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.


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.
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.

Scarlet Robin, attack of the mirror birds

I’ve been looking for some places that are easy access and where we could spend a few hours, as we did at Woodlands, without having to commit a day to the travelling.

We took a trip down the the eastern side of the You Yangs and found foot access from a fire track, and it opens up into quite an interesting open woodlands.  At the end of the road leading to the gate is a small car turnaround and carpark.   So with Mr An Onymous, and EE for company I took a trip down the road and parked.  It was one of those glorious mornings that photographers really dream about.  A little mist rising from the ground, brilliant sunshine and lots of lovely old gum trees in open paddocks, to make the most wonderful landscape scenes.  And of course, I’d left the shorter landscape style lenses at home.   So I struggled with the 300mm trying to get some decent framing.

We parked in the carpark area, and as I was getting out of the car I heard the distinct call of a Scarlet Robin, and looked about.  Then as I opened the back of the car to get the cameras out, a streak of red flashed by, straight to the mirror of the car, and began flaying away at the bird in the reflection.  Stunned and cameraless we watched as he made several passes, first on one side of the car, then the other.  Satisfied that honour had been done he sped off.  Only to return a few minutes later and repeat the process.  But we were ready this time.

Then out came his extended family, another 3 males and 2 females.   They hunted over the carpark, sat in the sunshine on the wire, and watched too, fascinated by his ability to see off the mirror bird intruder.

The two females were a bit more circumspect and required a bit of careful approach, but they also allowed us some good shots.   Which was great, as although the males are such super colours, its the fine, muted, understated colours of the female that seem to me to be the more elegant of the pair.

After yet another bout of mirror butting, he decided it was time for a rest and retired to a fence line,  and he allowed me to get a close approach.  So close that in the end, I was on the limit of the focus of the camera. With the lovely early light still cascading over him, and enriching the background, it wasn’t hard to make suitable portraits.  EE also got a shot of me, from over my shoulder, working with him.

What a great start to a good morning.  We have no idea if they are permanent residents.  But they certainly were not bothered by our presence at all.  A guy walking his three grey hounds past by, and I was ready to put the camera away as the dogs would no doubt scare the birds.  But, all 6 held their stations. So I figured that perhaps they had done all this before.  Certainly the speed at which he attacked the mirror bird and the constancy of the attacks could only lead to the conclusion he’d done it all before.  He also seemed to immediately attach himself to the underside of the mirror, as though it was pretty much normal business.

Must try and get back for another look.


Beautiful morning light on old trees, add mist and stir for a great landscape
Beautiful morning light on old trees, add mist and stir for a great landscape
Where is that mirror bird
Where is that mirror bird
Bent over to gain momentum he is about to launch another attack on the mirror bird
Bent over to gain momentum he is about to launch another attack on the mirror bird
Gottcha!,  no room for both of us.
Gottcha!, no room for both of us.
Serious wing flapping and chirping.
Serious wing flapping and chirping.
Scarlet 1 Mirror bird 0
Scarlet 1 Mirror bird 0
Mr Mighty Scarlet,  defender of territory.
Mr Mighty Scarlet, defender of territory.
What, Its back again, this time in a bigger mirror.
What, Its back again, this time in a bigger mirror.
The concept of Snoopy verses the Red Baron began to emerge.
The concept of Snoopy verses the Red Baron began to emerge.
Time to rest for a portrait sitting.
Time to rest for a portrait sitting.
Its tough being a super model but someone has to do it.   Thanks to EE for the use of the image.
Its tough being a super model but someone has to do it. Thanks to EE for the use of the image. Panasonic FZ200

Sunday Morning in the rain

I’d wanted to take a longer walk up to the Sugar Gums and see what was happening, but time was always beating me. So this morning I left early. Something nice about the bush as the sun rises, and it all begins to come alive.
But, the further I walked, the darker the clouds became until it was obvious that it was, well, raining.

I’d  done the boy-scout thing and packed the “Driazabone” and it is, so wasn’t too fussed.

