Moments: Whistling Kite does Takeaway

It’s beginning to look like I’m getting in a rut with raptors and food.
Mostly just a bit of a backlog of other work and the natural progression of things.

Interesting to be posting such work on the blog, as it fulfills a learning process I’m journeying on at the moment.
Exploring photography, my own work in particular, as an iterative process.  Or a journey of versions that lead to new discoveries.

That is: the repetition that builds on the previous shot. It is where the concept of ‘multi-burst’ and I diverge.  I need to  have thought out the changes, or the visual differences from shot to shot. Not just blaze away and pick out the ‘best looking one’, to tidy up in Photoshop.

Not, as I’m sure you can imagine a simple step by step process when it comes to birds that are unpredictable at best, and downright difficult to get to understand at the worst. Which I think is why ‘iterative’ is such a useful motif.

EE and I were at The Office.  The Red Gum picnic area to be specific. Its a short trip down for Dolly, and if all goes well, there can be an interesting array of birds on a good day.
We were sitting enjoying the Grey of Earl, and a snack, when a grey shadow moved over our heads and flew toward the large dead skeleton of a tree by the river’s edge.
“A Whistling Kite,” quoth she.

Then it became, as we moved nearer, that said Kite also had bought a snack too. It had found a discarded Shingleback Lizard carcass remains. Now, it might be that the Kite had made the kill, but the condition of the carcass suggested it more likely had retrieved it after it was abandoned. Most of the rich middle parts of the hapless creature were already gone.

So we sat and watched it play with its food, and all went well until a ‘murder of crows’ in the form of a group of ravens moved in to help the Kite.  They believed it seems, in ‘share and share alike’, so long as they got the goodies to share.
Our hero was having none of that and scooping up its meal, it departed to a more secure area.

Enjoy

 

Point Cook sunny day with Meetup Bird Photographic Group

What a difference to mood a bit of sunshine makes.
We were looking for a day out at the Point Cook Coastal Park with Graham Harkom and the Meetup Bird Photography Group, and as usual Graham managed to put on a picture perfect day.

We arrived in good time to find the park gates still locked, and so we stood around discussing the day’s activities and soon enough the gate was open. Just as well we were a little late starting as a few late-comers thought they’d arrived on time.

Within a  few moments of getting out of the car, EE had discovered “Brown” the resident Brown Falcon, and he seemed quite happy to sit in the sunshine. Then, for reasons falcon, he took to the air and patrolled along the treeline by the carpark. Much of course to the chagrin of every magpie in the area.  So we started with some good views of Brown in being harassed by first one, then another magpie.
Through the gate and along the track out to the Monument, we also managed some Flame Robins, White-fronted Chats and a particularly good view of several Striated Fieldwrens.

From there we wended out way back along the beach-line and found a small flock of Blue-winged Parrots sunning themselves on the fence-line. And we managed to get some pretty good shots for the photographers.  Then one of our more alert spotted a flash of red, and a Flame Robin males spent the next ten minutes entertaining us flying from fence to track to feed.  He seemed the least concerned by our presence and again it was a photo opportunity.

Add a couple of Whistling Kites, and several Black Kites that seemed quite taken by our presence and made low passes to get a good look at us. Perhaps they were doing a “People Count” or a “Camera Type Count”. Whichever it was nice to see the sunshine glinting on those rich  deep brown wings.

By the time we’d made it to the Homestead area, the tide was well in, several Australasian Gannets were working in the waters further out, EE managed some White-faced Herons, and Pacific Gulls while she had waited for us to turn up.

A large flock, (300+) Little Black and Pied Cormorants were working on a fish shoal out beyond the reef, and every-time the shoal moved a large black mass ascended to the air to catch up with. Very impressive.

A walk back to the car through the farmland revealed some more Flame Robins, several White-browed Scrubwrens and a loud-voiced Singing Honeyeater.

After lunch a few of the group continued round to the RAAF Lake Lookout and spent some time at a pond with circling Welcome Swallows.  Where are you Rodger Scott!!

