Diary Day #4 Out along the the River Road to Murraydale

Family gig took up much of the morning, so another trip to Goschen was pretty much ruled out.

“Gardener Ed,  (he works the gardens at the Murray Downs Resort), has some birds you should go and see.” So a chat with Ed, and yes its true he does have birds, and yes we would be welcome to go look see, so 11am, on the dot Mr An Onymous and I assembled in the carpark and then followed Ed back to look at his collection.  And a fine find it was too.  An was pretty happy as he managed to score a couple of tail feathers from Red-tailed Cockatoos.

Ed lives out at Woorinen South, and we’d only driven through there the previous day, so now we did the “explorer” thing and drove round to see the Lake, the Football Ground, and the Water supply. Pretty exciting stuff.  Even saw where I’d skinned me knee as a little tacker climbing in an old Malle Pine.

Now this sort of driving may seem a bit out of place and fraught with the possibility of getting lost, but the area was originally blocked off for soldier settler blocks, and so the roads all either run north/south or east/west, so its really just driving on a checkerboard.   We rounded a corner and there in the sky was a Black Kite, first for the day, so pretty  excited we stopped, got out and started to photograph the bird as it leisurely sweep over the crops.  First mistake. Second mistake was doing it just outside the driveway of the local Neighbourhood Watch.  Before we’d managed to get 2 frames exposed, said NW was in the vehicle and coming down the track to see, what  we were doing.  Now I’ve little time for explaining to folk that don’t want to listen that “We’re photographing birds, Mate!” That is NOT, I have discovered the answer to the question of “What the …..##$%% do you think you’re doing, and what .###%%% right do you have to do it here!!!!!&&&&###” 

Now I’ve also been made aware it’s not much point debating the issue of the lack(?) of “Bill of Rights” in Australia, and that the correct lawful response to such demands is,”I believe this to be public land, and as you have not identified yourself as a member of a  constituted law enforcement agency, I am minding my own business.”  Too may verbs and nouns in that sentence for your average NW.  Besides which, NW  carry things like shotguns and work on a different set of rules “Shot first and ask questions afterward“.

So with a quick flourish of cameras, we abandoned the Black Kite and resumed the safety of the car.  NW proceeded slowly, (almost wrote menacingly) out of the driveway and headed in our direction. I slowly, and politely, turned back on the roadway and looked straight ahead as we passed him.  NW went down to the corner, (read above if you are geographically embarrassed at this point)  turned around, and slowly followed us back along the road.  Then after stopping at his gate to be sure we were really leaving the area, turned back into said  driveway.  Mr An and I pondered that at least we’d given him something to do for the morning.

Enough excitement in that area, so we proceeded to cross the Murray Valley Highway, and were now deep into Murraydale.  This area was for the most part still well watered, and the home of a thriving dairy and beef industry.

The roads running east/west eventually run into the Murray River; only 5-10 Kilometres away as the Crow flies. So we tried several of the roads to see if we could find some good views along the river.
First up we found a pair of Australian Kestrels, hard at work trying to move on (I believe) a Brown Falcon.  So it was pretty certain they had young in the area.

We were discussing the merits of Round Hay bales vs Square Hay bales, (You can see immediately what a wonderful travelling companion I have), when a Whistling Kite made an appearance over the tree line. More stopping, but no NW this time, so all was well.   Now some of the tracks don’t run to the river.  They end up in a farmer’s front yard, so while Mr An looked for birds, I tried to keep us from visiting long lost members of the family.   EE’s family had a long association with Murraydale.  The elders of the clan had worked a dairy farm as far back as the 1930s, and several of the latter part of the clan had run as share–farmers out here.  One still had a caravan parked on the riverside on one of the properties.  On the other hand trying to explain, “We’re photographing birds, Mate!, and we are related to…… “, or “Oh, I went to school with your brother Peter ,” didn’t seem to have any more ring of likely success, so I tried to avoid the driveways. Besides, farmers have bigger guns, and dogs with really, really sharp teeth.

We turned on to The River Road, and went past the Abattoir. “Why are we going down here?” quizzically asked.    “For Black Kites’, I replied.  “But there’s hardly likely to be any down here”.  As one black kite flew by the front windscreen, then another lifted over the road, and by the time I’d stopped we had 5 or more Kites circling quietly over the road.  “Oh”.

We eased on down the road to the turn-around area for the stock-trucks, and then climbed up on to the river bank.    Then. Out of the trees on the other side, a White-bellied Sea Eagle threw, gathered speed across the river and went over the treetops above us.  I am pretty convinced it’s done this manoeuvre more than once, as it flew across the paddock, found a thermal, and in seconds was heavenwards.  Taking with it the flotilla of Black Kites.  Again, have to say, not sure they were in pursuit, as it was a no contest, those huge wings just pick up the air.  The grins on both of our faces said it all.  I gained points as bird finder and expedition leader, and Mr An had a new story to tell of Sea Eagles over the inland Murray.

