When I was a mere broth of a lad, we had in our ‘vast’ library of books a volume entitled “Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great”, by some dude named Elbert Hubbard. It was filled with wide-eyed stories of visits to great historical people. Some with really funny names to a young lad. Aristotle, Copernicus, Jane Austen, Eras-someoneorother ….
I acquired much later in life a copy of his “Day Book”, which was a collection of his ‘thoughts’ on various subjects. Nowadays a google search will find lots of them in disconnected ways.
He perished in 1915 with the sinking of the “Lusitania” which bought the United States in the First World War.
Intriguing really as one of his quotes was.
As long as governments set the example of killing their enemies, private individuals will occasionally kill theirs.
But back to Little Journeys.
A friendship that goes back a long way and includes all sorts of family connection is with Mark from over on Flickr at mdsmedai9. So when he suggested he would swing by for a visit in the Winnebago, we decided a “Little Journey” to the Western Treatment Plant was in order.
Bet you were, dear reader beginning to think I’d never find a link for the title. Sad.
Of course on such short notice, the weather was in no mood at all to be co-operative. And it wasn’t.
Still we had a grand old chat, drank some earl of grey, and found at least a few birds for him to photograph.
At about the same time, my friend, (Whoa!! how many have I got??) Nina, (Nina and I used to work together a long time ago, in what can only be described as “another life”) had also been down for a “Little Journey” to the other end of the WTP, to visit the amazing Red-necked Phalarope and found some great looking young Black-shouldered Kites for her time. One of which she is graciously letting me publish in this blog.
I wrote of the Banjo’s Romance, last blog.
Then we were out to the Treatment Plant, EE, Mr An Onymous and I.
To see that poem played out.
On a day that started with a lighting strike about 100m away and “CRACK” of thunder that would indeed wake the dead, the overcast and wet weather offered us little reprise in our quest for Sea-eagle.
So we turned the way for home.
And just as the light was fading, a sparkling wingflash streaked across the river just to our left. A falcon. No, not any flacon. A Peregrine Falcon. My first for the Treatment Plant.
It had downed a duck.
The Pink-eared Ducks spend most of the day lolling about in Lake Borrie, but then on evening, make the several hundred metre flight over the Little River and into one of the Walsh Lagoons just over the river. A few minutes flight for a nimble duck.
For the Falcon, it was pretty easy pickings if you think about it. Ducks- several hundred- in a straight line, – tricky little dudes, fly over the reeds on the far side take a detour either left or right for a few hundred metres along the rivers edge, then pop over the far bank and plop in to the Lagoon. The slow moving Whistling Kites and Swamp Harriers can’t match that speed.
Dropping from above at speed over 100kph, the Peregrine probably doesn’t even raise a sweat.
The duck is a heavy creature and the Falcon can’t get it airborne and must work it on the ground. Now, ordinarily, good luck would have put the prey down in a secluded spot. However in this case it was on the middle of the track we were travelling out along.
So the Falcon took to the air. And circled. So much so that in the end, I decided to reverse the car back down the road, and see what would happen. Too far back for photos, but what would the bird do?
And sure enough, after several scattered flights back and forth, and cleaning up an inquisitive Swamp Harrier along the way, the Falcon landed about 50m from the duck and decided what to do. After several minutes, it flew down landed a few metres away, re-evaluated our presence, the chance of a meal, and hopped up to the duck and began to take off the feathers.
We left it in peace to finish its well earned meal. On the far side of the river we spotted another set of sharp wings. A second Peregrine! And the light was gone.
Enjoy. Huge crops, but I wasn’t going to disturb the bird any more than I had already.
Three weeks of Blogging 101 and it time to bid farewell to learning and launch out the barque of blogging on my own.
Have learned a thing or three about the blogging universe, but not sure a lot of it transposes into the page here.
