Saturday Evening Post #28 Brightening up the Grey Box Forest

For EE and I it was time for our annual pilgrimage across town  for an evening with friends.
As we pondered the going, there was a moment’s pause while we contemplated “It will be Thursday Evening before the Easter Holiday break, and by about 4:00pm the roads are going to clog up with holiday traffic and the RIng-road will be at a standstill, moan, moan, complain.”

Ah, says she, with a smile, and always full of bright ideas, why don’t we leave after lunch, take a picnic snack, and go early to visit Woodlands Historic Park and look for Robins, then we’ll only have a short drive to our evening destination.

We did, and arrived at the Werroona Carpark in plenty of time.  Then “Dolly” got ready for her maiden trip into the Bandicoot Hilton, also known locally as “The Backpaddock”.

Poor old Grey Box forest is showing the signs of no rain for several months.  Not such a big deal to the venerable Grey Box themselves, they are quite adept at surviving in hostile environments. But the understory, and particularly the moss beds that the Robins depend on over winter are simply dry dust.

As we walked down toward the Backpaddock gate, we mused about the lack of birds, and how in past seasons, there would have been Red-capped Robin activity visible from the roadway. At the height of the best seasons several years ago, we had 15-20 pair of Red-capped Robin territories mapped.  The pair we named “Lockey and Primrose” were always ready to pop out along the road near the cemetery to watch our progress past.  There are quite a few posts on the blog of our interaction with this gracious pair.

When I first started photographing out in the backpaddock, my friend Ray, who taught me so much about the area, and the birds out there, would often stop and chat with me inside the gate.  A male Red-capped Robin, would usually come by, sit on a branch nearby and listen to our conversations.
These days not one of those territories exists. In a strange turn of events since the introduction of the Eastern Bandicoot programme in the backpaddock, the number of Red-caps has been decimated. I’m not suggesting a link, just a co-incidence.

We walked the usual (old) kangaroo pads, through the forest, but did not see or hear any robin activity.  More walking, and then Dolly took a swerve off the path, and we headed into the forest proper. Dolly is not 4WD, so it was not going to be a long journey.  When just in front of me I saw a splash of red on a stump. Heart races, point camera, yes, indeed.
It’s a Flame Robin male.

We were able to work with him for about 20 minutes, hoping all the while that his clan would turn up, but as the light began to fade and our departure for the evening was closing in, it was time to go.

But, we did have a feel that there is life in the old Grey Box forest yet.

Enjoy

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All in a Day’s Work, at The Office

 

After yesterday’s relatively quiet day, we had planned a day at home as those weather prognosticators were falling over themselves combing their various thesauri for even more gigantic, huge, colossal, mammoth, immense, tremendous, immeasurable, Brobdingnagian(Ye of Gulliver’s Travels will understand),  humongous, astronomic, ginormous words to describe what was to be a weather of mass destruction, headed our way, so we had decided that it would be a doonah day, and we’d sleep through it all.  The patter of rain on the roof and window shutters seemed for once to confirm their cosmic, epic, giant, stupendous, mega predictions.

However as I peeked out from under the protective, shielding, defensive, safety, preventive, insulating, warmth of the doonah, what was it I spied coming in under the window shutters.
Gasp, horror, elation, joy, disbelief.  Was that sunshine.
No prizes Sherlock. It was sunshine.

In quick succession t’was breakfast, pack cameras, (I think there should be a get dressed in there somewhere) pack a thermos of Green Tea, (I’m off the Grey of Earl at present), tuck in the Drizabone Jacket, and head to the Office.  Also we beat the Mother’s School run, so the roads were fairly, rather, a little, slightly, comparatively, after a fashion, reasonably, kind of, sort of ish, quiet.

But the wind across the carpark sang a different tune. Large gusts, of huge, colossal, mammoth, immense, tremendous…. you get the picture… winds that made even the Drizabone Jacket feel a bit challenged.

And what was that on the fence line up the track!

