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.

A morning at Western Treatment Plant

Just look at the calendar!  It’s the end of April already.  Although I suppose a look out the window at anytime would confirm it is coming on to winter.

I make no excuses, I like to go to the Treatment Plant in the afternoons.  The light just runs down the roadways at a better angle.  Because there are so many limitations about position in Werribee getting the light direction is one of the keys to great photos down there. So daylight saving is my friend in all this endevour.

But come winter, well, things change a bit.  The sun is down by 5 pm, and so there is little time to get about the places we like to work from.  So for the next few months, we are back to early morning starts. (No point getting there at lunch time as the birds are past the hungry at all costs mode).  The light is harder to work with because the angle of the early morning sun is always lower and 3/4 backlight at best.

So in keeping with all that we loaded the car in the evening, set the alarm, and ventured out just as it was breaking daylight.  A better run down the Ring-road too.

As soon as we turned of the freeway onto Point Wilson Road, we found some Red-rumped Parrots.  A short distance along and Flame Robins were on the fence.  And on the Paradise Road, and the road to Ryans Swamp, past the pumphouse.  And a lovely Brown Falcon who sat motionless on a fence post and stared us down.  I edged the car past it, on the far far side of the road, and with the long 500mm had to shoot vertically to get it all in. And then it flew. So I got a crop, but am pretty happy with the result.

More Flames down at Chirnside Road gate, and then a fruitless search for Swan J19.

We travelled back along the road to the Bird Hide and in quick succession scored a lovely Swamp Harrier, a pair of White-bellied Sea Eagles and a Buff-banded Rail.  Not content we stopped near the Outflow from Lake Borrie and were entertained by five Black-shouldered Kites who  seemed to be enjoying the light breeze and playing a game of ring-around-a-rosie, from the outflow sign and a large bush.  No aggression, just plain fun.

More Flames along Beach Road, and a tree full of lovely yellow/green parrots.

We trundled down 29 Mile Road, and were amazed to find a single male Nankeen Kestrel,- the first we have seen at WTP (I had heard of it from reports on Victoria BirdLine.).
It hunted up the paddock, dive-snatched a mouse, and sat on the fence line to consume it.  So I moved the car forward a bit, it moved up about 3 posts.  I moved again, it moved up 4 posts, I moved again, and it moved even further.  A game of diminishing returns for me, and a success for the Kestrel.  Still I managed to get a few record shots of it at work.  Must go again. Hope its still there.
The farm management were in the process of some controlled burns on the grass lands, and amongst the smoke could be seen 5 or 6 Whistling Kites waiting for some action.  They seemed to be calling to one another, which is such a great sound, sends shivers down my spine.

Brown Falcon in early morning light. It allowed us to bring the car with in about 10m, which meant with the long lens I had to shoot vertical to get it all in.
Just airborne. I waited, as it went though all the pre-flight checks, and probably was a little too early on the shutter. Was shooting vertical, so had to put up with a horizontal crop in the end.
This one is at Chirnside Road Gate
It made a turn out of the waterway just in front of our position. The early morning light filtered through the mist has kept contrast down, and highlight the wing and tail feathers. No clever post processing, just a little lightening up on the head.

Whistling Kite and Prey

Given the ongoing fine autumn weather and the oncoming long weekend which would be filled up with all sorts of other activities, Dorothy and I took the chance and went to the Treatment Plant for the afternoon.  And the weather held.

We didn’t  find the elusive Brolgas, but that only means trying harder next time, spotted a good sized flock of Red-necked Stints, some with a nice on colouring of red, and also near Kirks Point located some Magpie-geese.

A little further on a Welcome Swallow sat motionless on the fence wire as the car approached and as I literally inched forward, it stood its ground until it was filling the frame in the 300mm lens.  At about 2.8 metres.  Then it preened and pretended that we weren’t there, but we had such a great view of the light of the dark coloured feathers as  they flashed blue in the sunshine.

Welcome Swallow

A little later on as the sun was drifting toward the horizon and thoughts of dinner and going home were upon us, a Whistling Kite made a pass over some trees and then landed just out of sight. By the time we had turned the corner, it has decapitated its prey and was struggling to get into  the air.  Without any breeze to give it extra lift it was all hard work and it made a pass across our viewpoint as it tried to get above the tree line.  Guesses at to what it had taken abound.  The long wings of the bird made it difficult for the kite to use its tail as the wings kept getting in the way. No doubt it retired satisfied with its day’s work.

In the late evening light this Whistling Kite was trying to find a place to set down wiht its uncooperative prey. The wings of the unfortunate bird kept getting in the way of the kites tail feather adjustments

Cape Barren Geese are funny creatures.  We came across this pair in some sort of dance display.  It is time we purchased a movie camera.