Trippin’ to Ballarat

Had to go up to Ballarat for a family gig.  Spent a couple of days, and survived the most dreadful hail/rain/wind storm.  The damage around the place was bordering on the apocalyptic. Don’t you just love those big words that get so overused that any meaning they might have had is now lost in the banal. Still the damage was significant in some places.

Had a break in the morning from the family do dah, and went down to the lake to look for birds.  They, (whoever they is/are) have done a great job of getting the park around near the gardens and tram area accessible for both birds and people.  Little islands linked by bridges and walk ways allows you to wander about quite close to the bird activity.  And there was plenty.

We found a couple of cygnets pulled up on the grass for a rest and a nibble on the grass, Mum was super protective, but the one good thing about the birds and people being this close is that they have become a bit peopled out, and don’t seem to mind close approaches.  So much so that when a nosey neighbour swan came by for a look at her clutch, Mum swan reared up and a great pursuit followed. The hapless bird headed straight for me and stood on the other side away from Mum all reared up.  Poking its head around my legs, it seemed to say “Nah nah”. Mum calmed down, the little ones piped up “Congratulations Mum for being such a good defender of us helpless little things” and everything returned to normal. My new “friend” had a bit of a preen, then shipped to the water,  and paddled away in the other direction.

Can I be your friend? This swan was chased off by an irate parent. The birds are so people conscious it had no concern about running around behind me and then peeking out at the angry parent.

I also spent a few minutes photographing the cygnets.  They must be among some of the most helpless and defenceless  creatures on the planet.  Everything seems to be such an effort.  I’m amazed the species survives and thrives.

Cygnets at rest
Cygnets at rest
When they are this stage of a moult the young swans amuse me with their appearance. This one popped its head out of the water in front of me, with the water dripping down, and a tight crop, it take on a new look.

Gotta admit, I loved the lighting, loved the angle, loved the D2x for getting the focus, and the exposure. Was mortified that I clipped the bottom wing.

I’ve been breaking in a new (New to me) camera.  Got a second hand Nikon D2x.  The focus and exposure are really great. But like all things needs some practice to get the right feel.  The flight of White Ibis into and out of the small rookery was just what I needed to run through the 3,000 combinations of settings. Well it felt like that many. As they came over the little island I was standing on, the light was directly above and behind them, so it gave fabulous shots of the outspread wings.  The best one of course I muffed.  Managed to clip of the lower wing tip. Thinking seriously about the old photoshop on that one.  Or perhaps just going back for more practice.  This is with the old reliable, dependable, fun to use, most useful lens I own, pinsharp, fast focus, super duper all round good thing, my 300 f/4. And it likes the D2x I can tell.

With some many birds, its a great place to just practice technique, and the chance to see a few really interesting birds closeup, rather than having to point out,  “yep, that little spot over there in the trees is the kingfisher!!!!”


Woodlands Backpaddock Area is now re-opened

Today, we kitted up for an evening down by the dam, the thermos and a few edibles to make a nice picnic in the cool of the evening.

Went via the access road down from the carpark, and to our surprise noted that the chain and lock were off the Backpaddock Gate. Definition of Backpaddock – Bandicoot Big Brother House, or Bandicoot Hilton.

Pretty excited were we.  And we tentatively opened the gate and tip toed in.  Don’t want to wake a sleeping Bandicoot we thought.

No sign of said beasties, nor any robins for that matter.  It was still a bit too hot for hunting, so we had a quick look about and then resumed our course down to the dam.
But the park is open.  Well done all.

We did note a number of Pallid Cuckoos, which any other time would have caused concern but today we liked the idea, as it meant that there must be some birds in there for the cuckoos to bother.  They’d not be hanging around where there was no chance of popping in an egg or two.

The dam as it turned out, was a bit of a let down, so we returned via  the Goshawk Mansion and had a look at the quadruplets.  All looking very dashing in their new feathers.  Not long to go and they’ll be on the branches and then look out world.

Saw one of the parent birds make a number of quite high passes over the dam area and up toward the Sugar Gums, mind with that many mouths to feed they are probably working all day.


All the young in the Goshawk Mansion. I just couldn’t get all four looking in the same direction. Notice the lovely brown colouring and the super looking chevrons on the chests.


Pallid Cuckoo in the Backpaddock – formerly Bandicoot Hilton.


A great day out at Woodlands

When I first peaked out the window, the day looked decidedly overcast. Pity, ’cause I’d wanted to get out early in the morning to see the Tawny Frogmouth chicks, and to get a few frames of the ever expanding Brown Goshawk family.