Graham then spotted first one, then a second Little Eagle at work over the Lake, and we were discussing the presence (or lack of) Goshawks, when over the treeline a bullet shape with longish tail appeared and at first I’d picked it for a Goshawk, and we were both amused we’d been discussing the same.  Then as the bird drew closer, it pulled up its wings in a most ungoshawk manner and revealed itself as a Peregrine Falcon, and it was most intent on making the Little Eagle’s life just a bit miserable.  Several close stoops had the Eagle moving on thank you.

Thanks to Graham for organising the day, and to all the grand folk who turned up to add such a delightful companionship to a glorious sunny day.   Really, after the past week or so, the weather just seemed to make the air sing.

Enjoy.

 

Brown Falcon, being seen off by an Australian Magpie

Brown Falcon, being seen off by an Australian Magpie

Female Flame Robin
Female Flame Robin
Striated Fieldwren
Striated Fieldwren
Yellow-rumped Thornbill
Yellow-rumped Thornbill
Meetup at work
Meetup at work
Blue-winged Parrot
Blue-winged Parrot
Male Flame Robin
Male Flame Robin
Whistling Kite
Whistling Kite
Australian Pelican
Australian Pelican

 

 

Meeting Up with Friends Take #2

Graham Harkom, as self-confessed birder and mad photographer, also among his other accomplishments runs an online bird photography group,   Melbourne Bird Photographers, under the Meetup banner.

See Here

So most months there is an event to turn up to.  It’s such an intriguing way to organise an event, and great kudos for Graham and his organising group for keeping up the great places to visit. Always good for birds, photography and chatting, and of course food!

So, when I discovered the next one was to be at the Western Treatment Plant, it wasn’t too hard to tick the Yes we will attend box.

So, as the Banjo was wont to say, we went.

Also my long term mate and fellow conspirator and Flickr mate Mark S came over to make an excellent day of it.   Graham, herein named, “He who always has brilliant sunshine for his events”, met us at the Caltex Servo at Werribee and had turned on the sunshine as requested.

28 keen folk sipped Gerry’s best coffee, ate raisin toast, and talked about the day’s opportunities.  We took off toward Avalon, stopping long enough to get some good views, if only average photos of some Banded Plovers, then it was on to the T Section, and the inevitable wait by the Crake Pool, and out came the Australian Crake, right on time.  No Brolga here, so off to the Paradise Road ponds for our little convoy.

Met a carful of helpful folk who said, “Down there somewhere we saw Brolga”, which unscrambled meant. On to the 145W outflow. A very co-operative Brown Falcon stopping us in our quest, and gave some great poses, and a fine fly off shot for those of us not too busy checking the camera settings. —Will I never never learn!!!!  😦

Then, we spotted the Brolga, (Singular in this case), and the usual dilemma,  stay where we are for distant, safe views , or drive on a small distance and see if we can get closer.  We drove.  And the kind bird tolerated us, for a while, then gave a super fly by quite close.  Too much fun.

We had a quiet photography time at 145W, and lunch, then it was on to Lake Borrie. My mates Neil and David turned up in the Prado,they were both out playing with new toys, A Canon 1D X and a Nikon D4. Ah, the joys of learning new equipment.

As we drove back the Brown Falcon had perched on the ‘Specimen Tree’ in Little River and we managed several great shots in the sunshine.

On toward the Bird-hide for some good views of Musk Duck, Great Crested Grebe and an obliging Swamp Harrier made the journey well worthwhile.

Then we took a quick detour toward the top end of Lake Borrie, and to my surprise and great delight—Picture if you will, a small child in a sweet-shop—I spotted some White-winged Terns hunting in the next pond.  (They used to be called White-winged Black Terns, but like many things name changes are important.)
Not that I cared as a most remarkable all Black flanked bird tacked into view.  It was in full breeding plumage, and has to be seen flashing over the water to be genuinely appreciated.   By now the memory cards were filling up. And they were just Mine!!!!!

These birds are only at WTP a few weeks during the year, and mostly never in breeding black plumage. Also every other time I’ve seen them it’s been raining.  See some other blogs on here.

