Take a look at Tom Stirr’s new Blog Site

Tom has been writing for quite awhile on the Photography Life site.

But, he’s taken the plunge and begun his own web journey.

It’s always filled with his great insight into both birding, nature and photography.

Have a look here and if you like what you see, subscribe.

http://tomstirrphotography.com

Good luck Tom.

The Birds of Kangaroo Island A Photographic Field Guide.

A little bit chuffed with myself.

This lovely book turned up in the mail today.

A beautifully laid out book, with each bird to a spread and a page of photos.

The Text from Chris Baxter shows a labour of love and really interesting insights into each bird.

I’m pretty excited as several of my shots are used to illustrate the birds. My real pride and joy of course is the Southern Boobook which was on Flickr in October 2014.

It’s a good field guide to many other areas and will be get lots of use when we are working with waders.

Book Detail.
ATF Press Adelaide   See Website Here

There is also a radio interview with Chris Baxter on the site as well.
Radio interview with Chris Baxter by Ian Henschke of the ‘Morning Program’  on Adelaide ABC Local Radio 891, Friday 15 May 2015.

Birds of Kangaroo Island A Photographic Field Guide

Dull day at the beach

One look at the weather map was enough, didn’t need no icon waving, weather talkin, danger predicting tv dude to tell me.  It was going to be cold, miserable, overcast and photographically crippling.

But.

We went anyway.

Mostly to see if the Flame Robins were at Point Cook, -yes.  Was the Pink Robin(s) there.  No. (well not that we could find)  Were the pair of Black Kites any further advanced with the reproduction activity. Jury out on that.

After being blown down toward the beach, the tide was well out.  Half blown out, I’d suggest.   And there were a pair of Pacific Gulls resting in the lee of the rocks.  And the shutter speed was on the never-never plan.

After awhile one of the gulls got up, flew to a rocky edge of the water and retrieved what I take to be a Sea Urchin.  This hard shell creature is more than it can break open by hitting on a rock. But, the species has developed over the years a working technique. Take the prize up about 20m and drop it on the rocks. Smash.  Or at least on the second attempt.
Waft down and enjoy the feast.

After performing this feat several times in front of us, it also attracted the usual scavengers and free loaders.   So on the incredibly strong wind several Whistling Kites came to pay a visit to their new ‘best’ mate.  However Pacific was having none of that and inspite of some clever wing work on the part of several attacking at once, the gull simply stood its ground.  In the end, they moved on to look elsewhere and gull went back to its snack. And then moved down the beach with the next catch.

Take water, add Robins, instant enjoyment

Gazing out of the window, a little blue sky hinted among the grey.  That was enough to have the Earl Grey Tea poured, the cameras in the car and away we went.   Wanted to have a look along 29 Mile Road at the Western Treatment Plant.

This area has a number of paddocks recently ploughed and the Kites seem to favour the turned over ground. By the time we made it to the “Highway Lounge” at the Caltex Servo on Geelong Road, the little bit of blue has zipped itself up in the dense grey that was accumulating.  So we stopped for a quick Mocca, and then continued.  Only to be confronted with a misty rain.  “Turn back now, or go on?”  We went, and the rain continued, and we went and the rain continued. Exposures of a Week @ f/4 seemed to be the order of the day.

So reaching the Beach Road corner, we pondered a very early mark. Then a flash of red, and another and the paddock opposite was covered in Flame Robins.   Well, covered is such an all encompassing word, so its probably better to use dotted here and there. In the end we found four males, at least as many females and several juveniles in varying states of moult.

I propped the 300mm ff/2.8 with a TC 2.0 (Making 600mm) on a post, and wished I’d been clever enough to include a beanbag.  The rain changed to a drizzle between downpours.  The birds seemed to ignore it an hunted happily.  Feeling pretty confident in the rain, they chose to ignore us pretty much completely and we were able to move about with them without them fleeing.

