Saturday, 6 November 2010

Shorebirds at Breamlea

Another beautiful day in paradise today so I rose early and headed on a shorebird hunt.

One of my favourite spots for plovers and other small shorebirds is Point Impossible between Breamlea and Torquay (see map). There are at least two pairs of Hooded Plover that frequent the beaches either side of the mouth of Thompson Creek along with (seasonal) mixed flocks of Red-necked Stint, Double-banded Plover and Red-capped Plover.

I arrived there early and scanned the beaches in both directions but nothing but gulls :-(

Heading back along Point Impossible Road there's a spot where the road is very close to the bend in Thompson Creek and a flicker of white caught my eye on the creek bank so I pulled over for a closer look. A single Common Greenshank was feeding about 400 metres upstream but I was almost due west of the bird and looking directly into the sun so shooting from here was not going to be much use. Tripod over my shoulder, I crossed the creek (only just over knee deep at low tide) and slowly stalked the bird from the other side, hoping to get close enough to get the sun side-lighting the bird and close enough for at least a good record shot, never having seen this species here before. I got to within about 150 metres and sat on the sandy bank (another good reason to cross the river - the south bank is sandy with dune sand blowing inland, the north bank is mud) to let the bird settle (it had started to get twitchy as I approached). I soon realised that it was not me that was making the bird nervous as two small terriers ran along the shore from the opposite direction barking at each other and the bird flew up stream away from me. Ah well...back to the car.

As the tide was out and Thompson Creek is tidal almost all the way up its length, I drove into Breamlea and parked at the end of Horwood Drive where it meets the creek, just in case the Greenshank had landed on the mudflats further upstream. No Greenshank but there was a pair of Whimbrel a long way upstream.

Whimbrel, Thompson Creek, Breamlea

Stalking them proved fruitless as wading birds obviously have a considerably higher foot surface area to body mass ratio than humans so are much better adapted at walking on the sandy mud flats of the creek than I am. They were not particularly concerned about me but were walking upstream as they fed and the further we walked, the further away they got so I stopped, lowered the tripod and knelt down in a sandy(ish) spot hoping they would come back my way and get close enough for some good shots.

As I waited, three Red-capped Plover landed on the sandy bank about 50 metres away from me so I slowly crept up on them on two knees and three tripod feet until I was close enough to one of them

Red-capped Plover, Thompson Creek, Breamlea

...and as I was about to try and get even closer, a Common Greenshank flew over me and landed in the creek on the other side of the sand bank.

Common Greenshank, Thompson Creek, Breamlea

No idea if it was the same bird I saw downstream half an hour earlier but highly likely. The two Whimbrel never came back. 

So, dipped at Point Impossible but very happy with the morning...muddy knees and feet and all.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Royal Park

Meetings in Melbourne most of the day today but finished early so had an hour to kill before picking up my son from University of Melbourne.

The Melbourne suburb of Parkville has some great places for walking and birding.  Royal Park is a favourite as the combination of a range of habitats and proximity to the Royal Melbourne Zoo attracts a wide range of birds. The Trin Warren Tam-boore Wetlands in the north western section of Royal Park (next to Manningham Street - see map) have been created to collect and treat storm water run-off and are a great place to find water and bush birds.

Australian Reed Warbler were calling from the reeds all over the wetlands and several species of honeyeater were active (New Holland, White-plumed, Red Wattlebird) but were too far away or in the wrong locations to get good shots.

However, this Pacific Black Duck landed and started to have a splash bath right in front of me.

Pacific Black Duck, Royal Park

Sometimes the common birds give me the greatest pleasure :-)

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Jerringot Wetlands

What do you do when it's windy, cold and raining and you don't feel well? Of course, go birding!

In weather conditions like today, the best (and probably only) places to look for birds are in wetlands or the sea so I chose the more protected option and headed for Jerringot Wetlands, between Barwon Heads Road and Barwon Valley Golf Course in Belmont Common, Geelong (see map) and is usually a good spot for a range of waterbirds.

Spring has sprung at Jerringot with many birds nesting or with young. This clutch of Black Swan cygnets were huddled together on what was presumably their original nest site in the middle of the lake.

Black Swan cygnets, Jerringot Wetlands
These two grebe chicks were swimming around by themselves with no adults in sight. I think they are Australasian Grebe but it's difficult to distinguish them from Hoary-headed Grebe at this age.

