Little Visits: Out of the Box

For those who follow my Saturday Evening Post, and #75, last weekend, in particular, here is the next installment.

We had guessed the young kites would be on the wing over the weekend, and so decided that Tuesday would have the best morning light, and we were gearing up to go first thing.
On Monday, on the way back from a shopping trip—essential groceries only-of course— the ABC radio informed us as of 11:59pm today (Monday), everyone would be required to stay at home and a $1602 fine would be imposed. The Deputy Commissioner of Police, Shane Patton, said there were no exceptions and police leniency would be minimal.
I looked at the four allowed activities, and couldn’t see; “Ok to go and photograph Black-shouldered Kite fledglings” anywhere.

I suppose I might have rationalised that a ‘walk’ for health reasons, might get by, but no leniency is a bit ominous.
I also pondered Scomo’s definition of “Essential” the previous night and how the good lady wife, Jenny, had gone out and bought the stay-at-home-kids, jigsaw puzzles, considered by the pm as “essential” to keep said offspring amused while at home.
But again I pondered trying to argue such a case with a uniformed officer writing my ticket as I spoke.

So we bolted home, skipped lunch, and grabbed the photo gear and as the Banjo says, “Went”.

We were much later than we’d like to be, feeding the young happens early, and then everyone in good Black-shouldered Kite practice settles down to snooze until later in the afternoon, when it’s time to trip down the road for the male, to bring in fresh supplies.

The young had indeed fledged, and one flew over us almost immediately and landed at the top of the a nearby pine tree, and stayed there the next couple of hours.  I concluded later, that it was the one that had recently been fed, and its sibling was still waiting for “Couch Potato” to stretch his wings and bring in another mouse. The giveaway was the continual “sraaarcking” call.  In the meantime it amused itself by climbing through the branches of the trees and jumping from one tree to another.
Eventually it ended up on the same tree as the other one.

Then “Ubereats” turned up with a mouse, and it was finally able to get its meal.

Unless the ban is lifted in the next week or so, I guess this is the last of the series we’ll be able to enjoy.

A shout out to the female in this case, as she has bought this clutch through some of the worst weather, driving rain, hail, strong winds and freezing cold days. All from high atop her open penthouse. Little tiny featherless young in wet stormy weather must be hard to protect.


At first a bit hard to find through the trees as there was no real access.
The rich golden colours show up so well
The second one turns up scrambling through the branches
Perfect little birds
And a comparison of front and side colouring
“I can do a wing stretch”
“Mine’s better”
Look, look, its Ubereats delivery
“Who’s been a good bird then?”
Dropping into the nest area for the young one to come and collect
“Hey, that one has my name on it.” What is interesting is they do not squabble over who’s turn it is. Well at least not yet.
Let me show you my cute little tail. See its still got the brown edging.

Saturday Evening Post #75 : A New Beginning

Hope everyone is well, and for those in lockdown where-ever that may be, that you are keeping sane.

I’ve completely given up watching tv “Fear News”, when it was ‘Fake News”, it was a bit laughable.  Now it seems that the media want to make everyone into a skulking paranoid.
I’ve locked in the Gov and State web sites. I check them and avoid the overworn adjectives that seem to have cluttered modern reporting (having trouble labelling it journalism)

Years ago I was called “anti-social”, for not being a social butterfly, but it seems that the introverts may finally have their moment.

Mr An Onymous always dreams of being a Lighthouse Keeper.  Isolation plus.

Melbourne Water have closed all Bird Watching Areas in the Western Treatment Plant. Sadly, I think I felt more secure in the acres at the middle of a sewage treatment works, than negotiating the byways of the local shopping center. 🙂

EE has been following a pair of Black-shouldered Kites since August last year. After a bit of stopping and starting, they eventually nested and managed to fly two healthy young.  Then strangely within a few weeks, the male had hunted the young ones off, and refused to feed them, they were soon off on their own.
EE thought that the pair would move on so we only dropped by once a week or so.  Then to our surprise, he started to provide mice, and carry sticks, and conduct other more serious relationship activities, (they bonked).

