Wagtail Construction Zone Update

As reported previously, all three wagtail pairs lost their nests (would have been eggs at that stage), about 2 weeks back.  Not sure how, but the number of Kookaburras, Ravens, Grey Shrike-thrush and other predators would have made short work of it all.

So the good news of course ,is you can’t keep a good wagtail down, and after a little searching in the morning we found all three hard at work and one who had really jumped the gun and had the nest, and the chicks, at least two, hatched.

Well done Mum’s.  Let’s hope for a little more compassion from your neighbours.

Just a step ahead. This one is feeding some very tiny beaks just visible.  She also took away a feces   sack
Just a step ahead. This one is feeding some very tiny beaks just visible. She also took away a feces sack
Hard at work still, but again the nest is really well stitched to the branch.
Hard at work still, but again the nest is really well stitched to the branch.
Repelling Boarders. This bird was taking no chances and would have just about been impossible to get out. No doubt the little claws are gripping very tightly inside. Not the extra strong binding to the branch on this one.
Repelling Boarders. This bird was taking no chances and would have just about been impossible to get out. No doubt the little claws are gripping very tightly inside.
Not the extra strong binding to the branch on this one.

 

Returning to old familiar territory

Due to weather, family, and associated activities, I’ve not had a chance to be out and about for a few days.  Nothing to do with the Garden Gnome, so let’s blame the weather.

Richard A had told of a pair of Sacred Kingfishers at the Somerton Road Carpark, and as these were among some of the very first birds I photographed, and in the area where I one morning found myself getting serious about Bird Photography, I was quite looking forward to finding a bit of time to go look see.

I like this area in the early morning as the sun runs  across the landscape of old River Red Gums in a really spectacular way, and the Parks Vic people have done a super job of keeping the feel, but also opening up some parts of the area for parking and picnics. The advantage is plenty of sunlight getting into the trees and making the photography just a tad easier.

I used to spend a lot of time some years back out there photographing the River Red Gums in all their glory.  Some of you may even remember filum, well that’s what I started out there with.  Black and White, as I remember (dimly).

So when the daylight started to touch the horizon this morning, and I could still see a few stars and the moon, it was going to be a clear morning with some sunlight, and so not even thinking twice, I left and was out in the park just as the early light began to caress the landscape.

At that hour of the morning the gates are locked, and so I parked outside and ventured in.  No sooner had I managed to get through the fence, than the familiar “Pee, pee pee”, of a Sacred Kingfisher welcomed me to the park.  It was sort of like stepping back in time, (only now the old bones creaked).

Took me a split second to find first one, and then the other. Pretty much where Richard had described.   They did a number of circuits of the lager trees and we three had a merry time.

I then went up the hill to the top of Woodlands Hill and looked out along the rolling green paddocks.   It does look a treat with some light on it.

While I was breakfasting, some young Eastern Grey Kangaroo bucks decided to have a bit of fun and play at kangaroo boxing.  For the males, this can be a extremely serious business, and sometimes with deadly consequences.  The starring punch is to set back on the tail which increases the height, and then kick forward with the huge back legs. The tail then acts like a spring and propels the feet forward for a direct blow to the other one’s stomach.  With two big bruisers, the noise can be quite alarming.  The danger is also that the claws are really sharp, and a serious injury could easily be inflicted.   Its not uncommon to see the big blokes with multiple scars to show how dangerous it is.

But for the little dudes, its just play, and so nothing more than pride gets damaged.

Some Weebills and a few Yellow Thornbills among the She oaks made for some interesting subjects, just trying to get them out of the fronds on the she oak was the biggest challenge.

Back at the carpark, the Kingfishers were hunting, and some Brown-headed Honeyeaters were feeding some very hungry youngsters.

Nice to take a trip back along the old paths and see the changes.

Announcing his return this Sacred Kingfisher flew from tree to tree with his loud call reverberating among the gums.
Announcing his return this Sacred Kingfisher flew from tree to tree with his loud call reverberating among the gums.
The amazing aqua colours show up well on the back view
The amazing aqua colours show up well on the back view
Eastern Rosella, one of many parrots for the morning.
Eastern Rosella, one of many parrots for the morning.
"Let's play a nice game of Kick one another"
“Let’s play a nice game of Kick one another”
Locked together its really a matter of who gets the best position
Locked together its really a matter of who gets the best position
Rearing up on that huge tail gives a wound spring that carries the legs forward with incredible power.
Rearing up on that huge tail gives a wound spring that carries the legs forward with incredible power.
Yellow Thornbill among the She-oak leaflets.
Yellow Thornbill among the She-oak leaflets.

