Eynesbury Gems: Take #3

Been pondering anew, my approach to Bird Photography, again.  Yes dear reader, tis that time of year again for tinsel, things red and white, muzak that dumbs the mind at the shopping centre and of course my annual “where is my photography going to bend in 2019”. But

Fear not, this is not that blog.
Great gasps of relaxation and sighs of relief heard across the ‘blogosphere’.

 

I really wanted to get the remainder of the shots from our Eynesbury excursions, (incursions?) out.

So rather than belabour, here is the best of the rest sort of feature.
There is still one more chapter to put up, but I’m going to do that as a Snapshots type blog as it concerns our favourite Jackys and their now well fledged young.  Might even get that done the next few days.

Here tis.

After about 20 attempts this is as good as it got. A Tree Martin flying in with food for the young. I think that Tree Martins have multiple families at nest inside the hollows.

 

A very young Black Kite. We sat with the young bird for several hours over three days, but didnot see the adults come to the nest.
However there was a constant overflying as they kept check on the young one for above.

 

Another from the Black Kite at Play series

 

Another from the Black Kite at Play series. It is coming out of a turn and heading into the wind using all the speed it gained on the run with the wind

 

Black-faced Cuckooshrike

 

Overenthusiastic young one just about unperches the adult. I love the look on the adutls face.

 

This looks like family fun, however food is involved and when the adult arrived to feed the lower bird, the upper one flew in. Then to get in a better position to be fed, it ‘stepped’ over its rival.
The adult sovled the problem by flying off the end of the branch, circling and landing nearer the lower bird. It’s not always the loudest and largest beak that gets filled.

 

Little Eagle. Eynesbury has a resident pair of Little Eagle. I suspect, from the calls, that there is a nest located on the western side of the forest, but have to say I’ve been out of luck locating it.

 

And of course Jacky Winter

Watching Jacky feed is quite interesting. The young don’t cry out for food. Most times they don’t even respond to Mum or Dad arriving. Then there must be a quiet call, and they quickly pop up, the food is delivered and they both settle straight down. It’s also not unusual for the adult to spend a few minutes alongside the nest making sure all is well before flying off.

 

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Point Cook sunny day with Meetup Bird Photographic Group

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.

Enjoy.

 

Brown Falcon, being seen off by an Australian Magpie

Brown Falcon, being seen off by an Australian Magpie

Female Flame Robin
Female Flame Robin
Striated Fieldwren
Striated Fieldwren
Yellow-rumped Thornbill
Yellow-rumped Thornbill
Meetup at work
Meetup at work
Blue-winged Parrot
Blue-winged Parrot
Male Flame Robin
Male Flame Robin
Whistling Kite
Whistling Kite
Australian Pelican
Australian Pelican

 

 

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

Passing time with inflight shots

We’ve been sitting in our mobile hide (the little i20), near a tree that has a Black-shouldered Kite nest and the female in residence.
As is typical of her species, the nest is just below tree top and hidden well in among the fine uppermost branches.  Once she is under the canopy she is gone!

He off course is on hunting duty, and every so often turns up with a nice fresh mouse.   So all we have to do is point the camera, (attached, I might add to the WImberley Gimbal head), and wait either for him to arrive and/or her to emerge or reenter.
Now, if you’ve ever watched them, the first thing you’ll recall is that it can be a long long long time inbetween feeds.

Sometimes even she gets a bit anxious and sends out some pretty interesting Kite calls just to make sure he gets the message.
So we wait.

And of course in the waiting is the challenge.   So we, well at least I, keep the shorter 300mm f4 PF on a second camera and practice my flight shots on anything that spins past.

So here are a few from the other day.

Rockin’ and Rollin’ in Raptor Alley

Just a quick look at any weather forecast over the past two weeks would draw the conclusion we’ve been having a spot of weather at the moment.  And you’d be right.  The mushy cloud days, the biting cold, the wind and the rain. And mostly the lack of Sunshine.

