Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stewart Island

Stewart Island is a large Island about 30km south of Bluff. There is a population of approximately 600 people of which 90% live in the main settlement of Oban. This small town located in Halfmoon Bay has basic services such as a small supermarket and a range of accommodation options. Roughly 85% of the Island is set aside as National Park. It's a wild place with unspoilt forests and prolific bird-life. There is about 20 km of road on the island, however walking (tramping) is the way to see this island with walks ranging from a few minutes to many days. Even though walking is the way to see the wild places, in my opinion it's necessary to have some form of motorised transport to get about. I was very grateful for the courtesy car supplied by our motel.
You know that you are going to a special place when the owner of the motel you intend staying at makes a point of meeting you before you even leave for the island.  It's a relatively quick 60 minute ferry ride across Foveaux Strait. I had hoped to photograph a few birds on the way over, however we only got distant views of albatross and petrels.
As soon as we arrived at the motel the local Kakas dropped in to accept what must be the usual handout of peanuts that they come to expect when there are new arrivals. These birds turned out to be great photographic subjects as they were habituated to humans and easy to approach.
The weather was partly cloudy, so as soon as we had settled in we jumped in the courtesy car and headed to Lee Bay where we did a walk along the coast. Unfortunately the weather by this time was threatening, so the walk was cut short. We did however get to see Tui, South Island Oystercatchers, Stewart Island Shags and a very large New Zealand Sea Lion. The following day we decided to do the coastal walk that started just below our motel at Bragg Bay and finished at.Horseshoe Bay, a total of 4 km, I think. Along the way we passed beautiful coastal scenery with the bush right down to the water's edge.
The beaches were mostly deserted apart from a few Variable Oystercarters and Shags. On the track itself we encountered Tomtit, Tui, Kaka, New Zealand Pigeon, Silvereye, Grey Warbler and Fantail. After lunch we headed out to Ackers  Point, a short walk. The same birds were seen here along with panoramic views of Halfmoon Bay. If we had timed the visit to this point for early evening we probably would have seen Little Penguins and Sooty Shearwaters returning to their nesting burrows.

The next day we caught a water taxi to Ulva Island which is a rat free Island a few kms from Stewart Island. It is probably the most pristine of any sanctuary in New Zealand that is open to the public.
Over the last 10 years a number of threatened species have been released here, so it is a very good spot to see and photograph these species. While on the island I was able to photograph Red-crowned Parakeet, Saddleback, Brown Creeper, Kaka, Tui, Bellbird, White-faced Heron, New Zealand Pigeon, Weka and South Island Robin. Seen but  not photographed were: Yellow-crowned Parakeet and Rifleman. We had so much fun here photographing the birds and enjoying the scenery that we extended our visit from a half day to a full day. We were aided in locating some of the species by a helpful guide aptly named Ulva. The South Island Robins here have all been released and are much studied. They all have very visible leg bands,. These birds show no fear of humans and will land at your feet  to pick up any insects that you disturb as you walk.

Grey Warbler
That night we took a guided Kiwi viewing tour. We managed to see two kiwis as they fed on invertebrates on the the beach.
You are not allowed to use flash at all and the tour guide was the only person who could shine a low powered torch at the bird itself. As a result we came away with a lot of blurry underexposed images, fit for record shots only. Not the best photographic wildlife experience I've ever undertaken, however most of the other participants seemed to be happy just to see this unique bird. Apparently Stewart Island is one of the few places that there is the possibility of seeing a Kiwi during daylight. Though I think you would need to go to one of the more remote areas.

Paradise Shelduck
During our stay I organised a few perches around the garden of the motel and used calls to attract  Grey Warbler (Gerygone), Silvereye and Bellbirds for a photographic session. We also had New Zealand Pigeon and Tui in the garden, however they never responded to calls. Tuis were very common, but proved rather difficult to photograph as I couldn't find a flowering plant that they were feeding on.
The Kaka were by far my favourite subjects as they visited us each morning and evening. It was a simple matter to encourage one onto a perch.

 I can highly recommend a visit to Stewart Island, though I doubt that many will be as lucky as we were with fine weather. I also recommend the Motel (Rakiura Retreatwe stayed at for the friendly service and surrounding gardens.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Swift Parrots

Last week I had the opportunity to visit South Chain Valley, on several occasions to photograph the Swift Parrots that have been resident for several weeks. Access to Chain Valley South is off the Pacific Highway via Tall Timbers Road.

