Evening run down to the Western Treatment Plant

***  Now I’ve made 200 posts in WordPress ***** Not a record, but will try to be a bit more consistent posting in 2014.

After the rain, the unpacking, the relocation, and all the attendant extra work, it was about time we had some refresh time out among the birds.

The weather people had predicted fine weather, light winds and that lovely ‘golden light’ beloved of all true landscape photographers, and the odd bird photographer or two.
Poor old Mr An Onymous had other things to attend to in the family department, so we packed up in the middle of the afternoon and headed out for the evening.  Nice now to be only a few minutes drive to the Point Wilson Road.

We went out to the Murtcaim(n) outlet along the spit.  The tide was outgoing, but there wasn’t a lot of activity.  Just two Whiskered Terns. (used to be called Marsh Terns, but after all these guys have whiskers, so Whiskered they are! – its mostly because they have white cheek feathers, so its not about whiskers at all so it seems).  They were both hunting in quite close to shore, because the tiny fish were feeding in along the outflow waters.   I soon worked out the pattern of their hunting and how they would swing down the beach about 100m and then work back to the outflow. Out, and then back down the beach again.  Set up the tripod, with the Wimberley Gimbal, and just enjoyed the antics.  The new 300mm f/2.8 works well at those distances and I soon got into a routine of the swinging and diving of the little birds.

After discovering a new found interest in Tern photography what happened next was pretty special.  Three Caspian Terns literally bolted down the beach line, crying out and looping around each other. They got to the outflow and began the most amazing performance of dance and acrobatics.  Its often easy to find them sitting basking in the sun, but the size of the wings outspread, and the speed of turn and rush at one another was just breath taking.  That it happened so close only made it all the more exhilarating.   Suddenly my interest in Tern photography skyrocketed. I’ve always appreciated the work of Rob Melone on Flickr. He has some of the best Tern pics and he seems to make it look so easy.   But now I really appreciate the work more.

See him here. http://www.flickr.com/photos/rjmelone/with/9650727418/

Next stop was the bird hide, and we found another two Whiskered Terns at work in a shallow pond.  Again once I’d figured out the pattern they seemed to repeat it, so photography was pretty exciting.

Whistling Kites and Black Kites in abundance on the road to The Borrow Pits, kept us busy as the sun began to take on its gold glow.  Looking good.

To make the day, we found a pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles down along the beach line, but they were gone before we could get close.

On the way out we found a Brown Falcon sitting in the sunshine preening and waiting.   It didn’t seem in any hurry to move on.  We were going to make a run up to Ryan’s Swamp, but stopped at the old Pumping Station.  And a Spotted Dove decided to sit on the roof ridge.  Highlighted in the golden sun against the old tiles, it was pretty much too much to ignore.  So I was working out the best way to place the bird in the frame, when it jumped.  Headed straight down the roof line in my direction.  And at the same time a Brown Falcon, claws down, came over the ridge line. It must have worked out a sneak attack strategy.  I didn’t see it coming, and EE was further around on the road way and didn’t see it coming either.  It must have low flown to get speed, then lifted straight up over the building to snatch the hapless dove.  In the case, it was a millisecond too slow, or the dove was a millisecond faster. I now had a viewfinder filled with Brown Falcon, but by the time I’d pressed the shutter, it had already raised the claws and was looking for an exit strategy.  I wonder if I’d not been there would it have pursed the dove.

Within about 15 seconds I’d regained my composure, the flacon was 100m away, and… The dove calmly landed back on the ridge line and proceeded to preen in the evening sunshine!

Not a bad way to spend a evening.

Brown Falcon in the afternoon light on The Spit.
Brown Falcon in the afternoon light on The Spit.
Whiskered Tern
Whiskered Tern
Got one.   A profitable strike
Got one. A profitable strike
Three Caspian Terns out for a day's play.
Three Caspian Terns out for a day’s play.
Close enough for a closeup
Close enough for a closeup
Whistling Kite touchdown.
Whistling Kite touchdown.
Whiskered Tern hunting on a small pool.
Whiskered Tern hunting on a small pool.
Too far, too dark, too late.  Still its a White-bellied Sea-eagle, with food.
Too far, too dark, too late. Still its a White-bellied Sea-eagle, with food.
Preening in the burnishing light. Brown Falcon unconcerned by our presence
Preening in the burnishing light. Brown Falcon unconcerned by our presence

4 thoughts on “Evening run down to the Western Treatment Plant

    1. G,day Rodger, not quite swallows, but they really do work out the autofocus. I think we were quite lucky to get the Caspian display. Gained a new respect for those doing great inflight. Talk more.


  1. Inspiring Some magnificent images here.. always love your images. Do you need an authorisation to go into the WTP or is it open to the public? Do you have to walk far?


    1. Hi Nina,
      The area is controlled by Melbourne Water. It is possible to gain an access key, ($25.00 a year, I think), or get a single access permit for a day, and go pick up a key and then return it.
      There is lots of info on the Melb Water site. The Birding route is along some of the bunds or roads about the plant. So we don’t have to walk at all, and can go most of the birding from within the car. And because of the number of snakes in the area, walking is a bit unnecessary.
      There are however a number of areas that are a bit clearer, and its possible to get out of the car and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The area is now a Ramsar Convention site, so it very well maintained and there is always ‘farm’ work going on.
      Its easily possible to drive a 100km or more on a full day. We generally only go either early morning or late afternoon, because the light suits photography better. Or in the rain as has been the case of late.
      Again its a working farm, whole area is just about as large as Phillip Island. But there is little shade and only a few trees along some of the roadways.

      If you need more details, or would like a ‘guided tour’ that might be arranged.



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