Wandering In Woodlands

Bet you thought you’d never see that head line again ah?

We needed to go to the Melbourne Airport.  For the geographically embarrassed that is about ohhh? 15 mins from Woodlands.  So.

Why don’t we leave early, have a look at the Red-caps and then go to said airport?
We did

Which was pretty amazing as we met Nina out there and she had had a good morning seeing among other things a Fantail Cuckoo.  The carpark near the cemetery was abuzz with Thornbills and so many Grey Fantails.  So after farewelling Nina, we set off for Red-cap country.

And we found a couple of female birds quite quickly, but no male.  Then a couple of Rufous Whistler females seemed to be having  a tiff over a male, and he happily responded with his usual “Echong” call. All very nice.
Enter stage right a Shining Bronze Cuckoo, and things were looking up.

Till.

The rain came. As come it must.   By then we’d ventured into the (in)famous Backpaddock, only to discover its still a quiet place for birds.

More time with the Red-caps, and I began to wonder if one of them at least might be the previous season juvenile having just moulted in as she has a very tiny red cap.

By now, the rain was winning and the coffee shoppee at Greenvale was inviting, then off to the birdless airport we adjourned.

Red-capped Robin Female
Red-capped Robin Female
They always seem to be able to take that little bit of extra time to pose the best possible way
They always seem to be able to take that little bit of extra time to pose the best possible way
Wing over action. Seems to me that its main purpose is hunting to perhaps scare insects into moving
Wing over action.
Seems to me that its main purpose is hunting to perhaps scare insects into moving
It certainly gives a great look at the wing patterning
It certainly gives a great look at the wing patterning
Eeee Chong
Eeee Chong
Rufous Whistler Female
Rufous Whistler Female
Our very smallest bird. A Weebill.
Our very smallest bird. A Weebill.
Always a pleasure to find a Pardalote
Always a pleasure to find a Pardalote
How about I pose here by the spider web. Yes, but turn around a bit more. Oh.
How about I pose here by the spider web. Yes, but turn around a bit more. Oh.

Red-capped Robin, male. Just in case you begin to think I’m a one bird wonder.

I think I’ve got Grey Box forest sap running in my veins.  Spent a bleak rainy morning at Woodlands Backpaddock. Enjoyed every bit of it. Here is Peter the Prince.

DWJ-1504-26-_DWJ5528

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 day with the Werribee Wagtails at the You Yangs

Beginning to really like the monthly foray out with the Werribee Wagtails, good company, tops spots, usually  good birds, and yesterday good weather.

We met down at the Eastern Entrance and took a walk, all 25 of us, down the fence line track.  Immediately we’d started and a pair of Scarlet Robins entertained us, and then a pair of Jacky Winters.  Not to be out done a pair of Restless Flycatchers came out to play in the morning sunshine.  It could hardly be better.

A litre further down the track and we came across a family of Flame Robins, and then… It got a lot better.  We spotted a lone male Red-capped Robin.  Big news for me, as I’ve been trying to locate such bird in the area for the past few months. We walked along the creek line that runs on the south side of the “Seed beds” and came upon another larger flock of Flame Robins, and a pair of Scarlets.
The ‘whip’ for the day rounded us up, and after a morning ‘cuppa’ at the Big Rock carpark, and a few more birds, we took to the drive around the Great Circle Road.   Stopping at one spot we walked in to see a Mistletoe Bird, but it must have gotten the dates wrong in its diary and try as we might we had to admit defeat. Prehaps next time.  A big group of Crimson Rosellas, and a beautifully vocal Grey Shrike Thrush were suitable consolation.

We stopped again at Fawcetts Gully and there was a female Golden Whistler, but try as I might, I couldn’t get a reasonable shot.  Did see the departure of an Eastern Yellow Robin, but again trying too hard, I missed it completely.

So to lunch, and a Collared Sparrowhawk that whisked through the trees, much to the chagrin of around 25-30 White-winged Choughs.
We walked down to see the resident Tawny Frogmouths, and through the bush past the dam near the rangers work area, and there found quite a number of Brown-headed, and White-naped Honeyeaters among others.