We did “S-tra-ya” day, Mahhte (Australia Day to the uninitiated), yesterday. Instead of the usual burnt snags and fatty chops we had a spit-roast sitdown meal at the Villiage centre. And among other things were entertained by Susie and Mel. These bush poets and songsters took us on a tour-de-force (french on Aussie day mahhhte? )
They have a wonderful way of combining the old of the Banjo, Henry Lawson, The Breaker and other with modern music. Imagine, (if you will), The Man from Snowy River, sung to Morning Town Ride, or Waltzing Matilda, to Ghost Riders in the Sky, And then to top it all off an audience participation number of The Man from Ironbark, with several of the village doing the miming parts of said Man and Barber.
Hilarious. Rolling on the floor funny, and brought the house down, – as they say.
Somehow in this modern rush of life, their way of life and the stories they told are at best no longer relevant. Hard to talk of stock and dry paddocks, and horses and whip cracking to someone glued to their mobile fone, trying to get GPS directions or upload their latest ‘selfie’, or what is the latest You-tube viral nothingness. But, of course I digress.
Another thing that came to me about all this is that they didn’t deal with the deep emotional stuff. There is no connection here like T.S. Elliot’s The Waste Land. Nor the cutting insight of Dylan Thomas, nor… and the list goes on. Nor the fine interaction of the universe, sunlight and shadow of the classic Taoist poets. And the old Hebrew rhymers who gave birth to such inspirational works that whole religions grew from them.
Yet. The Bards of the Bush give us an insight into the life and times of a generation or two who lay the foundation of S-tra-ya as it is in its multi-cultural kaleidoscope. And, well, I could go on, but its a photo blog isn’t it.
The Banjo it seems wrote little of the birds of Australia. Much of the human condition as he found it. So I’m going to take a bit of poetic licence with his and other works over the next few weeks. Never know where it will go.
Now when it comes to Bush. Nothing quite says it like Brown Falcon.
These amazing birds so bronzed and upright. Here’s one of the young from the Office. That rich colour of deep brown and brilliant tan are always a winning combination.
Been away for the bulk of this past week. Up at the Family Acres. We stayed at the Murray Downs Resort in Swan Hill. Really nice and quiet, and just a few km out of town.
Like all good resorts, probably enough to do without having to make the tourist mecca trip. And a lovely golfcourse built in.
But, of course not being the sporty type, golf doesn’t mean, clubs, balls and keeping score. It means wide open green areas, water, trees, bushes and … birds.
So each morning we managed to be up at Sparrows call, and walk around the course, before the golfers began their pilgrimages.
In return we got to see among other things, White-winged Choughs, Rainbow Bee-eaters, Pied Butcherbirds and a host of the usual suspects.
With the Goschen Roadside Reserve about 20 minutes away, it should have been a great birding week.
So photography was banned. Well at least frowned on. So I snuck into the deep pockets of my Breakaway jacket, a D810, sans its L Bracket, and in the other pocket, the 300mm f/4 PF with a 1.4 TC attached. Not much help for general photography but at least it covered some of the birds at the golf course.
The White-winged Choughs have adapted quite well, thank you, to the rolling sand hills, saltbush and thin mallee scrub, nestled between the sweeping grassy greens of the golf course. Able to enjoy both the richness of their old habitat and the pleasures of the new.
I managed to spend two sessions, a mid morning, and a late evening with a couple of the families. They are so used to people zooming past in carts, or walking by with bags and clubs that a dude walking quietly with a camera seemed quite harmless. So within a few minutes I was accepted into the family, and they worked around me nonchalantly. Even the ever present “Lookout” bird relaxed enough for closeups.
Blogging 101 was also concentrating on the family of bloggers.
But a lot of it was about branding, id, making themes that people will follow, or seek out and developing a feature to enrich readership, as my eyes glaze over….
So I came to the conclusion “Family Matters”. Those who graciously have clicked the Follow button or come over from another link are welcome here as family, and the time shared is as much important to me as the enjoyment of the birds.
So there is not going to be a ‘sustainable purely personal blog of random musings benefitting from a hint of structure.. ” here anytime in the foreseeable future.
Just me sharing our best time with the birds and hoping you enjoy it as much.
New week, and I’m away from home for the week. Travelled up to the family acres. This is an exercise of sitting in a fast moving car and waiting while the miles, (kilometres) roll by. Long straight roads with not much else to see but the road, and the horizon, and the blue sky. Didn’t we already pass that 105 km post?
