A Day in Grey

Astute reader that you are, you’ll have recalled that the last posting here was a trip to Eynesbury for a visit to some Woodswallows at Nursery.

Decided on a whim today, to take another trip to the same spot not that we expected to find the Woodswallows still on nest,  but y’know, perhaps we might be lucky.

Well time, tide and Woodswallow fledglings wait for no photographer, and they had indeed taken to wing. Now of course it was a new challenge.

But there is something relaxing indeed about a pot of tea, (Earl Grey- see the connection?)  in a Grey Box forest.  So we sat.  And slowly the forest began to reveal those hidden secrets.

Over there, Tree Martins, still feeding young.  On the other side a pair of Rufous Whistlers who entertained with their calls.  More Brown Treecreepers than you can count, and most of them either at nest, or ferrying food for demanding young.

And my favourite find. Jacky Winter. The pair near out sit spot had two young and were keeping them up in the tops of the trees, but we still had enjoyable encounters.

Off to look for Matilda the Pacific-black Duck who has taken over a hollow, and to my surprise, she was still domicile, but only her carefully crafted wing tip feathers were showing her presence.  Must be close for her now.  I’ve no idea where she is going to lead them to water, but the nearest must be about 2km away through the scrub.

In the same area, lo and behold a second pair of Jacky Winter, with two well advanced young. I’d be betting these were the same birds we photographed in the area last year.    One of the adults adjusted to my presence in a few minutes and continued to feed and preen quite closely. Then it (she?) sat down on the ground a few metres away and “sun-hazed” and quite went into a trance.    Satisfied I was no danger, it allowed some fine portraits to be made.

And the I heard the wheezy call of a Diamond Firetail watching the portrait session.

As we started for home we came across the White-browed Woodswallows feeding some young, and then a family of  Brown Treecreepers looking after their growing juveniles.

Of course no trip to Eynesbury would be complete without a sighting of the elusive Speckled Warbler, and to both our delights one flew by as we walked back to the car, and then began to feed on the small slope nearby.  No close approaches with this bird, so my score of great photos of  this little dude is still intact. Zero.

Enjoy

_DWJ5206
Jacky WInter
_DWJ5088
Jacky WInter Juvenile
_DWJ5101
Thanks for the food Mum!
_DWJ5154
Tree Martin
_DWJ5226
Jacky WInter,Juvenile
_DWJ5252
White-browed Woodswallow, fledgling
Diamond Firetail
Diamond Firetail
_DWJ5287
Brown Treecreeper
_DWJ5273
Speckled Warbler

 

 

Nursery days at Eynesbury

When I was a little tacker, The Gould League of Bird Lovers conducted a range of programmes at primary schools, intended mostly I think now with hindsight to stop young boys from stealing eggs  during the spring season. “Bird Nesting”, t’was called, and the eggs were kept in small containers lined with cotton wool, and each, well, each had a story of “Daring-do” in how it was retrieved. Often from tall trees, or so it seemed.

Being a bit on the scared of heights side of things, it now seems appropriate to tell, that I never collected a single egg. But used to marvel at the tales of those who did.

Not that I didn’t go out with intent.  If I lacked the means, I certainly did not lack the enthusiasm.  Which I suppose taught me by some empirical osmosis the signs of a nesting bird.  Jon Young makes a point of having a “Sit Spot” in which you return to day after day, season after season, and learn the lore of the land in that spot.

Today, of course we are much to busy to have a 30min break with the birds, and would have to travel distances to get anywhere like open bush.  So we do it a bit vicariously, squeezing a few minutes here or there. One reason I always enjoyed my closeness to Woodlands Historic Park was the ability to slip in and out at a moments notice and stay in touch with the birds in their territories.

Like riding a bicycle, the signs of birds and their ways may not be a honed skill anymore, but I found today, that I can still pick some of the tell-tale signs.  Which brings  us to Eynesbury Grey Box Forest.

Within a few minutes of arriving at a small clearing in the area, it became apparent that there were some White-browed Woodswallows (among others) that were engaged in their breeding programme.  Just where the nest was, high, low, open, exposed or secretive, was at that stage bit of a mystery, but again some latent skills began to yawn, stretch and point. “Over there”, saith I.  Where said EE. Well it took a few more minutes of close observation, and finally there it was.  And what a view.

Talk about a bird with a sense of design and location.  This one ticks all the boxes. The local realestate folk would be proud. Long sweeping curves, carefully crafted. Magnificent views, a shot flight to the shops, and an enclosing verandah.  A must for the aspiring home-maker.  A Winner by any standards.