After the birdcall, the count was 45. Not a bad day’s birding. Mr An Onymous and I went back past Big Rock to have another look for some Scarlet Robins we’d been working with the previous week, and just as we were leaving we spied another Eastern Yellow Robin just off the side of the road.
Enjoy

As an aside, the Editor of Werribee Wagtails newsletter “Wag Tales”, Shirley Cameron is handing over the job, and I’ve taken on the task.   Bit daunting as 26 years of love, care and attention to the group by Shirley sets a pretty high standard for the incoming ‘new bloke’.
One thing I’m going to do is add the pdf of the magazine to this blog, and you should be able to find it from the Front menu Tab.   Will make an announcement when the first one goes ‘live’.

To add to that, I’ve created a new Flickr page that will have some of the magazine photo content for viewing, also allows us to have others add material for the pages.  We’ll hasten slowly.

 

Yellow-rumped Thornbill at bathing duties, preening in the early morning sunshine.
Yellow-rumped Thornbill at bathing duties, preening in the early morning sunshine.
One of a number of Scarlet Robins for the day.
One of a number of Scarlet Robins for the day.
My find of the day.  One Red-capped Robin, and I can't wait to get back down to have another look
My find of the day. One Red-capped Robin, and I can’t wait to get back down to have another look
Pair of Jacky Winters.  Rare to see them sitting together.
Pair of Jacky Winters. Rare to see them sitting together.
Restless Flycatcher, quite happy to perform with 25 people watching
Restless Flycatcher, quite happy to perform with 25 people watching
Jacky Winter always a favourite find for me.
Jacky Winter always a favourite find for me.
Female Scarlet Robin hunting with a large flock of Flame Robins
Female Scarlet Robin hunting with a large flock of Flame Robins
Tawny Frogmouth, quite near the Main Office area  and completely oblivious to our presence.
Tawny Frogmouth, quite near the Main Office area and completely oblivious to our presence.

Walking the Backpaddock with intent

After our earth shattering discovery of access to the Backpaddock, it was obvious we’d soon make a return trip for a good look at what the robins might be up to.

Again the weather dudes, made it pretty certain that a bleak, and perhaps not monumental storm was on the way, and that dire and severe and as it turned out, over active imagination weather was predicted.
We figured to go on Wednesday, and by the late afternoon of Tuesday, the weather prognosticators seemed to have the upper hand.  And in the end ‘common sense’ prevailed and I decided to stay home.
However, as seems the case so often, by morning, although a bit windy, the sky was blue. Horizon to horizon.  Quick phone call to Mr An Onymous, and he was soon on the way, the car was loaded, and we headed to the Northern Subs.

Once inside the gate, it didn’t take too long for three pairs of eyes, (on second thoughts, make that four pairs of eyes, as EE was with us), to locate a pair of very active, but somewhat suspicious of human activity  Red-capped Robins.  They were in an area that had not had a pair of birds for at least two seasons, so I figured them to be a new couple.   I’m beginning to contemplate that the birds I first saw all those years ago have reached their use by date and that its only now that a new younger generation of birds are building up the numbers again.  Fine theory, but??

The “Three Brothers” flock  of Flame Robins were no where to be seen, but I went to look for “Sam”, and eventually found him, but he certainly didn’t want anyone leaving Tripod Holes on his Forest, and promptly disappeared.
A pair of Scarlet Robins were also in the area, and EE spent  a bit of time with them, eventually getting the male to become bold enough to come in quite close.
Mr An, and I, followed a hunting party of Flames down through the scrub and eventually out manoeuvred them, and were sitting waiting for them to turn up, and they did.  Sunshine, Robins, close up, and a good sit spot. Perfect.   Probably shot more useful images in the hour or so than I have all season so far.

A problem for the robins was the presence of a couple of Whistling Kites, a pair of very vocal and fast, Brown Falcons, and a very noisy and low flying Brown Goshawk.  The slightest alarm call from the thornbill flock and everybody went for cover.

This small Flame flock are new birds for me, and consisted of about 4 males, several females, and 4-5 juveniles. Not having any knowledge of the history of this flock, its a bit hard to determine, but I’d be betting they are on their way back from somewhere, and have chosen to tank up in the forest.  They had joined the mobile Thornbill flock, of about 20-30 birds, so it was  pretty noisy convoy moving through the open areas.

At least the visit proved what we’d been contemplating, that the food source inside was better than outside, and the shelter of the understory in the Grey Box suits them.

