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 car...at 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

Birding and Natural History Blogs - Australia

Birding Blogs - Worldwide