A really top find, and a great way to end the day. A quick run up the highway. A refreshing cup of coffee and some good discussion on the finds of the day,- including a top shot of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Missed that one! ), and everybody back in their transportation and  time for home.

Thanks again to Graham “He who always has brilliant sunshine for his events”, and the pleasure of his visitor from Thailand, for such a good relaxing day, and so much to see, and to all those intrepid Meetup-erers who ventured down, and enjoyed the day with us.  Hope to see you all again down the track.

Enjoy.

A fine start to the day with a Black-shouldered Kite warming in the morning sunshine
A fine start to the day with a Black-shouldered Kite warming in the morning sunshine
At Crake HQ, an Australian Crake on good display.
At Crake HQ, an Australian Crake on good display.
A hunting we wiil go Whistling Kite over paddock
A hunting we will go. Whistling Kite over paddock
A Black Kite on a tight turn hunting small insects.
A Black Kite on a tight turn hunting small insects.
No one gets past here!
No one gets past here!
One of the finds of the day. Brolga in flight
One of the finds of the day. Brolga in flight
Brown Falcon on Specimen Tree
Brown Falcon on Specimen Tree
A Swamp Harrier on a tight turn. Another one for my "How to Sneak up on a Swamp Harier", book. :-)
A Swamp Harrier on a tight turn. Another one for my “How to Sneak up on a Swamp Harrier”, book. 🙂
White-winged Tern. What a great find, and this one in full breeding plumage.
White-winged Tern. What a great find, and this one in full breeding plumage.
So Good. Here is another.
So Good. Here is another.
White-winged Tern (formerly White-winged Black Tern for obvious reasons), this one is moulting in.
White-winged Tern (formerly White-winged Black Tern for obvious reasons), this one is moulting in.

 

Visiting Friends A day along the Beach at Point Cook

Was chatting with a birder friend, and I mentioned the Point Cook Coastal Park, and he said, that he didn’t plan to go there much as most of the birds were pretty common, and only occasionally was a Plover or a Pratincole enough to take the trip down there.

When we relocated home a couple of years back, Point Cook was on the top of my list as a suitable place, and to be honest, it was second, third and a close run fourth on the list.  And of course the logic was it was but a few minutes from the Coastal Park of the same name, and it would be neat to roll out of bed, and stroll on down to the park.

In the end, much wiser heads than mine  (EE as it turns out) found us the place that ‘we’ wanted and Tarneit took on our new home address.
But every so often when the light is right, and sometimes when its wrong we venture down to the Coastal Park.  And surprisingly, many of the common birds down there have become a bit like friends.
So today we went, not to count, nor to get our lists up, nor necessarily to capture the best bird photos ever, but to visit some friends.

Our friend the Brown Falcon was in the carpark area, and we enjoyed some time with it, as it hunted quite casually from the fence line.  Also found a number of Flame Robins that have made the park their winter beach residence.

And  of course the usual Pied, Little Pied and Great Cormorants down on the old jetty.   They gave us some pretty impressive flight displays while we sipped on a fine cuppa.

Then the local White-faced Heron, and the pair of Pacific Gulls cruised by hunting on the out-going tide.  And to our amusement, a pair of Black Swans how have obviously just coupled up were making interesting subjects as they hunted together on the gentle rolling outgoing tide.

As we walked back to carpark, the air literally filled with raptors.

At one point we had all up at the same time,  Little Eagle, Black Kite, Whistling Kite, Brown Falcon, Australian Hobby and Brown Goshawk.  I was hoping that the resident Spotted Harrier would make an appearance, but we had to be satisfied with those six.

We stopped along the road to look at some Flame Robins bathing in a tiny pool in a paddock, and some ‘new friends’, came over to say ‘hello’.  So we spent a few minutes becoming acquainted with several chesnut horses.

We might not have added any ‘new’ birds to our list, but we had as the Sans Bushman said, “Recognised some birds,and built a tiny connection with them, that is growing into a thread”

Enjoy.

A Band of Banded Brothers

Came upon a small band of Banded Stilts and Red-necked Avocets the other morning.