Its not much fun for a  photographer to venture out for small birds as the forest is wet and its hard to get much light in under the canopy.  Big field birds become grey blobs against even greyer backdrops.

So it was a bit unusual last Wednesday afternoon to see the sunshine sweeping along streets.   “Grab the cameras and let’s go to Twenty Nine Road”, EE suggested.

So we did.

Two of the major roads that run through the Western Treatment Plant complex,- and don’t require a permit-, are The Beach Road, and Twenty Nine Mile Roads.   They both have huge paddock areas that these days are no longer used for the original purpose (the disposal of the waste from Melbourne), and are now farmed over for a range of farm products.  (Not for human consumption).   One of the crops is maize and it is ready for harvest. I assume they use it to feed the stock cattle.

One of the benefits of all this production is off course that the mice see the left over and dropped seed and corn as an indication of bounty, and begin to multiply.  And as they do, the raptors, not likely to forego a mouse dinner move in to match the increase. Which of course helps the mice produce more, and more raptors move in. …. fill in the blanks.

On a sunny afternoon, its nice to be able sit along the roadway near the harvested paddocks and watch the various hunting techniques.   Kestrels and Black-shouldered Kites hovering.  Whistling Kites and Black Kites hunting from the air, Goshawks swooping through prepared for anything that moves, and of course the Kites being prepared to wrestle food from the smaller hunting falcons.  Add to that the pair of Black Falcons who believe any food is rightfully theirs and are prepared to out-fly anyone to get it, and a fine afternoon’s entertainment is assured.

So, rather than ramble here is a small selection from a few hours work.

Raptor Alley. The Beach Road looking toward the bay. The sharp eyed might even note a Black-shouldered Kite high on the rhs tree
Raptor Alley. The Beach Road looking toward the bay. The sharp eyed might even note a Black-shoudlered Kite high on the rhs tree
Delightful to watch them in the air
Delightful to watch them in the air
Australian Kestrel with an afternoon snack
Australian Kestrel with an afternoon snack
Taking a spell from hunting
Taking a spell from hunting
Another mouse down
Another mouse down
First time I've ever seen a Goshawk just sitting.
First time I’ve ever seen a Goshawk just sitting.
When I grow up I want a nest just like this. Superb Fairy-wren sitting in a disused Magpie Lark's nest
When I grow up I want a nest just like this.
Superb Fairy-wren sitting in a disused Magpie Lark’s nest
Pair of Black-shouldered Kites resting together
Pair of Black-shouldered Kites resting together
These are the bird of my youth, Sitting on a gate post
These are the bird of my youth, Sitting on a gate post
A hard turn into the breeze
A hard turn into the breeze
In bound for a tree rest
In bound for a tree rest
Australian Kestrel, tail preening in the sunshine
Australian Kestrel, tail preening in the sunshine
Black Kite landing. The post is an old sluice to control the waste.
Black Kite landing. The post is an old sluice to control the waste.
Fresh catch
Fresh catch
How tough is this mouse
How tough is this mouth
Female Australian Kestrel
Female Australian Kestrel
A late entry into the field Brolga at sundown
A late entry into the field Brolga at sundown

On a wing and a….

DJ's Birds as Poetry

As I needed to go do a medical thing near the Point Cook Coastal Park, the thought came up, that we could go photograph Flame Robins (astute reader that you are, you’ll have noted that the positive side of that is – not look for robins to photograph- Well noted)

As it turned out the sunshine came out and EE found an really interesting pair of Black Kites, interesting in that they were both ‘very’ interested in one another.  One, which we concluded to be the male, kept sweeping into the perching tree carrying things to ‘offer’.  She on the other hand kept encouraging him, and eventually they stopped to mate.  EE has those shots. (Of course).

We decided that little hard to get close to red robins, were no match for the the challenge of two eager Black Kites and walked around to a gateway, and entered the paddock…

View original post 394 more words

Just when I thought I’d seen it all

This Black Kite is such a confident aviator, that it can preen as it flies.

Bored from following a tractor in the field, it decided a little cleanup time was in order.

