Home Improvements

One of the more visited areas at the Western Treatment Plant is the “T-Section”. Among its notable areas is the aptly named, “Crake Pool”, it’s not unusual on any given trip down there, to find at least one, sometimes more, vehicles pulled up in the open areas near the pool, hoping to catch a glimpse of the many crakes that inhabit the area.

Just a little further along the road and a small pile of rocks in the middle of the pond usually has a share of waterbirds, or waders loafing in the sunshine.

So you might well imagine our suprise the other day to see a pair of enterprising Black Swan had taken over the rocks, and built what can only be thought of as Swan Hilton, securely among the rocks.


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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”


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.


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


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


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


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


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.


Teals take advantage of a convenient roosting place.


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


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.


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.


Closeup of said Darter and a cormorant friend.


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.


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?)

Trippin’ to Ballarat

Had to go up to Ballarat for a family gig.  Spent a couple of days, and survived the most dreadful hail/rain/wind storm.  The damage around the place was bordering on the apocalyptic. Don’t you just love those big words that get so overused that any meaning they might have had is now lost in the banal. Still the damage was significant in some places.

Had a break in the morning from the family do dah, and went down to the lake to look for birds.  They, (whoever they is/are) have done a great job of getting the park around near the gardens and tram area accessible for both birds and people.  Little islands linked by bridges and walk ways allows you to wander about quite close to the bird activity.  And there was plenty.

We found a couple of cygnets pulled up on the grass for a rest and a nibble on the grass, Mum was super protective, but the one good thing about the birds and people being this close is that they have become a bit peopled out, and don’t seem to mind close approaches.  So much so that when a nosey neighbour swan came by for a look at her clutch, Mum swan reared up and a great pursuit followed. The hapless bird headed straight for me and stood on the other side away from Mum all reared up.  Poking its head around my legs, it seemed to say “Nah nah”. Mum calmed down, the little ones piped up “Congratulations Mum for being such a good defender of us helpless little things” and everything returned to normal. My new “friend” had a bit of a preen, then shipped to the water,  and paddled away in the other direction.

Can I be your friend? This swan was chased off by an irate parent. The birds are so people conscious it had no concern about running around behind me and then peeking out at the angry parent.

I also spent a few minutes photographing the cygnets.  They must be among some of the most helpless and defenceless  creatures on the planet.  Everything seems to be such an effort.  I’m amazed the species survives and thrives.

Cygnets at rest
Cygnets at rest
When they are this stage of a moult the young swans amuse me with their appearance. This one popped its head out of the water in front of me, with the water dripping down, and a tight crop, it take on a new look.

Gotta admit, I loved the lighting, loved the angle, loved the D2x for getting the focus, and the exposure. Was mortified that I clipped the bottom wing.

I’ve been breaking in a new (New to me) camera.  Got a second hand Nikon D2x.  The focus and exposure are really great. But like all things needs some practice to get the right feel.  The flight of White Ibis into and out of the small rookery was just what I needed to run through the 3,000 combinations of settings. Well it felt like that many. As they came over the little island I was standing on, the light was directly above and behind them, so it gave fabulous shots of the outspread wings.  The best one of course I muffed.  Managed to clip of the lower wing tip. Thinking seriously about the old photoshop on that one.  Or perhaps just going back for more practice.  This is with the old reliable, dependable, fun to use, most useful lens I own, pinsharp, fast focus, super duper all round good thing, my 300 f/4. And it likes the D2x I can tell.

With some many birds, its a great place to just practice technique, and the chance to see a few really interesting birds closeup, rather than having to point out,  “yep, that little spot over there in the trees is the kingfisher!!!!”


Black Swan at WTP

There is a banding program with the Black Swans run by www.myswan.org.au  and today we had the chance to get up close and personal to J19.  Now this is not going to be a tirade on the fors and againsts of banding, but they are doing some interesting work in collecting data about the swan’s movements and mating and breeding.

So we decided to adopt J19.  Turns out it is a female, about 4 years old, or at least if I figure out the numbers that is when she was banded. She was banded at Albert Park Lake and has been there for about three years.  She seems to have first been sighted at WTP in January 2012.  At the moment, because of the huge population of juvenile birds, there is much pairing going on I suspect.

She is up in 145A Lagoon Area at WTP, and we will keep a check on her movements if at all possible. I will open up a blog page just to keep updates. See blog Here  J19 info

Here she is.

J19 in her best dressed banded number

Also found a co-operative Brown Falcon.  It stayed on the post as I inched the car closer and closer. Just managed to slip away a split second before I could get back on the camera.  Love the backwards glance.

Brown Falcon

Just as we were leaving with the sun setting as I was closing the exit gate on Paradise Road, Dorothy spotted a Buff Banded Rail hunting in the mud-flats. Dieter who was with us thought it was quick enough to be a road-runner.

The sun was well set by the time we were on the road home, but the Rail did provide a few minutes entertainment.

Buff-banded Rail. The blue spots are reflections of the overhead blue sky. We have a photoshop trick to fix that.