And of course today, the weather has turned feral, so we are not likely to be out there again for at least the mid of the following week.
With only a few weeks to go, its a bit hard to think the season is going to provide much data on the flocks.  The encouraging thing I found was that the males were not vocal, and a female matriarch still seemed to be the one that controlled the flock movement.

Enjoy.

On the look out for those pesky photographers.
On the look out for those pesky photographers.
I've only a handful of pics of red-cap pairs together.  He was very defensive.
I’ve only a handful of pics of red-cap pairs together. He was very defensive.
I'm hoping this lovely lass will begin to accept me and we can get some interesting pictures   She reminds me so much of  my old friend Primrose with her wonderful buff dusting on the chest.
I’m hoping this lovely lass will begin to accept me and we can get some interesting pictures She reminds me so much of my old friend Primrose with her wonderful buff dusting on the chest.
He began to get bolder in his hunting close up, perhaps had figured out we were benign.
He began to get bolder in his hunting close up, perhaps had figured out we were benign.
Good enough for another pose
Good enough for another pose
This male has an unusual eye ring, and I'm wondering it it might be a young male still moulting in.
This male has an unusual eye ring, and I’m wondering it it might be a young male still moulting in.
Always hard to gain their confidence.
Always hard to gain their confidence.
This is Mr Yellow Sash, and he is alertly watching the pair of vocal Brown Flacons pass by.
This is Mr Yellow Sash, and he is alertly watching the pair of vocal Brown Flacons pass by.
Think this is the Matriarch.  Her chits and calls seem to bring everybody to attention
Think this is the Matriarch. Her chits and calls seem to bring everybody to attention
One of several pairs of Scarlets we encountered
One of several pairs of Scarlets we encountered

One day, Six Robins

As opposed to 3 days and no robins.

Had to motor to the northern subs today for a doc appointment.   Well I got that out of the way, and EE and I decided to make use of the time and take a trip down to Woodlands Historic Park and see if the Flame Robins had learned how to fly over the off limits to humans, Backpaddock.

The paddock is a secure area of about that is part of the Eastern Bandicoot Re-establishment programme. Currently locked because a fox has managed to get into the area and threaten the bandicoots.  One bandicoot making not much more than a take-away snack for a hungry fox.   Fox,by the way, was let into the area, by some banana-boat who propped the secure gates open. The team from the Conservation Volunteers and Park staff have been working since the incursion in early April 2014 to nail the little critter. Apparently at this stage without success.

Grew up in the country, (The Mallee), we had a Fox-terrier Blue-heeler Cross.   She was able to smell a fox spore from out the back of a ute.  Took about half an hour to find said fox.  And little more than a few seconds to despatch it. Quick, clean, neat, and cost effective.    Now, “Dog” (that was her official name.  Said so on the council paper) is of course no longer with us.   But given her efficiency, many a scalp hung on the fence line.  Dog would explode off the back of the ute and be on the job in about a millisecond.  So I’m personally a bit non-plussed that in this day and age, its taken from April to now (early June) to find, locate, and despatch a fox that is within a fenced off area.

I can’t imagine someone is standing in the middle of the park calling ‘Foxy, Foxy” or expecting said criminal to come out with its paws up.    No doubt the foxes of the 21st century have GPS and close contact radar warning and other technical stuff to improve their efficiency.

But, I digress.

Public Disclaimer:  The team working on the Bandicoot programme have done some fantastic work, in spite of some complex issues and I sincerely wish them all the best  of success.  My poor bird photography doesn’t come anywhere in the scheme of things.  Good on ya Travis. 

We went instead to visit Jack of Eastern Yellow Robin fame.  And about as fast as “Dog”, Jack came bounding out to see us.  It was more like him visiting us, than the other way around. Took great delight in sharing a bath in some water EE had tracked in, and then spent time preening before speeding off.  And so did we.  Not much else happening in that area, Except, funnily enough, as  we were walked back to the car,  just down toward the rangers work area, we spotted two Foxes.

Pretty easy to pick. Brown looking things, with long tails and sharp teeth.  We watched them go about their respective businesses and smiled that poor old “Dog” would not have been allowed in the park to deal with them.

