Saturday, 26 February 2011

Mud Islands

My wife and I spent a wonderful day on a BayBOCA trip to Mud Islands. Our first time there and it won't be the last. Mud Islands are east of Queenscliff and north of Sorrento in Port Phillip Bay (see map).

Beach walking on Mud Islands

One of the highlights of the walk around the islands was seeing the Pelican creche on one of the inner lagoons.

Australian Pelican, Mud Island

In addition to the creche, Australian Pelicans could be seen resting and preening all over the lagoon.

Australian Pelican, Mud Islands

There are extensive sand banks on the north and west shores providing feeding grounds for a wide range of waders. I managed to see Red-capped Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Double-banded Plover, Pacific Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Red Knot, Great Knot, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit, Australian Pied Oystercatcher, Sooty Oystercatcher and, of course, Red-necked Stints

Red-necked Stint, Mud Islands

This bird came very close while I was photographing a juvenile Australasian Gannet resting on the sandbank

Australasian Gannet (juvenile), Mud Islands

This Red Knot also allowed fairly close approach. It's amazing how close you can get to these birds with some patience and staying low.

Red Knot, Mud Islands

...and it was not all birds. An Australian Fur Seal was sun baking on the sand banks as we walked back along the beach

Australian Fur Seal, Mud Islands

On the way back to Sorrento, we passed by one of the channel markers with it's small colony of Australasian Gannets. It was great to see them close up, including more juveniles and some late season downy chicks, but difficult to photograph, hand holding a long lens while jostling for position with 30+ eager birdwatchers on a moving boat...

Australasian Gannet, Channel Marker, Port Phillip Bay

A brilliant day. Thanks to Tania and BayBOCA.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

WTP Again

Another trip to Melbourne and another detour to the WTP on the way home. It was late afternoon and I was hoping to get there in time for pre-sunset bird activity.

The bonus was there were LOTS of birds actively feeding and finding roosting sites (wasn't formally counting but estimate 30+ species in 45 minutes from Beach Road to the Bird Hide along the coast and back along Lake Borrie).

The downside was clouds came in making it prematurely dark so photography was difficult.

The highlight was this pair of Cape Barren Geese aggressively defending a small mound (just north of the bridge over the Lake Borrie outlet) from gulls, pelicans, ravens and even a Willie Wagtail.

Cape Barren Goose, Western Treatment Plant

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Western Treatment Plant

I took a short trip to the WTP on the way home from Melbourne this afternoon and I was immediately rewarded with a great viewing of several Common Terns feeding in the ponds just inside the Beach Road gate.

Common Tern, Western Treatment Plant

I was really after the Gull-billed Tern that had been reported earlier in the week. There were several tern species roosting on the rocks near the Beach Road boat ramp but no Gull-billed Tern and too far away for good photography. I drove the entire beach section from Beach Road to Little River back around Lake Borrie but dipped on the Gull-billed Tern...maybe next time.

Went back to Austin Road to see if I could find the Stilt Sandpiper that was still being reported as present last week on the rocks on the northern side of T-Section lagoon. Several Common Greenshank but no Stilt Sandpiper. However, did see a flock of 20+ Plumed Whistling-Duck.

Plumed Whistling Duck, Western Treatment Plant

Couldn't get any closer before they flew away so continued on around T-Section Lagoons and found more Common Greenshank

Common Greenshank, Western Treatment Plant

but still no Stilt Sandpiper. Was just about to give up and head home when the sun peeped out from under the clouds giving a lovely soft evening glow to the Royal Spoonbills feeding and preening close by

Royal Spoonbill, Western Treatment Plant

and stayed long enough for some close-ups of a singing Golden-headed Cisticola.

Golden-headed Cisticola, Western Treatment Plant

Monday, 14 February 2011

Chicks and Ducks

Quick visit to Jerringot Wetlands in Belmont Common, Geelong (View Map) this evening on my way home from Geelong.  A Chestnut Teal family was close by the road and not scared off by me getting out of the car, camera and tripod in hand.

Chestnut Teal (female), Jerringot Wetlands

Chestnut Teal (male), Jerringot Wetlands

Chestnut Teal, Jerringot Wetlands

While watching the antics of the ducklings all trying to get and maintain some space on this little island, a pair of Purple Swamphens and their five chicks appeared from the vegetation right in front of me. These two remained in view for about ten minutes but only briefly stepped into the sun.

Purple Swamphen, Jerringot Wetlands

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Forest and Beach at Cape Otway

Spent the afternoon at Cape Otway, specifically around Blanket Bay (View Map). Access is from Cape Otway Lighthouse Road, which runs south from The Great Ocean Road approx. 20 km west of Apollo Bay. Turn left onto Blanket Bay Road and follow the signs to Blanket Bay Camping Ground.