Update***The shots show it in brown plumage and its certainly a juvenile.

Time for a coffee, and after circling a roundabout  of decision making, both figuratively and literally, we were soon reunited with family and I enjoyed a Vienna Coffee and fired up Flickr on the Macbook Air.

Black Kite at Woorinen South
Black Kite at Woorinen South
Pair of Kestrels trying to dislodge an unwelcome visitor.
Pair of Kestrels trying to dislodge an unwelcome visitor.
Pied Butcherbird who gave us a great concert of its carolling.
Pied Butcherbird who gave us a great concert of its carolling.
Whistling Kite. Note the 'double tail'. Perhaps its moulting a new tail.
Whistling Kite. Note the ‘double tail’. Perhaps its moulting a new tail.
Whistling Kite.
Whistling Kite.
Black Kite, one of many
Black Kite, one of many
Rocket Express.  With a staggering turn of speed this White-bellied Sea Eagle swung across the river, gained height, and then picked up a thermal.
Rocket Express. With a staggering turn of speed this White-bellied Sea Eagle swung across the river, gained height, and then picked up a thermal.
White-bellied Sea Eagle and friend.  Not sure it was much of a contest for the  Sea Eagle.  Game over.
White-bellied Sea Eagle and friend. Not sure it was much of a contest for the Sea Eagle. Game over.
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Writing on Choughedness

Warning, this post is full of anthropomorphic observations, if the thought of creatures having feelings and thought processes like humans is not your scene, click away now.

I make no effort to hide the fact, that “I like Choughs”.  Their communal actions and activities are a constant source of inspiration and amusement to me.

Mr An Onymous and I had a bit of time after dinner while everyone was taking their evening dip in the Resort Pool, or sipping on those drinks with the cute little umbrellas attached. We thought a walk across the golf course open forest area would be a good way watch the sun go down.  And we’d seen some White-winged Choughs there the night before, so armed with the photography hardware we sallied forth. Bumped into one of the Resort staff who pointed out where the 4 or 5 Eastern Grey Kangaroos come down to feed on the grasses, and I didn’t have the heart to explain that back home they are in plague proportion and considered a nuisance.  Still, the right words. “Oh, Kangaroos, wow, that is amazing, fancy seeing them in the bush”, seemed to work.

We very soon found a family group feeding across an open paddock, and they were engrossed in digging down into the sandy soil to extract a white prize. (no not a golf ball).  It might have been a grub, or a shell, or a seed. Just hard to tell.  But it seemed to me they were able to pinpoint where to dig. It wasn’t random.

One found a top from a take-away coffee, and seemed to be amused by it, and went to no length of trouble to make sure no one took it away from it.  In the end, no coffee, no food, and just left it standing.  Those engaged in the digging would find a ‘white thing’ and then run across the paddock to be the first to pop it into the ever waiting beaks of the 3 or 4 young they were looking after.  Much wing folding, spreading and Chough babbling accompanied the activity.   By now they treated us with disdain, and just carried on feeding.
Then with a clatter, they all headed for the forest.  Mr An and I looked at each other, but couldn’t conclude why they left, so, we followed.

Light was now really fading, we found them inside the forest having met up with first one other company, and then another, up to 40 birds in total I guesstimated.

They took to the trees for a quick preening session, and then reassembled on the ground.  What happened next is best seen from the photos.

3 birds seemed to take centre stage and call the meeting to order. Then one of the others “St Paul”,  delivered the “Vespers” message. To our amazement, the 40 or so birds all stood round in a rough half circle and seemed to listen intently to what was being said.  Meeting over the three families began to prepare to roost for the night.
This involved much wing hugging, chatting and preening.  It also resulted in the very first Chough Scuffle I’ve seen.   One bird was trying  to go with a particular group, and it became obvious that its perfume, politeness, dress sense or general demeanour were unacceptable by the group.  A real scuffle followed and one emerged with a beakful of feathers! Disgruntled the looser skulked away to find some where else to roost for the night.
All the others in the group wigwagged appreciation and then flew off to find a spot.

Now finding a spot to roost sounds easy, but not for Choughs.  Its all in the order of who sits next to who on the branch. Much calling, wing waving and downright pushing and shoving ensued.  It was obvious that ‘she’ didn’t want to be next to ‘him’ and this one only wanted to roost next to that one.  And so it went.

In the end Five Choughs on a branch is the limit, and the next one to land bent the branch so much that all were put to flight.

By now the light had gone, and they did a final sweep over a Pied Butcher Bird and her two offspring. Moving them along out of the area.

Last seen and heard setting into the tops of some gum trees.

Choughedness, something I’ll never understand, but will be pleased to learn more.

