What about a day at the Office?

With the sun-shining,  oh, yes, it did!  We decided on a trip to The Office.  This area of the Werribee River Park looks over the floodplain between the old sandridges and gives a pretty spectacular view if nothing else.  On a good day its possible to see the raptors at work.
Unfortunately today was not to be one of those days. And with no sign of the usual Flame Robin family we decided to walk up to the Werribee Mansion and have lunch there.
Usually the area along the golfclub is also a haven for small birds, but the gums must be slower to flower this year and only a handful of resident Red-rumped Parrots were located.
Still the sun was shining and we had a fine chicken panini and coffee. So to look at the Ornamental Pool, and our first real chance to find some birds.   Top of the list was a pair of Australasian Grebes and what appears to be their sole surviving chick. They had three earlier in the season.  They were pretty protective and this one seems to be doing well a good sign.

Continue reading “What about a day at the Office?”

Goschen Diary Day #3

After our success in the early morn at Goschen, Mr An Onymous and I decided that a return visit could just about be squeezed in. So we left early again.

Followed the backroads out of town, turned a corner, and there in the scrub by the side of a the road was a white and black flash sitting in the morning sun.  It was a….  So stop car, reverse back, and lo and behold it was one of two Pied Butcher Birds.  Before you could  say ‘car door slam’, we were both out of the car and had a few shots before the sound of the car door slamming reached the Butcher bird.  Looked great in that wonderful horizontal light described yesterday.  Good start.

On to Goschen, and this time I’d decided camera on tripod was my friend, and out came the Wimberley Gimbal head.  Best photo accessory I’ve ever purchased.  Makes wielding a long lens a dream as it take all the weight and keeps all the flexibility.  Besides I can risk slower speeds and use the Tele Converters.     No down side and all positive. Thanks Mr Wimberley.

And there was plenty to see. Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, Singing, Black, Hooded Robin male, and his lovely lady.  Brown Treecreepers and one that had nested in a broken hollow tree about a metre off the ground.

The Hooded Robin, was perhaps the most co-operative and managed to find a variety of poses for us.

Had a bit of time to play with the range of Teleconverters in the kit.  I don’t use TC’s over long distances,  anything over about 30m or so.   The 1.4 always works a treat.  And with the 300mf/2.8 its a very useful 420mm f/4.  Really a handhold pleasure.  The 1.7 can be a hero, or zero. Over shorter distances and supported on a bean bag or tripod,  I find I’ve a very useful 500 f/4.5 lens.   I think its just a bit too long for old bloke nerves, as handhold, so don’t use it that way much. The TC20Eiii, is a really good combination for 600mm f/5.6.  At close distance, say 15 m or so, a small bird near fills the frame and feather detail is excellent.   Not all lenses  seem to work so well with the TC20.

I’d promised lunch and coffee at a pistachio farm on the way back and so we set off along the old road to Woorinen South.  Not much has changed on this road in 40 years, and we ambled along in the hope that we’d find some birds among the roadside trees.  Wow.  Two young Wedgetailed Eagles threw from the tree just off the side and try as I might I couldn’t find an opening among the trees to pull over to get some views.  They circled the field beyond the road and then with measured wingbeats rose to find a thermal, and as fast as you could say “They are going to disappear’, they did.

To tell all, the farm was closed and we headed back to Swan Hill to find a coffee shop a little off the beaten track.  Most interesting  interior lined with pages from old 50s and 60s magazines.  And tables decorated with Mum’s old cookbooks.  There was the McAlpine Flour cookbook that probably held pride of place in our kitchen way back when.

As we arrived back the resident Blue-faced Honeyeaters demanded their share of my time and a few pleasant moments with them, hunting through the trees filled in the time to afternoon tea and family stuff.

Pied Butcher Bird in the early morning sunshine
Pied Butcher Bird in the early morning sunshine
Red-rumped Parrot: Male
Red-rumped Parrot: Male
Inquisitive Singing Honeyeater.  It wants to know what is going on over the other side of the bushes. One too many Brown Treecreepers no doubt
Inquisitive Singing Honeyeater. It wants to know what is going on over the other side of the bushes. One too many Brown Treecreepers no doubt
Brown Treecreeper being politely asked to move on.  It didn't the hint.
Brown Treecreeper being politely asked to move on. It didn’t the hint.
Always good to have a feather readjustment after an altercation with Treecreepers.
Always good to have a feather readjustment after an altercation with Treecreepers.
Male Hooded Robin, with an ant.  I think they clip the head off and gain moisture from the body.
Male Hooded Robin, with an ant. I think they clip the head off and gain moisture from the body.
Hey, take my photo.  Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater looking for its 15 minutes of fame.
Hey, take my photo. Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater looking for its 15 minutes of fame.
Mr Elegance. Hooded Robin
Mr Elegance. Hooded Robin
Ms Elegance. Female Hooded Robin in fence line.
Ms Elegance. Female Hooded Robin in fence line.
Blue-faced Honeyeater, with cobweb design accoutrements.
Blue-faced Honeyeater, with cobweb design accoutrements.