As I stood under a tree trying to keep the camera dry, Will O’Scarlet came by in the rain  for a visit.  He looked like a good trip though the spin-dryer was in order.

Not much at the Dam, so I went on up to the Gums.

In the rain I found a collection of Dusky Woodswallows and finally made a few sharp images of them.

But in the end, the rain was the winner and I retreated back to the car.  Passing the Brown Goshawk and her three chicks and waving to the Tawny Frogmouth family.

Inside the car was, well, dry.

Will O’Scarlet in the rain. He come bounding through the trees to check me out, and once he’d figured it was me, moved on to other more important activities, which I presume included drying off.


Dusky Woodswallow hunting in the rain.


Dusky Woodswallow, hiding behind the branch. Not sure why, but it slipped itself down low and was looking very attentively into the trees, I didn’t spot anything unusual, but it was certainly trying to keep out of sight.



A mother’s worst nightmare

This little bird suddenly appeared along the track to the backpaddock.  It is (I stick my neck out again in bird id’n, a Shining Bronze Cuckoo), I base it on the fact that it doesn’t have any rufous marks along the tail feather edges. (although it could be a young bird, or moulting, or … ).  There have been a number of Horsfields in the area too, so, I’ll probably get the usual run of emails on why why why.  But in the end, it hunted in the trees, was extremely hungry, and was very successful.  Its hunting technique reminded me of why these birds are so successful at what they do.  It checked every nook and cranny on every tree it flew too.  No doubt it does the same technique for finding a host nest.

No wonder the Thornbills and Robins are so furtive.

Now, I’ve said it before, the arrangement between the Will of Scarlet, the now local Scarlet Robin and a certain female red-cap is interesting to say the least. Just in case the sceptics are having a field day here is one I took today of the redcap, and just as I pressed the shutter, the Scarlet came by.  I didn’t see him of course, as the mirror was up at the time.  It was only when I was editing down earlier tonight, I found his presence in my pic.

The mystery becomes a little clearer or more complicated

Because of a family event, we were on the road early to Ballarat.  On the way back, on my own, I dropped by the park. The weather was sunny and the wind had dropped off.  Nice.

After about 15 minutes, Primrose came by and was quite happy to pose in the sunshine. No sight of Lochie, and I don’t know where he is, and she wasn’t telling.

Also the male Scarlet,  I’ve decided he should be Will of Scarlet,  sort of Robin Hood style. Will of Scarlet came by and was quite vocal.  After about an hour, I saw him fly rapidly into a nearby bush, and another bird emerged out the back a couple of seconds later. At first it was hard to make out, and the light was never going to be great for a photo, but…. Lo and behold..  Its a female Scarlet Robin.  She was in a hurry to feed, and to wing stretch, so I think we might have a nesting function going on.  I hope so.  Anyway that explains the male and his hunt and carry activities. What it doesn’t explain is his attention to the female red-cap.   Or it might just be the birdy neighbourly thing.  More watching me thinks.

On the way back to the car, a small feeding party of White-winged Choughs came by, the light was falling, but they got into a ruckus over a small area on the side of the road. Much calling, squawking, alarm calling and jumping in the air. They also seemed to be intent to keep one another away from what ever it was. When they moved on I had a look and a large ‘shingleback’ lizard has a hole there and he was quite put out that his afternoon in the sun had been disturbed.  Several of the Choughs had white stuff on their wings which is pretty typical of birds that are sitting nest, with young who can now excrete, so there’s another generation of White-winged Choughs in there somewhere. How cool.

Enjoy the moments, we do.

Primrose at close quarters. She was happy to hunt around me, and come back quite close to check it all out. No nesting bump, so I don’t think she has started for real yet.


Scarlet Male in the very late afternoon light. Pity about the small branch across his wing and neck.


Female Scarlet Robin. As good as I got in the failing light. First time We’ve seen her in about three weeks.


White-winged Choughs giving a shinglebacked lizard a piece of their minds.




