Saturday, 31 December 2011

WTP - last time for the year

One last trip to the Western Treatment Plant for 2011. A Terek Sandpiper had been reported here yesterday so I thought I'd spend a late afternoon looking for it. Didn't manage to find it but did see a lot of other birds, some of which cooperated for a few photographs:

Banded Stilt, Western Treatment Plant
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Western Treatment Plant
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Western Treatment Plant
Whiskered Tern, Western Treatment Plant
Pink-eared Duck, Western Treatment Plant
Black-winged Stilt, Western Treatment Plant
Red-kneed Dotterel, Western Treatment Plant

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Backyard birds

I spent most of the day re-nailing the boards on the back deck and oiling the garden furniture...back-breaking work but I was rewarded with seeing 20 species of birds while I was occupied with drill, hammer and brush (and intermittent trips to the lounge-room for cricket updates). As evening fell a pair of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos landed in a neighbour's cypress tree so I grabbed the camera for a few shots from our back deck.

Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Ocean Grove

Our backyard resident family of New Holland Honeyeaters was not deterred by my presence, in fact I really had too much lens as I had to step backwards to fit the birds in the frame.

New Holland Honeyeater, Ocean Grove

Just as I was about to pack up, a pair of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos arrived and proceeded to demolish a fair proportion of the neighbour's unripe almonds

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Ocean Grove

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Another trip to the WTP

I had to go to Melbourne this morning so took the opportunity for a visit to the Western Treatment Plant on the way home. First stop was the pond just inside the Beach Road gate where there were hundreds of Red-necked Stints (along with the usual handful of Curlew Sandpipers and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers).

Red-necked Stint, Western Treatment Plant
Red-necked Stint, Western Treatment Plant

There were also at least 6 Australian Spotted Crakes in and around two patches of reeds.

Australian Spotted Crake, Western Treatment Plant
Australian Spotted Crake, Western Treatment Plant

As it was high tide, there was little activity at the Bird Hide but there were 17 Musk Duck on the Little River.

Musk Duck, Western Treatment Plant

Further up river close to Gate 8, there were several immature Great Cormorants flying about and one landed on a stump in the river long enough for me to grab a yawn.

Great Cormorant, Western Treatment Plant

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Broad-billed Sandpiper @ WTP

Following recent reports of a Broad-billed Sandpiper at the Western Treatment Plant, I went to have a look for myself. Several reports gave fairly specific location details but I was concerned that this could be a needle in a haystack search with so many other small wading birds at the same location. However, with a little homework (a brief perusal of various guidebooks this morning to familiarise myself with the characteristic features) it turned out to be surprisingly easy to find the one individual among the Curlew Sandpipers, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints at Western Lagoon 4. Even better, it was close-by the best viewing area and all the birds were tolerant of three of us standing and watching, allowing for some decent records shots for this lifer for me.

Broad-billed Sandpiper, Western Treatment Plant

While watching and photographing the birds, I commented to one of the other observers that all I wanted now was for a Curlew Sandpiper to come close enough to get the two birds in the same shot for a side-by-side size comparison. No sooner said...

Broad-billed Sandpiper (L) and Curlew Sandpiper (R), Western Treatment Plant

On the way out, I dropped past Ryan's Swamp to find a large flock of Nankeen Night-Herons (approx. 50 birds roosting in various trees at the north-west end of the swamp).

Nankeen Night-Heron, Western Treatment Plant

On departing the plant, I had just finished locking the gate when a Rufous Songlark landed on a fence and started singing. It was getting quite dark with some threatening clouds overhead but I managed a few shots (albeit with slow shutter speeds and wide open aperture)

Rufous Songlark, Western Treatment Plant

Driving home past Lake Connewarre, I spotted a pair of Brolgas with a half-grown chick in long grass about a hundred metres from the road. I pulled over and leapt from the car with camera in hand in time for one shot of them.

Brolga, Lake Connewarre

One of the adults separated from the others and continued to stay in view for another few minutes.

Brolga, Lake Connewarre

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Hardheads at Royal Park

I had a spare 30 minutes before a lunch meeting today so dropped past Trin Warren Tam-boore Wetlands in Royal Park (see map). There were lots of warterbirds: ducks, swamphens, coots and moorhens but the most cooperative were the Hardheads

Hardhead, Royal Park

Monday, 12 December 2011

Tasmanian Holiday

My wife and I spent 4 days in southern Tasmania recently and while it was essentially a bird photography free holiday (i.e., no big lens or tripod) the local birds were so tame that I was able to capture a few close-ups with just a 28-200mm lens.

First day was on Bruny Island and we were in luck with the sunny and calm weather which made for a fantastic day. While waiting for the ferry from Kettering, we found a pair of White-faced Herons foraging in the grass near the marina.

