Little Visits: Serendipitous

We went to a BirdLife Werribee, (formerly Werribee Wagtails) monthly outing that included an afternoon at Serendip Sanctuary.

It’s a fairly close park for us, and we visit several times a year, and if the granndies turn up, it’s a day out in the field, but on formed tracks, and things to do, so makes a pleasing family day.  And it’s quite close to Lara Village and a certain Routley’s Bakery Pie shop. Which proved too much of a draw for Mr An Onymous and me, so we stopped off for lunch on the way through.
Furphy’s Ale and beef for him. Tandoori lamb for self.

I’m always a bit uneasy about photographing in an enclosed sanctuary area. It’s not a matter of ethics—per se—but, rather always seems to me a less challenging experience than working with the birds in the field. After all, the kangaroos have already seen a 1,000 tourists this week, so you are not exactly interesting.  They also know, people stay on the tracks, yell a lot, and move on. Some even wave, point fones at themselves and ‘whatever animal is that in the background?’ selfies abound.
So truth be told I normally wander through the area ohh and ahh appropriately, try not to get upset when someone points at a Tawny Frogmouth and says, “Oh, look, what a cute little owl!” and enjoy others enjoying their wildlife experience. (I’m not a spoil sport entirely!!!)

However it seems I’m mellowing with age. 😉

After so many trips, I’ve come to respect the locals. In their locality. Not only the ones in enclosures, but also the ‘visitors’, that have stayed on as Star Boarders. Quite a lot of the bird life is free on the wing and come and go as the season dictates. Others, for various reasons, including breeding programmes, are permanent.

And, what I’ve discovered from all that is I’m not so fussed about the lack of challenge, and much more interested in the closeup portrait.  The challenge for me is working with the bird for the right setting/location/lighting and then allowing them the freedom to move about unstressed. A humbling experience, but really has given me a feel of involvement with them as individuals. So much so that I look forward to being in their area, and hoping I’ll be able to make the best of the moments they share.

Of special interest to me is a pair of Cape Barren Geese.  These big birds have settled in to make Serendip their home territory, and with ready provided food, can you blame them. It’s nesting time right now.  One enterprising pair have made a nest site among some downed branches and scrub, not more than 5 metres from the main walking track. I spotted him first, and as he paced back and forth as people went by, I wondered, “Where is you mate”, and then I saw her.  All tucked up in her ‘secure’ haven.

The rest of the Wagtails tour/ensemble, moved on. I sat down with the pair for about 10 minutes.  Now a sitting goose doesn’t do a lot. Yet, the warm image of ‘mum’ raising her young, is such a classical performance.

Choughness, as this blog has often commented is a joy and delight to behold, especially as we don’t know the rules.
Inside the enclosure with the Brolga, there is a feeding station about brolga height. But rather attractive to your passing White-winged Chough. Except, they don’t have a good ‘hovering-flying’ technique, and so couldn’t access the food by sitting on the edge of the feeder. No where for them to attach.
Coughness is never defeated by such mere challenges.  So bend down, spring up on uncoiled legs, flap once to get direction, sail into the open feeder, grab a beak full and use those same wings to flutter back to the ground. Innovation at its best.

There is a bird enclose that houses quite a number of birds in a fly aviary.
Interestingly Buff-banded Rails are there in good numbers, and often Freckled ducks. One of the rails that I saw was quite white, so it must be a leucistic (the cells don’t have the ability to make colour).
And while I was there admiring that ‘Cute little owl’ (ggrrrr- it’s a Tawny Frogmouth!!!!), a pair of King Parrot turned up for a looksee at why wasn’t I walking through, yelling, pointing, and waving a fone about.  Thanks Mrs King, a lovely portrait session.

A day at Serendip is always a good experience with the birds, and now I’ve discovered my new friendships with them, I’ll look forward to the next trip to enjoy the photography of them as individuals, and find ways to express their character in a much more sympathetic manner.

