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,


  1. G'day Gerard,
    Nice shots - I like your work.
    Interesting to read how you search for a setting then 'will' the birds to fly in. I try doing that from time to time too, sometimes it works, sometimes not. Standing beside a bush or tree seems to be enough cover.
    (Would you mind if I linked you to my blog site?)

  2. @Gouldiae
    Hi Gouldiae,
    I find that if I don't make the effort to get the bird to a perch I have chosen I will not be happy with the final image. I'm happy for you to link to my blog.

  3. You must live quite close to me as I'm also close to this park - the northern end though. For some reason I rarely visit it - this post certainly motivates!