Looking for Flame Robins

Monday dawned all nice and bright.  No rain, little wind, a good day for a stroll along Moonee Ponds Creek at Woodlands to look for Flame Robins.

But, by the time I’d arrived and walked into the paddock, the weather turned a dismal shade of grey.  So back to the car, put on the Driazabone (they really are!), and put in the wet weather covers for the cameras. Thank you Mr Aqua-shield.

As it turned out, I had only arrived down at the creek, when the first of a number of Flame Robins began hunting in the area near me.  In between showers, I managed to find 5 birds, and all of them seemed to be young males in state of moulting through.  I didn’t spy any males nor single females.

But the rain set in.  Down by the Billabongs is a lovely place,  lots of wonderful Red Gums and plenty of shelter from the rain, so I headed there. So did a large and significant sized flock of Yellow-rumped Thornbills, together with their tame, pet Willie Wagtail and a flotilla of Silver-eyes. So we all sat in the shelter of the Red Gums.  I had chosen a particularly large tree with a dry side, and plenty of shelter from the wind.  I think the birds chose it at as  an alternative feeding area.

The rain eased and I took the time to walk around to near the Cumberland homestead site.  I could hear the “Mip, Mip” of a Black-shouldered Kite and through the mist eventually I spotted one on a tree, and then another further down the range.  They both flew when the rain eased and one came down to a tree near me, but the rain was simply toomuch to pursue the issue any further.

Heading back up the hill toward the old Church site, I spotted the Flame Robins at work in the paddock.

Here is a male who posed long enough for me to get organised.

Young Flame Robin in moult. He is hunting down along the Moonee Ponds Creek, near the Billabongs area at Woodlands.

Just little wanders

Had a wander over the weekend with the organised Beginners Group of Bird LIfe Asutralia (Melbourne Group).  Titles get so long these days, and the acronyms are dreadful, but by the time I get it all typed I’ve forgotten what it was I was going to ramble on about.
Oh, yeah, we went with the beginners group to Woodlands.  Now as the National Parks people are on strike, the gate at Somerton Road is closed.  Which in some way s me thinks is a good thing.  But with nearly twenty cars parked along the road it did look to say the least a bit dangerous.  And as Somerton Road is apparently the extension of some race track or other, speeds along the road are simply overwhelming at times, with some of the best passing manoeuvres that would do credit to  Mark Webber at Albert Park F1, are taken with out much concern for the narrowness of the roadway.  Anyway I digress.

The weather was pleasant if just a bit overcast and after a stroll around the Moonee Ponds Creek tracks, – Note: the river was in a flood, probably 1 1/2 meters or more deep.- we decided to move around to the Providence Road carpark and spot Robins.  And on this day, the resident Tawny Frogmouths had moved to a new tree and were not to be found.  I was pretty much accused of  climbing up in the morning and moving them. <ggg>

The gate to the Backpaddock is now closed, so we made do by following the kangaroo tracks down toward the Dam area.  Now the robins were pretty much on strike too, it seems. However I broke away from the main group and with a little bushcraft, and determined perseverance and highly developed robin finding skills.  And let’s face it. LUCK, I found the pair, Lockie and Primrose. They were taking a bit of a stroll down toward the dam as there were some nice wet patches of run-off water from the previous couple of days.  Next, call up the group, so some thirty birdwatchers descend on 10 square metres of robin feeding territory and the fun begins. “There on the tree just on the left of the other tree, near the branch sticking out behind the wattle, near the laid over stump, about a metre off the ground, oh, never mind it’s flown away.”  Much too much fun.

Some of the beginners did however manage to get a good views of Lochie and another male, and Primrose seemed completely unpreturbed by it all and just continued to feed.  So after about twenty hectic minutes with the binoculars and pointing just about everybody had seen some good robin views.

We then moved back to the cars and had another great view of several of the Flame and Scarlet robins in the paddock near the cemetery.  Enough for all, so lunch was at the Woodlands Homestead. Then a bit of a walk around Woodlands Hill, but no raptors were up.

Dorothy and I went back for another look in the pm, and found some Flame Robins and Lochie and Primrose again.  Here he is in the sunshine.

Redcapped Robin Male, hunting in the sunshine after several days of intense rain.


Here he is again with a nicer background. He is my second most favourite of the Red-caps because he is very relaxed with me most of the time.




Hello, and aren’t you looking super?

No one can say that the weather has been photographically kind over the past few days.  Its not just the risk of taking the cameras out in the rain, or the chance of getting wet, its just the light is so weak that the exposures are wide open, slow shutter speed.  Even on a tripod, the chances are the bird is breathing in and out faster than the shutter speed, so, its a blurry pic.

Stay home, do other things, play with last years images and hope for a break.

So with high hopes we set out early this morning, sun looked good, and the weather man gave us a 50/50 chance.  Should be good.

But!  The gate to the Woodlands Backpaddock is locked.  Work is going on to remove the feral invaders, and keep the feral photographers out.

Sadly we traipsed back towards the car.  But on the way, we found a lovely looking Female Scarlet Robin, so of course we stopped to play.  She and her mate were a bit skittish at first but after a little bit we managed to meet on sort of mutual terms and were able to get reasonably close. Good light and the rest was easy.

After all that excitement we travelled on a bit further and found an Eastern Yellow Robin.  Very impressive, and again a bird that once it settled down was not to fussed by being chased by a photographer.

Looks like we’ll be travelling a bit further to keep up with the Yellow Robin and fill in time till the gates are re-opened.