This is a good site for photographing the birds as it is easily accessible in the Joshua Porter Reserve and the trees that the birds are frequenting are relatively low.

As subjects these birds can be difficult as they then to stay well within the foliage. They also move about a lot and often fly on mass to another area without any obvious reason.

This site proved to be good for a number of parrot species, including: Scaly Lorikeets, Rainbow Lorikeets, Galahs, Eastern Rosellas, Crimson Rosellas, Little Corellas and Musk Parrots.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sturt NP to Bowra Sanctuary

May 2011
The dirt road from Sturt NP to Noccundra was in good condition so we made good progress. While having morning tea along the road we were entertained by a couple of calling Crested Bellbirds. Further along the road there were big numbers of Black-faced Woodswallows and Black Kites. These were mainly congregating around the road works along a big stretch of the road.

We arrived at Thargomindah  late in the afternoon, but still in time to take the Riverside walk that starts just opposite the camp ground. Almost as soon as we entered the reserve we heard a mistletoebird that was happy to come in to investigate a brief call back.  Along the river banks there were a number of Australian Ibis and White-necked Herons, but nothing to get too excited about. In the sky however, there were large mixed flocks of Woodswallows that settled into some the large river bank trees as the light faded. Closer inspection revealed that the three species present were; Black-faced, White-browed and Masked Woodswallows. As we watched the Woodswallows grooming, arguing and whatever else they do before getting some shut eye, a flock of 10 Red-winged Parrots landed in an adjacent tree.
Masked Woodswallows
These parrots are good looking birds at any time, but in this light they were spectacular. A nearby noisy group of Apostlebirds caught our attention with their antics. The fading light prevented any serious photography so we headed back to the camp.
The first stop the following day was Lake Bindegolly National Park. We've been fortunate to see this lake both empty and full in the past so we knew what to expect with the waters only slightly lower than last year. As soon as we stopped Brogas could be heard in the direction of the free camp on the other side of the road. Unfortunately they were disturbed by campers before we got near, or maybe it was us. I didn't bother adding to my bum shot collection as they disappeared into the distance. 
Great Crested-grebe
I reckon if you're out this way this is one of the best free camping spots around, with scattered sites just above the lake. At this time last year you couldn't camp there unless you were prepared to walk in, due to water over the vehicle track.
Water birds were prolific with nesting Great Crested Grebes, Australasian Grebes, Darters, Cormorants and Black Swans being the dominant species.
Restless Flycatcher
We took the opportunity to have a quick look round and soon encountered Diamond Doves, White-winged Fairy-wrens, Singing Honeyeaters and Black-faced Woodswallows. We made a quick stop at Eulo bore. Given it was mid-afternoon, there wasn't a lot about. Really, to get the best out of this location you need to be around just before sunset when many birds come in for a drink. Though I doubt that the bore would be that attractive to local birds at the moment as there was a lot of surface water about elsewhere.
This was our fourth visit to Bowra in the last two years and the first since the Australian Wildlife Conservancy took over the property. The actual day to day running of the sanctuary is undertaken by volunteers from Birds Queensland. On arrival we were greeted by the the current manager and shown where to camp. 
Red-winged Parrot

