Little Journeys: Passing Visitors

I had, finally, thanks to lockdown restrictions easing, journeyed over to Camera Exchange. My trip was to complete a deal we’d commenced back in July, and had been forced by luck of lockdown to put on hold as I couldn’t get over with my gear to exchange nor pickup any goods that were part of the exchange.  I mean, that is how exchange works. (isn’t it)
So after exchanging some of the Queen’s Legal Tender, (is it the Queen’s? or the Australian Government?) either way, Ryan was happy to relieve the bulge in my wallet and gave me a shiny new carry case to put in iAmGrey to transport home again.

Thinking it would be nice to see in the shiny case, and to give its contents a bit of a test run, I had to pass by Point Cook Coastal Park, and decided that a quick trip to the beach should be enough to see put the contents of the shiny case to good use.

However when I arrived at the beach area, the birds had different ideas and only a few gulls and a lone White-faced Heron were in residence.   But I got to play with the kit, and as time was of the essence, I moved on.

Partway back to iAmGrey, I heard a familiar call, but not one I’d ever  heard at Point Cook before.  So it was time to investigate.
The noises increased and I suddenly could count, not two, nor five, but 14 Rainbow Bee-eaters. Not a bird we’ve seen at Point Cook before.

No doubt they were not moving in, but were simply topping up with fuel on their annual trip down the coast to a suitable nesting location.  Just behind the You Yangs is one of the closest I know of.

Rainbow Bee-eaters in our area generally nest in dry creek-beds burrowing into the sandy banks to form their nesting chambers.  Most of the sites I know of are either on restricted access parks, or on private property farms. So it’s not unusual to go the whole season and not see or photograph them.

No doubt they were not going to move into the park here, but would be on their way over the next couple of days.  So I had to make the most of what I has available.

A few days later,  Mr. An Onymous, and Ms. In Cognito, EE and I stopped by for another look, and of course not a bee-eater to be found.
Such is the Karma of birding.  I’m thinking of a note to Ross to tell him the shiny case is a good piece of kit, and more importantly it attracts birds 🙂

At least the bee-keeper who has some hives in the area would be happy that they had travelled on.


Werribee Wagtails: Bird Count at Mt Rothwell

Werribee Wagtails Header
Werribee Wagtails have been in much of a hiatus due to that ‘c’ word.

One of the activities of that we have always enjoyed are the quarterly bird counts at several local sites.

It is good to be able to see the effects of changing seasons at each of the locations.  And of course to see the variation in the bird activity through the year.

We started 2021 with a day out at Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre

The weather was kind, coolish and a tad of sunshine to keep things pleasant.
Good bird action in some areas, and of course a few areas that were a bit barren for birds.
All in all a good start for Wagtails for 2021

Scarlet Robin female Photo Courtesy of EE
Red-browed Finch Juvenile Photo Courtesy EE
Varied Sittella Photo Courtesy EE
Rainbow Bee-eater
Rufous Whistler female. Carrying a snack. Try as we might we didn’t discover the secret
Whistling Kite, coming by to see the fuss
Whistling Kite, enjoying the view in the sunshine
Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby. Showing off its its best asset
Dusky Woodswallow

Little Journeys : A Rainbow on a Gloomy Day

The season for the Rainbow Bee-eaters visit to the southern end of the country is drawing to a close.  Time for them to journey back to more tropical locations.
Each year we have been fortunate enough to enjoy their company, and cheery calls, in a number of locations.
They come to breed, and steepish creeklines are among their favourite spots.  This season however, partly because of the dry winter, and partly because of unyielding high temperatures, which no doubt affected their food supply, we did not see the same numbers in the normal places.

One area in particular out near Bacchus Marsh, normally would support perhaps 15-20 pairs, this year it was a much lower number.

Surprisingly at first they arrived in quite good numbers, and we saw at least 50 or more birds in one day at Mt Rothwell, but they soon dispersed further afield. Also the River Red Gums cooperated and for the first time in awhile had excellent blossom cover, and attracted not only bees, but a wide variety of nectar seeking insects.  So it looked like the season could be good.

However we soon noted that the birds were having a very hard time finding a suitably soft  riverbank clay to open up their nests.  The ground was bleached bone dry, and little beaks and tiny feet can only do so much.  As the hole has to be around a metre or more inside the bank, it appears the work was just too hard and many pairs abandoned the site.

We did find an enterprising pair, that had persevered and in the end they got down to the business at hand.  Later on in late January we walked several kilometres along the creek and did locate several more pairs that had been able to establish in a more favourable location.

