Little Visits: Serendipitous

We went to a BirdLife Werribee, (formerly Werribee Wagtails) monthly outing that included an afternoon at Serendip Sanctuary.

It’s a fairly close park for us, and we visit several times a year, and if the granndies turn up, it’s a day out in the field, but on formed tracks, and things to do, so makes a pleasing family day.  And it’s quite close to Lara Village and a certain Routley’s Bakery Pie shop. Which proved too much of a draw for Mr An Onymous and me, so we stopped off for lunch on the way through.
Furphy’s Ale and beef for him. Tandoori lamb for self.

I’m always a bit uneasy about photographing in an enclosed sanctuary area. It’s not a matter of ethics—per se—but, rather always seems to me a less challenging experience than working with the birds in the field. After all, the kangaroos have already seen a 1,000 tourists this week, so you are not exactly interesting.  They also know, people stay on the tracks, yell a lot, and move on. Some even wave, point fones at themselves and ‘whatever animal is that in the background?’ selfies abound.
So truth be told I normally wander through the area ohh and ahh appropriately, try not to get upset when someone points at a Tawny Frogmouth and says, “Oh, look, what a cute little owl!” and enjoy others enjoying their wildlife experience. (I’m not a spoil sport entirely!!!)

However it seems I’m mellowing with age. 😉

After so many trips, I’ve come to respect the locals. In their locality. Not only the ones in enclosures, but also the ‘visitors’, that have stayed on as Star Boarders. Quite a lot of the bird life is free on the wing and come and go as the season dictates. Others, for various reasons, including breeding programmes, are permanent.

And, what I’ve discovered from all that is I’m not so fussed about the lack of challenge, and much more interested in the closeup portrait.  The challenge for me is working with the bird for the right setting/location/lighting and then allowing them the freedom to move about unstressed. A humbling experience, but really has given me a feel of involvement with them as individuals. So much so that I look forward to being in their area, and hoping I’ll be able to make the best of the moments they share.

Of special interest to me is a pair of Cape Barren Geese.  These big birds have settled in to make Serendip their home territory, and with ready provided food, can you blame them. It’s nesting time right now.  One enterprising pair have made a nest site among some downed branches and scrub, not more than 5 metres from the main walking track. I spotted him first, and as he paced back and forth as people went by, I wondered, “Where is you mate”, and then I saw her.  All tucked up in her ‘secure’ haven.

The rest of the Wagtails tour/ensemble, moved on. I sat down with the pair for about 10 minutes.  Now a sitting goose doesn’t do a lot. Yet, the warm image of ‘mum’ raising her young, is such a classical performance.

Choughness, as this blog has often commented is a joy and delight to behold, especially as we don’t know the rules.
Inside the enclosure with the Brolga, there is a feeding station about brolga height. But rather attractive to your passing White-winged Chough. Except, they don’t have a good ‘hovering-flying’ technique, and so couldn’t access the food by sitting on the edge of the feeder. No where for them to attach.
Coughness is never defeated by such mere challenges.  So bend down, spring up on uncoiled legs, flap once to get direction, sail into the open feeder, grab a beak full and use those same wings to flutter back to the ground. Innovation at its best.

There is a bird enclose that houses quite a number of birds in a fly aviary.
Interestingly Buff-banded Rails are there in good numbers, and often Freckled ducks. One of the rails that I saw was quite white, so it must be a leucistic (the cells don’t have the ability to make colour).
And while I was there admiring that ‘Cute little owl’ (ggrrrr- it’s a Tawny Frogmouth!!!!), a pair of King Parrot turned up for a looksee at why wasn’t I walking through, yelling, pointing, and waving a fone about.  Thanks Mrs King, a lovely portrait session.

A day at Serendip is always a good experience with the birds, and now I’ve discovered my new friendships with them, I’ll look forward to the next trip to enjoy the photography of them as individuals, and find ways to express their character in a much more sympathetic manner.

