Wonderful Woodlands Birds for all to enjoy: The Birds of Hume

It’s a bit humbling to have been able to contribute to a most wonderful publication.

The Hume City Council have published a lovely 20 page Bird Guide to the area.  A great creative collaboration by a number of locals and some excellent work by the Evironmental Dept of the Council has resulted in a such a cool little handbook for anyone with even a passing interest in the area.

My Flickr Mate Andew H was among the many of the working group and at one stage asked if I might have some photos of birds they were missing.  And off course, I was all too ready for them to use the images.

After living in the area for nigh on 40 years, it was a great way to respond back to the community and to provide a bit of a “thank you” to the birds that have been such a large part of my photographic endevours over the years.  My family has walked and laughed and picnicked and even married in the park, so we do have more than just a passing connection.

It’s also no surprise to you long term reader(s), that I have a real affinity for the small birds of the Grey Box forest area in the park.  Over the years many  of the missives here have been about their lives and their surrounds.  So much so that many have become in someways quite familiar.  I’ve for a long time taken to giving each of the robins, names.  It helps to id them, to come to an understanding of their location and sometimes their interactions.  Jon Young, my mentor of the book, “What the Robin Knows”, shows how its possible to build tiny connections to individual creatures that become large ropes that bind the bird and viewer.

Of all the birds I photograph, the small bush birds seem to hold the special place in my heart.  I love the boldness of the raptors, the kites, falcons and eagles.  I am constantly in awe of the migratory skills of the small waders and shorebirds that visit us each summer, and I can spend hours with the shoreline birds along the beaches, the terns, herons, gulls and cormorants.  But, put me in a stretch of Grey Box, and my blood fair purrs.  And the small birds fascinate me, not only by their lives, but by the challenge of bringing that portrait moment to life on screen.

Over the years, I ‘ve talked of the lives of Mr. Mighty, (he, who got a front cover on a national magazine), Henny and Penny and their clutches of young. Peter, the Prince, Lockey, and  of recent times, Petite, the smallest Red-capped Robin. And of course my very dear friend, Primrose. A female Red-capped Robin that was happy to come and sit with me on a log in the sunshine whenever I was in the area.
Andrew H talked today a little about our experiences and his own involement with the robins, and at one stage likened it to a ‘spiritiual’ moment.  And to have a bird such as Primrose so delicately and yet deliberately come in contact, and in some way accept the presence of the big klutz of a photographer, with a turn on the head and a lowered wing flap is something that still keeps us going out to make those connections.  How else do you describe a bird that you can see coming through the trees, just to perch less than a metre away and chatter away as if was really important.

And so in the presence of over a hundred or more folk, the Mayor of Hume Council, Cr Helen Patsikatheodorou, talked of the work of the production group, the grandness of the birds in the area and officially launched the booklet for the benefit of all those who love the birds.   We also had the chance to do a small walk around Woodlands Homestead and Andrew talked of some of the better birding areas at the park.

If you are in the area, do pick up a copy of the publication. Or contact Hume Council.

I thought I’d re-quoute Jon Young on the Sans Bushman
“If one day I see a small bird and recognise it, a thin thread will form between me and that bird.  If i just see it but don’t recognise it, there is no thin thread.  If I go out tomorrow and see and really recognise that same individual small bird again, the thread will thicken and strengthen just a little.  Every time I see and recognise that bird, the thread strengthens just a little.  Every time I see and recognise that bird, the thread strengthens.  Eventually it will grow into a string and then a cord, and finally a rope. This is what it means to be a Bushman. We make ropes with all aspects of the creation in this way” —What the Robin Knows, p 180—.

So well done Hume, well done team, a supreme effort and hopefully it will help people build more than a thread to so many of the wonderful birds in our area.
I’m just overwhelmed to have been able to have such a small part in the process.  Thanks again to all.

 

In the morning before the launch EE and I had travelled up in the brilliant light and touch of frost on the ground for a short visit to see the birds.  The sunshine should have told us it would be a good day, but within about five minutes along the track, Petite, the Smallest Red-capped Robin had popped out on to the roadway, followed by Peter the Prince.  Together they fed and played for us before we moved on to the backpaddock.   And there we were delighted to remake acquaintance again with a new Male Red-capped Robin, and finally find a small flock of FLmae Robins, including the Three Brothers, working the moss beds in the sunshine.
Seemed a great treat to go with the rest of the day.
Enjoy.

