Long time readers will no doubt recall that I often claim to have Grey Box sap running in my veins.
These amazing old trees are the superstructure for the type of forest and forest birds that I really enjoy working with. And as Woodlands Historic Park has such an untouched stand of Grey Box, its not hard to see why I love it as I practically learned my forest birds craft out there.
Another find stand of Grey Box is at Eynesbury near Melton.
Every second month the local Eynesbury Environmental Group, here’s their facebook page, conducts a morning walk in the forest for interested locals and visitors.
Chris Lunardi does a super job of getting us out in to the forest to look at some of the lesser visited areas and to find interesting birds.
Chris also seems to have an amazing ability to chose days where the weather is kind. And this past Sunday was no exception.
Probably the highlights of the day were a pair of very vocal Peregrine Falcon, and several sightings of Diamond Firetails.
Diamond Firetails often are found around the lawns and golf greens in good numbers, and occasionally a few birds through the bush. We managed to find them in 4 locations throughout the day.
Had to wrestle with the title. After all the majority of Freckled Ducks I’ve ever seen have been asleep on the bank or on logs. No swimming about for these ducks. Sleeping is their number one activity. And I suspect they have turned it into an art form.
At Eynesbury there is a small clan of Freckled Duck and they seem pretty content with the area and are to be found most days we travel out there.
We were coming back to the vehicle after spending an afternoon with the nesting Jacky Winter and had stopped at a table by the dam for a quick cuppa before the trip home.
Which is when for some Duck Reason, the Freckled all sailed off the little island were they had been preening or snoozing and came by for a quick swim about. Didn’t take us long to replace the cuppa with the camera and here are a few of the more exciting moments.
Been pondering anew, my approach to Bird Photography, again. Yes dear reader, tis that time of year again for tinsel, things red and white, muzak that dumbs the mind at the shopping centre and of course my annual “where is my photography going to bend in 2019”. But
Fear not, this is not that blog.
Great gasps of relaxation and sighs of relief heard across the ‘blogosphere’.
I really wanted to get the remainder of the shots from our Eynesbury excursions, (incursions?) out.
So rather than belabour, here is the best of the rest sort of feature.
There is still one more chapter to put up, but I’m going to do that as a Snapshots type blog as it concerns our favourite Jackys and their now well fledged young. Might even get that done the next few days.
Eynesbury township just a few minutes from Melton, was established around a golf-club. Part of the deal concerns a stand of Grey Box Forest, that is in close to original condition, or perhaps, well established with old trees and understory, might be a better description. It was used until the mid 1950s as a pastoral area, and the forest was used to run the shorn sheep from the shearing sheds in the area.
Many long term readers will know that its been noted that I have Grey Box sap running in my veins and a visit to the Eynesbury Forest is enough to rejuvenate the lowest of my spirits.
The local Eynesbury Conservation Group, you can look them up on Facebook, conduct a walk on a Sunday morning every two months. Usually led by the award-winning Chris Lunardi, a local identity; EE and I make it a point to turn up if at all possible.
Much to see in a day, so we cheated, and went back for a second look the following day.
Here are some of the Gems of the Forest. Little Eagle, one of a pair. And try as I might I’ve not been able to locate their current nest site.
Peregrine Falcon, a new bird for me at Eynesbury, this one is working on short wings with quick flutters. Target— Tree Martins that are nesting in the forest. We found at least one carcass to confirm its skills.
A fledged Jacky Winter. Not from our usual pair, but one of two young birds on the wing. Well done Jacky
A trip through the Greybox will always be accompanied by the trills from the many Brown Treecreepers in the area. A threatened species, so its good to see them so active in the forest At the lake, an Australasian Grebe was nurturing at least one new addition to the family
Big, bold, noisy and hungry. Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are working in the wattles that have seeded
“Our’ Jacky Winter young. The nest is near falling apart, and the young still have a few days to go to fledge. Jacky made it quite clear today, that we were not welcome. So we moved on quickly
Normally at this time of the year the forest would be ringing with the calls of hundreds of Dusky Woodswallows. Again, it is feared they are in decline, and this is the first season we’ve seen so few. But those that have come down, have wasted no time in getting off their first batch. This pair are feeding two young
Two Black Kites were in the air having the best time on the strong winds. it really deserves a blog page of its own to describe and show the antics of this couple of birds, but two should do eh?
