Still in the Little Visits Mode:
The monthly Birding Walk at Eynesbury was on again today.
We drove into the Grey Box forest in the warm sunshine, and slowed down to enjoy the play of the light among the trees. It has rained overnight and there was that wonderful distinct crispness to the air and the whole forest seemed to sparkle in the moment. The great Grey Box stood soaking up the light and the tones of the light playing over their trunks was a delight to see.
We decided on a quick trip to “The Office:”, needless to say the weather was looking less than kind, but our rationale was, it would be an easy to get home if the rain descended. And as soon as we turned off the bitumen on to the track leading in, we could see that rain, has indeed left its mark. Much of the roadway is either pot-holes, or great sheets of standing water.
Pretty sure I’ve mentioned it before, but when I was a little tacker, we had in our limited home library several small books by an American writer and self-styled genius, Elbert Hubbard.
Hubbard’s collection were titled, Little Journey’s to the homes of the Great and near-Great, as best I remember. I was later to find there was at least a dozen or more of them, and each contained an article he had published, regularly, perhaps once a month, and it contained both, as I was to discover later, both historical fact, and romantic nonsense of his own creation about each of the ‘Famous’ visits.
And such strange names and places for a young lad more interested in frogs, and beetles and chocolate. But none the less, I can recall, somewhat sagely, being read some of these stories as a little dude
, sitting wide-eyed in bed, before ‘lights out’.
So today, for want of not being able to travel great distances, and the need to spend some time around at the doc’s getting a ‘script, we took to the Werribee Mansion for a coffee, and a walk around the ornamental lake.
And we found Mr and Mrs Chestnut Teal.
Engaged in what can only be described as intense discussion. Those who know of Mrs Ches Teal’s enigmatic “Laugh”, will well know how this conversation was going.
And for those who might be wondering where my photo direction could be going, these were shot with a Nikon V1 (and old camera, which has been much maligned on this blog, more than once). Today, I coupled it with the 300mm f/4 PF and a TC 1.4 Nice, light, easy to carry, and as long as the temperature doesn’t go up, a much better performer than I can remember.
Warm sunshine shmoozing
There is obviously more than one point of view in this discussion and she has them all.
And he could give back as good as he was getting
Ahhh, Kik kik kik kik kik
It’s enough to make you put your bill in the water
It’s a bit humbling to have been able to contribute to a most wonderful publication.
The Hume City Council have published a lovely 20 page Bird Guide to the area. A great creative collaboration by a number of locals and some excellent work by the Evironmental Dept of the Council has resulted in a such a cool little handbook for anyone with even a passing interest in the area.
My Flickr Mate Andew H was among the many of the working group and at one stage asked if I might have some photos of birds they were missing. And off course, I was all too ready for them to use the images.
After living in the area for nigh on 40 years, it was a great way to respond back to the community and to provide a bit of a “thank you” to the birds that have been such a large part of my photographic endevours over the years. My family has walked and laughed and picnicked and even married in the park, so we do have more than just a passing connection.
It’s also no surprise to you long term reader(s), that I have a real affinity for the small birds of the Grey Box forest area in the park. Over the years many of the missives here have been about their lives and their surrounds. So much so that many have become in someways quite familiar. I’ve for a long time taken to giving each of the robins, names. It helps to id them, to come to an understanding of their location and sometimes their interactions. Jon Young, my mentor of the book, “What the Robin Knows”, shows how its possible to build tiny connections to individual creatures that become large ropes that bind the bird and viewer.
Of all the birds I photograph, the small bush birds seem to hold the special place in my heart. I love the boldness of the raptors, the kites, falcons and eagles. I am constantly in awe of the migratory skills of the small waders and shorebirds that visit us each summer, and I can spend hours with the shoreline birds along the beaches, the terns, herons, gulls and cormorants. But, put me in a stretch of Grey Box, and my blood fair purrs. And the small birds fascinate me, not only by their lives, but by the challenge of bringing that portrait moment to life on screen.
Over the years, I ‘ve talked of the lives of Mr. Mighty, (he, who got a front cover on a national magazine), Henny and Penny and their clutches of young. Peter, the Prince, Lockey, and of recent times, Petite, the smallest Red-capped Robin. And of course my very dear friend, Primrose. A female Red-capped Robin that was happy to come and sit with me on a log in the sunshine whenever I was in the area.
Andrew H talked today a little about our experiences and his own involement with the robins, and at one stage likened it to a ‘spiritiual’ moment. And to have a bird such as Primrose so delicately and yet deliberately come in contact, and in some way accept the presence of the big klutz of a photographer, with a turn on the head and a lowered wing flap is something that still keeps us going out to make those connections. How else do you describe a bird that you can see coming through the trees, just to perch less than a metre away and chatter away as if was really important.