In the end being sodden completely and beginning to worry about the cameras getting drowned, we called it quits.    And by then the small meagre light had been completely swallowed up in dark and ominous low cloud, which soon turned to massive downpour. Time for home.

Close Encounters of the Brown Falcon Kind

Was down at the Werribee River Park, otherwise known euphemistically as “The Office”.

Happened to wander, (not necessarily accidentally), while looking for a quartet of male Flame Robins, into a Brown Falcon territory.  This pair worked around the area last year and were able to fledge two fine looking young birds.

I first heard this one off in the distance, but then noted it was making a run along the tree line directly toward me.  Whether intentionally or not, it used the cover of the tree line to get quite close before launching out into the open straight toward me.

Early on in my bird photography career, I used to have the opportunity to photograph a very comfortable pair of Brown Falcons out on the Cumberland grasslands at Woodlands Historic Park.  Often they would sit while I approached, or come in for a closer look as I traversed the grasslands.   However all that changed when she went to nest, and I’ve some pretty awesome photos of a Brown Falcon that passed overhead so close I could hear her go by.  She also on another occasion fly down behind a stand of trees, picked up speed with the wind behind her and belted out of the treeline about head height,(mine not hers), and I have visions still of a brown streak coming at me at around 70+kph.   I took the hint and retreated.

Yet once the young were fledged they again went back to being quite relaxed.
So as this one bore down on me, I had a as Yogi Bera was wont to say, “Here comes that De Ja Vu feeling again.”  As it approached I was impressed with the bird’s ability to turn its wings and body in the air, and to keep her head level.

It passed by gaining height as it went over my head, turned and I thought for a moment it might ‘stoop’ me as that is their way of dealing with intruders.  But, it was a simple one time pass, and the bird streaked away across the paddock.

Awesome.

As I left I found it sitting on a wire fence, completely ignoring me it went about its hunting business.  I’m happy with the ignore, and I hope that it might mean a beginning of working with the bird a little more closely. Time will, as they say, will tell.

Right time, right place, or Time and Chance happen

Weegee was a great New York newpaper photographer.  See Here,

His specialty was recording the darker side of New York life.  His images depict for a large part the inhumanity of man to man.  Death and destruction were his staple image set.   He was called “Weegee” because of his almost uncanny ability to arrive at a crime scene sometimes before the law enforcement.  He had a  special police radio built into his car and constantly monitored the radio calls.  He patrolled the streets armed with THE press camera of the day, a venerable Speed Graphic camera and a pocketful of Double Darkslides, that held 2 sheets of 4×5 inch film. No Spray and Pray multi burst for Weegee.

Among many of his apocryphal quotes is this one. When asked “Oh, Weegee,  On the camera, what settings do you use?”  His response, ” f/8 and be there!!!!

And its seems to me that bird photography sometimes is just like that.  You need to be there. And there of course is where-ever the birds happen to be engaged in some amazing activity.

EE, Mr An Onymous, and I had taken the morning down to the Treatment Plant.   Our main plan of intent was to find the furtive Sea Eagle.   The weather person on the tv, y’know, the one with all the icons of what the weather will be in your backyard in the next hour or so, and mostly it will be anything from floods, to thunder and lighting, if not snow, had apparently used up all those icons yesterday, and the only ones left were a few sunny, foggy, misty and clearing.  So she intoned. “Tomorrow will be a little foggy in the morning, changing to a light mist and then sunny for the remainder of the day … Insert plastic smile here!!”

Not known as one that is enamoured by the use of cute little icons to tell me really important things about what the weather may do, I did what any self respecting weather smart person would do, I went outside to see if it was raining. (Winnie the Pooh joke in there somewhere).  Noting the cold, it was pretty certain that the morning offered some promise of clear weather and so rounding up the troops, we set forth.

