We’ve done our week up at the family acres, and enjoyed some great family time. Super fun to catch up with the relatives and share memories, food and great conversation. But. The heat was not enjoyable. Funny, we all noted as little kids, we were much too busy running under the sprinkler on the lawn and enjoying cold drinks to really notice how hot it actually was.
Don’t start me on ‘global warming’. It was always hot, with many days over 100 F, (38C) so not much has changed.
We had the opportunity to fit in a bit of bird photography, and choose the early morning cool as the best time. Evenings are good too, but there is always a lot of dust in the air and the colour temperature brings white balance complications.
One spot at the Murray Downs Golf Resort is a haven for Rainbow Bee-eaters and White-breasted Woodswallows. They congregate there in large numbers, so it was a good place to start.
After our success in the early morn at Goschen, Mr An Onymous and I decided that a return visit could just about be squeezed in. So we left early again.
Followed the backroads out of town, turned a corner, and there in the scrub by the side of a the road was a white and black flash sitting in the morning sun. It was a…. So stop car, reverse back, and lo and behold it was one of two Pied Butcher Birds. Before you could say ‘car door slam’, we were both out of the car and had a few shots before the sound of the car door slamming reached the Butcher bird. Looked great in that wonderful horizontal light described yesterday. Good start.
On to Goschen, and this time I’d decided camera on tripod was my friend, and out came the Wimberley Gimbal head. Best photo accessory I’ve ever purchased. Makes wielding a long lens a dream as it take all the weight and keeps all the flexibility. Besides I can risk slower speeds and use the Tele Converters. No down side and all positive. Thanks Mr Wimberley.
And there was plenty to see. Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, Singing, Black, Hooded Robin male, and his lovely lady. Brown Treecreepers and one that had nested in a broken hollow tree about a metre off the ground.
The Hooded Robin, was perhaps the most co-operative and managed to find a variety of poses for us.
Had a bit of time to play with the range of Teleconverters in the kit. I don’t use TC’s over long distances, anything over about 30m or so. The 1.4 always works a treat. And with the 300mf/2.8 its a very useful 420mm f/4. Really a handhold pleasure. The 1.7 can be a hero, or zero. Over shorter distances and supported on a bean bag or tripod, I find I’ve a very useful 500 f/4.5 lens. I think its just a bit too long for old bloke nerves, as handhold, so don’t use it that way much. The TC20Eiii, is a really good combination for 600mm f/5.6. At close distance, say 15 m or so, a small bird near fills the frame and feather detail is excellent. Not all lenses seem to work so well with the TC20.
I’d promised lunch and coffee at a pistachio farm on the way back and so we set off along the old road to Woorinen South. Not much has changed on this road in 40 years, and we ambled along in the hope that we’d find some birds among the roadside trees. Wow. Two young Wedgetailed Eagles threw from the tree just off the side and try as I might I couldn’t find an opening among the trees to pull over to get some views. They circled the field beyond the road and then with measured wingbeats rose to find a thermal, and as fast as you could say “They are going to disappear’, they did.
To tell all, the farm was closed and we headed back to Swan Hill to find a coffee shop a little off the beaten track. Most interesting interior lined with pages from old 50s and 60s magazines. And tables decorated with Mum’s old cookbooks. There was the McAlpine Flour cookbook that probably held pride of place in our kitchen way back when.
As we arrived back the resident Blue-faced Honeyeaters demanded their share of my time and a few pleasant moments with them, hunting through the trees filled in the time to afternoon tea and family stuff.
Last week with family events and holidays on mind, we travelled north toward Swan Hill. One of the highlight ‘honeypot’ birding sites on any birders list of must do’s is The Goschen Bushland Reserve only a few minutes drive from said Hill.
Tim Dolby in “Where to See Birds in Victoria” devotes 2 pages to the little bushland area with an excellent overview by Greg Oakley.
When I was a little tacker, the concept of Goschen being a “birding highlight” never occurred to me. It was a place where the PMG, (Telstra) had planted a very tall communications tower. As little blokes, we’d ride our bikes out there to gaze heavenward at the stark red and white tower against the blue sky. Perhaps we dreamed of climbing to the top, but were stopped by a huge (when we were little), razor-topped security fence. Probably just as well.