And given that at the same time we were working with the Brown Falcon,  Cassia-of Cinnamon, and her young on the other side of town, we didn’t spend much of the season with the Rainbows.  However in the end, they seemed to have gotten on quite well without our overseeing. 🙂

Mating is quite a sustained event. And begins when he comes in with a food offering.
The question is what to do with tails.
With a large butterfly or moth.
I’ve always been fascinated by the way they are able to flip the bee and catch it the right way round to go down easily


Counting Birds at Mt Rothwell

My local bird group, BirdLife Werribee, or more affectionately known by the previous name, “Werribee Wagtails” has for many years been doing  bird surveys once a quarter at various sites.
This weekend we surveyed the Mt Rothwell Conservation and Research Centre just to the north of the You Yangs range.
To quote Peter Sellers from “Balham Gateway to the South”,
It is exciting work and my forefathers have been engaged upon it since 1957—

The previous few days of rain had managed to get past the You Yangs rainshadow and give the area decent drink. As we assembled, we were joined by a group from BirdLife Australia, Ovens and Murray.

And the bush seemed to respond to our enthusiastic banter as we walked over the various tracks that lead through the park.


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Inside the World of Bee-eaters

	“The wise man knows that it is better 
	to sit on the banks of a remote mountain stream 
	than to be emperor of the whole world.” 
	― Zhuangzi

One bird that is somewhat elusive and challenges us to keep going out to find new areas is the Rainbow Bee-eater.

We’ve been known to drive to Newstead, and sit quietly on the creek bank that runs through the cemetery as its usually a honey-pot area for them during nesting season.   Of course the opportunity for a pie at the Guildford General Store might have something to do with that journey as well.
The You Yangs Park is also a well known area for them, although the nesting there is generally on private property and access is a bit more difficult.  We also see them at Mt Rothwell Conservation Area, and no doubt they nest there, but it’s also not an easy access to organise.

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With Werribee Wagtails at Goschen

The Goschen Bushland Reserve outside Lake Boga, is renowned among bird obsevers as one of the true ‘honeyspots’ in the Mallee.
Little did I know as a young kid, riding my bike around the area, that I’d be back so many years later to spend time photographing the birds of the area.

We had travelled up to enjoy the BirdLife Werribee—aka Werribee Wagtails— camp out in Swan Hill. Of course one of the spots to visit was Goschen.

On the way up, one of the relatives had informed us, “Goschen now has been fenced off.” or words to that effect, and it sounded as though access was restricted.   I had visions of a 3 metre chainwire fence all around the area. And huge gates with those big padlocks that Parks Vic. seems to be able to produce for such occasions.


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Diary Day #5 Goschen to home

Like all things, the time was up.  All that was left to do was load the car with 2 clothes bags, 6 camera bags as well as a load of ‘take home’ presents.
After days of hot weather, it was a bit of a surprise to wake to find the ground wet.  A steady rain had changed the place overnight.

With hugs, kisses, goodbye’s seeyanextimes and the like we waved and drove off into the rain.   “Care to go to Goschen?” I asked EE.  Ok, but not through the back roads in this wet.

Down the highway, and out along the Lalbert Road we set.   (used to be called the Lalbert Road as it went, well, to Lalbert) But now it has a different name. Same Road. Same Direction. Still goes to Lalbert.

But when we arrived at Goschen Roadside Reserve, it was obvious that the rain had set in.  And we’d left rain jackets for camera and person at home. (Its going to be 38 C, why do we need to load up the car with Driazabones?)

So in-between incessant showers we ventured out for a look see.  Think I mentioned the Brown Treecreeper on her nest, and so we both went very very quietly, and peeked into the opening on the broken old tree. There she was. As Dry as my Drizabone; the one hanging up in the wardrobe at home.  Only a quick peek, and then we left her alone.  Didn’t need to get her out in the rain.

Mr Hooded Robin was out in the rain. Think he was enjoying the change.  And the White-browed Babblers seemed to have a dislike for every Singing Honeyater they came across.   Speaking of Singing Honeyeaters, one was sizing up a small pool of water on the former tennis court, now ‘Burn-out’ spot for the local(?) petrol heads.   They are probably also responsible for slowing wrecking the Goschen Hall.  It  has stood for nigh on 100years and served the community faithfully and now its being torn apart one small bit at a time. Pity on the mentality of those responsible.

So in the end, the rain won, and we drove back toward the highway with thoughts of Eaglehawk pies on our mind. And.  EE pointed. Look, its a Rainbow Bee-eater.  And it was. Enjoying the rain.  But the weather was so dark, it looked like a London fog out there. Would have been great with a bit of sunshine about then.