And today’s Blogging exercise is to find a prompt (Bloggsville provides them), and so we come to Now you see me, now you Don’t. Thought it was appropriate for being on the road again.
Stopped as is our want at The Eaglehawk Bakery to enjoy a “Mulga Bill’s” Pie for lunch. One thing I guess that has changed a bit over .the past twelve months or so it that I’ve had to reduce my diet from pies, and all those lovely carbs, and concentrate on ‘healthy’ food. But, hey its a long road to the family acres and a pie is just the right thing. Also picked up a Banana milkshake. This is starting to sound like a Facebook foodaholic journal.
The days before we left, we were watching a pair of White-plumed Honeyeaters. This clever pair had built a nest among the leaves over the river.
It’s funny as I’ve written to this before, just recently, about now you see me now you don’t. While EE was busy working with a Wagtail pair, (and I stay away as it doesn’t need two humans in their space), I was watching a White-plumed Honeyeaters. Something about the extra intensity of their actions said, “They have a nest somewhere.” And while I looked here, and there and over there too, no sign did I see of their location. The following day had us at the same spot, and this time I moved about 50m down the river. Again time passed. The Honeyeaters passed and the mystery deepened, Finally I got a glimpse of them moving back and forth from a branch stretching over the river and it was even more obvious that is where they were working. And down at the end of some leaves over the water, tightly fitted in among the reeds was their deliciously wound, spider web and grass globe. But so far out over the water as to be very safe from most prying eyes. And being in the leaves, it was really impossible to get a good view.
So, I waited. And as the pair moved back and forth with food, I was able to get at least a look at the opening and occasionally as it all swung back and forth in the breeze a glimpse of little heads inside.
Then the mystery deepened, or more accurately my observations became more detailed. She had sited the nest opening in such a way that a leaf was being used as a ‘trapdoor’ to conceal the opening.
Here was a bird with a super sense of security. The older leaf lay perfectly over the nest opening and made it almost impossible to see that there was a nest down there.
Then she would fly in, push the leaf to one side, feed the young, and then on leaving she would pick the leaf up and place it back over the hole! If both birds arrived at about the same time, the last one leaving would cover over the nest.
Now you see me. Now you don’t. How appropriate.
Several days later the first of the brood had clambered out of the nest and was clinging tightly to the top of the nest. And while we were watching a second one also made its first tentative ventures out of the nest.
By the time we get back, they will be well on the wing.
The assignement is to add links to blogs I follow. To be blunt, I never thought of that before! So, it opens up who I have been following and what blogs I enjoy. So now instead of reducing the stuff on the Sidebar, it has Gotten BIGGER!!!
I’ve been able to add a section that has links to some blogs that I follow. You might find a gem or two in there.
A few will know I’ve been working on “Children of the Wind“. An idea born out of some Jon Young directions, but mostly an exploration of how as photographers we seek, find and enjoy new subjects, or new takes on old ones, or revisiting themes and styles from previous years, or looking at learning from, leaning on the masters of the past and how they in the ‘minds-eye’ expressed their feel to a subject.
You can see why its not going to be something I’m going to expand on too far or fast. Still.
I’ve always been fascinated by the way light melds across a subject. I’ve been know to drive 100’s kms to catch an early morning sun-rise or to sit for hours waiting for the evening light to throw across the stage and enhance the main subject with its golden goodness.
So just for this time, here is a change from birds.
Impressionist, Pictorialist, opportunistic or just too late.
Yesterday after a spin around the block, I came upon the site Hoof Beats and Foot Prints and today Emily has posted a few shots and a bit of musing on “Impressionistic” results. When sometimes the wrong settings are the right settings. See Here A Friends Filters
Which is as it turns out fortuitous as today’s Blogging 101 assignment was to write a post on thoughts that linked from yesterday’s visits. As coindicene goes, I’d put this picture of a Black Falcon in flight up on Flickr.
And one of the comments from Peter pointed out that sometimes we do indeed become over emphatic about getting the clinical result. I follow Ming Thein, and he too from time to time explores out beyond the formal result.