I thought I ordered a Skinny Soy Latte.
I thought I ordered a Skinny Soy Latte.
Working at small time tunnelling.
Working at small time tunnelling.
What ever was down there required a bit of effort.
What ever was down there required a bit of effort.
"I got one, I got one", heading to feed one of the young.
“I got one, I got one”, heading to feed one of the young.
With a flash of white wings and they were gone
With a flash of white wings and they were gone
Preening for the big meeting. Got to look the best among family.
Preening for the big meeting. Got to look the best among family.
The social committee. "I hear by call this meeting of Choughedness to order."
The social committee.
“I hear by call this meeting of Choughedness to order.”
"St Paul", the message must have been a good strong one ,to get everyone's attention. No one back chatted.
“St Paul”, the message must have been a good strong one, to get everyone’s attention. No one back chatted.
Listening intently, no preen gin, taking, or feeding.
Listening intently, no preening, talking, or feeding.
Lecture over, time to get ready to roost
Lecture over, time to get ready to roost
A sentry stands guard while everyone else has a dust bath and hug.
A sentry stands guard while everyone else has a dust bath and hug.
Working out the sleeping arrangements for the night.
Working out the sleeping arrangements for the night.
And let that be a lesson to you.  A beak full of feathers, finished any further discussion.
And let that be a lesson to you. A beak full of feathers, finished any further discussion.
Downcast, the outcast wandered off forlornly.
Downcast, the outcast wandered off forlornly.
Five Choughs in the bed and they all rolled over and all fell out.
Five Choughs in the bed and they all rolled over and all fell out.

Goschen Diary Day #3

After our success in the early morn at Goschen, Mr An Onymous and I decided that a return visit could just about be squeezed in. So we left early again.

Followed the backroads out of town, turned a corner, and there in the scrub by the side of a the road was a white and black flash sitting in the morning sun.  It was a….  So stop car, reverse back, and lo and behold it was one of two Pied Butcher Birds.  Before you could  say ‘car door slam’, we were both out of the car and had a few shots before the sound of the car door slamming reached the Butcher bird.  Looked great in that wonderful horizontal light described yesterday.  Good start.

On to Goschen, and this time I’d decided camera on tripod was my friend, and out came the Wimberley Gimbal head.  Best photo accessory I’ve ever purchased.  Makes wielding a long lens a dream as it take all the weight and keeps all the flexibility.  Besides I can risk slower speeds and use the Tele Converters.     No down side and all positive. Thanks Mr Wimberley.

And there was plenty to see. Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, Singing, Black, Hooded Robin male, and his lovely lady.  Brown Treecreepers and one that had nested in a broken hollow tree about a metre off the ground.

The Hooded Robin, was perhaps the most co-operative and managed to find a variety of poses for us.

Had a bit of time to play with the range of Teleconverters in the kit.  I don’t use TC’s over long distances,  anything over about 30m or so.   The 1.4 always works a treat.  And with the 300mf/2.8 its a very useful 420mm f/4.  Really a handhold pleasure.  The 1.7 can be a hero, or zero. Over shorter distances and supported on a bean bag or tripod,  I find I’ve a very useful 500 f/4.5 lens.   I think its just a bit too long for old bloke nerves, as handhold, so don’t use it that way much. The TC20Eiii, is a really good combination for 600mm f/5.6.  At close distance, say 15 m or so, a small bird near fills the frame and feather detail is excellent.   Not all lenses  seem to work so well with the TC20.

I’d promised lunch and coffee at a pistachio farm on the way back and so we set off along the old road to Woorinen South.  Not much has changed on this road in 40 years, and we ambled along in the hope that we’d find some birds among the roadside trees.  Wow.  Two young Wedgetailed Eagles threw from the tree just off the side and try as I might I couldn’t find an opening among the trees to pull over to get some views.  They circled the field beyond the road and then with measured wingbeats rose to find a thermal, and as fast as you could say “They are going to disappear’, they did.

To tell all, the farm was closed and we headed back to Swan Hill to find a coffee shop a little off the beaten track.  Most interesting  interior lined with pages from old 50s and 60s magazines.  And tables decorated with Mum’s old cookbooks.  There was the McAlpine Flour cookbook that probably held pride of place in our kitchen way back when.

As we arrived back the resident Blue-faced Honeyeaters demanded their share of my time and a few pleasant moments with them, hunting through the trees filled in the time to afternoon tea and family stuff.