Back at the car we travelled further out and were able to find our new friend “Ambrose” and he looked resplendent in his lovely rose red dress.   Then to our surprise he had a friend,   A female  Pink Robin.   She was a little less enthusiastic for the camera, but it was a good find.   Think we also have Ambrose’s lady,  “Rosy” in there somewhere too, but couldn’t make the connection. On to the further east toward Sunbury and we found several Flame Robins, and the figured it was lunch time, so moved on again.

After lunch it was time for home, and EE suggested why not go back past Woodlands, call into Providence Road and have a look for the Red-caps we’d seen  on a previous trip.  Suits me. On the way down to the dam area, we came across a family of White-winged Choughs. Very intent about their business, and we were soon surrounded by about 30 birds.  Lots of choughness going on.  And even mutual preening.

And then, “Peter” the male  Red-capped Robin turned up, and his lovely little lady. She is without doubt the smallest Red-capped Robin I’ve ever seen. Minute, not petite. To top if off a pair of Scarlet Robins came down the roadway, and we’d the chance to write up 6 different Robins for the day. Not a bad effort considering.

Dog would have been pleased with our hunting experience.

Jack, the Eastern Yellow Robin,  The cocked tail is not for my benefit, he's connecting with Jill a little further in the scrub.
Jack, the Eastern Yellow Robin, The cocked tail is not for my benefit, he’s connecting with Jill a little further in the scrub.
Ambrose.
Ambrose.
Pink Robin. Female.  Nice to see.
Pink Robin. Female. Nice to see.
Contemplative Flame Robin.  Perhaps he's wondering why we aren't working with his family in the back paddock.
Contemplative Flame Robin. Perhaps he’s wondering why we aren’t working with his family in the back paddock.
Female Flame Robin.
Female Flame Robin.
Two Flame Robin blokes, have a bit of a discussion about photography.  Not often to see them in the same tree, but they were chatting away.
Two Flame Robin blokes, have a bit of a discussion about photography. Not often to see them in the same tree, but they were chatting away.
Scarlet Robin, male, not the best I've done, but nice to see him.
Scarlet Robin, male, not the best I’ve done, but nice to see him.
Hiding, but I found her.  Scarlet female.
Hiding, but I found her. Scarlet female.
All Choughed up and now where to go.  A sentry took time out for a bit of choughcleaning.
All Choughed up and no where to go. A sentry took time out for a bit of choughcleaning.
Peter, the Red-capped Robin.  Almost working with me now.
Peter, the Red-capped Robin. Almost working with me now.
Such a tiny female Red-capped Robin.
Such a tiny female Red-capped Robin.

Some days its just great to be out and about: Or the Flame Robins have returned

We had a couple of hours in the afternoon to spare, and as the weather looked anything other than rain, or rain, we decided the Craigieburn Grasslands was to far from the car if things went, well, you’know, rainy.

What a about the Backpaddock to look for the Scarlet Robins, seemed the go.

Given it was threatening rain, and we weren’t going far, I opted for the short lens as its easier to carry. The 70-200 being off at the repair shop for a new set of tyres and a grease and oil change.

We walked down to the backpaddock gate, half expecting to see that it was ‘closed for park renovations’, again, but no.  The Bandicoot Hilton was available for mere mortals and we stepped inside.   We’d remarked on the walk down, about how quiet it was not even a Thornbill to break the silence. I took that as a good sign that they had gathered their collective wings together to begin to form a winter flock. So find one, find many.

And.  As soon as we had entered the gate at the backpaddock I heard them calling, and looking through the trees there they were.  And.  Some bright splashes of red, and a few lovely brown bundles as well.  The Flame Robins are back. !

At this stage they are just interested in topping up with food, and getting to work out in the paddock where the good hunting spots are, so they are very much on the move.  Which makes photography a whole new challenge. FInd a robin, say at about 20 metres, move toward it. It flies 50 metres, total distance camera to bird 65 metres.  Move toward bird, it flies  50 metres. Total distance, camera to bird, now 105 metres.  It’s why most of my photography is done from a single stationery position. Find birds. Wait for them.   Mind if you wait on the wrong side of the flyway, you see nothing anyway.  Still we call that experience.

We also came across a new pair of Red-caps.  One I think is Julia (she of the vivid red-cap), the other must be her new bloke.  (Mr Mighty I think has passed on).

So that fills up the area near the shelter once again.