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Continue reading “All in a Day’s Work, at The Office”

Snapshots: New Visitors at The Office

Ahh, dear reader.  Bet you didn’t expect so soon an update 🙂

Chatting, as I usually do with my current mentor, and it was suggested, that the challenge of writing a full page blog with scintillating patter that is both cogent and helpful may only be causing the blog, well,  to blog down. Err bog down.

So welcome to a new addition to the world of blogging at Birds as Poetry.  Snapshots

Snapshots will be a quick collection of  shots from a given event or location.  Not a lot of pretty patter, but rather just the images to do the talking. After all that is what I really do best.

That leaves, Postcards to be a bit more in-depth on either an event, or more likely an  encounter with one or two birds.

Then Studiowerkz will carry on doing the in-depth photographic detail from a shoot. Kind of the ‘Day Book’ of photography of yore. Interestingly enough we concluded that a photo might get a boost in Snapshots,  the pop up in Postcards, and finally make an appearance in Studiowerks with info on the whole studio-like encounter.

Then there will be those times when verbal virtuosity takes hold of me and the muse connects with the spirit of the universe and the words literally write themselves and I can wax lyrical about happenings of all sorts of birding activity.  Expect to see Sea-eagle pics in that one.

Well we’ll see.

So here is Snapshots.
And an important one it is.
EE and I did a trip to “The Office” this afternoon. Had a particular Australasian Darter and a probable nest site as our goal.

But when we arrived in the carpark, the first thing we noted were Flame Robins!

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Continue reading “Snapshots: New Visitors at The Office”

How to Brighten up a Grey Box Forest

I suppose it was not to be unexpected that after finding some Flame Robins at The Office last week, that we would have to venture further afield.
A rare find of a Rose Robin at Woodlands Historic Park, must have got the inquisitive out and about, as every person we met today asked, “Have you seen the Rose Robin?”  Sadly we had to respond “No”.  We did manage to get an indication that some Flame Robins had been seen down near the hospital dam, and so like the Banjo suggests,  “We went”.

But no luck. Did you remember to pack the bird karma, she asked.

At this time of the year I always expect the Bandicoot Hilton, Backpaddock to be firmly locked from mere mortals, but today it was open and so we ventured in.

Continue reading “How to Brighten up a Grey Box Forest”

Re-decorating the Office

Well it is indeed that time of year when the seasons change and with that change the birdlife at the Office begins to take on a new look for Winter.

So a change of colour scheme is definitely on the agenda.
Out with the mottled tones of Summer, and in with the bold colours of cooler days.

And the first of our Winter collection is ready for show

Continue reading “Re-decorating the Office”

Wonderful Woodlands Birds for all to enjoy: The Birds of Hume

It’s a bit humbling to have been able to contribute to a most wonderful publication.

The Hume City Council have published a lovely 20 page Bird Guide to the area.  A great creative collaboration by a number of locals and some excellent work by the Evironmental Dept of the Council has resulted in a such a cool little handbook for anyone with even a passing interest in the area.

My Flickr Mate Andew H was among the many of the working group and at one stage asked if I might have some photos of birds they were missing.  And off course, I was all too ready for them to use the images.

After living in the area for nigh on 40 years, it was a great way to respond back to the community and to provide a bit of a “thank you” to the birds that have been such a large part of my photographic endevours over the years.  My family has walked and laughed and picnicked and even married in the park, so we do have more than just a passing connection.

It’s also no surprise to you long term reader(s), that I have a real affinity for the small birds of the Grey Box forest area in the park.  Over the years many  of the missives here have been about their lives and their surrounds.  So much so that many have become in someways quite familiar.  I’ve for a long time taken to giving each of the robins, names.  It helps to id them, to come to an understanding of their location and sometimes their interactions.  Jon Young, my mentor of the book, “What the Robin Knows”, shows how its possible to build tiny connections to individual creatures that become large ropes that bind the bird and viewer.

