You can tell, dear reader, when its a quiet birding day. And that I’m down at the Point Cook Coastal Park. When the tide is in, the cormorants, Little Pied and Pied mostly, congregate on an old abandoned pier that orginally served the first Chirnside Homestead in the area.
Now it’s a shadow of its former self, but regularly used by water birds as a safe haven for resting, preening and establishing relationships.
And when there are no other birds on show, well, I settle down on the sand, and watch the comings and goings. Always some new thing to see.
It says something about the whole day in general when, we set out to find some Flame Robins at Point Cook Coastal Park, and end up spending half an hour with a single Pink-eared Duck.
The plan was to have a look around the old homestead area and see if we could locate any Flame Robins that usually turn up for their winter holiday at the beach. And if we were really lucky, perhaps a Pink Robin, or two—that would be nice.
We met Bernie the ranger on the way in, and he (of the sharp eye), said he’d not seen the usual suspects so far this season.
Friend of mine once said in conversation as we chatted about my time in the bush, “Bird photography is pretty easy, you just sit in a deckchair and photograph any birds that happen to come by.” And today, for once, he was right. Thanks for the advice John.
Mr An Onymous had looked at the weather maps, the weather forecasts, the icon ladies and I guess in the end, just plain looked out the window, and declared we should take a trip to Point Cook Coastal Park on Friday. Sounded good as we’d not been out that way since the end of the Flame Robin season, most of the birds were well on their way back by mid of September.
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.
Brown Falcon, being seen off by an Australian Magpie
Brown Falcon, being seen off by an Australian Magpie
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”
Pied Cormorant on landing approach
Open water, easy landing.
Flame Robin, I suspect the colours suggest a first year male moulting in.
Is that another photographer pointing a lens at me?
Time to go
Brown Falcon. I thought it was going to sweep along the fence. But it simple jumped down to take a lizard
The couple that eats together stays together.
After you. Oh no I insist, after you.
The always dependable Pacific Gull
White-faced Heron, racing to shore so as not to lose its catch in the water.
Flame Robin about to pounce
Brown Falcon on a turn
Just came by to say hello. One of several horses that welcomed a thoughtful touch. EE was ready to oblige.
Early morning drizzle, (and icon ladies had got it right!). Not much chance of a ramble today, and the sky is deep leaden grey. Lowering, the poets call it.
Brrring Brinnng. EE’s phone message do dah goes off. Scares the life out of the unprepared. Roll over pull-up doonah.
“It’s a message from Rockman’s the clothing shop, they have a 40 % sale on today,” In most excited voice. Pull-up doonah a little closer.
And there’s a Rockmans over at Point Cook, we could, well, take a look along the beach at Point Cook, then have lunch at the shopping centre, and I could go and save some money.
Doonah is now a ball around my head.
So, as you guessed. Clever reader that you are. We went.
Well, the raindrops on the windscreen didn’ t seem to be diminishing, and had turned to a light drizzle by the time we parked.
Found some lovely, active Flame Robins in the first few minutes. Yep, just as I figured. Not much light.
We ventured to the beach area. Low tide here, and most of the birds are well out beyond the end of the rock platform.
By morning tea time, we’d not seen much more than the usual suspects, and even the cormorants had abandoned the old jetty. Open the thermos, and enjoy, at least it wasn’t bucketing with rain.
Cahhh Cahhhw Cawww, from along the beach. A Little Raven was working among the exposed rocks and intent on telling somebody what was going on. Into the second cuppa and the bird had worked right up to where we were sitting. Then began the usual, is it a Little or an Australian Raven?
One of the most interesting calls these birds have is a really guttural purr. (I can’t think of a better word), and the hackles stick out when its made. And soon a partner arrived on the rocks, and they began a fine old discussion.
But a black bird on a black backdrop, or a white background on a really porridge grey day is not going to get me pushing the shutter with any enthusiasm.
Both flew to the top of the old jetty. And after a bit more discussion, the smaller of the two moved closer to the other, put its head down and. The larger bird began to alopreen it.
We tend I suspect unfairly, to have a low regard for Ravens. Well, they are black, likened — or associated — through our western culture with evil, hang around supermarket and food outlet rubbish bins, are a pest to all sorts of farmers and in large flocks are dangerous to small birds at nesting time. And if I’m not mistaken, the bloke in the Ark, let out a Raven to check the conditions, and the Black bird did not come back. Another strike against it. Yet of course, the Dove, always pictured as white, was the good guy. I’ve checked the old texts, and there is no indication it was white. But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story
So to see these two birds engaged in some sort of pair bonding, (and they do, it seems, stay together for life) in such a tender way was really a highlight of the day.
And ‘we’ got to Rockmans, saved a bag of money, and had lunch.
You deserve a break, and I’ve got two days off from Blogging 101. Phew!
EE, Mr An Onymous and I had the chance the other day to take a bus tour to a wetlands that is managed by Parks Vic, but not accessible to the public. It is an old saltworks on the edge of the bay at Point Cook, Victoria.
One of the highlights of the day was discovering (well it was pointed out to us by the ever helpful Libby the bus driver), a recently hatched White-headed Stilt chick (Yes, I know, I know, we call them Black-winged Stilts, but that is in the world of bird names, so, well, (as Paris Hilton was wont to say,) So, Yesterday!
Mum White-headed Stilt was not to impressed to have half a dozen eager photographers too close to her young, and kept issuing warnings to us and instructions to the little one about how to look its best for camera.
The little dude still has lots of down feathers and spent a lot of time preening at them to get rid of them. They must itch or annoy I think.