Emu Portrait, in soft light. Finding the right background is the challenge
Oh, there you are, all tucked up in a safe nest
Sitting pretty, watching the parade of humans walking by
With a one, and two, and go. Coiled up like a spring it has to leap/flap about a metre and a half to get to the covered over feeding area.
As the old cartoony used to say, “Thunderbirds are GO!”
Incoming. Fiercely protective male makes a stunning entrance.
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Buff-banded Rail, not exactly blending in like its neighbors. Best guess is leucisim.
Mrs King, always looking resplendant.

 

Enjoy

Hauling around the Western Treatment Plant

Every year my Flickr mate Lynzwee, https://www.flickr.com/photos/65347914@N07/ makes a trip down to see us and to spend a day at the Treatment Plant.

Lindsay (to his Ozzie Mates), dropped me a note on his scheduled visit and I found a day that looked suitable. Not that we had many options.

So as the Banjo said. We went.

The weather map showed no cloud at all when I checked, but when we got to the Pt Wilson Road it was pretty certain the map was wrong. So we suffered the usual grey sky pics.  And kept our eyes up for an elusive Sea-eagle.

Lindsay had about 4 birds that he really wanted and we managed to add Brolga.  A pair were sitting in the grass on the far side of a pond, and at first everyone jumped to conclusions “She’s nesting!”  but change the ‘n’ to an ‘r’ and you’d be much more likely to be right.  So it was.  When we swung by on the return journey, they both had moved quite a long way down the bund.

And then we saw them have an altercation with a  handful of Cape Barren Geese, and the geese didn’t bother to stick around and argue.

At the moment the Whiskered Terns are hunting prodigiously and obviously productively. So we spent quite  a little time working at really close distances with them as they swept along the mouth of the Little River.

And to top it off in the distance a Sea-eagle took off.  Too far.

I was using the 300mm f/4 lens and was surprised to remember how fast it was at grabbing focus.  I must remember to put it back on the D2Xs and it will really sing.

The sun came out and we had a really fine afternoon and some good results.    On the way back we stopped for the ‘traditional’ coffee and Banana Cake at the Highway Lounge, and then as we were near swung into the Werribee River Park, but it was pretty quiet.  But on the way out three of the young Kestrels were hunting in the evening sunshine.  Lindsay was hanging out the window trying for that ‘best’ shot.  The bird obliged by dropping off the post on to the road, but I think the af on the D7000 might have found the roadside more attractive. At least that’s how I interpreted his response.

Here’s a days sample See Lindsay’s Page sometime soon for his version.

We dropped him at the railway station after a day of much mirth and frivolity and some great birding and excellent photo opportunities.  Seeya next time mate.

"Is she nesting?"  No, afraid not.
“Is she nesting?” No, afraid not.
You don't mess with the big guy.  For some reason the Geese were not welcome in his pond
You don’t mess with the big guy. For some reason the Geese were not welcome in his pond
Really soft light helped the Spoonbill shots.
Really soft light helped the Spoonbill shots.
Whiskered Tern at touch down
Whiskered Tern at touch down
Little wings that have flown so far
Little wings that have flown so far
The tide was a bit slow turning and these birds were anxiously waiting for the mudflats to be exposed.
The tide was a bit slow turning and these birds were anxiously waiting for the mudflats to be exposed.
A Wagtail sees of a Brown Falcon
A Wagtail sees of a Brown Falcon
Pied Oystercatcher on final approach
Pied Oystercatcher on final approach
Always enjoy the flight control of the Silver Gull.
Always enjoy the flight control of the Silver Gull.
Its not obvious, but the Black winged Stilt is moving the Red-necked Avocet along. No room in this pool.
Its not obvious, but the Black winged Stilt is moving the Red-necked Avocet along. No room in this pool.
The master at work.
The master at work.

