Walking the Backpaddock with intent

After our earth shattering discovery of access to the Backpaddock, it was obvious we’d soon make a return trip for a good look at what the robins might be up to.

Again the weather dudes, made it pretty certain that a bleak, and perhaps not monumental storm was on the way, and that dire and severe and as it turned out, over active imagination weather was predicted.
We figured to go on Wednesday, and by the late afternoon of Tuesday, the weather prognosticators seemed to have the upper hand.  And in the end ‘common sense’ prevailed and I decided to stay home.
However, as seems the case so often, by morning, although a bit windy, the sky was blue. Horizon to horizon.  Quick phone call to Mr An Onymous, and he was soon on the way, the car was loaded, and we headed to the Northern Subs.

Once inside the gate, it didn’t take too long for three pairs of eyes, (on second thoughts, make that four pairs of eyes, as EE was with us), to locate a pair of very active, but somewhat suspicious of human activity  Red-capped Robins.  They were in an area that had not had a pair of birds for at least two seasons, so I figured them to be a new couple.   I’m beginning to contemplate that the birds I first saw all those years ago have reached their use by date and that its only now that a new younger generation of birds are building up the numbers again.  Fine theory, but??

The “Three Brothers” flock  of Flame Robins were no where to be seen, but I went to look for “Sam”, and eventually found him, but he certainly didn’t want anyone leaving Tripod Holes on his Forest, and promptly disappeared.
A pair of Scarlet Robins were also in the area, and EE spent  a bit of time with them, eventually getting the male to become bold enough to come in quite close.
Mr An, and I, followed a hunting party of Flames down through the scrub and eventually out manoeuvred them, and were sitting waiting for them to turn up, and they did.  Sunshine, Robins, close up, and a good sit spot. Perfect.   Probably shot more useful images in the hour or so than I have all season so far.

A problem for the robins was the presence of a couple of Whistling Kites, a pair of very vocal and fast, Brown Falcons, and a very noisy and low flying Brown Goshawk.  The slightest alarm call from the thornbill flock and everybody went for cover.

This small Flame flock are new birds for me, and consisted of about 4 males, several females, and 4-5 juveniles. Not having any knowledge of the history of this flock, its a bit hard to determine, but I’d be betting they are on their way back from somewhere, and have chosen to tank up in the forest.  They had joined the mobile Thornbill flock, of about 20-30 birds, so it was  pretty noisy convoy moving through the open areas.

At least the visit proved what we’d been contemplating, that the food source inside was better than outside, and the shelter of the understory in the Grey Box suits them.

And of course today, the weather has turned feral, so we are not likely to be out there again for at least the mid of the following week.
With only a few weeks to go, its a bit hard to think the season is going to provide much data on the flocks.  The encouraging thing I found was that the males were not vocal, and a female matriarch still seemed to be the one that controlled the flock movement.

Enjoy.

On the look out for those pesky photographers.
On the look out for those pesky photographers.
I've only a handful of pics of red-cap pairs together.  He was very defensive.
I’ve only a handful of pics of red-cap pairs together. He was very defensive.
I'm hoping this lovely lass will begin to accept me and we can get some interesting pictures   She reminds me so much of  my old friend Primrose with her wonderful buff dusting on the chest.
I’m hoping this lovely lass will begin to accept me and we can get some interesting pictures She reminds me so much of my old friend Primrose with her wonderful buff dusting on the chest.
He began to get bolder in his hunting close up, perhaps had figured out we were benign.
He began to get bolder in his hunting close up, perhaps had figured out we were benign.
Good enough for another pose
Good enough for another pose
This male has an unusual eye ring, and I'm wondering it it might be a young male still moulting in.
This male has an unusual eye ring, and I’m wondering it it might be a young male still moulting in.
Always hard to gain their confidence.
Always hard to gain their confidence.
This is Mr Yellow Sash, and he is alertly watching the pair of vocal Brown Flacons pass by.
This is Mr Yellow Sash, and he is alertly watching the pair of vocal Brown Flacons pass by.
Think this is the Matriarch.  Her chits and calls seem to bring everybody to attention
Think this is the Matriarch. Her chits and calls seem to bring everybody to attention
One of several pairs of Scarlets we encountered
One of several pairs of Scarlets we encountered

Walking in the Backpaddock at Woodlands Historic Park

The BackPaddock is now open.  For the first time since early Feb 2014, the back paddock has been opened up to mere mortals.

