Monday, 28 January 2013

Jerringot Wetlands and Hospital Swamp

A quick trip out this morning to Jerringot Wetlands (in Belmont Common, Geelong) and Hospital Swamp in search of crakes and snipe.

The bird hide at Jerringot proved to be the "spot" for crakes with both Spotless and Australian Spotted Crakes present. They were really difficult to photograph with the backlighting and reeds but I got at least a few record shots:

Spotless Crake, Jerringot Wetlands
Australian Spotted Crake, Jerringot Wetlands

The ubiquitous Purple Swamphens were everywhere (as usual)

Purple Swamphen, Jerringot Wetlands

and a pair Pacific Black Ducks cruised about closeby, one pausing for a quick splash.

Pacific Black Duck, Jerringot Wetlands

Several small birds including Superb Fairy Wren and Australian Reed Warbler flitted about the reeds but the only one that I was able to capture was this Little Grassbird.

Little Grassbird, Jerringot Wetlands

Meanwhile, several White-faced Herons were playing musical chairs with the nesting boxes

White-faced Heron, Jerringot Wetlands

I did spot one Latham's Snipe (the main target for the morning), flushed from reeds close to the road when a cyclist stopped for a look but it disappeared back into the reeds so no photographs :-(

So, on to Hospital Swamp

Black-winged Stilts, Hospital Swamp

where the closest encounter I had was with a pair of Red-kneed Dotterels

Red-kneed Dotterel, Hospital Swamp

So, I dipped on the snipe but a good excuse to keep trying :-)

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Fishing Egret and acrobatic Galah

I was at Pt Henry late this afternoon and found a Little Egret fishing in the shallows. Fortunately, it was concentrating enough on the fishing to allow me to get reasonably close and adjust my position relative to the sun to keep the bird mostly backlit without too many reflections off the water behind the bird.

Little Egret, Pt Henry

It's a generally accepted 'rule' when photographing birds to try and keep the sun behind you shooting the birds in full frontal sunlight. However, rules are made to be broken and white birds like egrets and spoonbills photograph really well backlit. In full light it's difficult to get a balance between the white plumage and the rest of the shot as the contrast is too high. With backlighting, on the other hand, you can get the rim of light around the bird, show detail in the shaded body plumage and flight feathers appear translucent when wings are outstretched.

Little Egret, Pt Henry 

When foraging for fish in shallow water, egrets often try and spook the fish by jumping around and flapping their wings.

Little Egret, Pt Henry

Driving home along the Bellarine Hwy in Wallington, I spotted (and heard, even at 100 km/h) a flock of Galahs on the power lines beside the road. There are always a few that seem to find it amusing to "muck about' on the wires, doing loop-the-loops and hanging upside down...

Galah, Wallington

...while others prefer to just sit and watch the world go by.

Galah, Wallington

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A kestrel in the wind

I drove along the back road past 13th Beach this afternoon and spotted several Nankeen Kestrels hovering along the dunes in the strong on-shore wind. I pulled into the "Boings" (or, somewhat less poetically, 35W) car park and extracted the camera from the back of the car, crossed the road to the top of the beach access stairs and waited for the bird, which was now hovering just above dune height a few hundred metres away, to glide back towards me. It didn't disappoint.

I never cease to be astounded at how these birds can hover, completely motionless in strong winds.

Nankeen Kestrel, 13th Beach

Occasionally, the bird would swoop down closer to the beach, dropping below the horizon line and providing an opportunity to grab a shot that I've had in my head for several years--a hovering kestrel with an out of focus surf in the background--but, unfortunately, this is what I usually end up with:

My tracking of the fast moving bird is never good enough to keep the bird in focus, so the auto focus picks up the day :-(

On one swoop, the bird dropped into the dune grass and came up talons filled with something. I can't quite work out what it is but I think its a grasshopper (along with a few blades of grass). Whatever it was, the bird did not eat it but continued hunting further along the dunes, probably saving it for young back at a nest.

Nankeen Kestrel, 13th Beach

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Lake Murtnaghurt

Lake Murtnaghurt, aka Murtnaghurt Lagoon, lies between Barwon Heads Golf Course and 13th Beach Golf Course behind the 13th Beach dunes (see map).

I went for a quick look this morning and found the lake teeming with ducks (mostly Grey and Chestnut Teal) and wading birds (Pacific Golden Plover, Red-necked Stints and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers)

Lake Murtnaghurt, Barwon Heads
The vegetation around the lake made it difficult to get close enough for any good photographs or positive ID on any rarer birds (really need a scope for viewing waders at this distance) but it was great to see so many birds enjoying their Saturday morning breakfast.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Hooded Plovers nesting at Ocean Grove

There's a new (unbanded) pair of Hooded Plovers nesting at Ocean Grove this summer. My wife and I have been watching them since before Christmas and, unfortunately, they lost their first clutch after they'd hatched.

After a stinking hot (42C) day today we hit the beach for an evening swim and to check out the Hoodies. We were pleasantly surprised to be greeted with an updated sign at the beginning of the track to the beach noting that a new clutch of two eggs had been laid yesterday.

When we got down to the beach the two birds were easily found:

one sitting on the nest

Hooded Plover, Ocean Grove

the other hanging out with a flock of gulls

Hooded Plover and Silver Gulls, Ocean Grove

spending most of its time feeding in the wet sand

Hooded Plover and Silver Gull, Ocean Grove

It was soon joined by the second bird that had briefly abandoned the nest for a few minutes of feeding at the water's edge

Hooded Plover, Ocean Grove

but it soon retreated back into the dunes

Hooded Plover, Ocean Grove

to take its turn on the nest

Hooded Plover, Ocean Grove

leaving its mate to hang out at the water's edge...

Hooded Plover, Ocean Grove

with the gulls (who had apparently lost interest),

Hooded Plover and Silver Gull, Ocean Grove


Hooded Plover, Ocean Grove

occasionally running away from encroaching humans

Hooded Plover, Ocean Grove

and posing for portraits :-)

Hooded Plover, Ocean Grove

and as I left them, the nest remained tended

Hooded Plover, Ocean Grove

so, here's hoping for a successful clutch this time.

For more information on Hooded Plovers, go to

Birding and Natural History Blogs - Australia

Birding Blogs - Worldwide