A day out with the Sisters

Took sometime this morning from the routine things and Dorothy and I headed to the park, inspite of the weather.  There was a cold north wind blowing the trees around home and it didn’t look all that good for the park.  However, as these things do, the sun managed to find openings in the clouds and a sundrenched Tawny Frogmouth was preening in the tree near the carpark. A good start.

Down along the track toward the still locked conservation area, we managed to find a few Flame Robins. Mostly females. This is a bit of a change as they have been few and far between this season. Mostly I think because they have been hunting down the range inside the proposed Bandicoot area. ‘Nuff said about that.

Not that the ladies were in any way inclined to be helpful, hunting among the smaller trees and among the dead blackwood wattles.  Little light in there, and hard to see a bird, let alone apply the autofocus to them. Hunting may be what they were doing, but so was the autofocus.
Then the male Scarlet Robin put in an appearance.  And managed to place himself in the sunshine and not among all the loose sticks and leaves and for the first time in quite awhile I managed couple of reasonable shots, and also the chance to get a really good look at him. And how he has changed since those early days in December when he first arrived, looking all brown and dishevelled.  My money was on it being a female, for a couple of weeks, and then slowly the feathers began to moult in. Now to see him, full grown, remarkable deep black head, stunning red chest, and a lovely white cap over his beak.  He really is the part.

Now he has his own lady, and I’m hoping that they may stay over, it would be such a treat for the forest.
The little female red-cap hasn’t been seen since the gates were closed for Bandicooting, so I really don’t know what has become of her.  I did come across a small, single female down along the old hospital fence-line last week. After about 40 minutes there was no sign of any male companion, so she does appear on her own. I want to get another day in to check on that.  Perhaps this might be the lone female?  I can only guess and speculate.  There are probably a number of displaced young from the last season.

The Flames sisters came past at rate of knots, keeping on the move all the time, so it was really a matter of catch them as I could.  But so quickly come, so quickly gone.

Here are a couple that gave me a few seconds to get organised.

Tawny Frogmouth in preening mode in the late morning sunshine. It was so intent that it didn’t adopt the traditional stance, but happily worked away at its feathers.
Male Scarlet Robin, now a most elegant looking bird.
Lone male Flame Robin hunting along the park access track
Lockie on fence wire, I like the out of focus sweep of the wire.
Lovely female Flame Robin. The sunlight poured through the leaves of the trees as the strong wind moved them about. I waited until a break of sunshine came.
Flame Robin in “HIgh Key”. I’ve rambled on before about high key, but it does provide, life, excitement, freshness to an image. The camera nailed the exposure. Pretty much as shot.

Woodlands and Red-capped Robins

I might have mentioned in the previous post that timing is everything.  And it is, so is getting close.
We never ever seem to have a short distance between our lens and the birds we love.  We sneak up, we sit and wait, we drive about hoping to find a bird that is inquisitive enough to come-look-see, and we buy expensive, long focal length lenses when it becomes apparent that aside from patience, not much else works. (Luck of course being the factor that most other people have.  I was once a member of a junior football club, the coach began by explaining, “We’ve been having a run of luck lately.  …… Long pause….. “All bad.”

So I’ve been haunting the camera stores, pouring over pages on ebay, all hoping that I could find that magic lens at an even more magic price.  Not that my AF-S 500m F/4 is a slacker.   Just want it to be longer.   So after a bit of soul-searching, (most would tell you that wouldn’t take long in my case), I decided to get Nikon’s new TC20eIII televerter.  Now the websites will tell you it won’t focus, won’t work, isn’t sharp, won’t put the cat out at night, and makes appalling coffee, but I’ve learned to ignore most of that.

