Sunday, 27 March 2011

North-Central Victoria

Beautiful sunny day today in north-central Victoria with lots of bush birds active.

Brown Treecreeper, Echuca

Red-rumped Parrot (male), Echuca

White-backed Swallow, Echuca

along with some judicious use of fence posts...

Jacky Winter, Barmah National Park

Blue-faced Honeyeater, Rushworth

Saturday, 26 March 2011


Another dull and windy day but thought I would go in search of the Pacific Golden Plovers at Black Rocks. I had seen them there 6 weeks ago when a few were starting to get breeding plumage but reports from earlier this week suggested they were still there and some were in full plumage. The wind was howling off Bass Strait such that even the gulls were taking shelter

Silver Gull, Black Rocks

There was a small flock of Red-necked Stint and Double-banded Plover further down 13th Beach but no PGPs so I opted to practice some more hand-held flight shots

Great Cormorant, Black Rocks

There was not much else on the beach at Black Rocks so I headed into Breamlea where a flock of Common Starlings was flying around the saltmarsh on the Nature Conservation Reserve. This is one of the hardest shots to get with a moving flock of small birds at long distance and a detailed background - not the most exotic of birds but happy with this shot.

Common Starling, Breamlea Nature Conservation Reserve

Past Breamlea onto Pt Impossible Road, there were 5 White-faced Herons feeding along the edge of the creek. A bonus of shooting in dull light is the low contrast allows the subtle colours of the saltmarsh to show. The colour gets washed out in bright sunshine.

White-faced Heron, Thompson Creek, Pt Impossible Road

Not much in the way of birds at Pt Impossible but a Nankeen Kestrel did cooperate for a couple of flight shots and even a bit of blue sky :-)

Nankeen Kestrel, Pt Impossible

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Godwits still at Barwon River Mouth

A dull and windy afternoon but needed a break from the desk so took a quick trip down to the mouth of the Barwon River to see if the godwits were still there and yes they were!

Bar-tailed Godwit, Barwon River Mouth, Ocean Grove

Several were developing breeding plumage and these all appeared to be males - smaller birds with shorter bills than females.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Whistling Kites at Lake Lorne

There is a pair of Whistling Kite nesting at Lake Lorne in Drysdale (view map).

Whistling Kite, Lake Lorne, Drysdale

They were taking turns on the nest this afternoon, while the other one flew around the lake and surrounding farmland giving me some practice at hand holding birds in flight again.

Whistling Kite, Lake Lorne, Drysdale

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Western Treatment Plant - Birds not in flight

Along the way and after the Birds in Flight session, I also got a few others:

Probably the most common bird at the treatment plant but it's always good to find them like this

Welcome Swallow, Western Treatment Plant

Common in most Victorian wetlands but unusually rare at the treatment plant, we found this Dusky Moorhen at the T-Section lagoon 4.

Dusky Moorhen, Western Treatment Plant

Godwits are starting to develop breeding plumage

Bar-tailed Godwit, Western Treatment Plant

By mid afternoon, the wind had dropped to almost nothing creating mirror surface on many ponds giving some great reflections

Little Egret, Western Treatment Plant

I found five species of terns today but the highlight was this lone Little Tern resting on a log

Little Tern, Western Treatment Plant

and one of my perennial favourites, this one giving itself a pedicure

Golden-headed Cisticola, Western Treatment Plant

Western Treatment Plant - Birds in Flight

Visited the Western Treatment Plant today on a BOCA trip photographing birds in flight. The morning started off cool, overcast and windy - not great for photography but the whole idea was to practice handholding long lenses when shooting birds in flight so any practice is good practice :-)

Did manage a few half reasonable shots (and lots of misses...)

What better bird to practice on...?

Silver Gull, Western Treatment Plant

We were set the challenge of tying to shoot birds with complex background rather than just against a blank sky. I managed a couple of pelican shots:

Australian Pelican, Western Treatment Plant

Another challenge was trying to shoot birds at a distance so they are small in the viewfinder (making it difficult to find them and then keep them in the focus point). Managed to do this with this pair of shelducks. Even though these birds are a long way away and the contrast is quite high showing little detail on the birds, it's tack sharp so I'm quite happy with that!)

Australian Shelduck, Western Treatment Plant

At the end of the session we found the Long-toed Stint that had been here for a few weeks now but moves around among several ponds (helps to be out with the experts!) and managed a few shots - a long way off but good enough to ID the bird and it even showed off it's long toe. First time photographing this species, so thanks JB :-)

Long-toed Stint, Western Treatment Plant

Also got some other birds not in flight (see next post).

Monday, 14 March 2011

Northern Victoria (Part 2)

Terrick Terrick National Park (view map) is a great place for birds in open woodland and grasslands. By the time I got there it was late morning so not a lot of bird activity but I did get a good walk around and over Mt Terrick Terrick and found this cooperative Galah pair.

Galah (male), Terrick Terrick NP
Galah (female), Terrick Terrick NP

I was tempted to hang around longer but was also keen to get to Lake Meran to check it out since the floods had filled the lake. On the way north, I spotted a group of babblers in the roadside vegetation. I find babblers really difficult to photograph as they are almost constantly moving but this one cooperated for a few seconds while trying to extract insects from under the bark on this branch.