But… the icons were far from right, and the fog turned out to be about treacle in density and porridge in movement. And it hung around, the Sea Eagle came and went somewhere in the mist, and by late morning, it was pretty obvious that we were out of luck. As we drove toward home we took a bit of a detour south along the 29 Mile Road.  This piece of Realestate separates part of the Treatment Plant farm from some of the last of the wetlands.

Today, Farmer Brown, was out in his big green tractor using up all sorts of farmer stuff that he had in the shed, and sitting high in his air-conditioned palace he was turning the soil into arable land.

Now, a farmer with a tractor in a paddock is a pretty big magnet for an inquisitive Black Kite, and this was no exception.  The kites sat in the ploughed furrows and watched for small creatures to try to escape the oncoming tractor. Those wanting first crack at the startled prey were circling over the tractor as it passed on by.  To watch a Black Kite over a tractor is a pretty awesome experience.  They have mastered the ability to perfectly link up with the speed of the tractor and some hold station at the front of the travel, some to the sides. All just about at tractor height. Anything that moves is pounced upon.

We stopped by the side of the road to watch them at work, farmer and kites.   At first I counted about 15 in the air.  Then noted about another 15 sitting in the furrows waiting for the tractor to pass, and then another 15-30 sitting at a distance on the fence line. Waiting.

As it happened, one of the kites did infact land some prey.  On hindsight, I would venture that it was a Brown Quail.  Big enough, open enough country and we’d seen some earlier in the day back along the track.

Catching it of course is one thing. Keeping it to yourself quite another, and at least four of the brothers flew in to help claim the prize and to wrest it from the successful bird.  In the ensuing battle the quail was dropped and it fluttered to the ground, followed by 6 or so of the circling kites. However, as luck turns, they missed it in the turned over soil.   That done all that was left was recriminations, so they took battle with one another, as presumably a good scrap is as good as a good feed.   So now about 6 or so of them were circling in ever challenging circles.

Meanwhile, I’d noted off in the distance an small black spot that was getting larger.  Then it grew large enough to identify as it swept in over the paddock, past the kites and rocketed skywards.  The unmistakable shape and speed of a Black Falcon.

The Black Falcon gets reported by very excited birding people on Birdline, every so often as an amazing find on 29Mile Road. Black Falcon, or really exciting “Black Falcon Pair”.  To those of us who regularly work along the road, it’s a frequent visitor and a little patience on most days will locate either the pair or at least one of them.  Still it must be amazing to see if you’ve come a long way to the Treatment Plant.

Oh, I digress. We left said Black rocketing skywards.
Then it did the Falcon thing, turned on a wing and ‘stooped’.  Now it was a missile on a mission earthwards. The Black has a particular turn of speed, and is not like its lumbering cousin the Brown, but it may not have the speed of its other cousins, the Peregrine or Hobby.  None the less, a black streak plummeting out of the sky is a heart stopping thing. One of its more favourite foods is the agile Budgerigar so it must be pretty swift and agile to make a meal of them.

All of this of course, I tell in hindsight. I only saw this black thing dropping like a projectile.   It came in with wings drawn back, legs out, and rocked backward, grabbed, attached, and then rocked forward and began to gain height.

At about the time I exclaimed, “it got the prey” five or six of the Black Kites had reached the same conclusion, and were in hot pursuit, not willing that the prey should escape them.

And of course this is where the Falcon has the speed advantage. For every wing beat put it further in front of the pursing Kites.  And eventually they had to admit defeat and watch it, and their lunch, disappear across 29 Mile Road and into the Falcon’s roost tree.  (15th tree down from the corner if anyone wants to check!)

With nothing better to do, the kites settled back in the furrows and waited for the next pass of the tractor.

A couple of the images lack a bit of sharpness because of focus fault, but I’ve added them anyway as I think they fill in the details.
Enjoy

The tale of the hapless Little Eagle

Sometimes you can always tell when a raptor is in the air. The birds go quiet, or there is a series of warning calls ring across the forest.   Or, the local magpies and ravens go into high gear agitation and  speed across the sky in pursuit of nemesis.