We haven’t visited the area in over 2 months.  No point if the access to the gorgeous piece of Grey Box forest and grassland is inaccessible. Tired I was of pressing my cold nose up against the unforgiving and unrelenting chain mesh.  Besides the Robins, the reason we visited were obviously living the high life further down the paddock and not trips out.

Our style of photography of these delightful winter visitors, is to find the flocks, note the best feeding areas and the size and direction of the flocks and how the mixed flock is moving about.  Then finding one of those spots and waiting.  If followed, they just fly further and further from reach, but a hunting flock coming into an area is unaffected by human presence. (or in my case my presence, and that solves the asking about ‘human?”)

EE and I had reason to travel north and stopped into Greenvale shopping centre for lunch, and on a whim, as we were near, “Let’s go and walk down the Providence Road track”.  Now the alternative was a long dreary drive home on the ring road, so as the Banjo said, we went.

We weren’t going to the back paddock and were in a bit of a hurry, but a quiet walk down to the old dam area and the forest in the area can be profitable, and we started off.  A red-cap pair distracted us and I walked the last few hundred metres to the back paddock to peer through the chain mesh. And.  The gate was unlocked!  Access!!!!

The fox, must be deceased,or as Python put it. “This fox is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace!  ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-FOX!!”

Dilemma. With only a minimum of equipment, would we make a walk, or as time was not on our side, just go with our original idea.  EE pushing through the gate sort of decided the next step.

And the forest was deadly quiet. Gone are the pardalotes, thornbills, treecreepers, honeyeaters and robins.  The usual spots were all deserted.  Not even the Rosellas we’d watched earlier were wrestling for spots, and above all the Red-rumped Parrots, not a sign.

Something has happened to the food chain in this piece of Grey Box. (I’ve seen flocks of 70 or more Flame Robins work here, what with as many thornbills, honeyeaters and the like a winter flock could be well over 100 birds. Easy to find because of the noise.
Deadly quiet.

EE was feeling well, so we ambled down the track to the famous “Three Way” Junction, or “Snake City” depending on whose telling the story.  The last of our ‘cuppa’ was finished and we were pondering the drive home, when along the top of the ridge among the old downed trees, a wing flap. Then another.  It was the old ‘Three Brothers hunting group”.  3 bold males, and a number of juveniles, and at this late stage of the season with the females starting to regroup.

Gone were thoughts of a freeway, and an early dinner and tv.
Not easy to work with a group of birds that don’t want to be approached, but in the end we managed a few useable images.  And learned a few things about the late season feeding.  No longer trying to find quick food among the moss beds, these birds were after much bigger, bulking up food.  Which means, sit, jump, eat, move on.  Hard to keep up with 20+ birds going hard at it.

In the middle of all this, a resident Red-capped Robin came down to see what all at the fuss was about. After all its been nearly 6 months since he’s had humans stomping all over his front lawn.
He reminded me of Yosemite Sam of Looney Tunes, so I named him Sam.
One of Sam’s great lines slightly paraphrased seemed to be on this little bird’s mind as he hopped about watching the activity.  “Tripod holes,  Some low-down ornery photographer is gettin’ tripod holes all over my Forest. ”
Yosemite Sam said it this ways. :”Great horny toads … a trespasser gettin’ footie prints all over my desert”

In the end they moved one time too many and disappeared over a ridge line.(probably heading for an evening roosting spot), and the light was beating us.  So we headed for the gate.  Met Andrew H, on the way, and so nice to catchup after so long.

Good to have access the Bandicoot Hilton once again.  Just need some reasonable weather to be able to sort out the hunting orders and have at the birds relax around us.  Time is of the essence, as they will be gone by the mid of August. 3 weeks perhaps.