It took a few trips, but eventually EE was able to locate the possible nest site. High in the very tops of a huge pine.  Not easy to see, nor to photograph. And by mid-January, it was obvious she was in a nesting cycle.
Then, the weather turned feral.  We had 10 days of miserable cold, extremely wet and very gusty weather.  No doubt the the nest and its precious cargo would not survive.
After the deluge had passed we called by and again to our surprise, she was still at work on the nest, and was conducting running repairs with a new layer of twigs and sticks.
It says much about the tenacity, and dedication and perseverance that the female had to suffer the rain and wind, and still not abandon the project.

Because of the position and height of the nest, its been next to impossible to follow the growth of the young.
We went out last Friday, figuring it might just about be the final trip we can get in before more travel restrictions catch up with us.

We’d had in previous trips seen glimpses of movement and the occasional little brown head peeking, but had not had any chance to work out their progress.

So here we are.  Climbing out on the edge of the nest, surveying the area around.   Combine that with a range of wingflap activities and no doubt the next few days will bring both young out in the open. Not sure if we’ll be able to travel out to see them, but no doubt Mum and Dad will bring them on without our help.

So while one part of the world leaves us in despair, another part is doing its best to keep a species going.


Monday Morning Musing: Celeberate What’s Right with The World

Yeah, I know, does look a bit on the gloomy at the moment.

I’m a realist more than an optimist or a pessimist. I reckon that if there water in the glass, who cares if its half filled or half empty!!! 🙂

Also I don’t want to add to the morbid fascination that our ‘news’ people have now set as a new benchmark.

I follow online Dewitt Jones and his Celebarate what’s right with the world.

The current image wasn’t on display on the site when I looked a few minutes ago ( I get an email version)

And I can’t paste the image (copyright, intellectual properties and all),

But I’ve taken the liberty to post the text. (It was a shot of a dandelion seed head against the sun. Imagine if you will, sparkling crispness with strong dark shapes and lines)

Not with fear, but with Love

This tiny orb, backlit by the sun, shining with truly unexpected beauty
and shining with incredible potential for growth and possibility as well.
I send it to you today at a time
where many in the world are filled with dread.
I send it to remind us that there is far more
to celebrate on this planet than there is to fear.
To remind us that by celebrating what’s right with the world;
we will find the energy, the love, and the compassion
to deal with what’s wrong.
We will get through this, my friends.
Not with fear, but with love.
It’s our choice, each and every day.
Dewitt first name

Text, photo and idea Dewitt Jones,

As a French publisher I’ve worked with sent to me this morning,

Until then, let’s be united in this ordeal, and be well.



Saturday Evening Post #74 :A New World

“A Solitary Crow
In Winter snow
Needs no jewels”
Deng Ming-Dao

As a young lad, I watched, “Disaster Movies”, or read books that one way or another predicted, or pretended the “End of the World”, the lone hero/ine stranded, alone.  “War of the Worlds”, “The Day of the Triffids, “Panic”, “On the Beach”.
But never dreaming that perhaps one day, I would, with those around me, live in times of significant social, community and national change. On a scale that is impossible to grasp.

When I was a little lad, Neville Shute’s novel, “On the Beach” carried on its dust jacket a quote from
“The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot.

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

It would be many years later, that I would be able to appreciate the depth of Eliot’s work.
As a country lad, our family would travel to Melbourne over the summer school holidays, and as best my young memory can recall is that somewhere or other in Frankston, or thereabouts part of the movie was filmed.  It was the talk of the dining table of our extended family at the time.  We used to swim at Frankston Beach, and explore along the cliffs toward Mount Martha.
And if I’m not stretching the memory too far, the making of the movie would have featured on the then fledgling tv news.
So much so that I recall our collection of kids, played at “Making Movies” that summer.
The female lead, Ava Gardener is  purported to have described Melbourne as “the perfect place to make a film about the end of the world.” However it seems it was an enthusiastic Sydney copywriter who made up the quote.

It’s hard then as we face, “Self-Isolation”, “Social Distancing”, our personal hell of “4 metre square”, and the impossible task of finding Toilet Paper to grasp the huge changes thrust upon us. Perhaps not the end of the world, but I hope we all manage to come out the other side, safe, secure and with minimal loss.

Which brings me back to the Crow in the Snow.