Australasian Grebe juveniles, Jerringot Wetlands

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Lorikeets and Terns at Ricketts Point

Travelling interstate and overseas for work for the last 5 weeks, I have been reading with envy the postings from many Melbourne birdos reporting the various species of terns frequenting the beaches of Beaumaris and Mordialloc.

So, it was with some anticipation that I visited both locations this afternoon on a brief trip to Melbourne. First stop Mordialloc jetty and no luck - plenty of terns but all Crested Tern on both north and south sides of jetty. Better luck at the second stop at Ricketts Point in Beaumaris (access to Ricketts Point is from Beach Road just NW of the intersection with Reserve Road - see map).

There were approx. 200 Crested Tern on and around the rock platform.

Crested Tern, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Among the largest group was a single "odd one out" that is either an Arctic Tern or Common Tern. Unfortunately, the mid afternoon sun was not in the best position for viewing or photographing this bird and the whole flock was scared off by a dog before I could try and approach it any closer. In flight, the bird did appear to have the Arctic Tern's distinctive black tips to primaries.

Stop Press 28 Oct:
I've had some offline feedback that it might be a White-fronted Tern - which I now think it is based on the head (minimal dark colour in front of the eye) and wing plumage - happy to be convinced otherwise though :-)

Which Tern? Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
I hung around for another 20 minutes in the hope that the terns would return to the same reef but, alas, no...

On leaving the car park, I heard lorikeets across Beach Road and as there had been a report of a pair of Scaly-breasted Lorikeets earlier in the week, I stopped for a closer investigation. There were at least 10 Rainbow Lorikeets (difficult to count exact numbers as they were in almost continuous movement within and among the Coast Banksia trees).

Rainbow Lorikeet, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris

There was a Scaly-breasted Lorikeet among the Rainbows

Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
but the bird it spent most time with appeared to be neither a Rainbow or Scaly-breasted, appearing to have hybrid features of both: the blue head but duller than Rainbow and scaly breast as well as back.

Hybrid Rainbow and Scaly-breasted Lorikeet?
I have not seen this before so any ideas appreciated.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Queenscliff Boat Ramp

Queenscliff, on the Bellarine Peninsula, offers a range of birding possibilities including the mudflats and salt marshes of Swan Bay, the marina and ferry terminal, beaches, coastal scrub and parks. View Map

I was in the car park at the Queenscliff boat ramp (at the northern end of Hesse St, past the railway terminal) today watching gulls and terns playing musical poles on the mooring poles just offshore when this Little Black Cormorant landed 4 metres away from me and was not the least concerned when I went back to the car and returned camera in hand (literally - this was shot hand-held with a 28-200 zoom lens - I couldn't get far enough away to use anything longer).

Little Black Cormorant, Queenscliff

I suspect that it (along with many other birds frequenting the area - particularly gulls, terns and pelicans) is habituated to people at the boat ramp with bait and fish scraps.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

A weekend in the Mallee

With all of the recent rain and Spring having sprung, I decided to head north for the weekend to check out the Mallee Parks with a hope to see as many parrot species as possible.

First stop was Goschen Bushland Reserve, a remnant mallee and grassland oasis surrounded by farmland about 20km west of Lake Boga View Map. Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate as a heavy cloud cover stayed around all morning but I did see Eastern Rosella, Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Red-rumped Parrot and Blue Bonnet.

Blue Bonnet, Goschen Bushland Reserve

So, off to Hattah-Kulkyne National Park (View Map) where I set up camp at Lake Hattah campground (Lake Hattah is full with water right up to the edge of the campground!) then drove up Mournpall Track, which passes through a range of habitats, each worth investigating but, with limited time available, I restricted myself to parrot-friendly places - the best are usually those with old trees with hollows. Approx. 6km north of the visitor centre, the road passes through an area of open grassland with a grove of River Red Gums on the edge of the lake. Within 5 minutes at this site, I had seen Galah, Little Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Regent Parrot and Mallee Ringneck.

Regent Parrot, Hattah-Kulkyne NP
Mallee Ringneck, Hattah-Kulkyne NP

Back at the campsite as dusk was arriving and I was preparing dinner it was feeding time for this juvenile Yellow Rosella (which is actually a race of the Crimson Rosella) as well:

Yellow Rosella, Hattah-Kulkyne NP

Next morning, I ate breakfast with Apostlebird and White-winged Chough and one Australian Raven marauding around the picnic table but it was still too dark for any decent photographs (sometimes it's good to just sit and watch).

