Sunday, 31 December 2017

Western Treatment Plant _ Pectoral Sandpiper

A single Pectoral Sandpiper has been observed at the Western Treatment Plant since last October last year (2017). It is usually seen in T-section to the south-west of the Plant, accessed by key through Gate 1 which is on the right at the southern end of Point Wilson Road. Within T-section, it "lives" in the northern part of the Crake Pond where there is a island of large stones and boulders and accompanying mudflats or, less commonly, in the northwest section of the pond immediately to the east. It has been observed to aggressively chase Sharp-tailed Sandpipers away.

Comparative Diagnostics:

In the bird guides it is "paired" with the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper; i.e. they look very similar.

  • Pec: 21-23 cm long, has a streaked breast with an abrupt junction with a white belly. Sharpie: 20cm long with a diffuse margin to the breast.
  • Pec: The bill is slightly decurved (curves downwards) and brown with a darker tip; i.e. the base is appreciably lighter than the tip. On the WTP bird, the base is quite yellow/orange and the easiest ID factor. Sharpie: Bill slightly decurved but less than Pec. Relatively dark along entire length.
  • Pec: no eye-ring. Sharpie: prominent eye-ring.
  • Pec: Supercilium (eyebrow) is buffer than Sharpie. Sharpie: often white and distinct.

These were the views that alerted me to the Pec's presence in the crake pond. You can easily see the abrupt junction of the breast with the white belly and the yellow base to the bill. It is hard to tell from images without other birds but, pond-side, there were a few Sharpies to compare the size and I was able to tell it was just a bit bigger than a Sharpie.
This is a Sharpie so you are able to compare the breast/belly junction and the bill colour.
Here is another comparison image with the Sharpie in front and the Pec behind.

Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotus

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Tucker Swamp _ Pied Cormorant

Tucker Swamp is on the northern edge of Dutson Downs and is only accessible by boat. Last Thursday Pete took Deb Sullivan, Abigail Barenblitt and me there to check out the Pied Cormorant breeding platform. We had last visited three months ago and it looked like things were starting to get "active". Well, things have certainly been active. We counted at least 70 juvenile Pied Cormorants chicks and about 200 in total.

Here is an image of the platform from about 300 metres.

We were able to get a bit closer without disturbing the residents unnecessarily and I took plenty of shots including several bursts of images from one end of the platform to the other using a 300mm lens plus 2X teleconverter. At home utilising the computing power of a Mac using Lightroom, I was able to create two panoramic images using 15 images each time.

Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax varius

Here are some closeups using the crop tool in Lightroom. Note the breeding flush of the skin at the commissure of the jaws in the first two images and the drab juvenile plumage of 17 or so young in the last image.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Heart Morass _ various

The Heart Morass extends from just east of Sale, at Flooding Creek, to Lake Wellington on the northern side of the Thomson River to the Swing Bridge (opens 3pm on Sundays) then the Latrobe River to the lake. It is best described as a shallow lake with fringing reed beds, mud flats and grasslands. It is 1-2 km wide and about 11 km long. The Field and Game Association own/manage it and are doing a top job of continual improvement with revegetation (from old farm paddocks) and weed control.

Here are images of birds I saw during an unsuccessful search for reported Plumed Whistling-Ducks.

Australian Pipit Anthus australis

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia


Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cracatua galerita

White-fronted Chat Ephpthianura albifrons

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Fairy Dell _ Rufous Fantail

The Rufous Fantail is a truly delightful summer visitor to our neck of the woods. It would be one of my favourite birds both for their plumage and typical fantail behaviour. During a recent visit by Birdlife East Gippsland to Fairy Dell near Wiseleigh, a pair was spotted constructing their nest.

Rufous Fantail Rhipidura rufifrons

Monday, 27 November 2017

Bruthen _ Square-tailed Kite

I am fairly certain this is the third year that Square-tailed Kites have bred in this location. Whilst having had two offspring last year, there appears to be just one this year. These images were taken on 27 November 2017. According to Morcombe, the chicks are initially in white down which is lost by about 3 weeks of age. Our chick is still quite white so must be less than 3 weeks. They fledge at about  9 weeks old so a bit more time yet to observe the growing chick.

Square-tailed Kite Lophoictimia isura

Friday, 24 November 2017

Newstead _ Barking Owls

This pair has been resident in a particular tree in Newstead, near Castlemaine, for a few weeks now. These images were taken about 7am with the sun behind them. Fortunately one was facing each way so you get to see both "sides" of the bird at once.

There are only two poses. Static owls at the top of a branching tree does not give much scope for composition. Still brilliant to see.

Both had their eyes closed at first but a single "ruff ruff" from me had the left one in the first image alert in an instant. So after taking the photos I had breakfast just a few metres from their tree at a table in the Newstead Rotunda Nature Reserve during which they started a short "ruff-ruff" duet for a few minutes.

f5.6 and be there!

Barking Owl Ninox connivens

Wednesday, 22 November 2017


Took these images whilst doing bird surveys. More than happy they are in focus! Chuffed to see about 160 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and get fairly close to them. And a Great Egret coming into breeding plumage was a bonus.

Magic. f5.6 and be there.

Australian Pipit Anthus australis

Great Egret Area alba

Note the black bill, the "young" breeding plumes hanging down at the back, the base of the bill going pea-green and. I think, the tops of the legs turning red.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acumulata

A non-breeding plumage adult.

Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Suggan Buggan _ Diamond Firetail

Every time I have stopped at the Buchan River in Suggan Buggan over the last decade, I have seen Diamond Firetails. They are just a great little bird. Here are some images from the BLEG (Birdlife East Gippsland) visit last week.

Diamond Firetail Stagonopleura guttata