Enjoy. We did.
One look at the weather map was enough, didn’t need no icon waving, weather talkin, danger predicting tv dude to tell me. It was going to be cold, miserable, overcast and photographically crippling.
We went anyway.
Mostly to see if the Flame Robins were at Point Cook, -yes. Was the Pink Robin(s) there. No. (well not that we could find) Were the pair of Black Kites any further advanced with the reproduction activity. Jury out on that.
After being blown down toward the beach, the tide was well out. Half blown out, I’d suggest. And there were a pair of Pacific Gulls resting in the lee of the rocks. And the shutter speed was on the never-never plan.
After awhile one of the gulls got up, flew to a rocky edge of the water and retrieved what I take to be a Sea Urchin. This hard shell creature is more than it can break open by hitting on a rock. But, the species has developed over the years a working technique. Take the prize up about 20m and drop it on the rocks. Smash. Or at least on the second attempt.
Waft down and enjoy the feast.
After performing this feat several times in front of us, it also attracted the usual scavengers and free loaders. So on the incredibly strong wind several Whistling Kites came to pay a visit to their new ‘best’ mate. However Pacific was having none of that and inspite of some clever wing work on the part of several attacking at once, the gull simply stood its ground. In the end, they moved on to look elsewhere and gull went back to its snack. And then moved down the beach with the next catch.
Nothing like a snack after lunch
Clever technique for tough food.
Now to enjoy a nice snack after all that hard work
If at first it doesn’t break. Try again
Oh, let me take a closer look
Low over the rocks, riding on the strong north wind, the Kite made its first pass at snatching the food.
Lining up in the breeze for a run for the goodies
“Its so easy to catch a gull sleeping on the job”.
Hah! you don’t sneak up on me!
One last look and the Kite headed for more likely food takings
Sometimes you can always tell when a raptor is in the air. The birds go quiet, or there is a series of warning calls ring across the forest. Or, the local magpies and ravens go into high gear agitation and speed across the sky in pursuit of nemesis.
The latter was the case the other morning. A local Little Eagle had been out and had collected itself a pretty fair meal, and was carrying it home tucked in its crop. See the flickr shot here.
A little while later, the ravens and magpies were on high call and in hot pursuit. The day was very windy, and it favoured the highly manoeuvrable and speedy ravens, so the poor Little Eagle copped a right pounding. The wind gave the ravens a great climbing speed and they were able to outclass the raptor. It on the other hand couldn’t get advantage as it had to keep losing height and changing direction. It’s plaintive ‘peep’ call is pretty pathetic.
For some reason, Little Eagles seem to cop it from everyone. Its diet rarely would include taking birds but it seems to get the rap from all the birds. Such is the way of life on the wing.
Also hard to get them all in frame when you’ve only got the big lens handy and the wind is blowing a gale and wrenching it out of cold old hands.
She is on a fence post and has come down the fence line to see what I’m doing. Had to step back a bit to get focus. Too close for the lens focus setting.
For the technically ept, its shot with the 300mm f/2.8 and a TC 2.0e iii. Equiv focal length 600mm. I had the presence of mind to stop down to f/10, to at least get some little depth of field. My calc is about 3cm. As I’m running the D810 on Auto-ISO, it bumped the ISO up to 2500. Something I’d probably not do normally. And its hand-held. My Flickr mate Martyn would be happy. See his work here.
Only Noise Reduction is the tiny amount that my software adds at ingestion.
For an extra look try the “Full Size” button on the bottom left in the gallery shot.
Spent a really wet and dry morning down at the Point Cook Coastal Park. In between heavy downpour squalls and high winds bands of sunshine played across the paddocks.
We’d gone to look for Kites, but as it turned out, in the rain, our hearts were stolen by a very small and extremely tolerant Pink Robin. Yep, we have featured her before, but today among the downpours and the shafts of sunlight she seemed contented to allow our presence. EE postulates, (and who would argue), that perhaps our walking in the rain on the wet road drove worms to the surface and made it easier for her to hunt around us. The number of worms she seemed to collect from nowhere might give a bit of cred. to the theory.
I’ve also figured out that I can make a respectable gallery of a trip to add into WordPress, and so think I might have found a solution to my challenge of being able to give a sense of the trip without wasting lot of words.
Click on any photo in the gallery and it will display up to 2000 pixels across. -big enough! Then you can move through to the next or preceding images.Hope you enjoy this way of viewing the images, as the photos tell the story.
And it lets you comment on the pictures (if you feel the need).
Penny the Pink Robin Gallery
Meet Penny, a bird that has indeed stolen my heart
Fluffed up against the cold wind
Penny the Garden Bird
There is something particularly heart stealing by a bird that is happy to sit close by and invite you to share some time.
One of many worms that she retrieved out of the soggy roadway
It may not be apparent, but she is actually leaning backward on her tail
Windy days bring out special moments
I think she enjoyed the warming sunshine as much as we did.
As I needed to go do a medical thing near the Point Cook Coastal Park, the thought came up, that we could go photograph Flame Robins (astute reader that you are, you’ll have noted that the positive side of that is – not look for robins to photograph- Well noted)
As it turned out the sunshine came out and EE found an really interesting pair of Black Kites, interesting in that they were both ‘very’ interested in one another. One, which we concluded to be the male, kept sweeping into the perching tree carrying things to ‘offer’. She on the other hand kept encouraging him, and eventually they stopped to mate. EE has those shots. (Of course).
We decided that little hard to get close to red robins, were no match for the the challenge of two eager Black Kites and walked around to a gateway, and entered the paddock…