Once the sun had risen it looked like it might burn off the clouds, and that was all I needed to load the car, and depart.

I love the bush in the early morning, and I love the way the light plays through the trees so already I was happy. But, when I got to the park, NO frogmouths.  Not even a feather!  They had flown that morning it seems.  Try as I might I couldn’t find them among the several trees in the area.  So down to the Goshawk Nursery.

Its a difficult sighted nest for a photographer. No matter where you stand there is always  a few small leaves and twigs or great big trees in the way. Clever Goshawk. I found a reasonable spot, set up the camera and then taking the radio remote, I moved back along the track.  Just got settled when Neil A turned up and setup as well.  So we had a bit of a discussion on birds, photography and lighting and other cool photo stuff. Neil has been monitoring them almost from get go, so he knew when things would happen, and right on cue at about 10 am, the four young birds emerged, stretched, preened and enjoyed the sunshine.  Mum was somewhere near as she kept up a constant call.

Andrew had been to the park that morning, saw the Tawnies and called Andrienne to go and have a look, so she turned up too.

In the middle of all that, I heard a call from a red-capped robin. Yes, a red-capped robin. So off I went to investigate, and lo and behold, up popped Lockie. He was busy feeding someone, but didn’t stop to chat, nor did he give away the nest location, but further discussion with him shall follow.

We were packing up to get home in time for our various duties when along the track came Ray.  Now he and I haven’t seen one-another for quite a few months, so we had another great discussion on the state of the birds in Woodlands and birds in general. What a great morning. He then let me in on the secret location of the Frogmouths, so, back to look, and sure enough the one tree I had ignored, out in the sunshine all four. Mum, Dad, and the two little’uns.  They gave us a brief introduction to their flying and branch hopping skills.

So all in all a good morning some great conversation and some super bird activity. Needless to say I was pretty late home and had to postpone a couple of other activities until tomorrow. Sad ah?

I’m breaking in a D2x at the moment, old technology, but really a pleasure to use. Fast on focus and super fast on speed.  But like all this stuff the buttons and dials are just not where they were on the other kit.  But hey, its all learning.

Lining up for a turn at wing flapping. The feathers are just starting to develop.
Another family portrait. The movement of the young’uns eventually caused Mum and Dad to move to another branch.


Sunday Morning in the rain

I’d wanted to take a longer walk up to the Sugar Gums and see what was happening, but time was always beating me. So this morning I left early. Something nice about the bush as the sun rises, and it all begins to come alive.
But, the further I walked, the darker the clouds became until it was obvious that it was, well, raining.

I’d  done the boy-scout thing and packed the “Driazabone” and it is, so wasn’t too fussed.

As I stood under a tree trying to keep the camera dry, Will O’Scarlet came by in the rain  for a visit.  He looked like a good trip though the spin-dryer was in order.

Not much at the Dam, so I went on up to the Gums.

In the rain I found a collection of Dusky Woodswallows and finally made a few sharp images of them.

But in the end, the rain was the winner and I retreated back to the car.  Passing the Brown Goshawk and her three chicks and waving to the Tawny Frogmouth family.

Inside the car was, well, dry.

Will O’Scarlet in the rain. He come bounding through the trees to check me out, and once he’d figured it was me, moved on to other more important activities, which I presume included drying off.


Dusky Woodswallow hunting in the rain.


Dusky Woodswallow, hiding behind the branch. Not sure why, but it slipped itself down low and was looking very attentively into the trees, I didn’t spot anything unusual, but it was certainly trying to keep out of sight.



Family Portraits

This mornings weather can only be described as ‘Windy’,  too much to go to the bush, so went shopping instead.  In that age old tradition of ‘If the going gets tough, the tough go shopping’.

On the way back in the afternoon, the weather had cleared and lovely evening light, that landscape photographers drool over was ours for the asking, so we took a swing around on the way home and went to the Providence Rd carpark, just to see how Dad and the kids were doing.  Dad apparently sits by day, and Mum by night.

To our delight, not only was Dad there, with the two little bundles of fluff, but Mum, was putting in an appearance on a branch just below the nest.  I’d been looking for her over the paddocks for the past few weeks, but to no avail. So nice to have her on the ‘family’ tree.

Just too far back on the branch to get everybody in focus, but hey, most of the good gear was safely at home.

The evening light was a lovely contrast to the morning.  Then when I got home I received and email from Neil A saying he’d been out in the afternoon and seen all four. Great.

They’ve got Dad’s eyes!
Family Portrait in the evening sunshine

I’m on to you.