We had been looking for some locations for subjects for my book on “How to Sneak Up on a Swamp Harrier”. Needless to say the next chapter or two will for the short term be blank pages.

On one pond we happened in the best of traditions on a flock of Banded Stilts, and some companions.

So we settle down for about an hour or so.   While we were enjoying the birds, the sunshine and a cuppa, we were joined for a short while by a hunting party of Black Kite and a Black Falcon. We counted around 25 Black Kites and there were plenty spiralling down from a great height that we didn’t count any more.
Sort of added that sparkle to the day.

Enjoy

Dull day at the beach

One look at the weather map was enough, didn’t need no icon waving, weather talkin, danger predicting tv dude to tell me.  It was going to be cold, miserable, overcast and photographically crippling.

But.

We went anyway.

Mostly to see if the Flame Robins were at Point Cook, -yes.  Was the Pink Robin(s) there.  No. (well not that we could find)  Were the pair of Black Kites any further advanced with the reproduction activity. Jury out on that.

After being blown down toward the beach, the tide was well out.  Half blown out, I’d suggest.   And there were a pair of Pacific Gulls resting in the lee of the rocks.  And the shutter speed was on the never-never plan.

After awhile one of the gulls got up, flew to a rocky edge of the water and retrieved what I take to be a Sea Urchin.  This hard shell creature is more than it can break open by hitting on a rock. But, the species has developed over the years a working technique. Take the prize up about 20m and drop it on the rocks. Smash.  Or at least on the second attempt.
Waft down and enjoy the feast.

After performing this feat several times in front of us, it also attracted the usual scavengers and free loaders.   So on the incredibly strong wind several Whistling Kites came to pay a visit to their new ‘best’ mate.  However Pacific was having none of that and inspite of some clever wing work on the part of several attacking at once, the gull simply stood its ground.  In the end, they moved on to look elsewhere and gull went back to its snack. And then moved down the beach with the next catch.

Fire, smoke, an open paddock, simply add birds for action

One part of the family was off to Sydney for a holiday.  So how about we leave our car with you and go to Avalon airport?  Now the cool thing about saying yes to the request of course is that Avalon is but a mere 5 minutes from the WTP.  And well, we’d have to come back that way after all the farewells, and book ins and security checks, and stuff.

So we found ourselves on the Beach Road in the middle of the afternoon on a not too brilliant for photography day.    The folk at the farm had taken the opportunity of the change in the weather to conduct some control burns in some of the bigger fields.    And off course the raptors simply couldn’t resist the chance of fried or roasted or bbq locusts, mice, grasshoppers, lizards and the like.

As we travelled down the Beach Road, the sky was awash with larger birds.  Perhaps as many as 20 Whistling Kites, twice that number of Black Kites, at least two Australian Kestrels, and an assortment of Ravens, several squadrons of Australian Magpie and innumerable Magpie Larks.

From a photography point of view, the light was wrong and the birds too far away, but the old D2xS on the 300mm f/2.8, stepped up to the challenge. So the big birds swept over the still smouldering ground, or made a landing and picked up a morsel or two. Their friends sat on the fence line and the Whistling Kites kept up a constant call.   In the end, we just watched, and enjoyed them enjoying themselves.
A Black Kite became a target for a rather aggressive Whistling Kite and a sky wide battle ensued.   At first the Whistling Kite was much faster, could turn quicker, gain height faster and generally outfly the Black Kite. Quite a number of direct hits from above, below and the side ensued.    In the end, I decided that perhaps the Black was just taking it all and wasn’t really concerned by the output of energy by the Whistling Kite.   It ended by the Black gaining height and just sailing away.  The Whistler settled down for a rest on the fence.

On the other side of the road a Black-shouldered Kite busied itself in finding mice for its evening snack.

We also found a large family of Flame Robins.  The males looking a treat in the sunshine.  But far too far away to do them justice.
As we drove around Lake Borrie on the return home a pair of Cape Barren Geese were feeding in an open area.  Really perturbed by our audacity to encroach on their feeding spot, the male gave me a lecture and wing-waving display.  I apologised and we parted in good company.     Just have to be more careful about sneaking up on him.