Stopped at the Rail Crossing outside Kerang.  In the first tree nearest to the rail line is the nest of a Wedgetailed Eagle.  No one home today, but the tree was providing shelter for a Whistling Kite.

So to home, loads of emails, much work to sort images and the like, clean gear and ponder the next journey.

Mr Elegance in the rain.
Mr Elegance in the rain.
Brown Treecreeper nest site. She is bout 1/2 metre down the hollow.
Brown Treecreeper nest site. She is about 1/2 metre down the hollow.
SInging Honeyeater enjoying the cool.
SInging Honeyeater enjoying the cool.
Tennis anyone?  Testing its bath water. Perhaps I should wait a few more minutes.
Tennis anyone? Testing its bath water. Perhaps I should wait a few more minutes.
Part of a clan of White-browed Babblers hunting for elusive honeyeaters
Part of a clan of White-browed Babblers hunting for elusive honeyeaters
White-browed Babbler, waiting in the rain for a honeyeater to be chased out in the open.
EE's find of the day.  My shot from inside the car.
EE’s find of the day. My shot from inside the car. If it looks dark and gloomy out there. It is!
Wedgetailed Eagle nest at Kerang rail crossing
Wedgetailed Eagle nest at Kerang rail crossing
Double duty tree, now a rest spot from the rain for a Whistling Kite
Double duty tree, now a rest spot from the rain for a Whistling Kite

A morning at Goschen Bushland Reserve.

We had to take a trip back up to the family acres during the week. (Astute readers will see the euphemism in there).

On the way back we left early in the morning from Swan Hill, and after some family duties (again an euphemism), we headed on down to the Goschen Bushland Reserve. This little clump of trees and shrubs is a truly outstanding area for birds and no matter what time of year, there will always be something to find.   We took the back way down which gets us onto the Woorinen Road and is a very pleasant drive among the trees and wheat lands, if somewhat dusty.

After about three hours, (no euphemism in there), we had seen an array of birds and EE had nailed some new species.  Including the Rainbow Bee Eater.

Top of the day however was a pair of Hooded Robins. (those who’ve followed here before will know there is pair we’ve photographed there previously), and they had only in the past day or so fledged at least two young. We got a good look at one of the young, but in the end Mum was getting quite distressed and doing a ‘broken wing’ display on the ground so we moved out of the area.

Next turned up the Rainbow Bee Eaters.  These are the most stunningly coloured birds and the metallic colours simply sparkle in the light.  I’d not noticed before how hard that is to record with the camera.  Plenty of White-browed Wood-swallows were nesting, and I managed to locate a female on a nest. Well to be truthful, I was stalking a Hooded Robin, and walked right past her nest.  She quickly regained composure, I took a shot and moved away.   I really dislike disturbing them.  There were also plenty of Masked Wood-swallows as circulating as well, and no doubt nests to looked after.  A few Brown Treecreepers and some Singing Honeyeaters, lots of White-plumed, and EE remarked its funny to drive all this way to photograph whats in our backyard.
And of course as is the case, the Black Honeyeater was no where to be seen.  Another chance another time.

As we drove out we spotted some young new fledged Willie Wagtails, and by the road way several White-browed Babblers, but it was time to go and so we moved on.

Just as we crossed the railway line at Kerang, on a most conspicuous tree, we noted a Wedge-tailed Eagle and a nest. Too much traffic behind to stop and go back, so we had to be content with what we had, and journey on to Eaglehawk, and the Eaglehawk Bakery for a “Mulga Bill Pie”.  Worth the drive. (No euphemism in there)

Most elegant and distinctive Hooded Robin, male.
Most elegant and distinctive Hooded Robin, male.
"Leave me alone".  Caught in the act on her nest
“Leave me alone”. Caught in the act on her nest
Hooded Robin, family group. Junior thinks its feeding time.
Hooded Robin, family group. Junior thinks its feeding time.
Very annoyed female Hooded Robin, she was most protective of her recently flown young.
Very annoyed female Hooded Robin, she was most protective of her recently flown young.
I often try but hardly succeed, to get a sharp shot of the White-browed Woodswallow.
I often try but hardly succeed, to get a sharp shot of the White-browed Woodswallow.
Rainbow Bee Eater. The streamers in the tail suggest a male
Rainbow Bee Eater. The streamers in the tail suggest a male
New fledged Willie Wagtail
New fledged Willie Wagtail