New Year’s Eve

-For some reason, I have to say, I’ve never really grasped the concept of the ‘celebration’ of passing from December 31 in one year to 01 January the following year.

I’m not anti party, and a good excuse to indulge in a tad of fun, mirth and frivolity is all good by me.  But, to make such a big deal about one more sleep, well, it just hasn’t firmed up enough to be a conviction. As Thoreau once wrote on another subject, “Moreover, I have tried it fairly, and, strange as it may seem, am satisfied that it does not agree with my constitution”.

So EE and I pondered our options.   Get on the train, got to the city and with hundreds of thousands of other like-minded folk, watch fire works, sing a Scottish song about times and seasons, and then fight for a seat on the train home, and get to bed by 4:00am.
Option 2.  Sit at home to watch it on the telly.
Option 3. Join in the street party celebrations that our neighbourhood party dudes had invited us to.
Option 4. Drink bubbly, eat food, and hopefully stay awake until “the Witching hour” with some people who seem to think a good time must include bubbly.
Option 5. Hang about around a table with some locals, consume way too much alcohol and ‘See which one of us can tell the biggest lies” —Cold Chisel.

Or perhaps, we could pack a picnic, throw in the deckchairs and go look for birds at Outlet 145W in the Treatment Plant.

Done. Why didn’t we think of it earlier.

With a minimum of planning that is the way went.
145W can be a great place for waders as the outflow has created quite a large flat sandy stretch that has room for thousands of waders.

So I came to the conclusion that sitting on a deckchair, listening to the wavelets lapping on the edge of the sand, the waders all chirping in the background and chatting with my very best friend as we watched the sun sink on the horizon, and the waders fly up and down did in fact, “Agree with my consitution”.

I’ve shown inflights from 145W on the blog before, and a couple of summers back, my Flickr mate Lynzwee sat on the same rocks and we used up several batteries and memory cards between us as the birds moved back and forth.

We managed this time to get to the beach right on low tide, and from there a constant stream of waders moved through the area as the tide turned.
Firstly, the little short-legged Red-necked Stints, then as the water rose a few millimetres, the Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Curlew Sandpipers moved in. The tide came in more, and the next group were Red-necked Avocet.  And a little later the longer-legged Pied Stilts took over.

I sat on the rocks of the outlet, it divides the beach into two. Flat areas either side.  The birds having flown 13,000km to get here for the summer, are not adverse to flying a couple of hundred metres along the beach for better feeding opportunities and fly right by the end of the outflow. Straight into my lens 🙂
Well if it were that easy anyone could do it.

These little dudes put on a turn of speed as they go by, and as they are so close getting them in the viewfinder and keeping them there is a challenge.
But fun.

So while others oohed and ahhed with fireworks, or bubbly, or sang songs, I watched—with my kinderd spirit— a parade of well-travelled birds enjoy the evening light.

Enjoy.

 

Mixed Flock

 

Here’s some Red-necked Stints

 

 

 

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers

 

 

 


 

Curlew Sandpipers

Red-necked Avocets

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Birds, water, enjoyment

Mr An Onymous has remarked from time to time on his bemusement at water birds that spend all their time hunting, and standing about in the water, to spend some time bathing in the stuff.
Seems to him, that its a bit incongruous for a ‘water’ bird to then take the time to use the water to bathe, given its already dripping wet in places.

Which brings us to a fine warm morning at the Western Treatment Plant.
The waders that visit over summer are now getting the first signs of the travelling bug biting.   Its time to pack on as much weight as possible, and to conserve as much energy as possible.
So as the tide comes in, and the mudflats are covered with water, they retire inland to some of the safer ponds and settle in for a long sleep, and a bit of a preen. No doubt feathers need be tip top for the long flight ahead.

There are a special set of small ponds near the Beach Road entrance the plant that almost always attract them in great numbers.  Plenty of soft grass, the safety of rocks and small islands and water that is only knee deep for a dotterel.

And because they are trying to conserve energy, they are a little more approachable.   I managed to quietly slip off the side of the road and working my way through the grasses come up pretty close to a large clutch of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, loafing in the sun.

The water in the ponds has come up a few centimetres of late, and I was not able to get a really low down water level shot without actually being in the water, so I opted for wet knees and elbows and hoped the water would not rise up through the grass and saturate me all over.