Here tis

The Flame of the forest
The Flame of the forest
Wedge-tailed Eagle being given its marching orders by a very territorial Little Raven
Wedge-tailed Eagle being given its marching orders by a very territorial Little Raven
Getting close, but still a long ways to go
Getting close, but still a long ways to go
I think this one was letting a meal digest, while it sat in the sunshine.
I think this one was letting a meal digest, while it sat in the sunshine.
Big juicy and  more than a Robin can easily handle
Big juicy and more than a Robin can easily handle
Female running with the brothers.
Female running with the brothers.
Local resident Robin. I'm going to call him Sam.  As in Yosemite Sam. (Looney Tunes)
Local resident Robin.
I’m going to call him Sam.
As in Yosemite Sam. (Looney Tunes)
One of the great delights of watching the Flame Robins hunt is watching one working methodically across an open area.
One of the great delights of watching the Flame Robins hunt is watching one working methodically across an open area.

New addition to the Signature Series

I managed to get a front row seat in a bit of aerial drama yesterday with several Whistling Kites and a pair of nesting Black Kites.

Lovely to see both the aerial ballets and battles as well as be completely ignored by the birds in their business.

Decided that I’d add an image from the day to the Signature Series, so I’ve sent it off to the printers to get another shot for “the Wall”.

Here it is.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/birdsaspoetry/14520536298/in/photostream

Counting birds with the Werribee Wagtails at Mt. Rothwell

My astute reader, whoever you are, should have noted by now a few minor changes to the layout.  I’m going to take a great risk visually soon and take out all the side bar material. Probably not to many of us take much notice of that stuff anymore, me thinks.   Also you’ll have noted that the background has become a cork board.  That is a bit of a hark back to the old website, and perhaps I’ll just bring back the coloured backdrop. But most likely the design will change somewhat.

One of the major environmental activities that Werribee Wagtails group gets involved in is the surveying of several areas  every quarter to record bird numbers.  The areas are pretty much fixed and each circuit reveals changing bird numbers.

Mt Rothwell is a northern outcrop of the You Yangs, and offers one of the Grey Box and original scrub areas near the You Yangs. It is also a private environmental research centre. You can read about it here

I’ve written about our previous visits and some of the activities of the centre.
Today, however it was pretty much business as usual, and we managed to locate 42 species, and some with quite good numbers, over 60+ Red-rumped Parrots, and quite a number of raptors, Brown Falcons, Black Kites, Whistling Kites and  several Harriers.  But the raptor numbers were a bit down. Perhaps the hunting is better elsewhere.

On the site is the remains of an old movie set. I’ve reported this as the set for the Ned Kelly Movie with Mick Jagger, but better informed it apparently is the set from the Heath Ledger version in 2003.  Still, its quite in ruin, and even more dilapidated than when I saw it last time.

One of the highlights of the visit is the climb to Mt Rothwell, not a hard climb, but the view is simply stunning as its open from the East, North and West.  It show off some lovely big rock faces and some isolated tors.  A landscape photographers delight, if the light is right.

My astute reader, (whoever you are) will recall that I got myself a bit misplaced on a previous visit because I’d been silly enough to stop to take a photograph (actually several photographs), and was banned from carrying a camera if I came again.  The next time I followed the rules, and borrowed EE’s Panasonic FZ200 for a number of shots. But, I stayed with the group.

This time hidden under my plastic bag of sandwiches and soup, I had a (shhhh, don’t tell) a camera with my favourite 18-70 zoom lens.  So any rock or tree or building that appealed, I would surrupitiously  ease out the camera, slip to the side of the group, and “click” hoping no one would either notice my missing presence, or hear the offending noise.  And … well it seemed to work, and I survived the day.  Not too many bird pics, is true to be told, but hey, who needs another bird on a stick?

Early morning drizzle mutes the colours
Early morning drizzle mutes the colours
Red-rumped Parrots at bath
Red-rumped Parrots at bath

 

 

Many birds on many sticks
Many birds on many sticks

 

Sitting in the morning sunshine warming up
Sitting in the morning sunshine warming up
Sunlight rocks.
Sunlight rocks.
"Glenrowan" Set
“Glenrowan” Set
"Glenrowan Hotel" Set
“Glenrowan Hotel” Set
Fence line at "Glenrowan" note the metal star pickets to hold it up.
Fence line at “Glenrowan” note the metal star pickets to hold it up.
Bird watching should always be this much fun.
Bird watching should always be this much fun.
Last little spray of sunshine before the weather changed
Last little spray of sunshine before the weather changed

It must be in the air!