And finally two of the Tawny Frogmouth from the Children’s Playground park. Other photographers, you know who you are Lyndell, seem to be able to get them on days when they are low down, in the open and all together. They seem to be quite happy to sit in the trees while kids play about on the swings and climbing things just metres below.
We, EE, Mr An Onymous and I had gone up to Eynesbury for the Eynesbury Environmental Group’s Sunday walk in the forest.
We motored up in style in the An Blackmobile, and what other colour would Anonymous chose. (Let’s not go there).
We arrived in good time, thanks to great navigating by the unnamed driver. Chris, he of the awards, was waiting in the car park and the sun was shining. How good.
We waited for the rest to arrive, and heard a unusal call in the tree line at the carpark. A little searching and lo and behold, to our astonishment, and joy and delight, let it be said, there was a Swift Parrot at work in the tree, feasting on lerp.
Still in the Little Visits Mode:
The monthly Birding Walk at Eynesbury was on again today.
We drove into the Grey Box forest in the warm sunshine, and slowed down to enjoy the play of the light among the trees. It has rained overnight and there was that wonderful distinct crispness to the air and the whole forest seemed to sparkle in the moment. The great Grey Box stood soaking up the light and the tones of the light playing over their trunks was a delight to see.
The monthly Bird Walk at Eynesbury rolled around and the calendar clicked over the last Sunday in the month, so we looked out the window, and sure enough Sunshine!
So Sunshine, we headed out to Eynesbury to catch up with the group of locals in their exploration around the Grey Box forest.
Chris had initially planned on being away, and asked another local, Leigh, to take the day. As it turned, Chris turned up anyway. Nice to catchup.
The sunshine added to the recent rain made the open areas around the housing estates glow in most impressive green with lots of new growth coming on.
So we set out for a looksee along the river gorge to the east. In times past before the housing establishment, a small creek drained water outward the gorge and as it tumbled over the rocky edge a wonderful waterfall would suddenly appear. And. Today was such a day. The little creek has now been somewhat controlled to a drain-way through the estate, but in the last few hundred metres runs over the rocky ground, forming little pools as it goes. Then. Taking is self to the edge, it plunges down the 30 or so metres to empty into the creek, that runs toward the Werribee River. And spectacular it would be too in full flood and great light, but I was just a bit late as early morning shadow hid the sparkle of the water.
For a birding day, it was a bit quiet, even for me and my missing bird karma as Mr An Onymous puts it.
We did manage a fine Eastern Yellow Robin, an Eastern Spinebill and a couple of Crested Shriketits as we strolled along one of the forest tracks. And so another birding morning came to a close, lots to talk about, plenty of things to share about the few birds we did see, and to get a perspective of the area from Leigh’s point of view. He has been in the area almost since its inception and gave a fine running commentary of points of interest along the way.
EE and I took a cuppa by the lake, and then headed down to see the Tawny Frogmouths in the local park-area. See the May report for details. Sure enough, dependable as clockwork there they were. One has added an additional extra piece of camo to the perch as a branch has broken off higher up and now obscures the perching branch very well.
Off to look for Flame Robins, but no luck there either, and it was time for home, just as we went past the old shearing shed area a small shape darted into the tree. A Speckled Warbler. And to make its point is warbled away quite merrily. Just about managed to get off a couple of shots before it was gone. Looking at it the shots, it’s no wonder they are so hard to spot given the wonderful markings on the feathers that blend into the scrub so well.
Thanks to Leigh and Chris for the day, and also to everyone who turned up and enjoyed both the sunshine and the birds. Looking forward to the July Sunday.