My thoughts on gaining an impressionistic feel or a “pictorial” atmosphere is that its just as difficult to get a great artistic alternative, as it is to make the clinical shot.
Sometimes even more difficult as we have balance, subject movement, shutter speed selection, composition, lighting and exposure. It’s why it’s easier to stick it into ‘photoshop’ and mess with the controls there. Or look through the blurry shots destined for the waste bin and rescue one, tart-it up and try and pass it off as really a Strong storytelling impression of the movement and mood.
Or plan for it!
One of the elements I always think make it work is it approximates what we would have seen had we been standing there. The motion. That fleeting glimpse of the bird as it passes.
Further pondering lead to really thinking of two possible opportunities. One is panning with the bird. At least part of the bird should be sharp, and depending on the shutter speed, the backdrop should be streaky to milk smooth.
The other is the bird movement. And again the street smarts would say that part of the subject area should be sharp to highlight for the eye the impression of movement.
Well my Black Falcon doesn’t fall into much of any of that. The ugly truth is that we were simply too late, too late too late.
Had we entered the WTP in our usual way from Paradise Road, we’d have encountered the birds, the harvesting, and the right evening light. I’d have had a bit of a chance to work out the bird’s movements, where they turn with the tractor, where they perch between flights, and would have set up to get the best from that. But, we were too late.
The sun was setting as we drove by. Birds were all over the sky, Black Kites, Whistling Kites and one lone solitary aerial speedster.
“A Black Kite” she called. “Yes,” said I, slamming on the brakes and opening the door and grabbing the camera and trying to find the streaking black dot in the gloom.
Oh, 1/50th at ISO 400. Who am I kidding?
It sped past, dropped onto a branch nearby, and glared at some Black Kites. Slowly I advanced, knowing it was futile. But. I wanted at least one record shot to show that Black Falcon is in WTP over the summer.
So did it make the waste bin? It is just a dolled up average shot. Or does it give an impression of the beauty of this bird of speed.
Over to you.
Another photographer who has struggled and succeeded with the impressionist approach is William Neill check out his work here.
Checking out the Neighbourhood!
So says the assignment. So I got to take a bit of a spin around the blog (block) and dropped by a few sights (sites).
First up is a look at some of the architecture and bird locations in Perth.
Try Here. Somewhere42
Then a bit of a stretch of the legs in the Seven League Boots to find a spot on Chesapeake Bay. (Every since I was a little taker, the scenery and people of Chesapeake have been a bit of a magnet to me. I’ve never been there, but have enjoyed many fine stories and photos from the area.
Next stop is Blue Note Photos. A Musician who has a skill with the camera and enjoys those moments of creative expression. Stuff we’d probably all like to explore, and here it is happening. Blue Note Photos. Enjoy
And after all that energy, some relaxation with Perry Battles who shares some fine thoughts on Tai Chi Practice for tranquility.
and just to finish off.
Here is shot from last evening of a Silver Gull ‘walking’ on water. It was using its wings to ‘hover in position’, and then step from wave to wave as the water rolled underneath. They are the masters of the air.
For the Technically ept. Shot with the D7100 and a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a TC1.7 converter. I’ve set the crop size to 1.3x in camera, as I’m experimenting with what the new focus system on (my) new D500 might be like with the focus points spread over more of the viewfinder area. I wouldn’t normally bother, rather cropping from a full sized image, but its intriguing to think the focusing mechanism will do with the focus points right to the edge on the new D500.
It pays to be in the right place at the right time … the thing is, that when you are, it’s often a complete fluke!
Sunday afternoon out on the plains, I was watching a male White-fronted Chat, perched on a gate. This same spot is often a good place to observe Zebra Finches and I’ve seen a Black Falcon on more than one occasion.
Male White-fronted Chat, Moolort Plains, 10th January 2015.
Suddenly the chat and a bunch of other small birds scattered in all directions as a dark shape propelled into sight, at eye-level, along the fence-line.
Fence-line with Gorse and Tree Violet.
An immature Peregrine Falcon, one of the world’s swiftest birds in level flight, headed directly towards me and then banked abruptly to reveal its wonderfully patterned undercarriage. This hunting technique is typical of falcons and very often successful – this time the chat and its companions…
So I’ve chosen a new header image, and it will be static for a few days, then I’ll add it back into the random set.