Petite, the Smallest Red-capped Robin. This tiny bird met us on the roadway as we walked in. Totally unconcerned by our presence. A real thread bulding moment.
Petite, the Smallest Red-capped Robin. This tiny bird met us on the roadway as we walked in. Totally unconcerned by our presence. A real thread building moment.
Peter, the Prince. Its been awhile since I've seen him on the fence line.
Peter, the Prince. Its been awhile since I’ve seen him on the fence line.
Such a delight to find. Pink Robin, female. Now if only she would bring her partner down for winter.
Such a delight to find. Pink Robin, female. Now if only she would bring her partner down for winter.
Female Scarlet Robin
Female Scarlet Robin
One of our new discoveries. This female is still supporting one of her last season young
One of our new discoveries. This female is still supporting one of her last season young
Who is putting 'footie prints' all over my forest? Scarlet came by to see what I was up to.
Who is putting ‘footie prints’ all over my forest? Scarlet came by to see what I was up to.
Wedge-tailed Eagle taking its pet Whistling Kites for an early morning flight.
Wedge-tailed Eagle taking its pet Whistling Kites for an early morning flight.
Female Flame Robin
Female Flame Robin
Flame Robin Male
Flame Robin Male
EE Enjoys Denonshire Tea at the launch at Woodlands Historic Homestead.
EE Enjoys Denonshire Tea at the launch at Woodlands Historic Homestead.
Red-capped Robin Female. This is Primrose, (see the lovely apricot wash on her chest) overseeing a territorial dispute between Lockie, and a would be suitor.
And just because deep down I’m an old softie. Here is Primrose. Red-capped Robin Female. This is Primrose, (see the lovely apricot wash on her chest) Thanks for the memory girl 🙂

Gallery: Click to see full size.

 

 

 

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Orion. Soaking up Kite awareness

Jon Young says, “There is nothing random about bird’s awareness and behaviour. They have too much at stake…. Being tuned into the tapestry…. we are venturing into a realm of awareness, and intention and curiosity.  I’ve had some magical experiences in the natural world, and some of them have involved birds.”

He quotes a San Bushman, “One day I see a small bird and recognise it. A thin thread will form between me and the bird. I will go again tomorrow and recognise it and the thread will thicken. Eveytime I see and recognise the bird, the thread strengthens. It will eventually grow to become a rope.  That is what it means to be a Bushman.  We make ropes to all aspects of the creation this way.”

Appreciation of the bird’s perspective.

Which puts us in the vehicle, heading along the 29 Mile Road at Avalon, in the early morning sunshine.  EE, Mr An Onymous and I. And as we draw nearer to the end of the road, a thought from us all, was, “Will Orion still be here?”
We need not have worried.

Sitting on a small tree, about 10m off the side of the road.  And by the look, having just eaten.  Feathers still wet with the dew from the grass of his last capture.

At first we stop the car on the far side of the road, and they photograph through the open window.
Orion turns his head, takes note, and then develops, ‘Soft eyes’.  Jon talks to this a lot, and I’ve mentioned it here before, but its the type of eyes that look right past you, with complete confidence.  I stepped from the car, I’m on the far side remember, and approached from the sunside, and moved across the road. ‘Soft eyes’ followed me.   Because of the line of the branch, his stance, and the way the light is running in the early morning, I want to be about 10m further out in the open. And of course the chance is he will spook and fly.

I make the first few shots. Orion sinks down onto the branch, and I take that as an invitation. Purposefully, rather than creeping up slowly, (that only spooks birds the worst), I move to the open area.  Now, the backdrop is not right, so I need another 4 or 5 metres. He throws his head back and begins to hawk-up the fur ball from the last meal.  I move.  Soft eyes follow.

Because of the lay of the land, it’s going to be hard to isolate him against the backdrop without a horizon line running somewhere.  I could go lower, but then it would be blue sky.  Nice, but not encompassing.  Besides crouching down human with long lens is going to turn those soft eyes to ones of determined study.  So I opt for another step or two to put his head against the far distant tree line.  That will have to do.

Orion settles to preen.

EE and Mr A take all this as a sign of relaxation and they also move off the roadway for the better angle and the light.   Orion soft eyes. We’re cool.

In the end, we’ve enough for a game of cards, the three of us and Orion.

Preening, wingstretches, repositioning on the branch.  And all the time he seems completely settled.

After an hour of standing in the fine sunshine, carrying a long lens, and working with a bird that seems to have no fear of us, a great deal of understanding, awareness and connection emerges.

The others move back to the car.   I bid this able bird ‘good morning’ and follow them back. Soft eyes follow me.

All is well.

Enjoy.

