Just a word about Flickr sites

Well more than just one. From the running reel on the side of the blog, you’ll get to see the latest things going on Flickr. 

Have to say its easier to deal with photo uploads over there so the majority of the images I’m making is going to be there rather then here.

This is better for the text stuff, so don’t despair I’ll still try and keep it trim taut and terrific, just won’t carry as many photos. 
The other thing about Flickr is the wider community and links of my photos over there will open up a whole range of wonderful images from other excellent workers.




A day around the outside of the Bandicoot Big Brother House.

Mr An Onymous and I had worked out a few days back to take a walk around the Backpaddock area and have a look for not only redcap nests, but to see if we could find some of the juvenile birds that have gone off to fend for themselves.  But, as they say in the song, we we got to the scene of the crime.unquote, the Backpaddock was locked. A big chain across the gate, and a note saying, “Closed for thanksgiving, unquote. (oh, sorry more words from the song. (Alice’s Restaurant for all the young ‘un who have never heard of Arlo Guthrie) ) Closed indeed young Skywalker, as “park renovations’ were in progress, and no telling how long said renos were likely to take place.

So we gazed, forlornly through the wire, and wondered what new renovations were being carried out in the Bandicoot Big Brother House.

So we needed as they  say, (have you often wondered as I, exactly who “They” are. Well I guess not ‘us’.) We decided to walk down the fence line on the outside and checkup on the arch enemies of all fencing. – Echidnas. These little dudes, know nothing of bandicoots, wire fences, this side, that side, inside or outside. Look there is an ant nest. Wire in the way. Just dig under. And dig they do. Just ask Travis of the Echidna patrol.(also Bandicoot Hilton concierge in his other life). It didn’t take us long to find the latest attempts at reaching the ants on the outside, or the inside, one is never sure with Echidnas.  Travis has laid down a lot of concrete to slow them down, and the emphasis in that sentence is ‘slow’.

Echidna’s definition of slow. Two more scoops of earth should do it.

As we walked down hill in the sunshine, it of course occurred to us that we’d have to walk back up hill in the heat.  Then we saw through the wire, a young redcapped robin hard at work feeding and just far enough behind the wire to guarantee average pics. But we took’em anyway.

The dam at the bottom of the range, was a bit busy, but nothing spectacular, so we wandered back up the track with some helpful Wagtails to amuse us and give us something to point the hardware at.

So with park renos in full swing, and the nesting season rapidly drawing to a close no idea is known of how many young robins came into the world this summer.  My guess is a pretty low count.

On the upside, its about 6 weeks or so till the first of the winter over birds arrive. But again the park renos will slow down our ability to get a handle on the numbers of birds and to get some shots.

In the meantime we’ve other plans for other places. The likelihood of access over a reasonable period in Bandicoot Big Brother House is not a high score on our card.   No point in pressing our collective noses’ up against the wire.

Here’s the day in a quick format.

A day looking at Red-caps

With a nice sunny day in the offing, we took to having a day looking at some of the red-caps.

A good start in the Backpaddock found a pair that had been evading or eluding us over the past couple of weeks, down along the fence line toward the creek there are a number of old blackwoods that are fallen over an make great robin perches.  As it turned out, he turned up to checked us out and then went back to hunting.  No sign of any young or nest activites from either of them.

Over the road we went and had a bit of time with the Male Scarlet, but he didn’t want to come to play, so we moved on to a tree full of Tree Martins, and their obviously recently fledged young. Much flying twittering (birds used to do it before the electronic thing, remember? – No , thought not) and for the young resting and feeding.  Looked great in the sunshine.

A gorgeous White-fronted Heron flew down to feed in the dam and really looked statuesque in the early morning sunshine.

Then across the paddock to where the young robins had been seen the couple of days previously.  A good cuppa, and a bit of a rest, and bam. There they were. Two young birds, one definitely moulting in a very copper top, and chest feathers.  He also has a good show of beginning black wing and back coverings as well.
The local territory male took exception to it feeding in his patch, and much scalding and tree flying and bumping forced the young ones to move on.   He sat in the quiet of a new tree and tried the redcap D’reet call. Got it a bit wrong, but practice as they say will give him the right notes. Nice to hear, and to partly recognise the notes of the call.

