When Dreams come True

EE’s away at the moment. Shhh, don’t wake the kids.

And as I had a week to ‘myself’, dropped a note to Mr An Onymous and we agreed that WTP on Wednesday in the sunshine would work.  So we set off. Worried of course that without EE to spot things we’d like as not miss an elephant in the middle of the road.

On the way in along Paradise Road, we got our first surprise.  A big black shape sitting on the fence on the road ahead, but the light, isn’t that always the way was wrong and all we were going to get was a dark shape.  So, rather than sit and ponder, we decided to drive on. That’s when it exploded off the fence.  At first I thought it a “hobby”, a joke in there somewhere, and it was gone.  Then An called, “Its landed back on the fence behind us.”.  Ok, let’t turn the car around and head back as now the light will be ‘over your left shoulder dear, said my mother”, and it was, and the colour was great, and lo and behold it was a Black Falcon.  Very elegant and impressive.   Might be a good day after all.

The tide was out, and we went along the coast, plenty of ducks of various varieties, but no shore birds at all.  Mr An, has been wanting to spot a White-bellied Sea Eagle for quite a number of trips down there, but no such luck. Interesting to contemplate but when EE and I go it alone we see one or two regularly.  Sorry about that.   So we scoured the sea, bunds, grasses and ponds, but no sign of a Sea Eagle. What sort of a tour guide am I?
The Brown Falcons must have recovered from hunting season and were out in force and we followed one from post to post along the beachroad, and I did my best to get the car in a position for An to get the best results.  Pull car over sharply on an angle and he gets a good shot out the window. I get a shot of his elbow and part of his 300m lens  Them’s the breaks.

We took the road down to the Spit, or Murtcain (m) depending on whose telling the story.

On down to the Murtcaim (n) outflow, and the tide was in, but a pair of Black-shouldered Kites amused us for awhile until one snagged a mouse and then landed on a box thorn, and of course I just had to get a shot. Nice in the afternoon light.

We drank tea and pondered that it was indeed a Magic Place.

On the way back along the road, I was checking each fence post for another Brown Falcon, when off in the distance on a gate post, was a ‘HUGE’ white blob. Focus binos, and … It was the elusive White-bellied Sea Eagle.

Dilemma: A. Drive down fast, and the bird will fly.  B. Drive down slowly, the bird will fly. C.Drive down a bit, then walk, the bird will fly.  We opted for C. Just about ready to get out of the car, and even though we’re still a long way away, the bird threw.   Now normally they will always fly away from our position. But. Not this time, it slowly got a bit of height and then drifted casually down past our position with the sun “thanks, Mum” over our shoulders and close enough for detail.
The D800 to my left was going berserk. Finally a spot disappeared in the distance, and we regained out collective breaths.  Wow.  Big smiles all round, I’m back in the flavour of the month Tour guide handbook, and the D800 is smokin’ writing out the images to the card.
Talk about fill your dreams.  So he’s got enough images of a White-bellied Sea Eagle to fill his quota on the photo site, and I’ve got a story, and a satisfied photographer.
Mr An Onymus no doubt will post the images on his photo stream  “Na-na-ne-nana”, on the ANTI-social networking website,  In_cognito. 

But, there was more to come. As we headed out the gate, a Nankeen Kestrel, landed on a post by the road way, and then dropped into the grass just in front of us, and rose with a mouse in tow.  It happened as quickly as that.  Settling in to consume the mouse, it suddenly was attacked by a marauding Black Falcon. Kestrel takes mouse and flees, but the Black Flacon was all over it, and completely out flew the hapless Kestrel.  Out gunned, she dropped the mouse and fled.  The Black Falcon must have claimed the prize as it too took off in the other direction

Probably enough for one day.  So we headed for home in the late evening light

Black Falcon
Black Falcon
Three Whistling Kites on the fence in the distance. They always are.
Three Whistling Kites on the fence in the distance. They always are.
Lovely Brown Falcon who played fence hopping as we drove along the roadway
Lovely Brown Falcon who played fence hopping as we drove along the roadway
A Black-Shouldered Kite with its mouse finding radar
A Black-Shouldered Kite with its mouse finding radar
Seen one you've seen 'em all.  Just another White-bellied Sea Eagle.
Seen one you’ve seen ’em all. Just another White-bellied Sea Eagle.
Nankeen Kestrel, just about to enjoy her evening snack. She is already aware of the approaching marauding Black Falcon
Nankeen Kestrel, just about to enjoy her evening snack. She is already aware of the approaching marauding Black Falcon
Swamp Harrier doing just that. Harriering.
Swamp Harrier doing just that. Harriering.