A quick pack up and off to Wyperfeld National Park View Map. On arriving at the Casuarina Campground in the Northern section of Wyperfeld, there was a small flock of Major Mitchell's Cockatoo chasing each other around the sheoaks. They were only there for about 5 minutes but enough time for a few photos.

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, Wyperfeld NP

So, a total of 1402 km travelled for 10 parrot species in one and a half days including first time photographs of Regent Parrot - not a bad weekend. Hope to be back soon :-)


PS...just to show it was not a parrot only weekend, one lifer for me: 

Shy Heathwren, Wyperfeld NP

2 birds found in Mallee scrub approx. 50 m off the James Barrett Nature Drive directly opposite start of Dattuck Track (access from Wonga Campground in the Southern section of Wyperfeld NP).

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Bush birds by the beach, Ocean Grove

The Ocean Grove Spit is a 2 km long sand dune complex that separates Bass Strait from the Barwon River Estuary View Map. The dunes are covered in coastal scrub consisting mainly of Leptospermum, Kunzea and Acacia.

A short walk along the river side at lunchtime today revealed thornbills, silvereyes and fairy wrens highly active amongst the flowering Kunzea and Acacia bushes.

Silvereye, Ocean Grove

Brown Thornbill (juvenile), Ocean Grove

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Ripview, Queenscliff

Ripview, at the end of Hesse St past Victoria Park and Fort Queenscliff, offers an excellent view of the Rip (aka "The Heads"), the entry to Port Philip Bay. View Map

This is a popular site for watching the in- and out-going shipping as well as seabirds.

I visited there briefly today (another lunchtime excursion). There were gulls, terns, cormorants and gannets all fishing offshore and flying past.

Pied Cormorant, Queenscliff

Unfortunately, this site is not as good as it was previously for birdwatching. The removal of the old, rusting storm-water drainpipe and adjacent sign was probably justified for a number of reasons but it was a reliable location for cormorants, gulls and terns.

Pied Cormorant, Queenscliff (March 2009)

Sometimes progress is not always good.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Barwon River Estuary

The Barwon River forms a broad estuary between Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove. View Map

There are usually gulls, terns, cormorants, ibis, herons, pelicans and ducks on the beaches and mudflats and in the river as well as a range of other birds in the surrounding mangroves, saltmarsh and coastal scrub.

Another quick lunch stop today in one of the turnoffs on the Ocean Grove Spit Riverside camping area (only in use as such over summer) overlooking the estuary and immediately found flock of 24 Royal Spoonbill feeding in the shallows right on the bank approx. 800 metres up river.

Royal Spoonbill, Barwon River Estuary, Ocean Grove

I walked slowly along the riverbank as the spoonbills walked towards me, concentrating on feeding and preening.

Royal Spoonbill, Barwon River Estuary, Ocean Grove

For most birds, it's best to shoot with as close to full front lighting as possible but for white birds like these spoonbills, getting correct exposure is challenging in bright sunny conditions. Back or side lighting can be effective highlighting the subtleties of plumage and, in flight, makes the wings almost translucent. Made no difference here as without wading 200m or more into the river, I was stuck with side lighting anyway. Even backlighting was going to be difficult as the beach is only a few metres wide where the birds were, leaving no room to maneuver.

As I was approaching the flock to try and get some side-lit portraits of individual birds, a walker coming the other way spooked the flock and they flew off, fortunately in my direction, which gave me a few shots of them in flight.

Royal Spoonbill, Barwon River Estuary, Ocean Grove

As usual with wildlife photography, you take what you get, so it was back to the car to finish the sushi lunch (if you're in Ocean Grove make sure to drop in to the Noodle and Sushi Bar across the road from the Post Office) then back home to work.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Pt Lonsdale Lighthouse

Point Lonsdale forms the western side of the entrance to Port Phillip Bay (affectionately know as "The Rip" or "The Heads"). View Map

The lighthouse is a great spot to view seabirds (and the changing weather).

I took a brief break from work to get some lunch and take the camera for a walk this afternoon. Left home in bright sunshine but, unfortunately, Victoria's reliably fickle coastal weather struck and by the time I got there (10 mins drive) heavy dark cloud had come in creating an eerie light and the promise of yet more precipitation.