Had some really interesting and forthright emails and comments on the last long blog on ‘why we press the shutter’.  Funny how sometimes things just mesh in  harmony and we all have a chance to stop and at least make a quick ponder on our special place in the photographic endeavour.

But it must be in the air at the moment, as I received an email update from Jon Young, he of “What the Robin Knows” and founder of 8 Shields Institute.  For those that haven’t grasped his work, have a look  at the website.  He is primarily a mentor for developing the, ‘nearly lost art of understanding bird and animal language’.  Sites are here  Jon Young and here Bird Language. Ok, its a place to buy stuff, but look among the ideas. They also have a Free 8 week course, which is really a condensation  of the book “What the Robin Knows”.

Anyway marketing pitch off, I got an email from one of  his colleagues Josh Lane, and you can find the whole page here, Seeing with New Eyes

He puts it best this way, and I’m lifting out a couple of paragraphs, so hope the thought police are not on the job too much.  Check out Josh’s full quote above.

“On one level, this ability to perceive and behave unconsciously helps us in daily life, as we can learn to do many things at once without having to think about them. On the other hand, we can too easily go into “autopilot” and miss out on a lot of the world around us. 

The next time you walk out of your front door, or go to your sit spot, set the intention first to approach that place with beginner’s mind, as if you have never been there before.

Open your senses up. Pretend to be a tourist admiring the architecture of the building, or a birder who is on a distant safari watching and listening keenly for exotic new birds. Let nothing escape your attention.

Develop this practice for a week. Perhaps that same tree you have walked by 100 times before will catch your attention in a new way; maybe the afternoon light will hit the branches in a way you have never noticed before. Or, a flower growing in the cracks of the sidewalk will call to your senses and remind you of the beauty of the earth. Let your awareness be open and expansive, as you see familiar places with new eyes!”

Think this is what I’m wrestling with in my own work.   As I replied to Steve Hayward  He of Devophoto here on Flickr;

” I’ve been struggling of late between the need for technical shots of details and the need to develop a sense of place for the bird.”

And I think now that Josh has sussed it out.  Being so conscious of the right exposure, and the right location, and the right angle and the difficulty of filling the frame, I’ve been forgetting to look, to be open and expansive and to see the familiar with new eyes.

We’ll see. (pun intended).

Brown Falcon on a turn. She has a nesting site in mind, I'm sure
Brown Falcon on a turn. She has a nesting site in mind, I’m sure. She, because it is the larger of the pair.
Black Kites dancing together in the late afternoon sunshine
Black Kites dancing together in the late afternoon sunshine

DSC_2686

DSC_2691

This one is carrying what looks to be a large tuft of grass. He(?) scooped it off the top of the river sand cliffs.
This one is carrying what looks to be a large tuft of grass. He(?) scooped it off the top of the river sand cliffs.

DSC_2715

DSC_2679

With all the mice they are consuming, the high octane fuel is filling them up.
With all the mice they are consuming, the high octane fuel is filling them up.

New Directions or how many images of a Bird on a Stick do we need?

Most here would know that I am a Flickr addict.  I love to log on, post a picture of two from my latest time out in the field and have developed a good range of Flickr friends who also share their work.   But one of the limitations that Flickr has for me as a story teller is the inability to keep a story line intact.   No point in posting 15 images there, as after the first couple, most will move on to the next posting. (I speak as much as from personal experience as anything else).  There is only so many times you can post, “Oh, great photo of a Little Button Quail”.

Birds as Poetry blog I’ve always wanted to be a visual diary of the birds that we come across.  We, being in the first instance, my muse, best friend, partner for life and finest critic,  Dorothy she of the EE moniker.  We, sometimes includes those who might take the risk and travel about with me.  Mr An Onymous, Neil A, Ray, and Richard A (he of the Woodlands List fame) being all well known to the long term reader (whoever you are!)