Truth be told it does focus.  Somewhat erratically on my D700, well on my D200. The problem is the little elves inside get tired of trying and give up.  So the lens sometimes locks, or it loses focus and then goes all the way from one end of the range to the other, hopefully stopping at the right spot on the way back. Sometimes.  Sometimes the elves get distracted by the light coming through the trees, or the highlights on a leaf.  But, hey its 1000mm and if it was an old manual focus lens, I would have to rock back and forward over the focus point anyway. For those young’ns who don’t understand that sentence, back in the days before autofocus we used to manually- by hand and eye-  focus the lens.  Strange but there you have it.

So here I am in the forest.  2x on board.

And up pops Primrose.  For a bit of a chat.  The first image is full frame.  She was that close.  7 metres it says.  The second image is also close to full frame. just cropped a bit of the top. 5 metres it says.  Couldn’t get all of her in the frame. Just in case anyone is guessing, according to the book she stands 10-11 cm tall.  And she kept on coming closer.  In the end the focus just gave up, and I had a minute or so of a very tiny bird hunting on the roadway alongside my knee. Who said birding is hard?

But all this is about Check the sharpness.  Just a little pre-sharpening using Nik Presharpener 2.0  The image has heaps of feather detail, has kept colour and contrast and all in all if I’d have sprung the zillion dollars for the 800mm Nikon, it wouldn’t be that much better and twice as heavy to get into the bush anyway.

Also found the most beautiful Scarlet Robin female, who also posed nicely, but not quite as close. All in all a good day, and a good start to my relationship with the 2x converter.

How close can you get? Now turn to the right, work it, work it.
She is as close as the focus can work. TC20eIII on 500mm lens.
Found this beautiful Scarlet Robin in the sun on a side track. She waited long enough for me to get organised
The light was a little soft and kind. She wasn’t as close as Primrose.


Just for a bit of fun.
The photographer is the big ugly dude on the right with all the hardware. The bird, subject of said photographer, is the little tiny smudge on the lefthand side. Sort of puts it all in perspective really.


Robins’ Bath Time

There can be no doubt about it, water in small pools is a huge attraction to the small birds. It seems that once one finds a spot for an afternoon tub, the sounds of splashing water brings them all out for their turn.

After some very overcast weather and a bit of rain, I had given up hope of a day in the forest and consoled myself with looking at Bill Majoros’ site Third Bird from the Sun it is a treat and has some lovely photos and information. Worth a visit.

Anyway, by early afternoon the rain had abated, still was overcast, but I had some weekend shopping to do, so on the off chance put in the 3oomm lens and the 1,4 converter and headed out.

I hadn’t gone very far along the track when I came a small pool of water from the morning’s rain, and a flutter of wings and a male Flame Robin leapt out of the water, landed on a branch near me and began to preen.  Interesting, but what happened next was one by one the flock came down to take their afternoon bath too. They are very organised about it, and there is much cheeping and clicking involved in working out who’s turn it is next.  They don’t seem to bully one another for position and each waits patiently for the one to finish. Or steps in at the other end, just hurry things along.

That they enjoy the bath is evident by all the chattering that goes on.  So I watched and pressed the shutter, scolding myself for leaving the big lens and tripod at home- but them’s the breaks.

Toward the end of the session the local female Red-capped Robin turned up and took her place in the line.  Then some Yellow-rumped Thornbills moved in, and a Scarlet Robin,  However the Thornbills fled, and everybody followed. That is the way of a flock.

If I’d of had some sunshine, it probably would have been a red-letter day as it is, I went home with a card full of images and some pretty nice memories.

To fit them all in the page, I’ve added them as a gallery. Click on an image it will go to a larger size and you can navigate through them. Enjoy, I did. And, more importantly so did they.

Woodlands Historic Park robin season


With the ongoing closure of the Backpaddock at Woodlands, the opportunities for following Flame Robin families has been greatly diminished.  I have to admit defeat at this stage, as here we are getting close to the end of the winter over season, and I really only have a few images that I am  satisfied with. Problem is of course not being able to follow the birds as they move across the light Grey Box scrub along the ridge lines in the Backpaddock.
Not that it is doom and gloom as a few parties come out on raiding sessions into the area outside the park, but it’s impossible to predict where and when, so it is pretty much hit and miss.

