Diary Day #5 Goschen to home

Like all things, the time was up.  All that was left to do was load the car with 2 clothes bags, 6 camera bags as well as a load of ‘take home’ presents.
After days of hot weather, it was a bit of a surprise to wake to find the ground wet.  A steady rain had changed the place overnight.

With hugs, kisses, goodbye’s seeyanextimes and the like we waved and drove off into the rain.   “Care to go to Goschen?” I asked EE.  Ok, but not through the back roads in this wet.

Down the highway, and out along the Lalbert Road we set.   (used to be called the Lalbert Road as it went, well, to Lalbert) But now it has a different name. Same Road. Same Direction. Still goes to Lalbert.

But when we arrived at Goschen Roadside Reserve, it was obvious that the rain had set in.  And we’d left rain jackets for camera and person at home. (Its going to be 38 C, why do we need to load up the car with Driazabones?)

So in-between incessant showers we ventured out for a look see.  Think I mentioned the Brown Treecreeper on her nest, and so we both went very very quietly, and peeked into the opening on the broken old tree. There she was. As Dry as my Drizabone; the one hanging up in the wardrobe at home.  Only a quick peek, and then we left her alone.  Didn’t need to get her out in the rain.

Mr Hooded Robin was out in the rain. Think he was enjoying the change.  And the White-browed Babblers seemed to have a dislike for every Singing Honeyater they came across.   Speaking of Singing Honeyeaters, one was sizing up a small pool of water on the former tennis court, now ‘Burn-out’ spot for the local(?) petrol heads.   They are probably also responsible for slowing wrecking the Goschen Hall.  It  has stood for nigh on 100years and served the community faithfully and now its being torn apart one small bit at a time. Pity on the mentality of those responsible.

So in the end, the rain won, and we drove back toward the highway with thoughts of Eaglehawk pies on our mind. And.  EE pointed. Look, its a Rainbow Bee-eater.  And it was. Enjoying the rain.  But the weather was so dark, it looked like a London fog out there. Would have been great with a bit of sunshine about then.

Stopped at the Rail Crossing outside Kerang.  In the first tree nearest to the rail line is the nest of a Wedgetailed Eagle.  No one home today, but the tree was providing shelter for a Whistling Kite.

So to home, loads of emails, much work to sort images and the like, clean gear and ponder the next journey.

Mr Elegance in the rain.
Mr Elegance in the rain.
Brown Treecreeper nest site. She is bout 1/2 metre down the hollow.
Brown Treecreeper nest site. She is about 1/2 metre down the hollow.
SInging Honeyeater enjoying the cool.
SInging Honeyeater enjoying the cool.
Tennis anyone?  Testing its bath water. Perhaps I should wait a few more minutes.
Tennis anyone? Testing its bath water. Perhaps I should wait a few more minutes.
Part of a clan of White-browed Babblers hunting for elusive honeyeaters
Part of a clan of White-browed Babblers hunting for elusive honeyeaters
DSC_9739
White-browed Babbler, waiting in the rain for a honeyeater to be chased out in the open.
EE's find of the day.  My shot from inside the car.
EE’s find of the day. My shot from inside the car. If it looks dark and gloomy out there. It is!
Wedgetailed Eagle nest at Kerang rail crossing
Wedgetailed Eagle nest at Kerang rail crossing
Double duty tree, now a rest spot from the rain for a Whistling Kite
Double duty tree, now a rest spot from the rain for a Whistling Kite
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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 #2

My mate, Mr An Onymous and his family had also travelled up for the week and we met up and chatted over a few cold sherbets as to a plan for the following day.

Seeing as there were a few pressing family events that needed attention, and because it was going to be a hot day, we decided an early morning start at  Goschen would be the go.  By 6:30am the car was loaded, with drinks, cameras and bodies.  We set off.  The simplest run, is to follow the sealed roads, but we opted, (well I was driving) to go out past the Airport and then pick up one of the backroads to Goschen.   From yesterday, you’ll recall that we travelled that way often on pushbikes in the sweet savour of youth.

Besides from previous years, we’d had a bit of raptor success out near out mate Steve’s place and nothing ventured…

We had just turned past the airport when I spotted an Australian Kestrel, in the early morning sunshine. At this stage the sunlight was running horizontal with the ground.  “Fishfryer” lighting for the studio buffs.  Hadn’t realised, we parked on the major highway to somewhere, as the amount of cars going by was a bit awkward both from parking and photographing points of view.  Mr An, got busy, while I tried to park the car off the roadway.  No mean feat on a  tiny country road, built for tractors and harvesting toys.

I’d also been ‘clever’ enough to attach a TC1.7 to the 300mm to ‘save’ time, and now was having trouble handholding the 500mm resultant lens.  In the end, either because of boredom with the game, or because it saw prey, the Kestrel departed, and we moved on to Goschen.

Mostly the pictures tell the rest of the story.  A huge flowering gum near the old tennis court played host to a variety of honeyeaters, and we spent quite  a bit of time just enjoying their antics.

