Thursday, 28 February 2013

Bruny Island

My wife and I had the delight to spend three wonderful days on Bruny Island in Tasmania, staying at the beautiful Inala, a 500 acre property on South Bruny Island. The property is owned and operated by biologist and wildlife tour operator Dr Tonia Cochrane and is the home to 94 species of birds including all of Tasmania's endemics (for more information see While our time there was not primarily aimed at birding, I did manage to sneak in a few hours on our first day.

In an hour walk around the property, I saw 24 species including 8 of the 12 endemics. Unfortunately, the windy conditions kept many of the small bush birds, including the Forty-spotted Pardalote (which I did see, so another lifer for me!), high in the canopy of a small patch of Eucalyptus viminalis out of range for any sensible photography. However, I did manage to capture a few birds:

Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Inala, Bruny Island
Tree Martin, Inala, Bruny Island
Scarlet Robin (female), Inala, Bruny Island

Also on the property are Bennett's Wallabies including the rare "albino" wallabies. They are not actually albinos but are almost pure white.

Red-necked (Bennett's) Wallaby, Inala, Bruny Island

Late in the afternoon I drove to Jetty Beach following the tip from Tim Dolby in his report of a recent trip to Tasmania. Tim is absolutely spot on - the campground at Jetty Beach is a fantastic place for birds. I stayed in the one location for about 30 minutes and saw more than 20 species of birds including these that made easy photographic subjects:

Dusky Robin, Jetty Beach, Bruny Island
Black-headed Honeyeater (immature), Jetty Beach, Bruny Island
Green Rosella, Jetty Beach, Bruny Island
Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Jetty Beach, Bruny Island

On the way back to Inala, I stopped at Cloudy Bay Lagoon

and found a Pacific Gull fishing in the offshore shallows

Pacific Gull, Cloudy Bay Lagoon, Bruny Island

I've seen other birds, particularly herons and egrets using this technique (flying low over the water flapping wings) to stir up fish but this was the first time I've seen a gull doing it.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Hot afternoon at the You Yangs

I visited the You Yangs Regional Park this afternoon and despite the heat (38C at 4:00 PM) the birding was good.

First stop was the visitor centre where the Tawny Frogmouths were in their usual spot doing their best to impersonate branches.

Tawny Frogmouth, You Yangs Regional Park

I then drove around the Great Circle Drive, stopping at my favourite spot on the corner of Branding Yard Road and immediately heard the familiar sound of a Rufous Whistler. It didn't take long to find him

Rufous Whistler (male), You Yangs Regional Park

and, a few minutes later, a female appeared nearby

Rufous Whistler (female), You Yangs Regional Park

along with this Eastern Yellow Robin.

Eastern Yellow Robin, You Yangs Regional Park

A little further along the drive, a flock of White-winged Choughs emerged along the road (this photo shot out of the car window).

White-winged Chough, You Yangs Regional Park

So, ever the optimist, I pulled over and tried to stalk them to get close enough for some reasonable shots. Unfortunately, this is what they usually look like, foraging among the leaf litter and managing to stay about 25 metres away no matter how slowly I approached.

White-winged Chough, You Yangs Regional Park

The same goes when they are perched in trees. The only time you can get close is when they are at the top of the tree.

White-winged Chough, You Yangs Regional Park

I did mange to get close enough to this one for a half reasonable shot but I missed it flying off, the only time you get to see the "white wings".

White-winged Chough, You Yangs Regional Park

An added bonus at the same location was a very cooperative (and very scruffy) Scarlet Robin. I suspect this is a young male just moulting into adult plumage. I love shooting male robins because they are inquisitive and assertive - they'll come up to you and stay around showing off.

Scarlet Robin, You Yangs Regional Park

Back at the visitor centre I found a Restless Flycatcher having a drink from the old iron lid under the tap on the toilet block wall. I missed catching a photograph of it there (too slow) but it landed in a tree close by

Restless Flycatcher, You Yangs Regional Park

and then moved even closer.

Restless Flycatcher, You Yangs Regional Park

Just as I was leaving a Red-browed Finch flew down to the water for a drink.

Red-browed Finch, You Yangs Regional Park

Monday, 18 February 2013

Begola Wetlands

Begola Wetlands is a remnant of the once more extensive wetlands that ran behind the dunes of Ocean Grove and Pt Lonsdale to Swan Bay (see map). It contains a shallow lake that dries out in most summers and is a haven for waterbirds that feed in shallow water or mud. The recent hot, dry weather has dried up most of the lake leaving extensive mudbanks that have attracted a large number of birds. 

Begola Wetlands, Ocean Grove

I spent an hour walking around the wetlands this evening as the sun was setting and saw 25 species:
  • Pacific Black Duck
  • Grey Teal
  • Chestnut Teal
  • Australasian Grebe
  • Purple Swamphen
  • Dusky Moorhen
  • Eurasian Coot
  • Australian Spotted Crake
  • Masked Lapwing
  • Nankeen Night-Heron
  • Australian White Ibis
  • Royal Spoonbill
  • Silver Gull
  • Latham's Snipe
  • Black-fronted Dotterel
  • Rock Dove
  • Spotted Dove
  • New Holland Honeyeater
  • Australian Magpie
  • Magpie-lark
  • Willie Wagtail
  • Superb Fairy-wren
  • Common Starling
  • Little Raven
  • Welcome Swallow

I'm not a great list keeper but I cannot remember seeing this many species here in a single visit before. 

With the receding water, most of the birds were in the central part of the lake, 50-100 metres away, so were not the best photographic subjects but I managed to capture a few (mostly cropped quite heavily).

Masked Lapwing, Begola Wetlands, Ocean Grove
Australian Spotted Crake, Begola Wetlands, Ocean Grove
Black-fronted Dotterel, Begola Wetlands, Ocean Grove
Chestnut Teal, Begola Wetlands, Ocean Grove
Grey Teal, Begola Wetlands, Ocean Grove
Nankeen Night-Heron, Begola Wetlands, Ocean Grove
Royal Spoonbill, Begola Wetlands, Ocean Grove

I counted at least 6 Latham's Snipe, all out in the open, feeding and preening on the mudflats. Snipe are usually quite secretive so it was great to see them so clearly and manage to photograph some, albeit from a long distance.

Some were heavily camouflaged among the weeds in the mud

Latham's Snipe, Begola Wetlands, Ocean Grove

Others were up and about, feeding

Latham's Snipe, Begola Wetlands, Ocean Grove

While this one shared a bath with a Chestnut Teal, closely observed by a Dusky Moorhen

Monday, 11 February 2013

Egret in the mangroves

I spent another weekend at Phillip Island but came down with a cold yesterday so didn't manage to get out birding. Driving home this morning, my virally-challenged head needed a rest so I stopped at Tooradin to grab some breakfast from the bakery then drove to Warneet to sit and eat it by the side of the inlet. Right where I stopped, an Eastern Great Egret stood preening among the mangroves. I manoeuvred the car so I could get the camera out and ready without disturbing the bird and then approach the edge of the inlet behind some old pier pilings.

Eastern Great Egret, Warneet

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