Thursday, December 1, 2011

In the news

A great article about current Spotted pardalote behaviour in our neck of the woods recently in The Age. The photos are awesome. See it at:

Spotted! The birds who flew to earth and then will leave.

It probably explains why even I can currently get photos of this tree-top dweller

Spotted pardalote, Blackburn Lake

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Night Herons @ Blackie Lake

There are (to my mind) remarkable numbers of Nankeen night heron at Blackburn Lake currently. It has prompted me to examine the Eremaea sightings for this species which reveals that they are not sighted for much of the year and most likely seen from late spring through summer.

Nankeen night heron (immature)
Blackburn Lake, 16 September 2011

Nankeen night heron at Blackburn Lake
Graph generated by Eremaea website

I have always found them a bird that is not readily seen even when they are present. Even when trying hard (for me) I would generally only pick up one or two. Lately however there have been days on the water's edge when it feels like they are the dominant species with much posturing and flying around. An Eremaea list from 15 November 2011 from Richard and Margaret Alcorn records no fewer than 12 sightings.

The photo below is taken on a day when I sighted seven night heron, four of which are in shot:

Night heron at Blackburn Lake
18 November 2011
Spring is certainly a lively time at Blackburn Lake for birding (more images from 18 November):

Little pied cormorant

Pacific black duck

Little black cormorant

Monday, November 28, 2011

Big fans of the beach!

One day I will take a decent photo of a fantail. Today is not that day but did enjoy good views of Grey fantail right down on the beach walking east from Silverleaves, Phillip Island today.

Also seen were Hooded plover, Red-capped plover (recently nesting AT Silverleaves beach), Crested tern, Masked lapwing and Superb fairy-wren to name a few. As well as ibis and great cormorants flying over there wes also two sightings of Royal spoonbill.

The purpose of the walk was to visit the site when the Grand-parents came across Pied oystercatcher hatchlings (nearly stepped on them apparently) last weekend (20 November). Here's Harry's picture.

Pied oystercatcher hatchling
Photo H. Farthing

Today at low tide, approaching from a distance I did see a ball of fluff running for cover through the binoculars (just the one). I was then taken aback by the sight of a Pied osytercatcher actually walking towards me!

Hmmm, am I getting warmer?

A couple of flight displays (swoops) told me I wasn't really wanted and I moved on.

Later in the day we also enjoyed views of a flock of Yellow-tailed blacks (12) moving through the banksia and Latham's snipe (9) enjoying a temporary wetland as we started the drive back to Melbourne. These photos taken from the car in Honeysuckle Grove, Silverleaves:

Snipe @ Silverleaves
Around 6 birds in this view alone

Latham's snipe, 7.40PM EDST

Seeing snipe here was very much a chance sighting and will probably result in continued slow-driving past wetlands behaviour for many years to come!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Common bronzewing calling

To me a little sense of mystery surrounds my sightings of Common bronzewing.
It was a few years of birdwatching before I even identified one. I must have seen or heard them before my birding existence - I was in their domain after all. It is probable that unless you're some sort of "birder" seeing a bronzewing does not even register in one's consciousness.

Common bronzewing (male)
at Hochkins Reserve, North Croydon
Mysterious because having not been aware of them before, they then "appear" in the parks of suburbs in which I live and work.
I identified the bird a few times before I ever heard them call. Then one day I heard it - the booming but soft and deep resonating repeated "oom". I couldn't see the bird, I didn't even know it was a bird. I remember a woman passed. I explained and queried. She heard also and declared "Owl!" (I wish). Eventually I worked it out.

Common bronzewing - the female colouring
Blackburn Lake
Mysterious because on the one hand they are elusive and yet not. In a place I regularly pass I will make a single unexpected sighting and then not again for many, many months. Yet their call can be readily heard over 100m away and once heard they can usually be tracked down - what a give away! Also they are just as likely to frequent the picnic spots of forested areas, wandering calmly through the car park - they even visit the bird feeder in my father-in-law's suburban deck!

I remember enjoying watching this bird at the car park at Badger Creek Weir and was able to record some video of it calling (perhaps would have been better if the camera wasn't set to a fixed focal point just beyond the bird).

Having also seen a male bird display from a distance I know I would also enjoy a closer view of that fanned tail .... and perhaps a few shots.

Anyway .... now for the Brush & Flock bronzewing varieties!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cracking pardalote views

Enjoyed cracking views of this female (or immature) Spotted pardalote at Blackburn Lake yesterday. Also recently arrived in town are a few Sacred kingfisher and Musk lorikeets. Amongst the regulars there are also a few cooperative Chestnut teal and some less cooperative Mistletoebird (hence no pictures).

Personally, Sacred kingfisher and Mistletoebird were not birds I'd seen at Blackie Lake until a few weeks ago. It is a pleasure to see them regularly at the moment (I gather it is hoped that the kingfishers may nest).

                                        Spotted pardalote                                          

                                    Sacred kingfisher                                    

When backlit by sunshine the colouring changes
(it happens to be a different bird, same day)

                                                       Musk lorikeet                                                      

                                                            Chestnut teal                                                         

                                                     The carp are huge!                                                     

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Terrific Terrick!

