A Grey May Day in a Grey Box Forest, at Eynesbury

All we needed were some grey birds and it would have been complete.

We turned up at the monthly Eynesbury Residents Birdwalk.  Did one back in April see details of the area in that post. Details Here
This time the lake was in fact a, lake!.  Water had been added and the ducks were happy and in residence again.  And there was a “Farmers Market” in full swing. Make note to self, leave earlier, bring wallet, and enjoy some shopping therapy before the walk in June!

Chris had a walk to the north eastern area of the forest planned for us, and the six or so hardy stalwarts set off for a looksee.  And a quiet day it happened to be.  We did get a good view of the ubiquitous  Superb Fairywren, and again noted how many Brown Treecreepers have made this their home.

Chris pulled out the best spotting by giving us a grand view of a male Flame Robin, rich in colour and brightening up the day.  Just as we were enjoying it all, he took off not to be seen again.
A couple of Striated Pardalotes come down out of the top branches and all got a good view of  these delightful little birds.  Not to be out done a Jacky Winter helped add to the charm of the area, as only Jacky can, and performed some feeding twists and turns in an open area.  But, in the end, we had to say it was a quiet day.

Perhaps the recent rain had made the food scarce.   We turned back and meandered through the open forest.  You can do that in Grey Box, its a lovely forest to walk through. Tracks become optional. Chris offered all sorts of running commentary on fox and rabbit issues, to what sort of native plants were working in well in the local gardens, and one our number told how her three sickly looking Running Postman were now clambering all over the garden pots.  Super.

A Common Bronzewing, a few more Treecreepers, and the inevitable Red-rumped Parrots kept us entertained until we eventually reached the roadway, and back to the cars.

Might have been a quiet morning, and the light might have been less than ideal, but we all were pleased to have seen a little more of the Eynesbury Forest and to enjoy some great company at the same time.  Now we’re looking forward to the June walk.
Way to go Chris.

EE and I grabbed a quick bite to eat, and a cuppa,  then went round to a small open park area among the houses on the west side of the lake.  We’d been told that a pair of Tawny Frogmouth were in the park and ‘easy to spot’.  Hmmm.

You know that feeling?  You’re walking into a park for the first time, checking trees, checking trees, knowing that Tawnies are, well, not necessarily ‘easy to spot’.  In fact, I’d left the camera in the car. Now that is confidence.   EE on the other hand, well, she would wouldn’t she?  Had camera out, and at the ready.

Looking, looking.  Well I suppose I’d taken about five steps into the park. “Oh”.
If only everything was  that “Easy to Spot”.   There aren’t a lot of trees, so Tawnys didn’t have a lot of choice.  “There they are!!! ”  Trudge back to get camera, (all five steps).

We then moved down to the forest proper to look for more Flame Robins. No such luck, not as ‘easy to spot’.  A flock of Maned Ducks, (Wood Ducks) were house hunting and that kept us amused for a few minutes.  A duck in tree.

Then the sound of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters on the way back got us looking and eventually locating a couple.
So in the end a good day at Eynesbury, and another triumph for Grey Box

Enjoy

Ode to Brown Falcon

The header image is a Photoshop Montage of two shots I made at the Western Treatment Plant.  I put it up on Flickr as I wanted to be able to show the interaction between the pair.

Female in focus
Female in focus
Male in focus
Male in focus

Had an interesting comment by Marcos who suggested that the manmade fences and wire detracted from visual impact of the image.   And I find myself in full understanding of his assessment.

On the other hand, ‘my’ Falcons are falcons of the open plains and the fenced paddocks.   I could I suppose have, while in photoshop, put in some nicely placed branches, added a majestic snow-covered mountain range and given the surrounds some real presence for the birds.
But my falcons live on a working farm. No trees, few shrubs and lots of open flat ploughed paddocks and fencelines.

Brown Falcons :the only raptor with an indigenous first inhabitants name in its scientific name,  “berigora”.  – perhaps meaning ‘Clawed’.

 

Browns seem to have quite happily adapted to the rabbits and mice provided by early settlers, also enjoyed the fence posts set up across the land, and the clearing of open plains even more suitable for their hunting.
When I was a little tacker growing up in the Mallee, and NSW River country, we would often play a game of count the falcons on the posts as we travelled about. It was normal to see 10-15 on a several hour trip.