With the light finally drifting into greyness, it was considered time for home.

 

A burst of late evening sunlight highlights the maize against the brilliant dark sky.
A burst of late evening sunlight highlights the maize against the brilliant dark sky.
Red burst from a Flame Robin male, one of 4 males and about 6-8 female/juveniles in the area.
Red burst from a Flame Robin male, one of 4 males and about 6-8 female/juveniles in the area.
Two Black Kites.  They are at completely different heights.
Two Black Kites. They are at completely different heights.
Australian Kestrel turning  for another sweep over the still smouldering paddock.
Australian Kestrel turning for another sweep over the still smouldering paddock.
One post one Kite
One post one Kite
In times of plenty everyone is friends
In times of plenty everyone is friends
Whistling Kite, vs Black Kite.  Probably not as one sided as it at first appeared.
Whistling Kite, vs Black Kite. Probably not as one sided as it at first appeared.
Completely uninterested in the bbq, this Black-shouldered Kite stuck to its larder.  A mouse.
Completely uninterested in the bbq, this Black-shouldered Kite stuck to its larder. A mouse.
Cape Barren Goose.  He is giving me a lecture on my tardiness in being in his territory.
Cape Barren Goose. He is giving me a lecture on my tardiness in being in his territory.
Late evening light over the You Yangs
Late evening light over the You Yangs

Evening around Werribee Treatment Plant

It only took a glance at the weather map in the paper, while I was at the coffee shop to conclude, “Golden Light Night Tonight”.

So a quick chat with EE and we were ready to go by mid afternoon.  I think the gear being loaded in the car was about as much persuasion as it took.

True to form the sky was a beautiful blue, the light was golden and the birds in the late evening light were active.  

I could go on about it, but the pictures probably are better at telling the story.

Enjoy. We did.

Brown Falcon about to launch.
Brown Falcon about to launch.
A very well fed Brown Falcon was enjoying the quiet while its meal went down.
A very well fed Brown Falcon was enjoying the quiet while its meal went down.
Swamp Harrier has just seen me and swung around to fly away.
Swamp Harrier has just seen me and swung around to fly away.
On Beach Road, an Australian Hobby has taken up residence for the moment.
On Beach Road, an Australian Hobby has taken up residence for the moment.
On a beach full of waders I found some Red-capped Plovers hard at work.
On a beach full of waders I found some Red-capped Plovers hard at work.
See, this is why we used to call them 'Spur-winged Plovers'
See, this is why we used to call them ‘Spur-winged Plovers’
A Whistling Kite in brilliant yellow light.
A Whistling Kite in brilliant yellow light.
From the Bird Hide. Extreme low tide meant a huge feeding ground for the hungry waders.
From the Bird Hide. Extreme low tide meant a huge feeding ground for the hungry waders.

Taking the early morning run to Western Treatment Plant

With the weather man predicting only more heat wave conditions, and the WTP being closed on Total Fire Ban days because of OHS issues, and good on ’em as far as I’m concerned.  Don’t want to be driving around in the heat trying to find birds hiding from the heat

We found a bit of a break in the hot days, and decided and early morning start was the best thing.  Rather than cover the usual spots we headed down to  southern end, known among birders as 29 Mile Road, T Section or the Spit. Also Murtcaim(n) and Pond 9.  The Brolgas had been seen among the ponds there and we thought it a good look see.

Here’s the way the day progressed.

DSC_0138

Found one of the Spotted Harriers up in the early morning mist.  That’s Avalon Aircraft Repair workshop in the distance.

DSC_0164

The second young one also put up, and we got some good views even if the light was against  us.

 DSC_0250 - Version 2

Golden-headed Cisticola came by to be sure we weren’t thinking of taking over its territory, and gave a us a good lecture just to prove its point.

DSC_0257 - Version 2

We did manage to find the Brolga engaged in team precision preening, but they were too far away, and the heat haze even in the early morning was a curse.

DSC_0282 - Version 2

A strong breeze really surprised these Golden-headed Cisticola, nearly blowing it off the rail. The leaning into the wing and wide stretch of the legs was all it could do to prevent it being swept away.