And so in the presence of over a hundred or more folk, the Mayor of Hume Council, Cr Helen Patsikatheodorou, talked of the work of the production group, the grandness of the birds in the area and officially launched the booklet for the benefit of all those who love the birds. We also had the chance to do a small walk around Woodlands Homestead and Andrew talked of some of the better birding areas at the park.
If you are in the area, do pick up a copy of the publication. Or contact Hume Council.
I thought I’d re-quoute Jon Young on the Sans Bushman “If one day I see a small bird and recognise it, a thin thread will form between me and that bird. If i just see it but don’t recognise it, there is no thin thread. If I go out tomorrow and see and really recognise that same individual small bird again, the thread will thicken and strengthen just a little. Every time I see and recognise that bird, the thread strengthens just a little. Every time I see and recognise that bird, the thread strengthens. Eventually it will grow into a string and then a cord, and finally a rope. This is what it means to be a Bushman. We make ropes with all aspects of the creation in this way” —What the Robin Knows, p 180—.
So well done Hume, well done team, a supreme effort and hopefully it will help people build more than a thread to so many of the wonderful birds in our area.
I’m just overwhelmed to have been able to have such a small part in the process. Thanks again to all.
In the morning before the launch EE and I had travelled up in the brilliant light and touch of frost on the ground for a short visit to see the birds. The sunshine should have told us it would be a good day, but within about five minutes along the track, Petite, the Smallest Red-capped Robin had popped out on to the roadway, followed by Peter the Prince. Together they fed and played for us before we moved on to the backpaddock. And there we were delighted to remake acquaintance again with a new Male Red-capped Robin, and finally find a small flock of FLmae Robins, including the Three Brothers, working the moss beds in the sunshine.
Seemed a great treat to go with the rest of the day.
Gallery: Click to see full size.
Petite, the Smallest Red-capped Robin. This tiny bird met us on the roadway as we walked in. Totally unconcerned by our presence. A real thread bulding moment.
Peter, the Prince. Its been awhile since I’ve seen him on the fence line.
Such a delight to find. Pink Robin, female. Now if only she would bring her partner down for winter.
Female Scarlet Robin
One of our new discoveries. This female is still supporting one of her last season young
Who is putting ‘footie prints’ all over my forest? Scarlet came by to see what I was up to.
Wedge-tailed Eagle taking its pet Whistling Kites for an early morning flight.
Female Flame Robin
Flame Robin Male
EE Enjoys Denonshire Tea at the launch at Woodlands Historic Homestead.
What a difference to mood a bit of sunshine makes.
We were looking for a day out at the Point Cook Coastal Park with Graham Harkom and the Meetup Bird Photography Group, and as usual Graham managed to put on a picture perfect day.
We arrived in good time to find the park gates still locked, and so we stood around discussing the day’s activities and soon enough the gate was open. Just as well we were a little late starting as a few late-comers thought they’d arrived on time.
Within a few moments of getting out of the car, EE had discovered “Brown” the resident Brown Falcon, and he seemed quite happy to sit in the sunshine. Then, for reasons falcon, he took to the air and patrolled along the treeline by the carpark. Much of course to the chagrin of every magpie in the area. So we started with some good views of Brown in being harassed by first one, then another magpie.
Through the gate and along the track out to the Monument, we also managed some Flame Robins, White-fronted Chats and a particularly good view of several Striated Fieldwrens.
From there we wended out way back along the beach-line and found a small flock of Blue-winged Parrots sunning themselves on the fence-line. And we managed to get some pretty good shots for the photographers. Then one of our more alert spotted a flash of red, and a Flame Robin males spent the next ten minutes entertaining us flying from fence to track to feed. He seemed the least concerned by our presence and again it was a photo opportunity.
Add a couple of Whistling Kites, and several Black Kites that seemed quite taken by our presence and made low passes to get a good look at us. Perhaps they were doing a “People Count” or a “Camera Type Count”. Whichever it was nice to see the sunshine glinting on those rich deep brown wings.
By the time we’d made it to the Homestead area, the tide was well in, several Australasian Gannets were working in the waters further out, EE managed some White-faced Herons, and Pacific Gulls while she had waited for us to turn up.
A large flock, (300+) Little Black and Pied Cormorants were working on a fish shoal out beyond the reef, and every-time the shoal moved a large black mass ascended to the air to catch up with. Very impressive.
A walk back to the car through the farmland revealed some more Flame Robins, several White-browed Scrubwrens and a loud-voiced Singing Honeyeater.
After lunch a few of the group continued round to the RAAF Lake Lookout and spent some time at a pond with circling Welcome Swallows. Where are you Rodger Scott!!