Pied Butcher Bird in the early morning sunshine
Pied Butcher Bird in the early morning sunshine
Red-rumped Parrot: Male
Red-rumped Parrot: Male
Inquisitive Singing Honeyeater.  It wants to know what is going on over the other side of the bushes. One too many Brown Treecreepers no doubt
Inquisitive Singing Honeyeater. It wants to know what is going on over the other side of the bushes. One too many Brown Treecreepers no doubt
Brown Treecreeper being politely asked to move on.  It didn't the hint.
Brown Treecreeper being politely asked to move on. It didn’t the hint.
Always good to have a feather readjustment after an altercation with Treecreepers.
Always good to have a feather readjustment after an altercation with Treecreepers.
Male Hooded Robin, with an ant.  I think they clip the head off and gain moisture from the body.
Male Hooded Robin, with an ant. I think they clip the head off and gain moisture from the body.
Hey, take my photo.  Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater looking for its 15 minutes of fame.
Hey, take my photo. Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater looking for its 15 minutes of fame.
Mr Elegance. Hooded Robin
Mr Elegance. Hooded Robin
Ms Elegance. Female Hooded Robin in fence line.
Ms Elegance. Female Hooded Robin in fence line.
Blue-faced Honeyeater, with cobweb design accoutrements.
Blue-faced Honeyeater, with cobweb design accoutrements.

Goschen Diary Day #2

My mate, Mr An Onymous and his family had also travelled up for the week and we met up and chatted over a few cold sherbets as to a plan for the following day.

Seeing as there were a few pressing family events that needed attention, and because it was going to be a hot day, we decided an early morning start at  Goschen would be the go.  By 6:30am the car was loaded, with drinks, cameras and bodies.  We set off.  The simplest run, is to follow the sealed roads, but we opted, (well I was driving) to go out past the Airport and then pick up one of the backroads to Goschen.   From yesterday, you’ll recall that we travelled that way often on pushbikes in the sweet savour of youth.

Besides from previous years, we’d had a bit of raptor success out near out mate Steve’s place and nothing ventured…

We had just turned past the airport when I spotted an Australian Kestrel, in the early morning sunshine. At this stage the sunlight was running horizontal with the ground.  “Fishfryer” lighting for the studio buffs.  Hadn’t realised, we parked on the major highway to somewhere, as the amount of cars going by was a bit awkward both from parking and photographing points of view.  Mr An, got busy, while I tried to park the car off the roadway.  No mean feat on a  tiny country road, built for tractors and harvesting toys.

I’d also been ‘clever’ enough to attach a TC1.7 to the 300mm to ‘save’ time, and now was having trouble handholding the 500mm resultant lens.  In the end, either because of boredom with the game, or because it saw prey, the Kestrel departed, and we moved on to Goschen.

Mostly the pictures tell the rest of the story.  A huge flowering gum near the old tennis court played host to a variety of honeyeaters, and we spent quite  a bit of time just enjoying their antics.

Then back on to the main road and a detour to the Little Murray Weir.  Another of my childhood pastimes.  Last year we’d been lucky and got some great shots  of a Sacred Kingfisher on a wire here, and to both our surprises, as we stopped the car, a blue flash went by and there on the wire was.   A Sacred Kingfisher.  How do you account for that bit of co-incidence.

On the way back to the main road, I saw a number of small birds dive into a box-thorn bush, and slowed, then stopped. Look as I might, I couldn’t see any, and Mr An was getting coffeitis by then, until.  Out from the tree behind the bush, rose a beautiful Wedge-tailed Eagle, before I could say, “Did you see the Wedget…..”  He was out of the car and had the first 6 shots off.   It took a circuit round the paddock, located a thermal, and before you could say, “It’s found a thermal’, the black and brown bird had  risen on those wonderful wings to an amazing height.
Suitably impressed we retired for coffee.

Every one gets up early.  Australian Kestrel, female, in the first shafts of morning light.
Every one gets up early. Australian Kestrel, female, in the first shafts of morning light.
Juvenile Black Honeyeater
Juvenile Black Honeyeater
Singing Honeyeater. Another Zorro Bird
Singing Honeyeater.
Another Zorro Bird
Tiny red wattle behind the eye on a White-fronted Honeyeater.  Most limey a nomad to the area.
Tiny red wattle behind the eye on a White-fronted Honeyeater. Most likely a nomad to the area.
A Red-rumped Parrot in flight.
A Red-rumped Parrot in flight.
Mr Hooded Robin. A pleasure to photograph
Mr Hooded Robin. A pleasure to photograph
Long rows of harvested wheat leave interesting patterns. Only a Magpie can work them out.
Long rows of harvested wheat leave interesting patterns. Only a Magpie can work them out.
One year, two year.  Same bird, same wire, same photographer.
One year, two year. Same bird, same wire, same photographer.
Wedge-tailed Eagle looking for a thermal.
Wedge-tailed Eagle looking for a thermal.

Goschen Diary Day #1

Last week with family events and holidays on mind, we travelled north toward Swan Hill.  One of the highlight ‘honeypot’ birding sites on any birders list of must do’s is The Goschen Bushland Reserve only a few minutes drive from said Hill.

Tim Dolby in “Where to See Birds in Victoria” devotes 2 pages to the little bushland area with an excellent overview by Greg Oakley.