Also not being able to track the Red-capped Robins movements, it will slow me down a bit when they go to nest, as I don’t have any idea where they are in the territory, and they certainly aren’t going to put up flags.  (Not that I am tracking nests, but rather where it is all happening so I can prepare for shots of the fledged young. I try not to disturb the nesting birds as she will get anxious and abandon a nest at any stage.  I think her main concern is Cuckoos, but Ravens made havoc of several nests sites last year.)

So here is a compilation of the work from about the past two weeks.  Weather has not been kind either.

The female is Primrose, and she has a territory that is outside the backpaddock. She is currently being courted by two males, but I think she seems to favour Lockie, so things will be as previous.  I do hope the younger male finds a mate as he seems most capable of defending himself.  With all the young that were produced in the area past season, it is a ponder as to where they all go.

The Flame males were beginning to call with their territory call the last few days.  They usually are gone in a fortnight or so after that.   They go early, and then the females follow about a week or so later.  But, I haven’t seen very many females, and am assuming they are up on the grey box ridges.

*** The images in the blog are now part of a gallery.  As such if you click on an image it will open them all up in a slide show.  That way you can advance through the photos rather then see them one by one and have to come back to this page for a new pic.  I think it’s more elegant, and I wish I had figured it out earlier in the blog.

Hope you like it.

Just little wanders

Had a wander over the weekend with the organised Beginners Group of Bird LIfe Asutralia (Melbourne Group).  Titles get so long these days, and the acronyms are dreadful, but by the time I get it all typed I’ve forgotten what it was I was going to ramble on about.
Oh, yeah, we went with the beginners group to Woodlands.  Now as the National Parks people are on strike, the gate at Somerton Road is closed.  Which in some way s me thinks is a good thing.  But with nearly twenty cars parked along the road it did look to say the least a bit dangerous.  And as Somerton Road is apparently the extension of some race track or other, speeds along the road are simply overwhelming at times, with some of the best passing manoeuvres that would do credit to  Mark Webber at Albert Park F1, are taken with out much concern for the narrowness of the roadway.  Anyway I digress.

The weather was pleasant if just a bit overcast and after a stroll around the Moonee Ponds Creek tracks, – Note: the river was in a flood, probably 1 1/2 meters or more deep.- we decided to move around to the Providence Road carpark and spot Robins.  And on this day, the resident Tawny Frogmouths had moved to a new tree and were not to be found.  I was pretty much accused of  climbing up in the morning and moving them. <ggg>

The gate to the Backpaddock is now closed, so we made do by following the kangaroo tracks down toward the Dam area.  Now the robins were pretty much on strike too, it seems. However I broke away from the main group and with a little bushcraft, and determined perseverance and highly developed robin finding skills.  And let’s face it. LUCK, I found the pair, Lockie and Primrose. They were taking a bit of a stroll down toward the dam as there were some nice wet patches of run-off water from the previous couple of days.  Next, call up the group, so some thirty birdwatchers descend on 10 square metres of robin feeding territory and the fun begins. “There on the tree just on the left of the other tree, near the branch sticking out behind the wattle, near the laid over stump, about a metre off the ground, oh, never mind it’s flown away.”  Much too much fun.

Some of the beginners did however manage to get a good views of Lochie and another male, and Primrose seemed completely unpreturbed by it all and just continued to feed.  So after about twenty hectic minutes with the binoculars and pointing just about everybody had seen some good robin views.

We then moved back to the cars and had another great view of several of the Flame and Scarlet robins in the paddock near the cemetery.  Enough for all, so lunch was at the Woodlands Homestead. Then a bit of a walk around Woodlands Hill, but no raptors were up.

Dorothy and I went back for another look in the pm, and found some Flame Robins and Lochie and Primrose again.  Here he is in the sunshine.

Redcapped Robin Male, hunting in the sunshine after several days of intense rain.


Here he is again with a nicer background. He is my second most favourite of the Red-caps because he is very relaxed with me most of the time.