Found a pair of Willie Wagtails dressing down a Kookaburra that had slipped into their nest territory.  Managed a few nice shots of the encounter, one with the Kooka’s bill wide open, and the wagtail just out of reach. In the end, the Kookaburra had other things to do and took off with both wagtails on hot pursuit.

This is more a Silhouette than anything else, but it was the last pic I took before the pair flew directly toward the sun.  The 300mm f/4 lens has no flare, and the sun is only just out of picture angle, so I am pretty pleased with all that.  The 300mm f/4 has been one of the better things I have put to use in the bird photo business. The pic is also taken with the old- outdated- technology  My faithful and useful Nikon D200.  I must admit when I want a bird to be focused on fast, then I can always rely on the smaller number of focus points in the D200 to not spend a lot time discussing the merits of this part, or that part of the subject.  Oh, it’s in the centre.  Bang. Dead on.

A Willie Wagtail in hot pursuit of a wayward Kookaburra. The plucky little bird has no qualms about diving directly into the bigger bird. They must have a nest close by to become so agitated. Although sometimes I think they do it for the sport.

A nice discovery

Mr An Onymous and I were taking a bit of a tour through the Snow Gums at Woodlands on friday morning and a gentle but persistent ‘peep, peep, peep’ greeted us from among the lower tree leaves.  A bit of a look about and we discovered a Spotted Pardalote had spotted us.

We came to the conclusion because of its persistence that there is probably a nest nearby. But it let us get quite close with the long lenses, the big cameras, the heavy duty tripods, and just peeped at us.  Kind.

I think it is the brown rumped variety, An’s picture shows a definite dark brown colour, but I didn’t get any with its bum on display.

Such a tiny little bird.  It couldn’t be any bigger than my thumb. Book claims as little as 8gm.  Such an elegant tiny creature. Such a pleasure to photograph.

Hope we can find it again under similar circumstances.

Spotted Pardalote in the early sunshine.

Working with Eastern Yellow Robins

Its almost becoming a complaint I can put to music. “No Redcaps about at the moment”. No access to the Bandicoot Big Brother House.  blah blah blah.

We’ve been lucky enough to be put on to a pair of Eastern Yellow Robins, so we’ve taken to travelling out there of late.

As it turns out, we’ve spotted three birds.  A pair and a helper.  The ever reliable HANZAB tells the tale of how the helpers are called in to assist with nesting duties.  I’m going to call the second one a male, as it seems to get chased by the male, and there has been a number of branch dancing performances with one bird flying off backward.  A pretty sure sign of defeat in the territory stakes, I’m told.

Still it flys in with building material and the odd grub or two for food. The female readily accepts it, but the male will come in and round it up for another flying round trees and branch dance session.  Time will tell.

I’ve also been lucky with the light.  Soft mostly, and once a little rain to and sunshine to reflect back into the shadows. Nice, I couldn’t do that in a studio.

We’ll see how they go over the next few weeks, and continue to look for redcaps, and of course the Kestrel patrol. Not having much luck there either. See the first couple of sentences. <gg>

These elegant Eastern Yellow Robins are becoming a little easier to work with each day. Its feathers are damp as it was raining at the time.
A food offering for the female hard at work on the early stages of the nest.
The male Eastern Yellow Robin. Landed on the stick, just as a light shower of rain began, and the sun broke through to reflect from the rain to fill in the shadows. This has had no image enhancement, other than a slight crop. Cool

Dad and the kids

With the Bandicoot Big Brother House still locked to lesser beings, we’ve had to travel a bit further for a place to settle down, but today, in the cold and wind and rain, I decided on a whim, (don’t you love that word – translated,  I was going to to it anyway!!!!), that if I shopped at Greenvale, I could mosey on over and have a look at Providence Road carpark.  So.  I did.

The Tawny Frogmouth seems to be holding his own, and has by my count two little balls of fluff. Actually that are quite big balls of fluff, but she tucked one under each wing and settled down to keep them warm.  Unlike the other day in the heat when he was sitting back, and letting them cool down a bit.

Also found Will o’Scarlet, quite vocal, and two beautiful Rufous Whistlers who were feeding on some low branches in the small scrub, but much to dark to get any decent pics.

Dads and the kids. Tawny Frogmouth overlooking two very dependant young. He does look the part of the concerned parent. Unusual to see the in a pose other than looking like a tree branch

This image has just a small amount of fill flash, -1 1/3rd below normal.  It just picks up a little shadow detail without looking over done.  Haven’t used flash on birds for  a long time as the light has been soft enough anyway.

But the experiment was useful as I got some with and without examples to use in class, so that’s a bonus.

For all the overcast weather, the bush is starting to show a lot of drying out already.  Hope the Bandicoots like it.