Female Scarlet Robin in the early morning light


Female Scarlet Robin hunting


Scarlet Robin Male


Find of the day. Eastern Yellow Robin in a small clump of Black Wattle

WTP evening

Getting a bit cold for an evening drive, so we thought we’d start early. Like after lunch!

It’s a long way to WTP, if the weather is only so so, and if its not being very helpful, the best idea we reckon is to stay home. But throwing out best advice out the window, we went anyway.  Hadn’t been for a couple of weeks, and wanted to see who things were going.

Along the Spit area, a Horsfield Cuckoo sat on a post and piped for us, it was answered by at least two other birds, and we have just recently spotted about six or seven sitting on the fence rails. This one co-operated and sat in the very weak sunshine, which was good as it meant no harsh shadow detail loss.

Further along were several Red-capped Plovers and a number of Red-necked Stints in the shallows at the Murtcain Outlflow.

Down along the Beach Drive near Lake Borrie we came across an ambitious White-bellied Seaeagle taking home a duck dinner.  It was pursued by a pack of very angry Silver Gulls, and perhaps it wasn’t duck on the menu afterall?

As we were leaving with the sun well and truly set behind the You Yangs, right on the Paradise Road exit gate, Dorothy spotted a Flame Robin taking its evening bath and then a few minutes to dry out all the feathers. Made a great end to a day.

Horsfeld’s Cuckoo in call mode
White-bellied Sea Eagle escaping with someone’s relative
Male Flame Robin taking an evening bath
Male Flame Robin after a bath

Off the the land of Goschen again.

Down the blog in early February you’ll find a report of a day that Dieter and I had in Goschen in the hot summer sun.

Dorothy and I travelled back to Swan Hill for a family gig this past week. (see her blog for details), and I managed an early morning run down to Goschen again.  But this time it’s winter!  One of the nice things about the inland winter is that while the frosts may hit the ground, given a clear day, the sunlight is both warming and photographically super.
So I lucked out. Goschen Reserve is about 15 mins drive from Swan Hill and I left right on sunup.  So by the time I got to the reserve the light was running in a beautiful horizontal line along the ground.  Which meant that if I could find some birds, I would have great front light with the shadows running away behind the birds.

And find them I did. Or better yet, they found me.  Most of the time I sat on an open track near the old tennis court and really let them come around me.
White-browed Babblers, raucous and active led the charge.  Not to be outdone the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters were in abundance. So to Brown Treecreepers and regular assortment of other honeyeaters and some Striated Pardolottes, one who had a lisp and its voice was a definite, “Whip, whip” sound. A number of parrots, including Rosellas and Red-rumped, and some Mallee Ringnecks, all seemed to have plenty to keep them and me occupied. The small families of Brown Quail would take off at the slighest movement in their direction. I noted that they always flew directly away from me, which made a picture next to impossible as the focus just couldn’t react fast enough. Must try that again sometime.

The problem was not  how or where to photograph, but rather which one to click on next.
Sadly by midmorning, the sun had departed behind some low clouds, and I had a hasty retreat to make to get to the next family event.

The land of Goschen still holds plenty of attraction.  Must try and get a visit in during Spring time if I can.

White-browed Babbler with Spider snack
Brown Tree-creeper
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
Lisping Striated Pardolotte

On a Road, 40 Years Ago

This is not a post about birds, or my photographic life. It is about life, and humanity and how a thoughtful, aware and intuitive photographer has dealt with an extraordinary subject with a great concern and tenderness. Well worth the read just to see McNally at his finest.
It is to direct you to the Joe McNally’s Blog and look at the post

On a Road, 40 Years Ago




Foggy Morning with Robins

The lack of posts here has little to do with enthusiasm and much to do with the weather.  When its been good weather, I have been elsewhere, and when I’m all set to go to the paddocks, the weather turns viral.

But I loaded up the Driazabone (and they are which is why they are so good), and headed out.  The weather went from inclement to downright foggy.  I had trouble seeing cars coming along the track to the forest.

And it really didn’t get much better.  However a good trusty tripod is such a good thing, even if its a bit heavy.  Or gets left behind in the marshes and requires a return trip just to retrieve the missing tripod in the middle of the night. (Don’t ask, just put it down to old timers forgetfulness).

I’ve taken of late to shooting from the tripod with it very low to the ground, legs stretched out and laying behind it.  It gives the feeding birds an interesting perspective and makes the depth-of-field, both a challenge and an opportunity. Harder to nail focus on small birds, but when it does the soft backgrounds don’t get in the way. The robins on the moss beds are standing on a very narrow sharp area and everything else is out of focus. Old bones do creak a bit when I get up to move but.

The wonderful thing about mist for a photographer is soft delicate light that comes from it all, and the lovely moody effects it adds to landscapes.  It’s a bit tough through when the bird is about 8 metres away and the mist makes the image all soft and fuzzy.

But as a photographer mate says, “The light now melds over everything it touches”, and he’s right.  No harsh shadows, no contrasts, soft muted colours and light that edges its way around three dimensionally.  Super.

The robins have indeed become conspicuously absent the past few times.  The much anticipated flock hasn’t eventuated and its really small isolated families that move rapidly from place to place. But there are a few gems among them.

Male Red-cap in the soggy grass. He is a bit wet from hunting about, and very wary of me.
Another “Fatboy”. This male was on his own. He found a super big purple worm, but took off with it before I had a chance to get some eating shots. I found him on a branch looking decidedly overweight.
Another Red-capped Male. I had to walk a long way in to find him and again he was very wary of me. But the light just enveloped him.