My friend Nina was down at the WTP last week.
She sent me a note of her adventures, and has kindly allowed me to share them here.
In a galaxy far, far, far, far, away, in another time, Nina and I both worked for a large multi-national. Her love of the environment and my natural history photography have kind of kept us in touch.
All the photos, words and story are Nina’s. Obviously copyright, and intellectual property rights belong to her and should be honoured.
Here is what she sent me.
I had an extraordinary experience at the WTP with friends last Friday.
Where ever we went, we kept running into Brolgas.
On Kirks Point track we watched some Brolgas playing with a tennis ball for more than an hour. At first I thought they were trying to eat it, but after a while I realised they were just playing. One would drop it and the next one >would pick it up. They would also pass it to each other. I have many blurry photos because I was shaking with excitement. The memories of thisclose encounter will be with me for ever.
The images are linked to a larger version so just double click to see. Be Amazed!
If you would like to contact Nina drop me a note and I’ll pass on the details.
I was going solo at the Western Treatment Plant. #kneetoo was tucked up in her wide view bird-hide at the hospital, and as the sun was shining in a clear blue sky, I thought a quick trip to check to see if any Flame Robins could be making the most of the weather and the paddocks at the Plant.
However after a bit of fruitless searching it was obviously not going to be my day for robins.
A final quick trip around the “T Section” area just in case a Brown Falcon or two might be present and then home was my plan.
As I unlocked the entry gate to the area, I heard the long rasping call away off in the distance of Brolga. A scan around the horizon and it was not likely I’d spot any as the calls had been a long way off, and had now stopped.
I prepared to shut the gate and another birdo was approaching to go out, so I held the gate open and said I’d lock it as they left. Then, just as I swung the gate across the road, that rasping cry filled the air, and this time I’d id’d the location. Sure enough in the air were three Brolga. Then as the shapes grew more distinct, it was likely that they were not only coming in my direction, but would perhaps make a pretty close pass by.
Locking the gate, I grabbed the camera and hoped that the pass would be on the sunny side of iAmGrey.
The more I watched, the more I became aware they would be using the roadway behind me as sort of navigation aid, and would pass right over the top of me.
And they did.
They disappeared behind one of the bunds, and I wondered where they had ended up.
Satisfied with the fly by, I went on to look along the roadways. Time for a cuppa, so I pulled up at one of the cross tracks and pulled out the doings.
Then the croaking call rattled over the ponds and I looked a bit further along the track and the pair were in head stretch calling mode, and engaging in a little pair bonding. Cuppa forgotten, I moved along the track for a better looksee.
They settled down to some preening and feeding and the juvenile with them was feeding in one of the shallow ponds.
I went back for my Cuppa and sat and watched until they moved off the pondage and up on to the track, and moved further along to continue their morning routine.
Satisfied, I packed up and headed off for a visit with the patient.
Tis true to say that EE and I haven’t been down to the Western Treatment Plant for quite a number of weeks. The weather, health things, family events and perhaps a touch of sloth just seems to have gotten in the way.
My photo mate Neil, sent me a note about his last weekend trip, and we decided if the weather opened up a bit, we’d at least drive down 29 Mile Road for a looksee.
So this morning after a couple of Tai Chi class sessions, we loaded up with lunch, a cuppa or two of Earl of Grey and of course the essential cameras and headed out in the warm sunshine, (and to tell all the story, the rather crisp wind as well).
Before we reached Beach Road junction, we spied some Flame Robins, but they wanted to work far out in a paddock, and we could only get glimpses.
Further on down, and a trio of Black-shouldered Kites were keeping the mice on their toes.
And as we sat with lunch at the first corner on the 29 Mile Road, a Spotted Harrier wafted by making some very nervous Swamphens. As we entered the T Section area, we were looking for Brolga as Neil had sighted them here at the weekend, but we lucked out.
Next we found a single Flame Robin female that was working around a puddle of water on the roadway.
Looking up, I heard the familiar call of a Black-shouldered Kite with a mouse, and as we looked a Black Falcon swept in from no where and after a little evasion from the Kite, the Falcon secured the prize and took off with the erstwhile and very angry kite in hot pursuit, but to no avail. The Black is just that good in the air.
As we drove back out, lo, the very Brolga had turned up in the first pond and were busy preening, we shared the last of the Earl of Grey and enjoyed their unconcerned wardrobe adjustments.
So for a first day back at the farm, it was a most enjoyable and profitable time.
A search on the Bureau of Meteorology website, has quite a bit of info on the lack of rain in mid of Australia. See here http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/drought/
At the bottom of the page is a couple of graphs that begin to put it all in perspective.
And as it dries out, it seems, that quite a number of birds are moving south. Or toward the eastern coast.