Meng writes ,”A single crow standing unconcerned in the falling snow is the very image of independence. It needs, no clothing, no wealth, nor status.”

Readers will know I have quite the affinity for White-winged Choughs.  Not the independent bird of Meng’s meditation, but rather a community dependent bird. Their feeding as a group, their closeness with their young birds, the difficulties they face keeping their young together, and not losing to the family in the next territory, and their patient purposeful feeding always bring a smile to my face whenever I get to enjoy an encounter.

This bird, I’d guess to be a female, it and half a dozen or so of its  family were working along the downed logs foraging, but not eating.  Then when it seemed all had full beaks, they turned and all flew off.
“They have a nest somewhere and are feeding young”, EE observed.  And no doubt she was right.  We might on other occasions taken the time to follow them and see, but other duties called, and we left with their calls ringing through the Grey Box Forest.



Moments: In a Class of their Own

EE and I had a week away around the Bellarine Peninsula.
We had several bird species in mind, and to get the ball rolling, Australian Gannets, were the first order of the series.
Queenscliff is the closest town to “Popes Eye”, a man-made structure, that was designed to be a gun emplacement to protect the Queenscliff fort area.  As it turned out we ran out of enemies before the emplacement was complete, and it languished as a small bluestone reef.
However the Gannets that inhabit Port Philip Bay used it as a rookery, or is that a Gannetry, and the birds patrol up and down the coast from their home.

You can actually watch them on-line at Reef Cam, on this link

For us, working the shoreline, things such as the weather, wind, tides and fish all work for, or against, and in the few hours we had in the rain, it was, well, against.
Score, John Wayne 0 Gannets 1.

Queenscliff was a very important tourist destination in the late  19th century, and to help set the olde worlde them the parks and foreshores were planted with exta-ordinary  stands of pine and cypress.

In the early part of the year these all produce loads of pine-cones, all rich, green and fresh.  A regular takeaway for Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos.
With their highly distinctive call, and family disposition, they can be followed around town as they help themselves to the best of the ‘cones.

Again we managed an overcast day, and had difficulty really getting the rich colours, but we were able to keep the contrast a little under control, so wins all round.
John Wayne 20, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, 50+

Our third target was the Latham’s Snipe at Lake Lorne, so next week, I’ll  explore that area.


Hello Cocky!

Feeding Young. Like all cockatoos and parrots this is accomplished with a lot of noise and wing-flapping

Takeaway Food

Saturday Evening Post #73: Riders of the Storm

Apologies to Jim Morrison-et al-, for changing “Riders on the Storm”.

EE and I were out and about along the local beach, with a storm offering just on the horizon.  The question of course, was how long?

We were enjoying the antics of a few beach birds, the usual suspects, Silver Gulls, a couple of loafing Pacific Gulls, and some noisy hungry young Greater Crested Terns.

Suddenly, as in literally out of nowhere, a flock of fast moving birds, swallow-like appeared, and I have to say that was my first reaction, and I looked back at the terns. Then the first of the flock approached, must too bulky for swallows, and those long narrow knife-like wings took me back to my youth, and I called, “Swifts”, because in those days, that is what we called them.

There was little light, but still, it was an opportunity.

These days they are called ‘White-throated Needletails”. And as they sped past, the white throat and inner tail marks were obvious. First it was only one or two, but they kept coming and in the end, boyscout count, there was around 40-50 fly by. Just that  little too high up for detail, and they didn’t make any variation in their travel line.

As kids on the open Mallee plains, we would often see them flitting about ahead of an impending weather event.  A fancy name for wind, rain, and thunder.  The air could be electric.
So it was no surprise they had been riding on the edge of the incoming squall.

On checking my Morecombe Fieldguide, they are described as:

Largest swift in Australia, … one of the fastest of all birds, …often gathers over headlands in humid unsettled weather preceding thunderstorms.

That sounds about right to me.  Simpson and Day add:

Wings swept back curved, anchor-like, tips pointed.

And by the time we had checked to see if there were any more, the first ones no doubt were approaching Footscray!

We took the hint and went back to the carpark, arriving just as the first few spots of rain came down, and the road was awash on the way out.

“Into this world we’re thrown…
An actor out on loan
 Riders on the storm.”



