Friday, 4 December 2015

Birdlife Australia: Challenge Count

The Challenge Count occurs on the first weekend [inc Friday and Monday] in December when each Birdlife branch across Australia chooses a point and birds, within 40 kms of that point, every bird they can over any 24 hour period within that 4 days.

Heyfield Birdoes Bev, Deidre and Jack, with help from BLEG Eaglepoint gentlewoman Denise, chose today, Friday, and did sites in the west of the circle with the centre of Nicholson.

Our first site was Hollands Landing. We saw 55 species of bird including Nankeen Kestrel, Swamp Harrier, hundreds of swans, teal, stilts, whiskered tern, Charlie the Hollands Landing Striated Fieldwren, Caspians, Corms, Pelis, gulls, lots of Shelducks, multitudes of Red Wattlebirds, did I mention swans galore, egrets, spoonies, lapwings, sharpies, rosellas, noisy miners, pards, magpies and larks, BFCS, grey fans, pipits etc etc. On our way out to the Bengworden Road I spied a Spotted Harrier so full race stop and some ordinary photos but enough, upon perusal at lunchtime, to ID a Spotted Harrier. Black fingers, grey bird, red [perhaps nankeen] leading upper edge of the wing. Yes. Life tick for three of the party. Thumbs up.

Grey bird
Red leading edge on upper wing
Black fingers
After Hollands Landing we birded Swindells Road [Pied Currawong], Wattle Point [lunch and two Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos plus a distant Wedge-tailed Eagle (Bev)], Pattersons Swamp and Waddy Point [Red-capped Plover x 1]. Storm Point [not much, Common Bronzewing] and the corner of Waddy Point Road and Wattle Point Road [where we said goodbye to Denise and spotted two Wedge-tailed Eagles (Denise)]. By this time it was 3.30-ish so we headed home.

On the Bengworden Road near Deighton's Creek a harrier put up. Another instant full race stop and out with bins and cameras as it was a Spotted Harrier again -- perhaps and probably the same one we had spotted [!!] earlier just a few kilometres away. This bird thought we were the ants pants and did two flyovers for us before working its way east. Wow. ID is easy when they are this close.

Magic. f8/t2000 and be there!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Heyfield Birdoes -- Heyfield Wetlands, Emus and Northpoint

Ten Heyfield Birdoes had a great time on their Christmas outing at Heyfield Wetlands [52 species] then, after a cuppa at Bulldog Junction, a short 4WD jaunt to Beaver Meadows off the Ben Cruachan Road, followed by lunch at Northpoint.

At Beaver Meadows we saw the birding highlight of the day. Six Emus in a paddock became intrigued by our presence and quietly, but warily, approached the vehicles whose occupants had quietly alighted and were working their bins and cameras overtime.

The person highlight of the day was Gouldiae visiting from the valley and the gastronomic highlight was a superb lunch at John and Marg's with everyone pitching in with drinks, salads and meat [for the BBQ].

Overall we saw 60 species of bird. Despite John and Marg not being able to schedule a visit from "their" Channel-billed Cuckoos and the "relatively" resident Pacific Koel [yes, that is its name at the moment and one is currently in Sale in a tree by Deidre's house -- lucky her], they farewelled us with a multitude of Musk Lorikeets in the Silky Oaks, a family of Australian Wood Ducks resting in the grass near the front gate and a male Common Bronzewing sitting on a nest at their front gate. With the gorgeous weather for the day, it doesn't get any better than that.

Musk Lorikeet in the Silky Oak

Mr and Mrs A W Duck with the six kids
Mr C Bronzewing on nesting duties

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Is Photoshop beneficial?

Not every image taken on a DSLR is a cracker. In fact most aren't. So some image manipulation is "par for the course", at least on my computer. It usually involves cropping, alterations to highlights and shadows with perhaps bringing the colour temperature near 5330*K ^^ and adding a touch of sharpness. A friend, Graeme, is a very dab hand at tweaking the ultimate from an image. Here are two examples of images that he improved.

Original Image:

My effort:

Final image by Graeme:

Occasionally there is something in the image that is distracting. In the following case, "the barbed-wire has to go". So it did!

