Saturday, 28 February 2015

Ash Island

First day of the BirdLife Photography workshop began with an early morning trip to Ash Island, or Kooragang Wetlands, part of the Hunter Wetlands National Park in the Hunter River estuary. The morning was warm and humid with fog hanging around for the first hour or more.

First thing we noticed was the plethora of spider webs with dew drops glistening in the morning sun.

Ash Island, Newcastle NSW
Photograph courtesy of Joanne Smissen

and a few ducks, including this pair of Pacific Black Duck, cruising around a large pond in the morning mist.

Pacific Black Duck Ash Island, Newcastle NSW
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/400
while these two Pied Butcherbirds yodelled together for about 15 minutes.

Pacific Black Duck Ash Island, Newcastle NSW
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/500

The next bird to stop the convoy was a Whistling Kite perched in a dead tree close to the track.

Whistling Kite, Ash Island, Newcastle NSW
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/2500
Whistling Kite, Ash Island, Newcastle NSW
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/3200

In the meantime, a female Superb Fairy-wren was doing it's best to attract our attention, displaying and chattering at us on the other side of the track.

Superb Fairy-wren (female), Ash Island, Newcastle NSW
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/1250

One of the birds I was hoping to see here was the Mangrove Gerygone so we spent some time walking along the track beside a stand of mangroves searching amongst the foliage for small birds. There was a lot of activity going on in the mangroves and we caught quick glances of finches and fantails and for a few seconds, I spotted this little character--just long enough for one shot. Not the best view of this bird but a lifer for me, even if 'only' a juvenile. It turns out that I was lucky to capture this one as this was the only one I saw for the whole four days.

Mangrove Gerygone (juvenile), Ash Island, Newcastle NSW
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/100

Several other small passerines were spotted among the reeds and other vegetation around the ponds.

Australian Reed-Warbler, Ash Island, Newcastle NSW
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/11 1/200
Golden-headed Cisticola, Ash Island, Newcastle NSW
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/2500

Perhaps the highlight of the day, though, was this tree in the middle of a swamp--a perch shared by White-bellied Sea Eagles and Whistling Kites. We couldn't get any closer without getting very wet and muddy (not to mention damaging the environment but it was great to just stand and watch these majestic birds at a distance.

White-bellied Sea Eagle + Whistling Kite, Ash Island, Newcastle NSW
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/1600

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