The Sharpies decided that with such nice sun, it was time for a bath. One by one, they stepped off the grasses and into the water for the tentative bobbing into the water then settled down like great big sponges, and simply soaked up the water.   Which was then sprayed over all in close proximity.  Finally a few wing flaps and a jump for joy, and the bird moved out of the way and the next one took up the challenge.

After about 20 minutes, and my knees and elbows turning strangely bleached,  I rolled over back up the grass to the roadside.  They didn’t flinch a feather.

Enjoy. They did.

Stepping into the water
Stepping into the water

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The soak test
The soak test
Spray going everywhere.
Spray going everywhere.

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Wing flap to get the bulk of the water off.
Wing flap to get the bulk of the water off.
Jump for joy and the job is done.
Jump for joy and the job is done.

 

 

Wandering WTP with Lindsay

My Flickr Mate  Lindsay,  Lynz Wee  was down for his annual pilgrimage to the Western Treatment Plant.

He came in for a Friday jaunt, but, the weather had other ideas and we had 3 DAYS of Total Fire Ban.  And WTP is closed on such days.  So, he had to ‘cool his heels’, (can’t believe I wrote that about 40+ C days.)

We managed an afternoon on Monday.  Started out good weather and promised a low tide around dusk, so all was set for an interesting day.   One thing about driving about with Lindsay, there is never a dull moment and the conversation crackled back and forth at at right royal pace.  Even managed a few stops for photography.

After a late afternoon tea-break at The Borrow Pits we headed back to a spot on 145W Outflow.  The tide runs out well here and the sand-mud flats expose quickly and it can be a good place for the odd wader or so.

We settled in, and at first there was only a handful of the usual suspects and a squadron or two of Silver Gull.

“Must have my wader repellant on,” quoth he.   “Give it time, once the tide goes out a bit they’ll come by”, reassured I, and wondering where else we might travel to find something.
More time passed and the gulls were now in flotilla formation and numbers.  “Must be Gull attractor I’m wearing”, quips he.

We also had a sneaking suspicion that a White-bellied Sea-eagle would put in an appearance, but I guess the bird didn’t know of our appointment.

Then from down the coast a dark swirling cloud began to mass up.  And we are talking dark, swirling.

The closer it came the more birds joined in, until, like one of those video clips you see of England or Naples, a veritable murmuration began to take shape. And still they kept coming. The speed of the turns, and the flashing dark/white shapes and the beauty of the sweeping masses was a sight to behold.

It’s impossible to describe and impossible to show visually with only a long lens that picks out just a small part of the hoard that made its way to the sandbar. Things were looking up in the wader department.

Thousand of Stints and Sandpipers and a host of other waders all swept across the sky. Literally from horizon to horizon.

“How’s that”, I cried.  But he was too busy running the Canon at 10 frames per second, not missing any of the action.  Then they settled on the exposed mudflats and began their meal.  Within minutes the area only metres from our tripod legs were hundreds of busy little feeders.  Not caring about the human presence, they simply tucked in.
And it was all going so well, until.  “My battery is flat, have to go back and get another”.
And so we trekked back to the car.  Only to find EE waving frantically at us, and pointing, so  we good naturedly waved back. And chatted about what we’d just witnessed, and how EE has probably been photographing all sorts of good things while we were otherwise engaged, including of course the Elusive Sea-eagle.

When we got there, it was, “Did you see the Sea-eagle????  I was waving out to you, it nearly went right over your heads!!!”.
NO!!!  Well it didn’t matter anyway as the Canon battery was flat.   But….

Here is a few frames to try and capture the way the gathering gathered in.

I only had the long lens on board, so this really just an small section, think 20 or more times to get the real feel.

Just a tiny portion of the huge numbers of birds that came down to feed.
Just a tiny portion of the huge numbers of birds that came down to feed.

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Settling in, there is hardly space between birds.
Settling in, there is hardly space between birds.
Can only begin to imagine what it looks like when they are migrating to and from Siberia.
Can only begin to imagine what it looks like when they are migrating to and from Siberia.

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Hauling around the Western Treatment Plant

Every year my Flickr mate Lynzwee, https://www.flickr.com/photos/65347914@N07/ makes a trip down to see us and to spend a day at the Treatment Plant.

Lindsay (to his Ozzie Mates), dropped me a note on his scheduled visit and I found a day that looked suitable. Not that we had many options.

So as the Banjo said. We went.