My tweaked image:

Final image by Graeme:

^^ K for kelvin. Named after William Lord Kelvin. There are 3 kelvin scales.
1. Temperature: the kelvin scale has the same magnitude of degree as the Celsius scale but starts at absolute zero -  minus 273.16*C.
2. Colour temperature: daylight from the sun has a colour temperature of abut 5,600*K. If an object is at a lower thermometric temperature [<4,000*K] than the sun, the light radiated from it appears redder than daylight. If the thermometric temperature is higher [>7,500*K] than the sun, the light appears bluer.
3. Noise temperature: yes, you can measure the temperature of noise.
Thanks to Wikipedia.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Painted Honeyeaters revisited

Before having another look for Painted Honeyeaters, I called by to see how the Tawny Frogmouths were getting on. Every picture tells a thousand words.

Mr and Mrs T Frogmouth proudly announce the arrival of twins
Then on to the PH site. I still haven't quite got a male Mistletoebird in sharp focus but getting better.

But what about the Painted Honeyeaters? The site is an excellent one for birds. My list was 36 bird species in 90 minutes. Using the Morcombe phone app, I played the call of the PH so that I would be able to recognise it - my best hope of finding the bird. But no calls at all.

Then I spotted two birds way up in the canopy, pr 30 metres up, which looked good for PH. Took several photos then clapped the bins on them but, nah, they were "just" White-winged Trillers, of which there were several calling a lot of the time.

Eventually, I called it quits and as I was making my way back to the car, I heard one call of the Painted Honeyeater. I went back but couldn't find it/them. However, when I looked at the images of the W-wT on the computer, I realised that my ID of Painted Honeyeater had been correct. Here is the one image which shows the identifying features of pink beak, yellow edges to feathers on wing, white underneath [just like a W-wT] and with the flecking of a male PH. Impossible to see on a bird that does not stay still and always keeps leaves between them and me. Life tick.

Magic. f8 and be there!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Rafting in the Mitchell

On Monday week ago, there was a BLEG outing, initially to Macleod's Morass and then the cliff at Eagle Point. Prior to dipping on the Painted Honeyeaters, I returned to our initial birding site because I was missing my hat and thought it may have been left at the parking area. It was nowhere to be seen there so I slowly made my way back to the Bairnsdale-Paynesville Road along the Old Paynesville Road which runs alongside the Mitchell River. And there, in the Mitchell River was .... not my hat .... but a raft of birds.

I estimated that there were 500 Great Cormorants present. They were just smooching about, not too concerned by my presence. The Mitchell River is flowing, slowly, towards the camera.

I saw a small number of Little Black Cormorants but they were almost exclusively Great Cormorants.

The upstream edge of the raft was being kept intact by patrolling Australian Pelicans. There were about 20 or them. I photographed them for 10 minutes or so, one Pelican arrived and one GC flew away. Not much was happening so I departed.

And my hat? It is the same colour as the car seat covers and had been sitting quite innocently on the head rest but blending in superbly with the surroundings. Better than a Tawny Frogmouth!!

Magic. f22 and be there.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Painted Honeyeaters

Prior to visiting the Tawny Frogmouths, I spent an hour on a bush block where Painted Honeyeaters have been seen in the last week but I dipped badly. However, the noise from the 6-8 White-winged Trillers was distinctive and I got my best ever shots of a male Mistletoebird. A pair had a juvenile trailing along demanding to be fed at every wingbeat [or so it seemed].

Mum feeding youngster
Other birds on the block were Willie Wagtails, Jacky Winters and Varied Sittellas.

A revisit to bird the Painted Honeyeaters is scheduled.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Tawny Frogs

It has been two weeks since the last blog and there is a lot to tell you! [I sound like the Ancestry adverts on the telly which are causing me to hit the mute button]. So I shall work backwards.

After the BLEG outing yesterday to Macleod's Morass South, I went searching for the nesting Tawny Frogmouths. Avithera blogged a beauty about the nesting couple here. I found the site easily but was presented with a forest of young red gums. Oh which tree? The specific directions were spot on, the male was on the nest and I spent just 3-4 minutes taking some pictures from a reasonable distance. There has been vigorous discussion over the last fortnight on Victorian Birders on Facebook about how close for how long does one approach a nest. I suspect no-one would get excited if you put a nest cam in a Common Starlings nest but there is pressure on a fair few of our native species. The majority view is more [distance] is better and less [time] is better too. A nesting Spotted Harrier pair at WTP is being observed intensely by one particular chap who maintains it is okay. Hmm.

