Sunday, 3 April 2011

Newport, Altona and 13th Beach

I had the pleasure of attending a bird photography workshop run by Paul Randall (check his website this morning at the delightful Newport Lakes Reserve (see map). This is the first time I've been here and it's a fantastic place. It's an old bluestone quarry that has been revegetated, mostly with indigenous flora, and there have now been 100+ bird species seen in the small reserve. Paul's workshop was great and I did manage to get one shot before the session as a pair of Grey Teals followed me around the South Lake.

Grey Teal, Newport Lakes Reserve

I am pleased with this shot, not because it's the best shot of a duck I have but it was early in the morning and overcast so was very dark and the bird was swimming fairly fast and close to me (this is almost full frame). This was shot at 1/30th of a second on 600mm worth of lens (300mm with 2x converter) and it's pretty sharp. I also like the subtle pastel tints in the otherwise grey water.

However, the weather turned for the worse at the end of the session so I opted to head off home via Williamstown and Altona beaches. Driving along The Esplanade at Altona Beach, I noticed a large mixed flock of birds roosting on the rocks just offshore between Cresser and Frazer Reserves (see map) so stopped for a closer look and found Little Pied Cormorant, Silver Gull, Pacific Gull, Crested Tern, Common Tern and Sooty Oystercatcher. I waded out into the shallow water to get closer to the roosting birds and they allowed me to get very close.

Sooty Oystercatcher, Altona Beach

I had to wait more than 10 minutes focussed on this bird, waiting for it to do something moderately interesting. A black bird shot in grey light from behind was not going to make a great photograph but eventually the bird turned its head side on and yawned. A throw away record shot turned into a keeper with a little patience and a tripod (there's no way I could maintain the concentration on the bird with finger on the shutter if hand-holding for 10 minutes and this yawn lasted less than a second).

Several Common Terns allowed me to get as close as the lens I was using would allow and still fit the birds sensibly in the frame.

Common Tern, Altona Beach

On the way home, I stopped at 13th Beach and Black Rocks to see if I could find the Pacific Golden Plovers. No luck with the PGPs but there was no shortage of wading birds with Red-capped Plover, Hooded Plover, Double-banded Plover, Ruddy Turnstone and Red-necked Stint as well as the usual Silver Gull, Pacific Gull and Crested Tern.

The Ruddy Turnstones were feeding on the edge of the sand dunes (something I have not seen before) but were easily spooked by people and dogs walking along the beach, giving a good opportunity for some flight shots

Ruddy Turnstone, 13th Beach

The Red-necked Stints were less easily spooked and remained feeding low on the shore, some with plumage starting to live up to their name.

Red-necked Stint, 13th Beach

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