DSC_0306

Another great find were a pair of Cape Barren Geese, they did a great little head nodding performance before taking to the air.    I always feel a bit sad when I’ve partly been the cause of a bird taking flight.

DSC_0324

No such feeling with Swamp Harriers.  This bird had no intention of letting us get close under any circumstances and led us on a merry chase along one of the bunds, flying a brief spell, sitting until we caught up, and then wafting on down the road a hundred metres of so.

DSC_0350

At the moment, there is alway a Whiskered Tern or two to keep photographers amused and waste lots of time trying to nail that elusive best tern shot.  Its not that the birds don’t try hard enough.

DSC_0378

And that pair of Geese just would not sit still when we were around.

DSC_0414

My bird id skills let me down sometimes and the little grass birds are a good example, but this is a Horsfields Bushlark  (I hope).  It adopted a different technique to stay on the post, by crouching down.

DSC_0430

Back along the Point Wilson Road, one of the young Spotted Harriers had returned to the nest tree for a bit of a spell.

DSC_0482

And down along the rocks, the Sharp-tailed Sandpipers were ready to get down to work when the tide lowered a bit.

By late mid morning, the temp was up, the heat haze was reducing very expensive lens to the quality of my Mum’s Box Camera and coffee and a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich (not a bad alternative to a poi.), at the Highway Lounge. How could I resist

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

Diary Day #4 Out along the the River Road to Murraydale

Family gig took up much of the morning, so another trip to Goschen was pretty much ruled out.

“Gardener Ed,  (he works the gardens at the Murray Downs Resort), has some birds you should go and see.” So a chat with Ed, and yes its true he does have birds, and yes we would be welcome to go look see, so 11am, on the dot Mr An Onymous and I assembled in the carpark and then followed Ed back to look at his collection.  And a fine find it was too.  An was pretty happy as he managed to score a couple of tail feathers from Red-tailed Cockatoos.

Ed lives out at Woorinen South, and we’d only driven through there the previous day, so now we did the “explorer” thing and drove round to see the Lake, the Football Ground, and the Water supply. Pretty exciting stuff.  Even saw where I’d skinned me knee as a little tacker climbing in an old Malle Pine.

Now this sort of driving may seem a bit out of place and fraught with the possibility of getting lost, but the area was originally blocked off for soldier settler blocks, and so the roads all either run north/south or east/west, so its really just driving on a checkerboard.   We rounded a corner and there in the sky was a Black Kite, first for the day, so pretty  excited we stopped, got out and started to photograph the bird as it leisurely sweep over the crops.  First mistake. Second mistake was doing it just outside the driveway of the local Neighbourhood Watch.  Before we’d managed to get 2 frames exposed, said NW was in the vehicle and coming down the track to see, what  we were doing.  Now I’ve little time for explaining to folk that don’t want to listen that “We’re photographing birds, Mate!” That is NOT, I have discovered the answer to the question of “What the …..##$%% do you think you’re doing, and what .###%%% right do you have to do it here!!!!!&&&&###” 

Now I’ve also been made aware it’s not much point debating the issue of the lack(?) of “Bill of Rights” in Australia, and that the correct lawful response to such demands is,”I believe this to be public land, and as you have not identified yourself as a member of a  constituted law enforcement agency, I am minding my own business.”  Too may verbs and nouns in that sentence for your average NW.  Besides which, NW  carry things like shotguns and work on a different set of rules “Shot first and ask questions afterward“.

So with a quick flourish of cameras, we abandoned the Black Kite and resumed the safety of the car.  NW proceeded slowly, (almost wrote menacingly) out of the driveway and headed in our direction. I slowly, and politely, turned back on the roadway and looked straight ahead as we passed him.  NW went down to the corner, (read above if you are geographically embarrassed at this point)  turned around, and slowly followed us back along the road.  Then after stopping at his gate to be sure we were really leaving the area, turned back into said  driveway.  Mr An and I pondered that at least we’d given him something to do for the morning.

