Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Balyang Sanctuary and the Barwon River

With a public holiday today and reasonable weather, I was looking for somewhere local to go birding. There were a few too many people and dogs frequenting the beaches around home to make it worth looking for wading birds so I headed into Geelong to check out the birds at Balyang Sanctuary and the adjoining Barwon River. Balyang Sanctuary was the focus of one of my earliest posts in this blog but I have not been there with the camera for several years and there are usually cormorants and darters breeding on the river so I was looking forward to seeing what I could find.

As I was preparing the camera and tripod, an Australasian Darter took off from a branch on the other side of the lake and I managed to get one shot off hand-held with whatever settings I had on the camera at the time. Fortunately, I had the ISO up and aperture large enough to get a reasonably fast shutter speed (1/640) on Aperture Priority, though nowhere near fast enough to freeze the wings - I only really got them like this because they were at the top of the wing beat so not moving very fast. I was on single shot auto focus so I couldn't manage to get any more shots.

Australasian Darter, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/640

There were several species of ducks on the lake, including a pair of Chestnut Teals that cooperated long enough for me to get a shot of each.

Chestnut Teal (male), Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/320
Chestnut Teal (female), Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/400

However the most interesting birds on the edge of the lake were Red Junglefowl (Domestic Chicken), with this rooster foraging along the bank. There are frequently domestic ducks and geese around this lake but I've never seen chickens before and this male is pretty close to wild-type.

Red Junglefowl (Domestic Chicken), Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1600

The duck boxes that have been constructed in various locations on the lake also make great landing platforms for other birds to shake themselves dry after a bath.

White-faced Heron, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/4, 1/1600

In addition to the lake, the sanctuary also has an area of open woodland and several species of birds utilise the holes in old River Red Gums for nesting.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/11, 1/400
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/11, 1/125
Rainbow Lorikeet, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/11, 1/125

But not all the parrot action was in the nest holes...

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/2500
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/2000

and the highlight was this pair of Long-billed Corellas.


Long-billed Corella, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/400
Long-billed Corella, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/500
Long-billed Corella, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/500
Long-billed Corella, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/500

The sanctuary is adjacent to the Barwon River where there are often ducks and coots on the river - no ducks today but this Eurasian Coot was swimming close to the bank in lovely light and showing bow-wave ripples in the mirror-like water.

Eurasian Coot, Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1000

Cormorants and darters can be found perching along the river

Australasian Darter, Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/800
Australasian Darter, Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1000

and nesting in the trees along the west bank.

Little Pied Cormorant, Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/8, 1/1250
Little Pied Cormorant, Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/11, 1/500
Little Pied Cormorant, Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1600
Little Pied Cormorant, Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/2000

An Australasian Darter nest was also in this cluster of cormorant nests

Australasian Darter (juveniles), Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/11, 1/800

with four young darters squirming for room

Australasian Darter (juveniles), Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/11, 1/320

under the not-so-watchful eye of Dad.

Australasian Darter (adult male + juveniles), Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/11, 1/500

It's amazing how much difference there is in size within clutches like this.

Australasian Darter (juveniles), Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/11, 1/250

Birding and Natural History Blogs - Australia

Birding Blogs - Worldwide