What staggers me is the amount of brain power going on to keep the right side up, going in the correct direction, finding the feathers in the breeze and figuring it all out ‘on the fly’.

The second shot – the headless one- shows if you look closely out from the top wing rhs a feather that has been discarded.
Definitely  don’t try this at home.

DWJ-1504-30-_DWJ6407 DWJ-1504-30-_DWJ6410

It must be in the air!

Had some really interesting and forthright emails and comments on the last long blog on ‘why we press the shutter’.  Funny how sometimes things just mesh in  harmony and we all have a chance to stop and at least make a quick ponder on our special place in the photographic endeavour.

But it must be in the air at the moment, as I received an email update from Jon Young, he of “What the Robin Knows” and founder of 8 Shields Institute.  For those that haven’t grasped his work, have a look  at the website.  He is primarily a mentor for developing the, ‘nearly lost art of understanding bird and animal language’.  Sites are here  Jon Young and here Bird Language. Ok, its a place to buy stuff, but look among the ideas. They also have a Free 8 week course, which is really a condensation  of the book “What the Robin Knows”.

Anyway marketing pitch off, I got an email from one of  his colleagues Josh Lane, and you can find the whole page here, Seeing with New Eyes

He puts it best this way, and I’m lifting out a couple of paragraphs, so hope the thought police are not on the job too much.  Check out Josh’s full quote above.

“On one level, this ability to perceive and behave unconsciously helps us in daily life, as we can learn to do many things at once without having to think about them. On the other hand, we can too easily go into “autopilot” and miss out on a lot of the world around us. 

The next time you walk out of your front door, or go to your sit spot, set the intention first to approach that place with beginner’s mind, as if you have never been there before.

Open your senses up. Pretend to be a tourist admiring the architecture of the building, or a birder who is on a distant safari watching and listening keenly for exotic new birds. Let nothing escape your attention.

Develop this practice for a week. Perhaps that same tree you have walked by 100 times before will catch your attention in a new way; maybe the afternoon light will hit the branches in a way you have never noticed before. Or, a flower growing in the cracks of the sidewalk will call to your senses and remind you of the beauty of the earth. Let your awareness be open and expansive, as you see familiar places with new eyes!”

Think this is what I’m wrestling with in my own work.   As I replied to Steve Hayward  He of Devophoto here on Flickr;

” I’ve been struggling of late between the need for technical shots of details and the need to develop a sense of place for the bird.”

And I think now that Josh has sussed it out.  Being so conscious of the right exposure, and the right location, and the right angle and the difficulty of filling the frame, I’ve been forgetting to look, to be open and expansive and to see the familiar with new eyes.

We’ll see. (pun intended).

Brown Falcon on a turn. She has a nesting site in mind, I'm sure
Brown Falcon on a turn. She has a nesting site in mind, I’m sure. She, because it is the larger of the pair.
Black Kites dancing together in the late afternoon sunshine
Black Kites dancing together in the late afternoon sunshine

DSC_2686

DSC_2691

This one is carrying what looks to be a large tuft of grass. He(?) scooped it off the top of the river sand cliffs.
This one is carrying what looks to be a large tuft of grass. He(?) scooped it off the top of the river sand cliffs.

DSC_2715

DSC_2679

With all the mice they are consuming, the high octane fuel is filling them up.
With all the mice they are consuming, the high octane fuel is filling them up.

Red Letter Day: Five new Black-shouldered Kites are on the wing

EE and I had a few spare hours on Sunday morning, but as we went to bed, the outside temps, and the icons on the news weather maps didn’t look all that good, so we decided on a long breakfast.

But looking out the  window in the morning with blue sky, golden sunshine, the only thing was to bolt breakfast and head out.  We decided “The Office” deserved a quick look, and its only a few minutes away, and before you can say, “Let’s go”, we did.

The Werribee River Park, (The Office) is just across  a bridge over the Geelong Freeway, and once  off the tarmac, its pretty much paddock.  Some very old Pines must have been part of a homestead in the area, I suppose, and last week I’d spotted two Black-shouldered Kites sitting together on the tops of the pinecones.    So I figured, that they might have been considering a nesting. How wrong was that!