Anyway, I had a good look at Mr F, circled the tree taking my snaps then vamoosed. The last time I saw a TF was when I worked for Maffra Veterinary Centre last century. I went to a horse with colic on the outskirts of Sale later one evening and the owners pointed out the TF in the tree above my patient!! It didn't move [as they are want to do] for the entire consultation and treatment! Neither did this one but you can see a half-open eye in a couple of images.

The nest looks like it is suffering from a bit of slippage.

"Just keeping an eye on you mate"

A Tawny Frogmouth post came up on Facebook this morning. Here is the link. Check out their diet!

Magic. f8 and be there.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Spotted Pards

A couple of days ago, I was walking around the trees at my block when I was startled by a little bird rocketing past my feet from a wombat hole. I thought, "That could be a pardalote. They can nest in the ground" so I peered into the wombat hole but could see nothing resembling a 30mm entrance [the 300mm wombat hole was a tad large!]. Two days later I revisited by quietly sneaking up using the trees as cover and there was a neat little pardalote hole.

A little fella came zooming out and sat in the nearest tree giving me a good look for quite a few minutes.

So the next day, Saturday, yesterday, I went along with my camera and staked out the hole. They are FAST. Way too fast when you have been hanging on to the camera for 30 minutes waiting for them to either come out or go in. At one point, the female sat on a branch about a metre from me and gave me a second appraisal.

So today I went with a plan, lunch, coffee, hat, chair, iPad, iPhone, camera with 150-600 lens, tripod, banana, remote control and sensor. I set the gear up on the tripod about 4 metres away from the hole with the lens focussed on the root about 100mm out from the hole. I sat in my chair in regal comfort a further 4 metres back but with clear view of the target. Camera settings were Av at f14 letting the camera work out Tv [1/320] and ISO [500]. I started off with the shutter being activated with the remote control but it was way too slow. I moved my chair, sat behind the camera and just reached forward and activated the shutter digitally [my finger] when I could see the pards either arriving or leaving. The male stopped on the root twice for at least 10 seconds giving ample opportunity for image capture.

Magic! f14 and be there.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Heyfield Birdoes -- Den of Nargun and Mitchell River Pumping Station

Four birders met on the corner of Beverley's and Dargo Roads and were graced with a beautiful day of glorious sun and little wind.

Our first stop was just down the road at Iguana Creek at the Angus McMillan Memorial. Just a few species there [6] so we moved on to the Den of Nargun carpark and walked down to the lookout platform above the Mitchell River. The view was just superb in the morning sun. The track is mostly hemmed in by dogwood and tea-tree so you don't get a good view of much outside the "tunnel" you are walking in but we could hear Fantailed Cuckoos, Superb Fairy-wrens, Pied Currawongs, Silvereyes, Golden Whistlers, Spotted Pardalotes, Magpies, Shrike-thrushes and Fantails. Sixteen species in all.

After morning tea, the last birding stop of the day was the Mitchell River Pumping Station, last visited by Heyfield Birdoes about 2 years ago when a Peregrine Falcon made an appearance! After morning tea/lunch, we walked [sauntered is more like it] about one kilometre along the road following the bank of the river. Highlights of the 31 species we saw included a Lewin's Honeyeater, Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, a Noisy Friarbird AND a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles.  The wedgies hung around the area the whole time we were there. At one point, on our way back to the cars, one was seen to be chased over the river by a very, very agitated mob of three magpies because the wedgie had an immature magpie in it's talons!! The harassment was fierce and the bird dropped its prey into the river. The potential meal did not move at all thus must have been killed by the wedgie during "pickup"! Not a successful take-away meal! We also saw a medium sized raptor circling above us, almost directly into the sun, so plenty of images were taken but computer-enhanced identification has proved non-definitive. I suspect that of the choice of three species it could be [for its size] -- Little Eagle, Brown Goshawk and Swamp Harrier -- BG is the ID. What do you think? {Edit: thank you for input. 100% for Brown Goshawk}

A short side trip to the orchid heaven by the railway line at Fernbank showed some early promise [so the floral experts informed me] and, after a coffee at Wa-de-lock in Stratford, we split up for home after a great day.