Then back on to the main road and a detour to the Little Murray Weir.  Another of my childhood pastimes.  Last year we’d been lucky and got some great shots  of a Sacred Kingfisher on a wire here, and to both our surprises, as we stopped the car, a blue flash went by and there on the wire was.   A Sacred Kingfisher.  How do you account for that bit of co-incidence.

On the way back to the main road, I saw a number of small birds dive into a box-thorn bush, and slowed, then stopped. Look as I might, I couldn’t see any, and Mr An was getting coffeitis by then, until.  Out from the tree behind the bush, rose a beautiful Wedge-tailed Eagle, before I could say, “Did you see the Wedget…..”  He was out of the car and had the first 6 shots off.   It took a circuit round the paddock, located a thermal, and before you could say, “It’s found a thermal’, the black and brown bird had  risen on those wonderful wings to an amazing height.
Suitably impressed we retired for coffee.

Every one gets up early.  Australian Kestrel, female, in the first shafts of morning light.
Every one gets up early. Australian Kestrel, female, in the first shafts of morning light.
Juvenile Black Honeyeater
Juvenile Black Honeyeater
Singing Honeyeater. Another Zorro Bird
Singing Honeyeater.
Another Zorro Bird
Tiny red wattle behind the eye on a White-fronted Honeyeater.  Most limey a nomad to the area.
Tiny red wattle behind the eye on a White-fronted Honeyeater. Most likely a nomad to the area.
A Red-rumped Parrot in flight.
A Red-rumped Parrot in flight.
Mr Hooded Robin. A pleasure to photograph
Mr Hooded Robin. A pleasure to photograph
Long rows of harvested wheat leave interesting patterns. Only a Magpie can work them out.
Long rows of harvested wheat leave interesting patterns. Only a Magpie can work them out.
One year, two year.  Same bird, same wire, same photographer.
One year, two year. Same bird, same wire, same photographer.
Wedge-tailed Eagle looking for a thermal.
Wedge-tailed Eagle looking for a thermal.

Goschen. A little bird oasis in a very dry part of the country.

The little map dot name “Goschen” has quite a reputation among birdos who are in the know.

This little area of scrub only a couple of football grounds around has at various times of the year an opportunity to spot a large number of species without much trouble.  See some of the many blogs that tell tales. See Ian Smissen’s recent post.

It is not far from Lake Boga, and only 15 minutes drive from Swan Hill. We were bound there for a family weekend event. (Some would use the term Holiday, but I cannot understand why!)

Mr An Onymous and his lens were there as well, so we plotted a day at Goschen. Only trouble was the weather. The day we travelled up it was 40C.  About 120 in the water bag as my old Dad used to say. So we went to Goschen early early in the morning.

And inspite of the heat, and the overcast sky the birds did play a bit of a treat for us.  A Hooded Robin pair were probably the single highlight. But that is not forgetting the Honeyeaters, and Treecreepers and an Australian Hobby. A small flock of Budgerigars were a nice addition to the day. We also did a bit of a diversion down to the Tresco Nature Reserve (Its about 10 mins from Goschen) and scored some Blue-faced Honeyeater as Blueb-bonnet Parrots for our efforts.
Being an ex local lad, I figured we’d follow some back roads to Kerang, pick up a pie at Gray’s Bakery and have lunch there. One of the back roads is called just that. Back Quarry Road. Its really only a link for the farm machinery between paddocks, but has a good stand of mallee on one side.
The new lens played a great note and he got a super series of a Pied Butcher Bird being fee.  Also a few Mallee Ringnecks and Blue Bonnets.

We made a futile attempt at Lookout Lake, and ended up at the pie shop. Sure enough still great pies after all those year.  Sign said 200metres to Bakery. It took us about 3 goes round the block to figure it out. Sort of missed the big building labelled “Bakery”. No wonder we can’t find birds.

A stop at the Kerang Ibis rookery seemed sensible, and as soon as we got of out the car the call of a Whistling Kite pair echoed across the carpark. We located them well down the ‘nature’ track by the lake.  Too many trees for great shots, but lovely to hear them exchanging calls.

Last stop for the day was the Little Murray Wier, and again the big lens was working hard. And a Nankeen Night Heron and then a patient Sacred Kingfisher rounded out a nice day.

Ont the way back past the Swan Hill Aerodrome (I was thinking Kestrels) we came across Steve (who drives harvesters at Quambatook-, but that’s another story) and his front yard. In the air above said driveway was a couple of Whistling Kites. Nice. We went back out in the late evening sunshine on spec. and.  There were Ten  Kites up over the recently cut wheat/hay/lucern.  Spect– tack-ular.

Goschen even in the middle of a heat wave still had enough to keep us busy.

Hooded Robin
Hooded Robin
White-browed Babbler showing off its very long beak
White-browed Babbler showing off its very long beak
Brown Treecreepers in deep discussion about people with long lenses interrupting a perfectly good days outing.
Brown Treecreepers in deep discussion about people with long lenses interrupting a perfectly good days outing.
A very patient Sacred Kingfisher, as we manoeuvred into the best spot for a shot.
A very patient Sacred Kingfisher, as we manoeuvred into the best spot for a shot.
Whistling Kite in the evening sunshine near Swan Hill.
Whistling Kite in the evening sunshine near Swan Hill.