When I was a little tacker, the concept of Goschen being a “birding highlight” never occurred to me.  It was a place where the PMG, (Telstra) had planted a very tall communications  tower.  As little blokes, we’d ride our bikes out there to gaze heavenward at the stark red and white tower against the blue sky.   Perhaps we dreamed of climbing to the top, but were stopped by a huge (when we were little), razor-topped security fence. Probably just as well.

Tis only a short drive down the road from Swan Hill, and with a bit of careful planning, one can stay off sealed roads and enjoy the backcountry sandy roads and the chance of seeing birds along the roadside trees.

So we motored north.  Of course a bonus is that the road to Goschen travels through Eaglehawk in Bendigo, and of course a stop off at the Eaglehawk Bakery, for a famed “Mulga Bill” pie is not to be missed.  This time as it turned out others of the travelling family had the same idea and we met up in the bakery.  I’m not the only one on WordPress with a penchant for the Mulga Bill pie as “Almost Always Ravenous” has  a page here.

Then a slowish trip along the highway out of Bendigo, particularly between the 18 and 19 kilometre posts.  There is almost always a speed camera car buried in the shade among the trees here,  5 times out of our past 6 passings.  First time was a$180.00 view.  I’d failed to notice the 100km roadsigns as was tooling along like a freeway.  Duh.  Mind, this time I went by at a sedate 75km.

I like the roads from Bendigo to Swan Hill.  Flat, long straight runs, and on good days, plenty of raptors at work.  So it’s easy to see where they are and their action.  Slowed down again just at the Kerang Rail Crossing.  A pair of Wedgetails have a nest in the closest tree to the road.  The young are now fledged, but off in the field we saw one of them hard at work.

Turning from the highway at Lake Boga, we followed the backroads to Goschen Bushland Reserve.  It was just early in the afternoon, and quite hot. Any respectable birds were resting out of the heat.

But in a short time there, as it was only a recce for the days to come, we found Hooded Robins, Brown Treecreepers, White-browed Babblers, a number of different honeyeaters and some beaut looking Blue-bonnet Parrots.

So on to the domicile for the week. We stayed at the Murray Downs Resort, which is part of the Murray Down Golf Club.  Great little rooms in the shade of the lovely trees in the landscape.
And while I was  unloading the car: 2 clothes bags, 6 photo kits, I spied a Blue-faced Honeyeater in the agapanthus garden. Quick as, out came the 300mm and a nice shot against the light.  Good way to start I thought.

Brown Treecreeper
Brown Treecreeper
Trying to find a cool spot, Hooded Robin contemplates his next move
Trying to find a cool spot, Hooded Robin contemplates his next move
Blue-faced Honeyeater, welcoming committee
Blue-faced Honeyeater, welcoming committee

Counting at Mt Rothwell

One of the nice new pleasures we get from being in the area is to catch up with the Werribee Wagtails birding group.
They have a number of projects for bird counting and one them is at Mt Rothwell.

So we followed the roads out the back of Little River and met up with the eager bird counters.
Mt Rothwell is near the excellent You Yangs and is a fully enclosed area so there are some heavy duty gates to get through before the serious counting begins.

On this day, however there was a wonderful strong breeze at work, and it was the first really cool day after the heat so the big birds were up in numbers all looking to catchup on their dietary requirements.

The area also has a very strong educational programme and there are some great walking tracks covering the area which is mostly light scrub, trees and some great rolling hills with lots of boulders and rocky outcrops.

So we set off. I got side tracked by a Striated Pardalote, and spent about 10 minutes photographing it, and by the time I’d gotten back on the track. Well, the count and counters had moved on.  Easy enough, just go along the track thought I.  Till I came to a Y in the road.  Always take the ‘right’ one is the advice I’ve worked with over the years.  Not always good advice and in this case dead wrong.  After about 10 minutes I came to an open field and looking along the track not a counter to be seen. Wrong track I thought. So a bit of bush bashing got me across to the ‘right’ left track, and no sign of said counters.
After a bit of scouting about, I found that Arthur had left an “Arrow” of sticks at the next junction, and from there it was walk fast until I caught up.  But, the track swept around to the right, and I figured the track had to sweep back again. Remember its a fenced off area.  Easy said I.  Over the top of the rise in front of me, stand on the top of a rock and they should be visible.  So saying I did.  And.  Yep, there they were way over there.  More scrub work.

Needless to say EE was not to happy with my tardiness, and I think I got a black mark on my name from the walk leader who was getting a bit concerned about having to ‘find’ said missing dude.

No more Pardalotes for me for the rest of the day.

With the strong wind running the raptors, which include, Whistling Kites, Black Kites, Brown Falcons, Little Eagles and Australian Kestrels, were in their element.  Such a great site to see so many soaring birds.  And I didn’t have to get misplaced to see them.

In the afternoon we walked the opposite side of the park and came to a large open field.  “Hmm,” said I, “I’ve been here already once earlier today!”

Hopefully I’ll be allowed back next time.