White-browed Woodswallows, share the nesting duties, each one sitting for 15-20 minutes or so, and then relieved by the other partner who sits on a branch close by, and in what can only be Woodswallowese, calls out, “Hurry up, its my turn to sit now.”

Enjoy.

Something, told me, straight away that this bird was nesting
Something, told me, straight away that this bird was nesting
The Ultimate Room with a View
The Ultimate Room with a View
View from the South Side
View from the South Side
View from the East Side, showing the exclusive verandah
View from the East Side, showing the exclusive verandah
Waiting for its turn to move on to the nest
Waiting for its turn to move on to the nest

 

 

Just like meeting old friends

Wow, over a month. What a lot of stuff happens that keeps you from the things you’d like to be doing.
We had a couple of weeks away back up on the family acres, mostly family things, and I have to admit to not even bothering to take a camera.   And its not been much better since we returned.  So there hasn’t been much to report.
I do have a backlog of a few earlier trips to slot in here, but thought we’d start with the You Yangs.

Our friend Merrilyn (see her blog here), mailed me that she’d seen a Red-capped Robin on a track in the Big Rock area. That was enough to get the gear loaded in the car.

It’s no secret to the erstwhile longtime reader that Woodlands Historic Park was our ‘second’ home.  In fact my association with photographing the birds at Woodlands goes back a number of years predating this blog. As I was able to roam over quite a bit of the area, I spent a goodly amount of that time working out which birds where nesting, and where territories might be found. The local Red-capped Robin population also accepted me, and a number of them came to be on good speaking terms, and would come out to see what I was upto anytime I wandered through.

But, as we’ve moved, all that is pretty much ancient history.  We’ve be able to locate a couple of areas locally, but none the rival the freedom of being a few minutes away such as Woodlands offered.

Oh, yes, the You Yangs trip.

We set out to have a look at the Red-capped Robing, and despite much searching were Not successful.  He might have been travelling through, or he might have been resting in the bush just behind me.   So not sighting yet. We also looked for Eastern Yellow Robins and only found a couple of pair. Not unusual, as they have most probably taken a new batch and are quietly feeding them amongst the thicker scrub in the area.
What we did find was quite a few Scarlet Robin juveniles.  These lovely birds are very distinguished by their motley feather set as they moult out juvenile and take on first year feathers.

My long time reader will recall that about this time, several years back one such bird turned up at Woodlands and for a few weeks I thought S(he) was  female, but within  few weeks the beautiful glossy black revealed a very handsome male.   So it was like meeting old friends when we came across several family groups of Scarlets. Some still unidentifiable as males or females, and some quite well advanced into first year dress.   What was interesting, in the 4 major locations there were at least 4 or 6 such young.  And we think that it was only a sample of the numbers of Scarlets that have been successfully hatched this season.

At Woodlands one of my all time favourite birds and a particular interest to my mate Ray, was a single female White-throated Treecreeper. For a number of years she seemed to be on her own. One season I found a male, and later a juvenile, but she went back to her single ways the following year.  So it was quite a surprise to encounter a White-throated female, and see her disappear behind a tree trunk. When I looked, there was a nest in the hollow of a tree, and her one young offspring perched on the side of the opening.  Just like meeting an old friend.

At a large tree near the Ranger’s Office, there is usually one or two Tawny Frogmouth, but they’d been absent for quite awhile. But we went to look anyway.
And

They were back, along with at least one young one.  Again at Woodlands there are a resident pair near the carpark, so again it was like meeting old friends.

Here are some shots from the day.

Somehwhere in there is a male Scarlet Robin, just waiting to get out.
Somehwhere in there is a male Scarlet Robin, just waiting to get out.
White-throated Treecreeper
White-throated Treecreeper
White-throated Treecreeper.
White-throated Treecreeper.
Lovely to see these birds are back in residence.
Lovely to see these birds are back in residence.
Big wing stretch for a young bird
Big wing stretch for a young bird
Jacky Winter on a pose. This is my Eynesbury friend, but though it fitted here too.
Jacky Winter on a pose. This is my Eynesbury friend, but thought it fitted here too.

A really hard working family

We shared the first meeting with a Jacky Winter and her nest and two lovely nestlings.

As we are about to be away for a couple of weeks it seemed that now was the only time we’d have the chance to see how the Jackys were getting on.
The weather man was a bit ambiguous and we took a very early morning trip out hoping to get a little good weather, and that’s what we got a little.

We soon located the Jacky nest and her two precious little ones and they had grown considerably.

She was elegant enough to let us spend a few minutes with them and feed them as we stood by.  The little ones are quite well developed and would move about the ‘nest’ doing wing stretches and preening.

