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.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ben Boyd and Croajingolong National Parks

South Coast Trip - Part 3
Today we're off to Croajingolong National Park in North East Victoria. It was an early start as I wanted to stop off at Green Cape in Ben Boyd National Park in NSW. The target species here was the Southern Emu-wren.

The dirt road into the park was in good nick, so in no time we pulled up on the side track that leads to Pulpit Rock as this looked like good habitat,. Sure enough within a couple of minutes we were onto a family party of Emu-wrens. Over the next 30 minutes as much as I tried I couldn't get one of those pesky birds to give me a clear, close shot. Lots of images with birds partially obscured. No matter I thought as the good light was disappearing, I'll get another opportunity when we stay at Croajingolong. All was not lost as a party of Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos flew into a patch of Banksia serrata nearby. The way these birds demolish the cones it's a wonder there are any plants left.

I was trying to get a little closer and at a better angle when the birds all took flight. A quick look around soon revealed that my wife had approached too close. That's the problem when you're both trying to get a better shot. Bloody Hell!
Of course the other wonderful thing about this National Park is the scenery, so we spent the rest of our time here as landscape photographers.
We had a very pleasant lunch at Mallacoota. The place was overrun by grey nomads, definitely one better than all the school kids that would have been there the week before in the holidays. We decided to camp at Shipwreck Creek in Croajingolong National
Park after reading one of Tim Dolby's blog entries.. This turned out to be a great place with an excellent

camp ground, fantastic habitat including heath and spectacular scenery. Did I forget to mention that the heath was only a few hundred metres from the camp? Luxury! There wasn't much flowering in the heath apart from some Hakea and  Epacris impressa. Honeyeaters were not in great numbers, however I did see a number of Tawny-crowned and New Hollands. During what was left of the day we explored the area and photographed the coastal scenery. The next morning with the good light we were out into the heath area.On the way we had a close encounter in the dense scrub adjacent the campground with three Lyrebirds. No photos as I wasn't setup and it was too dark.

The heath here was denser than at Green Cape, which seems to force a lot of the birds to perch on top of the vegetation to sing or look out. It still wasn't easy to get a close shot of an Emu-wren, however I did manage to get my best shot to date.  I'm beginning to think that with wrens the best chance to get a clear shot is around the breeding season when they are actively defending territory, or attracting potential mates.
I wasn't surprised to see a Striated Field-wren which I was able to call onto a perch further along the track. Unfortunately it wasn't interested in allowing a close approach. Yet another bird I will have to go back and photograph properly.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


South Coast Trip - Part 2

After the successful stopover at Ulladulla we headed south to Eden. On the way we passed many great looking photography sites. I managed to resist the temptation to stop and explore most, but at Narooma all those waders got to me.

There were heaps of Godwits, and Oystercatchers about, but it was the lone Eastern Curlew that caught my eye. Stuff the harsh light, anything would improve on my past efforts.
I didn't have any great plans for Eden as it was just a place to spend the night. However a quick visit to the beach over the road from the campground proved fruitful. There was an adult and an immature Pacific Gull paying close attention to a couple of fisherman. It may be a common species down south, but up on the Central Coast it is not. As usual my wife quickly disowned me and called me an embarrassment, or words to that effect. The beach wasn't crowded and I wasn't wearing any camouflage . It didn't matter, I approached the unsuspecting birds. 
All too easy as the birds had food on their minds. The only problem I had was with people who let dogs roam uncontrolled on the beach.

I did check out the estuary, however as in past visits, the place was almost deserted.

This gull dug out the crab and then proceeded to amputate the legs before consuming them. Surprisingly it walked away leaving the body intact. Wasteful  bugger.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hooded Plovers - Ulladulla

South Coast Trip - Part 1

My wife and I decided to undertake a trip down the South Coast of NSW and then onto Wilsons Promontory. This is the same trip that we abandoned at the same time last year due to bad weather. If there was a target species it was going to be the Hooded Plover, which I had not photographed before. The first stop was Ulladulla where we had arranged to meet up with Mike, a fellow photographer the next morning . The light on arrival was good so I decided to check out one of the locations prior to meeting Mike. It was literally a few minutes before I found a pair of plovers that were taking cover near a group of people playing touch football. With sun at my back I gradually edged closer to one of the birds. I was surprised just how close I was able to get to these birds as I had been warned that they were hard to approach.
They were  similar to other small plovers in that patience and a basic understanding of their behaviour was required. Later I was to find that these birds on popular town beaches were a lot more accepting of a human approach than those birds encountered on isolated beaches. After our initial success I was looking forward to meeting Mike and seeing what he could show us on his patch. We started at dawn looking at the same location that I'd had previous success, however no birds were found even after a search of the whole beach. It wasn't until we explored the beach immediately to the north that we found the pair I had photographed the night before. As a bonus there were another three birds within 10 metres of the original pair. This threesome included a young bird that must have been close to fledging.

The light was a little harsh so we grabbed a few shots and called it a day. As it turned out we would have been looking in all the wrong places if Mike hadn't helped us with the Ulladulla locations.
The little research I carried out before the trip  indicated that Hooded Plovers could be found on ocean beaches with backing sand dunes and with seaweed present. This turned out to be accurate as  the plovers were found exclusively on this type of beach.
The most frustrating thing on this trip was the total disregard the majority of dog owners had for the signs that required dogs to be on a leash. The saving grace was that the beaches located within the National Parks were completely devoid of dogs.

Other species seen on the beaches and adjoining rock ledges were Masked Lapwing, Crested Tern, Welcome Swallows and Sooty Oystercatchers. The Masked Lapwing is not usually a bird I would bother photographing, however the light was good, it was very approachable and I liked the pose.