Not only had they considered, but had just fledged in the past couple of days, two really healthy and vocal youngsters.   The young sat on old stump of the tree and were fed in the sunshine.  Well done Mum.

We’d also noted a pair of Black Kites in the same tree line, and they were still in attendance,  no doubt there is a nest in the offing.

After a few minutes with a lone Brown Falcon a bit further on we stopped at the Park carpark.   And immediately the harsh screech of a female Black-shouldered kite was joined by the higher pitched screeches of young ones.  And then slowly it dawned on me.
I’d been watching and reporting on this pair for the best part of 3 weeks now,  and was pretty convinced with all the activity that they were “planning” a nesting.  But no. Wrong again!!!

She has just fledged, not one, not two, but three, beautifully marked birds.   No wonder the male was so busy catching mice the past couple of weeks.   Put mouse in one end, and out pops a beautifully fledged cinnamon and ginger Black-shouldered Kite.

Now all this activity does not go unnoticed by those who make their living by preying on others.  A Black Kite swept up from the River flats and hung around the young.   At first I thought it might be going to threaten the young, but its true intent was even more devious.  Dad flew in with a mouse and the Black Kite began harassing the much smaller bird,  for his catch.  In the end, better speed, and skilful harrowing, caused the Black-shouldered Kite to drop the mouse.  And the Black moved straight on to it as it fell. But now Mum and Dad were free to harass the Kite and in the end it moved away.   It tried again later, but both birds were not to be caught off guard again, and Mum took the prize to the nest tree and the young followed her down into the top of the tree where the nest must be concealed.  (It’s too far in behind chain fence for me to get a good looksee.)

Then of course, the weather changed, time ran out, and we decided to retreat for the day.
But with 5 young birds in such a small area we’ll no doubt be back.  Oh, and we saw the family of Flame Robins, as well, but didn’t get that close.

"OK, you got me out here, how about something to eat".  One young with harassed adult.
“OK, you got me out here, how about something to eat”. One young with harassed adult.
Just a quick, 'hitch up" of the mouse for better travelling.
Just a quick, ‘hitch up” of the mouse for better travelling.
The beautiful markings of this fledgling are shown as it tucks into some nice mouse.
The beautiful markings of this fledgling are shown as it tucks into some nice mouse.
Yum, the tail is always the best bit
Yum, the tail is always the best bit
That rich ginger and cinnamon deserve a bit of sunlight to see at their best.
That rich ginger and cinnamon deserve a bit of sunlight to see at their best.
Female calling to he young as the Black Kite sweeps by.
Female calling to her young as the Black Kite sweeps by.
Dropped it, or Got it, depending on which kite. Not pinsharp, but the mouse is visible in free fall
Dropped it, or Got it, depending on which kite. Not pinsharp, but the mouse is visible in free fall
The probable nest site. She took a mouse under the canopy and two of the young followed.
The probable nest site. She took a mouse under the canopy and two of the young followed.
Family portrait.
Family portrait.

Fire, smoke, an open paddock, simply add birds for action

One part of the family was off to Sydney for a holiday.  So how about we leave our car with you and go to Avalon airport?  Now the cool thing about saying yes to the request of course is that Avalon is but a mere 5 minutes from the WTP.  And well, we’d have to come back that way after all the farewells, and book ins and security checks, and stuff.

So we found ourselves on the Beach Road in the middle of the afternoon on a not too brilliant for photography day.    The folk at the farm had taken the opportunity of the change in the weather to conduct some control burns in some of the bigger fields.    And off course the raptors simply couldn’t resist the chance of fried or roasted or bbq locusts, mice, grasshoppers, lizards and the like.

As we travelled down the Beach Road, the sky was awash with larger birds.  Perhaps as many as 20 Whistling Kites, twice that number of Black Kites, at least two Australian Kestrels, and an assortment of Ravens, several squadrons of Australian Magpie and innumerable Magpie Larks.

