Postcards from Mt Rothwell

We don’t need to know what it looks like (whatever it is), 
but what it might mean—what it might feel like. 
More than ever, we need images that speak to a deeper part of our humanity 
than the thirst for details. 
We need, and hunger for, context, insight, hope, 
and the kind of visual poetry that stirs our hearts, 
sparks our imaginations.
David DuChemin

Posted 28 Jan 2018

A few days before our sojourn up to the ‘old’ country, we were part of Werribee Wagtails quarterly bird count at Mt Rothwell.

In line with the weather all around, it was hot.  But we managed some good numbers in the first morning walk and at lunch time were sitting in the shade of the office area.  The ranger in charge  (Should that be hyphenated?) Ranger-in-charge.  There—setup a hose and sprinkler to give the little garden area a bit of relief.  This one action of course brought all the small bushbirds out for a bit of a cool off.

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Studio Werkz

When I was a mere broth of a photographer, and just learning the craft, almost all weddings, portraits and product and advertising photography was done in the Studio. Photographers like D’acre Stubbs specialised in getting just the right light on a product, and Wolfgang Sievers made wonderful detailed industrial photos with dramatic lighting.
And I traded my poor old Super Baldar, 120 folding camera for the chance to learn the craft as a trainee.

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Little Visits: A Morning in the Sunshine at Eynesbury

Still in the Little Visits Mode:
The monthly Birding Walk at Eynesbury was on again today.

We drove into the Grey Box forest in the warm sunshine, and slowed down to enjoy the play of the light among the trees.  It has rained overnight and there was that wonderful distinct crispness to the air and the whole forest seemed to sparkle in the moment.  The great Grey Box stood soaking up the light and the tones of the light playing over their trunks was a delight to see.

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Wrens on Guard: Dangerous world for a young wren.

From our trip to the Office a week back.

We had walked down along the edge of the river to a spot where the river cuts back on itself forming a little backwater.
Good place to stop says, EE and well, I agreed.  Settled down for a cuppa in the sunshine.  It soon became apparent there was a family of Superb Fairywrens in the locality.   Their constant chattering and carrying food about, lead to the conclusion, “They have a nest, or young one’s very close to where we are sitting.”  The obvious spot was a large crop of grass and low shrubs they kept flying around.
So.
We moved.

With the humans out of the way it didn’t take them too long to get back to work.
I’ve been reading, co-incidently Rowley and Russel, Fairy-Wrens and Grasswrens. 

Published in 1997, it details a lot of the field work of these two Australian Ornithologists over many years.  Intriguingly, I’ve been delighted to see a lot of what we have observed being detailed in the work.
One thing that becomes clear about the Superb Fairywren is the unusual family arrangements.
Once called “Mormon Wrens”, as it was assumed that one bright blue male was in charge of a harem of females in various lighter brown dress.

But it’s now known that there is only one ‘active’ pair, and the remainder of young in the family group are ‘Helper’ males of the first or second year.

On average the males outnumber females by around two to one.  So a female adult is in as the good Jane Austen so succinctly put it,

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”

Change man to female wren, and it seems that an available female has little trouble in establishing a new family connection. One such female in Rowley’s book is reported as having attained a bond relationship in somewhat under two hours of leaving the home territory. 🙂

So what we saw were a male/female pair and two or three helper males hard at work.

What we weren’t counting on is what happened after about 20 mins of watching.

The chattering went up, the birds surrounded the bush and it was obvious something was amiss.  Suddenly at least two young virtually tailless fledglings burst clumsily out of the bush and took off, mostly running as they were not yet equipped to fly.
One took refuge alongside EE’s foot for a few minutes and then ran off eventually tumbling over the river bank edge and lodging (fortunately) in the bushes about two metres down.

The family continued its agitation at the bush. Conclusion being that some predator, – rat, snake ? had managed to get into the area.  Did they lose any of the young.  Hard to say. After about 10 minutes one of the helpers found the young one over the river edge and went to feed it.

Here is the drama as it unfolded.

The shot of the young wren is by EE (Dorothy M Jenkins- Friendsintheair, (c) 2016)

One of the main perches near the nest
One of the main perches near the nest
Busy feeding. A helper bringing in some food.
Busy feeding. A helper bringing in some food.
Helper male
Helper male
The male also on feeding duty
The male also on feeding duty
In full cry, the female is so active.
In full cry, the female is so active.
One of the young is just going out of the bush in the top right.
One of the young is just going out of the bush in the top right.
Danger, danger
Danger, danger
He wa so agitated and very wary at the same time
He wa so agitated and very wary at the same time
Young male on full alert
Young male on full alert
A young one out of the nest and unsure of what to do. Copyright D M Jenkins (c) 2016 Friendsintheair
A young one out of the nest and unsure of what to do.
Over the edge. This one is about 2m down from the river bank. One of the helpers eventually came and looked after it.
Over the edge. This one is about 2m down from the river bank. One of the helpers eventually came and looked after it.

 

Setting the Scene: A Day at the Office

Blogging 201 assignment for this week is Setting the Scene.
As it turns out, I was gearing up to reflect on a day at the Office yesterday.
The weather turned Kind.  Really Kind.  The kind of Kind, where the cameras practically pack themselves out of the cupboard and into the car, and sit there going, “Well…..” “Well…. are you ready to leave yet.”

We left early, and decided to take the longer walk down to the river behind the golf course. This is really old river flat, and the river makes a distinct “U” for several hundred metres and then a fine “S” movement that provides for some great old river flat dissected by the flow of the water. Water bird can abound, and there is still some good grass and tree cover to make life entertaining for the smaller bush birds.

Its a long way for EE to walk, but stoically she lead on.

The Office for the uninitiated is an area along the Werribee River a few kilometres from the mouth at Werribee South. It cuts through the rich river soil and in places the cliffs are 30-40 metres high.   The big birds – think raptors- enjoy the wind currents coming up the ramparts and I do believe a good case could be made that there are certain areas where its better, and a sort of ‘flyway’ or navigational line is drawn.  They seem to favour coming and going along those locations.

You just know its going to be a good day when as you drive in a Black-shouldered Kite is hunting close to the carpark, and just inside the walking track, Bernie the Brown Falcon is loafing in a favourite tree.

Next up a Little Eagle made several passes along one of the ‘flyway’ paths.  The Ibis, both White and Straw-necked use the same paths on the way to the feeding grounds along the river.

We sat with a family of Superb Fairy-wrens, and I will tell more of that tale on another blog, and were entertained by the feeding antics of a few Crested Terns. (another blog post methinks)

It was pretty awe-inspiring to be sitting by the river, dangling my feet over the river bank and sipping Earl of Grey, and enoying the time time in the sunshine with such a group of bids. And all less than 10 minutes from home.  A most amazing place.

Easy day, easy photography, easy birds, and Just Another Day at the Office really.

How’s that for setting the scene!

Enjoy.

Black-shouldered Kite.
Black-shouldered Kite.
Berne the Brown Falcon
Bernie the Brown Falcon
A view along the sandy cliff face. The area we are heading is down toward the right hand side.
A view along the sandy cliff face. The area we are heading is down toward the left hand side.
Superb Fairywren. This is a helper bird. A male not yet left home.
Superb Fairy-wren. This is a helper bird. A male not yet left home.
Great Egret
Great Egret
Little Eagle
Little Eagle
White Ibis
White Ibis
Crested Tern against the cliff face.
Crested Tern against the cliff face.
Crested Tern, juvenile, on a wing sretch, while waiting for Mum to deliver food
Crested Tern, juvenile, on a wing sretch, while waiting for Mum to deliver food