And we’ve seen quite a change in the numbers of smaller falcons and kites in our area. In the space of a 10 minute drive the other day we saw 14 Nankeen Kestrel.
So we took a trip to the Western Treatment Plant on a sunny morning.
“the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”
The weather map showed a large high stalled over us for most of the day. “Let’s do an evening at the Western Treatment Plant”, saith, I. “We could take down the picnic, and have a fine old evening watching the sunset over the bay, and maybe photograph a few birds, and well, just enjoy the evening sea breeze. What thinkest thou?”.
A call to Mr An Onymous, and the famed, and legendary “Blackmobile” was on the highway loaded with his fine repast. EE and I decided on a Peri-Peri Chicken Salad, and a round of Earl of Grey.
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.
Had the pleasure of the company of Edaurdo and Maria from Chile, on a day at the Western Treatment Plant. Of course on their list was Brolga. And despite some good sightings the past few weeks, of course, we failed to find any at all during the day.
On the way out as the sun was slowly sinking in the west, as it apparently does regularly, we spotted a pair on a paddock that has been ploughed over by the Farm team. With a light breeze to pickup the dust, and a softly setting sunlight, the stage was well prepared for a touch of the prancing and dancing that these awesome birds are capable of.
Hard not to take lots of frames, and here is a short selection, I’ve also made a slide show gallery that animates it a little.
Over the past couple of weeks, the Brolgas that are down in the WTP have been a bit more open and readily noticeable. Either because of their walking along the roads along the bunds, or by flying in from seemingly nowhere.
At first I took to them as photo challenge. Big bird, easy to spot, fairly photogenic.
However after a couple of weeks of working with them, I am enamoured. These wonderful creatures with personalities all their own have walked, sung, and danced their way deep into my heart.
Not that its a two sided partnership. They are very people averse and make their feelings on the subject well know, both vocally and by voting with their feet, or wings.
We had decided EE, Mr An Onymous and I to take advantage of the cool of the morning as being the best way to get the best light and to make a concerted effort to locate the Brogla. Now like all birds, they don’t leave signs, or calling cards, so we left an hour or so after sunup and began our quest.
By mid-morning the score was photographers 0 Brolga 3. Then as we were going along the bund to Murtcaim(n) outflow, we saw the Helmutmobile on the other side of the pond, and on the road in front of him. A pair of Brolga. Apparently on a shopping expedition, or perhaps a philosophical stroll in the morning. As Mr An has rightly pointed out, they walk fast on those big legs. And it was as much as I could do to follow along on the opposite bank, as they headed on down to the other end of the pond.
At one point we (both) came upon a mob of Black Swans in the pond, and they were startled either by me, or more likely on reflection, the Brolga. Much wing clattering, foot splashing and eventually they got airborne.
The Brogla stopped, turned their heads, and I thought “Oh, No, they’ll fly too!” But instead they set up a constant calling and looking in the direction of the Swans, and I think I learned some Brolga speak. “Well, Look at those silly swans, we sure scared them. ”
See Helmut’s shot of the Swans in complete disarray on the wing.
Satisfied that honour had been done, they turned and walked nonchalantly off down the road.
I moved to the end of the road, and the pool. There is a road running along there and I figured, they will either turn left and be gone down the road or they might just as well turn right and walk pretty much right past me. However, like all good stories, there was a third possibility that I hadn’t counted on. They walked over the roadway, down the bank on the other side and disappeared into the grass. Brolga 4.
We stopped at the Murtcain(m) outflow, but the tide was in and the best we could do was a nice cuppa and a chat.
When silently as stealth bombers, 3 grey shapes came over the paddock, dropped into the lagoon and immediately started walking. They were much to far out for anything really decent, Brolga 5.
However not to be outdone, I walked down to the end of the roadway and slipped along the roadside trying to get as close, and hoping they would feed across toward my position. Photographer 1.
What happened next was the highlight of my day, probably my month, and might even be my year. (I don’t aim high!).
One of the three, the smallest, stopped walking. Turned about and danced. Now most have heard of the prowess of these birds as exceptional dancers. Don’t believe it. They are much much more than exceptional. To see a video is one thing. To see the elegance, lightness, the subtly of turn, and the wing movements is nothing else other than breathtaking. Its ability to step, and twist and turn and jump in a co-ordinated manner can’t be explained and a few still shots, don’t even begin to touch the scope of the repertoire. Photographer 2.
And it was doing it for itself. The other two took no part and took no notice.
I’ve concluded they do it because its fun. They enjoy it, and it’s an expression of being alive. I know anthropomorphism is frowned upon. I don’t care, I think they have emotions and this one wanted to enjoy the moment.
The heat haze over the water affected most of the shots, but none the less, its only encouraged me to continue working with these birds and hopefully they will grace me with another performance.