Fire, smoke, an open paddock, simply add birds for action

One part of the family was off to Sydney for a holiday.  So how about we leave our car with you and go to Avalon airport?  Now the cool thing about saying yes to the request of course is that Avalon is but a mere 5 minutes from the WTP.  And well, we’d have to come back that way after all the farewells, and book ins and security checks, and stuff.

So we found ourselves on the Beach Road in the middle of the afternoon on a not too brilliant for photography day.    The folk at the farm had taken the opportunity of the change in the weather to conduct some control burns in some of the bigger fields.    And off course the raptors simply couldn’t resist the chance of fried or roasted or bbq locusts, mice, grasshoppers, lizards and the like.

As we travelled down the Beach Road, the sky was awash with larger birds.  Perhaps as many as 20 Whistling Kites, twice that number of Black Kites, at least two Australian Kestrels, and an assortment of Ravens, several squadrons of Australian Magpie and innumerable Magpie Larks.

From a photography point of view, the light was wrong and the birds too far away, but the old D2xS on the 300mm f/2.8, stepped up to the challenge. So the big birds swept over the still smouldering ground, or made a landing and picked up a morsel or two. Their friends sat on the fence line and the Whistling Kites kept up a constant call.   In the end, we just watched, and enjoyed them enjoying themselves.
A Black Kite became a target for a rather aggressive Whistling Kite and a sky wide battle ensued.   At first the Whistling Kite was much faster, could turn quicker, gain height faster and generally outfly the Black Kite. Quite a number of direct hits from above, below and the side ensued.    In the end, I decided that perhaps the Black was just taking it all and wasn’t really concerned by the output of energy by the Whistling Kite.   It ended by the Black gaining height and just sailing away.  The Whistler settled down for a rest on the fence.

On the other side of the road a Black-shouldered Kite busied itself in finding mice for its evening snack.

We also found a large family of Flame Robins.  The males looking a treat in the sunshine.  But far too far away to do them justice.
As we drove around Lake Borrie on the return home a pair of Cape Barren Geese were feeding in an open area.  Really perturbed by our audacity to encroach on their feeding spot, the male gave me a lecture and wing-waving display.  I apologised and we parted in good company.     Just have to be more careful about sneaking up on him.

With the light finally drifting into greyness, it was considered time for home.

 

A burst of late evening sunlight highlights the maize against the brilliant dark sky.
A burst of late evening sunlight highlights the maize against the brilliant dark sky.
Red burst from a Flame Robin male, one of 4 males and about 6-8 female/juveniles in the area.
Red burst from a Flame Robin male, one of 4 males and about 6-8 female/juveniles in the area.
Two Black Kites.  They are at completely different heights.
Two Black Kites. They are at completely different heights.
Australian Kestrel turning  for another sweep over the still smouldering paddock.
Australian Kestrel turning for another sweep over the still smouldering paddock.
One post one Kite
One post one Kite
In times of plenty everyone is friends
In times of plenty everyone is friends
Whistling Kite, vs Black Kite.  Probably not as one sided as it at first appeared.
Whistling Kite, vs Black Kite. Probably not as one sided as it at first appeared.
Completely uninterested in the bbq, this Black-shouldered Kite stuck to its larder.  A mouse.
Completely uninterested in the bbq, this Black-shouldered Kite stuck to its larder. A mouse.
Cape Barren Goose.  He is giving me a lecture on my tardiness in being in his territory.
Cape Barren Goose. He is giving me a lecture on my tardiness in being in his territory.
Late evening light over the You Yangs
Late evening light over the You Yangs

Counting Birds at Mt Rothwell

One of the newer pursuits we’ve been involved with is the Werribee Wagtails group’s Bird Surveys at a number of sites.  One of those is Mt Rothwell Bio-Diversity Centre.
This area is set aside, privately funded, as a nature reserve.  Details can be found in the website here.

Mt Rothwell Site

Astute readers will recall a blog back in December 2013, when said blogger became separated from the counting group and was “lost” for over an hour or more. Now depending on who tells, the story, I was not “lost”, nor “Misplaced.”, simply a long long long way behind the leader.  Nuf said.

This time, under pain of something dreadful, and probably unpleasant, I was allowed to join, but had to ensure that:

A. I did not have a camera. And
B. Would stay on the Tracks, no wandering off.

So, as the Banjo says,  We went.
Pleasing day, great company and plenty of birds to see.
We stopped for lunch at the worksite kitchen area and one of the local inhabitants, an Eastern Quoll came out to see what has going on in “his patch”.  These delightful little creatures once roamed the grasslands of Victoria and were so plentiful that the government placed a bounty on them at one time.  Sadly there is only a handful of them left, and by 1970 or so they were considered ‘extinct’ in Victoria.

This one and its mate amused us over the lunch break by their antics and their almost complete lack of fear. Wandering around under the tables and through the forest of feet.   One even accepted some offered food, but in the end just spat it out.  No accounting for taste.

We then took an afternoon walk to the top of the hill and watched enthralled as Little Eagles, Whistling Kites, Spotted Harriers and Brown Falcons entertained us as they swept over the plains below.

It was also possible to see down into an old movie set of “Glenrowan” used for the Mick Jagger movie, “Ned Kelly”.   The old set is in pretty bad repair, infact no repair at all.  It probably speaks more to the skills of the set builders than most else.   So it was interesting to wander among the buildings and see what they had recreated of the past.

Then it was time to travel home. And as we proceeded along, it was obvious that the boys had their really big toys out, and were resurfacing the road.   “Expect Delays”.   Ok, that can’t be too bad, but after all we were the only car on this road, and they were really big toys taking up lots of space, it was going to be a longer than Expected Delay.   A kind bloke with a “STOP” sign in his hand wandered over and said, “Its going to be at least 15 minutes, mate.  Do you know the way on the backroad over there.” Pointing his sign at the small road off to the right.