Diamond Firetail on display.
Diamond Firetail on display.
This is why they are called Diamond "Firetails"
This is why they are called Diamond “Firetails”
A Striated Pardalote. Probably at the last one I'll photograph.
A Striated Pardalote. Probably at the last one I’ll photograph.
Juvenile Red-browed Finch at a small waterhole.
Juvenile Red-browed Finch at a small waterhole.
How to tell the difference between a Tree Martin and two Welcome Swallows.
How to tell the difference between a Tree Martin and two Welcome Swallows.
Over the tree tops at a great rate. This Brown Falcon was no doubt enjoying the strong winds
Over the tree tops at a great rate. This Brown Falcon was no doubt enjoying the strong winds
In coming
In coming
Brown Falcon on active duty
Brown Falcon on active duty

A day out with the Werribee Wagtails Group

Now that we’ve made the move, some things get a bit easier.

The Werribee Wagtails are an informal group of birders amalgamated with Birdlife Australia.  They have a monthly day out and about, and we’ve taken to tagging along.

This particular day was Jan 7th.   And the area covered included the mouth of the Werribee River at Werribee South.  Very cold in the morning with icy winds blowing over the water.  Still we managed a good range of water birds including a Red-capped Plover scampering back and forth among the seaweeds.

A truly wonderful place called “The Cliffs” at a right angle bend in K Road, opened up to wonderful vistas across the river, and a range of beautiful birds.

From there a trip to a special carpark at Werribee Mansion, and a lovely walk down to the river flats and back through the vegetable and fruit gardens on the flats.  And we found about 8-10 young Whistling Kites and a similar number of Black Kites who were working along the river.

I’d go back again just for that.

In one of the river crossing we found some Purple-headed, Musk, and Rainbow Lorikeets, one of the Rainbows appeared to have a nest.  Or was raiding someone else’s.    To top it off the “Kee, Kee Kee, kee” of a Sacred Kingfisher who sped by us with a couple of flybys.

Then on to the Cache Coffee shop and produce Store.  If you are in the area, include this great place for great food and coffee, and amazing local produce.  Another reason I’m happy we’re local.

Cormorant.
Cormorant.
Goldfinch.
Goldfinch.
Great Eastern Egret
Great Eastern Egret
Sacred Kingfisher
Sacred Kingfisher
Rainbow Lorikeet
Rainbow Lorikeet
Black Kite
Black Kite

Raising Ginger!

Karen and Jimmy have been working hard and Ginger is making great progress.

Its a bit hard to judge at what stage the little dude is, but it certainly is spending a bit more time out in the more open branches.
I spent about 10 minutes this morning, looking, knowing where it was but being unable to figure out where it was.  In the end, I noticed tucked up on a big stick, hard up on the Y of the stick and looking for all the world like it was part of the bend in the branch.

Ginger has grown a considerable tail, and is quite capable of sustained flight, and it seems to be much more on the move than previous days.  It probably zoomed across the open areas in the forest five or six times while we were there first thing today.  It doesn’t seem to do height, but not sure it needs to at this stage.

Also found it once clinging very Eastern Yellow Robin like to the side of a near vertical branch so its getting plenty of practice.

What is really exciting to see there are a number of yellow feathers making their way out under the mantle, along the tail line and under the belly. I photographed it with Jimmy today, and there is not much difference in size now.
All looking good so far.  OnyaGinger

We also haven’t seen Karen working with it for the past day or two and are pondering that another nest might be going in somewhere. She has plenty of time.
Will check next week as we’ll be up the north of the state (Think Goschen for long time readers), for the week before Oz day maaate.

Ginger is starting to colour up like an Eastern Robin.
Ginger is starting to colour up like an Eastern Robin.
LIttle wings that need lots of stretching.  Not the yellow colouring under the wings along the chest.
LIttle wings that need lots of stretching. Not the yellow colouring under the wings along the chest.
Jimmy and Ginger. Size comparison
Jimmy and Ginger. Size comparison
Sitting pretty in the sun
Sitting pretty in the sun

Dancing with Brolga

Over the past couple of weeks, the Brolgas that are down in the WTP have been a bit more open and readily noticeable.  Either because of their walking along the roads along the bunds, or by flying in from seemingly nowhere.

At first I took to them as  photo challenge. Big bird, easy to spot, fairly photogenic.

However after a couple of weeks of working with them, I am enamoured.  These wonderful creatures with personalities all their own have walked, sung, and danced their way deep into my heart.

Not that its a two sided partnership.  They are very people averse and make their feelings on the subject well know, both vocally and by voting with their feet, or wings.

We had decided EE, Mr An Onymous and I to take advantage of the cool of the morning as being the best way to get the best light and to make a concerted effort to locate the Brogla.  Now like all birds, they don’t leave signs, or calling cards, so we left an hour or so after sunup and began our quest.

