Been a long time between posts, I know. Hope you remember me!
But the excuse—I’m going to use—is that we just haven’t been doing much that is reportable.
Long term readers may remember that the blog was originally set up to record the bird activity at Grey Box forest at Woodlands Historic Park. Quite a few things have changed, in the park, and in my birding life, and in my life since those humble beginnings.
It has been said more than once, sometimes kindly, others not, that I have Grey Box sap running in my veins. Put me in a stand of Grey Box and my heartrate, breathing and all other out of contol faculties calm down.
So when EE said, casually, ‘Why don’t we go to Eynesbury”, on a sunny morning, before you can say, “We’re off” we were!
After all the rain, Eynesbury Grey Box looks a treat. Plenty of green and still good water laying about in the usual dry water courses that cross the forest.
We had hoped to see Speckled Warbler, Diamond Firetail, Sacred Kingfisher and Jacky Winter. In descending order of importance.
We also had hoped to hear the forest ringing with the sounds of Dusky Woodswallows that regularly return to nest in the area.
However Grey Box is not always forthcoming and in the end we had to admit, that today was not going to be our day.
My mate Chris L, he of Mt Rothwell, and formerly Western Treatment Plant, fame has established a monthly bird walk around the Eynesbury Grey Box Forest.
It is a pretty informal arrangement, no signing of paper and turning up is about the only requirement.
“Are you interested in coming on Sunday?”, he said. Hmm. Didn’t really have to consult the diary. “Be there at 10 of the clock,” says he.
And so EE and I hit the road to Eynesbury in some brilliant sunshine. When Chris organises a day, well, he organises the weather too.
By start time, about half a dozen locals, and Geraldine from Werribee Wagtails – Now BirdLife Werribee, turned up. Chris really wants to make it an opportunity for the local residents to enjoy the forest around their village.
Eynesbury is built around a golf course (well not really, but on the other hand, really). Another golfing friend, took a trip out there one day, saw the greens, and the area, and was back the following day to sign up for a villa. Nothing like a game of golf that starts from your front step.
Surrounding the man-made, is the indomitable Grey Box. This is one of the largest stand of Grey Box left in Victoria. Something the locals are particularly proud of, and with every right.
We set off along the track that leads around the ornamental lake. Lake being a somewhat strange term at the moment as the dry weather has reduced it to a series of water holes. And a home now for a number of Black-fronted Dotterels, among the usual ducks and other waders. The cormorant families have had to move on.
A trip around the lake led us off into the wilds of suburbia as we walked along a track between the forest and the residences. Many little bush birds, particularly Superb Fairy-wrens along here. It seemed that there was about one Fairy-wren clan to every front yard.
Across a dry creek and into the forest proper and the call of Brown Treecreepers announced our presence. Then a Jacky Winter couple, and the familiar call of Diamond Firetails, but search as we might we didn’t spot them today.
A bit of ramble through the thickets between the Grey Box and we were nearing the end of our morning. When a call of an Crested Shrike-tit echoed across the open area. After quite a bit of searching, I’d concluded we’d missed it, and a cuppa beckoned.
Not so Christo. With stoic patience he continued, and a “Here it is!” was really a grand statement of his birding skills. The group hurried to see. And not only one, but two and working very close to the track and unperturbed by our presence.
The photographers were in for a treat and we were shown the skills needed to both track down and extract grubs from the most unlikely places among the bark.
And all too soon we were back in the carpark, and farewelling the lovely area.
Astute reader that you are, you’ll have recalled that the last posting here was a trip to Eynesbury for a visit to some Woodswallows at Nursery.
Decided on a whim today, to take another trip to the same spot not that we expected to find the Woodswallows still on nest, but y’know, perhaps we might be lucky.
Well time, tide and Woodswallow fledglings wait for no photographer, and they had indeed taken to wing. Now of course it was a new challenge.
But there is something relaxing indeed about a pot of tea, (Earl Grey- see the connection?) in a Grey Box forest. So we sat. And slowly the forest began to reveal those hidden secrets.
Over there, Tree Martins, still feeding young. On the other side a pair of Rufous Whistlers who entertained with their calls. More Brown Treecreepers than you can count, and most of them either at nest, or ferrying food for demanding young.
And my favourite find. Jacky Winter. The pair near out sit spot had two young and were keeping them up in the tops of the trees, but we still had enjoyable encounters.
Off to look for Matilda the Pacific-black Duck who has taken over a hollow, and to my surprise, she was still domicile, but only her carefully crafted wing tip feathers were showing her presence. Must be close for her now. I’ve no idea where she is going to lead them to water, but the nearest must be about 2km away through the scrub.
In the same area, lo and behold a second pair of Jacky Winter, with two well advanced young. I’d be betting these were the same birds we photographed in the area last year. One of the adults adjusted to my presence in a few minutes and continued to feed and preen quite closely. Then it (she?) sat down on the ground a few metres away and “sun-hazed” and quite went into a trance. Satisfied I was no danger, it allowed some fine portraits to be made.
And the I heard the wheezy call of a Diamond Firetail watching the portrait session.
As we started for home we came across the White-browed Woodswallows feeding some young, and then a family of Brown Treecreepers looking after their growing juveniles.
Of course no trip to Eynesbury would be complete without a sighting of the elusive Speckled Warbler, and to both our delights one flew by as we walked back to the car, and then began to feed on the small slope nearby. No close approaches with this bird, so my score of great photos of this little dude is still intact. Zero.
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.