First stop was on Blanket Bay Road where it re-enters the Great Otway National Park

at a bridge over a small creek running through wet sclerophyll forest

Within 15 minutes here, I had seen: Silvereye, White-throated Treecreeper, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, Laughing Kookaburra, Pied Currawong, Eastern Yellow Robin, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Crimson Rosella, Bassian Thrush, Red-browed Finch, Grey Fantail. In tall forest, the birds are mostly too far away to photograph successfully but the ubiquitous Superb Fairy-wren is usually closeby roadsides and walking tracks.

Superb Fairy-wren (male), Blanket Bay Road, Cape Otway

Superb Fairy-wren (female), Blanket Bay Road, Cape Otway

I also heard White-browed Scrubwren among the bracken along the creek and Pallid Cuckoo and Australian King Parrot high in the treetops but it took another 20 minutes to find them. They stayed a long way from me (so photographs are heavily cropped).

White-browed Scrubwren, Blanket Bay Road, Cape Otway

Pallid Cuckoo, Blanket Bay Road, Cape Otway

Australian King Parrot (male and female), Blanket Bay Road, Cape Otway

I continued on to Blanket Bay

Blanket Bay, Cape Otway

where there was very little bird life on the beach - only a few Silver Gulls. There were, however, many Crested Terns and Great Cormorants on the small rock islands a few hundred metres offshore.

Welcome Swallows were roosting on sign posts at the western end of the beach and juveniles allowed a close approach.

Welcome Swallow (juvenile), Blanket Bay, Cape Otway

On the way back along Cape Otway Lighthouse Road, I stopped to photograph several koalas in trees along the roadside. No, they're not birds but who can resist? Lots of males calling even in broad daylight.

Koala, Cape Otway

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Black Rock Shorebirds

Had an early evening trip to 13th Beach and Black Rocks (View Map) and was rewarded with gulls, terns and several small waders. The light wasn't great for photography with a grey overcast prematurely darkening the sky but here are a few...

Several Crested Terns fishing offshore behind the breaking surf were too far out for photographs but a lone Caspian Tern cruised back and forth along the shore.

Caspian Tern, 13th Beach
There were hundreds of Silver Gulls resting above the high tide mark, along with three Ruddy Turnstones, but this bird stood alone near the water's edge.

Silver Gull, 13th Beach
As I walked west towards Black Rock, several Red-capped Plovers and Red-necked Stints were busily feeding along the water's edge. Closer to the rocks at the end of the beach, a female Red-capped Plover spent 2-3 minutes attracting me up the beach quickly running away from me then back towards me interspersed with 'broken wing' performances

Red-capped Plover, Black Rock

At the end of the beach, 30+ Pacific Golden Plovers were sheltering among the rocks. This is the first time I have seen this species here.

Pacific Golden Plover, Black Rock
Several (at least 3) showed partial breeding plumage:

Pacific Golden Plover, Black Rock

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Low Tide at Point Impossible

Had another attempt at wading birds at Point Impossible (view map) this morning and was not disappointed. There were several flocks of small waders feeding on the exposed sand flats around the mouth of Thompson Creek and sheltering among the weed higher on the beach.

Mostly Red-necked Stint

Red-necked Stint, Pt Impossible
but a few Red-capped Plover and a single Double-banded Plover in intermediate plumage.

Double-banded Plover, Pt Impossible

Double-banded Plover, Pt Impossible

There were lots of Pacific Gull, Silver Gull and Crested Tern flying around and resting on rocks and sand flats but this immature Pacific Gull seemed intrigued by my presence, walking in a large circle around me while I knelt in the shallow water photographing the stints and plovers.

Pacific Gull (immature, year 2), Pt Impossible

My main interest here was in finding Hooded Plover. Another birdo and I thought we spotted one on the other side of the creek so waded across for a closer look but no luck finding it. With increasing canine and human activity on the beach at the creek mouth, I decided to try my luck around the point and walked west towards Torquay. Just at the "Nude Beach" sign (fortunately no nudists today - it can be awkward walking along here with a camera and binoculars!) I spotted one Hoody at the bottom of the dunes.

Hooded Plover, Pt Impossible
 For anyone interested, it was banded and tagged:

The weather was turning for the worse with rain approaching from the west but I couldn't resist trying for the Great Cormorant sitting on the reef about 200 metres offshore. Getting close enough meant either walking out along the reef, which would have scared away the bird (I find this species to be the most flighty of the cormorants and usually struggle to get closer than 30-40 metres) or wading directly out towards the reef. So, footwear removed, off I went into the water and managed to get close enough for this shot just after a second bird landed immediately behind the one I was stalking. 

Great Cormorant, Pt Impossible
The light was gone and drizzly rain started so I made my way back to shore, found my sandals (now covered in damp sand blown down the beach) and hiked it back to the car, wet from above and below but thrilled with two hours well spent at one of my favourite wader spots :-)

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