StudioWerkz: Darter On Show

As EE is becoming much more comfortable with Dolly, we decided on a morning around the Ornamental Lake at Werribee Mansion.  The tracks are wellformed and its possible to get close to the action without long walks.

The only part of our plan that was not controllable was the weather, and we ended up with mostly an overcast morning. Also there was little activity at the Lake, perhaps most of the food has diminished and the birds have moved away.

We were sitting on the grass near the lake enjoying a cuppa when an Australasian Darter launched itself out of the water, from between the reeds and waddled up onto the grass.  So close that I had to inch back along the grass to get it all in the frame.  I guess that I was at grass level, and not standing up, the bird felt comfortable enough to go about its preening and drying business.

So, rather than repeat my rant from the Saturday Evening Post on Dean Collins, here is the few moments as they played out.

Enjoy

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Funny old thing is Serendipity

“the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”

The weather map showed a large high stalled over us for most of the day.  “Let’s do an evening at the Western Treatment Plant”, saith, I. “We could take down the picnic, and have a fine old evening watching the sunset over the bay, and maybe photograph a few birds, and well, just enjoy the evening sea breeze.  What thinkest thou?”.

A call to Mr An Onymous, and the famed, and legendary “Blackmobile” was on the highway loaded with his fine repast. EE and I decided on a Peri-Peri Chicken Salad, and a round of Earl of Grey.

Pied Oystercatcher
Pied Oystercatcher

 

Continue reading “Funny old thing is Serendipity”

Checking up on the Darters

Been about a week since we’d seen the Darters on the Barwon River, and decided on an early morning run.

The Shannon Avenue bridge is busy at any time it seems, and again we met with much pedestrian and bike traffic and the usual, “Oh, I’ve passed here for years and never seen them before, did they just come in?”  and other questions.

The nest we’d been watching previously now had two quite large young in it. Well formed and with some pins of real feathers just starting to emerge.  The male was on the nest, and the young were relentless in their waving at him for food.  They continued full speed for over twenty minutes and he moved about the nest trying to avoid the tiny waving heads.   He seemed so patience at their insistence and finally tucked his head under his wing to avoid them.  Not being able to see his head stopped the begging, and in the end it was obvious he didn’t have any more food to give, and they settled down for a sleep.  He stood over them and tucked his head. one more time, and lifted out his wings to give them some protection.

The two other eggs that had been there the previous week were obviously infertile, and they had been removed from the nest.  Perhaps its too late in the season to try and feed four hungry mouths.

We waited an hour or so hoping that the female would return from her hunting expedition, but no such luck.  The female in the apartment above had settled down on her eggs and only an occasional head lift to check things out was her response.

We figured that our luck was out on the female returning so we did the right thing and headed off with ‘coffee’ as the next challenge.

Gimme gimme gimme Two little waving heads as they beg for food.
Gimme gimme gimme
Two little waving heads as they beg for food.
Gimme Gimme, they were so active and persistent
Gimme Gimme, they were so active and persistent
Hide as he might, they were quick to take up every opportunity.
Hide as he might, they were quick to take up every opportunity.
When he tucked his head away, they started on each other.
When he tucked his head away, they started on each other.
Gottem settled down at last
Gottem settled down at last
Even time for Dad to take a quick nap.
Even time for Dad to take a quick nap.
The wonderful wing feathers are just starting to come through.
The wonderful wing feathers are just starting to come through.
He stretches out his wings over the sleeping pair
He stretches out his wings over the sleeping pair
In the apartment above, the female has settled in to hatch her clutch.
In the apartment above, the female has settled in to hatch her clutch.
The nosey neighbours.
The nosey neighbours.
A fledged but not very agile young darter is preparing for a quick flight to the next tree.
A fledged but not very agile young darter is preparing for a quick flight to the next tree.

What about a trip to the Darters?

Trying to avoid a heavy duty day out in the bush in 30+ temps, we decided that a sleep-in, a late breakfast and a drive down to the Balyang Sanctuary followed by a coffee and focaccia at the Barwon Boathouse would be the tourist thing to do.

After all we’d not discovered the Boathouse when we were there last week, so on the basis of new explorations, we packed up and were on the road by mid-morning.  No point in getting there too early as the light is probably about as good as it gets by mid morning, too early, (like Goldie), and the birds are in shadow from the trees hiding the early morning sun.  Too late, (like Goldie), and the sun is behind the bridge and the birds are in shade.
What of course this clever plan had failed to point out, is that while we might well have nice light on the birds, it would be blazing hot standing on the shadeless bridge. But, of course we were to figure that out much later.

There are perhaps 4 or 5 nests on the go, but only two that make for reasonable photography.  The first is quite close to bridge and on Tuesday, she had two chicks only hatched in the past 24 hours as the Ever-vigilant Helmut had checked it out on Monday and there was only eggs in the nest.

Mum was still sitting proudly, and at first she only showed hints of the eggs.   EE began to ponder that perhaps the chicks had met with a terrible fate.  But, then Mum got up turned and there were two little snake heads bobbing about in the sunshine. Still at this stage featherless, but it was possible to see the little feather pins pushing through.
She spent a bit of time feeding them and trying to keep them shaded from the sun.