Thankfully the lagoon contained some water, which was not the case on the last visit. The mistake I'd often made in the past was to neglect the area around the lagoon in preference for the far reaches of the property. So on arrival I made an effort to photograph the resident lagoon birds and any others that came in for a late afternoon drink. On the lagoon there were Black-winged Stilts, Straw-necked Ibis, a Black-fronted Dotterel and Grey Teals. During the stay a small flock of Red Rumps, Red-winged Parrots and a few Galahs came in for a drink, or to just check the place out. I also had a visit from the resident Restless Flycatchers, which are always fun to photograph.
The next day with the property map in hand we headed out to find a few of the specialities. It didn't take long to find six Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush exactly where the map indicated. The little buggers didn't want their photograph taken, so yet again came away with shots for my bum shot gallery. As for the other rarities we didn't have much luck so settled for some quiet time by the Gumholes. There were White-backed Swallows, Welcome Swallows and White-breasted Woodswallows chasing insects overhead.
Peaceful Dove
Zebra finches were crowding a small scrub near the water. Meanwhile a Peaceful Dove was kind enough to land close by and pose for a few shots. We had intended staying three nights but stayed only two. To be honest the bird numbers were significantly down on previous visits. I've no doubt that if you spent the time you would find all the property's specialities, however we decided our time could be spent better elsewhere. The truth is Bowra shines when there is not a lot of water about elsewhere as it has permanent water. One of the great things that the Birds Queensland group have introduced is the nightly bird calls. Here  the birds seen during the day are recorded and birders/photographers can share experiences and knowledge.
It was surprising to find Ian still had cattle on the property. Also there were large numbers of feral goats and pigs seen around the property. I know progress was being made in this regard, with a big number of goats removed just before we got there. I'm not sure if the pig eradication program was working as it seemed that the hunters were concentrating on the big animals and leaving the small pigs behind. Maybe they were looking to the future.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sturt National Park

I've just returned from 5 weeks travelling around Central Aus. The first stop on this trip was Sturt NP in the far north west of NSW. My last visit to this National Park was years ago when the area was in the middle of a drought.
We stayed at the excellent Dead Horse Gully camping ground which is located just a couple of kilometres from Tibooburra. This campground is situated amongst the granite boulders that give this area of Sturt NP its distinct character. The camping sites are nicely spaced with reasonable privacy. There are toilets, free gas BBQs, but no showers. If you are desperate for a shower you can pay a small fee for one in nearby Tibooburra. I think we manged about  five days without showering, which wasn't too bad as we didn't meet up with anyone else. In total we spent 7 days in Sturt with five nights at Dead Horse Gully and two nights at Fort Grey.

Dead Horse Gully Landscape
Our routine while residing at Dead Horse Gully was to travel out to the South Myres Tank on the Jump-up Loop Track early each morning for the best light and return again in the afternoon. The first thing that struck me on my return visit was the Mitchell grass plains that stretched for kilometres. I'm sure on my prior visit these were barren gibber plains. The dam at South Myres tank was reasonably full, however the banks were shallow enough to provide plenty of landing and wading areas for birds. One of the target species I was after was the Flock Bronzewing. These had recently been photographed in this area by Rob Drummond and Simon Bennett, so I was delighted when these birds made an appearance on my first visit. Small flocks came in to drink each morning and afternoon.
Flock Bronzewing
They proved to be very difficult subjects as they were very nervous and appeared to take flight for no apparent reason. In hindsight I would have been better off concentrating on flight shots as they spent so much of their time in the air whirling around the dam, usually before coming to land on the opposite shoreline. What really surprised me was their willingness to actually land in the shallow water. Most did land on the banks, however they still tended to move beyond the water's edge.
Cinnamon Quail-thrush
One of the other species I was interested in photographing was the Cinnamon Quail-thrush. While photographing a group of White-winged Fairy-wrens I noticed a couple of Quail-thrush dart between some grass clumps. I set-up in the hope of intercepting them as they moved towards the road. I made no attempt to camouflage myself or call them in, however after waiting about five minutes a group of 6 birds started happily foraging out in the open only metres from where I stood. It was obvious that they were aware of my presence yet they continued to feed to with a couple of metres. They even let me move about them to get better angles. In the end after getting several hundred shots  I left them alone to feed. Another species I had on top of my list was the Gibberbird. I'd seen in my opinion the best image of this species posted on Feathersandphotos by Rob Drummond. Unfortunately even though I spent considerable time looking I was only able to obtain a record shot. 

Red-browed Pardalote
The drive to Fort Grey takes you initially through the Mitchell Grass/gibber plains to sand dune country. Along the way there were pipits, orange chats, woodwallows and plenty of birds of prey. Fort Grey camp is set amongst the sand dunes and near the ephemeral Lake Pinaroo. The camp is set up in a similar fashion to the Sturt NP camps in that toilets and gas BBQs are provided. Fortunately during our visit the lake was nearly full. There wasn't a lot of waterbirds obvious, however the birds of prey were numerous. The woodland and sand dune country surrounding the camp provided the opportunity to photograph some different birds, including Red-browed Pardalote, Red-capped Robin and Crested Bellbird.
Dusky Hopping-mouse
One evening during our stay at Fort Grey our travelling companion, Rod Warnock,  alerted us to the presence of native hopping mice. We all jumped at the opportunity to photograph these cute little mammals. During our stay at Fort Grey the mouse plague was in full cry. I pity the hopping mice as they compete for food and burrows.

