Birdlife Australia, Melbourne Photo Group. (why are these things always a mouthful?) had a day down at the Western Treatment Plant. Not being a number counter, I’ve no idea how many of us rolled up to the meeting place at Point Wilson Road, but there were more than 4.
Andrew H, He of the Flickr site here, came down with us as a visitor. The weather looked, sort of like the weather to stay home, turn on the heater and read a book, or dabble on Flickr, but hey, a chance to catch up with a bunch of dedicated bird photographers beats that any day.
Mr Swallows in flight are Us. (Rodger) was there as well, and among the others me mate Ian Smissen. He has a blog over here. His post on the day’s activity is his 1,000th day of blogging. Not a bad effort ah? Pop over and have a look and congratulate him. 1000 days!. (some people will count anything <ggg> ) I was stoked when I got to 100. He’s got some nice images to accompany the story as well Well worth the look.
Sonja Ross took us into the plant and a bit of car shuffling got the cars number to a convoyable size. One long line of cars over the entire plant didn’t seem like it would work too well. At the same time, the team doing the initial “Orange-bellied Parrot” survey were in the plant as well, so we promised to stay away from their working area. My other mate, Helmut, got invited along for the survey group and so we missed one another. Next time. See him here.
Sonja was keen for us to locate, find, discover and photograph a Northern Shoveller that had been reported, here, there, anywhere, everywhere in the plant. A bird that obviously took a wrong turn on the way to breakfast and ended up at Werribee.
So to the day’s tasks. As we travelled along Paradise Road, the radio crackled with descriptions of what the lead car could see. Fine, but by the time we got there, it was an empty paddock. A call on a Little Eagle, changed to a Whistling Kite, then back to Little Eagle, then to Whistling Kite, and when we finally arrived to see the tree, the bird was hidden behind branches, and the best I could say was ‘It has feathers”.
The next worthwhile was a group of cattle in a paddock, (remember it is a working ‘farm’.) and of course with cattle go, “Cattle Egrets”. But they took to wing and we didn’t get much of a chance to even get the camera out.
Next the ponds alongside Paradise Road, and a tiny brown fleck on a post got some attention. And the usual banter of Little Eagle, Swamp Harrier, Light morph Brown Falcon, began. Too far to id. My shot with the 500, and a bit of patience gave me a Whistling Kite.On to Walsh’s Ponds. As we passed by the River, a little speck of sunshine peeked through the clouds and the crowds were entertained by a lone Spotted Harrier making its ‘languid’, (I love that word), way along a dry pool. We were higher than it was, so got some nice looking shots across the top of the bird in flight.
At Walsh’s Ponds. Here was the last know sighting of said Northern Shoveller. But of course that was yesterday, and the bird was no where to be seen. Among a lovely resting mixed flock, of Red-necked Avocet, Banded Stilts and Black-winged Stilts stood a very drab looking bunch of brown feathers. WIth its head tucked under the wing on the far side it was impossible to even guess what it might be. The only solution was to run through the possibilities of what it wasn’t. Light morph Brown Falcon and Swamp Harrier were quickly dismissed.
Then the bird graciously woke up, and showed its head and beak, and the single word Godwit, resounded across the bund. Then to the books to work out, Black-tailed or Bar-tailed or light morph Brown Falcon. In the end, the straight beak ended the options. Black-tailed for sure. The other option was to phone John Barkla, (he’s in Siberia with the Red-necked Stints. I wonder if his arms are sore from all that flapping?) and get a better description. JB remained unphoned.
From there the road took us up along the run to Borrow Pits. A few Whistling Kites managed to give Andrew a chance to try out his inflight techniques.
By the time we’d gotten to Borrow for lunch, so had the rain. And it did. However, pop on the Driazabone, pull out the deckie, prop up the esky, and get out the thermos with the Earl Grey, and what rain? Lunch over, the sun came out in abundance, the phone rang and the informant had found the elusive, (illusive?) Northern Shoveller back at the Paradise Road Ponds. Quicker than you can say “Pack up the Esky”, the convoy was travelling at ‘a safe and practical speed’ on the road back to the ponds.
We decided to take the long way back, and went down to the 15W Outflow and Andrew got some nice Pelican, Pacific Gull and assorted Cormorant shots. As well a few Red-capped Plovers were hard at work on the tide line.
We ambled back past the ‘OBP” observers and down along the beach, where a Black-shouldered Kite made a pretty site sitting on a post. Lots of Swamp Harriers in the air by the river, but none close enough photograph. Typical.
Just before we got to the group we passed a small pool with two very accommodating Red-kneed Dotterels, and we had a few minutes to get some great shots of the pair. On arrival we were informed the Shoveller was now on the other side of the pond. And if you played your binoculars over the distant reeds, you could, with a bit of imagination see the mystery bird. Or was it a light morph Brown Falcon?
Onwards to Beach Road, with the sun diminishing and the rain increasing. Not to be outdone however Sonja stopped at the Outflow along the Beach, and as the tide was just on the flow, the birds were beginning to work back to the shore. Time to plant the tripod in the mud, play with the new Wimberley gimbal mount, and wait. And in the end the Red-capped Plovers and the Red-necked Stints came by. The Stints are ones that didn’t get their passports stamped for the long journey north, so don’t have any colour, but a nice show of brown and cream feathers looked good.
Down to the last ponds on Beach Road and a beautiful Black-shouldered Kite presented on a post in the middle of the pool. With the dark You Yang hills behind it looked a treat.
A bird call and then home. All in all a pretty fine day’s photography, and nice to have some chats with birdos. Worth the drive.