 

 

Good Chough Hunting

Yesterday in spite of the high winds and the heat we ventured out to Woodlands for the morning.  We’ve taken to coming into the park through an open area and following a couple of Kangaroo pads along the redgums and sticky wattles.  Just a nice way to walk with the spring grasses in full colour.

Just crossing over from one track to another we came across, first one group of White-winged Choughs, and then a second smaller family of perhaps 7 or or so birds.  Both groups had several young and I walked back to enjoy a few moments with the larger group, and discovered their young were two recent fledglings, because they still have lots of down on their heads and backs, and one older juvenile.

The gregarious nature of these birds and the communal way they nest extends it seems to the way they nursery the young.  The young were fed by which ever bird managed to find a tidbit to attract one of the young.  And attracted they were.  The other thing that I noted was the steady stream of chatter that they put up as they hunted about, and most of it seemed directed at the younger birds.  Several adults would stand by and chatter away at the young bird as it picked its way over a log, or was scratching at the base of a tree.

The big thing for the day for me however was that even though Choughs mainly walk or fly away if approached, these birds were unconcerned.  After a few warning calls, they simply went back to looking after the young.  I sat on a log and watched for about 10 minutes or more, and then two of the adults came over an worked around the area I was sitting.  Completely ignoring me. I took this as a hint, and as they moved, I followed.  In the end I was sort of in the middle of a Chough hunting party.  They didn’t fly or run away, and if I moved one way or the other, they would note it, and then move around me.

After about 30 minutes or so of this, they met up in an open area with the second smaller group.  They seemed run up to each other and do ‘group hugs’, with wings outstretched much shrill cooing and a kind of family reunion meet and greet.   After a few minutes of the wing waving, calling and Chough Staring, the groups moved off, and I followed the second group and again they didn’t take much notice of me.   This smaller group had two recent fledglings.

At one point a rabbit broke from the grass (that would have been my fault), and there was a huge outcry of alarm and some birds taking to the air, but it quickly settled and they dropped back down to hunt near me.  They didn’t do any alarm calls as I moved among  them.

So after about an hour of Chough hunting, I am no more familiar with the family activities, don’t understand any more of Chough language, nor behaviour, but at least they were relaxed enough to allow me to get close and make some nice portraits.

The other thing I learned about the white wing feathers is that they are black feathers with a white insert. The white is surrounded by black tips along the edges.

Much lecturing and wing spreading to get the message across. Perhaps like all kids, it wasn't getting the message.
Much lecturing and wing spreading to get the message across. Perhaps like all kids, it wasn’t getting the message.
Learning the art of finding food amongst the leaf litter
Learning the art of finding food amongst the leaf litter
Recent fledgling with its brown eye and baby feathers.
Recent fledgling with its brown eye and baby feathers.
Young bird being lectured in the finer points of Choughness.
Young bird being lectured in the finer points of Choughness.
A juvenile, still has the brown eye colour
A juvenile, still has the brown eye colour
Recent fledgling, still carrying baby down
Recent fledgling, still carrying baby down
White-winged Chough "Meet and Greet". Much wingwaving, group hugging and chatter.
White-winged Chough “Meet and Greet”. Much wingwaving, group hugging and chatter.

A morning at Goschen Bushland Reserve.

We had to take a trip back up to the family acres during the week. (Astute readers will see the euphemism in there).

On the way back we left early in the morning from Swan Hill, and after some family duties (again an euphemism), we headed on down to the Goschen Bushland Reserve. This little clump of trees and shrubs is a truly outstanding area for birds and no matter what time of year, there will always be something to find.   We took the back way down which gets us onto the Woorinen Road and is a very pleasant drive among the trees and wheat lands, if somewhat dusty.

After about three hours, (no euphemism in there), we had seen an array of birds and EE had nailed some new species.  Including the Rainbow Bee Eater.

Top of the day however was a pair of Hooded Robins. (those who’ve followed here before will know there is pair we’ve photographed there previously), and they had only in the past day or so fledged at least two young. We got a good look at one of the young, but in the end Mum was getting quite distressed and doing a ‘broken wing’ display on the ground so we moved out of the area.