The weather map showed no cloud at all when I checked, but when we got to the Pt Wilson Road it was pretty certain the map was wrong. So we suffered the usual grey sky pics.  And kept our eyes up for an elusive Sea-eagle.

Lindsay had about 4 birds that he really wanted and we managed to add Brolga.  A pair were sitting in the grass on the far side of a pond, and at first everyone jumped to conclusions “She’s nesting!”  but change the ‘n’ to an ‘r’ and you’d be much more likely to be right.  So it was.  When we swung by on the return journey, they both had moved quite a long way down the bund.

And then we saw them have an altercation with a  handful of Cape Barren Geese, and the geese didn’t bother to stick around and argue.

At the moment the Whiskered Terns are hunting prodigiously and obviously productively. So we spent quite  a little time working at really close distances with them as they swept along the mouth of the Little River.

And to top it off in the distance a Sea-eagle took off.  Too far.

I was using the 300mm f/4 lens and was surprised to remember how fast it was at grabbing focus.  I must remember to put it back on the D2Xs and it will really sing.

The sun came out and we had a really fine afternoon and some good results.    On the way back we stopped for the ‘traditional’ coffee and Banana Cake at the Highway Lounge, and then as we were near swung into the Werribee River Park, but it was pretty quiet.  But on the way out three of the young Kestrels were hunting in the evening sunshine.  Lindsay was hanging out the window trying for that ‘best’ shot.  The bird obliged by dropping off the post on to the road, but I think the af on the D7000 might have found the roadside more attractive. At least that’s how I interpreted his response.

Here’s a days sample See Lindsay’s Page sometime soon for his version.

We dropped him at the railway station after a day of much mirth and frivolity and some great birding and excellent photo opportunities.  Seeya next time mate.

"Is she nesting?"  No, afraid not.
“Is she nesting?” No, afraid not.
You don't mess with the big guy.  For some reason the Geese were not welcome in his pond
You don’t mess with the big guy. For some reason the Geese were not welcome in his pond
Really soft light helped the Spoonbill shots.
Really soft light helped the Spoonbill shots.
Whiskered Tern at touch down
Whiskered Tern at touch down
Little wings that have flown so far
Little wings that have flown so far
The tide was a bit slow turning and these birds were anxiously waiting for the mudflats to be exposed.
The tide was a bit slow turning and these birds were anxiously waiting for the mudflats to be exposed.
A Wagtail sees of a Brown Falcon
A Wagtail sees of a Brown Falcon
Pied Oystercatcher on final approach
Pied Oystercatcher on final approach
Always enjoy the flight control of the Silver Gull.
Always enjoy the flight control of the Silver Gull.
Its not obvious, but the Black winged Stilt is moving the Red-necked Avocet along. No room in this pool.
Its not obvious, but the Black winged Stilt is moving the Red-necked Avocet along. No room in this pool.
The master at work.
The master at work.

To the WTP on a whim

Sometimes the best ideas are those that come with out lots of planning and forethought. Just go out and do it.

With a small cool change coming in, and the wind shifting in from the south, we packed the picnic, grabbed some Earl Grey, and phoned the WTP birding line and booked for an evening down by the sea

To our delight the young Spotted Harriers were still on the roadside, and parking carefully to avoid any likelihood of mishaps with trucks at 110kph, we took our time to get the best lighting on the bird perched on the top of the cyprus tree cones.   Then tired of begging, it took advantage of the strong breeze and launched, drifted upwards to the top of the treeline and then without a wing flap, sailed along the treeline and back.   Not exactly hard photography as it turned in the evening light.  The great tail moving one way or another like a large oar or rudder to keep it almost stationary in the air.   With barely a wing flap, it simply enjoyed the moment.  So did we.

When we got to The Spit, Murtcaim (n)  we found a number of Swamp Harriers at play.   Interesting to watch their games from a distance, but not much hope of being able to get close enough of great shots, but highly entertaining none the less.

Further down the road we came upon a pair of Brolga, but they were just too far away to do any real work, so we headed back to Lake Borrie. And then first came upon some Yellow-billed Spoonbills, and a Great Egret sitting on a fence rail.   While EE got moved for a clear shot of the Egret, all the seagulls in the world- or at least the 10,000 or so on the seaside took to the air with a broadcasting squawk.

A White-bellied Sea eagle had made a sneak attack along the grasslands, and had swung up over the hapless gulls.  Each gull to itself seemed to be the answer, and someone’s relative went home for dinner with the eagle.  I managed to find the camera by the time the action was all over.