Approaching Storm, Pt Lonsdale Lighthouse

Before it started to rain I managed to see one Shy Albatross skimming the waves about 500m offshore

Shy Albatross, Bass Strait, Pt Lonsdale

...precipitation promise fulfilled so ran back to car, grabbed lunch and back to work...shortest birding "trip" for the year - about 12 minutes out of the least the office is warm and dry ;-) 

Friday, 3 September 2010

Indented Head

Indented Head on the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria is a great place for relatively close-up views of seabirds that frequent Port Phillip Bay. In particular, the boat ramp at the end of McDonald St is in the flight path of many birds moving up and down the bay. View Map

These were two of many that flew past in 30 minutes spent there late this afternoon.

Australasian Gannet, Indented Head

Australian Pelican, Indented Head

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Swan Bay Jetty

Swan Bay has a number of great birding sites (I will add more as soon as I get to them again). One of my favourites is Swan Bay Jetty at the end of Swan Bay Rd (View Map). The sheltered bay has extensive mudflats and salt marshes and is surrounded by a range of habitats including coastal woodland and open pasture; even the jetty itself is a roosting site for many species of birds.

It was a windy and overcast day and not many birds on the shore or jetty but this "odd couple" caught my eye:

Caspian Tern and Little Egret, Swan Bay Jetty

Monday, 30 August 2010

Limeburners Lagoon Nature Reserve, Geelong

Limeburners Lagoon in Geelong Victoria (View Map) is not only good for waterbirds but several birds of prey species can often be seen (due in some part to the close proximity of the Corio landfill).

I stopped in the carpark at the end of Shell Road for a brief look. Not much around but this juvenile Black-shouldered Kite hovered just overhead and was seemingly oblivious of my presence

Black-shouldered Kite (juvenile), Limeburners Lagoon

...well, most of the time...

Black-shouldered Kite (juvenile), Limeburners Lagoon

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Bells Beach

Better known for its surf, Bells Beach and the surrounding area offers some good birding along the foreshore and the roadside vegetation.

I had stopped by the side of the road near the bend where Bells Beach Road becomes Jarosite Road (View Map) to watch a mixed flock of honeyeaters flying back and forth between the coastal heath and a stand of eucalypts when a Rufous Bristlebird appeared immediately across the road from me.

Rufous Bristlebird, Bells Beach

I have seen Rufous Bristlebird regularly in the area (Pt Addis and Airey's Inlet) but never when I had the camera ready so this was another photographic first for me this August.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Truganina Park, Altona

On the site of the former Altona Landfill Tip, Truganina Park is being rehabilitated as a recreation area. Of particular interest to birders are the small wetlands on the northern edge that have been created by restructuring a storm-water drain.

Access is from Andrew Park Drive (off Queen St) through HD Graham Reserve (View Map).

Driving home from Melbourne this evening I dropped past to see if there was any activity just before sunset. A walk along the edge of the wetland looked promising until a rain storm had me scurrying back to the car but not before snapping a few shots of this Purple Swamphen.

Purple Swamphen, Truganina Wetlands

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

You Yangs Regional Park

The You Yangs Regional Park (just north of Lara and west of Little River) is a great location for bush birds.

What started as a sunny day turned windy, cloudy and drizzling rain just after I arrived so many of the birds were difficult to see and impossible to photograph. However, this Laughing Kookaburra was very cooperative during a brief break in the rain.

Laughing Kookaburra, You Yangs

Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong

Balyang Sanctuary runs along the northern bank of the Barwon River in Geelong between the Shannon St and Princes Hwy bridges. It contains a wide variety of birds from wetland to open woodland species. Access is via Marnock Road, Newtown. View Map

Australasian Grebe have started nesting

Australasian Grebe, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong

and this is the first time I have seen Long-billed Corella at this site (only one)

Long-billed Corella, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Western Treatment Plant

The Western Treatment Plant, formerly known as Werribee Sewerage Farm, is a favourite location for many birders (View Map). A permit is required for access but it's well worth the effort in obtaining one and visiting frequently.

Today was the first time my wife had accompanied me there on a detour while travelling home from Melbourne and she's now my lucky charm. We were doing a general drive through a range of areas when we were flagged down by some other birders at the Conservation Ponds. They had spotted an Australasian Bittern and offered to help us find it again. Five minutes later...

Australasian Bittern, Western Treatment Plant

My first time photographing this elusive species and a great way to start this project.
Thanks John and Fred :-)

Birding and Natural History Blogs - Australia

Birding Blogs - Worldwide