Shining Bronze-Cuckoo
Noisy Friarbird
The unidentified raptor

Monday, 28 September 2015

BLEG -- Peach Flat

Last Monday, two Heyfield birdoes, Jos and I, accompanied Birdlife East Gippsland to the property at Peach Flat owned by Rod McMillan and Michele Adler. They have put a huge amount of time and effort into reclaiming the place for nature. The frog calls were LOUD. It is a marvellous spot with George Creek running through it and a former marsh/swamp/moist area between the creek and the road having been turned into a lake. Regeneration is entirely natural. The group spent the time prior to morning tea walking the area and hills around the lake and then went on a bush walk over the dry hill behind George Creek to an open area which led via a series of DSE tracks to another wet area then back for lunch.  The weather was mostly sunny with a bit of breeze. Sixty-two species were recorded! There were no super highlights, all were "expected" species but the Wedge-tailed Eagles, the Pallid Cuckoo being "seen to" by a Willie Wagtail and the Latham's Snipe were pretty nice. Following are the images I took with the exception of the cuckoo v willie photo by John Hutchison.

Image courtesy of John Hutchison.
Willie Wagtail attempting to see off a Pallid Cuckoo
Pallid Cuckoo Cacomantis pallidus. Same one as above
Pizzey & Knight notes ... "flies down to seize hairy caterpillars in grass".
An earthworm would be a poor substitute??
Australian Wood Duck Chenonetta jubata
Pied Currawong Strepera graculina

Friday, 25 September 2015

Western Treatment Plant -- My First Visit

On Thursday last week I attended the Werribee HQ of Melbourne Water for a Safety Induction prior to receiving a key to enable me to enter all birding parts of the Western Treatment Plant [WTP]. The first part of the induction was a very interesting description of the function of the WTP. 11,000 hectares now almost entirely under cropping but formerly the home to 100,000 cattle and 80,000 sheep! Victoria's biggest farmer! 150 megalitres [ML] of Class C water is produced each day from the 145 ML of "raw product"! Class C water can be released into the bay but, during the summer, the vegetable farmers of Werribee use the water which has been further improved to Class A for irrigation on crops for human consumption! They even have an odour-removing machine involving 4 x 4-storey silos where the underground channel comes to the surface on the north edge of the farm. [Must be a boy thing]. The second part was the safety requirements including wearing closed shoes and long pants. The place is a hotbed of snakes -- tigers, browns, copperheads and black bellies.

Tiger Snake at WTP 24/09/2015 by Nina Zuccolo

After receiving my key-to-bird-watching-heaven, I went along and did a slow tour of the western part. That look me 5 hours to do about 15km. Lots of raptors -- Whistling Kites, Black Kites, Swamp Harriers, Brown Falcons, Nankeen Kestrels.

Black Kite Milvus migrans
Swamp Harrier Circus assimils
Lots of waders had arrived -- Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Red-necked Stints and Common Greenshanks [lifer] ...

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia

... Caspian, Crested and Whiskered Terns, Australian Pelicans, various Cormorants, hundreds of Swans ...

Australian Pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus
Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax varius
Black Swan Cygnus atratus
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus
Silver Gulls Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae -- flying flat out up wind
Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
... Hoary-headed Grebes, Chestnut Teal, Great Cormorants, Red-necked Avocets, and Silver Gulls, one lonely female Eastern Osprey and Banded Lapwings with chicks. What, an Osprey?! I was driving slowly along the track between the lakes and the beach when I noticed a large raptor sitting on rocks at the water's edge of a rocky point. A closer look through the bins and then the scope showed it to be an Eastern Osprey. Wow. Although the bird had been reported to Birdline and eBird just a few days earlier, I was able to take some good photos and post them on the Victorian Birders Facebook page which started a mini stampede of birders to the WTP. It seems this is the first report of an Osprey at the WTP, ever! As of today [25 September], the bird is still there. I am not surprised as where the Little River empties out into Port Philip Bay, with the extra 150 ML of water, is a fertile area and food source where there were hundreds of cormies, gulls, terns, avocets, swans etc etc eating and relaxing.

Eastern Osprey  Pandion cristatus

After I had reached Gate 4 and exited the WTP, I drove west along Beach Road towards Avalon Airport where a Banded Lapwing pair and chicks had been reported. It didn't take too long to find them as they were only 10 metres from the roadside fence. More images.

Banded Lapwing Vanellus tricolor
So my first visit to WTP scored an Osprey!!! Mega. It can only go downhill from there!

Magic. t1250 and be there!