The Gorge Loop track is definitely worth checking out, if not for the scenery then for the heaps of Red Kangaroos that can be seen.

The birds photographed in Sturt NP were: Gibberbird, Orange Chat, Brown Falcon, Black-shouldered Kite, Nankeen Kestrel, Swamp Harrier, Black Kite, Whistling Kite, Wedgetailed Eagle, Black-faced Woodswallow, White-browed Woodswallow, Black-fronted Dotterel, Straw-necked Ibis, Grey Teal, Pink-eared Duck, Eurasian Coot, Australasian Grebe, White-winged Fairy-wren, Australian Pipit, Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Red-capped Robin, Flock Bronzewing, Budgerigar, Bourke Parrot, Galah,Welcome Swallow, Singing Honeyeater, Yellow-throated Miner, Blue Bonnet, White-plumed Honeyeater. yellow-billed Spoonbill. Red-browed Pardalote, Horsefield's Bronze-cuckoo, Mistletoebird Crested Bellbird, Emu, Black-tailed Native-hen, White-necked Heron.

I'll post another report on the next stage of the trip shortly.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Port Stephens Pelagic

Flesh-footed Shearwater
Wilson's Storm-petrel
Since I'd taken up bird photography I had read with interest the reports of the various sightings recorded on the Port Stephen's Pelagic. During this time I've been on a number of Sydney pelagics and it struck me that even though the two pelagics are only a couple of hundred kilometres apart the birds recorded appeared to be significantly different. When the opportunity came up to go on the Port Stephens Pelagic it just so happened that it coincided with the recent sightings of the Great Shearwater on every other pelagic running out of the east coast. Unfortunately we were out of luck and didn't get to see this species. I've heard theories as to why they are visiting in relatively large numbers ranging from  changes to the magnetic field to climate change. It would probably shock my fellow passengers, but I didn't care that much as long as there were birds to shoot and preferably new ones.
Originally we were booked on the Saturday trip, but due to predicted bad weather and the number of enthusiastic participants, the trip was brought forward to the Friday.
Shy Albatross
We left the Nelson Bay wharf at approx. 7.00am and passed the heads with a few clouds in the sky and a band of storm clouds on the eastern horizon. As we neared the southern heads a sea eagle flew to a perch high in one of the fringing gum trees.
The boat must have been near capacity with about 14 people on board. It was a good mix of keen photographers and birders. A novice like me could be positioned to take photographs yet still be close enough to one of the experts to hear them call out and identify any new birds that arrived on the scene.  Once out of the heads it was soon apparent that it was not going to be a smooth trip with a decent swell and white caps visible.  Even though the weather looked threatening at times, we managed to avoid rain for the whole trip.
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross

The first part of the ride out to the edge of the continental shelf was very quiet with only a couple of gannets flying overhead. A distant trawler drew us in like a magnet. Even at a distance you could see a mass of swirling birds around it. As soon as we got near the burly was used to draw the shearwaters away from the trawler and have them follow us. There were so many shearwaters about that it was often difficult to focus on one target. At this stage there were none of the rarer species about, but my previous images of the Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed shearwater were so bad that I was happy to have the opportunity to improve my images. Besides if we didn't have these birds for company it would have been a pretty boring 3 hour trip to the shelf.
Black Petrel
Enough burly was dispensed to keep the shearwaters interested all the way to the shelf. Once we were drifting off the continental shelf a rag soaked in cod liver oil was tied off and dragged behind the boat. The slick created  proved to be very attractive to large numbers of Wilson's Storm Petrels. I'd not seen these delightful birds before and it was a pleasure to see them dance across the water surface picking up the tiny bits of burly left by the other bigger birds. Photographing these birds would be difficult at the best of times as they zipped about, however the direction of the slick meant unless you were into bum shots the light angle was never favourable. Of course if I hadn't forgotten to take my flash I could have used it for fill light and come away with more than just record shots.

