic Ground and we had located a number of honeyeaters and several pairs of Scarlet Robins.

At Dargyle as we unloaded the car for lunch, Sonja located a pair of birds that we eventually named as Noisy Friar-birds.  Bit to far away for a piccy, but nice to have seen.  Several Brown Goshawks flew over, two of them in a bit of territorial/mating routine.

More Scarlet calls and lots and lots of Eastern Spinebills and about 4 juveniles so the list was growing.

We then drove to the Balieston Quarry area, this is a well dug over area with lots of low regrowth, and some very impressive Ironbarks, and the list began to grow even more, with 6 Yellow-tufted Honey-eaters providing most of the action.

A couple of stops around the back of the water courses near Nagambie, and then it was on the way home.  What a nice way to spend a day.

Scarlet Robin at Dargyle Picnic Area

Welcome Return. Flame Robins and Scarlet Robins in the forest

Andrew and I had planned a morning out to scout about a bit. See Andrew’s Blog here.
The weather stayed kind, but for the first half hour or so, not a wingfeather was seen. We walked down along the ridge in the Backpaddock and again it was all very quiet, until we found a Red-capped Robin and then his lady, and probably a couple of juveniles.  He has moulted out, and seemed quite pleased with himself and took the time to hum his little “deritt” song.

The girls had stopped down by the three road crossway, and were having their own great morning with a pair of redcaps, a Flame Robin female, and a couple of Flame Robin juveniles.  Isn’t that always the way.
Andrew and I got back to find all the activity happening right where we had turned off the track.

The female Flame Robin looked in great shape. Very plump and sleek. So she hadn’t travelled far to get there. No pictures as I was driving the binoculars at the time and the camera wasn’t in reach. Don’t you just get that.

We walked, quite pleased with our collective selves, to the dam, and on the way a familiar red flash dashed across the track. Scarlet Robin.  But then another wing flash, and it was not the Scarlet Robin’s Red-capped consort, but a real live female Scarlet Robin.  Then a second one.  Most interesting and rewarding. All were quiet, as they usually are.  So I am not sure if they are all new arrivals, or two females only.  The male and one female played lots of high speed pursuits about the trees.

On to the dam and a number of Grey-shrike Thrushes were bathing and then they too joined in tree chase games.  And to make a great morning even better, Dorothy spotted a yellow flash in the tree, all excited we were, but it wasn’t a Robin, but one of two Eastern Shrike-tits, doing what they do best; eating grubs.

While we were congratulating ourselves on our good fortune, Rodger, he of the red-spot camera site fame turned up, and added to our morning’s wander.

The next few days should prove to be very interesting.

We all got back to the car in time for lunch, so a good end to what started out quietly.

Female Scarlet Robin. The first female Scarlet I’ve clocked for 2012.
Eastern Shrike-tit hard at work on a lovely lunch time snack.

Whistling Kite and Prey

Given the ongoing fine autumn weather and the oncoming long weekend which would be filled up with all sorts of other activities, Dorothy and I took the chance and went to the Treatment Plant for the afternoon.  And the weather held.

We didn’t  find the elusive Brolgas, but that only means trying harder next time, spotted a good sized flock of Red-necked Stints, some with a nice on colouring of red, and also near Kirks Point located some Magpie-geese.

A little further on a Welcome Swallow sat motionless on the fence wire as the car approached and as I literally inched forward, it stood its ground until it was filling the frame in the 300mm lens.  At about 2.8 metres.  Then it preened and pretended that we weren’t there, but we had such a great view of the light of the dark coloured feathers as  they flashed blue in the sunshine.

Welcome Swallow

A little later on as the sun was drifting toward the horizon and thoughts of dinner and going home were upon us, a Whistling Kite made a pass over some trees and then landed just out of sight. By the time we had turned the corner, it has decapitated its prey and was struggling to get into  the air.  Without any breeze to give it extra lift it was all hard work and it made a pass across our viewpoint as it tried to get above the tree line.  Guesses at to what it had taken abound.  The long wings of the bird made it difficult for the kite to use its tail as the wings kept getting in the way. No doubt it retired satisfied with its day’s work.

In the late evening light this Whistling Kite was trying to find a place to set down wiht its uncooperative prey. The wings of the unfortunate bird kept getting in the way of the kites tail feather adjustments

Cape Barren Geese are funny creatures.  We came across this pair in some sort of dance display.  It is time we purchased a movie camera.