Little Visits: A Field Day

“Striated Fieldwrens”

When out and about at the Western Treatment Plant, often I’m asked, “What are you looking at/photographing”.
Which is an interesting question in an area of such a multiplicity of bird species.

Usually the question is only an introduction to a more meaningful question.  “Have you spotted something I should look at, or have you located my target bird for the day”.

Not always, but often times the question comes after one or two fourwheel drives have arrived at great speed, like the devil hisself was after them. Wind down window, “What have you seen…”

Or after having driven past where I was sitting several times, curiosity overcomes and the “What have you seen…” is often asked.
The second part of the question really is, “Have you seen the bittern, or pehaps the plentiful pec sandpipers, or maybe even the long-toed stint, or the black-winged bluetailed rock-eater.” As surely its been mentioned on spaceblock or elist, or someone’s text message.

So I generally respond, “Striated Fieldwrens”.  Oh, -quickly checks bird list, no don’t need one, Safari of vehicles disappears in proverbial cloud of dust.
Or, “Have you seen any?”, to which usually, truthfully, I can say, “Oh, not yet, but I’ve only been waiting thirty minutes so far”, Eyes glaze over, window winds up, dust indicates the vehicle has moved on.

Now to be fair, not every encounter is like that. Often good birding discussions take place and the cloud of departing dust is tolerable.

However on a fine sunny evening as we were negotiating some areas of said Treatment Plant, EE and I saw on a number of occasions, Straited Fieldwrens.  We saw more in one afternoon than in the past three years.
And they were all out, and about, and calling, and displaying. Easy to approach, great light, in the open. Photography doesn’t get any easier.
Enjoy. We did.

Against the Green
The backdrop is bitumen roadway
Tail display is the order of the day

I dropped down low enough to include the blue of the sky behind

My Territory. You’d better believe it.
This one preferred the more secure bushes.

Saturday Evening Post #72 :Joy

“Do your devotions make you happy?
Is your life a joyous song?”
Deng Ming-Dao

It’s an interesting thought for a creative photographer.  A simple fact really.  Do you enjoy it?

Does it make you happy? Sometimes, the pressures of conforming, the need to make images that meet certain standards, or the complexity of striving with a subject in the wrong light, the wrong place or the wrong time, means we struggle to make the photo with a feeling of joy.

Then for its own reasons, it can become a drudgery.

At other times, the light is right, the subject cooperative and a feeling of joy is replaced by celebration when you gaze at the LCD and there it is.  Just as you saw it.

A morning at Lake Lorne looking for Latham’s Snipe, could be just a drudgery, or it could be thrilling.

EE and I had made the trip out just after sunup, and had a chance to look through a number of areas where the birds might have been resting up.  Finding a Snipe is truly like finding the sixpence in the Christmas pud.   The trouble is finding them, and then getting close enough for a good shot.

I had been using the 500mm PF on the D500, but the speed of the little birds, the complexity of the background and the slowness of the operator, meant I was missing  many a shot. By mid-morn I changed back to the 300mm f/4.  Need to be closer, but the wider angle of view meant I could get the bird in frame quicker.

I saw the bird poke its head out of the thick grass, and had a fair idea of its location. Closer, pause, closer, pause.  No head poking out. Perhaps it scampered through the grass further away.
Airborne in front of me, raise camera press shutter, first one blurry, focus locks, nailed it.  Bird is away,  but its the closest I’ve been to one so far.
Time to sing a joyous song.


Werribee Wag-Tales: The Baker’s Dozen + Two

Screen Shot 2020-02-06 at 11.08.02 am

EE and I were on our way down the Bellarine Peninsula for a spot of R&R, not sure what R&R meant in this decision, but rest and relaxation were never going to be high on the list.

On the way down we decided to visit a couple of places along the way and Fyansford Common was a good place for an early start.
Imagine if you will, our surprise when we spotted Mr An Onymous in the carpark.  How co-incidental.  And not long after, we were joined by others of the now, non-affiliated Former Werribee Wagtails.  Isn’t life just full of those serendipitous moments.

So, as a Non-group, we set off our our individual paths around the Common.
A Pied Currawong, a tree full  of Brown Thornbills, and some Red-browed Finches were a good start to the day.