Next turned up the Rainbow Bee Eaters.  These are the most stunningly coloured birds and the metallic colours simply sparkle in the light.  I’d not noticed before how hard that is to record with the camera.  Plenty of White-browed Wood-swallows were nesting, and I managed to locate a female on a nest. Well to be truthful, I was stalking a Hooded Robin, and walked right past her nest.  She quickly regained composure, I took a shot and moved away.   I really dislike disturbing them.  There were also plenty of Masked Wood-swallows as circulating as well, and no doubt nests to looked after.  A few Brown Treecreepers and some Singing Honeyeaters, lots of White-plumed, and EE remarked its funny to drive all this way to photograph whats in our backyard.
And of course as is the case, the Black Honeyeater was no where to be seen.  Another chance another time.

As we drove out we spotted some young new fledged Willie Wagtails, and by the road way several White-browed Babblers, but it was time to go and so we moved on.

Just as we crossed the railway line at Kerang, on a most conspicuous tree, we noted a Wedge-tailed Eagle and a nest. Too much traffic behind to stop and go back, so we had to be content with what we had, and journey on to Eaglehawk, and the Eaglehawk Bakery for a “Mulga Bill Pie”.  Worth the drive. (No euphemism in there)

Most elegant and distinctive Hooded Robin, male.
Most elegant and distinctive Hooded Robin, male.
"Leave me alone".  Caught in the act on her nest
“Leave me alone”. Caught in the act on her nest
Hooded Robin, family group. Junior thinks its feeding time.
Hooded Robin, family group. Junior thinks its feeding time.
Very annoyed female Hooded Robin, she was most protective of her recently flown young.
Very annoyed female Hooded Robin, she was most protective of her recently flown young.
I often try but hardly succeed, to get a sharp shot of the White-browed Woodswallow.
I often try but hardly succeed, to get a sharp shot of the White-browed Woodswallow.
Rainbow Bee Eater. The streamers in the tail suggest a male
Rainbow Bee Eater. The streamers in the tail suggest a male
New fledged Willie Wagtail
New fledged Willie Wagtail

Willie Wagtail Construction Company

******* Update 20th October. *******  Sad to report that the pair had lost the nest.  As well as two of their close neighbours.  Probably Ravens, or perhaps Kookaburras.   Willies are making new nests as I write.

Over the past couple of weeks the number of Willie Wagtail pairs have increased in the area.  Each of them are well into their preparation for nesting, and several are actually well advanced in the siting and construction of their first nests.

Within about 100 metres there are 3 pairs all hard at work.  This pair is in the same area as one’s we photographed last season, and she managed 5 young off one nest.  No reason to doubt they are not the same birds.  Will be interesting to follow along.

The pair both work on the nest, and a big part of the preparation is the gathering of spider web.  It’s the web that binds the whole nest together, and also binds it to the branch. So the first job is to put in a good foundation of Spider web. And given she gets it right round the branch is something to consider as a work of art at the very least.

So here is  a few days of work from this pair.  Once they figure out we are not immediate threat, the work just goes on around us.   Try not to frustrate them too much and so I site the camera and attach radio receiver and use a radio remote control from about 50 metres back.  That way at least they aren’t worried too much by the human presence.

All loaded up with fresh cobweb its time to get a good foundation laid.
All loaded up with fresh cobweb its time to get a good foundation laid.
Wrapping the web around the branch is an art form.
Wrapping the web around the branch is an art form.
Next a good first floor goes in.
Next a good first floor goes in.
Both male and female work on the nest building and both sit on the eggs
Both male and female work on the nest building and both sit on the eggs
As the building progresses, its pushed and poked to give just the right fit inside.
As the building progresses, its pushed and poked to give just the right fit inside.
Its alway accomplished with a lot of chatter.
Its alway accomplished with a lot of chatter.

WTP on a hot afternoon

Took an afternoon to revisit the WTP, but as the weather has wont to be of late, it turned first into a very hot afternoon, and then a very dreary hot overcast evening.  So the chances of excellent photos diminished by the moment.

Did manage the Brolgas down along the Murtcain (m) _ love the double spelling.   Also found a pair  of Cape Barren Geese, but without any young, so have concluded that they must have lost the clutch they were attending.

No real display of Raptors and try as we might we didn’ t locate the Black-shouldered Kites nest along Beach Road but that just gives us a chance for return.

The waders are starting to return in good numbers and we saw several Ruddy Turnstones up on 280S hiding among several hundred Whiskered Terns.

In the end the weather beat us, and so we beat a hasty retreat to home.

