Hello, Will.Am.Mena

If you’ve followed this blog for a bit, then you’ll know we often find a very startlingly handsome Scarlet Robin, we’ve named Will. I. Am.  He came into the park in late December 2011 and has stayed over which is a delight,  of those of us who actively work out there, its been debatable  about him having a lady.  We’ve each seen fleetingly what we think is a female, or was it a juvenile, or another red-capped robin?

But the nesting season has drawn to a close, and now it can be revealed.  Yes. There was a lady out there.  And a couple of recent sightings began to confirm it.

Having a couple of hours between appointments today, I thought a quick scout about might help. So, out I went, and very soon had heard him in full cry and not much later spotted a red flash through the trees.  I was really hoping it might be a couple more Rufous Fantails. But no.  However it was better.  A lovely female Scarlet Robin, and she took long enough to pause for a photo opportunity, before like her mate, she sped through the trees and was gone.

Andrew H had reported seeing the male with a juvenile, and no doubt they have had a successful season.

Will. Am .Mena.  After all this time its official on this site. A female Scarlet at Woodlands
Will. Am .Mena. After all this time its official on this site. A female Scarlet at Woodlands

I also found the young male red-cap hard at work prefecting his call and hunting.  He was working over a large open area, and I had great hopes of him coming more in my direction. When to both of our dismays a walker with two four-legged dog scarers came by.  He fluffed himself up into his best ‘Dogs begone’ pose, but in the end he took flight, and was gone.

Litte guy ready to repulse bird scarers
Litte guy ready to repulse bird scarers

Very quiet days in the bush

Been awhile since I’ve posted a missive here, mostly because its been a bit quiet around my local area, and because I’ve been busy on a couple of other projects. So though I’d put a a week or so of images and talk about the state of play.
I’ve been working on a project to do a rambling review of the use of my 300mm f/4 lens for bird photography. Everybody it seems has preferences, or more importantly challenges to enjoy the birds and to keep the budget afloat at the same time.
One of the lenses I really like is the 300 f/4 Nikon or Canon it pretty much of a muchness. So I should have a couple of pages here on the site of a ‘field review’ of the lens. More to come
We were out about a week back and found several Rufous Fantails. These most beautiful birds are such stunning colours, I only found them during the rain, but would have loved to have taken some pictures in the sunshine. They are not locals, but are travelling through on their way north as in to Queensland. We’ve tried again, but to no avail. Just have to luck out.Also managed three Eastern Shrike TIts as they hunted among the leaves. Put an image of Flickr of one with a grub extraction.

Went out as the weather man predicted ‘clearing showers’, which interpreted meant. Incessant downpour, so much so that I packed it in and went for coffee. But managed a family of Rufous Whistlers happily hunting in the rain.

Found after much searching the Eastern yellow robins, but again the rain was my downfall. Better than the heat I say.

And in our new location, I found a lone red-capped robin. A young bird probably in search of a territory or somewhere to settle down. The main flocks will be on us in about 3-4 weeks, so it might end up as travelling with them.
Haven’t been down by the bandicoot hilton of late. Tired of peering though the wire. I’m hoping that the Flame Robin flocks will be a little more out in the open areas this year, and we still are looking at the Craigieburn Grasslands as our major area for the season.

Find of the week, a Rufous Fantail. Lovely colours and I wish it had been sunny.


Eastern Shrike Tit at work


Its wet! What are you doing here. Female Rufous Whistler checking me out.


A very wet Eastern Yellow Robin waits while a very wet photographer takes her picture


Eastern Yellow Robin hunting in a small break of sunshine.


Juvenile Red-capped Robin


Down to Westgate Park

I’ve been working on a field report for the 300 f/4 lens, and I wanted a few shots of what it would be like to just walk around with the lens. We had to go across town, and on the way back, stopped at Westgate Park so I could well, walk around.
Westgate Park is somewhat of a gem hidden away. It is on the Yarra River, and right under the Westgate Bridge on the city side. Its history includes being the local rubbish dump for many years. A group of volunteers took in on board many years ago and have worked as is said, ‘relentlessly’ to bring it up to what now can only be described as ‘pristine’ condition. It is the home of many water birds, a great variety of perching birds and a stop over point for many migrating birds or birds on the move.So we walked about. The sunshine was lovely, the weather was superb and it seemed as we watched the birds, (and the cars, trucks and bikes heading along the bridge,) a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
Nothing special, just one Shoveler. But the lens seemed to do its best to take nice pics, so that part of the test worked.
Male Chestnut Teal
New Holland Honeyeater
Intermediate Egret.
“And stay out”, territorial differences allowed me to play with the action speeds on the lens test.