All we needed were some grey birds and it would have been complete.
We turned up at the monthly Eynesbury Residents Birdwalk. Did one back in April see details of the area in that post. Details Here
This time the lake was in fact a, lake!. Water had been added and the ducks were happy and in residence again. And there was a “Farmers Market” in full swing. Make note to self, leave earlier, bring wallet, and enjoy some shopping therapy before the walk in June!
Chris had a walk to the north eastern area of the forest planned for us, and the six or so hardy stalwarts set off for a looksee. And a quiet day it happened to be. We did get a good view of the ubiquitous Superb Fairywren, and again noted how many Brown Treecreepers have made this their home.
Chris pulled out the best spotting by giving us a grand view of a male Flame Robin, rich in colour and brightening up the day. Just as we were enjoying it all, he took off not to be seen again.
A couple of Striated Pardalotes come down out of the top branches and all got a good view of these delightful little birds. Not to be out done a Jacky Winter helped add to the charm of the area, as only Jacky can, and performed some feeding twists and turns in an open area. But, in the end, we had to say it was a quiet day.
Perhaps the recent rain had made the food scarce. We turned back and meandered through the open forest. You can do that in Grey Box, its a lovely forest to walk through. Tracks become optional. Chris offered all sorts of running commentary on fox and rabbit issues, to what sort of native plants were working in well in the local gardens, and one our number told how her three sickly looking Running Postman were now clambering all over the garden pots. Super.
A Common Bronzewing, a few more Treecreepers, and the inevitable Red-rumped Parrots kept us entertained until we eventually reached the roadway, and back to the cars.
Might have been a quiet morning, and the light might have been less than ideal, but we all were pleased to have seen a little more of the Eynesbury Forest and to enjoy some great company at the same time. Now we’re looking forward to the June walk.
Way to go Chris.
EE and I grabbed a quick bite to eat, and a cuppa, then went round to a small open park area among the houses on the west side of the lake. We’d been told that a pair of Tawny Frogmouth were in the park and ‘easy to spot’. Hmmm.
You know that feeling? You’re walking into a park for the first time, checking trees, checking trees, knowing that Tawnies are, well, not necessarily ‘easy to spot’. In fact, I’d left the camera in the car. Now that is confidence. EE on the other hand, well, she would wouldn’t she? Had camera out, and at the ready.
Looking, looking. Well I suppose I’d taken about five steps into the park. “Oh”.
If only everything was that “Easy to Spot”. There aren’t a lot of trees, so Tawnys didn’t have a lot of choice. “There they are!!! ” Trudge back to get camera, (all five steps).
We then moved down to the forest proper to look for more Flame Robins. No such luck, not as ‘easy to spot’. A flock of Maned Ducks, (Wood Ducks) were house hunting and that kept us amused for a few minutes. A duck in tree.
Then the sound of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters on the way back got us looking and eventually locating a couple.
So in the end a good day at Eynesbury, and another triumph for Grey Box
More discussion on housing details. Her list of options must be met
Seeing off a rival home seeker. This interloping female was chased off by the male of the pair.
Perhaps she is house hunting, there was lots of discussion with her mate.
Tawny Frogmouth, looking up it was difficult at first to see it against the trunk
A find. Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
Good to see in the open. Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater.
Ahh, water, in the lake. Hoary-headed Grebe is pleased to make use of the once more filled lake.
I’ve said before that I enjoy the company of Jacky Winter.
We were at Eynesbury today on a bird count day. Found time to find several Jacky Winter. They were most co-operative, and I’ve put them here in a gallery as it gives a chance to view them in the carousel. Click on one image and you’ll be able to show through the set.
Enjoy. Jacky and I did.
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.
We shared the first meeting with a Jacky Winter and her nest and two lovely nestlings.
As we are about to be away for a couple of weeks it seemed that now was the only time we’d have the chance to see how the Jackys were getting on.