Of all the birds I photograph, the small bush birds seem to hold the special place in my heart.  I love the boldness of the raptors, the kites, falcons and eagles.  I am constantly in awe of the migratory skills of the small waders and shorebirds that visit us each summer, and I can spend hours with the shoreline birds along the beaches, the terns, herons, gulls and cormorants.  But, put me in a stretch of Grey Box, and my blood fair purrs.  And the small birds fascinate me, not only by their lives, but by the challenge of bringing that portrait moment to life on screen.

Over the years, I ‘ve talked of the lives of Mr. Mighty, (he, who got a front cover on a national magazine), Henny and Penny and their clutches of young. Peter, the Prince, Lockey, and  of recent times, Petite, the smallest Red-capped Robin. And of course my very dear friend, Primrose. A female Red-capped Robin that was happy to come and sit with me on a log in the sunshine whenever I was in the area.
Andrew H talked today a little about our experiences and his own involement with the robins, and at one stage likened it to a ‘spiritiual’ moment.  And to have a bird such as Primrose so delicately and yet deliberately come in contact, and in some way accept the presence of the big klutz of a photographer, with a turn on the head and a lowered wing flap is something that still keeps us going out to make those connections.  How else do you describe a bird that you can see coming through the trees, just to perch less than a metre away and chatter away as if was really important.

And so in the presence of over a hundred or more folk, the Mayor of Hume Council, Cr Helen Patsikatheodorou, talked of the work of the production group, the grandness of the birds in the area and officially launched the booklet for the benefit of all those who love the birds.   We also had the chance to do a small walk around Woodlands Homestead and Andrew talked of some of the better birding areas at the park.

If you are in the area, do pick up a copy of the publication. Or contact Hume Council.

I thought I’d re-quoute Jon Young on the Sans Bushman
“If one day I see a small bird and recognise it, a thin thread will form between me and that bird.  If i just see it but don’t recognise it, there is no thin thread.  If I go out tomorrow and see and really recognise that same individual small bird again, the thread will thicken and strengthen just a little.  Every time I see and recognise that bird, the thread strengthens just a little.  Every time I see and recognise that bird, the thread strengthens.  Eventually it will grow into a string and then a cord, and finally a rope. This is what it means to be a Bushman. We make ropes with all aspects of the creation in this way” —What the Robin Knows, p 180—.

So well done Hume, well done team, a supreme effort and hopefully it will help people build more than a thread to so many of the wonderful birds in our area.
I’m just overwhelmed to have been able to have such a small part in the process.  Thanks again to all.

 

In the morning before the launch EE and I had travelled up in the brilliant light and touch of frost on the ground for a short visit to see the birds.  The sunshine should have told us it would be a good day, but within about five minutes along the track, Petite, the Smallest Red-capped Robin had popped out on to the roadway, followed by Peter the Prince.  Together they fed and played for us before we moved on to the backpaddock.   And there we were delighted to remake acquaintance again with a new Male Red-capped Robin, and finally find a small flock of FLmae Robins, including the Three Brothers, working the moss beds in the sunshine.
Seemed a great treat to go with the rest of the day.
Enjoy.

