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.

EE’s Water Feature

One of the down sides of moving across town has been our loss of ready access to the Woodlands Historic Park.  In particular a stand of Sugar Gums that held all sorts of interesting birdlife.

It’s also probable that you recall that EE (Eagle-Eyed for the uninitiated), had established a Water Feature in the gums and would on a regular (daily) basis keep the small plastic container filled with fresh water over the hot summer months.  Not to attract the birds for photography, but simply to give them some relief.  “If only one bird ever drinks from it, it will be worth the effort,” quoth she.

As it turned, as you may recall, a pair of Eastern Yellow Robins became quite attached to EE and her water feature, and would follow her into the forest and then with much calling  would head for the water feature when she came along.   It was, at the very least a noble gesture on the part of the birds, and to tell the truth was quite spine tingling to hear two little birds get all excited and eagerly await her arrival.   (Now its not time to lecture on ‘dependant’ birds, as they were the ones who chose to live in the dry area in the first place. )  Besides, its pretty humbling to have two Eastern Yellow Robins sitting about a metre away watching the water being poured into a tiny dish.

We have been working a part of the Grey Box forest in the You Yangs almost for two years.   Early on in our visits, EE established another ice-cream container water feature besides a log.  But, we don’t have ready access, and it is only visited occasionally, and once in three weeks would be more the norm.  So it hasn’t been possible to build up any permanent relationship with the inhabitants.  And as EE readily acknowledges, “Its most likely the little Black Swamp Wallabies that take the water, as the container is often misplaced.”

Still  with more patience and determination, every visit sees a bottle of water left for the locals.  And we had really never seen the locals make the pilgrimage to the area.  Perhaps a passing Flycatcher would be the most likely suspect.

We went in today to look to see how the pair of Eastern Yellow Robins are going with their young fledgling.  And of course to topup the water.

Done.

What happened next is the source of great delight and much mirth.

At first we continued in the hunt for the Robins, and I found a pair of Weebills that were working through the tree tops.   Then. First one, then another, then another bird dropped by the log and checked out the water.

Within a few minutes a bold Grey Fantail had dropped into the water and began the splashing.  Which acted like a ‘Jungle Drum’.  The sound of water on whirring wings must have some sort of magnetic attraction.  The sound went, as they say on You-tube, “VIRAL”, and birds came from all around.  Including the two Eastern Yellow Robins, more thornbills than I could count and ‘my’ pair of Weebills.   Each waited in turn, (not much room in an ice-cream container). and after a few minutes there were wet feathers everywhere drying in the sunshine.

Then just as quickly “Jungle Drums” played another tune and they were gone!  Leaving two photographers with the widest grins, and filled memory cards.

I can see another trip down there very soon.

Enjoy.

Eastern Yellow Robin waiting, you can just see the other one at the bottom of the frame in the water.
Eastern Yellow Robin waiting, you can just see the other one at the bottom of the frame in the water.
Patiently waiting its turn, the Weebill had to watch the spray flying from the activity below
Patiently waiting its turn, the Weebill had to watch the spray flying from the activity below
Eastern Yellow Robin, soaked, not stirred
Eastern Yellow Robin, soaked, not stirred
Bold enough now to make the plunge
Bold enough now to make the plunge
Weebill drying off with Grey Fantail being typically hyper-active
Weebill drying off with Grey Fantail being typically hyper-active
Brown Thornbill.
Brown Thornbill.

 

You’ll find some more pics by the Water Feature Manager over on EE’s Flickr site.
See here.

Friends in the Air on Flickr