The local male is really starting to show the effects of a busy summer. No doubt he’s raised a few young. His feathers are now starting to show a lot of wear. He’ll moult out in just a few weeks, as March rolls round. How quickly the nesting season will come to an end.

Then on a whim we went back again toward the walk in track, and Will.I.AM Scarlet was waiting to greet us, and give us the benefit of his local knowledge of the quick paths through the trees and shrubs.

It is just on a year since he and his then consort a young female Red-cap turned up  See Jan 2012 here for details and photos. Amazing now to see him as beautiful dapper bird.

Hadn’t see him so vocal or relaxed for quite awhile. No sign of his lady, nor of any young.


Robins, Wagtails and Cuckoos: All make for a good day out

We had been planning a day at the Western Treatment Plant, but the temperatures, winds and general conditions resulted in the day being called “Total Fire Ban”. WTP management policy closes the farm on Total days, and just as well too. Who wants to drive around in a hot car in the hot sun and hot wind looking for hot birds sitting in the shade. So. We stayed home, and then thought. We’re up early, its still reasonably cool. Let’s go see Jack, Jill and Nevis, and take them a cool drink of water.
They were well into feeding by the time we got there, and the next thing surprised me completely. Dorothy had just finished topping up a water feature, when a shrill CHRIP, CHRIP came from one of the Robins and all three of them landed in the tree closet to the water. Then the young one dropped down and took a quick splash. Meanwhile the second water feature, – the one with the enclosed bathing area- was topped up, and they all went together to investigate.
Recognition? Sense of water? Relationships? To be honest, I really don’t know. All I know is they came for the water. And called to one another to all go to the one spot.
Just when it seems simple, it all gets more complicated.
One thing, they had a good bathe, a good drink, and a bit of a social gathering.Later in the morning, I went to look at a Wagtail event, and they were having trouble with a Shingle-backed lizard that had wandered by. It was really distressing the two birds, and they called in reinforcements from their neighbours and the shingle back was harassed by about 5 birds. As they don’t move very quickly it took the lizard 10 minutes or more to get out of range. Not that I think it took any notice. After all that feed the chicks was the next move.
And just as I was packing up, a young Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo popped by. It fed out in the open, so it was lovely to see the beautiful bronze, green gold feathers in the sunlight.
It picked up a small piece of plastic tubing and had several attempts at turning it into food. In the end it just spat it out.

So a day that started of with a no show no go, ended up quick instructive and probably asked more questions than it answered.

Nevis drops by at the call of water.
A quick tub in the water feature was appreciated
Shaken not stirred.
Jill in one of the nicer shots I’ve managed of her. The typical Eastern Yellow Robin pose is done to a treat
Now that big grub should stop you annoying the ugly Shingle back Lizard
Nevis taking a hunting break.
Horsfields Cuckoo hunting in the leaf litter
Iti looks like a nice grub, but tastes really horrible.
Think I’ll just spit it out.

Morning around Woodlands

Just as the weather goes back into climate overload, and the weather man predicts high temps, we decided on a stroll to the former Bandicoot Hilton to see how the redcaps were faring.

On the way we lucked out and had a chat with Travis the Bandicoot Hilton concierge.  He was doing the usual fence and gate inspection, and informed us of the pending likelihood of another lock out due to fox renovations.  At this time of the year its not a concern as there is plenty of other things happening in the park. But as the release day for the Bandicoots is rapidly,as they say, drawing closer it’s likely to be about the same time as the Flame Robin return, and another season’s opportunities with the flocks will go down the gurgler.

A big problem for us with the redcaps out there is the lack of info this year on territories. As they are quite furtive little birds when nesting, it is really difficult to know where to look with any assurance.  Knowing the area each pair is moving about in narrows where to look. But we lost that opportunity for this year, as we couldn’t get in.

Travis made the point, and I agree, that the best piece of environmental information comes from being in a spot for an hour or so and logging what is happening. Even a butterfly going past is helpful info.

He did warm my old heart, by explaining that the old, now somewhat redundant fence-line, across Gellibrand Hill was in stages being removed. So it will be easier to gain access down to the area south of Gellibrand without a hike around and down. And then a hike. Back up again. That’s the part that keeps me out of there at the moment.  Must go see if the Wedge-tailed Eagles know about all this.

