Sunday, 25 September 2011

Long weekend in Central Victoria - Day 3

We began the day with a drive through the northern part of the Whipstick Section of the Greater Bendigo NP, stopping at several locations where birds could be heard. This is a beautiful section of the park with mixed Eucalypt forest and Acacia understorey.

Whipstick Section, Greater Bendigo NP

Lots of birds seen and heard but nothing particularly photogenic. It's always a challenge photographing birds in this sort of forest as they are mostly small, dull-coloured treetop-dwellers so are difficult to see and usually shaded by the foliage with bright sky in the background.

The afternoon was a different story. We went to Bells Swamp on the Maldon-Bridgetown Road (see map). I am not misusing the word "on" here as the road is currently closed due to flood damage from the rains earlier in the year but it now provides a fantastic pedestrian access through the middle of the swamp

Maldon-Bridgewater Road, Bells Swamp

offering views of the (currently) flooded River Red Gum forest

Bells Swamp

and close proximity to the birds - in particular the parrots that became more and more active as sunset approached. This pair of Musk Lorikeets was continuously in and out of a nest-hole.

Musk Lorikeet, Bells Swamp
Musk Lorikeet, Bells Swamp

and this one posed on a nearby branch long enough for a classic portrait.

Musk Lorikeet, Bells Swamp

There were also two species of Corella

Little Corella, Bells Swamp
Long-billed Corella, Bells Swamp

and the ubiquitous Galahs

Galah, Bells Swamp

Large numbers of White-plumed Honeyeaters were doing their usual frantic rushing around but this one sat still just long enough for one frame.

White-plumed Honeyeater, Bells Swamp

As I was leaving just before sunset, I couldn't resist this shot of Brooms Lane.

Brooms Lane, Bells Swamp

For more:
The night before

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Long weekend in Central Victoria - Day 2

We started the morning with a quick trip out to some drainage ponds near Woodvale (just north of Eaglehawk - see map) to catch the Red-necked Avocet and we were not disappointed.

Red-necked Avocet, Woodvale

We then drove to the Kamarooka section of the Greater Bendigo National Park entering along Millwood Road from the south. We stopped just past the entrance to the park and immediately heard Rufous Whistler calling. The loud and persistent calls suggested a male but none of us could find one. We did manage to find this female singing her little lungs out. 

Rufous Whistler (female), Kamarooka Section, Greater Bendigo NP

Next stop was further into the park, where we were promised White-fronted and Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters. I had not photographed either species before and, in fact, never seen a Tawny-crowned Honeyeater. Within five minutes of getting out of the car I found a White-fronted Honeyeater perched on a nearby branch, food in its mouth.

White-fronted Honeyeater, Kamarooka Section, Greater Bendigo NP

The Tawny-crowned Honeyeater was proving to be more elusive until one of the group told me they had found one just near where they were parked. Sure enough, while standing right next to the car, this bird flew into a nearby shrub. It was behind several dead branches of another shrub (which totally confuses the auto-focus as it tracks back and forth looking for something to focus on and usually ends up on a stick in the foreground) so I switched to manual focus and managed to get this image - backlit and blurry foreground but still pleasing

Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Kamarooka Section, Greater Bendigo National Park

The bird then moved and perched on another branch a few metres away - still backlit but clear view.

Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Kamarooka Section, Greater Bendigo NP

The bird was now getting the hang of this photo-model business and it moved a few metres again, still back and sidelit but a beautiful background of purple wildflowers.

Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Kamarooka Section, Greater Bendigo NP

It then disappeared into a dense patch of shrubs right in front of us. This behaviour is typical of nesting birds, where they don't go straight into the nest but flit from branch to branch in a different pattern each time they enter and leave a nest. So, to avoid disturbing the nest any further, I was just moving away when this bird came from the same patch (may be the same bird or its mate) and stopped just in front of me just as a cloud came across the sun, providing a detailed view of this species' beautiful plumage.

Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Kamarooka Section, Greater Bendigo NP

All of these photographs were taken within a 10 minute period. I can't remember another occasion where I got so many different views of the same bird at one location in such a short time AND this was the first Tawny-crowned I have ever seen (very happy!)

We moved off to another location for a lunch by an old eucalyptus oil distillery. A walk around the distillery dams and lots of the common bush birds were seen and heard but the highlight of the afternoon was a juvenile Nankeen Night-Heron found at another small dam just down the track

Nankeen Night-Heron (juvenile), Kamarooka Section, Greater Bendigo NP

A brilliant day out in the bush greatly helped by some local knowledge (thanks Murray!)

for more:
The night before

Friday, 23 September 2011

Long weekend in Central Victoria - Day 1

The morning of the first day of the MELBOCA Photography Group weekend in central Victoria was spent in the Heathcote-Graytown National Park. The highlight for me was the Red-capped Robin that teased us at the Dargile Picnic Ground during lunch.

Red-capped Robin (male), Heathcote-Graytown National Park

We were fortunate enough to spend the afternoon at a private property on the Campaspe River in Axedale, where the Superb Fairy-wrens are very tame.