Graham then spotted first one, then a second Little Eagle at work over the Lake, and we were discussing the presence (or lack of) Goshawks, when over the treeline a bullet shape with longish tail appeared and at first I’d picked it for a Goshawk, and we were both amused we’d been discussing the same. Then as the bird drew closer, it pulled up its wings in a most ungoshawk manner and revealed itself as a Peregrine Falcon, and it was most intent on making the Little Eagle’s life just a bit miserable. Several close stoops had the Eagle moving on thank you.
Thanks to Graham for organising the day, and to all the grand folk who turned up to add such a delightful companionship to a glorious sunny day. Really, after the past week or so, the weather just seemed to make the air sing.
Brown Falcon, being seen off by an Australian Magpie
Brown Falcon, being seen off by an Australian Magpie
We’ve been housebound because of the weather, and in the early afternoon, the sun shone, blue sky, and we decided to head to Twenty Nine Mile Road. Just for a look, and then a coffee on the way home. The Plant is Locked Out to mere mortals at the moment as the roads are a quagmire from the rains, the constant 4WD traffic, and that one of the number of bird watchers managed to put their ‘fourbee’ off the road and into a bog, requiring work by the management to get it out. So.
The weather forecast was loaded with gloom and doom, but we thought it was worth the risk just for the time out.
And we managed some good sunshine for about 30 minutes. And then a great big black cloud with a distinct grey sheet falling from it, headed in our direction. It was, as they say. All over.
And in the same direction a large raptor, which as it came closer was definitely a White-bellied Sea-eagle. It swung in on the wind, which even optimistically could be measured somewhere between 50-60kph. The rain was ripping in behind it. The bird landed, without a care on a roadway bund between two ponds. And with the rain pelting down it just sat and watched. A lone Samp Harrier had clued on that something was going to happen and was making various treks back and forth behind the eagle. We were stuck sitting in the car with the window open, and rain pouring in. Close window at least.
And it waited. It seemed to me the wind and the rain were increasing, but still it sat. And looked.
Then at what can only be described as ‘The height of the storm”. — or as poor old much maligned Edward Bulwer-Lytton “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” might have said.
The bird casually turned its body into the wind, raised the wings and lifted off. And to my real surprise, headed “into” the wind. Long deliberate beats that took it just over the water out along the pond.
Then it became clear through the rain.
A lone Eurasian Coot had taken that moment to make its run across the lake. Wrong move!
With the rain hammering at me as I swung open the door, and raced back along the road to get a clear look at the event, the eagle made several passes at the hapless coot, and then I lost it behind a clump of grass in between, and to be honest, the sting of the rain, the lack of wet protection for body and camera, and it was time to go back to the ‘safety’ of the car. EE had managed to get a better look of the eagle as it brought the coot to land.
But. Let’s face it. A long way away, drenching rain, no light, and buckets of contrast and colour and sharpening and noise reduction, and this a about as good as it gets.
I guess I make no apology for the images. At least we were there.
The power of the eagle is still haunting my thoughts. I was having trouble walking in that wind.
Thanks to EE for supplying the last moments of the action.
Some birds seem to me to evoke more involvement and emotional attachment than others. A big purple, Australasian Swamphen doesn’t get more than a glance, a cute-fluffy Pacific Black Duckling in its yellow and orange, trundling along behind mum gets ‘cute’.
And so to Brolga.
Perhaps it’s the sheer size of the bird? Perhaps it’s the mystic that seems to be attached to the bird both by new settlers and old inhabitants. Perhaps its the awesome majesty of the birds in dance, or their apparent concern for one another. It may also be that in the southern part of Australia, where once they roamed freely in huge numbers, they have been reduced to just a few hard-pressed birds in such small locations.
The Western Treatment Plant has been fortunate to have had a number of pairs in the area over the years and they have breed successfully, and also lost their clutch to such things as human stress on them, and from the feral foxes (are there non-feral?). Build and area that is fenced off to help them in their endeavour to bring on a clutch and inquisitive senseless humans advance over the fences, knock down the posts, trample the ground and in the end, the parents abandon the attempt.
Can start of one way, end the other. I’d a pretty busy day, what with bills to pay, doctors to visit, and of course the car. Well that needed to go service. So it did. Made and early start too, as it was foggy, yes foggy when I took off to the service centre.
However by the time I’d picked up the car in the mid afternoon, all the doom and gloom predictions of overcast, cold weather had slipped away with the cloud and we had a break of sunshine. “Let’s go for a quick look along The Twenty Nine Mile Road,” says EE. Twenty Nine is an extension inside the Western Treatment Plant that gives us good access to the paddocks without having to venture into the Plant proper.
