Sunday, 28 August 2011

Crake Hunt, part 2

Having dipped (at least photographically) on the hunt for crakes at the Western Treatment Plant last weekend, I thought I'd follow up on the Australian Spotted Crake sightings at Lignum Swamp, just NW of Campbelltown in Central Victoria (see map) reported recently on Geoff Park's excellent blog.

Lignum Swamp

Lots of Purple Swamphens standing on the lignum bushes and Black-winged Stilts feeding in the shallow water along with Red-kneed Dotterels.

Red-kneed Dotterel, Lignum Swamp

Crakes could be heard some distance away in the swamp so I waited and watched for any to expose themselves. Meanwhile, flocks of Little Corella and Pacific Black Duck flew around the swamp several times.

Little Corella, Lignum Swamp

Pacific Black Duck, Lignum Swamp

Patience paid off as one Australian Spotted Crake wandered out onto a small mud island about 200 metres into the swamp - a long way away but a first time photograph of this species.

Australian Spotted Crake, Lignum Swamp

I also heard calls from the eastern side of the swamp where the lignum grows beside the track so I walked around to see if I could get a closer view. Ten minutes later, a single bird came out for a brief forage in the shallows before disappearing back into the lignum.

Australian Spotted Crake, Lignum Swamp

Monday, 22 August 2011

12 months on...

I started this blog on 22 August 2010 so please forgive my self indulgence while I take a few minutes to review the last year of birding and bird photography.

  • 54 "trips" ranging in length from 12 minutes to 2 days
  • 40+ locations visited 
  • only one day birding outside Victoria (must do something about this in the next 12 months)
  • 105 species recorded on this blog including 9 that I had never photographed before and 5 added to the lifetime list (Shy Heathwren, Rufous Treecreeper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Long-toed Stint)
  • most visited location was the Western Treatment Plant
  • most photographed species was a three-way tie: Australian Pelican, Red-capped Plover and Red-necked Stint
  • Location: Western Treatment Plant (goes without saying really - one of the great birding locations) with an honourable mention to the Hattah Lakes NP (I sense another road trip - and could knock over NSW and SA - or at least some very small parts of them - in the same trip)
  • Experience: there are many but the one that captures the whole birding and photography experience for me was Day 1 when two people whom I'd never met before waved my wife and me down at the Western Treatment Plant and showed us the Australasian Bittern. Birding is often a solo activity (and that's partly what I like about it) but most birders are friendly people who enjoy sharing their experience and knowledge - so thanks again John and Fred.
  • Followed blog: I am inspired by the work of many fellow bird photographers and their blogs (many of which are listed below) but I have especially enjoyed following the adventures of Gary and Glenda Oliver on their sojourn around our country, The Great Aussie Birdshoot, an astonishing achievement!
  • Bird: Red-necked Stint - I never get tired of watching flocks of these little perpetual motion machines.
  • Photograph: this photograph of a Golden-headed Cisticola is my favourite for the year. Not necessarily my best photograph (whatever that means) but I was fortunate enough to have this tiny bird approach within 5 or 6 metres of me (while I was trying to photograph some distant Pink-eared Ducks) and sing its little lungs out for about two minutes. I was even able to move slightly towards it and lower the tripod a little to get the out-of-focus, multi-coloured background.
Golden-headed Cisticola, Western Treatment Plant

Plans for the next 12 months (these are somewhat ambitious but you have to dream!)
  • at least one trip to each of NSW, Queensland, SA and Tasmania (would like to add WA & NT but $$ and time...)
  • add another 100 birds to the list (though this will become challenging) including some new ones for my lifetime list
  • go on a pelagic trip
  • fill in some photo gaps in my Bellarine Peninsula list
  • meet more bird photographers and enjoy their company in the field

So, looking forward to seeing you on the beach or in the bush :-)

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Crake hunt at the WTP

There have been many reports of crakes and rails at the Western Treatment Plant in recent weeks (mostly while I was overseas). Today was my first opportunity to get there and see for myself. I arrived early at the bird hide (where most of the previous success had been) and watched and waited. Heard lots of crakish sounds (mostly Australian Spotted but one Spotless calling as I arrived) but only teasing glances as several Australian Spotted Crakes and Buff-banded Rails ran across the road or from one bush to another but did not stay still long enough for even a record shot. All was not lost though as there was lots of activity among the small saltmarsh birds:

White-browed Scrubwren, Bird Hide, Western Treatment Plant
Silvereye,  Bird Hide, Western Treatment Plant
Superb Fairy-wren, Bird Hide, Western Treatment Plant
Little Grassbird, Bird Hide, Western Treatment Plant
and some opportunities to practice my birds in flight:

Australian Pelican, Western Treatment Plant
Australian White Ibis, Western Treatment Plant

A very pleasant two hours but time to go and look for some wading birds. There have been reports of early arrivals of migratory waders at the new Western Lagoon so I headed back there via Paradise Road where there was a large flock of Red-necked Avocets feeding in the ponds just near Gate 8 and a few were quite close to the road. Unfortunately the sun was behind them and because they were so close I was shooting hand-held out of the car window through reeds but a reasonable record shot.