From a photography point of view, the light was wrong and the birds too far away, but the old D2xS on the 300mm f/2.8, stepped up to the challenge. So the big birds swept over the still smouldering ground, or made a landing and picked up a morsel or two. Their friends sat on the fence line and the Whistling Kites kept up a constant call.   In the end, we just watched, and enjoyed them enjoying themselves.
A Black Kite became a target for a rather aggressive Whistling Kite and a sky wide battle ensued.   At first the Whistling Kite was much faster, could turn quicker, gain height faster and generally outfly the Black Kite. Quite a number of direct hits from above, below and the side ensued.    In the end, I decided that perhaps the Black was just taking it all and wasn’t really concerned by the output of energy by the Whistling Kite.   It ended by the Black gaining height and just sailing away.  The Whistler settled down for a rest on the fence.

On the other side of the road a Black-shouldered Kite busied itself in finding mice for its evening snack.

We also found a large family of Flame Robins.  The males looking a treat in the sunshine.  But far too far away to do them justice.
As we drove around Lake Borrie on the return home a pair of Cape Barren Geese were feeding in an open area.  Really perturbed by our audacity to encroach on their feeding spot, the male gave me a lecture and wing-waving display.  I apologised and we parted in good company.     Just have to be more careful about sneaking up on him.

With the light finally drifting into greyness, it was considered time for home.

 

A burst of late evening sunlight highlights the maize against the brilliant dark sky.
A burst of late evening sunlight highlights the maize against the brilliant dark sky.
Red burst from a Flame Robin male, one of 4 males and about 6-8 female/juveniles in the area.
Red burst from a Flame Robin male, one of 4 males and about 6-8 female/juveniles in the area.
Two Black Kites.  They are at completely different heights.
Two Black Kites. They are at completely different heights.
Australian Kestrel turning  for another sweep over the still smouldering paddock.
Australian Kestrel turning for another sweep over the still smouldering paddock.
One post one Kite
One post one Kite
In times of plenty everyone is friends
In times of plenty everyone is friends
Whistling Kite, vs Black Kite.  Probably not as one sided as it at first appeared.
Whistling Kite, vs Black Kite. Probably not as one sided as it at first appeared.
Completely uninterested in the bbq, this Black-shouldered Kite stuck to its larder.  A mouse.
Completely uninterested in the bbq, this Black-shouldered Kite stuck to its larder. A mouse.
Cape Barren Goose.  He is giving me a lecture on my tardiness in being in his territory.
Cape Barren Goose. He is giving me a lecture on my tardiness in being in his territory.
Late evening light over the You Yangs
Late evening light over the You Yangs

Diary Day #4 Out along the the River Road to Murraydale

Family gig took up much of the morning, so another trip to Goschen was pretty much ruled out.

“Gardener Ed,  (he works the gardens at the Murray Downs Resort), has some birds you should go and see.” So a chat with Ed, and yes its true he does have birds, and yes we would be welcome to go look see, so 11am, on the dot Mr An Onymous and I assembled in the carpark and then followed Ed back to look at his collection.  And a fine find it was too.  An was pretty happy as he managed to score a couple of tail feathers from Red-tailed Cockatoos.

Ed lives out at Woorinen South, and we’d only driven through there the previous day, so now we did the “explorer” thing and drove round to see the Lake, the Football Ground, and the Water supply. Pretty exciting stuff.  Even saw where I’d skinned me knee as a little tacker climbing in an old Malle Pine.