It began to rain, and after much dodging of showers we decided home was a good place, and set out.  Just as we got through the gate, on the opposite side of the road, the cemetery work crews have their gear locked in a 20foot Container.  To both our surprises there was a family group of Flame Robins on top. Male, female, and 5 juveniles.   They were enjoying the water on the top of the container.  The rain must have filled up some of the corrugations on top of the container, and even though it was raining they seemed to enjoy the bath. Best 15 minutes we’d spent all day, as they hopped about, chattered, bathed and queued up for their turns.  Nice way to stand about in the rain I think.

So the Flames are on the way back. No big flock yet, but a pretty nice start.

Julia has returned to the back paddock.
Julia has returned to the back paddock.
dj0213
Lining up on the Container Bathing facility
Rain or shine a bath is a good time.
Rain or shine a bath is a good time.
Flame Robin, male. Waiting patiently for his turn at the bath.
Flame Robin, male. Waiting patiently for his turn at the bath.
All spruced up after a dip, and wet now from the rain.
All spruced up after a dip, and wet now from the rain.

In spite of the heat things go on

The Australian bush has once again shown its full fury, hot weather, wild winds and fire storms. Sometimes it is so easy to forget, just for a moment, the power that can be unleashed.

We wander about in the bush, little realising that in a short time fun can be turned to disaster.

Bravo to the all the firey’s chopper and plane pilots and organisers both on the line and in support roles who have placed their lives and risked so much to try to save people’s homes and livelyhoods from the devastation. Thank you to all those who have put themselves aside and sought to help with evacuation, support and a shoulder to lean on.

Meanwhile out in our little bit of the bush, the birds are hard at work regardless of the heat.

Two delightful little red-caps are now hunting on their own, they are travelling companions at the moment. Each a little prefect reproduction of Mum’s hard work.

A tiny reproduction of Mum. A young Red-capped Robin now looking after itself.
A tiny reproduction of Mum. A young Red-capped Robin now looking after itself.
I've got my own housekeeping to do now.
I’ve got my own housekeeping to do now.
Two Juvenile Red-capped Robins now fending for themselves.
Two Juvenile Red-capped Robins now fending for themselves.

We relocated to where the Eastern Yellow Robins had been nesting to find both the male and the female out and about, hunting and much calling. The scratchy harsh call is one I’ve heard before when they’ve been working with young out of the nest, so was surprised to hear it from these birds as they had lost the nest about two weeks back. We are now, perhaps a bit overly, hopeful that somehow the young had hatched and she managed to rear them out of the nest.  She has made no attempt to build a new nest, and has been very inconspicuous and he has been very furtive since then. So maybe, just maybe, out in the leaf litter, she has managed to bring them on.  Be nice to think, but I suppose the pragmatist in me says, “no hope”.

If it wasn’t so hot I’d take a cuppa out and have a bit of a sit.

Edit 6 Feb 2013.  As it has turned out. She did.  At least one, (we’ve called it Nevis see posts above.)  To date, it looks like only one survived, but every so often I see three flying, and can’t help but conclude she may have managed to get two. If  I do see them together  it will be a red letter day.

Female Eastern Yellow Robin being very vocal. Perhaps she does have a survivor from her nest disaster hidden in the undergrowth.
Female Eastern Yellow Robin being very vocal. Perhaps she does have a survivor from her nest disaster hidden in the undergrowth.

Penny leaves behind a project and starts a new one

What a miserable hot day.  Now I know why I like skiing.

We dropped by Henny and Penny today, and confirmed that she was no longer sitting on her clutch. This would have been about day 14, so they were just about, or had just hatched. But we’d noticed she hadn’t been on the nest at all the previous day, so it was likely that something had gone amiss.  Pity ’cause she is quite the dedicated little robin producer.

I like to know where the nests are so I can stay away. Sounds weird, but the last thing I want to do is stumble over the area where she is ‘secretly’ at work, as she’s likely to abandon the enterprise.  So I waited, and eventually got a glimpse of her working at picking up spiderweb, and then flying across the clearing to a new tree and setting up a new house for another attempt. Can’t knock her enthusiasm.

Hopefully this one will be successful.