EE and I then set off for Balyang Sanctuary on the Barwon River.  Ideal spot of a cup of the Earl’s finest. Again we were fortunate to find our birding friends had also decided on morning tea here, and Kathy’s sultana cakes provide by husband, Mark, were are welcome treat.
Balyang area proved to be quiet, (nearly wrote quite quiet, but on re-reading_), a few Australasian Darters, and various cormorants with young.  A  rather handsome Sulphur-crested Cockatoo was happy to pose for photographers and watched our meanderings with interest.

Then we drove on to Drysdale Railway Station for lunch, stopping, as usual at the Cinnabar Bakery and Pie Shop in Drysdale and a choice of fine pie delights.  Some might wonder if we go birding and stop for pies, or go for Pies and do the odd bit of birding while we’re out.   You, alone dear reader have all the evidence needed for a conviction.
So our non-group settled in around the steps and seats at the railway station, and enjoyed the some great food, I had the Plain Meatpie (traditionalist that I am), while others had a range of Chicken and Leek, Beef and Mushroom, and Curry.  Great pastry makes a great pie.

The main reason for EE and I to go to Lake Lorne, next to the station, is that it has a good reputation for Freckled Duck, Blue-billed Duck, and Latham’s Snipe.

We began to circumnavigate the lake,  and I dropped off the track into an area near the water’s edge, then with a sharp, “SCHHRAARKH”, the first Latham’s Snipe for the day, exploded out of the grassy edge of the lake, rocketed down about 300 metres and dropped into the edge of the grass.  It was easy to spot as it worked its way, feeding along the edge.
I moved 50m along the edge, and One, then Two, then Three more flushed.  Now it was getting serious.

An area that I’d had some success previously was bare of snipe, so Mr An and I moved further along the edge of the lake until we came to a jumble of branches that required careful negotiation.  Almost across the last one, and Wham!!! Four Snipe were in the air in front of us.  And we were off-balance, so only managed a couple of grab shots.  By the time I was stable of foot, they were across the lake.

We flushed another three and the total for the circuit was a creditable 15, not counting the ones we might have counted twice.
So Baker’s Dozen folk walking the lake, and two extra snipe—actually I’m reliably informed that there was only 12 of us out and about, but as I don’t count birds, I’m hardly likely to number people. 🙂
Especially those who just ‘happen’ to turn up to go pieing/birding with us.

A few fond farewells, and EE and I were off on the next part of the trip.  Gannets and Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, being our targets.

Wonderful day out with some great people, good birds, fine discussions and great food.  Werribee Wagtails Lives On



Click on photo for a larger size of each shot

Moment: Getting that Old De Javu Feeling—Again

Yogi Berra, a baseball coach for the New York Mets was famous for his ‘apparent’ contradictive language. Malapropisms and the like
“It ain’t over till it’s over”.
Giving directions on how to travel to a location, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
“You can observe a lot, by watching.”

And “It’s Like Deja Vu all over again!”

We were down near the old nest site of Cassia-of Cinammon, and her young, now long abandoned, as the young have been on the wing the best of three months.

When on a sudden across the paddock a brown form came ‘rowing’ toward us.

What makes this memorable moment, is not that it’s a Brown Falcon, nor that it’s about to take off, nor that I managed some sunlight, nor get about the right exposure.


It’s probably going to go down a one of my most heartwarming shots of the year, and so it has more to do with the moment than simply pressing the shutter.

The bird was one of the young Browns from the season. While Mum and Dad seem to have moved their winter territories, this young one has stayed on in the area.  Those who bravely follow the blog will have seen several shots of the bird as it’s been growing up.

What made it special for me is that the bird landed on the top of a tree, and not just any tree.

A tree that Cassia had used repeatedly over the season. From this tree she could keep a lookout over her nest, and its special inhabitants.

Seeing her strong young gun sitting on the same tree, gazing, as Browns do, just like its mother, made me think of Yogi’s Deja Vu quote.

Now, with a full set of tail feathers and much of the orange of youth has been replaced by more common straw.  It sat on the tree for a few minutes, and then because of the strong wind, it simply raised the wings and drifted off the tree and dived through the scrub and was away at a fearsome pace.  Low level, stealth-fighter like.

Enjoy.  I did.