Pomarine Jaeger
It wasn't too long before we had a visit from a Black Petrel that liked our company so much that it decided to stay. It proved to be rather timid as it was swamped by the smaller shearwaters when burly was thrown in its direction. Its preference for sitting on the water made getting a flight shot rather difficult. 
During our time drifting we also had a visit from a Great-winged Petrel and a couple of Pomarine Jaeger. Unfortunately neither of these species hung round long or close enough to be photographed well.

The return trip again had the shearwaters following behind in big numbers. They were joined at various stages by three species of albatross, including Shy, Indian Yellow-nosed and Black-browed. By this time the light was starting to fade due to high cloud, which explains the lack of punch in my albatross shots.
Wedge-tailed Shearwater
As we got closer to the heads a few Crested Terns and gulls joined the flock and a couple of kilometres from the heads a Sea Eagle made an unexpected but brief appearance. The last sighting for the day was a little penguin playing chicken with a game boat in the harbour.
I thoroughly enjoyed the trip as I saw and got to photograph some great birds in the company of some really friendly and helpful people. In particular Mick Roderick who did a wonderful job organising the trip and his brother Steve,  Allan Richardson and Rod Warnock for their expert knowledge and help.

Birds recorded on the trip were: 
Flesh-footed Shearwater, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Short-tailed Shearwater,  Hutton's Shearwater (not seen by me), Fluttering Shearwater, Black Petrel, Great-winged Petrel, Wilson's Storm-petrel, Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Shy Albatross, Pomarine Jaegar, Australasian Gannet and White-bellied Sea-eagle. In all I managed to photograph three new birds.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wyrrabalong National Park - Honeyeaters

Scarlet Honeyeater
The southern section of this park is only 5 minutes from home so I often find myself walking the coastal track in the company of my wife as we undertake our daily battle with middle age spread. Though this place is a wildflower showcase it is usually a bit of a bird desert so I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of honeyeater activity. During these walks I'm pretty much banned from bringing my camera as the associated backpack according to my wife makes me look like a wanker. It was on a recent walk that I noticed the Banksia serrata and grasstrees were in flower and attracting a lot of honeyeaters. From the track I could easily observe the wattlebirds, White-cheeked and new Holland Honeyeaters. Stopping and listening soon revealed that there were other species away from the track in the denser shrubs.

White-naped Honeyeater
In all I made three separate trips to coincide with either good early morning or late afternoon light. I soon found that that these honeyeaters took a little time to get active in the morning. I suppose they need the warmth to get the nectar flowing, or they are just too cold and lazy. Either way it wasn't until about an hour after sunrise that the photography was worthwhile. My strategy was simple: find a suitable grasstree flower spike where I would have the light in the right direction and a relatively clean background. Compared to finding the birds, finding a clean background was near impossible. I would have spent 80% of my time on location scouting out potential shooting sites. Even now I'm not really happy with the sites I have found. The more I get involved in bird photography the more I put importance and effort into finding a good background and setting.

Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Initially I thought that I might try calls to bring my subjects to the chosen perch, however I soon found this to be a rather fruitless exercise as the birds did not really take any notice. What did work was picking a flower spike that was producing a good nectar supply, as it was only a matter of time before the various honeyeaters took their turn to visit the spike. Of course there were species that prefer the banksia flowers or picking off insects amongst the leaves in the nearby trees. These species were photographed in a similar fashion without the need to move as the banksia flowers were always plentiful in the general area.

White-cheeked Honeyeater
I had contemplated using a portable hide but decided that the vegetation was too dense, so I settled on a bag hide. I'm not sure how much the bag hide helped, as I think the birds were going to visit the flowers regardless of my presence. I think that what helps in these situations is the fact that with the angle of the early morning and late afternoon sun you are in silhouette, or at least hard to make out.

Photographing the Scarlet Honeyeaters proved to be rather difficult with most of my first images suffering from blown (over exposed) reds. It was harder in my opinion to keep the reds from blowing than the whites. In the end I dropped the exposure by about 1/3 of a stop more than I would normally..