Goschen Diary Day #1

Last week with family events and holidays on mind, we travelled north toward Swan Hill.  One of the highlight ‘honeypot’ birding sites on any birders list of must do’s is The Goschen Bushland Reserve only a few minutes drive from said Hill.

Tim Dolby in “Where to See Birds in Victoria” devotes 2 pages to the little bushland area with an excellent overview by Greg Oakley.

When I was a little tacker, the concept of Goschen being a “birding highlight” never occurred to me.  It was a place where the PMG, (Telstra) had planted a very tall communications  tower.  As little blokes, we’d ride our bikes out there to gaze heavenward at the stark red and white tower against the blue sky.   Perhaps we dreamed of climbing to the top, but were stopped by a huge (when we were little), razor-topped security fence. Probably just as well.

Tis only a short drive down the road from Swan Hill, and with a bit of careful planning, one can stay off sealed roads and enjoy the backcountry sandy roads and the chance of seeing birds along the roadside trees.

So we motored north.  Of course a bonus is that the road to Goschen travels through Eaglehawk in Bendigo, and of course a stop off at the Eaglehawk Bakery, for a famed “Mulga Bill” pie is not to be missed.  This time as it turned out others of the travelling family had the same idea and we met up in the bakery.  I’m not the only one on WordPress with a penchant for the Mulga Bill pie as “Almost Always Ravenous” has  a page here.

Then a slowish trip along the highway out of Bendigo, particularly between the 18 and 19 kilometre posts.  There is almost always a speed camera car buried in the shade among the trees here,  5 times out of our past 6 passings.  First time was a$180.00 view.  I’d failed to notice the 100km roadsigns as was tooling along like a freeway.  Duh.  Mind, this time I went by at a sedate 75km.

I like the roads from Bendigo to Swan Hill.  Flat, long straight runs, and on good days, plenty of raptors at work.  So it’s easy to see where they are and their action.  Slowed down again just at the Kerang Rail Crossing.  A pair of Wedgetails have a nest in the closest tree to the road.  The young are now fledged, but off in the field we saw one of them hard at work.

Turning from the highway at Lake Boga, we followed the backroads to Goschen Bushland Reserve.  It was just early in the afternoon, and quite hot. Any respectable birds were resting out of the heat.

But in a short time there, as it was only a recce for the days to come, we found Hooded Robins, Brown Treecreepers, White-browed Babblers, a number of different honeyeaters and some beaut looking Blue-bonnet Parrots.

So on to the domicile for the week. We stayed at the Murray Downs Resort, which is part of the Murray Down Golf Club.  Great little rooms in the shade of the lovely trees in the landscape.
And while I was  unloading the car: 2 clothes bags, 6 photo kits, I spied a Blue-faced Honeyeater in the agapanthus garden. Quick as, out came the 300mm and a nice shot against the light.  Good way to start I thought.

Brown Treecreeper
Brown Treecreeper
Trying to find a cool spot, Hooded Robin contemplates his next move
Trying to find a cool spot, Hooded Robin contemplates his next move
Blue-faced Honeyeater, welcoming committee
Blue-faced Honeyeater, welcoming committee

Off the the land of Goschen again.

Down the blog in early February you’ll find a report of a day that Dieter and I had in Goschen in the hot summer sun.

Dorothy and I travelled back to Swan Hill for a family gig this past week. (see her blog for details), and I managed an early morning run down to Goschen again.  But this time it’s winter!  One of the nice things about the inland winter is that while the frosts may hit the ground, given a clear day, the sunlight is both warming and photographically super.
So I lucked out. Goschen Reserve is about 15 mins drive from Swan Hill and I left right on sunup.  So by the time I got to the reserve the light was running in a beautiful horizontal line along the ground.  Which meant that if I could find some birds, I would have great front light with the shadows running away behind the birds.

And find them I did. Or better yet, they found me.  Most of the time I sat on an open track near the old tennis court and really let them come around me.
White-browed Babblers, raucous and active led the charge.  Not to be outdone the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters were in abundance. So to Brown Treecreepers and regular assortment of other honeyeaters and some Striated Pardolottes, one who had a lisp and its voice was a definite, “Whip, whip” sound. A number of parrots, including Rosellas and Red-rumped, and some Mallee Ringnecks, all seemed to have plenty to keep them and me occupied. The small families of Brown Quail would take off at the slighest movement in their direction. I noted that they always flew directly away from me, which made a picture next to impossible as the focus just couldn’t react fast enough. Must try that again sometime.

The problem was not  how or where to photograph, but rather which one to click on next.
Sadly by midmorning, the sun had departed behind some low clouds, and I had a hasty retreat to make to get to the next family event.

The land of Goschen still holds plenty of attraction.  Must try and get a visit in during Spring time if I can.

White-browed Babbler with Spider snack
Brown Tree-creeper
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
Lisping Striated Pardolotte