Penny preening between web collections.  Her little orange chest feather is well shown.
Penny preening between web collections. Her little orange chest feather is well shown.
Adding the next level to the new nest.
Adding the next level to the new nest.
Now to buy some nice curtains, and pick up the widescreen tv.
Now to buy some nice curtains, and pick up the widescreen tv
The abandoned nest.
The abandoned nest. It is about large enough to fit a golfball and that’s would overfill it. Such a tiny nest.

Fledging Pardalotes and a White-fronted Treecreeper

That slow moving high stayed with us again today, and it seemed that an golden light evening would again be gifted to us.

We decided to go to the red-cap nurseries and see how things were progressing.

Lovely golden light was spilling through the trees, and we soon located a couple of males and their young.
I set up the camera pointed at a Striated Pardalote hole as I expected them still to be feeding. I use a wireless remote and after setting up the camera move back about 50m to give the parents plenty of room.

This time things went a little differently, after providing a few quick meals the parents were not visible for 15-20 mins. And then one returned with a big bug, and a baby Pardalote stuck its head out of the small hole (read very tiny hole), and seemed to be begging, but the parent was having none of that, and the process repeated itself for quite awhile.

It dawned on me, that what they were trying to do was to encourage it to come out and fly.  Except.  The tiny hole it was pushing out was too tiny even for a tiny pardalote. And it could gets most its body out with a lot of squirming and pushing, but then. It got stuck. The little wings and legs couldn’t get out of the hole and it had to retreat, and try again.
Now I suspect that when you’re a baby pardalote, not a lot of brain power goes into this. So push harder. Nope, still can’t fit. Ok, push more. The concept of big/small/ up/down, in/out and relative size are not big issues in a tiny pardalotes tiny brain and it  probably doesn’t get much help from the gene pool.

They are the tiniest of birds. Laying across my open palm they only cover about half way. So there  is not a lot of room in there for problem solving.  So its likely we’ll not see Pardalote On the Moon, anytime soon. But I suppose the upside of that is they don’t spend a lot of time making things to blow one-another up with either.

Ok, to solve the problem Mum brought in a nice big juicy worm and dangled it at the top of the ‘big”, (a bit bigger than very tiny). Still having decided that pushing harder would get the job done it continued to push out of the tiny tiny hole and get the worm.  Mum retreated.

A big fat bug soon appeared in the place of the worm and a lot of Pardalote “plink plink plinking” and a second adult arrived and then an uncle or aunt.  Then to everybody’s surprise the little bird pulled its head in, popped out of the ‘big’ hole and was free to fly after Mum with the big bug. The second bird followed in a few seconds and it too was on the wing.

Now I’d love to show you the pics of the flight to freedom, but unfortunately as often happens on very special events, the autofocus on the Nikon went out for a holiday to the Caribbean and all the shots were out of focus.  All of them. Every one. The lot.

But when the small birds were gone the “Peril Sensitive” (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams), kicked out, and the last shot of the parent on the tree on its own is ‘sharp’.  Serves me right for forgetting to manual focus. My usual step when multi bursting from remote controls.

Then when the night, light, birds just couldn’t get any better, the White-fronted Treecreeper put in an appearance and we got great views, if not great photos of this lovely bird.  She was again on her own. But my mate Ray will be happy to know she is just inside the shelter area.

Henny and Penny landed on the same stump, so I montaged them for a bit of fun. Enjoy

A nice feed and we'll soon have you out of there.Thanks Mum.
A nice feed and we’ll soon have you out of there.
Thanks Mum.

 

Now if you fly out, I'll give you such a nice reward.

Now if you fly out, I’ll give you such a nice reward.
I'll just keep pushing, I'm bound to pop out eventually. I hope.
I’ll just keep pushing, I’m bound to pop out eventually. I hope.
This needs a bit of a discussion. Do try to pull your head in and pop it out of the "larger" hole above.
This needs a bit of a discussion. Do try to pull your head in and pop it out of the “larger” hole above.
Henny and Penny hunting of the same perch. A bit of montage in Photoshop
Henny and Penny hunting of the same perch. A bit of montage in Photoshop
White-fronted Treecreeper in action in the last moments of sunlight.
White-fronted Treecreeper in action in the last moments of sunlight.