“Yes”, said I. Not because I knew the road, nor its destination, but rather because it was a new place to explore, and figured that any road not marked, “No Through Road” must go somewhere.   So, as the Banjo says,  We went.

First we turned right, then left, then right and right again then left, a bit of a bend to the left, and then right, and right again.  After travelling for about 3 kms, we were about 500 meters straight line  from where we started!. Great road. Then we came over a rise, and there was a great big dip in the road, and a sign post marked for the depth of the water. 9 Metres it topped at.  Wow. Note to self. Remind me not to come this way in the wet.

And just when we thought it couldn’t  get any better two Brown Falcons exploded from the side of the road and sat in a nearby tree.  Super.

All in all a great road, and well worth re-exploring methinks.

 

Eastern Quoll, coming to check out what all the noise is about.
Eastern Quoll, coming to check out what all the noise is about.
A quick look around the corner from safety
A quick look around the corner from safety
They look harmless enough, I'll get closer
They look harmless enough, I’ll get closer
Ready to jump up on the veranda and see what the humans were doing
Ready to jump up on the veranda and see what the humans were doing
A must more cautious mate.
A much more cautious mate.
Seems to have been in the wars a bit with some part of the ear missing.
Seems to have been in the wars a bit with some part of the ear missing.
Nope, human food just doesn't do it.
Nope, human food just doesn’t do it.
What are those Quolls doing in my territory. A very agitated Superb Blue Wren in action
What are those Quolls doing in my territory. A very agitated Superb Blue Wren in action
A wonderful demonstration of precision flying from a pair of Little Eagles
A wonderful demonstration of precision flying from a pair of Little Eagles
"Old Glenrowan" the remains of the movie set from 1970  movie "Ned Kelly"
“Old Glenrowan” the remains of the movie set from 1970 movie “Ned Kelly”
Brown Falcon
Brown Falcon

 

Scarlet Robin, attack of the mirror birds

I’ve been looking for some places that are easy access and where we could spend a few hours, as we did at Woodlands, without having to commit a day to the travelling.

We took a trip down the the eastern side of the You Yangs and found foot access from a fire track, and it opens up into quite an interesting open woodlands.  At the end of the road leading to the gate is a small car turnaround and carpark.   So with Mr An Onymous, and EE for company I took a trip down the road and parked.  It was one of those glorious mornings that photographers really dream about.  A little mist rising from the ground, brilliant sunshine and lots of lovely old gum trees in open paddocks, to make the most wonderful landscape scenes.  And of course, I’d left the shorter landscape style lenses at home.   So I struggled with the 300mm trying to get some decent framing.

We parked in the carpark area, and as I was getting out of the car I heard the distinct call of a Scarlet Robin, and looked about.  Then as I opened the back of the car to get the cameras out, a streak of red flashed by, straight to the mirror of the car, and began flaying away at the bird in the reflection.  Stunned and cameraless we watched as he made several passes, first on one side of the car, then the other.  Satisfied that honour had been done he sped off.  Only to return a few minutes later and repeat the process.  But we were ready this time.

Then out came his extended family, another 3 males and 2 females.   They hunted over the carpark, sat in the sunshine on the wire, and watched too, fascinated by his ability to see off the mirror bird intruder.

The two females were a bit more circumspect and required a bit of careful approach, but they also allowed us some good shots.   Which was great, as although the males are such super colours, its the fine, muted, understated colours of the female that seem to me to be the more elegant of the pair.

After yet another bout of mirror butting, he decided it was time for a rest and retired to a fence line,  and he allowed me to get a close approach.  So close that in the end, I was on the limit of the focus of the camera. With the lovely early light still cascading over him, and enriching the background, it wasn’t hard to make suitable portraits.  EE also got a shot of me, from over my shoulder, working with him.

What a great start to a good morning.  We have no idea if they are permanent residents.  But they certainly were not bothered by our presence at all.  A guy walking his three grey hounds past by, and I was ready to put the camera away as the dogs would no doubt scare the birds.  But, all 6 held their stations. So I figured that perhaps they had done all this before.  Certainly the speed at which he attacked the mirror bird and the constancy of the attacks could only lead to the conclusion he’d done it all before.  He also seemed to immediately attach himself to the underside of the mirror, as though it was pretty much normal business.

Must try and get back for another look.

 

Beautiful morning light on old trees, add mist and stir for a great landscape
Beautiful morning light on old trees, add mist and stir for a great landscape
Where is that mirror bird
Where is that mirror bird
Bent over to gain momentum he is about to launch another attack on the mirror bird
Bent over to gain momentum he is about to launch another attack on the mirror bird
Gottcha!,  no room for both of us.
Gottcha!, no room for both of us.
Serious wing flapping and chirping.
Serious wing flapping and chirping.
Scarlet 1 Mirror bird 0
Scarlet 1 Mirror bird 0
Mr Mighty Scarlet,  defender of territory.
Mr Mighty Scarlet, defender of territory.
What, Its back again, this time in a bigger mirror.
What, Its back again, this time in a bigger mirror.
The concept of Snoopy verses the Red Baron began to emerge.
The concept of Snoopy verses the Red Baron began to emerge.
Time to rest for a portrait sitting.
Time to rest for a portrait sitting.
Its tough being a super model but someone has to do it.   Thanks to EE for the use of the image.
Its tough being a super model but someone has to do it. Thanks to EE for the use of the image. Panasonic FZ200