Well, good morning. Hunting's been good.
Well, good morning. Hunting’s been good.
Rolling up the Fur-ball from the meal.
Rolling up the Fur-ball from the meal.
Took awhile to get the material up.
Took awhile to get the material up.
A bird that is this relaxed is interested in preening
A bird that is this relaxed is interested in preening
A wing stretch to the right. Lean into it, that feels good.
A wing stretch to the right. Lean into it, that feels good.
Lean into the Left. Big body angle here.
Lean into the Left. Big body angle here.
Wings to help balance on turning on the perch.
Wings to help balance on turning on the perch.
How to fold up big wings
How to fold up big wings
_DWJ5638
All of us remark on the softness of the grey on the cap. Its like soft cat’s fur. Never noticed it until we are this close.
I don't mind you coming but did you have to bring the wagtail with you. Willie just can't help but get into the act.
I don’t mind you coming but did you have to bring the wagtail with you.
Willie just can’t help but get into the act.

 

 

 

 

Off to see Ambrose

This is one of those posts that’s a bit out of sequence.  Just had other things to post.

A couple of weeks back we had a morning free and decided to go and visit with our friend Ambrose, the Rose Robin.

He had decided to winter over in a small patch of scrub away from the highway, and near a used, but not well maintained track.  To get to it, we’d follow the track a bit, then move onto some well formed Kangaroo pads.  The ‘roo pads are easier to walk, and they don’t waste any uphill/downhill meandering.  Very energy conscious is your Eastern Grey, so they tend to take the easiest way along a creek line or over a ridge.  Their number one rule: “Don’t loose height, and avoid the thick scrub”  So its usually pretty flat, and always interesting walking.

When we got the stand of wattle that Ambrose had called home, I was pretty flabbergasted to find that some local “Landcare (?)” group had decided to clean up the undergrowth and pile all the logs, sticks and leaves into one great big heap at the end of the stand.  Of course this meant for the birds, all the normal perching, hunting and hiding places were now removed.   I could just imagine how this happened with a handful of ‘community’ minded folk ‘taking care of the scrub’ in their area.  No doubt with motorised “Bush Whackers” to clean up the offending leaves, grass and stubborn undergrowth.  And there would have been of course the good natured yelling and joking with one another as they scoured the tiny moss beds with the equipment, dragging of logs, and stomping with boots.  All to go home at night to their respective dwellings, having completely ruined the environment for the winter overing birds.  It would be like going to their house,  piling all at the furniture and belongings in one corner, and then emptying out the pantry too.!

Any wonder then as we stood there in the  Landcare (?) equivalent of a moon scape that the usual Thornbills, Wrens, Flame Robins, Whistlers, Honeyeaters and Fantails, were not only no where to be seen, but not even heard.  A pity as this little block of wattle had been a bit of a honeypot over winter.

After 20 minutes of sitting and listing, it was pretty obvious that the friendly character of Ambrose was also not going to make an appearance.  In protest, I redistributed a handful of the “Landcare (?)” pile of logs across the moss beds, and we decided to go elsewhere.

As we were swinging out of the wattle stand, across the open area I spied a flash of grey and magenta.   He was there.   I don’t do bird calls, either vocal or recorded (see the sidebar), but I feel confident enough with this bird to talk to him…   And he came over.
Now if Robins can do indignant he had every right I reckon, but he simply chirruped  (It’s a bit like a single note on a mouth organ), and began to hunt around the tops of the wattles.  Occasionally coming down to see if I was following.  For the next half an hour or so, this delightful little bird graced us with his presence, stopping to pose, and happy to turn his head when I spoke. I know I’ve quoted Jon Young before, but here he is again:

If we don’t barge in and kick up a big flock of frightened birds – if we replace collision with connection, learn to read the details, feel at home, relax, and are respectful- ultimately the birds will yield to us the first rite of passage: a close encounter with a bird otherwise wary of our presence.

So we sat and chatted, he hunted, entertained us with his chirrup, and ultimately sat on a stick a couple of metres away and preened.  He hunted so close at one stage that I said to him, “If you get any closer, mate,  you’ll be in my pocket and I’ll have to take you home!”

In the end we had to say goodbye and I could hear Jon Young again:

 To understand we must slowly but surely expand the sphere of awareness and shrink the sphere of disturbance by learning and practicing good etiquette. We begin to start seeing and hearing more birds.

Hello Ambrose, hope you’ll be polite enough to come back next season.

Oh, there you are. Will you accept visitors.
Oh, there you are. Will you accept visitors.
Relaxed and entertaining
Relaxed and entertaining
Shall I pose here, or would you like me on the other log?
Shall I pose here, or would you like me on the other log?
Any closer and you'll be coming home with me.
Any closer and you’ll be coming home with me.
Magenta on Green. What a great combo.
Magenta on Green. What a great combo.