One of the challenges I guess a bird photographer faces, is that sometimes the light, the bird and the area just don’t come together in a cohesive way, and over on Flickr I created the “Not Terribly Good Club” (apologies to Stephen Pile who created the “Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain” which eventually had over 30,000 members, and thus failed its own test!) that listing at least gave me a chance to put up work that I’d always hoped would encourage people that sometimes in spite of our efforts the photography process, like any good art reaches into the soul of the artist, but not always does the result achieve the intended result.

Today, I received an email from Earthbound Light by Bob Johnson. Now I’ve never met Bob, but often his writing vibrates with my own thoughts and I think, “I wish I’d said that”.

Been pondering the past few days about how many more,  as EE succinctly states, “How many more pictures of a bird on a stick does the world need?”  Which has always got me to pondering why take another photo? (not Why take another photo, but  rather why Take another photo. )   And I think Bob sums it up beautifully in his blog today.  I don’t have permission to quote him directly. (Very conscious of Intellectual Property Rights, and copyright issues), so please feel free to pop over to the page and take a gander.

Here tis..  Stopping Time: Why We Take Pictures.

He talks to the photo moment as:  absorbed in my own process and perception. With the resulting image being a sum of what went into the making, the subject, the lighting, the angle of view and the photographer. And I might add the enthrallement of those who view the images as it reaches out to their perception.

What struck me was the concept of the utter simplicity of the present moment, as the shutter is pressed.  Only you, and I, will see the bird, the mountain, the party, the moment, in that one single unique way.  So does the world need more birds on a stick. Probably  not, but the process is to me such an extension of the moment that I observed and absorbed, that at another level, there just cannot be too many birds on sticks or bird in the air images.

Now, if,  by some quirk of fate, you’ve read all the way down here, you probably think, “hmm, forgot to take his tablets today,” or more charitably, “I wonder where this is going. ”

I’m hoping it will mean more posting of the story of the birding day in this blog.
Not much rambling of words, but a look into the insight of what ‘we’ saw during the time out.   Flickr still gets my attention, but I won’t have the pressure of tying to create a coherent poem out of unrelated photos.  Will the quality be better here or there. In other words, do I really hang out to put the best images I can make on Flickr, or include them here to a much smaller audience.  (Hmm, yet to tell how I’ll deal with that).  But it will mean more shots of what ever Button Quail or its equivalent ‘we’ run across and draws us into their lives for even a brief instant in the universe.

So, here is a few from an hour or so among the birds on the Werribee River Park.

In the words of Bob Johnson,  “Next time your out photographing, (Or birding), stop, and pay attention.  Thanks Bob.

 

DSC_1571

DSC_1560

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.  Two really friendly Supeb Blue-wrens who entertained us with the antics.
Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Two really friendly Supeb Blue-wrens who entertained us with the antics.
Just lookin' for a home. A Brown Falcon that has taken over part of the park as a territory, and wishes everyone to know about it.
Just lookin’ for a home. A Brown Falcon that has taken over part of the park as a territory, and wishes everyone to know about it.
Late sun glistens on the wings of the vocal Brown Falcon
Late sun glistens on the wings of the vocal Brown Falcon
Sparrows, fleeing from a bathing moment.  The approach of the Flacon was enough to set off a Magpie Lark, and its first high-pitched call had the sparrows on the move as one.
Sparrows, fleeing from a bathing moment. The approach of the Falcon was enough to set off a Magpie Lark, and its first high-pitched call had the sparrows on the move as one.
Two recently fledged Black-shouldered Kites waiting for Dad to move that raucous Brown Falcon on.
Two recently fledged Black-shouldered Kites waiting for Dad to move that raucous Brown Falcon on.
Precision flying team.  Not yet, but they are beginning to learn to hover in light breezes. Part of those games include close passes with one another.
Precision flying team. Not yet, but they are beginning to learn to hover in light breezes. Part of those games include close passes with one another.

Birds as Poetry in “Wildlife Australia” magazine

Don’t often get to bragging, but in this case.

