Monday, 29 December 2014


I have been moaning to anyone who will listen [small n] on my inability over the last few years to spot the Brown Falcon leading me to think they had become locally extinct! I used to see them all the time on fence posts and in trees. [Maybe I need to get out moreMaybe I need new specs]

Well, as per my Whipbird saga experience [click here], it never rains but it pours. Got onto four in the last week. Here are images of two. The first decided to check me out when I had stopped on the roadside just near the Holland's Landing turnoff to check the stock trailer I was towing. Flew into a tree about 10 metres away.

The second flew across in front of me into a tree when I was looking at the water birds on the Greening Australia site near Marlay Point.

I went to have a look around Dowd's Morass yesterday afternoon/evening after the big wind had come through. In a paddock next to the road going in I spotted a juvenile Wedge-tailed Eagle and parents. It had a rabbit on the ground. Unfortunately I scared the youngster off its prey by stopping. However, there are plenty of rabbits around at the moment. I am sure it won't go hungry for long.

Once into the morass, I flushed a Brown Goshawk from the side of the track. It obligingly lodged in a nearby tree, in the light from the setting sun, enabling a great set of photos. Notice the "shorter" middle toe compared to a Collared Sparrowhawk. Slater, Morcombe, Pizzey & Knight

Magic. f8 and be there.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Fortunately ...

Several weeks ago a Common [Eastern] Koel was seen in Coongulla. I would venture to suggest that it was heard by more people than seen. It is a large cuckoo that is a summer migrant to Australia from Asia where it occurs from India to south China and New Guinea. Fortunately, for Victorians, it seldom ventures to Gippsland though heard and seen in northern Victoria and Melbourne most summers. Fortunately, because the repertoire of the male is a loud, repetitive, any-time-of-the-day-and-night, carrying "koo-eel" sequence of 10-15 calls Morcombe quite capable of waking one up and preventing further sleep. Heyfield Bird Watchers visited Coongulla on the first Monday of December but failed to see or hear it. Joy for Coongulla residents.

On the first Wednesday of December at 5.45am in Sale, I was woken by the "far-carrying, slow kooeel" Pizzey & Knight coming from the Pinoke tree in our front garden. Loudly. Oh no. The next morning I received a text from a friend who lives about a kilometre away in Sale with a video attachment containing the dulcet tones of a koel apparently in their back yard. I heard it at the same time! About 4am! Well, it dodged about Sale for a few days, centred on the Botanic Gardens just over the road from our house. It then transferred it's affections to the Sale Common and hasn't been heard locally for about a fortnight now. [Exhales relaxingly].

** STOP PRESS ** Heard this morning, 29 Dec, back in Sale.

I met a birdo during the GLIBA surveys who had participated in the Victorian Twitchathon in late November. He told me that his team had heard a Koel in both Coongulla and Sale within 45 minutes of each ID. There must have been two.

Here is a photo of a Koel taken in suburban Sydney in late November. It wasn't hard to track down.

This evening, Little Corellas turned up searching for a suitable roost in the Gardens. This has happened in previous years. They can be in "immense noisy flocks" Pizzey & Knight but, fortunately, there were less than 50 ... tonight.

Note the undertail washed yellow
Note the underwing washed yellow
Looking for nuts in the Botanic Gardens Monkey Puzzle tree
A corella tree
Settling in for the night

Fortunately, I am looking forward to the competition between the corellas and the resident sulphur-crested cockatoos ... not!

Our birdbath

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Sale Common

The Sale Common (or Sale Wetlands) has not been dry for a few years now. The waterholes are bordered by woodlands or open marshes. You can always be guaranteed to see something interesting on any visit. Apart from the flora, birds are the most obvious spp to be seen and heard.

On a visit early last Tuesday, I parked at Cox's Bridge and walked to the bird hide on top of the old shooting butt. "Hide" is not quite the correct word these days as you need to ascend a series of steps then walk across the top of the butt in full view of the birds before "hiding" in what is left of the fire damaged and wrecked hide. It is easy to continue past the steps and go directly up the bank behind the hide.

The contents of eggs hatched a few months ago are nearing adulthood.

Mr or Mrs Pacific Black Duck shepherding the kids

A Whistling Kite sat in the Kite Tree warming itself in the early morning sun.

Daniel Darter had done the laundry and was hanging his feathers out to dry. Doris was out fishing showing why the species was called "Snake Bird".

* I am not sure what Blogger has done to the black of this bird. Apologies. Just believe me. It was black.

Magic. f8 and be there.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Bird Dots

On Monday, I went for a bit-of-a-bird from Marlay Point back to Sale via Heart Hall Road behind the RAAF base [to the east for those not "of Sale"]. There is a heap of water after the East Coast Low and the birds have found it, especially a patch that has been recently worked for revegetation planting by Greening Australia. I stopped the car to have a closer look and took a few pictures. I estimated about 500 - 700 Teal.