Emu Portrait, in soft light. Finding the right background is the challenge
Oh, there you are, all tucked up in a safe nest
Sitting pretty, watching the parade of humans walking by
With a one, and two, and go. Coiled up like a spring it has to leap/flap about a metre and a half to get to the covered over feeding area.
As the old cartoony used to say, “Thunderbirds are GO!”
Incoming. Fiercely protective male makes a stunning entrance.
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Buff-banded Rail, not exactly blending in like its neighbors. Best guess is leucisim.
Mrs King, always looking resplendant.

 

Enjoy

Bounding about Banyule

The Beginners Group of Melbourne Birdlife Australia were having a day at the Banyule Flats park,  and as luck would have it the Meetup Bird Photography group were going to be there in the afternoon.  Not one to have too to many things conflicting in the diary, (euphemism in there), we decided to go and enjoy the park side area.

Its been a great place at previous events and the weather looked ok, to so so, so we took the (now) considerable drive across town.

Over 45 active birders joined us and a good day was in the offing. Probably one of the highlights were excellent views (if somewhat average pictures on my part) of a Latham’s Snipe,  (a new one for me. Thank you)

The area also seemed to have more than its fair share of Tawny Frogmouth and we counted 7 for the day.

The folk from Meetup Bird Photography Group turned up, and we had a second attempt at some of the birds.

A Buff-banded Rail, eluded photography in the morning group, and didn’t improve in the afternoon group.  Some had good sightings and photos of a Sacred Kingfisher and we had some lovely views of the wing feathers on an Australasian Darter.

I was working with my newly acquired 70-200 mm f/2.8 and a Teleconverter TC1.7.  Made the field of view equivalent to about 500mm stopped down a little to keep sharpness and really had a good day, and got some super images without the need to lug heavy tripods into the field.   It will get to go on another expedition anytime soon.

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Beautiful colours on the Straw-necked Ibis

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Latham’s Snipe.  A very relaxed bird, but it could afford to be well out in the water and away from easy photography.

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First find your Buff-banded Rail.

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A young Kookaburra waiting for the family to return, perhaps with a nice meal.

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Tawny Frogmouth

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This one was against the light and really did take on the “branch” look and fooled quite a number of eager birdwatchers.

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Tucked up tight against the tree.

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Another failed Buff-banded Rail shot

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Australasian Darter shows its wonderful wing patterns.

Black Swan at WTP

There is a banding program with the Black Swans run by www.myswan.org.au  and today we had the chance to get up close and personal to J19.  Now this is not going to be a tirade on the fors and againsts of banding, but they are doing some interesting work in collecting data about the swan’s movements and mating and breeding.

So we decided to adopt J19.  Turns out it is a female, about 4 years old, or at least if I figure out the numbers that is when she was banded. She was banded at Albert Park Lake and has been there for about three years.  She seems to have first been sighted at WTP in January 2012.  At the moment, because of the huge population of juvenile birds, there is much pairing going on I suspect.

She is up in 145A Lagoon Area at WTP, and we will keep a check on her movements if at all possible. I will open up a blog page just to keep updates. See blog Here  J19 info

Here she is.

J19 in her best dressed banded number

Also found a co-operative Brown Falcon.  It stayed on the post as I inched the car closer and closer. Just managed to slip away a split second before I could get back on the camera.  Love the backwards glance.

Brown Falcon

Just as we were leaving with the sun setting as I was closing the exit gate on Paradise Road, Dorothy spotted a Buff Banded Rail hunting in the mud-flats. Dieter who was with us thought it was quick enough to be a road-runner.

The sun was well set by the time we were on the road home, but the Rail did provide a few minutes entertainment.

Buff-banded Rail. The blue spots are reflections of the overhead blue sky. We have a photoshop trick to fix that.

Buff-banded Rail and young

Most of the time these birds are not only hard to find, but hard to see.  This bird and its mate had brought the young down on to the exposed low-water mud flats and they spent a lot of time feeding, and foraging among the grass overhangs.

A Whistling Kite patrolled down the waterline and she took the young back under the grass overhangs, and here they are just coming out again.

Buff-banded Rail