Red-necked Avocet, Western Treatment Plant

At Western Lagoon 4, I found many Red-necked Stints and Curlew Sandpipers, mostly too far away for any good photographs but this individual did cooperate for a few minutes.

Curlew Sandpiper, Western Lagoons, Western Treatment Plant

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Buff-banded Rail at Lake Colac

Went for a late afternoon walk at the Church St wetlands on Lake Colac (see map) in drizzling rain with low dark cloud. Lots of the usual suspects: Silver Gull, Little Pied Cormorant, Australian Pelican, Eastern Great Egret, Pacific Black Duck, Chestnut Teal, Hardhead, Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Superb Fairy-wren, Welcome Swallow and heard several Australian Reed-Warbler. Just getting back into the car when a Buff-banded Rail came out of the reeds onto the roadway 15 metres from the car park. It was very dark so I was shooting with aperture wide open and a slow shutter speed but still got a few reasonable record shots.

Buff-banded Rail, Lake Colac

Friday, 12 August 2011

Wading Birds

A late afternoon trip into Geelong was extended a little with stops at 13th Beach and Pt Impossible to look for waders (in particular Double-banded Plovers in full breeding plumage and Hooded Plovers) and I was not disappointed.

Double-banded Plover, 13th Beach/Black Rocks

Sometimes, you think they are not taking much notice of you until they look straight down the barrel at you...

Double-banded Plover, 13th Beach/Black Rocks

There were two Hooded Plovers at Pt Impossible just at the river mouth. After wading the river (smart enough to leave the shoes in the car) I got close enough for one reasonable shot. Both appeared to be juveniles, with this one just coming into adult plumage.

Hooded Plover, Pt Impossible

Before I could get a good shot of the second bird, a Pacific Gull landed close-by and both Hoodies and the 20 or so Double-banded and Red-capped Plovers flew off over the river and around the point. The Pacific Gull did pose for a profile shot though.

Pacific Gull, Pt Impossible

Back over the river and heading for the car, one male Red-capped Plover remained on the sand flats among the kelp and seagrass.

Red-capped Plover, Pt Impossible

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Egrets at Pt Lonsdale

My habit of having the camera bag and tripod in the car was rewarded today when passing the Swan Bay wetlands near the corner of Fellows and Murray Roads in Point Lonsdale (see map). This is my usual detour on the way to Queenscliff as it provides excellent views of a shallow branch of Swan Bay including the salt marshes along Murray Road. I noticed a pair of Caspian Terns flying over Swan Bay so pulled up to see if I could get a photograph but, alas, they were too far away and flying off towards Queenscliff by the time I got the camera out. However, it was my good fortune to spot the following "odd couple" on the pond on the opposite side of Fellows Rd.

Little Egret and Eastern Great Egret, Pt Lonsdale

The sky was dark grey with low cloud but this is an advantage when photographing white birds such as egrets because the low contrast allows the detail in the white plumage to be captured.

Eastern Great Egret, Pt Lonsdale

Saturday, 6 August 2011


After more than a month with no birding it was good to get out again today with the MELBOCA Photography Group on an outing to Coolart Homestead and Wetlands in Somers (see map). I took the first ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento, which was early enough to catch sunrise over Port Phillip Bay.

The showery weather arrived as predicted but judicious use of the bird hides enabled us to avoid the worst of it while still getting some shots of ibis, ducks, cormorants and grebes.

Chestnut Teal, Coolart Wetlands

Australian White Ibis, Coolart Wetlands

Australian White Ibis, Coolart Wetlands

Hoary-headed Grebe, Coolart Wetlands

Australasian Shoveler, Coolart Wetlands

Little Pied Cormorant, Coolart Wetlands

as well as some bush birds on the Woodland Walk

Little Wattlebird, Coolart Woodland Walk 

Noisy Miner, Coolart Homestead

and a pair of Red-capped Plovers on the nearby Balnarring Beach

Red-capped Plover (female), Balnarring Beach

Red-capped Plover (male), Balnarring Beach

A great day with more than 50 species sighted and/or heard. Highlight of the day though was the pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles perched on a dead branch just upriver from the bridge on the track to the beach. A long way off and the light wasn't great but one half decent shot of one eagle in flight.

Wedge-tailed Eagle, Coolart Wetlands

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