One the way back I heard a Speckled Warbler, and sad to say , hearing is one thing seeing another, but getting a good photo, something else again.

Enjoy.

Mum speeds in with another meal
Mum speeds in with another meal
Mum had plenty of food for the little ones
Mum had plenty of food for the little ones
More food.
More food.
A big wing stretch in between feed.
A big wing stretch in between feed.
Open Wide.
Open Wide.
RIght, who ordered the big grasshopper?  Me, me.
RIght, who ordered the big grasshopper? Me, me.
Those little wings that will work so hard for a life time are just beginning to develop.
Those little wings that will work so hard for a life time are just beginning to develop.
Rules of the nest. If your are going to do a wing practice flight, don't whack your brother in the face.
Rules of the nest. If your are going to do a wing practice flight, don’t whack your brother in the face.
Well able to move about they show how small the nest really is.
Well able to move about they show how small the nest really is.
That Speckled Warbler.
That Speckled Warbler.

The amazing ways of the bird world

We’ve had a whole range of really average weather of late, and both EE and I were getting a bit tired of being unable to get out for a really good look about.  Much changes in a fortnight.

We decided on an early trip to Eynesbury, mainly because of Speckled Warbler. These tiny little songsters are proving to be incredibly illusive for us.  We’ve heard them in several places, but have little to show other than a glimpse of a bird flying off into the distance.
Weatherzone showed some pretty nice icons indicating its should be clear from sunup till at least midday, so setting the alarm clock, we were ready for an early start. As we drove up toward Eynesbury, it was obvious the weather was not going to match the icons and it was very overcast.  And with no wind, it was pretty much going to stay that way.  Still we crossed the road entered the forest and began our search.  And within about 10mins had heard the cheery cry of the Warbler, but so far away and no pictures.
The other bird of interest is the Diamond Firetail, and while we got some good views no really great photos.

By late morning the sun had poked through, the Little Eagles were playing the strengthening breezes and a pair of Brown Falcons were playing chase across the treetops.

We took a walk up past the old shearing shed area and then down the track toward the golf course dam.

“There is always a pair of Jacky Winter on this corner, ” I assured EE, but she responded “I would have thought the name ‘Winter’ might have been a clue.”

And then to both our  collective surprises a Jacky flew down grabbed a bug and sat in a tree with its usual tail wag.
The Jacky winter is a fine mixture of part Robin, part Flycatcher (they used to be called the Lesser Fascinating Flycatcher), part Fantail, and a touch of Woodswallow. Well it seems like that to me.

They are also among my favourite birds.  Their simple colours make a great photo harmony, their clear sounding calls are a delight and they can be very easy to work with, almost completely ignoring the inquisitive human being.  On average.  I’ve also met a few that are extraordinarily skittish, and I’ve never had much success.
This corner pair fall somewhere in between.  We’ve had some lovely interaction and complete disdain on other occasions.

I followed this one across the roadway, and propped against a tree, hoping, she/he? they are impossible to tell apart, would come on back and at least hunt in the area.  It immediately headed back across the road, into a tree, and I caught a glimpse of it on a limb with a lot of wing fluttering. Perhaps its going to be fed, thought I, so I wandered slowly in that direction, but by then the bird had moved on.  However there was a bump in the branch, and at first I thought it might have been the other of the pair.
Then it dawned on me.  “It’s a young one that is waiting to be fed”.  But…

When I put the glass on it, what I discovered was a Jacky Winter nest.  Now, I’ve seen some pretty tiny Red-capped Robin nests and the nest of a Grey Fantail, but this was even tinier, and not at all well built. The two young were already overcrowding the nest.  And the one thing they seemed to be able to do was to crouch down, and hang on.  So at a quick glance it didn’t look like either a nest nor any young birds.   Very clever.

But it is tiny.

After a few minutes the first of the adults and then the other came in and poked food into the open mouths, and there was no sound from the young and apart from putting their head up, no real movement either. Very clever.

I concluded from the size that they were about a week from fledging, so perhaps another trip will be needed to see the young birds in action.

Only spent enough time to get a few shots, like to leave them to themselves unless I’m invited to stay, and there wasn’t time for introductions.

On the way back to where we’d left our gear, I heard the Warbler and managed a few shots of it. One of them in the clear. What I didn’t expect was to be harassed by 3 or 4 very agitated Superb Fairy Wren males and several females. The males getting up very close indeed to try and attract my attention and then I noticed why.  They had recently fledged 3 or 4 young birds and were trying to protect them.  I managed a couple of quick shots of the young with their very short tails.