Superb Fairy-wren (female), Axedale
Superb Fairy-wren (male), Axedale

Thursday, 22 September 2011


I spent the night in Heathcote on the way to a long weekend of birding and photography in the central goldfields region with the MELBOCA Photography Group (highlights from these three days to follow). I arrived in the early evening with just enough photographic light left for a short walk along one of the back roads where there is a healthy roadside woodland corridor. 15 species seen in the trees and surrounding farmland (in 20 minutes) including: White-winged Chough, Australian Magpie, Magpie Lark, Laughing Kookaburra, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Red-rumped Parrot, Masked Lapwing, Welcome Swallow, Rufous Songlark, Red Wattlebird and White-plumed Honeyeater, none of which was particularly photographically cooperative. However, I did manage to capture these:

Dusky Woodswallow, Heathcote
Musk Lorikeet, Heathcote
Blue-faced Honeyeater, Heathcote

and one of my perennial favourites, the comedian of the bird world

Galah, Heathcote

but the highlight of the evening was this Willie Wagtail sitting on a nest in an old petrol bowser inside a farm shed (the owner saw me on the road while I was photographing the Galah and asked if I wanted to see this).

Willie Wagtail, Heathcote

The weekend:

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Another quick visit to the WTP

I took a brief diversion to the Western Lagoons at the Western Treatment Plant on the way home from Melbourne this afternoon. Despite it being mid afternoon, there was a fair amount of avian activity with hundreds of Red-necked Stints and Curlew Sandpipers resting on the mudflats and feeding in the shallows.

Curlew Sandpiper, Western Treatment Plant

Several pairs of White-fronted Chats were feeding on the dried mudflats at the edge of the ponds.

White-fronted Chat, Western Treatment Plant

...and, I was lucky enough to capture this Golden-headed Cisticola singing in the nearby vegetation.

Golden-headed Cisticola, Western Treatment Plant

As I was leaving, I flushed a Buff-banded Rail in the ditch just next to Gate 2. I parked the car past the gate and came back and waited to see if it would reappear...

Buff-banded Rail, Western Treatment Plant

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Caspian Tern @ Swan Bay Jetty

Swan Bay Jetty, at the end of Swan Bay Road (see map) is one of my favourite locations for birdwatching on the Bellarine Peninsula. There are often dozens of cormorants, gulls and terns on and around the jetty, along with a range of small wading birds on the mudflats at low tide and passerines in and around the saltmarshes on either side of the jetty.

I went for a brief visit at lunchtime today and arrived just as a solo Caspian Tern landed on the mudflats directly in front of the car park and stayed long enough for me to capture a few shots.

Caspian Tern, Swan Bay Jetty

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Connewarre Farmland

I took some back roads while driving into Geelong this evening and found a few interesting birds in the paddocks along Lake Road, Connewarre (see map).

There were five Cattle Egrets feeding in a paddock with a small herd of cattle. The greatest difficulty photographing the birds was the cattle - most of the herd saw me at the fence and came over to investigate (or beg?)...very friendly but, somewhat inconveniently, blocking the line of sight to the egrets.

Cattle Egret, Lake Rd, Connewarre

A few hundred metres down the road, this Brown Falcon was perched on top of a dead tree. It was aware of me but totally unperturbed. I am sure it would have allowed me to get closer but this is the best I could do without jumping the fence (I am always reluctant to trespass).

Brown Falcon, Lake Rd, Connewarre

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Crake Hunt, part 3

The great crake hunt continued this afternoon on my way home from Melbourne.

First stop was a walk around the wetlands at Truganina Park in Altona. I found one Buff-banded Rail among the usual Purple Swamphens and Dusky Moorhens in the reedbeds but no crakes.

Buff-banded Rail, Truganina Park

There had been reports of Baillon's and Australian Spotted Crakes at the T-Section of the Western Treatment Plant in the last few days so that was my next stop and within 15 minutes had found both in relatively clear view.

One Australian Spotted Crake came out foraging at the edge of the reeds only about 20 metres from where I was standing

Australian Spotted Crake, Western Treatment Plant

and there were at least four Baillon's Crakes a bit further away in the same reed bed. Unfortunately, they were backlit making it difficult to get any decent photographs but managed one with three birds in the one shot.

Baillon's Crake, Western Treatment Plant

Thursday, 1 September 2011

First day of Spring

Bogged down in the office for most of the day but by early evening decided that enough was too much and took a wander down to the back of the sand dunes at the Buckley Park Foreshore Reserve (see map) as the sun was dropping into the western horizon. In one area a lot of revegetation work was done a few years ago, which has resulted in greater plant diversity and more open space making it a haven for some of the local bush birds.

Only there for twenty minutes before the light started to fade but standing in one spot on the track over the dunes saw 15 species: Silver Gull, Australian White Ibis (flying high overhead), Little Raven, Australian Magpie, Magpie Lark, House Sparrow, Welcome Swallow, Red Wattlebird, Spotted Dove, Galah, Rainbow Lorikeet, Superb Fairywren, White-browed Scrubwren and the ubiquitous New Holland Honeyeater

New Holland Honeyeater, Ocean Grove

but the highlight was three Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters and one perched for a few seconds on a distant dead branch allowing me to get this one shot.

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Ocean Grove

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