Petite, the Smallest Red-capped Robin. This tiny bird met us on the roadway as we walked in. Totally unconcerned by our presence. A real thread bulding moment.
Petite, the Smallest Red-capped Robin. This tiny bird met us on the roadway as we walked in. Totally unconcerned by our presence. A real thread building moment.
Peter, the Prince. Its been awhile since I've seen him on the fence line.
Peter, the Prince. Its been awhile since I’ve seen him on the fence line.
Such a delight to find. Pink Robin, female. Now if only she would bring her partner down for winter.
Such a delight to find. Pink Robin, female. Now if only she would bring her partner down for winter.
Female Scarlet Robin
Female Scarlet Robin
One of our new discoveries. This female is still supporting one of her last season young
One of our new discoveries. This female is still supporting one of her last season young
Who is putting 'footie prints' all over my forest? Scarlet came by to see what I was up to.
Who is putting ‘footie prints’ all over my forest? Scarlet came by to see what I was up to.
Wedge-tailed Eagle taking its pet Whistling Kites for an early morning flight.
Wedge-tailed Eagle taking its pet Whistling Kites for an early morning flight.
Female Flame Robin
Female Flame Robin
Flame Robin Male
Flame Robin Male
EE Enjoys Denonshire Tea at the launch at Woodlands Historic Homestead.
EE Enjoys Denonshire Tea at the launch at Woodlands Historic Homestead.
Red-capped Robin Female. This is Primrose, (see the lovely apricot wash on her chest) overseeing a territorial dispute between Lockie, and a would be suitor.
And just because deep down I’m an old softie. Here is Primrose. Red-capped Robin Female. This is Primrose, (see the lovely apricot wash on her chest) Thanks for the memory girl 🙂

Gallery: Click to see full size.

 

 

 

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

 

 

Gallery

A Beginners day at Woodlands Historic Park

BirdLife runs a number of Beginners days throughout the year, and Hazel and Alan do a super job of finding the right places to explore and go out of their way to make sure that beginners get the best looks at the various birds found on each day out.

So when the Woodlands Historic Park Beginners day came along we were very happy to go along and catch up with friends and to share just a little of our experiences in the park. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to see the park through a different set of eyes. And some 40 pairs of eyes is always going to see so much more than just my poor old eyesight straining through the bushes.

As the weather has been anything but predictable of late, we were also pleased to see some open blue sky  as we drove out toward the park, and as the day went on, the warmth came on well.  Our flickr friend, Eleanor turned up and that made the day a little bit special.
The first part of the day featured a walk around the upper ends of the Moonee Ponds Creek, which was actually carrying a flow of water following the recent rains.  The creek here suffers from losing input water because of the large reservoir at Greenvale, but none the less it still drains from a long way up toward the north.   It also is an especially steep fall from the north side of the park to the more southern areas, so the creek dries out through the park very quickly.
A number of small weirs and dams have been used across the creek over the years, and the Chaffey Brothers, built a substantial weir and bridge near the homestead at one stage. But, on a heavy flood year, the foundations gave way and the weir was never repaired.

At first our outward journey seemed a little slow for birds, but eventually things began to pickup, with a Crested Shriktite being a major find, some thornbills, and Galahs and a pair of Eastern Rosellas which let the photographers gain some excellent portraits.  A Brown Falcon took to the air on our approach into the open farmland areas, and the usual Sulphur-crested Cockatoos continued to screech at our presence.

We walked around the homestead and then headed back on a middle track above the river, and some spotted a Scarlet Robin.  And after much investigation we were able to get quite close to the female and she gave lovely views for those who might not often have the acquaintance of such a fine looking lady.
Lunch time, and bird count and we had 37 species to our list.
On to the BackPaddock area.  Mostly to look for Robins.
A trip around the dam area didn’t do much for the enthusiasm, and I managed to add some Brown-headed Honeyeaters, and more Shriketits. A Whistling Kite and a Wedgetailed Eagle made up for small numbers else where.  Despite EE and I looking in some of the places that have been quite profitable of late, the robins were not in a cooperative mood.

The group moved toward the BackPaddock, and I spotted a male Red-capped Robin on the inside of the fence, and the group moved to have a look.  Eventually we found him, and his lady, and also a few Flame Robins.  The male Red-capped Robin performed so wonderfully close to many of the group and hunted quite close to us on the ground. Nice way to end the day.

Thanks to Alan and Hazel and their helpers for such a good day out, and lovely warm weather to add to the warmth of the company.