After an hour or so around the area inside the fence, it was obvious today was not to be a red cap red letter day. Major find for the day was a Brown Goshawk that propped in a tree for a bit of a rest.  Then a Brown Falcon cackling as  it sped by, and high overhead a Little Eagle doing its U shaped dive and dips So we sauntered on down to the old dam area. It, as I suspected is rapidly running out of water, and won’t be much fun for wintering over waterbirds.

And quickly we came across a very co-operative Shining Bronze Cuckoo, and then a small family party of Red-capped Robins, a female, two juveniles, and a pair of older juveniles moulting into adult plumage.  One of which is no doubt a male. He was very attentive to the female, feeding her several times in the 30 minutes or so I was watching.  But trying to get near for a photo was not going to work. I’ve said before, when you chase them at 5m, they will fly 10m. Then when you’ve halved the distance, they fly another 10. Now the base is 15m and they are tiny little blobs in the viewfinder.  But.  I was in a hurry and gave it my best shot anyway.  He is quite skittish and I must go back and settle down and see what happens.
Lovely to think there is a replacement or two for the pairs that don’t seem to have survived this summer.

I’ve taken to mailing the pics out of iPhoto to get them in here.  Size differences, but over in Flickr the majority of the images are available a bit larger in size.
This way you get a spread rather than just the isolated ‘best’ of the day.

Brown Goshawk
Shining Bronze Cuckoo
Shining Bronze Cuckoo
Shining Bronze Cuckoo
Male Red-capped Robin Moulting in.
Male Red-capped Robin beginning to show chest colours
Male Red-capped Robin juvenile moulting in.
Male Juvenile Red-capped Robin.

Following the young Eastern Yellow Robin

With few cooler days and a little less family activities now the granddies are back at school, we’ve been spending a couple hours out with one of more pairs of the Eastern Yellow Robins.  As there are about four Wagtail nests on the go at the same time, its been an added interest to see the Willies hard at work.  Two nests have produced three each of young on the wing, and the others look like matching that next week.

No marathon five chicks at a time for these clever wagtails.

With Jack and Jill its become obvious that the young bird  (Named Nevis), is indeed from one of their broods. They both look after it and provide food and advice.  My heart is set on there being a second young one further out in the low gum regrowth, but I’ve not been able to convincingly find evidence.  But. Both adults spend a good deal of time out there. And Nevis visits from time to time.
Nevis also has taken over one small strand of blackwattle re-growth, and can usually be found in the area.

It is now accepting of our movements and will come within a few metres to feed or sleep.

Today was a bit of a highlight as Dorothy was working with Nevis, when Jill came by to see how things were going. Two robins in the same branch. Me.  Well I was down the paddock photographing trees. Or something.

Its enough to make you hang up your camera in shame. But she did get some lovely shots of them together and a friendly Willie Wagtail, who thought it must be a family photo opportunity!

Nevis later came down the track and propped in the shade of a small bush, tucked its head under its wing and went to sleep.  That’s trusting.

Newly hatched and not yet ready to meet their public. Williie Wagtail hatchlings.
Newly hatched and not yet ready to meet their public. Williie Wagtail hatchlings.


Two young Willie Wagtails out of the nest.  Their more adventurous sibling is on another branch. Waging a very short tail.
Two young Willie Wagtails out of the nest. Their more adventurous sibling is on another branch. Waging a very short tail.
Nevis asleep on the branch near my camera sitspot.
Nevis asleep on the branch near my camera sitspot.
Nevis showing how much it has grown out of the early feathers. Another week or so it will be hard to tell from the adults.
Nevis showing how much it has grown out of the early feathers. Another week or so it will be hard to tell from the adults.
Dorothy's shot of the day. Jill came by to check on Nevis and stayed for the photoshot.Some times persistence has its own rewards.
Dorothy’s shot of the day. Jill came by to check on Nevis and stayed for the photoshot.
Some times persistence has its own rewards.





Nothing like a little Hobby to pass the time

We decided on an early trip to the Western Treatment Plant. I don’t like the early morning light as you’re driving into it and so all pics are backlit. But, the weather man promised doom and gloom for the pm,(and for once he was right), so we took our chances.