All the Browns I’ve worked with seem to be as happy perched among the grass and scampering about among the scrub.  The damage to their tail feathers quite evidence of a land based operation.

Their colour scheme is amazingly variable. From almost white, to completely dark brown, grey.

I have a theory on Browns ability.  And the female on the fence is a good example.  They seem happy to sit for hours watching.  And noting.  They seem to be able to map the land around them, such that when they fly, it’s on a fully worked out pattern, not hurried, accidental or haphazard.
Perhaps it goes like this.

“Over by the dam, a small family of mice, need to check that out sometime soon.”
“Under the big rocks by the roadside, lizards,  come in from the fence side.”
“Tiger snake moving through the long grass, hmmm too big for me to tackle alone.”
“Willie Wagtails nesting in the short tree, stay away”
and so it goes.  Each part of the paddock is scanned and locked away.

After just over an hour of sitting, no sleeping or preening, just looking, she dropped off the fence, secured a small lizard and was back on the fence.  It was not an opportunistic catch.  She had waited for the best time.

When I was very new to photographing birds, I found a pair at work out on the old Cumberland Homestead paddocks.  Not knowing any better I tried to get some good images.  And they tolerated me until nesting. Then I became an unwanted guest, and several close passes, claws out, were enough to convince me to be much more careful around her.

So here is a short photo journey with these most amazing birds.  Well adapted to make the most of human intervention, they may not take us on as partners, but there is no doubt a wire fence, metal gate and large fence posts are as much a part of their dna now as snake catching.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, the wonderful French photographer speaking of his portraits would say, “I want to get the personality, the character, the essence of the subject.  To get between his skin and his shirt.”

I want to show Brown Falcons by getting between their skin and their feathers.

Enjoy

The first pair I photographed.  He is about to depart.
The first pair I photographed. He is about to depart.
That is Melbourne Airport in the backdrop.
That is Melbourne Airport in the backdrop.
In coming. She will pass so close I'll hear the wind in the wings
In coming. She will pass so close I’ll hear the wind in the wings
Bird with snake handling capabilities
Bird with snake handling capabilities
Portrait of a well fed bird
Portrait of a well fed bird
The blue cere indicates a young bird
The blue cere indicates a young bird
Often they sit with one foot lifted.
Often they sit with one foot lifted.
On a mission. Slipping deftly between the grass tussocks.
On a mission. Slipping deftly between the grass tussocks.
A young recently fledged young
A young recently fledged young
Rich colours in the late sunlight
Rich colours in the late sunlight
Brown is happy to hunt on the ground
Brown is happy to hunt on the ground
Rabbit away.  A full grown rabbit off to feed   the young falcons
Rabbit away. A full grown rabbit off to feed the young falcons
Locked in for landing
Locked in for landing

On Black and White

No doubt you might have expected a return to the WTP to see how the White-winged Terns were doing.

And not to disappoint, we took an hour or so to try and locate them and enjoy the bright sunshine.  On two counts struck out. The sunshine disappeared and the Terns had other ideas about being made famous.
None the less it was pretty impressive to see and to also get a few frames from some occasional close passes.
There seemed to be only one bird in full Black Plumage and it didn’t really turn up until the sunlight had melted to the usual porridge. But. That means another chance on another day. Continue reading “On Black and White”

Gallery

Back to Grey Box Forest: Hello Jacky

I’ve said before that I enjoy the company of Jacky Winter.

We were at Eynesbury today on a bird count day.    Found time to find several Jacky Winter.   They were most co-operative, and I’ve put them here in a gallery as it gives a chance to view them in the carousel.  Click on one image and you’ll be able to show through the set.
Enjoy. Jacky and I did.

Meeting Up with Friends Take #2

Graham Harkom, as self-confessed birder and mad photographer, also among his other accomplishments runs an online bird photography group,   Melbourne Bird Photographers, under the Meetup banner.

See Here

So most months there is an event to turn up to.  It’s such an intriguing way to organise an event, and great kudos for Graham and his organising group for keeping up the great places to visit. Always good for birds, photography and chatting, and of course food!

So, when I discovered the next one was to be at the Western Treatment Plant, it wasn’t too hard to tick the Yes we will attend box.

So, as the Banjo was wont to say, we went.