White-faced Heron, Kettering, Tasmania

The day's highlight was the 3 hour wildlife cruise where we managed to see Humpback Whales, Short-beaked Common Dolphins, New Zealand and Australian Fur Seals, a Southern Elephant Seal, hundreds of Short-tailed Shearwaters and a few Shy Albatross, one of which allowed us close enough for some good shots.

Shy Albatross, off Bruny Island, Tasmania

On Friday, the fog finally lifted from Mt Wellington so we drove to the summit to enjoy one of the world's great views.

Hobart - view from Mt Wellington

On the way back down, a brief stop at The Springs Picnic Ground was rewarded with a very tame Black Currawong.

Black Currawong, The Springs, Mt Wellington, Tasmania

While visiting the Bob Barker (, I found a co-operative Black-faced Cormorant at the Hobart waterfront near Victoria Dock.

Black-faced Cormorant, Hobart, Tasmania

We spent the weekend on the Tasman Peninsula visiting the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park, Port Arthur and Eaglehawk Neck. On our last stop at the Tessellated Pavement, I again managed to get very close to some of the locals.

Kelp Gull, Eaglehawk Neck, Tasmania

Sooty Oystercatcher, Eaglehawk Neck, Tasmania

In addition to these shots, we also managed to see 6 of the 12 Tasmanian endemics without even trying - what a great place! Can't wait to get back there for a dedicated birding trip.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Great weather for ducks

The weather turned cold, wet and windy today but I couldn't resist a late afternoon look for the Freckled Ducks that had been reported at Lake Lorne in Drysdale (see map). At 5:15PM it was 11°C, raining and windy but there were ducks galore including (at least) 15 Freckled Duck.

Freckled Duck, Lake Lorne, Drysdale

Also seen were Pacific Black Duck, Hardhead, Chestnut Teal, Australian Wood Duck, Blue-billed Duck and a single Australasian Shoveler (eclipse male, I think, based on the buff coloured patch behind the bill). Terrible photo but in the conditions and with the bird more than 100 metres away I was happy to record my first sighting of this species here.

Australasian Shoveler, Lake Lorne, Drysdale

There are lots of Hoary-headed Grebes on the lake and some cooperated by staying close enough to the bank to be photographed

Hoary-headed Grebe, Lake Lorne, Drysdale

One good thing about the low light conditions is the serendipitous abstract art shots of birds in flight

Superb Fairy-wren, Lake Lorne, Drysdale

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Waders and Waterfowl at the Western Treatment Plant

I spent the afternoon at the Western Treatment Plant. The waders are back in force and waterfowl are more numerous and active than I can remember.

I was lucky enough to get to the Bird Hide as the tide was just going out. There were hundreds of birds on the mudflats at the mouth of Little River. Red-necked Stint and Curlew Sandpiper were the most common

Waders, Western Treatment Plant

but there were also Australian Shelduck, Pacific Black Duck, Australian Pied Oystercatcher, Silver Gull, Pied Cormorant, Australian Pelican, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eastern Great Egret, Little Egret and Common Tern.

Next stop was the Conservation Ponds. On the way there I spotted a pair of Brown Falcons so stopped to see if I could get close enough for a decent photograph from the car. As I put the camera out the window, they both flew away but, unusually, one flew towards me and I managed to catch it in flight just as it went past.

Brown Falcon, Western Treatment Plant

It landed in a tree a few hundred metres along the road so I drove slowly towards it and it stayed in the tree very cooperatively - love the 4-wheel hide :-)

Brown Falcon, Western Treatment Plant

Highlight at the Conservation Ponds was the flock of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers feeding close to the bank.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Western Treatment Plant

A quick stop at the Borrow Pits to see if I could find and photograph the Banded Stilts that had been reported there earlier this week. Found them but too far away for any decent photographs. There was, however, a small flock of Black-tailed Native-hens running around (in their usual fashion) on the mud islands just near the 270S car park.

Black-tailed Native-hen, Western Treatment Plant

Last stop was the T-Section Lagoon 4 to try and find the Spotless Crake that had so far eluded me (see Crake Hunt Part 1 and Part 3). This is an amazing location for waterfowl, with 8 species of Rallids seen in 30 minutes: Eurasian Coot, Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Black-tailed Native-hen, Buff-banded Rail, Australian Spotted Crake, Baillon's Crake and (at last) Spotless Crake! Only Lewin's Rail was missing (from SE Australian Rallid species) but was reported as seen at the WTP today by others.

Spotless Crake, Western Treatment Plant

I was also treated to a Whiskered Tern, in full breeding plumage, standing on a rock in perfect portrait pose (albeit a bit far away for a great shot but happy to record this bird that is mostly seen airborne).

Whiskered Tern, Western Treatment Plant

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