 

Eastern Rosella at Launch
Eastern Rosella at Launch
Crested Shriketit
Crested Shriketit
DWJ_3430
Brown-headed Honeyeater
Eastern Grey Kangaroo: Male. Not to be meddled with.
Eastern Grey Kangaroo: Male. Not to be meddled with.
Red-capped Robin
Red-capped Robin
Up close and personal.
Up close and personal.
Red-capped Robin
Red-capped Robin
he was happy to hunt on the ground around our group
he was happy to hunt on the ground around our group

What about a day at the Office?

With the sun-shining,  oh, yes, it did!  We decided on a trip to The Office.  This area of the Werribee River Park looks over the floodplain between the old sandridges and gives a pretty spectacular view if nothing else.  On a good day its possible to see the raptors at work.
Unfortunately today was not to be one of those days. And with no sign of the usual Flame Robin family we decided to walk up to the Werribee Mansion and have lunch there.
Usually the area along the golfclub is also a haven for small birds, but the gums must be slower to flower this year and only a handful of resident Red-rumped Parrots were located.
Still the sun was shining and we had a fine chicken panini and coffee. So to look at the Ornamental Pool, and our first real chance to find some birds.   Top of the list was a pair of Australasian Grebes and what appears to be their sole surviving chick. They had three earlier in the season.  They were pretty protective and this one seems to be doing well a good sign.

Continue reading “What about a day at the Office?”

A Grey May Day in a Grey Box Forest, at Eynesbury

All we needed were some grey birds and it would have been complete.

We turned up at the monthly Eynesbury Residents Birdwalk.  Did one back in April see details of the area in that post. Details Here
This time the lake was in fact a, lake!.  Water had been added and the ducks were happy and in residence again.  And there was a “Farmers Market” in full swing. Make note to self, leave earlier, bring wallet, and enjoy some shopping therapy before the walk in June!

Chris had a walk to the north eastern area of the forest planned for us, and the six or so hardy stalwarts set off for a looksee.  And a quiet day it happened to be.  We did get a good view of the ubiquitous  Superb Fairywren, and again noted how many Brown Treecreepers have made this their home.

Chris pulled out the best spotting by giving us a grand view of a male Flame Robin, rich in colour and brightening up the day.  Just as we were enjoying it all, he took off not to be seen again.
A couple of Striated Pardalotes come down out of the top branches and all got a good view of  these delightful little birds.  Not to be out done a Jacky Winter helped add to the charm of the area, as only Jacky can, and performed some feeding twists and turns in an open area.  But, in the end, we had to say it was a quiet day.

Perhaps the recent rain had made the food scarce.   We turned back and meandered through the open forest.  You can do that in Grey Box, its a lovely forest to walk through. Tracks become optional. Chris offered all sorts of running commentary on fox and rabbit issues, to what sort of native plants were working in well in the local gardens, and one our number told how her three sickly looking Running Postman were now clambering all over the garden pots.  Super.

A Common Bronzewing, a few more Treecreepers, and the inevitable Red-rumped Parrots kept us entertained until we eventually reached the roadway, and back to the cars.

Might have been a quiet morning, and the light might have been less than ideal, but we all were pleased to have seen a little more of the Eynesbury Forest and to enjoy some great company at the same time.  Now we’re looking forward to the June walk.
Way to go Chris.

EE and I grabbed a quick bite to eat, and a cuppa,  then went round to a small open park area among the houses on the west side of the lake.  We’d been told that a pair of Tawny Frogmouth were in the park and ‘easy to spot’.  Hmmm.

You know that feeling?  You’re walking into a park for the first time, checking trees, checking trees, knowing that Tawnies are, well, not necessarily ‘easy to spot’.  In fact, I’d left the camera in the car. Now that is confidence.   EE on the other hand, well, she would wouldn’t she?  Had camera out, and at the ready.

Looking, looking.  Well I suppose I’d taken about five steps into the park. “Oh”.
If only everything was  that “Easy to Spot”.   There aren’t a lot of trees, so Tawnys didn’t have a lot of choice.  “There they are!!! ”  Trudge back to get camera, (all five steps).

