Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Chiltern-Mt Pilot NP

I had to do a presentation in Wangaratta today so took the opportunity to drop by Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park. As I did not have much time I decided to concentrate on one area and the short walk around Cyanide Dam from the Honeyeater Picnic Area is usually good for a variety of bush birds but the first thing that hit me when I arrived here was the frog chorus:

The walk around the dam is only 500m but the surrounding forest provides plenty of opportunities for spotting birds. In forest environments, it's often best to find a good spot and just sit/stand and wait for the birds to come to you. However, forest bird photography has its own particular challenges: the birds are mostly in the canopy so they are a long way away, usually backlit by a bright sky and always seem to be behind a branch or foliage...but, hey, that's what makes bird photography fun...isn't it?

This afternoon was no exception, lots of backlit, obscured birds a long way from wherever I was resulted in a lot of very ordinary shots. These are the best of them and they are mostly cropped and heavily worked in Photoshop to make something half reasonable of them.

Brown Treecreeper, Chiltern-Mt Pilot NP

A pair of Golden Whistlers could be heard in the vicinity and it took me about 10 minutes to get the male isolated against the sky and clear of obscuring foliage. A fraction of a second before I hit the shutter, he turned his head away making this shot (the first in the sequence) the only (vaguely) usable one and then within a few seconds he flew away to call from the top of an adjacent tree, completely obscured from any viewpoint I could find. I did manage to find the female but she remained high in the treetop foliage.

Golden Whistler (male), Chiltern-Mt Pilot NP

I tried for 15 minutes to get a shot of one or more of the handful of Noisy Friarbirds feeding in the treetops but this is the best I could get. What was interesting was that all the friarbirds were feeding from the flowers as well as catching insects from the leaves.

Noisy Friarbird, Chiltern-Mt Pilot NP

Two Spotted Pardalotes were singing and flitting around the under-storey in perpetual motion until one landed on a tree trunk close-by (albeit in heavy shadow) and started shredding strips of bark (almost identical to the one I saw at Anakie Gorge on Saturday).

Spotted Pardalote, Chiltern-Mt Pilot NP

Even the usually 'assertive' Willie Wagtails remained at a distance, except for the one that landed on the picnic table right next to me when I stopped for a drink (a bit hard to photograph with 600mm worth of lens at a distance of 1 metre)

Willie Wagtail, Chiltern-Mt Pilot NP

A small flock of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were feeding on eucalypt flowers but were in heavy shadow with bright sky in the background.

Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Chiltern-Mt Pilot NP

Perhaps the most exciting encounter was this territorial dispute between a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike and Yellow-tufted Honeyeater. It only lasted a few seconds, I managed to fire off a few shots but the whole thing occurred at a distance and behind branches.

White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Chiltern-Mt Pilot NP

These Australasian Grebes were the only two birds on the whole dam. They spent most of their time just cruising around the dam with occasional spurts of synchronised swimming: circular 'dancing' followed by parallel gliding with loud chirping calls from both birds.

Australasian Grebe, Chiltern-Mt Pilot NP

The heavy shade over this section of the pond combined with the bright background reflections made exposure a bit of a challenge but they occasionally swam though sunnier patches of water.

Australasian Grebe, Chiltern-Mt Pilot NP

and for something completely different...I dropped by Woolshed Falls right on sunset. No birds but a beautiful place :-)

Woolshed Falls, Chiltern-Mt Pilot NP

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Seabirds in flight at Point Impossible

On the way home from the Western Treatment Plant, I stopped at Point Impossible to see if there were any waders at the mouth of Thompson Creek.

There was a plethora of people walking, fishing, playing with dogs and engaged in soccer and frisbee so there was very little in the way of birds on the beach other than the usual Silver Gulls and Pacific Gulls dodging soccer balls and dogs but generally undisturbed by the human activity. There were, though, several birds flying and fishing around the mouth of the creek.

Pacific Gull, Point Impossible
Caspian Tern, Point Impossible
Australasian Gannet, Point Impossible

I didn't quite manage to get the point of contact with the water but did get a couple of shots of the start of a dive.

Australasian Gannet, Point Impossible

Day 1 of Spring at the WTP

Day 1 of spring and I had not been to the Western Treatment Plant for a while so headed there to see what was about. It was very quiet. Very few waders were present in the usual places, due, I suspect, to a combination of high winds and very full ponds, though I did see several small flocks huddled on the outer sand banks at The Spit.

There was the odd surprise with appearance of solo egrets and herons

Eastern Great Egret, Lake Borrie Coastal Road, Western Treatment Plant
Little Egret, Little River Causeway, Western Treatment Plant 
White-necked Heron, 145WA Lagoon, Western Treatment Plant

The usual pelicans, swans and cormorants that frequent Lake Borrie were missing today but some had opted for the more sheltered shore of Port Phillip Bay

Pied Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Silver Gull, Western Treatment Plant
Australian Pelican, Pied Cormorant, Western Treatment Plant
Black Swan, Western Treatment Plant
Little Black Cormorant, Western Treatment Plant

and some of the pelicans put on a formation flying display

Australian Pelican, Western Treatment Plant

Several White-fronted Chats darted about on the beach and shrubs

White-fronted Chat (male), Western Treatment Plant

The last bit of excitement was the first snake for the year as this Tiger Snake crossed the road just in front of the car but slowly enough for me to get out and snap one shot.

Tiger Snake, Western Treatment Plant

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