Falcon at the Harris Gate
A mentor of mine John Harris by name, well he was both a mentor, torMentor, inspirational creative, and all round great bloke, came down to the Treatment Plant with me one day. We drove around and he was more impressed by a gateway than perhaps anything else. “Always look at the details, look at the obvious as there is always a highlight there somewhere, that others aren’t seeing. That is the diamond. Look for it always.” to somewhat paraphrase a long lecture.
On the way home he discussed a Gateway he’d seen and wanted at some stage to make another trip down in late evening light to photograph it, in his inimitable manner.
But, life didn’t play him that card, and he passed on to finer scenery not long afterward. In his honour, I’ve searched out that gate and named it the “Harris Gate”.
The other night on the way back home we passed the Harris Gate and lo and behold a Brown Falcon was enjoying both the gate, and the evening sunshine.
So John, it might not be the series that you saw in your minds eye, but old mate, here is the best I could do.
Frankly, I’m pretty much over who “Me” is. I have really wanted to be transparent on the blog and let the photos and words be the heroes and carry the story. The pictures and words on each story are much more important to me, than ‘selling’ myself.
In the end, if nothing else, the images I make and the stories I write honour the subjects, that will in be sufficient for me.
Thinking about the About page made me realise, at least to my own satisfaction, that in the end, I’d just publish here because I’d like to share some of those small moments we experience with the birds. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Building Connections, the San Bushman culture.
Jon Young has quite a bit to say about the relationship of the San Bushmen and their land. A keen awareness that is virtually impossible for them not to acquire or at least appreciate an understanding of the bird’s perspective. – See there it is the “about me”.
Recently found a wonderful book about the author, Elyne Mitchell, who wrote a series of children’s books titled The Silver Brumby, great kids read, and pretty nice for adults to chill out on too. She had a delicious way of describing the horses, their land and their activities.
I bought EE a copy of the book, because in some ways it reflects, how I’ve been able to watch her photography, and her interaction making connections over the past few years blossom and mature. See her Flickr site Friendsintheair to see what I mean.
I wonder how many of us had read at least one of The Silver Brumby series.
We’ve walked the high country EE, I and our small children, summer after summer, autumn and spring. You will of course note not much mention of Winter in that sentence. Seen the horses run, (Yeah, I know, I know, spare me the lecture on muddied wildflower beds, damaged winter grasses – enjoy the horses) and it’s all part of building connections.
EE has taken to building relationship with a pair of Eastern Yellow Robins at the You Yangs. They are, as you’ll be aware, right in the middle of bringing up their young one. This relationship stuff is a one person thing. So I’ve been glad to sit back and let her work with the pair. I take shots as the birds give me permission.
So here is a few portraits from recents sessions. And that is what Birds as Poetry, is about. Didn’t need an “About” page after all eh?
In the You Yangs, looking for Red-capped Robins. What we did find is this handsome (?) young male just moulting out of his juvenile feathers and into his marvellous Male Adult feathers.
Long, long term readers may well recall, but you don’t lose points for not recalling that a number of years back I encountered another young male at Woodlands who subsequently stayed on, and became quite the dominate male in the area.
You deserve a break, and I’ve got two days off from Blogging 101. Phew!
EE, Mr An Onymous and I had the chance the other day to take a bus tour to a wetlands that is managed by Parks Vic, but not accessible to the public. It is an old saltworks on the edge of the bay at Point Cook, Victoria.
One of the highlights of the day was discovering (well it was pointed out to us by the ever helpful Libby the bus driver), a recently hatched White-headed Stilt chick (Yes, I know, I know, we call them Black-winged Stilts, but that is in the world of bird names, so, well, (as Paris Hilton was wont to say,) So, Yesterday!
Mum White-headed Stilt was not to impressed to have half a dozen eager photographers too close to her young, and kept issuing warnings to us and instructions to the little one about how to look its best for camera.
The little dude still has lots of down feathers and spent a lot of time preening at them to get rid of them. They must itch or annoy I think.
Enjoy. We did.