Pardalotes and Shrike Tits

With the Bandicoot Big Brother house closed for almost permanent ‘restorations’, we’ve been out and about trying to find a new ‘home’ for our birding activities.
We want to find a place close to home, as in not much travel, and where we’ve a chance to work with some Red-capped Robins and the winter flocks of Flame and Scarlets.
One place does offer most of that, the Craigieburn Grasslands area. So we’ve put in a few excursions to see how it will work. The biggest issue is lack of any real sustained Grey Box forest.
The Grey Box seems to be a favourite for the Red-caps and the flocks. And I think I know why.
Up in the old Grey Box stands in the eastern side of the “Bandicoot Hilton”, is an interesting small ground cover salt bush. It seems to me that it favours the layover areas of the Eastern Grey Kangaroos, perhaps its the manure, or just as likely the softer sandy soil, that the ‘roos create as they lay around contemplating the universe.
I’m no research scientist, and I don’t have a government grant, but over seven years, I’ve seen the robins favour the areas where the saltbush grows.
Reason: It produces a lot of deep rich red berries. The berries contain “Carotene”, the red stuff that the robins can’t make in the feather mix, and the carotene provides the necessary ‘red’ for the chest, and head coats.
I’ve pics of the young birds eating the berries, and I suspect that the flocks come down to eat the insects that eat the berries. That way they can bulk up on the red producing products to help the production of nice red feathers for the mating season. (A paper on the net by Dowling goes into it in much better detail and has all the data etc. Worth the find and the read).

Part of the park renovations has been to remove the ‘roos. And at the moment with no good productive layovers, the birds seem to have left the park to its own devices. As the roos are a direct competitor for food with the Bandicoots, it is likely that the roos will be removed completely.
So we’ve taken all that on board and have begun our search else where.

Found a small family of Spotted Pardalote the other day, such tiny little birds and so spectacularly marked.
Here are a few from the day’s work. Also a visit by a couple of Eastern Shrike Tits as well. Worth being out, even in the heat.

Male Spotted Pardalote

A young Spotted Pardolote

Such a dapper little bird

Working high in the trees these Shrike Tits are really hard to get a clear shot.

Early Morning with Cape Barren Geese.

We’ve been a bit quiet lately, partly because of the heat, and partly because our favourite area is in ‘Park Management’ mode.Our friends Helmut and Dawn from down Lara way suggested we go down and have a look at the ‘famous’ Cape Barren Geese that are plentiful in Lara.
Not to miss an opportunity to see some lovely birds we agreed.

We arrived just about on sunup, and Helmut and Dawn took us about to a couple of places.

At one park, which is part of a water basin in the middle of town, the sunlight was just coming over the ridge behind and the light on the birds was first rate.

Now, these birds aren’t tame. But they aren’t stupid either, and they have worked out a human strategy.  This close and no further or we just walk on.  I managed to establish that about 10 metres is the turning point so began to work to their rules.
Jon Young is his book (see side bar), calls it “Honouring”, and the more birds I work with the more I find it works.

We crossed the creekline, full of interesting waders, and I headed by a long round-about circuit to a pair in the middle of a mown area, that were head down and feeding.  As I approached, they began to get nervous, so I stopped, did  bit of head bowing of my own, and waited. They settled down, and I carefully, (but not stealthily), moved forward a bit. Heads up. More head bobbing from me, and they went back to feeding.

At about 10 metres they were on agitated alert, and I stopped, knelt down, head bobbed, and they paused.  So, I lay on the grass, and waited.  To my surprise, they didn’t move off, but immediately began to do a circular dance, which culminated in a session of allopreening, which still dancing.  The D2X kicked into highspeed, and i managed to get some super images of the process.

I moved forward a bit, and with a little bit of luck got one against the hillside grass for a final shot.  I head bobbed again and turned away.  They just settled in to standing the the morning sun.

Had we not been on a schedule, I’d have stayed all day.  The birds were extremely relaxed, and were satisfied with my poor attempts at honouring them.

Must get down again.

Gently does it as the dance goes round
One step, two step, preen to the right.
Oh, you have a sexy bum
All done, the world is in order, just like the feathers.
Handsome dude.