Saturday, 19 September 2015

In Search of the Regent Honeyeater

The critically endangered Regent Honeyeater is one of the rarest birds in Victoria. In fact, there are estimated to be only 500-1500 birds remaining Australia-wide. A national recovery program has been established to save this species including a captive breeding program at Taronga Zoo. Birds have been released in the Box-Ironbark forest of Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park in north-eastern Victoria over the last seven years with the latest release occurring earlier this year. This morning we went out to a location near the release site where there had been reports of recent sightings.

Box-Ironbark Forest, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Pentax 16-50mm f/2.8 @ 16mm, ISO 800, f/4, 1/1600

The site was dominated by a cacophony of Noisy Friarbirds flying around the treetops (and almost impossible to photograph) and small flocks of Fuscous Honeyeaters flitting around the understorey.

Fuscous Honeyeater, Cyanide Road, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 800, f/11, 1/160

including this one doing its best impression of a treecreeper.

Fuscous Honeyeater, Cyanide Road, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 1600, f/11, 1/500

There were also several larger birds flying from tree to tree and I caught a glimpse of a mottled black and white belly and got a little excited...but once the bird landed and I got a closer look, it turned out to be an Olive-backed Oriole.

Olive-backed Oriole, Cyanide Road, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 800, f/11, 1/2000

I was happy to see this bird, albeit from directly underneath - not the best view! However, the prime target for the morning remained elusive...until I spotted this bird flying from behind a clump of trees...a few clicks of the shutter, one in focus...

Regent Honeyeater, Cyanide Road, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 800, f/11, 1/1600

and then it was gone. Examination of the shot in the camera revealed that it was a Regent Honeyeater...so mission accomplished. For a while I thought this was all I was going to get as the next 15 minutes revealed only a few scant glimpses high up in the trees and behind foliage but eventually at least four birds came closer and stayed (reasonably cooperatively) for a few photographs.

Regent Honeyeater, Cyanide Road, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 800, f/11, 1/80
Regent Honeyeater, Cyanide Road, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/400
Regent Honeyeater, Cyanide Road, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/400
Regent Honeyeater, Cyanide Road, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/400
Regent Honeyeater, Cyanide Road, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/320
Regent Honeyeater, Cyanide Road, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/320
Regent Honeyeater, Cyanide Road, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/160

It was difficult to leave but lunch beckoned so we headed for Honeyeater Picnic Ground where a pair of Superb Fairy-wrens (the male in final stages of moulting into breeding plumage) displayed right next to the car park. I photograph these little characters a lot (they seem to be ubiquitous across a wide range of habitats in SE Australia) but they are hard to resist.

Superb Fairy-wren (female), Honeyeater Picnic Ground, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/125
Superb Fairy-wren (male), Honeyeater Picnic Ground, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/250
Superb Fairy-wren (female), Honeyeater Picnic Ground, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/640
Superb Fairy-wren (female)
Honeyeater Picnic Ground, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/640

An Olive-backed Oriole sat for a few seconds on a low branch nearby (and was much more photogenic than it's colleague at the previous site).

Olive-backed Oriole, Honeyeater Picnic Ground, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/400
Olive-backed Oriole, Honeyeater Picnic Ground, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/400

Brown Treecreepers were feeding on the ground in the grass but I couldn't get a good shot until this one posed on a tree trunk.

Brown Treecreeper, Honeyeater Picnic Ground, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/2000

White-Naped Honeyeaters were feeding on insects high in the treetops - too far away for any good shots (this image is heavily cropped) but great to record them here.

White-Naped Honeyeater, Honeyeater Picnic Ground, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/1250

The most common birds around the picnic ground were the Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters feeding on insects in the Black Wattle.

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Honeyeater Picnic Ground, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/1250
Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Honeyeater Picnic Ground, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/1250
Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Honeyeater Picnic Ground, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/1250
Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Honeyeater Picnic Ground, Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/640

A great morning! We found the Regent Honeyeaters and Honeyeater Picnic Ground lived up to its name. This afternoon, more bush birds at Bartley's Block.


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