The weather man was a bit ambiguous and we took a very early morning trip out hoping to get a little good weather, and that’s what we got a little.
We soon located the Jacky nest and her two precious little ones and they had grown considerably.
She was elegant enough to let us spend a few minutes with them and feed them as we stood by. The little ones are quite well developed and would move about the ‘nest’ doing wing stretches and preening.
One the way back I heard a Speckled Warbler, and sad to say , hearing is one thing seeing another, but getting a good photo, something else again.
We’ve had a whole range of really average weather of late, and both EE and I were getting a bit tired of being unable to get out for a really good look about. Much changes in a fortnight.
We decided on an early trip to Eynesbury, mainly because of Speckled Warbler. These tiny little songsters are proving to be incredibly illusive for us. We’ve heard them in several places, but have little to show other than a glimpse of a bird flying off into the distance.
Weatherzone showed some pretty nice icons indicating its should be clear from sunup till at least midday, so setting the alarm clock, we were ready for an early start. As we drove up toward Eynesbury, it was obvious the weather was not going to match the icons and it was very overcast. And with no wind, it was pretty much going to stay that way. Still we crossed the road entered the forest and began our search. And within about 10mins had heard the cheery cry of the Warbler, but so far away and no pictures.
The other bird of interest is the Diamond Firetail, and while we got some good views no really great photos.
By late morning the sun had poked through, the Little Eagles were playing the strengthening breezes and a pair of Brown Falcons were playing chase across the treetops.
We took a walk up past the old shearing shed area and then down the track toward the golf course dam.
“There is always a pair of Jacky Winter on this corner, ” I assured EE, but she responded “I would have thought the name ‘Winter’ might have been a clue.”
And then to both our collective surprises a Jacky flew down grabbed a bug and sat in a tree with its usual tail wag.
The Jacky winter is a fine mixture of part Robin, part Flycatcher (they used to be called the Lesser Fascinating Flycatcher), part Fantail, and a touch of Woodswallow. Well it seems like that to me.
They are also among my favourite birds. Their simple colours make a great photo harmony, their clear sounding calls are a delight and they can be very easy to work with, almost completely ignoring the inquisitive human being. On average. I’ve also met a few that are extraordinarily skittish, and I’ve never had much success.
This corner pair fall somewhere in between. We’ve had some lovely interaction and complete disdain on other occasions.
I followed this one across the roadway, and propped against a tree, hoping, she/he? they are impossible to tell apart, would come on back and at least hunt in the area. It immediately headed back across the road, into a tree, and I caught a glimpse of it on a limb with a lot of wing fluttering. Perhaps its going to be fed, thought I, so I wandered slowly in that direction, but by then the bird had moved on. However there was a bump in the branch, and at first I thought it might have been the other of the pair.
Then it dawned on me. “It’s a young one that is waiting to be fed”. But…
When I put the glass on it, what I discovered was a Jacky Winter nest. Now, I’ve seen some pretty tiny Red-capped Robin nests and the nest of a Grey Fantail, but this was even tinier, and not at all well built. The two young were already overcrowding the nest. And the one thing they seemed to be able to do was to crouch down, and hang on. So at a quick glance it didn’t look like either a nest nor any young birds. Very clever.
But it is tiny.
After a few minutes the first of the adults and then the other came in and poked food into the open mouths, and there was no sound from the young and apart from putting their head up, no real movement either. Very clever.
I concluded from the size that they were about a week from fledging, so perhaps another trip will be needed to see the young birds in action.
Only spent enough time to get a few shots, like to leave them to themselves unless I’m invited to stay, and there wasn’t time for introductions.
On the way back to where we’d left our gear, I heard the Warbler and managed a few shots of it. One of them in the clear. What I didn’t expect was to be harassed by 3 or 4 very agitated Superb Fairy Wren males and several females. The males getting up very close indeed to try and attract my attention and then I noticed why. They had recently fledged 3 or 4 young birds and were trying to protect them. I managed a couple of quick shots of the young with their very short tails.