Enjoy

Jacky Winter on a hunting trip.  My first sight of the bird.
Jacky Winter on a hunting trip. My first sight of the bird.
What's this.  A nest? Two young nestlings snuggled down in the 'nest'
What’s this. A nest? Two young nestlings snuggled down in the ‘nest’
Proud Mum(?) comes to check on her brood.
Proud Mum(?) comes to check on her brood.
Lots of food needed for them to grow
Lots of food needed for them to grow
She watched over them for quite awhile after each feed.
She watched over them for quite awhile after each feed.
Open wide and I'll pop it in.
Open wide and I’ll pop it in.
Thanks Mum
Thanks Mum
Speckled Warbler.
Speckled Warbler.
Recently fledged Superb Fairy Wrens. Look at the tiny tails.
Recently fledged Superb Fairy Wrens. Look at the tiny tails.
One of a number of "helper' males, who where not at all pleased with my presence near the fledglings.
One of a number of “helper’ males, who where not at all pleased with my presence near the fledglings.

Our Flame Robin drought is finally over

 

The Flame Robins travel down from the Victorian High Country where they have replenished the species over summer and spend the winter in the lower country.  Bit hard for a little beak to find food under several metres of snow!

Our former main area of Woodlands Historic Park has been a major stop over for them as they migrate down along the bayside areas.   Some families don’t continue travelling but remain around the Grey Box forest areas at Woodlands and set up feeding territories and have been a great source of picture making pleasure for us over the years.   But, we don’t have close access this year, and the couple of trips we’ve made have been blocked by a large sign on a gate explaining the need for the Parks people to manage a fox that has managed to breach the secure area for the Eastern Barred Bandicoots.  So rather than having nearly a month of good work with the Flame Robins, we’ve been in a bit of a drought. Spotting the odd one or two at a distance is not quite the same somehow.

As we move into winter, the weather has also played its part in keeping us at home. After all what is the point of standing in a cold forest on a grey day with the light completely obscured by the incessant rain.  Not that I’m against getting wet, just not much point photographically.

Our friends,  Richard and Gwen A (he of Woodlands Birds List fame) wanted to have lunch at Eynesbury Golf Club and a bit of a walk in the forest.  Again this  should be a good area for Flame Robins, so we accepted the offer, and waited for a ‘reasonable day’.  It arrived. Beaut cold morning. 2 degrees, plenty of sunshine and little breeze.  Great.  So we, EE, Mr An Onymous, and I set off early to get a good start and work up an appetite for lunch.  We had previously found several robins in an area within pretty easy walking distance of the carpark and so we decided to start there.  Brown Treecreepers, a few Dusky Woodswallows, a White-winged Triller and an assortment of Thornbills were enjoying the change in the weather too.

We eventually found a small family of Flame Robins, and set down to work.   There is something very satisfying about sitting quietly while a dozen or more birds feed back and forth around you.  These birds have the name “Petroica” which roughly translated means “Rock dwellers” and where they were working was indeed the rocky side of a slope.  So we sat in the sunshine and enjoyed the activity.  None seemed to really be too sure of us, but at least they allowed some good, if not great shots.   But like all good days out, it was both enjoyable and a learning experience. Armed with our new knowledge of the feeding area of these birds will give us a head start next time we are out that way. And of course, with such great little subjects its going to be sooner than later.

We caught up for lunch, and then had an hour or so to wander in another part of the forest.  Looked hard for Diamond Firetails, but had to settle for two Whistling Kites, and two Black Kites.  On the way back the fluting call of a Little Eagle led us to some great views of a circling bird.   No Freckle or Blue-billed Ducks on the club Lake, but we did see a golf ball badly sliced off the tee drop into the lake with a satisfying “perlop”.

Always a delight to see in the sunshine a male Red-rumped Parrot
Always a delight to see in the sunshine a male Red-rumped Parrot
Called "Rock dwellers' they remained true to name in this part of the forest
Called “Rock dwellers’ they remained true to name in this part of the forest
Dapper lad
Dapper lad
Tiny little birds always manage to get behind a stalk of grass or two.
Tiny little birds always manage to get behind a stalk of grass or two.
Inbound
Inbound
A female that landed on the fence line next to where I was sitting
A female that landed on the fence line next to where I was sitting
Lift off.
Lift off.
Hunting from a low perch
Hunting from a low perch
Showing off her lovely markings
Showing off her lovely markings
A Jacky Winter came by to see what all the fuss was about. Perhaps it was ticking of humans for its online human list.
A Jacky Winter came by to see what all the fuss was about. Perhaps it was ticking of humans for its online human list.