Enough excitement in that area, so we proceeded to cross the Murray Valley Highway, and were now deep into Murraydale.  This area was for the most part still well watered, and the home of a thriving dairy and beef industry.

The roads running east/west eventually run into the Murray River; only 5-10 Kilometres away as the Crow flies. So we tried several of the roads to see if we could find some good views along the river.
First up we found a pair of Australian Kestrels, hard at work trying to move on (I believe) a Brown Falcon.  So it was pretty certain they had young in the area.

We were discussing the merits of Round Hay bales vs Square Hay bales, (You can see immediately what a wonderful travelling companion I have), when a Whistling Kite made an appearance over the tree line. More stopping, but no NW this time, so all was well.   Now some of the tracks don’t run to the river.  They end up in a farmer’s front yard, so while Mr An looked for birds, I tried to keep us from visiting long lost members of the family.   EE’s family had a long association with Murraydale.  The elders of the clan had worked a dairy farm as far back as the 1930s, and several of the latter part of the clan had run as share–farmers out here.  One still had a caravan parked on the riverside on one of the properties.  On the other hand trying to explain, “We’re photographing birds, Mate!, and we are related to…… “, or “Oh, I went to school with your brother Peter ,” didn’t seem to have any more ring of likely success, so I tried to avoid the driveways. Besides, farmers have bigger guns, and dogs with really, really sharp teeth.

We turned on to The River Road, and went past the Abattoir. “Why are we going down here?” quizzically asked.    “For Black Kites’, I replied.  “But there’s hardly likely to be any down here”.  As one black kite flew by the front windscreen, then another lifted over the road, and by the time I’d stopped we had 5 or more Kites circling quietly over the road.  “Oh”.

We eased on down the road to the turn-around area for the stock-trucks, and then climbed up on to the river bank.    Then. Out of the trees on the other side, a White-bellied Sea Eagle threw, gathered speed across the river and went over the treetops above us.  I am pretty convinced it’s done this manoeuvre more than once, as it flew across the paddock, found a thermal, and in seconds was heavenwards.  Taking with it the flotilla of Black Kites.  Again, have to say, not sure they were in pursuit, as it was a no contest, those huge wings just pick up the air.  The grins on both of our faces said it all.  I gained points as bird finder and expedition leader, and Mr An had a new story to tell of Sea Eagles over the inland Murray.

Update***The shots show it in brown plumage and its certainly a juvenile.

Time for a coffee, and after circling a roundabout  of decision making, both figuratively and literally, we were soon reunited with family and I enjoyed a Vienna Coffee and fired up Flickr on the Macbook Air.

Black Kite at Woorinen South
Black Kite at Woorinen South
Pair of Kestrels trying to dislodge an unwelcome visitor.
Pair of Kestrels trying to dislodge an unwelcome visitor.
Pied Butcherbird who gave us a great concert of its carolling.
Pied Butcherbird who gave us a great concert of its carolling.
Whistling Kite. Note the 'double tail'. Perhaps its moulting a new tail.
Whistling Kite. Note the ‘double tail’. Perhaps its moulting a new tail.
Whistling Kite.
Whistling Kite.
Black Kite, one of many
Black Kite, one of many
Rocket Express.  With a staggering turn of speed this White-bellied Sea Eagle swung across the river, gained height, and then picked up a thermal.
Rocket Express. With a staggering turn of speed this White-bellied Sea Eagle swung across the river, gained height, and then picked up a thermal.
White-bellied Sea Eagle and friend.  Not sure it was much of a contest for the  Sea Eagle.  Game over.
White-bellied Sea Eagle and friend. Not sure it was much of a contest for the Sea Eagle. Game over.

Counting at Mt Rothwell

One of the nice new pleasures we get from being in the area is to catch up with the Werribee Wagtails birding group.
They have a number of projects for bird counting and one them is at Mt Rothwell.

So we followed the roads out the back of Little River and met up with the eager bird counters.
Mt Rothwell is near the excellent You Yangs and is a fully enclosed area so there are some heavy duty gates to get through before the serious counting begins.

On this day, however there was a wonderful strong breeze at work, and it was the first really cool day after the heat so the big birds were up in numbers all looking to catchup on their dietary requirements.

