Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Raptors at Munmorah SRA

White-bellied Sea Eagle at Munmorah SRA
White-bellied Eagle
Located on the Northern border of the NSW Central Coast, Munmorah SRA has for me mainly been a destination for its scenery and wild flowers. However given its varied habitats, one would expect to find a good cross section of bird species. I had intended to photograph some of the honeyeaters attracted to the flowering banksias and lambertia. Unfortunately they were not interestied in performing. The number of species seen was very similar to those seen at Awabakal last week (New Holland, East Spinebill, Tawny-crowned and White-cheeked Honeyeaters). Not surprising given the similarity in habitat and close proximity.

White-bellied Sea Eagle
All was not lost as we spotted an adult White-bellied Sea Eagle cruising along the coast. We quickly set up on one of the headlands and waited for the eagle to return. The clear advantage of this particular position was that it put us close to the bird and potentially at eye level. We did not have to wait long before the eagle returned on one of its regular fly pasts. The overcast conditions meant that we would be shooting with less than ideal camera settings with a washed out sky. The conditions did improve as sunset approached. Unfortunately we needed to leave early.

Whistling Kite
We stayed at our headland location for about one hour and during this time we experienced three separate fly pasts. At one stage the adult bird was joined by a juvenile and after a contact greeting they flew a little way inland to a group of trees on a ridge. I would not be surprised given its location if this was the nest tree.
While waiting for the Sea Eagle to return we got a  glimpse of a Whistling Kite as it flew up the cliff face and then disappeared around the headland. At least the light was good at this stage.
On most of my previous trips to Munmorah, if I stop at one of the headlands for a reasonable time I see a Sea Eagle. I therefore feel confident given the behaviour I witnessed today and the frequency of sightings that a return visit when the light is a little more favourable will return good results.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tumbi Creek

Striped Honeyeater
Tumbi Creek discharges into the southern end of Tuggerah Lake. The last few hundred metres of the creek pass through an area of reserve that provides some unique lakeside habitat. Given the vegetation and proximity to a reasonable body of water, there were a relatively large number of insect feeding birds present. I counted at least 6 Dollarbirds, 2 Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes and an Olive-backed Oriole during my last visit. There are a number of informal tracks that give access to the creek front and other areas of the reserve. A walk along the bank of the creek revealed an Azure Kingfisher, roosting Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants and heaps of Chestnut Teals. Small birds seen included; Yellow Thornbills, Superb Fairy-wrens, Striped Honeyeaters and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. I must admit my main reason for visiting this place is the possibility of capturing a reasonable image of a
Dollarbird given their large numbers within a small area.
One downside to photographing the birds is that they often appear to congregate around the powerlines running through the reserve. The Dollarbirds do take some interest in the one and only recording that I have, however their interest does not extend to getting them to land on a particular perch. Given that the reserve in surrounded by residential areas it was not surprising to find young children swimming in the creek. Hopefully when the school holidays end the kids will be less frequent visitors.

Awabakal Nature Reserve

White-cheeked Honeyeater
Awabakal Nature Reserve is a 227 hectare reserve located on the southern side of Newcastle between the coastal suburbs of Redhead and Dudley. Access can be gained from both suburbs, however the main car park is located at the end of Ocean St in Dudley. Because of its sandy soils Awabakal’s dominant vegetation is heath and scrublands, though further away from the coast dry sclerophyll dominates. Because my main photographic interest was the honeyeaters that frequent the many flowering plants on the coast I concentrated on exploring the coastal tracks. Initially I followed the main track from the car park which led directly to a beautiful spot on the cliff, with views towards Newcastle. Here the vegetation was dwarfed due to being exposed to elements, however not many birds. 
Tawny-crowned Honeyeater
I headed back and took a track that appeared to be heading towards Redhead. This track was obviously not maintained as it was overgrown with vegetation in many places. After about 500 metres of walking through undulating country I entered an area of low heathland dominated by flowering banksias.  Soon many Honeyeaters could be seen and heard, these included large numbers of White-cheeked Honeyeaters. I found a good spot to setup in my bag hide with a suitable perch on which to attract the birds. During the next couple of hours with the use of calls I managed to attract White-cheeked Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebills, Little Wattlebirds, Silvereyes, New Holland Honeyeaters and Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters. The Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters were the real bonus, as they had become a bogey bird in the sense that I could never get a close shot. Today I had a particular bird that came into the perch on multiple occasions.
I was thinking to myself that one of the positives of this site was lack of people, when with my back turned to the track I nearly jumped out of my skin on hearing the words, “don’t be scared”.  I turned around to see a elderly female jogger go past. On the way back out I experienced a fly past by two adult sea eagles and then to top it off I flushed a Brush Bronzewing from the track. From my reading this would have to be one of the more reliable spots to find Bronzewings. With all the wonderful birds present it would have been easy to forget the scenery and the spectacular wildflowers. It is definitely a place that I will revisit with the intention of making a bigger effort in regards the setup of a decent perch on which to photograph the birds.

View towards Redhead