Noisy Friarbird

The other birds seen during my visits were:

Red Wattlebird, Little Wattlebird, New Holland Honeyeater, Spotted Pardalote, Rainbow Lorikeet, Black-face Cuckoo-shrike, White-browed Scrub-wren, Silvereye, Variegated Fairy-wren, Bar-shouldered Dove,

Friday, March 25, 2011

Kaikoura Pelagic

Kaikoura is a small coastal town on the north eastern coast of New Zealand's south Island. It is about 160 kms north of Christchurch  (2 hours drive). In recent years it has become a hub for ecotourism, with whale, seal, dolphin and bird tours all available.  It is not only the marine wildlife that draws the tourists, but the wonderful coastal scenery and the spectacular mountain backdrop. You don't necessarily need to take a pelagic to get close to the wildlife as there are some great spots close to town that are worth exploring. For instance there are usually New Zealand fur seals and shore birds found at the reserve on the tip of the Kaikoura peninsula. During my last visit I was able to approach to within a few metres of a blue penguin . The reason for all the marine activity is the nutrient rich 2km deep Kaikoura Canyon, that is only a few kilometres off shore.

On a recent trip to New Zealand I decided that if the weather was favourable I would take two short pelagic trips, having been on several pelagics on a previous trip. With its southerly latitude and close proximity to the deep Kaikoura canyon this is a great location to see many of the Albatross species.
The company that runs the pelagics is called Albatross Encounters. They offer several trips each day, with times varying slightly with the seasons. They do require a minimum number of people to book and favourable weather before any trip will proceed. A couple of benefits of using these operators are their excellent boats and very knowledgeable and helpful skippers/guides. On completion of the trip they will supply a list of all the species seen. They can also provide longer specialty trips if you can get enough interested people to take part.

Once on board the boat I always make my way to the rear on the same side as the skipper. I find this gives you the best arc of view and puts you on the same side that the skipper tends to favour. Obviously if this is not working for you in terms of light direction make your way to the other side without pushing too many tourists overboard. The trip lasts about 2 1/2  hours which, doesn't sound very long compared to many of the day trips offered in Australia, however given that it only takes about 20 minutes to get to where the action is, or even less if you happen to find a fishing boat closer in, it is more than adequate.  Ideally you want to photograph the birds in the sky, which makes for a more dramatic shot. You need a stiff breeze to be blowing. When the fishing boats can't be relied on to get the bird interested and in close, the skipper puts out a block of netted frozen meat. This will bring the birds in with constant activity in the air and on the water. It's worth photographing birds on the water as you will probably find that you will miss all the different species if you concentrate on the sky.

A 300mm prime lens or 100-400mm zoom would be ideal focal range as you are going to get birds at a distance and very close. There is always a temptation to take the 500mm, however given that the photography is pretty much full on for two hours it is not really practical. I suppose you could always use it to intimidate the other passengers so that they keep out of your way.
Even when the weather is fine and the sea is relatively calm I always wear a parka as an outer layer to protect against the inevitable spray. If you are expecting to spend a fair bit of time at the rear of the boat expect a bit of water around your feet.

Photography Tips
In situations like this where you are constantly having your background change from a dark sea to a bright sky along with dark and light birds, I find the quickest way to get reliable images is to work in manual mode. It is a steep learning curve, but worth it in the end. When you have mastered this method you need to adjust one dial at the most. Take plenty of test shots of various birds and fine tune your settings. Do this early. You may also find that your keeper rate improves if you concentrate on either dark or light coloured birds at one time, rather than constantly switching between the two. To make it even easier to narrow your exposure settings you can concentrate on shooting birds which have either the sea or the sky as a background (not always possible). Also try not to move about the boat too much but rather keep the angle of light in the same direction. Remember to check your histogram often and make any necessary adjustments.  The angle of view is also important as it helps to see the bird coming, this gives you time to set the camera up. 

The images in this article from top to bottom are: Kaikoura Range form the Peninsula, Salvin's Albatross, Blue Penguin, Cape Petrel, White-capped Albatross,  Westland Petrel and Northern Royal Albatross.