Learning to be a Red-capped Robin

I’ve a book that I really like to read when I’m stuck at home, its called “What the Robin Knows” by Jon Young. His basic premise is that by knowing the various calls and habits of birds (he uses Robins, because in the US he has a backyard full of them and beginners can easily identify them.).  In reality its about what birds do when they are birds and how a bit of watching can help work out some of the absolutely incredible stuff they do and to ask useful questions about the stuff that just seems so incomprehensible.

That we spend a lot of time with Robins, is in this case a co-incidence, but the principles he outlines apply in many respects.  If I’m working with some territorial robins, (think breeding time), I can work out from their behaviour if someone, or something is approaching the area, long before I hear or see said thing/person.

Which leads me to today’s ramble.  Very hot day, so we left in the twilight of the morning to get a good start down the track to check on the couple of pairs of Robins inside the former Bandicoot Big Brother House.

It took awhile, and some wonderful distractions from a pair of Striated Pardalotes feeding their young, and a family of Tree Martins zooming in at breakneck speed to feed their young.

Henny had the two young out hunting on their own.  He was just a supervisor, flitting down to offer advice, perfect technique and in general discuss the finer points of robining.

Just to add to the interest a second pair has also been able to get off two more, although they are still in the rufous grey and brown of younger birds, so there was plenty of entertainment.

Henny and Penny’s young are quite advanced now, I would suspect he will look after them for a week or two more, then chase them off as Penny gets down to the serious business of laying the next batch. She already has two nests on the go, but I would also suspect they are just decoys if I could find them that easily.

I’ve never seen the young after they get moved along.  They must several kilometers or more, as they don’t seem to be in the Woodlands area.  I guess it’s a gene pool thing.

Young Red-capped Robin getting the finer points of robining into practice.
Young Red-capped Robin getting the finer points of robining into practice.
Henny overseeing his progeny. He offers appropriate chips and calls, as well as hands on practical experience.
Henny overseeing his progeny. He offers appropriate chips and calls, as well as hands on practical experience.
Young bird with an insect it caught, while Henny looks on. (Approvingly?)
Young bird with an insect it caught, while Henny looks on. (Approvingly?)

Dad said to lift my wings up to scare up the bugs.

Dad said to lift my wings up to scare up the bugs.
Oh dear, that didn't seem to work.
Oh dear, that didn’t seem to work.
Visit from a younger bird from another pair. This one is still quite young and being fed by its dad.
Visit from a younger bird from another pair. This one is still quite young and being fed by its dad.

With Henny and Penny in the Nursery. Woodlands is alive with the sounds of new life

Neither of us was too excited about getting out of bed early this morning. We’ve had a week of days out with the birds, and just the thought of one more early morning was getting to be a bit much, so when the alarm clock ‘quacked’ into life (what else do you think I’d choose for alarms?), I hit the ‘off’ button rather than the snooze.

We figured some nice afternoon light would be good and ventured out to the back paddock. (formerly Bandicoot Big Brother House), and went down to sit in the area where two robins Henny and Penny had been working last year.  Luckily enough they turned up after what can only be described as a long wait. (About two Cuppa’s worth of wait).
Spotted the Little Eagles taking the young ones, (at least two) out for a test flight, with much calling and zooming up and down in the lovely aftertnoon breeze.  As I had the camera all set up for close up robin pics, but the time I got it pointed in the right direction, then I realised, the 1.7 TC was on, and I couldn’t get a bird in the frame, then I figured the focus activation was incorrect and had to fix that, then sort out the autofocus points, and by all this time, the Eagles, had gotten tired of waiting and had gone off for a coffee or something.

When Henny did turn up in his lovely red attire, it was obvious he was feeding young and a little bit of waiting, eg, another cuppa, I discovered he’d buried the young one among the leaves in the top canopy of a nearby gum tree.  It was swaying back and forth in the breeze, but really well hidden, and so no photos there.
Penny, she of the lovely orange chest feathers, also put in an appearance. She was feeding a second and third fledgling  and I managed to track down one of them. Her technique was quite different. She had one ensconced in a tree about my head height among a lot of thin spindly branches. It didn’t have the same wind problem, and seemed quite content to nod off between feeding session. She seemed to feed it for about 10 minutes and then leave it for 15-20 minutes, presumably to feed its sibling, and to have a bit of a rest.  The other eluded me, although I could hear its calls for dinner.