 

And just in case you don’t get over to the Anti-Social Networking site, IN_Congnito    here is a cut from Mr An’s photo stream, “Na-na-ne-nana”.

(C) 2013 Mr. An Onymous
(C) 2013 Mr. An Onymous

 

White-winged Chough nest building

The Flame Robin flock seems to have moved on out of the Woodlands Backpaddock area. That figures, as we have access to it this year, (unlike being locked out last year), but for reasons only birds understand, the majority have moved elsewhere.
Given a reasonable day, I decided to have a bit of a walk further afield and perhaps track down some of the new feeding areas.

But no one said anything about ‘The Frost’  as I drove out just on sunrise, the fields were as they say in the classics White.  And when I started to walk over said fields the grass underneath crackled.  So put on the ski hat, gloves and scarf.  And still the cold cuts in.

I was going to ply my trade along some back tracks, kangaroo pads and a few areas where the old gums have opened up the area for grass and moss beds.  But.

No robins. No noise, no Thornbills, no robins. In the background the beautiful and unmistakable mellow descending whistle of the oboe like call of White-winged Choughs. I really like these birds, but have so few even ok photos of them. Too hard as they are black, dig around in the undergrowth and never seem to be out in the open for me.  The calls indicated that at least three separate groups were at work in the forest ahead.

To get to a new location, I had to cut along a vehicle track and then enter a well groomed Kangaroo pad.  As I was walking down the road, in the sunshine ahead, I saw a White-winged Chough on the roadway.  Then it turned and flew, with a beak full of mud.  They build a communal nest out of mud.  It is a large round pot shape, and really quite a work of art.  They also communal nest the eggs, and have long discussions over whose turn it is to sit next.
Now, the light was all wrong for me, and I had no idea where the nest might be being built, although some trees are more likely candidates than others, so I moved past the mud seep on the side of the track, found a suitable out of sight location with some good strong front lighting, set up the camera, and waited.   And waited.  No doubt the passing by had not gone unnoticed.

Then after about 5 minutes some black shapes wafted through the undergrowth on the other side of the road. The committee had decided to check me out.  And they sat.  So did I.  After a few more long minutes, one moved out across the road to take a peek from behind, and one moved up closer.  And sat. So did I.

Given I seemed harmless enough, the consensus was back to work, and they wafted down on to the grass to pick up some mud gathering implements.  Choughs, I quickly discovered don’t just gulp a beakful of mud and take off.  They carefully prepare some grass, twigs, etc and then dab it into the mud, much like a painter would do to prepare a brush,  And not just any mud.  It has to be the correct consistency.  Not that hard stuff over there on the edge, nor that really sloppy stuff near the water, but this fine, sticky stuff just near the weeds.  And dab they do.  And twist it about, and then dab again, until that’s about as much as can be loaded up, then it’s off to the nest.

They also seem to be able to work with the consistency.  A little bit of the hard stuff, blended with the softer mud, wrapped in more grass, given a quick dash in the water, apply more sticky mud.  It’s a craftsmanship that was as much fascinating as perplexing to work out.

After about half an hour work stopped for awhile, and I took a quick look for the nest.  Not to harass them while they are nesting, but to be able to avoid the area and give them the peace that a nursery deserves. But, to no avail.  Cleverly hidden high up in a gum somewhere near, I suspect.

The supervisor came along for a bit of a look at proceedings. You could tell it was the supervisor. No mud on it.

So with their lovely cries ringing in my ears I went back to the more mundane job of looking for Flame Robins.

Nest building is communal work.
Nest building is communal work.
With a good bill full, its time to go.
With a good bill full, its time to go.
You take 1 part hard mud, 2 parts sticky mud, a bunch of grass and dab.
You take 1 part hard mud, 2 parts sticky mud, a bunch of grass and dab.
Just right for nursery
Just right for nursery
The longer bits of grass must be used for binding the work together.
The longer bits of grass must be used for binding the work together.
A runup to get airborne is needed.
A runup to get airborne is needed.
Another load of building material is airborne
Another load of building material is airborne
The Supervisor. See, mud doen't stick to it.
The Supervisor. See, mud doen’t stick to it.
Why are they called "White-winged" Choughs. Now you know.
Why are they called “White-winged” Choughs. Now you know.