Hello, and aren’t you looking super?

No one can say that the weather has been photographically kind over the past few days.  Its not just the risk of taking the cameras out in the rain, or the chance of getting wet, its just the light is so weak that the exposures are wide open, slow shutter speed.  Even on a tripod, the chances are the bird is breathing in and out faster than the shutter speed, so, its a blurry pic.

Stay home, do other things, play with last years images and hope for a break.

So with high hopes we set out early this morning, sun looked good, and the weather man gave us a 50/50 chance.  Should be good.

But!  The gate to the Woodlands Backpaddock is locked.  Work is going on to remove the feral invaders, and keep the feral photographers out.

Sadly we traipsed back towards the car.  But on the way, we found a lovely looking Female Scarlet Robin, so of course we stopped to play.  She and her mate were a bit skittish at first but after a little bit we managed to meet on sort of mutual terms and were able to get reasonably close. Good light and the rest was easy.

After all that excitement we travelled on a bit further and found an Eastern Yellow Robin.  Very impressive, and again a bird that once it settled down was not to fussed by being chased by a photographer.

Looks like we’ll be travelling a bit further to keep up with the Yellow Robin and fill in time till the gates are re-opened.

Female Scarlet Robin in the early morning light


Female Scarlet Robin hunting


Scarlet Robin Male


Find of the day. Eastern Yellow Robin in a small clump of Black Wattle

Sunday at Woodlands

Dorothy and I looked out of the window early in the morning, and decided it was just too nice a morning to sit at home and worry about getting ‘stuff’ done.
So we packed a picnic and took off to see what the Robins were up to.  And they certainly were.  We found the cemetery pair within a few minutes. The female must be the hardest working bird in the forest. She had at least 4 clutches this summer, and I counted 9 young that she had gotten off.  Given that she lost at least one nest to Ravens, she really didn’t have a moment to spare.  But she looks quite relaxed and in good nick at the moment.  Her male, is sporting a cute little white feather or two around his beak, giving him a little moustache appearance.

We settled into a favourite spot in the fenced off area and while we waited Andrew and Adrienne  turned up, so  we had a lovely morning with the birds and some great company. The weather couldn’t make up its mind but sunshine probably dominated. The birds are not in a flock yet, each little family group seems to be moving independently.  The three males, “The Brothers” are still together, and it was good to be able to find one, and then quickly find the other two in quick succession.  Mr Cooper-top is sporting his lovely brown feathers.

The Brown-headed Honeyeater trapeze troupe dropped by, and we also were entertained by the four Grey-shrike Thrush as they worked the trees, bushes and ground litter.

By the time we had arrived home it was too cold to work in the garden so we compared pictures from the day’s effort.  Dorothy is about to get a new Nikon 1 V1, the super little mirrorless camera, which just happens to have an adaptor that can attach the DSLR lenses, and that will give her some new opportunities.

The hardest working little bird. She has had a very productive summer, and now is piling on the food, ready for next season.
This boy and his rather shy female put in an appearance, he is now one of three males in the area. They are a bit of a bully to the Red-caps I think.
Mr Copper-top. One of three males that travel together, “The Brothers”.
Another of “The Brothers”. He is nicely positioned against the spider’s web.

A hunting we will go

Friday dawned all lovely and still, with plenty of blue sky and none of the rain of the previous few days.  I was getting a bit tired of pacing the floor and finding other things to do, so it was good to get back into the bush and see if the storms had diminished the robins activities. I needed not have worried, as they were soaking up the sunshine and on the hunt everywhere.

The Brown-headed Honeyeater aerial trapeze team came by for a visit and I’ve put up a page here with their antics on display.

This young lady spent a lot of the morning with serveral other females hunting on their own. They seem to have a different call, a Cheep, Chip, Chip, which must be a location thing. This one seemed to be the noisiest or most persistent caller. Perhaps it was “C’mon girls, let’s go over here.”
Another one from the hunting party