By mid-morning the score was photographers 0 Brolga 3. Then as we were going along the bund to Murtcaim(n) outflow, we saw the Helmutmobile on the other side of the pond, and on the road in front of him. A pair of Brolga. Apparently on a shopping expedition, or perhaps a philosophical stroll in the morning.  As Mr An has rightly pointed out, they walk fast on those big legs. And it was as much as I could do to follow along on the opposite bank, as they headed on down to the other end of the pond.

At one point we (both) came upon a mob of Black Swans in the pond, and they were startled either by me, or more likely on reflection, the Brolga. Much wing clattering, foot splashing and eventually they got airborne.
The Brogla stopped, turned their heads, and I thought “Oh, No, they’ll fly too!”  But instead they set up a constant calling and looking in the direction of the Swans, and I think I learned some Brolga speak. “Well, Look at those silly swans,  we sure scared them. ”

See Helmut’s shot of the Swans in complete disarray on the wing.

Here. http://www.flickr.com/photos/88560281@N06/11941596805/

Black swan

Another view is here.

Black Swans

Satisfied that honour had been done, they turned and walked nonchalantly off down the road.

I moved to the end of the road, and the pool. There is a road running along there and I figured,  they will either turn left and be gone down the road or they might just as well turn right and walk pretty much right past me.  However, like all good stories, there was a third possibility that I hadn’t counted on.  They walked over the roadway, down the bank on the other side and disappeared into the grass.  Brolga 4.

We stopped at the Murtcain(m) outflow, but the tide was in and the best we could do was a nice cuppa and a chat.

When silently as stealth bombers, 3 grey shapes came over the paddock, dropped into the lagoon and immediately started walking. They were much to far out for anything really decent, Brolga 5.

However not to be outdone, I walked down to the end of the roadway and slipped along the roadside trying to get as close, and hoping they would feed across toward my position. Photographer 1.

What happened next was the highlight of my day, probably my month, and might even be my year. (I don’t aim high!).

One of the three, the smallest, stopped walking. Turned about and danced.  Now most have heard of the prowess of these birds as exceptional dancers.  Don’t believe it. They are much much more than exceptional.  To see a video is one thing. To see the elegance, lightness, the subtly of turn, and the wing movements is nothing else other than breathtaking.   Its ability to step, and twist and turn and jump in a co-ordinated manner can’t be explained and a few still shots, don’t even begin to touch the scope of the repertoire.  Photographer 2.
And it was doing it for itself. The other two took no part and took no notice.

I’ve concluded they do it because its fun. They enjoy it, and it’s an expression of being alive.  I know anthropomorphism is frowned upon. I don’t care, I think they have emotions and this one wanted to enjoy the moment.

The heat haze over the water affected most of the shots, but none the less, its only encouraged me to continue working with these birds and hopefully they will grace me with another performance.

Nothing like a morning constitutional stroll.
Nothing like a morning constitutional stroll.
Oh, look I missed a feather, just there.
Oh, look I missed a feather, just there.
"Silly Swans"
“Silly Swans”
When you're casual walking there is always a time of for a quick preen.
When you’re casual walking there is always a time for a quick preen.
Reaching the end of the road, would they turn and walk toward me?
Reaching the end of the road, would they turn and walk toward me?
A threesome, perhaps two adults and a juvenile, flew quietly in for a walk along the pond.
A threesome, perhaps two adults and a juvenile, flew quietly in for a walk along the pond.
For no reason, only that it could this bird decided to dance in the sunshine.
For no reason, only that it could, this bird decided to dance in the sunshine.
Wings widespread help to control the dreaming drifting down sequences.
Wings widespread help to control the dreaming drifting down sequences.
At the height of the dance. Float like a butterfly.
At the height of the dance. Float like a butterfly.
Performance over time to rejoin the walking group.
Performance over time to rejoin the walking group.

Meeting Ginger

With the evening sun rapidly taking away the glorious light from the forest, I wandered over to see what was happening with Karen and Jimmy and their offspring.
With some help of general arm waving from EE, I soon located first one of the parents, and then where the little dude was holed up.

Trying ever so hard not to get to close, and yet at the same time get a reasonable view, I sat behind some small trees and waited.

And suddenly things took a turn.  Both Karen and Jimmy came down to the small bird and called in a most anxious and scolding call.  Highly vocal and active they were both trying to get the young one on the move.   I’d not seen them react like with me before, and wondered what I’d done that had bought on such nervous activity.

Casting around, I found the cause, as not only were the Robins in full cry, but so was every Wagtail, Woodswallow and Grey Shrike-thrush.
Like all good dramas, there was indeed a culprit.   A fox had wandered along the kangaroo tracks seeking no doubt an evening meal.  The birds were in full cry against it, the wagtails making a rush, and the Robins trying to get their young one to higher ground. No mean feat when it doesn’t have any flight capability, and no sense of direction and no understanding of navigation.