We then moved down to the forest proper to look for more Flame Robins. No such luck, not as ‘easy to spot’.  A flock of Maned Ducks, (Wood Ducks) were house hunting and that kept us amused for a few minutes.  A duck in tree.

Then the sound of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters on the way back got us looking and eventually locating a couple.
So in the end a good day at Eynesbury, and another triumph for Grey Box

Enjoy

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.

An ode to Grey Box Forest

One of the highlights of Woodlands Historic Park is a stand of Grey Box Forest that is on a ridge running from Gellibrand Hill.  Probably, once in older times the Grey Box was a predominate stand in the area.   The Grey Box on the ridge line has survived, again, probably because the area would be difficult to cultivate.

Running along the ridge is  pipeline for the nearby airport so I’ve named the ridge. Pipeline Ridge.  Over the years, the open forest has provided a grand home, and a fine stop over point for Red-capped, Scarlet and Flame Robins.   One season I came into a clearing on Ridge and there among the great Grey Box was at least 70 robins at work on the moss-beds in the clearing.

I love Grey Box Forest.  I’ve said it before, but I think I have Grey Box sap in my veins.

These wonderful trees are survivors.  No heavy rainfall areas for them.  A low rain fall, and a gritty stony shallow earth, and they are at home.  And so one of the great things I love about Grey Box is their perseverance and their steadfastness and their survival against the odds.
The average Grey Box is quite slow-growing, it earns it durable title over many long years.

It makes a tall upright and generally “Y” shaped spread.   In fact up on Pipeline is an old downed warrior that I’ve used as a sit spot, and I first called it the “Y Tree” before I realised that was the general shape of Grey Box.

The bark is a grey (funny about that), fine and flaky. Thinner branches are smooth.

As it grows it develops, as do many eucalypts holes that become home or nesting locations for a variety of birds. The forest area also developes a finer understory, that can be very open, as it is on Pipeline or quite dense as in a few locations in the Eynesbury Grey Box forest.

The cool understory make fine homes for both Black Swamp Wallabies, and Eastern Grey Kangaroos.  When I was a little bloke the Kangaroos were called Forrester. Which I figured was a typographical mistake and what was meant was Forest.  And so for a long time in my youth the were “Forest Kangaroos”.  Ahhh!!!

When the bandicoot program was established at Woodlands a few years back the Predator-free fence was put in place and cut the territory of the only Black Swamp wallabies in half.  I’ve often wondered how the ones that ended up on the outside of the fence fared against the foxes and feral dogs in the area. I’ve no idea either how many were cut off on the inside, and try as I might I’ve only been able to locate two that I can recognise.   There might well be more, as one pair of eyes can only see so much.

Understory in our wonderful Grey Box includes a lot of layover space for the Eastern Greys, and they do a fine job of keeping some areas quite scrub free, and at the same time contribute a fair amount of droppings.
I have a theory, and no budget to prove it, that the composting of the droppings and leave litter promotes the growth of a small saltbush type plant that has a bright red tiny berry.   I theorise that the tiny berry is food for some insects that the Robins consume and thus collect carotene.

The red of the Robins comes from a class of pigments called carotenoids. Carotenoids are produced by plants, and are acquired by eating plants or by eating something that has eaten a plant.

For several years at the beginning of the bandicoot project in the Back Paddock at Woodlands, the Kangaroos were removed. (They eat grass, that is the home of the endangered bandicoots. No grass, no home, no bandicoots).

But the number of layover areas, and the resultant saltbush deteriorated over the next few years, and the Robin numbers that we saw decreased. And at the moment, I believe, (well I’m allowed a theory or two), that as the plant and the carotene insects diminished, so did the resident Red-capped Robins. And the Flame and Scarlet Robins moved on to other areas for winter — some not too far as there a seriously large mobs of the Forresters down along the Moonee Ponds Creek outside the predator-fence.