Also my long term mate and fellow conspirator and Flickr mate Mark S came over to make an excellent day of it.   Graham, herein named, “He who always has brilliant sunshine for his events”, met us at the Caltex Servo at Werribee and had turned on the sunshine as requested.

28 keen folk sipped Gerry’s best coffee, ate raisin toast, and talked about the day’s opportunities.  We took off toward Avalon, stopping long enough to get some good views, if only average photos of some Banded Plovers, then it was on to the T Section, and the inevitable wait by the Crake Pool, and out came the Australian Crake, right on time.  No Brolga here, so off to the Paradise Road ponds for our little convoy.

Met a carful of helpful folk who said, “Down there somewhere we saw Brolga”, which unscrambled meant. On to the 145W outflow. A very co-operative Brown Falcon stopping us in our quest, and gave some great poses, and a fine fly off shot for those of us not too busy checking the camera settings. —Will I never never learn!!!!  😦

Then, we spotted the Brolga, (Singular in this case), and the usual dilemma,  stay where we are for distant, safe views , or drive on a small distance and see if we can get closer.  We drove.  And the kind bird tolerated us, for a while, then gave a super fly by quite close.  Too much fun.

We had a quiet photography time at 145W, and lunch, then it was on to Lake Borrie. My mates Neil and David turned up in the Prado,they were both out playing with new toys, A Canon 1D X and a Nikon D4. Ah, the joys of learning new equipment.

As we drove back the Brown Falcon had perched on the ‘Specimen Tree’ in Little River and we managed several great shots in the sunshine.

On toward the Bird-hide for some good views of Musk Duck, Great Crested Grebe and an obliging Swamp Harrier made the journey well worthwhile.

Then we took a quick detour toward the top end of Lake Borrie, and to my surprise and great delight—Picture if you will, a small child in a sweet-shop—I spotted some White-winged Terns hunting in the next pond.  (They used to be called White-winged Black Terns, but like many things name changes are important.)
Not that I cared as a most remarkable all Black flanked bird tacked into view.  It was in full breeding plumage, and has to be seen flashing over the water to be genuinely appreciated.   By now the memory cards were filling up. And they were just Mine!!!!!

These birds are only at WTP a few weeks during the year, and mostly never in breeding black plumage. Also every other time I’ve seen them it’s been raining.  See some other blogs on here.

A really top find, and a great way to end the day. A quick run up the highway. A refreshing cup of coffee and some good discussion on the finds of the day,- including a top shot of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Missed that one! ), and everybody back in their transportation and  time for home.

Thanks again to Graham “He who always has brilliant sunshine for his events”, and the pleasure of his visitor from Thailand, for such a good relaxing day, and so much to see, and to all those intrepid Meetup-erers who ventured down, and enjoyed the day with us.  Hope to see you all again down the track.

Enjoy.

A fine start to the day with a Black-shouldered Kite warming in the morning sunshine
A fine start to the day with a Black-shouldered Kite warming in the morning sunshine
At Crake HQ, an Australian Crake on good display.
At Crake HQ, an Australian Crake on good display.
A hunting we wiil go Whistling Kite over paddock
A hunting we will go. Whistling Kite over paddock
A Black Kite on a tight turn hunting small insects.
A Black Kite on a tight turn hunting small insects.
No one gets past here!
No one gets past here!
One of the finds of the day. Brolga in flight
One of the finds of the day. Brolga in flight
Brown Falcon on Specimen Tree
Brown Falcon on Specimen Tree
A Swamp Harrier on a tight turn. Another one for my "How to Sneak up on a Swamp Harier", book. :-)
A Swamp Harrier on a tight turn. Another one for my “How to Sneak up on a Swamp Harrier”, book. 🙂
White-winged Tern. What a great find, and this one in full breeding plumage.
White-winged Tern. What a great find, and this one in full breeding plumage.
So Good. Here is another.
So Good. Here is another.
White-winged Tern (formerly White-winged Black Tern for obvious reasons), this one is moulting in.
White-winged Tern (formerly White-winged Black Tern for obvious reasons), this one is moulting in.

 

Visiting Friends A day along the Beach at Point Cook

Was chatting with a birder friend, and I mentioned the Point Cook Coastal Park, and he said, that he didn’t plan to go there much as most of the birds were pretty common, and only occasionally was a Plover or a Pratincole enough to take the trip down there.