In the end they moved it in my direction!  So I had a few grams of brown and gold feathers jumping along sticks, bark and leaves in my general area.  Which, above  all things gave me some lovely views of the little bird in the rapidly diminishing sunlight.  And I pondered later that perhaps they saw me as a protection from said sly fox. (well its nice to dream dreams ah?)

I stood up in the end, which gave the fox a start, and then I moved toward it, and soon it was a brown blur in the distance, by the time I’d returned the young one was being encouraged to find its way up some low branches for the evening.

Now the fox would have made such short work of the little brown and gold feathers that it reminded me of the story of the Gingerbread man, and the fox tossing him in the air and “Snip Snap, went the old fox and he ate the Gingerbread Man all up”.

So I decided that “Ginger” was a good name for the little dude and that  it can indeed  grow up to fly away as fast as it can.

Plenty of feeding going on.
Plenty of feeding going on.
The late evening sunshine was just about all gone
The late evening sunshine was just about all gone
More food.
More food.
The culprit
The culprit
Moving closer
Moving closer
Portrait time.  Good luck Ginger.
Portrait time. Good luck Ginger.

2013 in review Ah, the wonders of Blogography and statistics.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

 

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,900 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

In 2013, there were 69 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 201 posts. There were 379pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 53 MB. That’s about a picture per day.

I also finally passed 200 blogs.  Just got to get better organised in 2014

 

Click here to see the complete report.

Woodswallows on the wing

We were pondering what to do for new years eve.  Not being the standing around with glass in hand yelling at someone over loud music sort of folk, nor having the need to declare some new resolution, such as “Take more photos in 2014” or drunkenly exclaim, “I’ll photograph every species in Australia, in 2014”, we decided on a quiet evening.  Besides, I’ve seen a few new years come and go now, and apart from ripping down the old ‘last year’ calendar and gleefully putting up the new one, not much changes.

We in the end picked on a picnic in the forest with Karen, Jimmy and Ginger (recently named as the story will show).

There is also the family of Dusky Woodswallows, and while EE settled in with the Robins, I went a looking for the Woodswallows.  To be honest, I thought they’d be on the wing by now, and it was a pleasant surprise to find that the three chicks were still in the nest, or should that be very over crowded nest. Much preening wing polishing and down removal was going on.  The parents kept up a steady supply of food, and in the end I thought it was just another day in Woodswallow land.

Till one of the parents dropped in on the top of the post, and the largest of the chicks proceeded to climb up the shard of wood to meet it.  After much begging and wing fluttering, the adult flew away, calling softly as it went.  The young one attained the top of the stump, and did a couple of quick wing flaps, and a few more straighten up those feathers, flapped once, and … was gone!

So much so that I’d taken the shot of it wings extended, and when the mirror on the camera came down, there was not bird to see!

The other two looked on in amazement, then decided there was so much more room in the nest and settled down to have a nap.   The parents had other ideas and more food arrived, more cleaning and flapping and eventually the second one flapped to the top of the stump, and simply jumped.  Oh, flap, flap, flap, and it sort of sailed down to the ground, then hopped from branch to branch on the ground trying to figure out what to do.  More food was the parental response.

Meanwhile back at the nest.  No way was the third one moving. Much discussion ensued with the parents, and they got a lot of cheek for their trouble. Mostly I suspect in Woodswallow for “You don’ t image for one moment that I’m going to leave the security of this nest!”.

Try as they might it remained stubbornly in the nest. But in the end, of course, the need for food became greater and it reluctantly took its place on the top of the stump.  And waited.   So did I. And after what seemed hours, (it was probably only 5 minutes), it too made its first journey on the wing.  To the delight no doubt of the parents.

They of course had now created a new problem for themselves.  Three young birds with no navigation skills spread out over 100m of the forest and they still needed constant attention and food.  When I left, they were doing the rounds with supplies.

Not that they were hard to find, the young put up quite a wail when they were on their own.

Another day in Woodswallow Land.  Three sitting pretty at the nest
Another day in Woodswallow Land. Three sitting pretty at the nest
Climbing up to sit with the parent.
Climbing up to sit with the parent.
One wing flap away from freedom
One wing flap away from freedom
Where'd he go. Magic.
Where’d he go. Magic.
Now we've got plenty of room again let's settle down for a nice nap.
Now we’ve got plenty of room again let’s settle down for a nice nap.
More food, that should get you going.
More food, that should get you going.
Let's discuss this mum!  I stay here you bring the food ok?
Let’s discuss this mum! I stay here you bring the food ok?
On the cusp of adventure, but just not ready to make that leap of faith.
On the cusp of adventure, but just not ready to make that leap of faith.
Out of the nest and ready to explore the world
Out of the nest and ready to explore the world

Better than fireworks, and we watched the evening sunset and finished of the picnic (which really means a couple of nice cups of Earl of Grey.)