Mr An Onymous and I had spotted an Australian Hobby up on the road to Ryan’s swamp, so I was all prepared to give it another looksee when we noticed Two Hobbys (Is the plural Hobbies?) on the trees near the pump house.  So we stuck around, but the light was against us, and also the distance to the trees. But we thought it a good start to the day.

As we went past the tree line near 65W Road, a Hobby was sitting surveying the ponds.  From this tree, I suspect it can see most of the Treatment plant as its amongst the tallest trees in the area. So another quick photo session we moved on.

Just where the road doglegs around Ponds 35E, Dorothy spotted a young Black-shouldered Kite, and she set out to make some pictures.

We’ve worked out its not much good two people harassing a single perched bird, so I stayed with the car, and as there was bush full of active Fairy Wrens I thought I’d was a bit of time following their activities. After about 5 minutes, they went quiet. Really quiet and disappeared. So did every other small bird. Before I had a chance to work it out, out of the corner of my eye, a grey arrow of wings and a “Thud” on my left. Turning about, I found a Hobby sitting on a branch about 2 metres up and about 2 metres from me. In one talon a hapless sparrow, that only a few seconds before had been amusing me with its antics with its friends.

It had obviously planned the attack to end in that tree, but hadn’t been able to calculate my presence.  Startled it glared (can bird glare?) pondered its opportunities and took off.  Of course all this happened against the light, so any hope of those prizewinning shots was dissolved. But I got a few action pics to make up  for it.

More info: from Flickr

The Hobby had landed in a tree about 2 metres from me. Because the trees around and above were a canopy, there was no way out for it. The trees on the left and above meant it couldn’t fly out and up. and the 3metre bushes on the right (where it had snagged the sparrow), were another barrier. So. Its only way was out past me. It choose to leap and go low to get speed. Hence this shot. Once past me, it circled around and gained height over the trees. Then flew of to feed its young one.
Mind it was all over before I had a chance to think about it.

I think this was an adult bird as it flew 50 metres and met a younger bird with much screeching and it took the sparrow for another trip up and down the roadway before landing in a suitable tree to consume its breakfast.  I ambled around to get the best light, and as I did the Hobby was accosted by a Willie Wagtail. Now most times Willies throw themselves into the act of removing unwanted visitors with abandon. Falcons, Kites, Ravens and Harriers are all the same to this little agitated bird. But not this Willie, and not this Hobby.  It was very careful about its every attack. Staying quite a few metres out of range and running quick scolding attacks, but not getting anywhere near the Hobby. Very smart Willie. Given the young bird was holding a sparrow, it wouldn’t have taken much to add a wagtail to the morning’s feast.  In the end discretion did not become the better part of valour and the Wagtail sprang on to the Hobby’s back, to be repulsed by a wing wag.  In the end, the Wagtail went off to find something else to do.(Most unusual as they most often win).The Hobby settled down to removing the feathers from the meal.
They flew in all directions in the breeze, but a lot of them ended up in a spider’s web in the same branch. Sort of formed a curtain for its activities.

By now I was settling in for some good shots, when a car came along the road.  All to much for the Hobby and it was airborne. Too far to follow in the long grass. WTP being renowned  for its slithery creatures.

I went over to the car driver and explained that she had scared off my subject. She replied, “Well the Black-shouldered Kite was gone, and I came to see what you were doing!”

Then to top it off on the way back a White-bellied Sea-eagle on a fence post on the 85W lagoon road made for a good conclusion.

Australian Hobby surveying breakfast options
Australian Hobby surveying breakfast options
Hobby with sparrow breakfast making a break out of the treeline
Hobby with sparrow breakfast making a break out of the treeline
The hapless sparrow is being held by the neck.
The hapless sparrow is being held by the neck.
Juvenile with sparrow, being carefully harassed by a Willie Wagtail
Juvenile with sparrow, being carefully harassed by a Willie Wagtail
Feathers fly as the Hobby gets down to business. The feathers are stuck on a Spider Web
Feathers fly as the Hobby gets down to business. The feathers are stuck on a Spider Web
I can only imagine how good this might have been had the light be better.
I can only imagine how good this might have been had the light be better.
White-bellied Sea-eagle over the bridge near 85W pond.
White-bellied Sea-eagle over the bridge near 85W pond.