Grey-crowned Babbler, Boort-Kerang Road

Lake Meran is a small permanent freshwater lake (well it used to be until the drought for the last decade) between Boort and Kerang (view map). Floods earlier this year and continuing recent rains have filled the lake

Lake Meran

A lot of farmland is still covered with water and many of the roads around the Lake and nearby Leaghur State Park are closed still with water covering the road. Photographically accessible birdlife on the lake was limited as much of the activity was taking place in the offshore vegetation and the walking tracks around the lake were under water. However, I did see Nankeen Night-Heron, White-faced Heron, White-necked Heron, Australian White Ibis, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Pacific Black Duck, Eurasian Coot, Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Whistling Kite, Peregrine Falcon. Sadly, there were very few bush birds active (probably courtesy of the Peregrine Falcon) with only Australian Magpie, Magpie-lark and Noisy Miner present around the picnic area.

I did manage to see three Great Crested Grebe in more open water.

Great Crested Grebe, Lake Meran

Sunday, 13 March 2011

A long weekend in Northern Victoria

Managed to get out on Sunday and Monday on the long weekend to check out some forests and wetlands that have been revived in the last few months of rain.

I started at Lake Wendouree in Ballarat (view map), which this year is full for the first time in over 10 years and, with so much vegetation close to the shore, the birdlife is within easy viewing and photographic distance. Among the usual suspects: Pacific Black Duck, Mallard, Eurasian Coot, Black Swan, Hoary-headed Grebe, I found a female Musk Duck having a splash bath

Musk Duck, Lake Wendouree, Ballarat

A White-faced Heron was feeding on frogs, apparently oblivious to walkers, joggers and cyclists passing just a few metres away

White-faced Heron, Lake Wendouree, Ballarat

as was a family of Black Swan - 2 adults and 5 almost fully grown cygnets, feeding on the surface weed

Black Swan, Lake Wendouree, Ballarat

I was intending to stop at Cairn Curran Reservoir but it started to bucket down with rain just as I arrived in Newstead so I opted for a pie and drink at the Newstead General Store (always try and contribute to the local economy...) and instead headed for Muckleford State Forest as at least driving slowly through the forest is more pleasant than highway driving in the rain. As I arrived at the Muckleford Nature Conservation Reserve at the north-western end of Pullans Road (near Gower - see map), the rain stopped and sun broke through so I was out of the car and into the forest only to immediately retreat to the car for the insect repellant to at least try to reduce the mosquito feeding frenzy.

Muckleford Nature Conservation Reserve

There were lots of birds calling in the canopy including Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Crimson Rosella, Galah but the tall trees and backlight made photography difficult. However, one Eastern Yellow Robin obliged by landing on a branch nearby

Eastern Yellow Robin, Muckleford NCR

and some persistence allowed me to get close enough for an ID shot of this White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike - heavily cropped but first time I have photographed this species :-)

White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Muckleford NCR

but the highlight of this stop was not a bird - this Yellow-footed Antechinus was climbing a tree trunk about 40 metres away (photographs again heavily cropped). It's highly unusual to see dasyurids during the daytime (though this species is supposed to be more diurnal than most) and I can't believe I spotted it - I suppose it helps when your eyes are tuned to detect movement.

Yellow-footed Antechinus, Muckleford NCR be continued

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Hybrid Lorikeets

Never discount your own front or back yard as a place to view and photograph birds. We were greeted early this morning by a family of lorikeets in a tree in our front yard. We get Rainbow Lorikeet here frequently but closer inspection of this little group indicated they were hybrids - most likely Rainbow/Scaly-breasted Lorikeet.

Possible hybrid Lorikeets, Ocean Grove
All four birds had different plumage but were clearly neither Rainbow or Scaly-breasted Lorikeet. I didn't manage to get any good photographs of the adults as all four birds remained under the canopy of the tree making photography difficult with low light, backlighting and branches in the way and the adults came and went all day only returning for short periods to feed the juveniles.

However, the juveniles hung around all day and I managed to get a few reasonable shots (albeit slightly blurry due to slow shutter speed):

Hybrid Lorikeet (juvenile), Ocean Grove

I have seen hybrid Lorikeets before (see report from Ricketts Point from October 2010) but never around home.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Godwits at Barwon River Mouth

Driving across the bridge from Barwon Heads to Ocean Grove early this evening and noticed large flocks of shore birds roosting on the spit at the mouth of the Barwon River (View Map) so I pulled over for a closer look.

There were hundreds of Red-necked Stint sheltering from the wind among the seaweed and along with them several Double-banded Plover and Red-capped Plover. Further along the beach was a large flock of Silver Gull with a few Crested Tern and Pacific Gull along with 200+ Bar-tailed Godwits, some developing breeding plumage. Most were resting with heads turned away from the wind so I was able to crawl up relatively close without disturbing them.

Bar-tailed Godwit, mouth of the Barwon River

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