The latter was the case the other morning.  A local Little Eagle had been out and had collected itself a pretty fair meal, and was carrying it home tucked in its crop.  See the flickr shot here.

A little while later, the ravens and magpies were on high call and in hot pursuit.  The day was very windy, and it favoured the highly manoeuvrable and speedy ravens, so the poor Little Eagle copped a right pounding.  The wind gave the ravens a great climbing speed and they were able to outclass the raptor.  It on the other hand couldn’t get advantage as it had to keep losing height and changing direction.  It’s plaintive ‘peep’ call is pretty pathetic.

For some reason, Little Eagles seem to cop it from everyone.  Its diet rarely would include taking birds but it seems to get the rap from all the birds.  Such is the way of life on the wing.

Also hard to get them all in frame when you’ve only got the big lens handy and the wind is blowing a gale and wrenching it out of cold old hands.

Wandering around Serendip

Serendip Sanctuary is located about an hour from Melbourne.  See here

Went down with some of the former Werribee Wagtails, now Birdlife Werribee, for a beginners day.

Now a sanctuary is not the greatest place for those who are counting bird lists, as the somewhat enclosed status of the birds means they don’t count on lists. But, for us beginners its a great way of seeing birds that normally would be difficult to find.  And not all the birds are enclosed. Some like the Magpie Geese and Cape Barren Geese and others are free to come and go, but with a ready supply of food on hand, there doesn’t seem much incentive to wander out of the area.   Add to that the raptors that waft over from the surrounding farmlands and plains and it can be a great place to actually see birds.

So, loading in the cameras we went.  And spent most of the morning in a couple of the enclosures having close encounters with such new friends as Buff-banded Rails, Freckled Ducks, Tawny Frogmouth and Blue-faced Honeyeaters, and watching the Bush Stone-curlews do their amazing ‘freeze’ stance.

All in all a good day for photography.  All the shots here are from the sanctuary and the birds are quite human tolerant.  So the usual disclaimer on our photo endeavours don’t apply.
Enjoy

 

Penny up close and personal

Wanted to give this moment a space of its own.

She is on a fence post and has come down the fence line to see what I’m doing.  Had to step back a bit to get focus. Too close for the lens focus setting.

For the technically ept, its shot with the 300mm f/2.8 and a TC 2.0e iii.  Equiv focal length 600mm.  I had the presence of mind to stop down to f/10, to at least get some little depth of field. My calc is about 3cm.  As I’m running the D810 on Auto-ISO, it bumped the ISO up to 2500.  Something I’d probably not do normally.  And its hand-held. My Flickr mate Martyn would be happy.  See his work here.
Only Noise Reduction is the tiny amount that my software adds at ingestion.

For an extra look try the “Full Size” button on the bottom left in the gallery shot.

Hello Penny.

Meet Penny the Pink Robin. A Gallery for your enjoyment

Spent a really wet and dry morning down at the Point Cook Coastal Park.  In between heavy downpour squalls and high winds bands of sunshine played across the paddocks.

We’d gone to look for Kites, but as it turned out, in the rain, our hearts were stolen by a very small and extremely tolerant Pink Robin.  Yep, we have featured her before, but today among the downpours and the shafts of sunlight she seemed contented to allow our presence.  EE postulates, (and who would argue), that perhaps our walking in the rain on the wet road drove worms to the surface and made it easier for her to hunt around us.  The number of worms she seemed to collect from nowhere might give a bit of cred. to the theory.

I’ve also figured out that I can make a respectable gallery of a trip to add into WordPress, and so think I might have found a solution to my challenge of being able to give a sense of the trip without wasting lot of words.

Click on any photo in the gallery and it will display up to 2000 pixels across. -big enough!  Then you can move through to the next or preceding images.Hope you enjoy this way of viewing the images, as the photos tell the story.

And it lets you comment on the pictures (if you feel the need).

Enjoy

Penny the Pink Robin Gallery