Thursday, December 27, 2012

Boxing Day Test at the WTP

Cricket was not on the agenda when a Boxing Day test match of the birding kind took place yesterday. The participants were Richard of RW's Birds of Australia fame and myself.

The venue? Not the MCG but the WTP - that is to say Melbourne's Western Treatment Plant (AKA the Werribee Poo ponds). In the birding equivalent of a marathon pub crawl we also took in the You Yangs and Serendip Sanctuary.

Curiously there was no hint of competition:) I had no idea Rich was on 273 for the year and I on 263!

I haven't had a great number of birding expeditions with other birders so it was a pleasure to share the day with another of similar interests and experience (sorry Rich) . Each bringing specific knowledge to the table resulted in more efficient birding and more sightings. There was still head-scratching with shared black holes (sandpipers, terns) but things still got sorted more efficiently (allocated to "unidentified sandpiper" category much more quickly).

I thoroughly enjoyed this gorgeous day at Werribee (only my second trip). The visit showcased the WTP's amazing capacity for showing grand scale as well as intimate detail. Many birds were there in large flocks but could also been seen at close range if lucky.

My combatant .... birding buddy taking in Lake Borrie (You Yangs on horizon)
One of several flocks of Red-necked avocet 
Swirling flocks of Pink-eared duck made their way directly overhead 

More flocks - Australian shelduck (above) and a closer view of the avocet below

Small ponds like this one enabled much closer viewing
Red-necked avocet
Whiskered tern
With large groups of birds comes the opportunity to observe behaviour. Here are two pairs of sharp-tailed sandpiper which were noticed to be "interacting"....

Finally a pair of cooperative birds provided the opportunity for direct comparison. When seen like this it beggars belief that one had been viewing the birds for ages before realising there were different species (Sharp-tailed sandpiper and Curlew sandpiper - lifer!)
 Two birds that I don't see close-up very often are Red-kneed dotterel and Australian spotted crake....

 The car was then parked near the bird hide which provided more good viewing.

Sharp-tailed sandpiper

Common greenshank and Red-necked stint
Spotted harrier - Lifer (quickly identified with the assistance of my associate raptor expert)!
A Superb fairy-wren Christmas spread - surrounded by the feast!
Australian pelican jetting in from Avalon airport
Distant view of Horsfield's bronze cuckoo in this un-edited photo. I do like the fence post, grasses and the slight "vignette" effect caused by the car's side mirror just encroaching on the shot at bottom left!
Welcome swallow ('though it was hanging around with tree martins) 
Finally we had good views of Great crested grebe and Eurasian skylark.

Bird on!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Middle Lagoon 2 - Birds of the skies

Just around the headland of Middle Lagoon is a second small bay. This view shows the beach at low tide and the ridge available for camping. While we were camped there the small headland was used as a perch by one of my (well, everyone's) favourite birds, the Brahminy kite. It was tricky to get close but I managed it once.

The Brahminy was just one good reason to keep an eye on the sky. We were thrilled to have distant views of what to us was a striking but immediately unfamiliar bird - Lesser frigatebird.
One morning I was alerted to the sound of a sizeable flock of Red-tailed blacks on the move. Only one week before our arrival there had been a bushfire. Now there was smoke in the air again and cockies on the move. They were moving in fits and starts, advancing 100m or so then landing in trees, perhaps picking up birds that had perched there. They became a group of 60 to 80 birds -  certainly more RTBs than I had ever seen together before and I hurriedly grabbed gear and tried to find myself in their path!
This was difficult and I wondered at my foolishness given the smoke in the air!!

Unfortunately no good shots resulted but I had another memorable Middle Lagoon experience!

Bird on!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Middle Lagoon 1 - Birds of the water's edge

We enjoyed almost a week at Middle Lagoon on the Dampier Peninsula north of Broome. Now, I'm absolutely out of my depth when it comes to waders so be ready for a few clangers!

Firstly though I had heard calls and had initial glimpses through mangroves of what I thought was going to be Striated heron. Wasn't I pleased when this bird finally made an obvious appearance and raised it's eyebrow back at me?

Striated heron, 21 August 2012

I feel a little nervous asserting that we see above (clockwise from top-left) Gull-billed tern, Greater sand-plover, Red-capped plover and Common sandpiper enjoying the tidal flats.

Pied oystercatcher, Middle Lagoon 
Eastern reef egret (grey morph)

Having perched myself among the rocks to watch this egret I was treated to very close views as it hunted (quite productively!) in the shallows. In the fading Indian Ocean sunset the bird came closer and closer to where I was sitting before moving on to another hunting ground. 

Speaking of putting on a show these Brown booby were not to be outdone:

Going .....
Going .....
Loved this place!

Bird on!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Treasures of Windjana Gorge

We arrived at Windjana Gorge one late afternoon in August. These Black kite appeared as sentinels in the setting sun - probably just hanging and keeping an eye out for scraps ... or maybe ....  guarding something perhaps?!

 Not really, but the kids did enjoy pointing out these little treasures rustling in the scrub next morning!

Brown quail, Windjana Gorge, 14 August 2012 
The quail were seen adjacent to the camping area which is outside the actual gorge. We walked the gorge for about 2 hours (out and back) but it deserves much more time. I was torn to have to turn around as each bend in the gorge seemed to promise more interesting sights and varied habitat.

Little bronze-cuckoo amongst the trees lining the gorge. Lifer!
Below are Yellow-tinted honeyeater, a White-gaped honeyeater feeding and White-winged triller.

Brown falcon looking down on me
People may be aware that Windjana Gorge is probably best known for a different form of wildlife. This Black-fronted dotterel appears to be tip-toeing past such a beast!

These Freshwater crocodile are everywhere. They are harmless to humans unless disturbed.

We've covered birds and reptiles - bats represent the mammals today. Fishing is prohibited in the Gorge and barramundi can be seen swimming! 

Views within Windjana Gorge and one from the camping area "amenity" looking back at the cliff walls of the gorge entrance.

I would expect that spending a few days here would be very productive from the birding point of view! Here's the Eremaea list from our little visit. 

Bird on!