Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Birding detours

As previously mentioned there has been recent travel to Port Fairy. I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of my WTP permit & key with a view to dropping in at the poo-ponds en route to Port Fairy. Apparently it arrived a few hours after we left - much to the family's disappointment!

To curb my depressed state I had hatched a plot for an alternative birding adventure by dropping in to the Port Campbell National Park. This would make the 4 hour trip a day-long venture!

The attraction was partly renewing acquaintance with a stretch of coast close to my heart and also that I recalled coming across Singing honeyeater readily (pre-birding days). However the clincher was comments contained in tourist promotional brochures such as this:

The endangered rufous bristle bird is technically abundant in the protected coastal heath of our National and Coastal parks. Ardent twitchers that have often waited a long time to see the birds are often disappointed when directed to the car park at Loch Ard Gorge for an almost guaranteed sighting.
The cocky birds put on quite a show fluffing their rust colored crest twitching their tails and doing a fair impression of the roadrunner darting across the car park.

Can anyone not guess what comes next?

Eremaea data boasted a 100% strike rate for Rufous bristlebird for Loch Ard Gorge ..... before our visit. We gave it a good chance at The 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge and Bay of Martyrs. Admittedly it was the middle of the day..... mid afternoon ....... late afternoon.

Anyway we have learnt a lot about bristlebird, did enjoy the scenery and had good views of Singing honeyeater (of course, they were all over the place Port Fairy - please don't tell the missus).

....and did you know that by adding another half hour to the detour above you can take in the Ralph Illidge Sanctuary "one of the most reliable places in Victoria to see Grey (White) Goshawk".

How could I resist?

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Deen Maar specials

Well they may be easy fodder for the more serious & experienced birder but Deen Maar introduced me to some species I hadn't had much to do with.

Firstly I was introduced to the Southern Emu-wren. I didn't go there looking for them & had not seen them before nor read much about them.
So embarrassingly I...
  • didn't notice the emu feather tail until checking photos later on!
  • thought I must have two lifers, having seen the tincy dark brown female (was quite disappointed to realise they were the same bird - please correct me if I'm wrong!)

The second bird had me rifling through the hitherto largely untouched pages 164-197 of my 2001 Pizzey. Oh my God - I had ignored those pages for good reason! When I saw this bird (actually a pair) I thought "Great, easy tick!" Some 45 minutes of exploring various resources later I realised - not so easy! Comparing my photos with various descriptions and other images I have nervously (Pizzey "uncommon regular migrant to to s. Australia") but confidently concluded that this is a Wood sandpiper:

Finally I also enjoyed first decent photographs of what I believe to be Golden-headed cisticola and Striated fieldwren.

As I mentioned on the previous Deen Maar post, I believe I was the only person out there. This is just as well as anyone following me would have seen a lot of this:

Post-Wood sandpiper perfect take-off
Go on click on it, you know you want to!

And I see that the Buff Budgies are just making up bird names now - or at least seeing things I don't believe exist. Congratulations Richard on Red-browed pardalote. Is that bird 206 for the year?

Spell check doesn't like pardalote. Look it did it again.... pardalote, pardalote, pardalote.

Peter (RTs - now on 144 glorious Victorian birds)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Deen Maar

The Deen Maar Indigenous Protected Area lies 15km to the west of Port Fairy and has been touted as a good bird watching locality by Tim Dolby in his book & blog. I rang the Eumeralla Backpackers and was allowed to spend a memorable few hours on Tuesday morning. I believe I would have been the only person on 4.53 square kilometres of marsh, river and lake. A limestone ridge separates the wetlands from the surf beach. In the Google Earth image below Deen Maar essentially includes the river and lake system shown (Eumeralla River and Lake Yambuk) plus everything to the south & west down to the surf:

The limestone ridge is now home to a wind farm. It was weird to travel between & beneath the huge turbines. 

The locked gate at the entrance & bridge across the Eumeralla.