If you make a triangle out of the Victorian towns of Bendigo, Echuca & Kerang then the Terrick Terrick National Park sits in the middle. It contains an unfamiliar environment with native pines and grasslands with a few areas of rocky outcrops. Similarly the birding was unfamiliar & I'm sure that many more "ticks" could have eventuated if we had more local experience or a little homework under the belt.

The 45 minute drive down from our digs at Torrumbarry resulted in stops to view brown falcon, white-fronted chat, Australasian pipit, brolga (did I mention?) &  long-billed corella.

In the cool temperate rainforest & other bush surrounding Melbourne you can't leave a track, even if you wanted to, without a machete. It was strangely satisfying to walk in and amongst the actual bird habitat rather than view it from a track. Although I did do less of this after we saw several long reptiles.

Native pine and grasses

The Mitiamo cemetery section

Climbing Mt Terrick

The team!
The day was warm and we were there from about 10am until 3pm - not ideal for birding. Several sightings were lifers (of these a couple were suspected at the time but confirmed by photograph later on) but I feel we really dipped on a variety of honeyeaters that are often seen.

Black-faced cuckoo shrike -
the immature birds still get me thinking I might
have something new!

Rufous songlark (above & below)
AKA Noisius buggeris

Red-capped robin

Hooded robin

Mistletoebird (after a big night I think)
Southern whiteface (needs a wash)
Hannah was great company and started keeping her own list. She pays greater attention to bird counts than I can be bothered with at times!

Written while driving on gravel
Please excuse hand-writing!
To the north of the forested section of the Park are some areas of designated Park described as native grassland. We had a brief look at the grasslands (didn't get out of the car) where people try to see Plains wanderer (at night I think). We found them difficult to distinguish from the farmed paddocks - some of the locals indicate that they are farmed paddocks (or have been).

I am very grateful to Peter Allen & Keith Stockwell's birding guide for Terrick published via Echuca BOCA's website:

And thanks to Tim Bawden for suggesting the place.

We were also hoping to see Diamond firetail but that's another story....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Silverleaves vermin out of control

In my absence Kath & the girls recently drove through Silverleaves & photographed species (pests?) now wandering freely through public grasslands.

Measures may need to be taken to control these species, hitherto almost absent in the area (apparently), but which are now reaching plague proportions:

The brolga is off my back!

Yes, finally I am able to state that I have seen brolgas and name the date, place & circumstance. Having never been quite sure that childhood memories of seeing these birds in SW Victorian paddocks were real or imagined I don't have to fret any longer.

The sighting was not a 30 minute utopia of photographing courting birds in a graceful dance. Rather it was a 30 second "Shit, they might be brolgas!", car screeching to a halt (from 100kmh), camera & binocular fumbling liaison that could easily have ended in disaster!

Anyway it was still special. The birds loomed large in my mind's eye as I was taking the pictures - so I am somewhat disappointed at the distant, grey, brolga-shaped silhouettes that resulted!:

Pizzey: "Flight distinctive: neck and legs extended,
wingbeats slow, majestic..."

I agree!

Disappearing over the flat plains of north-central Victoria
Hannah knew I was looking out for them ..... we "high-fived" and drove on to Terrick Terrick National Park (report to follow!).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Badger Creek Lyrebirds

Enjoyed a very close encounter with this female lyrebird on the trail to Badger Creek weir (video below).

Two males we saw weren't as engaging but both demonstrated impressive mimicry close to hand that alerted us to their presence (a whistler "whip", a kookaburra's laugh).

For completeness sake I include a shot of a captive male Superb lyrebird taken at Healesville Sanctuary a few years ago:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Orioles back in Hochkins!

I remember first seeing an olive-backed oriole in Bundanoon NSW & had just imagined they were a North-of-the-Murray sort of bird until coming across one at Hockins Ridge Reserve in North Croydon last December. I remember suggesting to a fellow birder in January that we could pop in & see them again. Lucky we didn't because I have not seen them since. This prompted a dive into Pizzey to learn that they are of course, semi-migratory. We'll they're back! This view is of a bird at the top of the tree canopy - therefore is not a great image. They have a call which is actually sort of familiar & quite recognisable.

As a result of this momentous occasion, the Turnstones end of August tally has raced along to 172!

I reckon it's a suburban gem!
Common bronzewing and Grey butcherbird are resident locals

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Spinebills on show

While the Turnstones are definitely not on show - stuck on 171 for what seems like months - the spinebills have been very showy of late.

The last few weeks have provided great views of Eastern Spinebill around the house at Cowes. In particular a certain bedroom window has become the cleanest window on the island since its usefulness as a bird hide became apparent:

I think the following shots show the magic of nature through pollination and adaptation. The curve of the bill seems adapted for the shape of the flower which in turn dongs the bird on the head with what could be called, i dunno, it's stamen maybe? Do you think I could get a gig writing for David Rabbitburrer?

The lovely adaptation story breaks down when we suspect that the plant in question is African Cornflag (Chasmanthe floribunda) which is from South Africa and considered a bushland noxious weed in these parts (but only if it manages to oust the "aggies").