Now my “Northern Exposure” readers probably think of evening as that lovely extended period they enjoy when the sun sets and it finally becomes dark. No such luck for us in my part of the Southern Hemisphere. Sunshine/Sunset Light/Dark. About as quick as that. So I wasn’t expecting much once the sun got very low on the horizon.
Until. A large grey cloud obscured the direct sunshine and a soft mellow light exuded around the cloud. Instant twilight.
And my old mate Orion—The Mighty Hunter, was out doing his even forage.
And now you’ll see why I really enjoy the options on the new Affinity Template.
Been beavering away here at the Website trying to find ways to improve the overall look and experience of visiting, and trying to give expression visually to the site’s dedicated title. “Birds as Poetry”.
Sometimes its easy to find clever words to describe a moment in time with the birds, or to cover over the fact it was just another day on the job making images of very fine birds. But that is not the visual feel. And above all I guess my main goal for the web pages.
Been doing as you’ve probably gathered a bit of introspection on what the bird stories should show, how relevant that is to those who have graciously signed up to follow along here and at the same time not making it so esoteric that even I find it hard to reach those heights of expression.
And at another level, the pure old photographic know how and application needs to still satisfy both viewer and creator. And of course in this day and age wrestling with the ever-advancing technology that so readily leads us onward with banners waving from one vantage point to the next, without even taking the time to notice the journey across the plain.
Along with photography, poor writing and a love of Russel Coight’s All Australian Adventure tv shows (skits please), I also offer Tai Chi as another of my dizzying weaknessess. What I like most about this ancient (art) is the definiteness of purpose and deliberateness of movement. And in that is the edge of my photography with the birds, and hence the constant need to find expression of Birds as Poetry.
3rd July 2016, and I’ve activated the Theme Affinity.
It gives a super large bird pic on the top of the page, and as they say in marketing. “If you can’t do it good, do it BIG”.
And each of the header images for each new post, will become the same size header image if you click on that page to read the full story.
I’ll also be adding … read more…. to transfer you to the full-page …more often.
BirdLife runs a number of Beginners days throughout the year, and Hazel and Alan do a super job of finding the right places to explore and go out of their way to make sure that beginners get the best looks at the various birds found on each day out.
So when the Woodlands Historic Park Beginners day came along we were very happy to go along and catch up with friends and to share just a little of our experiences in the park. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to see the park through a different set of eyes. And some 40 pairs of eyes is always going to see so much more than just my poor old eyesight straining through the bushes.
As the weather has been anything but predictable of late, we were also pleased to see some open blue sky as we drove out toward the park, and as the day went on, the warmth came on well. Our flickr friend, Eleanor turned up and that made the day a little bit special.
The first part of the day featured a walk around the upper ends of the Moonee Ponds Creek, which was actually carrying a flow of water following the recent rains. The creek here suffers from losing input water because of the large reservoir at Greenvale, but none the less it still drains from a long way up toward the north. It also is an especially steep fall from the north side of the park to the more southern areas, so the creek dries out through the park very quickly.
A number of small weirs and dams have been used across the creek over the years, and the Chaffey Brothers, built a substantial weir and bridge near the homestead at one stage. But, on a heavy flood year, the foundations gave way and the weir was never repaired.
At first our outward journey seemed a little slow for birds, but eventually things began to pickup, with a Crested Shriktite being a major find, some thornbills, and Galahs and a pair of Eastern Rosellas which let the photographers gain some excellent portraits. A Brown Falcon took to the air on our approach into the open farmland areas, and the usual Sulphur-crested Cockatoos continued to screech at our presence.
We walked around the homestead and then headed back on a middle track above the river, and some spotted a Scarlet Robin. And after much investigation we were able to get quite close to the female and she gave lovely views for those who might not often have the acquaintance of such a fine looking lady.
Lunch time, and bird count and we had 37 species to our list.
On to the BackPaddock area. Mostly to look for Robins.
A trip around the dam area didn’t do much for the enthusiasm, and I managed to add some Brown-headed Honeyeaters, and more Shriketits. A Whistling Kite and a Wedgetailed Eagle made up for small numbers else where. Despite EE and I looking in some of the places that have been quite profitable of late, the robins were not in a cooperative mood.
The group moved toward the BackPaddock, and I spotted a male Red-capped Robin on the inside of the fence, and the group moved to have a look. Eventually we found him, and his lady, and also a few Flame Robins. The male Red-capped Robin performed so wonderfully close to many of the group and hunted quite close to us on the ground. Nice way to end the day.
Thanks to Alan and Hazel and their helpers for such a good day out, and lovely warm weather to add to the warmth of the company.