Brolga pair. I was so excited I forgot to level the camera.
Brolga pair. I was so excited I forgot to level the camera.
Whiskered Terns bathing.  They seemed to take delight in dropping down on one another in the water
Whiskered Terns bathing. They seemed to take delight in dropping down on one another in the water
One legged stance on this Spoonbill kept us amused.
One legged stance on this Spoonbill kept us amused.
No its not a Spotted Pacific Gull, it must have been somewhere to get oil on its crown.
No its not a Spotted Pacific Gull, it must have been somewhere to get oil on its crown.
Cape Barren Geese
Cape Barren Geese

An Open Day at the Western Treatment Plant

Realise I’ve been very tardy of late with posts in here, but we have as they say been somewhat occupied with other activities. So much so that I spent 10 days at home with the Garden Gnome, cleaning, raking, moving, chopping and other things that those with gardening tendencies delight in. Me, I’d rather be behind a camera in the scrub, cuppa at the ready, and the breeze flowing though the trees and the sunshine making it final part of its long journey down through the openings in the tall tree canopy.

But. It was not to be, and the work around the house, inside and out had to proceed, and with good reason, as will become clear in the next few weeks.
In the meantime, had the chance along with EE and Mr An Onymous, and Ms  In Cognito to be hosted by Melbourne Water at an open day down at the Western Treatment Plant.

The day consisted of several streams, and we chose the “Wetlands” and the “Historic” tour.  And Melb Water provided the folk to talk about it all, and to show us about the plant in really great big tourist buses.  And to explain along the way the various operations and  the planning and development of what the plant is doing and going to do in the future.  Super.

So much fun to sit in a bus and be driven about the plant, downside was not being able to stop for every interesting bird that went by, but did learn lots of things.  Even got to see my mate Helmut from Flickr on the side of the road, and got everyone in the bus to wave to him.  Not sure anybody other than me understood what was happening, including Helmut, but hey!  I thought it a good thing at the time

After a bbq lunch, thanks to some hard working service group folk, we were back in a bus for the afternoons foray, which covered the historical side of things.  It took us to see some first inhabitants special areas and the work that is being done to keep the heritage and open it up for access to the local people of the area as a park and meeting place. What impressed me most by all this was the opportunity to develop the land and keep it pretty much  a ‘meeting place’ as in the past, but now as a part of a modern housing development.

The highlight of the day was a visit to the old township inside the plant of Cocoroc.  Funny when you Googlemap things that is the identity given to area for shots taken around the eastern end of the plant.
Cocoroc was a township of about 500 people who were the workers in the plant. Known euphemistically as “Water men”, they controlled the flow of “stuff” around the plant and how it was distributed out on to the run off paddocks.   A full working township with bus stops, swimming pool, town centre hall, an historic water tank, and a football field. Having played the odd game of country footy in me time, I was pretty excited by  the chance to walk out on to the old ground and imagine the games that would have been played there.  A beautiful Black Kite played in the the breeze overhead and made it all that more special.

The old water tank was originally part of the water supply system for Melbourne before the Yan Yean Reservoir was opened in the late 1800s.  The tower used to stand on the  top of the hill near where the Eye and Ear hospital is today.   It was moved to Cocoroc, and was part of the fire defence system.  It has been restored by Melb Water and now is in pristine condition and the area under the tank is to be used as part of the information centre in the future.  Super

If the plans go ahead, then in the not to distant future Cocoroc might well have a revival as Melb Water has plans to relocate is Information Centre and some of the operations out to this location and the town will indeed be part of the heritage restored in the plant.

A bus stop for a look at the variety of wader birds in the plant.  Many have just made the trip back from summer in Siberia.
A bus stop for a look at the variety of wader birds in the plant. Many have just made the trip back from summer in Siberia.
Male Superb Fairy Wren
Male Superb Fairy Wren
A lovely magpie who quietly carolled at me as I moved closer for a portrait.
A lovely magpie who quietly carolled at me as I moved closer for a portrait.
Detail of the water tank at Cocoroc
Detail of the water tank at Cocoroc
Detail of the support arches for the water tank.
Detail of the support arches for the water tank.
Cocoroc Detail.  Showing the signs of ageing.
Cocoroc Detail. Showing the signs of ageing.
Cocoroc footy sheds. One can only image how much talk, noise and liniment are connected with the history.
Cocoroc footy sheds. One can only image how much talk, noise and liniment are connected with the history.