Add a little Sunshine, and enjoy

After the past couple of weeks of somewhat inclement, to downright ugly weather, we had been thinking about another day down to the WTP.  Not in the fog, most said, so we looked with interest at the little icons that the tv folk put up for weather, and even went to BOM to get a broader picture.  Tuesday looked the go, but, as usual with all good plans, important things came up, and so Tuesday came and went.  However Wednesday promised even better, and a nice *definition – not to strong* northerly wind to go with it. Which meant a little interior warmth coming in, so goodbye fog.

We picked up Mr An Anoymous and headed down for the afternoon.  As predicted the wind was blowing toward the water and the big birds seemed to delight in it, and it quickly became a raptor day out.  Which is good, as I’ve been wanting to give the new Wimberley Gimbal head a real work out, and see if it makes me look like a birds inflight photographer.   I’ve raved about it before, but now with good reason.  I delayed, I think I’ve said this before, buying the real thing just because they are expensive.  And they are.  But, you’ve got to think laterally on this, one Wimberley will last a lifetime, produce rock solid pictures day in day out, and save your tired old arms from holding the long lens up, and then just at the crucial point nerve jitters sets in and he images are blurred.  Yep I know Image Stabilisation, Vibration Reduction, get with the times mate,  move on in life, spend even more money.  But, good as VR is, its as many limitations as it has advantages, and I’ve really grown to like the 500mm f/4 especially on the D7100- with its real focusing mechanism.

It looked however a bit quiet as we rolled down Paradise Road. A quick look for the missing Northern Shoveller, but no sightings.

We did find a large flock of Pink-eared Ducks in a pond up toward The Borrow Pit, and settled down behind a couple of small trees near the waters edge and 15 minutes later had some great shots of the ducks as they paddled past, filtering water at a great rate of knots.  I’d not really noted before, but the water is a constant stream, flowing out just at the base of the bill.  They must sift a lot of water in one day.

To our amazement a little further along the line we found about 30 Black Kites in dance in the air.  Most looked like juveniles, but masters of the stiff breeze they were and me and the Wimberely were in Inflight heaven.  After so many passes by the birds my arms were tired only from pushing the camera around. Great start.

Then a Brown Falcon decided that if it mixed with a flock of Ibis, then it might not be noticed.  The Brown Falcons seem to be a bit of target practice for the bigger birds at the moment. Geoff Main on Flickr has a series of Kite vs Falcon, and there is another report of a Black Falcon taking the prey from a Brown. So maybe this Brown sought a bit of shelter.

Further on, and a Whistling Kite was making short work of someone’s family member and calling out to all and sundry to announce its feeding.

Some Cape Barren Geese along Lake Borrie kept us busy for awhile an even had the male come advancing toward us wings displaying.  Don’t think he liked the little grey car.

And out on the Murtcaim (n) outflow the four Brolas made a brief appearance until just about being run over by a cross country rally expert in a 4WD, not sure if he was a birdo or just needed to get home early. Hope he made it. The Brolga took off and went to a safer paddock.

Back along Beach Road, and it was the turn off a pair of Black-shouldered Kites to show they were serious and one took a mouse pretty much infront of the car. Three people with cameras going ‘Ohhhh”, not shot taken.

Then just as the sun was setting and we were already in going home mode, around the corner on Paradise Road. A Hobby sitting in what was definitely the last of the evening sun. And the light was gone.  It however let me get the car up close enough so that a shot or two through the open window was possible.
Not a bad day to be out in the sun

As Mr A says, paraphrasing me, quoting him, “Any day out photographing birds is a good day,  if you get to see birds its a bonus.”
We had the bonus.

Pink-eared Ducks hunting in  line.
Pink-eared Ducks hunting in line.
Brown Falcon
Brown Falcon
Whistling Kite on prey
Whistling Kite on prey
Black Kite, one of about 30 in a flock.
Black Kite, one of about 30 in a flock.
White faced Heron in flight with neck tucked up
White faced Heron in flight with neck tucked up
Nice catch.  Black-shouldered Kite taking a late evening snack.
Nice catch. Black-shouldered Kite taking a late evening snack.
Mr Percival's relation sitting in the late even sunshine, warming it all up for the night.
Mr Percival’s relation sitting in the late even sunshine, warming it all up for the night.
Hobby in the very last rays of the evening sun. Can only imagine how good these might have been if we'd been a few minutes earlier.
Hobby in the very last rays of the evening sun. Can only imagine how good these might have been if we’d been a few minutes earlier.

Here’s one of the Hobby in silhouette by Mr An Onymous.

Hobby against the evening sky. (C) 2013 Mr An. Onymous
Hobby against the evening sky. (C) 2013 Mr An. Onymous