The area also has a very strong educational programme and there are some great walking tracks covering the area which is mostly light scrub, trees and some great rolling hills with lots of boulders and rocky outcrops.

So we set off. I got side tracked by a Striated Pardalote, and spent about 10 minutes photographing it, and by the time I’d gotten back on the track. Well, the count and counters had moved on.  Easy enough, just go along the track thought I.  Till I came to a Y in the road.  Always take the ‘right’ one is the advice I’ve worked with over the years.  Not always good advice and in this case dead wrong.  After about 10 minutes I came to an open field and looking along the track not a counter to be seen. Wrong track I thought. So a bit of bush bashing got me across to the ‘right’ left track, and no sign of said counters.
After a bit of scouting about, I found that Arthur had left an “Arrow” of sticks at the next junction, and from there it was walk fast until I caught up.  But, the track swept around to the right, and I figured the track had to sweep back again. Remember its a fenced off area.  Easy said I.  Over the top of the rise in front of me, stand on the top of a rock and they should be visible.  So saying I did.  And.  Yep, there they were way over there.  More scrub work.

Needless to say EE was not to happy with my tardiness, and I think I got a black mark on my name from the walk leader who was getting a bit concerned about having to ‘find’ said missing dude.

No more Pardalotes for me for the rest of the day.

With the strong wind running the raptors, which include, Whistling Kites, Black Kites, Brown Falcons, Little Eagles and Australian Kestrels, were in their element.  Such a great site to see so many soaring birds.  And I didn’t have to get misplaced to see them.

In the afternoon we walked the opposite side of the park and came to a large open field.  “Hmm,” said I, “I’ve been here already once earlier today!”

Hopefully I’ll be allowed back next time.

Diamond Firetail on display.
Diamond Firetail on display.
This is why they are called Diamond "Firetails"
This is why they are called Diamond “Firetails”
A Striated Pardalote. Probably at the last one I'll photograph.
A Striated Pardalote. Probably at the last one I’ll photograph.
Juvenile Red-browed Finch at a small waterhole.
Juvenile Red-browed Finch at a small waterhole.
How to tell the difference between a Tree Martin and two Welcome Swallows.
How to tell the difference between a Tree Martin and two Welcome Swallows.
Over the tree tops at a great rate. This Brown Falcon was no doubt enjoying the strong winds
Over the tree tops at a great rate. This Brown Falcon was no doubt enjoying the strong winds
In coming
In coming
Brown Falcon on active duty
Brown Falcon on active duty

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.

Sunshine in late Autumn at Western Treatment Plant

My friend Dieter and I planned a day down at WTP,  he because he wanted to try out the new D800, and me because I like to go down there.

We left early and beat the morning traffic, and were just getting the gear out of of the camera bags at the turn off to Point Wilson, when an explosive whistle and cry came from directly overhead in the trees, after a few seconds it was obvious it was a Whistling Kite in full voice.  Followed by an equally loud squeal from a Black-shouldered Kite, before both of them came barrelling out of the tree line.  The Whistling Kite being fairly aggressively attacked by the Black-shouldered Kite.

By this time we had the cameras out and were hard at work.  The BSK made a number of fast passes over the struggling for wind speed, Whistling Kite, and it was struck several times by its protagonist.  The shot here shows the Whistling Kite with claws out as it has just defended off the aggro Black-shouldered Kite,  it is possible to see a few loose feathers floating away.

After a heavy pursuit, the Whistling Kite gained some height and speed, and by then it was well away from the tree-line.  The Black-shouldered Kite came back and started a second pursuit of a Goshawk, but it managed to slip away without any thing more damaged than its pride. The BSK, then patrolled the treeline and all and sundry were aware of its stake to territory.

The rest of the day was nowhere near as dramatic, except for a Brown Falcon playing catch me if you can along a fence line.  But I was driving and Dieter was the one working in the new D800.

A Black-shoudlered Kite making an aggressive pass on a Whistling Kite who was doing all it could to defend itself against a constant attack. The loose feathers are from a direct hit by the BSK.