Now this sort of driving may seem a bit out of place and fraught with the possibility of getting lost, but the area was originally blocked off for soldier settler blocks, and so the roads all either run north/south or east/west, so its really just driving on a checkerboard.   We rounded a corner and there in the sky was a Black Kite, first for the day, so pretty  excited we stopped, got out and started to photograph the bird as it leisurely sweep over the crops.  First mistake. Second mistake was doing it just outside the driveway of the local Neighbourhood Watch.  Before we’d managed to get 2 frames exposed, said NW was in the vehicle and coming down the track to see, what  we were doing.  Now I’ve little time for explaining to folk that don’t want to listen that “We’re photographing birds, Mate!” That is NOT, I have discovered the answer to the question of “What the …..##$%% do you think you’re doing, and what .###%%% right do you have to do it here!!!!!&&&&###” 

Now I’ve also been made aware it’s not much point debating the issue of the lack(?) of “Bill of Rights” in Australia, and that the correct lawful response to such demands is,”I believe this to be public land, and as you have not identified yourself as a member of a  constituted law enforcement agency, I am minding my own business.”  Too may verbs and nouns in that sentence for your average NW.  Besides which, NW  carry things like shotguns and work on a different set of rules “Shot first and ask questions afterward“.

So with a quick flourish of cameras, we abandoned the Black Kite and resumed the safety of the car.  NW proceeded slowly, (almost wrote menacingly) out of the driveway and headed in our direction. I slowly, and politely, turned back on the roadway and looked straight ahead as we passed him.  NW went down to the corner, (read above if you are geographically embarrassed at this point)  turned around, and slowly followed us back along the road.  Then after stopping at his gate to be sure we were really leaving the area, turned back into said  driveway.  Mr An and I pondered that at least we’d given him something to do for the morning.

Enough excitement in that area, so we proceeded to cross the Murray Valley Highway, and were now deep into Murraydale.  This area was for the most part still well watered, and the home of a thriving dairy and beef industry.

The roads running east/west eventually run into the Murray River; only 5-10 Kilometres away as the Crow flies. So we tried several of the roads to see if we could find some good views along the river.
First up we found a pair of Australian Kestrels, hard at work trying to move on (I believe) a Brown Falcon.  So it was pretty certain they had young in the area.

We were discussing the merits of Round Hay bales vs Square Hay bales, (You can see immediately what a wonderful travelling companion I have), when a Whistling Kite made an appearance over the tree line. More stopping, but no NW this time, so all was well.   Now some of the tracks don’t run to the river.  They end up in a farmer’s front yard, so while Mr An looked for birds, I tried to keep us from visiting long lost members of the family.   EE’s family had a long association with Murraydale.  The elders of the clan had worked a dairy farm as far back as the 1930s, and several of the latter part of the clan had run as share–farmers out here.  One still had a caravan parked on the riverside on one of the properties.  On the other hand trying to explain, “We’re photographing birds, Mate!, and we are related to…… “, or “Oh, I went to school with your brother Peter ,” didn’t seem to have any more ring of likely success, so I tried to avoid the driveways. Besides, farmers have bigger guns, and dogs with really, really sharp teeth.

We turned on to The River Road, and went past the Abattoir. “Why are we going down here?” quizzically asked.    “For Black Kites’, I replied.  “But there’s hardly likely to be any down here”.  As one black kite flew by the front windscreen, then another lifted over the road, and by the time I’d stopped we had 5 or more Kites circling quietly over the road.  “Oh”.

We eased on down the road to the turn-around area for the stock-trucks, and then climbed up on to the river bank.    Then. Out of the trees on the other side, a White-bellied Sea Eagle threw, gathered speed across the river and went over the treetops above us.  I am pretty convinced it’s done this manoeuvre more than once, as it flew across the paddock, found a thermal, and in seconds was heavenwards.  Taking with it the flotilla of Black Kites.  Again, have to say, not sure they were in pursuit, as it was a no contest, those huge wings just pick up the air.  The grins on both of our faces said it all.  I gained points as bird finder and expedition leader, and Mr An had a new story to tell of Sea Eagles over the inland Murray.

Update***The shots show it in brown plumage and its certainly a juvenile.

Time for a coffee, and after circling a roundabout  of decision making, both figuratively and literally, we were soon reunited with family and I enjoyed a Vienna Coffee and fired up Flickr on the Macbook Air.