But the average Eastern Grey Kangaroo female is a pretty persistent little producer, and her male companions are also very capable at their jobs and between them there has been a growing population of Kangaroos in the Feral-free area.  Which means perhaps the old layover areas may get a rebirth too.

Endurance is a work that springs to mind when  you stand under a majestic and venerable Grey Box. Its branches wide-spread and supporting a varied habitat around it.
My Tai Chi master says” Endurance, glasshooper, is not in context of a temporarily demanding activity.  Another facet of endurance is that of persevering over an extended period of time. Patiently persisting as long as it takes to reach the goal.
Patiently enduring the Grey Box forest welcomes our admiration.

I love Grey Box.  It has so much to share, and it  has so much to teach.

Thought I’d share some of the wonder of the forest over the years.  All images made on or near Pipeline Ridge

Enjoy.

Grey on grey.
Grey on grey in the welcome rain
Gery Box provides a suitable nesting site. Here a pair of Red-rumoed Parrots are one of three pairs in this old tree.
Gery Box provides a suitable nesting site. Here a pair of Red-rumoed Parrots are one of three pairs in this old tree.
Magic moments of early morning mist in the Grey Box
Magic moments of early morning mist in the Grey Box
The Pipeline Ridge after a good rain.
The Pipeline Ridge after a good rain.
Hard life on a high hill side.
Hard life on a high hill side.

 

Climbing Mt Everest

Somethings we do as photographers, and bird photographers in particular, seems to rival climbing Mt Everest.

One of those challenges for me is the Rufous Fantail.

Now those who have these amazing birds in their backyard are going to find the next bit of ramble, well somewhat indifferent, if not bordering on the laughable.

But. The Rufous Fantail is not a regular, nor a resident bird in my area.  In fact over 8 or more years at Woodlands Historic Park, I’ve only seen them on three separate seasons.   And then only for a few days, as they either fly South, for their summer location or then North for their Winter escape.  And off course I have to be in the forest when they are there, and as there is no prior warning, and no set pattern of location, climbing Everest seems to be a fair comparison.

“It’s a lovely sunny day. Let’s go visit Ambrose,” said she.  So EE and I headed up the freeway, parked and then walked in to the area where this amiable bird has been the past few seasons.

Long term reader(s) may recall that last season the area had been cleaned up by the local LandCare(?) group and I was a bit unsure if Ambrose would bother.  And after about an hour or so of fruitless searching I was well on the way to convinced.  Then, way off on a corner area of the paddock, a familiar little harmonica call echoed, and I went to look.
And there he was.

Waved a wing at me— in Hello— and was gone. More waiting and a fine cuppa of Earl of Grey, and he made one more quick appearance, but didn’t seem to be photographically inclined today.  But at least we’d made contact.

“How about lunch at Greenvale, and then we can go on to Woodlands Park in the afternoon,” says She.  EE is pretty good on those ideas.  So we went.

Woodlands, as the long long term reader will (or at least might) recall is the birthplace of my bird photography.  I am convinced that Grey Box sap runs in my veins and in a few minutes of walking down the the old “Dog Track”, I was feeling a weight lifting.
I like Grey Box Forest.:

  • No TV commercials with people who have to “YELL” to get my attention.
  • No loud music with people who have to “YELL” to sing a song.
  • No Dodgey commercials that “YELL” at me to buy some piece of useless rubbish or other.
  • No Lines at the Supermarket
  • No pushing and shoving to get a coffee
  • No futile endless running about chasing something of no particular value.

I like Grey Box Forest.

We found some Flame Robins down by the old dam area, and to our mutual surprise a Pink Robin female.

I was photographing some ‘log-dancing’ between two territorial Red-capped Robin males, when a ginger/gold/rufous/orange flash quite literally sped by my ear.

A Rufous Fantial.  First one  I’d seen in years.  Move over Sir Edmund Hilary, and Chris Bonington. This is serious business.