Way down in the bowels of Flickr, back about March 2011, is a photo of a Brown Falcon on a Fence.  It’s a shot that has always been in my Signature Series“.  It was made on my very first ever trip down to the Western Treatment Plant, and I found it just as I was leaving, with the late afternoon sunshine gracing the bird.  It stood its ground on me and I just waited. So did the bird.  Eventually a small breeze blew past, and the bird took to wing. It threw straight into the sunshine, and I only got the one shot.

Its been up on Flickr for quite a long time, and I received an email from one of the editors of Wildlife Magazine, a few months back looking for images for an article on Brown Falcons.   So they published it in the latest Edition of the magazine, Winter 2014, vol 51, No. 2  supporting an article by Dr Penny Olsen.  The article is titled Snake Charmer The Brown Falcon.  My mate Paul Randall of wingsonwire, (see the sidebar for the address) also had a featured shot of a Brownie with a snake for a meal.

And in the same magazine, a lovely shot of a Dingo by Andrew Alderson also a Flickr mate.  Here’s his Flickr address.

You can find info on Dr Olsen here.

https://researchers.anu.edu.au/researchers/olsen-pd

Find details of Wildlife Australia magazine here.  Website

 

wildlifemag

 

And here’s the shot.

 

DSC_0909 - Version 2 (1)

 

 

 

A feast of Raptors.

Been awhile since I’ve posted, but its been lack of good weather more than anything.
The area close to home, on the Werribee River Park, that I’ve taken to euphemistically calling ‘The Office”, has an amazing number of raptors, and I thought I’d introduce them and what they are up to.

On the roadway in, just over the Geelong Freeway, there is a fence line and a few old pines.  Here a pair of Black-shouldered Kites have just flown their two orange and cinnamon young. In the same tree line a pair of Black Kites appear to be setting up house, if not already at work on brooding.  Next tree or three down, is a pair of Brown Falcons. Not nesting yet, but certainly staking out their claim to the territory. Much to the anger of the Black-shouldered Kites.

Down the road a little just before the carpark off in the paddocks a second pair of Brown Falcons are at work on territorial rights.  Also regularly in the area a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles, although the moment, it probably  is just a convenient perching location.

At the carpark proper, a pair of Black-shouldered Kites and their recently fledged three teenagers.  Not more than a dozen trees down from them is a pair of Black Kites and  a nest that is work in progress. I’ve not checked up close, but there is either brooding or feeding going on.  The male seems quite adept at pursing a laden Black-shouldered Kite and getting it to release its mouse capture.

A pair of Brown Falcons are constantly in the trees just off the river cliffs line, and I’d be tempted to say its a likely spot for a nest.

Further out in the field and well away from my prying lens is a pair of Australian Kestrels, and again they are too early for nesting, but are certainly building good pair bonding.

Combine that with the regular visits by any number of Whistling Kites and the area is certainly busy.   A few days back an arrow shaped bird sped through the trees and caused quite a stir among the smaller birds and the one really good look suggested Peregrine Falcon, and I’ve seen one briefly on the fence line on the way in.

So here are a few of the birds at work.  The food in the area must be exceptional to support such a range of nesting and preparing birds.

Recently fledged pair. In training.
Recently fledged pair. In training.
One of two Brown Falcons that are using these trees in the river flats.
One of two Brown Falcons that are using these trees in the river flats.
Wedge-tailed Eagle, fences make good perches.
Wedge-tailed Eagle, fences make good perches.
The wind was much to strong for this trio to practice their hunting skills.
The wind was much to strong for this trio to practice their hunting skills.
The trio in the wind.
The trio in the wind.
Dad with a mouse, but he's waiting for a chance to deliver without losing it to the Black Kite
Dad with a mouse, but he’s waiting for a chance to deliver without losing it to the Black Kite
A Black Kite circling, hoping to take a mouse from a Black-shouldered Kites.
A Black Kite circling, hoping to take a mouse from a Black-shouldered Kites.
Brown Falcon, near a favourite perch.
Brown Falcon, near a favourite perch.
Territory is everything. This is a pass on a Brown Falcon to get it to move away from the fledglings.
Territory is everything. This is a pass on a Brown Falcon to get it to move away from the fledglings.
Posts make ideal perches when there are so few tall trees.
Posts make ideal perches when there are so few tall trees.
That fence again.
That fence again.