During this recent couple of trips I managed to photograph the following birds:
 Northern Royal Albatross, Southern Royal Albatross, Wandering Albatross (Gibson's), Bullers Albatross, White-capped Albatross, Salvin's Albatross, Giant Northern Petrel, Westland Petrel, White-chinned Petrel, Cape Petrel, Hutton's Shearwater, White-fronted Tern plus some of the common species.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Munmorah SCA

We set off to Munmorah SCA to try and get some decent images of the Southern Emu-wrens. We had previously seen the Emu-wrens in the heathland near the camping ground, so we had a reasonable expectation of success.   We set up the hide in an area that looked promising. The background would be smooth as the  vegetation was uniform and at a good distance. A couple of potential perches were located within view of the hide.
Rather than immediately focus on the Emu-wren we decided to let things settle down for a while.
Given that we could hear a Bar-shouldered dove call in the distance we played it's call. Within a couple of minutes we had about five birds come in close to investigate.
Two of these birds landed on our selected perch. The bonus was that they started to perform a display which involved fanning their tail feathers and raising them.  After being entertained by the Doves we decided to try our luck with the Dusky Woodswallows that we saw on the way to our location. Much the same as with the doves, the woodswallows responded reasonably quickly to their call. First to visit our perches were two juveniles closely followed by a single adult bird. It was great to see the different stages of maturity. It was now time to give the Emu-wrens a go. Unfortunately we had no success, not even a glimpse. Even though it was after 9.00am the light was still good due to some high cloud so we decided to move the hide 200 metres towards the coast. 
More success at this location, but alas only glimpses of the elusive birds.

There is so much good heath habitat within that reserve that we will have plenty of opportunities to track down more photogenic  Emu-wrens in other locations.
All was not lost as an obliging New Holland Honeyeater settled in a low branch near the hide.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wandering Tattler _Soldiers Point, NSW.

A Wandering Tattler had been seen at Soldiers Point by Alan Morris so there was a good chance that it would still be there when I paid a visit the next day. We timed our 4pm visit to coincide with the low tide as access to the rock shelf is tide dependant.

I was initially concerned as there were no obvious birds present. We headed to the far eastern end and after a few minutes of searching found a group of Red-necked Stints and Ruddy Turnstones. Then a wave crashed onto the shelf flushing all the birds out into an open area. A lone tattler was seen, which immediately caught my attention as it appeared darker than tattlers normally seen here. I was able to approach reasonably close. A series of waves drove the bird closer.

It's behaviour also seemed different, as it was very active and when it became aware of my presence it started  bobbing its bum. After a short time it got accustomed to my presence and settled down to feeding at about 10 metres distance. I got some images that  I was reasonably happy with, though I will try for more in better light.

I would suspect that this is the same bird that was earlier reported at Long Reef.

Normally I wouldn't go out of my way to get an image of a particular bird, but given that this is a rarity and was in my local patch I think it was worth the effort. The experience will also allow me to better identify this species in the future.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wilsons Promontory

South Coast Trip - Part 4 - Final

The drive south to Wilsons Promontory was well timed as it coincided with a 43 C day. Definitely more pleasant in an air conditioned car than outside. Even better as we drove south we caught up with a cold front so by the time we found our camping spot at Tidal River the temperature had dropped 15 C.

Looking towards Mt. Oberon
To be honest the main reason for our trip to the Prom was for the scenery. Wilsons Promontory was a bit of a bird desert with not much about apart from a few of the common species. 

Eastern end of Squeaky Beach
Crimson Rosella were prolific around the camping area, while Sooty Oystercatchers, Pacific Gulls, Crested Terns and Hooded Plovers were relatively common on the beaches. During our brief stay we managed to check out a few of the more accessible beaches.

                                                                        Even though the camping ground was half full, we found the beaches almost deserted. At Squeaky Beach on the day we visited there wasn't a single person seen even though we arrived at 7.00am and left at 9.00 am. The Mexicans must be lazy holiday makers.

Tidal River

We also managed a couple of walks. I know the walk to Mt Oberon is popular and offers spectacular views, however we decided to give it a miss as we had accomplished this climb some 30 years ago and I have the photos to prove it. Besides we were feeling lazy (must be contagious). The walk we took instead, was just as long without the climb. It offered spectacular coastal views as it wound its way around the coast from Mt Bishop to the Tidal River.

Our return journey home was a bit of a rushed job to beat another lot of flooding rain. We did spend one night at Bournda National Park in NSW. This turned out be a great spot on the lake edge and short drive/walk  to  a spectacular beach. To top it all off the camp sites were excellent and there was a new amenities block with free showers. All in all a great trip.