When we relocated home a couple of years back, Point Cook was on the top of my list as a suitable place, and to be honest, it was second, third and a close run fourth on the list.  And of course the logic was it was but a few minutes from the Coastal Park of the same name, and it would be neat to roll out of bed, and stroll on down to the park.

In the end, much wiser heads than mine  (EE as it turns out) found us the place that ‘we’ wanted and Tarneit took on our new home address.
But every so often when the light is right, and sometimes when its wrong we venture down to the Coastal Park.  And surprisingly, many of the common birds down there have become a bit like friends.
So today we went, not to count, nor to get our lists up, nor necessarily to capture the best bird photos ever, but to visit some friends.

Our friend the Brown Falcon was in the carpark area, and we enjoyed some time with it, as it hunted quite casually from the fence line.  Also found a number of Flame Robins that have made the park their winter beach residence.

And  of course the usual Pied, Little Pied and Great Cormorants down on the old jetty.   They gave us some pretty impressive flight displays while we sipped on a fine cuppa.

Then the local White-faced Heron, and the pair of Pacific Gulls cruised by hunting on the out-going tide.  And to our amusement, a pair of Black Swans how have obviously just coupled up were making interesting subjects as they hunted together on the gentle rolling outgoing tide.

As we walked back to carpark, the air literally filled with raptors.

At one point we had all up at the same time,  Little Eagle, Black Kite, Whistling Kite, Brown Falcon, Australian Hobby and Brown Goshawk.  I was hoping that the resident Spotted Harrier would make an appearance, but we had to be satisfied with those six.

We stopped along the road to look at some Flame Robins bathing in a tiny pool in a paddock, and some ‘new friends’, came over to say ‘hello’.  So we spent a few minutes becoming acquainted with several chesnut horses.

We might not have added any ‘new’ birds to our list, but we had as the Sans Bushman said, “Recognised some birds,and built a tiny connection with them, that is growing into a thread”

Enjoy.

A Band of Banded Brothers

Came upon a small band of Banded Stilts and Red-necked Avocets the other morning.

We had been looking for some locations for subjects for my book on “How to Sneak Up on a Swamp Harrier”. Needless to say the next chapter or two will for the short term be blank pages.

On one pond we happened in the best of traditions on a flock of Banded Stilts, and some companions.

So we settle down for about an hour or so.   While we were enjoying the birds, the sunshine and a cuppa, we were joined for a short while by a hunting party of Black Kite and a Black Falcon. We counted around 25 Black Kites and there were plenty spiralling down from a great height that we didn’t count any more.
Sort of added that sparkle to the day.

Enjoy

Ineffable Moment: Evening Light and Black-tailed Godwits

Came across the word Ineffable, the other day.  Here in The Online Photographer —Just shows the company I keep.

And in keeping with that, we had an evening down on the T Section Ponds in the wonderful gold evening light.

Large Band of Brothers, (Banded Stilts) were there, and I’ve already shared those moments.
But as I was settling in with the Stilts, some more arrivals winged their way in.
Black-tailed Godwits. Continue reading “Ineffable Moment: Evening Light and Black-tailed Godwits”

Link

This story really got to me, and they are wonderfully romantic photos.   I AM NIKON Blog

 

Our story comes from Lassi Rautiainen, a wildlife photographer with a passion for documenting and conserving Finland’s large carnivores. Lassi brings people close to the wildlife he so admires and his efforts have positioned him as a key figure and pioneer in the field of Finnish photo tourism. He first developed a love of photographing bears in April 1978 when, perched in a tree, he hoped to capture photos of a bear who had killed an elk near where he sat. Bears captivated him, he says: so much so that they “took over my whole life.” He soon expanded to wolverines and eventually to wolves, writing books about all three, making observations and lecturing on these carnivores he so respected at international events and arranging photo safaris for nature-lovers.

See the Nikon Europe blog for the whole story and some awesome pictures.

http://blog.iamnikon.com/en_GB/wildlife/wolf-bear-nature-wildlife-photography-romeo-and-juliet/

Gallery

A Band of Banded Stilts. Evening in the sunshine

I wonder what the collective noun for Stilts is?    Decided that it might be, in this case with Banded Stilts,  well, Band of.

So we spent an evening with a Band of Brothers. On one of the ponds at the T Section at the Treatment Plant we found the Band working very quickly through the water. I settled down in the grass on the water’s edge and was able to have them feed up quite close, and without being distressed at my presence.

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