Taking the early morning run to Western Treatment Plant

With the weather man predicting only more heat wave conditions, and the WTP being closed on Total Fire Ban days because of OHS issues, and good on ’em as far as I’m concerned.  Don’t want to be driving around in the heat trying to find birds hiding from the heat

We found a bit of a break in the hot days, and decided and early morning start was the best thing.  Rather than cover the usual spots we headed down to  southern end, known among birders as 29 Mile Road, T Section or the Spit. Also Murtcaim(n) and Pond 9.  The Brolgas had been seen among the ponds there and we thought it a good look see.

Here’s the way the day progressed.

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Found one of the Spotted Harriers up in the early morning mist.  That’s Avalon Aircraft Repair workshop in the distance.

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The second young one also put up, and we got some good views even if the light was against  us.

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Golden-headed Cisticola came by to be sure we weren’t thinking of taking over its territory, and gave a us a good lecture just to prove its point.

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We did manage to find the Brolga engaged in team precision preening, but they were too far away, and the heat haze even in the early morning was a curse.

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A strong breeze really surprised these Golden-headed Cisticola, nearly blowing it off the rail. The leaning into the wing and wide stretch of the legs was all it could do to prevent it being swept away.

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Another great find were a pair of Cape Barren Geese, they did a great little head nodding performance before taking to the air.    I always feel a bit sad when I’ve partly been the cause of a bird taking flight.

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No such feeling with Swamp Harriers.  This bird had no intention of letting us get close under any circumstances and led us on a merry chase along one of the bunds, flying a brief spell, sitting until we caught up, and then wafting on down the road a hundred metres of so.

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At the moment, there is alway a Whiskered Tern or two to keep photographers amused and waste lots of time trying to nail that elusive best tern shot.  Its not that the birds don’t try hard enough.

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And that pair of Geese just would not sit still when we were around.

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My bird id skills let me down sometimes and the little grass birds are a good example, but this is a Horsfields Bushlark  (I hope).  It adopted a different technique to stay on the post, by crouching down.

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Back along the Point Wilson Road, one of the young Spotted Harriers had returned to the nest tree for a bit of a spell.

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And down along the rocks, the Sharp-tailed Sandpipers were ready to get down to work when the tide lowered a bit.

By late mid morning, the temp was up, the heat haze was reducing very expensive lens to the quality of my Mum’s Box Camera and coffee and a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich (not a bad alternative to a poi.), at the Highway Lounge. How could I resist

Whistling Kite and Prey

Given the ongoing fine autumn weather and the oncoming long weekend which would be filled up with all sorts of other activities, Dorothy and I took the chance and went to the Treatment Plant for the afternoon.  And the weather held.

We didn’t  find the elusive Brolgas, but that only means trying harder next time, spotted a good sized flock of Red-necked Stints, some with a nice on colouring of red, and also near Kirks Point located some Magpie-geese.

A little further on a Welcome Swallow sat motionless on the fence wire as the car approached and as I literally inched forward, it stood its ground until it was filling the frame in the 300mm lens.  At about 2.8 metres.  Then it preened and pretended that we weren’t there, but we had such a great view of the light of the dark coloured feathers as  they flashed blue in the sunshine.

Welcome Swallow

A little later on as the sun was drifting toward the horizon and thoughts of dinner and going home were upon us, a Whistling Kite made a pass over some trees and then landed just out of sight. By the time we had turned the corner, it has decapitated its prey and was struggling to get into  the air.  Without any breeze to give it extra lift it was all hard work and it made a pass across our viewpoint as it tried to get above the tree line.  Guesses at to what it had taken abound.  The long wings of the bird made it difficult for the kite to use its tail as the wings kept getting in the way. No doubt it retired satisfied with its day’s work.

In the late evening light this Whistling Kite was trying to find a place to set down wiht its uncooperative prey. The wings of the unfortunate bird kept getting in the way of the kites tail feather adjustments

Cape Barren Geese are funny creatures.  We came across this pair in some sort of dance display.  It is time we purchased a movie camera.