Counting Birds at Mt Rothwell

My local bird group, BirdLife Werribee, or more affectionately known by the previous name, “Werribee Wagtails” has for many years been doing  bird surveys once a quarter at various sites.
This weekend we surveyed the Mt Rothwell Conservation and Research Centre just to the north of the You Yangs range.
To quote Peter Sellers from “Balham Gateway to the South”,
It is exciting work and my forefathers have been engaged upon it since 1957—

The previous few days of rain had managed to get past the You Yangs rainshadow and give the area decent drink. As we assembled, we were joined by a group from BirdLife Australia, Ovens and Murray.

And the bush seemed to respond to our enthusiastic banter as we walked over the various tracks that lead through the park.

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A Grey May Day in a Grey Box Forest, at Eynesbury

All we needed were some grey birds and it would have been complete.

We turned up at the monthly Eynesbury Residents Birdwalk.  Did one back in April see details of the area in that post. Details Here
This time the lake was in fact a, lake!.  Water had been added and the ducks were happy and in residence again.  And there was a “Farmers Market” in full swing. Make note to self, leave earlier, bring wallet, and enjoy some shopping therapy before the walk in June!

Chris had a walk to the north eastern area of the forest planned for us, and the six or so hardy stalwarts set off for a looksee.  And a quiet day it happened to be.  We did get a good view of the ubiquitous  Superb Fairywren, and again noted how many Brown Treecreepers have made this their home.

Chris pulled out the best spotting by giving us a grand view of a male Flame Robin, rich in colour and brightening up the day.  Just as we were enjoying it all, he took off not to be seen again.
A couple of Striated Pardalotes come down out of the top branches and all got a good view of  these delightful little birds.  Not to be out done a Jacky Winter helped add to the charm of the area, as only Jacky can, and performed some feeding twists and turns in an open area.  But, in the end, we had to say it was a quiet day.

Perhaps the recent rain had made the food scarce.   We turned back and meandered through the open forest.  You can do that in Grey Box, its a lovely forest to walk through. Tracks become optional. Chris offered all sorts of running commentary on fox and rabbit issues, to what sort of native plants were working in well in the local gardens, and one our number told how her three sickly looking Running Postman were now clambering all over the garden pots.  Super.

A Common Bronzewing, a few more Treecreepers, and the inevitable Red-rumped Parrots kept us entertained until we eventually reached the roadway, and back to the cars.

Might have been a quiet morning, and the light might have been less than ideal, but we all were pleased to have seen a little more of the Eynesbury Forest and to enjoy some great company at the same time.  Now we’re looking forward to the June walk.
Way to go Chris.

EE and I grabbed a quick bite to eat, and a cuppa,  then went round to a small open park area among the houses on the west side of the lake.  We’d been told that a pair of Tawny Frogmouth were in the park and ‘easy to spot’.  Hmmm.

You know that feeling?  You’re walking into a park for the first time, checking trees, checking trees, knowing that Tawnies are, well, not necessarily ‘easy to spot’.  In fact, I’d left the camera in the car. Now that is confidence.   EE on the other hand, well, she would wouldn’t she?  Had camera out, and at the ready.

Looking, looking.  Well I suppose I’d taken about five steps into the park. “Oh”.
If only everything was  that “Easy to Spot”.   There aren’t a lot of trees, so Tawnys didn’t have a lot of choice.  “There they are!!! ”  Trudge back to get camera, (all five steps).

We then moved down to the forest proper to look for more Flame Robins. No such luck, not as ‘easy to spot’.  A flock of Maned Ducks, (Wood Ducks) were house hunting and that kept us amused for a few minutes.  A duck in tree.

Then the sound of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters on the way back got us looking and eventually locating a couple.
So in the end a good day at Eynesbury, and another triumph for Grey Box

Enjoy

Bounding about Banyule

The Beginners Group of Melbourne Birdlife Australia were having a day at the Banyule Flats park,  and as luck would have it the Meetup Bird Photography group were going to be there in the afternoon.  Not one to have too to many things conflicting in the diary, (euphemism in there), we decided to go and enjoy the park side area.

Its been a great place at previous events and the weather looked ok, to so so, so we took the (now) considerable drive across town.

Over 45 active birders joined us and a good day was in the offing. Probably one of the highlights were excellent views (if somewhat average pictures on my part) of a Latham’s Snipe,  (a new one for me. Thank you)

The area also seemed to have more than its fair share of Tawny Frogmouth and we counted 7 for the day.

The folk from Meetup Bird Photography Group turned up, and we had a second attempt at some of the birds.

A Buff-banded Rail, eluded photography in the morning group, and didn’t improve in the afternoon group.  Some had good sightings and photos of a Sacred Kingfisher and we had some lovely views of the wing feathers on an Australasian Darter.

I was working with my newly acquired 70-200 mm f/2.8 and a Teleconverter TC1.7.  Made the field of view equivalent to about 500mm stopped down a little to keep sharpness and really had a good day, and got some super images without the need to lug heavy tripods into the field.   It will get to go on another expedition anytime soon.

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Beautiful colours on the Straw-necked Ibis

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Latham’s Snipe.  A very relaxed bird, but it could afford to be well out in the water and away from easy photography.

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First find your Buff-banded Rail.

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A young Kookaburra waiting for the family to return, perhaps with a nice meal.

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Tawny Frogmouth

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This one was against the light and really did take on the “branch” look and fooled quite a number of eager birdwatchers.

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Tucked up tight against the tree.

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Another failed Buff-banded Rail shot

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Australasian Darter shows its wonderful wing patterns.

Dad and the kids

With the Bandicoot Big Brother House still locked to lesser beings, we’ve had to travel a bit further for a place to settle down, but today, in the cold and wind and rain, I decided on a whim, (don’t you love that word – translated,  I was going to to it anyway!!!!), that if I shopped at Greenvale, I could mosey on over and have a look at Providence Road carpark.  So.  I did.

The Tawny Frogmouth seems to be holding his own, and has by my count two little balls of fluff. Actually that are quite big balls of fluff, but she tucked one under each wing and settled down to keep them warm.  Unlike the other day in the heat when he was sitting back, and letting them cool down a bit.

Also found Will o’Scarlet, quite vocal, and two beautiful Rufous Whistlers who were feeding on some low branches in the small scrub, but much to dark to get any decent pics.

Dads and the kids. Tawny Frogmouth overlooking two very dependant young. He does look the part of the concerned parent. Unusual to see the in a pose other than looking like a tree branch

This image has just a small amount of fill flash, -1 1/3rd below normal.  It just picks up a little shadow detail without looking over done.  Haven’t used flash on birds for  a long time as the light has been soft enough anyway.

But the experiment was useful as I got some with and without examples to use in class, so that’s a bonus.

For all the overcast weather, the bush is starting to show a lot of drying out already.  Hope the Bandicoots like it.

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.