In the apartment above, the female had settled into the nest her mate was preparing on Tuesday, and she too had at least four eggs to show.
Just as the sun was making its presence felt, a loud Sqwaark, and the male arrived.  After the usual greetings and things, he fed her on a nice big,  fish? and they exchanged places. Which is pretty much an art form in its own right, as large wings, big feet and awkward bodies dance around on thin branches.  But, to their credit it does work, and he ended up sitting on the eggs and she preened and went for a long breakfast.

We stayed long enough to see the male come into flat 1, and then decided the heat on the bridge was beyond a joke, I’d answered, “what kind of birds are they?” and “what are you doing?” questions for the week, and we meandered down the track toward the coffee shop.  Maybe Routley’s Pie Shop next time.

"Honey, I'm home". Male comes in with a snack, and is ready to do his time looking after the eggs.
“Honey, I’m home”. Male comes in with a snack, and is ready to do his time looking after the eggs.
Just changed over. She has time for a preen before flying out. His tail can be seen behind her on the nest.
Just changed over. She has time for a preen before flying out. His tail can be seen behind her on the nest.
Tiny little snake heads in the sunshine
Tiny little snake heads in the sunshine
Even at this young age they are feed from within her throat.
Even at this young age they are fed from within her throat.
Ready to fly.
Ready to fly.
Airborne, just have to avoid all the tree branches.
Airborne, just have to avoid all the tree branches.
Mum and young. Not yet feathered, and still unable to stand properly, they do know where the food comes from.
Mum and young. Not yet feathered, and still unable to stand properly, they do know where the food comes from.
Family portrait.
Family portrait.
Male sitting on the nest. He must get remarkably hot in the sunshine in that black suit.
Male sitting on the nest. He must get remarkably hot in the sunshine in that black suit.
As delicate as the female, he re-arranges his charge of four eggs.
As delicate as the female, he re-arranges his charge of four eggs.

Bounding about Banyule

The Beginners Group of Melbourne Birdlife Australia were having a day at the Banyule Flats park,  and as luck would have it the Meetup Bird Photography group were going to be there in the afternoon.  Not one to have too to many things conflicting in the diary, (euphemism in there), we decided to go and enjoy the park side area.

Its been a great place at previous events and the weather looked ok, to so so, so we took the (now) considerable drive across town.

Over 45 active birders joined us and a good day was in the offing. Probably one of the highlights were excellent views (if somewhat average pictures on my part) of a Latham’s Snipe,  (a new one for me. Thank you)

The area also seemed to have more than its fair share of Tawny Frogmouth and we counted 7 for the day.

The folk from Meetup Bird Photography Group turned up, and we had a second attempt at some of the birds.

A Buff-banded Rail, eluded photography in the morning group, and didn’t improve in the afternoon group.  Some had good sightings and photos of a Sacred Kingfisher and we had some lovely views of the wing feathers on an Australasian Darter.

I was working with my newly acquired 70-200 mm f/2.8 and a Teleconverter TC1.7.  Made the field of view equivalent to about 500mm stopped down a little to keep sharpness and really had a good day, and got some super images without the need to lug heavy tripods into the field.   It will get to go on another expedition anytime soon.

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Beautiful colours on the Straw-necked Ibis

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Latham’s Snipe.  A very relaxed bird, but it could afford to be well out in the water and away from easy photography.

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First find your Buff-banded Rail.

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A young Kookaburra waiting for the family to return, perhaps with a nice meal.

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Tawny Frogmouth

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This one was against the light and really did take on the “branch” look and fooled quite a number of eager birdwatchers.

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Tucked up tight against the tree.

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Another failed Buff-banded Rail shot

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Australasian Darter shows its wonderful wing patterns.

Wandering with Werribee Wagtails: Altona

Getting right into this organised birding thing.

The Werribee Wagtails group met at Altona for a look at the shore, the river, and the lake.

So off we went.  Weather was fine, company was excellent and we made a few finds and discoveries along the way.

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All ready for a great day out and about, members of Werribee Wagtails on the track.

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Always full of excitement the New-Holland Honeyeaters seem to own every bush and shrub along the waterway.

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Sharptailed Sandpipers at work in a drain. The top bird is starting to show some chest colour, getting ready for the long journey north.

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Common Greenshanks. I’m alway amused by the “Common” moniker.  Does it mean there are “uncommon Greenshanks”, or perhaps “Special, or Important” greenshanks?

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Along Kororoit Creek we found a number of numbered Swans.  The programme is run by the guys at Myswan Database, and I’ve even got some info in the Albums area of another one we followed for awhile.

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Teals take advantage of a convenient roosting place.

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Spotting along the Kororiot Creek. EE is obviously on to something.

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J28, another numbered Swan from the series.

Here is the details from the Database.

J28 Database

J28 even has her own passport.  The white collars are female, the black collars are male.
The red spots on the map indicate she spends a lot of time in the area.

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View across the lake at Newport Lakes, after years of hard work the area has developed into a great bird habitat. Spot the Australasian Darter. For bonus points, spot the Nankeen Night Heron.

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Closeup of said Darter and a cormorant friend.

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Oh, there you are!   Nankeen Night Heron pretending to be somewhere else.   I spotted the colours as we were walking down the track to catchup to the group. (yes, I’d done it again) and didn’t take any time to check it out.  (See my tardiness in the Mt Rothwell blog report.)

But when everyone had settled on a view, I went back for a closer look.

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Heading homewards across the stepping stones over the lake.   A good day.  Extra points for Spotting Mr An Onymous. (but then he wouldn’t be would he?)