Tis only a short drive down the road from Swan Hill, and with a bit of careful planning, one can stay off sealed roads and enjoy the backcountry sandy roads and the chance of seeing birds along the roadside trees.
So we motored north. Of course a bonus is that the road to Goschen travels through Eaglehawk in Bendigo, and of course a stop off at the Eaglehawk Bakery, for a famed “Mulga Bill” pie is not to be missed. This time as it turned out others of the travelling family had the same idea and we met up in the bakery. I’m not the only one on WordPress with a penchant for the Mulga Bill pie as “Almost Always Ravenous” has a page here.
Then a slowish trip along the highway out of Bendigo, particularly between the 18 and 19 kilometre posts. There is almost always a speed camera car buried in the shade among the trees here, 5 times out of our past 6 passings. First time was a$180.00 view. I’d failed to notice the 100km roadsigns as was tooling along like a freeway. Duh. Mind, this time I went by at a sedate 75km.
I like the roads from Bendigo to Swan Hill. Flat, long straight runs, and on good days, plenty of raptors at work. So it’s easy to see where they are and their action. Slowed down again just at the Kerang Rail Crossing. A pair of Wedgetails have a nest in the closest tree to the road. The young are now fledged, but off in the field we saw one of them hard at work.
Turning from the highway at Lake Boga, we followed the backroads to Goschen Bushland Reserve. It was just early in the afternoon, and quite hot. Any respectable birds were resting out of the heat.
But in a short time there, as it was only a recce for the days to come, we found Hooded Robins, Brown Treecreepers, White-browed Babblers, a number of different honeyeaters and some beaut looking Blue-bonnet Parrots.
So on to the domicile for the week. We stayed at the Murray Downs Resort, which is part of the Murray Down Golf Club. Great little rooms in the shade of the lovely trees in the landscape.
And while I was unloading the car: 2 clothes bags, 6 photo kits, I spied a Blue-faced Honeyeater in the agapanthus garden. Quick as, out came the 300mm and a nice shot against the light. Good way to start I thought.
These days when we stay in Swan Hill, we’ve taken to using the Caravan Park onsite Cabins. All the mod cons with none of the towing. Australia Day weekend in the country is a grand event, and Swan Hill put on a Breakfast morning to celebrate, with bands and speeches and dignitaries and all the fun of the fair.
Not to be outdone, the local Little Corella population has taken to roosting along the trees around the confluence of the Murray and Little Murray (Moorabool) Rivers. Now One Corella is noisy, ten are a bit loud, 100 are shrill, but Ten Thousand, (I didn’t count, but thousands is such an easy term to bandy about when the sky is filled with White, Calling Corellas), is a veritable crescendo. What a lovely way to be woken up. Well that’s what I thought. Others thought a little less kindly. But, that didn’t stop, hinder, slow down, or in anyway impede these masters of the air in their morning recital.
Down the river they flew, then up the river, then down the river, then across the island, and back up the river. Yep, they’re awake. Awesome.
Inflight photography doesn’t get much easier than this. Turn on camera. Point somewhere, press shutter, delete all the bad ones. Easy ah?
In the middle of all the noise, a lone Nankeen Night Heron made is silent trek up the river at evening, and then down again in the morning. Saw it but. Missed it with the camera each time. We (An Onymous and I,) snuck out the backgate to follow it to its roost. Cool as the gate has a security code, and we didn’t think to remember it. After all its numbers and stuff, and well, not very photographically inclined. So after several attempts at all the combinations we could think of (5), we simply walked around the long way in the evening sun and found a pair of Galahs at work in a tree.
Meanwhile the Corellas, (did I mention them?) were making their 39th trip up or down the river depending on which way they had previously flown.
Dorothy in the meantime had spotted a Whistling Kite that had gotten itself down below the tree line and was making its way lazily up the river (ought to be a song about that), until the next round of Corellas met it half way. Now with a white screeching avalanche headed at you, there is not much room or time to manouver and the poor old Whistling Kite got a right going over by the flock(s). Score Kite 0, Corellas, 18,497, and that was just the first round.
So with another chop sizzling on the bbq in the evening light we watched and listened to the Corellas make their 123rd trip up the river. Or down, depending on which way they hadn’t previously flown.
Nice way to spend Oz day. Good on ya.
All the blank space down here represents Little Corellas in flight. Add your own sound.