Saturday, 31 August 2013

Brisbane Ranges Bush Birds

Last day of winter today but it felt much more like spring, with mild sunny weather and a light wind, so it looked like a good day to visit the Brisbane Ranges. August is wattle month in the ranges with the Golden Wattle in full flower creating splashes of yellow all over the under-storey at many locations.

Golden Wattle, Brisbane Ranges NP

The floral abundance and nesting season for many birds meant that lots of the usual suspects were active and easy to find.

First stop was The Crossing Picnic Area and, immediately I was out of the car, the familiar twittery Red-browed Finch chatter surrounded me. Luckily, I had already assembled the camera, tripod and flash so I managed to fire off a couple of shots with and without flash.

Red-browed Finch, The Crossing Picnic Area, Brisbane Ranges NP

This was to be a familiar theme for the rest of the day as I tried shooting with and without flash whenever I could manage it.

Golden Whistler (female), The Crossing Picnic Area, Brisbane Ranges NP

I found this Eastern Yellow Robin while I was stalking a Golden Whistler at the next stop (Graham's Creek Picnic Area) after spotting a flash of yellow in the tree just in front of me.

Eastern Yellow Robin, Graham's Creek Picnic Area, Brisbane Ranges NP

I didn't manage to find the whistler but did see why the robin was so active right beside the path when, on my way back, I discovered its nest on the back of the same tree in which I'd photographed it on the way up the track.

Easter Yellow Robin, Graham's Creek Picnic Area, Brisbane Ranges NP

I took a couple of quick shots and then skirted around the tree leaving the bird in peace.

Stony Creek Road runs along the north-eastern boundary of the park and offers some great opportunities for birding in the roadside vegetation.

Eastern Spinebill, Stony Creek Road, Brisbane Ranges NP
White-throated Treecreeper, Stony Creek Road, Brisbane Ranges NP

Last stop was Anakie Gorge, where I found a Spotted Pardalote and then a White-naped Honeyeater stripping bark from a eucalypt trunk and they were both quite oblivious to my close approach

Spotted Pardalote, Anakie Gorge, Brisbane Ranges NP

White-naped Honeyeater, Anakie Gorge, Brisbane Ranges NP

and, of course, the ubiquitous Superb Fairy-wrens were noisily guarding territories and gathering food.

Superb Fairy-wren, Anakie Gorge, Brisbane Ranges NP

I still need to work on flash settings and when to use (and not use) the Better Beamer. The flash certainly makes the images clearer and more vibrant than natural light and freezes the action well but it appears unnatural on many occasions and with the Better Beamer on, the flash reflection in the eye needs post production work to remove the large catch light.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

A day at Phillip Island - Part 3 Rhyll

After stops at Fisher's Wetland and The Nobbies and Swan Lake, we headed for Rhyll on the NE 'corner' of Phillip Island (see map). Rhyll is a great place for birding. At low tide in spring and summer thousands of birds (wading birds, ibis, herons) feed on the mudflats at 'The Nits' (in the entrance to Rhyll Inlet) and in Swan Bay. The sandier shore along Beach Road between the sailing club and the boat ramp often provides good views of gulls, terns, cormorants, pelicans, herons and oystercatchers.

We got there today on a rising tide so decided not to walk around to The Nits but were treated to some great views of oystercatchers.

Australian Pied Oystercatcher, Rhyll, Phillip Island

A small flock (I can't bring myself to use 'dread', the generally accepted collective noun for terns) of Crested Terns sat preening on the sandy shore near the boat ramp. There were various stages of advancement towards breeding plumage on show and all displayed their characteristic crest. Interestingly, most were banded.

Crested Tern, Rhyll, Phillip Island

Conservation Hill overlooks Rhyll Inlet and is often a good place for birding with a variety of habitats: coastal woodland, farmland, swamp, mudflats and mangroves all close by. We got there in the late afternoon and there was not much bird activity (probably due to the cold and windy weather) but it did provide the opportunity to see several Black Wallabies.

Black Wallaby, Conservation Hill, Rhyll, Phillip Island

Part 1 Fisher's Wetland
Part 2 The Nobbies and Swan Lake

A day at Phillip Island - Part 2 The Nobbies and Swan Lake

After Fisher's Wetland we travelled to the other end of the island to the The Nobbies.

The spectacular basalt coastline here is constantly being assaulted by the Bass Strait surf and is worthy of a visit just for the scenery.

However, it also offers some great birding opportunities. Shy Albatross and Black-browed Albatross were seen cruising over the waves. The strong NW wind meant they were too far offshore for good photography but it's always great to see these majestic birds.

Shy Albatross, off The Nobbies, Phillip Island
Black-browed Albatross, off The Nobbies, Phillip Island

Swan Lake (just east of the Penguin Parade) has a track and boardwalk through coastal bush to the back of the dunes of behind Summerland Beach. There are two bird hides here offering great views of the lake.

Most of the avian activity this afternoon was on the other side of the lake but there were a few swans swimming around in classic swan pose

Black Swan, Swan Lake, Phillip Island

and I was very happy to capture this Eurasian Coot among the reflections on the water.

Eurasian Coot, Swan Lake, Phillip Island

The hides also provide good viewing of two small islands frequented by nesting and roosting birds. This Black Swan was sitting on a nest on the island just in front of one of the hides.

Black Swan, Swan Lake, Phillip Island

The boardwalk provides good viewing of the birds of prey commonly flying overhead and along the dunes. There's nearly always one or two Whistling Kite.

Whistling Kite, Swan Lake, Phillip Island

A day at Phillip Island - Part 1 Fisher's Wetland

A great day of photography with the Birdlife Australia Melbourne Photography Group at Phillip Island today.

First stop was Fisher's Wetland where there were several pairs of Cape Barren Goose with goslings

Cape Barren Goose, Fisher's Wetland, Phillip Island

One family was almost oblivious to the crowd of photographers, walking close to and even among us, requiring a rapid removal of the tele-extender from my lens. 

Cape Barren Goose, Fisher's Wetland, Phillip Island

 A few Black Swans cruised around the lake,

Black Swan, Fisher's Wetland, Phillip Island

others preened and stretched.

Black Swan, Fisher's Wetland, Phillip Island

Australian Pelicans were resting in the middle of the swamp while Masked Lapwings stood on watch.

Australian Pelican, Masked Lapwing, Fisher's Wetland, Phillip Island

White-plumed Honeyeaters and New Holland Honeyeaters chased each other noisily through the surrounding bush. Their rapid and continuous movement and the backlighting made photography challenging but I managed to capture one White-plumed that sat relatively still for a few seconds.

White-plumed Honeyeater, Fisher's Wetland, Phillip Island

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