At first they were a bit concerned about us, but Penny dropped into a tree about a metre from me, and after a few seconds decided I was either no harm or no interest and flew off to resume her duties.

So it looks as though she has managed a clutch of at least three.  And the threeways birds have a couple, and no doubt now that Lockie and Primrose, where ever they are, have had a clutch, so the numbers are starting to mount up. There is still enough season for them to get another clutch in before February.
Just to make life interesting, on the way back to the car, Will.I.am. O’Scarlet came by and gave a good demonstration of his hunting skills, and I suspect therefore his family may be increasing.

Not a bad day’s work and a sleep in too!

Penny  with a nice big bug to keep her little one happy.
Pennywith a nice big bug to keep her little one happy.

 

Thanks Mum!Penny delivers the goods
Thanks Mum!
Penny delivers the goods

 

Henny  the male Red-cap looking for food.
Henny the male Red-cap looking for food.

 

This will do nicely to keep the youngun's happy
This will do nicely to keep the youngun’s happy

 

Penny inbetween feeding time, taking a break in the sunshine.
Penny inbetween feeding time, taking a break in the sunshine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for Kestrels

Its been quite awhile since I logged in here and added some pics.

With the Bandicoot Hilton (aka Bandicoot Big Brother House) (aka Backpaddock) now likely to be inaccessible to mere mortals, the chance to follow the nesting success of the  Red-capped Robins is going to elude me I think.

The only pair I’ve access to is down by the dam, and a week ago she was back building nests again, indicating a lack of success so far.  Just to many Ravens and other egg stealers in the area.

Consequently I’ve been round in the western paddocks mostly looking for the elusive Nankeen Kestrels. To date the score is Kestrels 0.

However I did spend an hour with a large flock of Tree Martins who were hard at work setting up a nesting site.  After a few minutes, they concluded, correctly that I was not a threat and returned to the work at hand, collecting building materials.

They are such agile creatures and can fly to the opening at full tilt, and then brake, just as they touch down.  Up to three at a time were stuffing leaves, grass and other things into the hole, and then after a few minutes would all take a break, and sit about and discuss the progress so far.  Lots of tail flicking and wing waggling is part of the discussion.

On the way back to the carpark, I bumped into the Birdlife Australia Group from the Bayside, and they were out for the day.  I continued on and just before the carpark, heard a very familiar call.  It WAS a Red-capped Robin.  I managed to track him down to a small stand off grey box, and got quite a few sighings, but no great photos.  He didn’t have any company, but I took that as a good sign, she must be on a nest somewhere near. Perhaps he too is an Eviction from the Bandicoot Hilton.

In over 20 years of walking in the park, I have not seen a red-cap in the area near the carpark, so it was  great day for no other reason.

Tree Martin Leaf Delivery
Tree Martins in conference
Red-capped Robin male near Somerton Road Carpark.

Red-capped Robin mystery solved

With an really nice burst of weather, I decided on a whim, to go to the park early.  Only had about an hour, so I decided to see if I could locate the missing Lochie.

In his “secret hiding’ place, I waited about 10 minutes and along came Will ‘o Scarlet. He was pretty vocal, but very approachable.  And a few minutes later, looking all fresh in the morning Primrose also made her way through the trees, but with a few clicks and D’reet calls as she went.  Next in line was a female Scarlet, so it was looking to be an interesting morning.
Then the familiar calls of Lockie rolled around the openings among the trees.  He was there.  How great.

But the Will was having none of  it, and a quick fly around trees battle began, with the little bloke getting the worst of it I am afraid.  The Scarlet is quite a bit larger, and much much faster and more aerobatic so it was pretty much a one sided battle.  But plucky little thing, Lochie retreated, and then snuck through the tree tops to dive bomb on the Scarlet.  Then he retreated and repeated the performance, before landing away, and giving a cheeky location call.  All this lead to the Scarlet taking revenge, and more tree flying and chest bumping, and wing clicking took place.  A bit of David and Goliath ensued, and a couple more forays through the trees and a few more dive bombing missions kept Lochie in the game.

The Scarlet retreated to the other side of the clearing and Lockie went on to feed and encourage Primrose in her current nest building attempt.

This is a pic I took of him earlier in the season, but just hadn’t gotten around to posting it here.

The wonderful arrangement of bird and web backlit really works well for me.

Lockie and Spider web combination