Introductory sign at entrance

Typical wetlands scene
There had been mist in the morning and I was struck by the number of dragon fly crucifixes on the grass tussocks. My initial thought was that they were all stuck in spider webs but later realised they were just drying off. After birding without dragonfly distraction for half an hour they suddenly sprung to life & doing that dragonfly-bird thing out of the corner of your eye.

One of the highlights for me was seeing emu again in their natural environs. While driving along the track, at one stage I emerged over a rise and a scattered group of about 15 emu took off into the bush even though I was a good 300m away. Then distracted by the sound of loud splashing I looked to my left and saw a smaller group smashing through the marsh - again 200-300m away. These are not your sandwich stealing Tower Hill or Healesville sanctuary emu.

About to scarper

The Whistling kite below appears to be negotiating one of the turbines but he was actually flying well in front.

Some birds of interest that have been seen at Deen Maar (but weren't on this day) include bittern, grass owl, blue-winged parrot and orange bellied parrot (the endangered winter migrant).

I did however pick up four "lifers" I think (more on that later!)

Southern Ocean surf

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mr Qwirk & the kestrels

This is Mr Qwirk. He is a peculiar man. He has an inflated rubber glove taped to his forehead.

Behind Mr Qwirk is a large tent.

Late in the afternoon there was an even better show than Mr Qwirk. Firstly it involved an Australian hobby (lifer!!) soaring around the venue catching large flying insects.

Then appeared no fewer than six Nankeen kestrel which appeared to see the hobby off and commenced their own feast, intermittently perching on the tent uprights or light towers. We could see them targeting the large flying bugs and suspected they were also feeding on the wing but were pleasantly surprised with the photos:

Mr Qwirk finishes his act by bursting his inflated glove with juggled sabres. I reckon it would be even better if he did it with the hobby!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bell miners - So that's what they look like!

I was at Koomba Park, Wantirna, surrounded by the chiming of Bell Miners and, as usual, finding the little blighters very hard to see let alone photograph. At times you could swear the call was 3 metres in front of you where stood nothing but a pathetic sapling!

It got to me. I found myself deciding to not settle for a "heard only" Bell Miner tick today.

I persisted.

Then it started. Like stars in the night sky as eyes become accustomed to the darkness I started to see the miners. I got a few indistinct photos of birds among distant foliage.

Then, bizarrely, one bird (which I can only assume had lost its miner marbles) started feeding right next to me and here's the result!

Bell miner Manorina melanophrys
A comical character really! The next shot captures apparently flightless movement through the foliage (or more correctly doesn't quite capture the movement as the head is out of shot!)

Quite a buzz to finally see these guys clearly!

Bird on!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Darter Processing

Having not seen Australasian Darter my whole life (according to my eremaea lists) there are now three sightings in nearly as many days:

Australasian darter (Adult male), Candlebark Reserve, Croydon Hills
The bird below was demonstrating great effectiveness at fishing, disappearing for 15-30 seconds and reappearing (doing the snake thing) with a fish on each dive (I saw 4 or 5). I just missed a photo of it tossing it's catch in the air to effect a neat swallow. I think it is the fish going down that makes the neck look deformed in this photo. I can't explain the white muck on the bill, it is in all of the photos - must be a Lilydale thing.

Australasian darter (female) or Snake-bird

Bird on!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What's uglier than a night heron?

Answer: A juvenile night heron. Before last weekend I'd really only seen mature birds in various states of plumage but this juvenile is really a weird looking dude.

This fella was seen at Jell's Park - Tom kindly joined me for a mid-afternoon outing & he was manned with the original digital SLR & lenses (daddy has a better camera now!). We discussed the different settings you can use & here's his photo of an obliging dragon fly he spotted:

We also had good views of darter (2) including witnessing why it is also known as snake bird. Watching one swim with body submerged, neck and head sticking out of the water was initially a little confronting (no photo of that sorry)!