Black Kite at Woorinen South
Black Kite at Woorinen South
Pair of Kestrels trying to dislodge an unwelcome visitor.
Pair of Kestrels trying to dislodge an unwelcome visitor.
Pied Butcherbird who gave us a great concert of its carolling.
Pied Butcherbird who gave us a great concert of its carolling.
Whistling Kite. Note the 'double tail'. Perhaps its moulting a new tail.
Whistling Kite. Note the ‘double tail’. Perhaps its moulting a new tail.
Whistling Kite.
Whistling Kite.
Black Kite, one of many
Black Kite, one of many
Rocket Express.  With a staggering turn of speed this White-bellied Sea Eagle swung across the river, gained height, and then picked up a thermal.
Rocket Express. With a staggering turn of speed this White-bellied Sea Eagle swung across the river, gained height, and then picked up a thermal.
White-bellied Sea Eagle and friend.  Not sure it was much of a contest for the  Sea Eagle.  Game over.
White-bellied Sea Eagle and friend. Not sure it was much of a contest for the Sea Eagle. Game over.

Counting at Mt Rothwell

One of the nice new pleasures we get from being in the area is to catch up with the Werribee Wagtails birding group.
They have a number of projects for bird counting and one them is at Mt Rothwell.

So we followed the roads out the back of Little River and met up with the eager bird counters.
Mt Rothwell is near the excellent You Yangs and is a fully enclosed area so there are some heavy duty gates to get through before the serious counting begins.

On this day, however there was a wonderful strong breeze at work, and it was the first really cool day after the heat so the big birds were up in numbers all looking to catchup on their dietary requirements.

The area also has a very strong educational programme and there are some great walking tracks covering the area which is mostly light scrub, trees and some great rolling hills with lots of boulders and rocky outcrops.

So we set off. I got side tracked by a Striated Pardalote, and spent about 10 minutes photographing it, and by the time I’d gotten back on the track. Well, the count and counters had moved on.  Easy enough, just go along the track thought I.  Till I came to a Y in the road.  Always take the ‘right’ one is the advice I’ve worked with over the years.  Not always good advice and in this case dead wrong.  After about 10 minutes I came to an open field and looking along the track not a counter to be seen. Wrong track I thought. So a bit of bush bashing got me across to the ‘right’ left track, and no sign of said counters.
After a bit of scouting about, I found that Arthur had left an “Arrow” of sticks at the next junction, and from there it was walk fast until I caught up.  But, the track swept around to the right, and I figured the track had to sweep back again. Remember its a fenced off area.  Easy said I.  Over the top of the rise in front of me, stand on the top of a rock and they should be visible.  So saying I did.  And.  Yep, there they were way over there.  More scrub work.

Needless to say EE was not to happy with my tardiness, and I think I got a black mark on my name from the walk leader who was getting a bit concerned about having to ‘find’ said missing dude.

No more Pardalotes for me for the rest of the day.

With the strong wind running the raptors, which include, Whistling Kites, Black Kites, Brown Falcons, Little Eagles and Australian Kestrels, were in their element.  Such a great site to see so many soaring birds.  And I didn’t have to get misplaced to see them.

In the afternoon we walked the opposite side of the park and came to a large open field.  “Hmm,” said I, “I’ve been here already once earlier today!”

Hopefully I’ll be allowed back next time.

Diamond Firetail on display.
Diamond Firetail on display.
This is why they are called Diamond "Firetails"
This is why they are called Diamond “Firetails”
A Striated Pardalote. Probably at the last one I'll photograph.
A Striated Pardalote. Probably at the last one I’ll photograph.
Juvenile Red-browed Finch at a small waterhole.
Juvenile Red-browed Finch at a small waterhole.
How to tell the difference between a Tree Martin and two Welcome Swallows.
How to tell the difference between a Tree Martin and two Welcome Swallows.
Over the tree tops at a great rate. This Brown Falcon was no doubt enjoying the strong winds
Over the tree tops at a great rate. This Brown Falcon was no doubt enjoying the strong winds
In coming
In coming
Brown Falcon on active duty
Brown Falcon on active duty