Probably enough excitement for a mere whim.

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Young Spotted Harrier expecting dinner to arrive soon.

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Time to stretch those wonderful wings in the evening breeze.

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One of many White-fronted Chats that seem to work as a flock at the moment

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Waiting for its turn at the Swamp Harrier Games.

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This one drifted almost up to our camera position.

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Knocking one another of fence posts must be a raptor game, they all seem to indulge in it.

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Cautious Brolga checking that the right protocol distance is being maintained.

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Great Egret to wing.

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Bulking up for the trip to the summer breeding grounds, the waders, mostly Sharp-tailed Sandpipers here, are hard at work getting as many calories as possible.

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White-bellied Sea-eagle with its own method of calorie collection.

Wandering with Werribee Wagtails: Altona

Getting right into this organised birding thing.

The Werribee Wagtails group met at Altona for a look at the shore, the river, and the lake.

So off we went.  Weather was fine, company was excellent and we made a few finds and discoveries along the way.

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All ready for a great day out and about, members of Werribee Wagtails on the track.

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Always full of excitement the New-Holland Honeyeaters seem to own every bush and shrub along the waterway.

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Sharptailed Sandpipers at work in a drain. The top bird is starting to show some chest colour, getting ready for the long journey north.

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Common Greenshanks. I’m alway amused by the “Common” moniker.  Does it mean there are “uncommon Greenshanks”, or perhaps “Special, or Important” greenshanks?

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Along Kororoit Creek we found a number of numbered Swans.  The programme is run by the guys at Myswan Database, and I’ve even got some info in the Albums area of another one we followed for awhile.

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Teals take advantage of a convenient roosting place.

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Spotting along the Kororiot Creek. EE is obviously on to something.

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J28, another numbered Swan from the series.

Here is the details from the Database.

J28 Database

J28 even has her own passport.  The white collars are female, the black collars are male.
The red spots on the map indicate she spends a lot of time in the area.

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View across the lake at Newport Lakes, after years of hard work the area has developed into a great bird habitat. Spot the Australasian Darter. For bonus points, spot the Nankeen Night Heron.

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Closeup of said Darter and a cormorant friend.

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Oh, there you are!   Nankeen Night Heron pretending to be somewhere else.   I spotted the colours as we were walking down the track to catchup to the group. (yes, I’d done it again) and didn’t take any time to check it out.  (See my tardiness in the Mt Rothwell blog report.)

But when everyone had settled on a view, I went back for a closer look.

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Heading homewards across the stepping stones over the lake.   A good day.  Extra points for Spotting Mr An Onymous. (but then he wouldn’t be would he?)

An evening at the WTP

With the hot weather just making day trips so hard for photography, hard on the birds, hard on the photographer and hard on great images, we’ve been a bit subdued of late.

A small dry cool change wafted through and we took the chance to go back out on the Murtcain(m) to see if we could  sight those elusive Brolgas.

The evening light played such a fine tune over the scene, and the breeze from the ocean was really refreshing. The birds seem to enjoy it too.

Black-shouldered Kite on a high vantage point.
Black-shouldered Kite on a high vantage point.
Juvenile Black-shouldered Kite, with its wonderful brown ginger markings.
Juvenile Black-shouldered Kite, with its wonderful brown ginger markings.
Zebra Finch.
Zebra Finch.
Yellow-billed Spoonbills settling in  for an evening meal.
Yellow-billed Spoonbills settling in for an evening meal.
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.
Swamp Harrier, all a bustle as it turns its body to keep up with the intended target
Swamp Harrier, all a bustle as it turns its body to keep up with the intended target
Royal Spoonbill who stopped in the middle of a preen for a bit of a dance in the water.
Royal Spoonbill who stopped in the middle of a preen for a bit of a dance in the water.
Not to be outdone, a Yellow-billed Spoonbill perfuming in the water. Perhaps the cool breeze gave them  pleasure too.
Not to be outdone, a Yellow-billed Spoonbill perfuming in the water. Perhaps the cool breeze gave them pleasure too.
Oh, so elusive Brolga.  Late evening stroll.
Oh, so elusive Brolga. Late evening stroll.
Black-shouldered Kite hunting right on sundown. It lifts its head to be sure  there is no sneak attacks.
Black-shouldered Kite hunting right on sundown. It lifts its head to be sure there is no sneak attack.