About 10% of the birds on view in a wide arc of 90 degrees
Of course you never know what might be lurking in the mob. So I set up the scope in the middle of the road and had a good look. The following images are enlarged crops of the above photo.

Silver Gull (1 only)
One-legged Black-winged Stilt (a dozen or so)
Sharp-tailed Sandpipers (probably 20). One on the left.
One cut off on the right is the one "under" the Silver Gull in the image above
I was pleased with these. Pink-eared Duck (2 thereof)
Magic. f8 and be there.

*Note: even f8 can't make up for camera shake, even at 1/1250th, and just being far away!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Trapyard Hill

Last weekend I did a short reconnaissance to Trapyard Hill for a walk I am leading in the New Year. It had been a decade since I was last there so the bush was a little different from my memory. In fact, so much different that I was geographically challenged onto occasions. However, it was a beautiful day, lots of flowers were out and the views were outstanding.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

East Coast Low aftermath

Not so much the damage caused but the sudden appearance of a multitude of bodies of water everywhere has meant water birds everywhere too.

One patch along Heart Hall Road behind the RAAF base in Sale gave wonderful photo opportunities. A flock of 50 or so Black-winged Stilts did a bit of formation flying. When did you last see a bird bump into another whilst tightly packed?

The Whiskered Terns flew back and forth in tight formation too, quartering the water then dropping down, under the surface, to grab their meal. There were about 100 or so.
Those Whiskered Terns really get down to it.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Challenge Count

I was fortunate to be part of a BLEG [Birdlife East Gippsland] Challenge Count team on Monday. We birded from Hollands Landing to Bairnsdale. Highlights included ...

1. Brown Goshawk ripping past with freshly caught bird in its talons. I could see its meal fluttering and kicking as it was pecked to death in a wattle close by.

2. Many dozens of Red-necked Avocets.

3. Great Crested Grebe on Lake King.

4. A White-necked Heron.

5. A Marsh Sandpiper hanging out with a bunch of Silver Gulls and a pair of Masked Lapwings in a puddle [big] in a paddock.

6. A Striated Fieldwren showing for a magnificent photo-opportunity. The image was taken by Ian Wright as I was lugging the scope around at the time. Thanks Ian.

Striated Fieldwren  Photo by Ian Wright
7. Most of the resident ducks in our part of Victoria. The Pacific Black Duck, Australian Shelduck, Grey Teal, Chestnut Teal, Australasian Shoveler, Pink-eared Duck, Hardhead, Australian Wood Duck and Freckled Duck. Dipped on Blue-billed, Musk and Garganey.

8. On the way home I was able to take some images of Whiskered Terns. They were collectively hunting over new, ephemeral, freshwater lakes generated by the big downpour on Saturday and Sunday caused by the East Coast Low.

Just magic. f8 and be there.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Barry Way 3

Behind all of this activity at the Jacobs River campsite were the Dusky Woodswallows attending to their young. It took me a while to locate their nest. It was in a tree as you might expect.

Can you spot the nest?
Can you spot it now?
I expect nests to be high up, out of the way of ground-based predators. In this case perhaps not. It was only five feet off the ground wedged where a piece of substantial sized bark had fallen away from the trunk, a bit like a sock with a loose top. There were three inhabitants.

"Where's that food?"
"Aren't mums marvellous?"
"Feed me. Feed me. Ta Mum"
Waste disposal service too. Mum/dad reaching to take away
a capsule of white material from an anus.

"All we have to do is wait for the next round of food".
"Perhaps a spot of preening and sunbathing.
Ahh. Life is good".
Magic. f8 and be there.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The Barry Way 2

Perhaps the birding wasn't THAT basic. A honeyeater landed on the ground near me and I thought ... Yellow-plumed HE. I took some photos.

Yellow-plumed Honeyeater ??
No. Fuscous Honeyeater
A look at the maps in the books showed that its range is nowhere near the Black-Allan Line which runs between Cape Howe and the start of the Murray River at Cowombat Flat. I have had a good look in the learned tomes at all the honeyeaters with yellow ears/plumes, examined my photos and have decided it was a Fuscous Honeyeater. The yellow is not a "neck-plume" across the neck but a "small, black-edged plume on the neck" Pizzey & Knight p368. There is no marked flecking of the breast nor yellow eye-ring which are both present on the Y-P. An interesting challenge. Happy to enter into correspondence!

From this encounter, I walked a few paces uphill and was marvelling at a Willie Wagtail nest ...

... when a brightly coloured parrot flew straight at me and landed just a short distance away. I snapped off some good photos, it didn't make a sound or seem too concerned as I walked around to get a better angle on it, then quietly flew off after about 10 minutes as I became engrossed with Willie Wagtail parental responsibilities.

Back to the books. The orange beak is not present on any parrot with this colouration in Australia! There is lots of yellow underneath. Parrots of this hue in the area include Blue-winged [perhaps], Red-rumped but I settled on an immature female Turquoise Parrot. Happy to enter into correspondence!

Whatever, just magic. f8 and be there.