The Rufous, as pointed out at the beginning is a very infrequent visitor. It also has the most beautiful orange tail.  A photo of that is like planting a flag on Mt Everest.  One of the most gorgeous examples of it was taken may years ago by an expert bushman. (he has also featured here before)

Alan (Curley) Hartup made a wonderful shot with a beaten up Mamyia C22 and a roll of filum.  Yes, filum.  It was exhibited and won Curley many well deserved awards and accolades.  Look back and you’ll find a the shot featured on the Hartup Exhibtion flyer  and for more on Curley see here.

One thing I learned about photographing this bird.  It is fast.  So fast in fact that it makes the average Grey Fantail seem glacial.  And your average Grey Fantail is no slacker in either the speed or irrational flying behaviour departments.
“Perhaps, I should practice more on Grey Fantails,’ says EE.  “N0,” says I kindly, and wisely.  “The Grey Fantail isn’t in the same speed league.

So we followed the bird, and eventually managed a few close shots.

I struggled to get to the peak.  Just couldn’t get the flag in.

Enjoy

A "Hello" wing wave from Ambrose. But he didn't stay to chat.
A “Hello” wing wave from Ambrose. But he didn’t stay to chat.
Female Golden Whister with snack
Female Golden Whister with snack
No Grey Box forest would be complete without a Grey Shrike-thrush or two. They look as good as they sound.
No Grey Box forest would be complete without a Grey Shrike-thrush or two.
They look as good as they sound.
One of part of a squadron of Varied Sittella at work among the Grey Box
One of part of a squadron of Varied Sittella at work among the Grey Box
Not my friend Pinky from Pt Cook, but a lovely bird to meet anyway.
Not my friend Pinky from Pt Cook, but a lovely bird to meet anyway.
One of several male Flame Robins that arrived this past week
One of several male Flame Robins that arrived this past week
Even though they have travelled a great distance, they still manage to look in top shape.
Even though they have travelled a great distance, they still manage to look in top shape.
A peach of a bird. The wonderful winter dress of a female Flame Robin.
A peach of a bird. The wonderful winter dress of a female Flame Robin.
A male Red-capped Robin. Intent on discussion with a neighbor over territory rights.
A male Red-capped Robin. Intent on discussion with a neighbor over territory rights.
The one that got away. Enjoy
The one that got away. Enjoy
16-04-18-556-DWJ_6520
Rufous Fantail. At a stand. Managed a couple of shots, but no tail-spread here. Not much room on top of Mt Everest.

Take water, add Robins, instant enjoyment

Gazing out of the window, a little blue sky hinted among the grey.  That was enough to have the Earl Grey Tea poured, the cameras in the car and away we went.   Wanted to have a look along 29 Mile Road at the Western Treatment Plant.

This area has a number of paddocks recently ploughed and the Kites seem to favour the turned over ground. By the time we made it to the “Highway Lounge” at the Caltex Servo on Geelong Road, the little bit of blue has zipped itself up in the dense grey that was accumulating.  So we stopped for a quick Mocca, and then continued.  Only to be confronted with a misty rain.  “Turn back now, or go on?”  We went, and the rain continued, and we went and the rain continued. Exposures of a Week @ f/4 seemed to be the order of the day.

So reaching the Beach Road corner, we pondered a very early mark. Then a flash of red, and another and the paddock opposite was covered in Flame Robins.   Well, covered is such an all encompassing word, so its probably better to use dotted here and there. In the end we found four males, at least as many females and several juveniles in varying states of moult.

I propped the 300mm ff/2.8 with a TC 2.0 (Making 600mm) on a post, and wished I’d been clever enough to include a beanbag.  The rain changed to a drizzle between downpours.  The birds seemed to ignore it an hunted happily.  Feeling pretty confident in the rain, they chose to ignore us pretty much completely and we were able to move about with them without them fleeing.

In the end being sodden completely and beginning to worry about the cameras getting drowned, we called it quits.    And by then the small meagre light had been completely swallowed up in dark and ominous low cloud, which soon turned to massive downpour. Time for home.