Around the Plant

We’ve been busy on a number of projects of late—think EE’s Brown Falcon Nursery, wedding at the family acres among others. Also the weather has ranged from downright dreadful to terrifying. So, its not surprising that we haven’t been for a run down to the Western Treatment Plant since early November last year. Prior to that we’d managed three trips that had ended in washouts, and photos of terns dancing in the rain.

Yesterday, after lunch, EE, looked out the window, and said, “The sun’s shining, why not grab a picnic dinner and head to to the WTP for the evening.”

Which suited me, as I have been looking for an excuse to go visit the visiting White-winged Terns. (they used to be called White-winged Black Terns, but let’s not follow that winding track)

We went through the Paradise Road gate, and there in the tree to welcome us was “Elmer-be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting rabbit-Fudd”, the Brown Falcon.  He even gave us his signature welcoming gesture, the One-legged Stance.

A little further along and we found a couple of Black Kites.  They obviously had little to do, or simply no where to go and it looked for awhile that they were prepared to stare down our presence. We waited.  Hoping of course, that they would throw off the fence in our direction. But in the end, they slipped off the fence and away. Tail feathers sharp, but little other detail.

The roadway down to Lake Borrie had large numbers of White-fronted Chats and Golden-headed Cisticolas along the fences and the roadside greenery. Plenty of young and as EE remarked, “That is probably why we’ve not seen to many of them lately as they’ve been busy.”

We arrived at the area where the White-winged Terns normally hunt, but were disappointed that the ponds were quiet. Really quiet. Not even the usual Musk Duck flotillas or even Swamphens.  We’d have to look elsewhere.

We had anticipated sitting by the beach at one of the overflow outlets, but as the tide was on the way in, there would be little to see among the waders, and we took the hint, and headed down to the T Section area.

On the way, EE remarked that we could try the Austin Road area and see if the Brolga were in residence, but when we got there, again it was very quiet. And we moved on.
Just as we neared the T Section gate, “There,” she cried. And there indeed, as a pair of Brolga flew across the road in front of us. But the time I’d stopped IamGrey, and EE was out of the car, they were well gone. Never-the-less we backtracked and spotted them further inside the plant, so we drove down as close as was possible. Again we hoped they might fly, but rather they strolled over a hillock and were gone.

Back to the T Section.

As soon as we got inside the gate, the world changed and about 15 Glossy Ibis descended almost in front of us.  And I learned a valuable lesson about Autofocus on the D500.

I’d changed the Auto Limiter on the 500mm from limiting focus range to ‘full range’ for the previous Chat shots, and hadn’t changed it back. Meant the lens had a much longer focus travel, and combined with the TC 1.4 Converter I’d just been using for the Brolga, the lens refused to focus.  Add to that I’d dropped the ISO for tripod shots of the Brolga and hadn’t changed that back, I was working with impossible slow shutter speeds for inflight.
There go the Ibis. Sadly there goes the focus. 🙂

Quick to recover I am, so off comes the TC, ISO back to 400, shutter speed to 1/3200 and where are the ibis? They had landed reasonably close by, and it might have been possible to get them feeding, when they put a resting Swamp Harrier into the air, and they too took off in fright. Did a big circle around us, and the light, shutterspeed and focus are now working for me.  See who said bird photography was hard.

Our next challenge was flocks of hunting Whiskered Terns. Another misnamed, if ever there was one, bird. Used to be Marsh Tern, and I knew what they were. Why change to “Whiskered” as its no help to a beginner in id-ing the bird.  You’d expect to find a bird with some whiskery protuberances, right? Wrong!
They only show a white fine line on their face during a short period of breeding. Another winding track.:-)

Beaut light, beaut action, rolled out the deckchairs, pulled out the picnic basket, and a warm Earl of Grey, and we enjoyed a sumptuous repast in the the lovely evening sunshine and delighted at the unfolding entertainment of the Terns at work.

Nearly dropped me sandwich!
It was a White-winged Tern! They have a much faster wingbeat, not unlike a Black-shouldered Kite, so it was easy to pick among the languid hunting flaps of the Whiskered.  Managed a few frames, but the other terns didn’t take kindly to its presence and outnumbered it chose to move on.

And as I finished the last of the Earl’s good drop, across the bund, and over the water in front of us, a hunting Swamp Harrier came toward us. My fav side-light, rich evening glow, and the bird came past us, not deviating.  A fine way to end the evening.


11 thoughts on “Around the Plant

  1. You had a great visit to the farm! Lovely images and a great narrative to match! Always great to see the Brolgas and Glossies. There were around ten Glossies at Williams Landing last week. They didn’t stay long!


    1. Hi David,
      We were pretty happy as we’d made three trips down looking for them late last year, and each time the weather bottomed out, and we couldn’t get the wonderful rich colours, so it was a bonus to find them in the air.


  2. Magnificent captures David and what an amazing variety! Just as well you went out that day, but that is the ‘box of chocolates’ Forest Gump spoke about:’, you just don’t know what you will get’. I likewise find the Whiskered Tern an inappropriate name and also wonder where its origins are based. How lovely that you have a pair of Brolga down there, we have to travel to the north to see them, though there were a pair in a NP in Canberra but I think they may have gone. That Harrier in flight is superb, looks like a later afternoon shot. Brilliant Glossy shots, we could not get close enough to our last encounter and smoke was a problem. My lens is in getting repaired so I am resting from birding at present, I was told it might not be an option. Thankfully, the cardiac electrician is willing and has given me the option to have another try at getting my heart right again, so we will see late Feb. Hope you stay safe and well these next few horrific days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Ashley, there is occassionally several pairs in the Plant, this pair seem to be pretty permanent, they nest most years, but more often than not the foxes take the young. We hadn’t monitored them this past season, so don’t know if they attempted a clutch or not.
      Harriers are such a challenge as they completely human intolerant. They shy away at the first movement of a human, so we felt pretty lucky the bird carried on its business in spite of us.

      Good luck with the lens. Sometimes hard as it is, its out with the old, and in with the new. Wish I could say the same about heart conditions. 🙂 Best wishes that Feb will bring some relief.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Eleanor, When John Barkla introduced me to the place, we were sitting have lunch in the sunshine, and he remarked then, “It’s a magic place!”.
      I’ve never forgotten that, and try to convey that sense of wonder in the trips we make down there.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Nina,
      It’s hard not to get mesmerized by the activity of the terns over the ponds. We were fortunate to have an evening with great light and little wind.
      I am going to do another page on just the tern shots next week.
      Keep takin’ photos, we do.


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