Monday, February 23, 2009

Recent Sightings

For those who missed out on the Australian Crakes at Gould's Lagoon last summer, it's time to try again. I doubt that these crakes ever leave the area, but with the low water level at the moment, they're probably forced more into the open. I photographed the one at left from the roadway, at the point where the suburban road meets the main thoroughfare. You may have to be patient, and I would suggest that fairly early morning is your best bet. They seem to prefer the wet mud and usually keep to the shadowed areas where possible.
Noted and photographed a single Double-banded Plover at Pipeclay Lagoon this morning (at left), a recent arrival from New Zealand. No doubt the first of many that will spend the cooler months around Tasmania and the east coast of the Mainland, before returning to breed in NZ. It was keeping company with a loose flock of around 20 Red-capped Plover.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Friday 13th.....Lucky For Some

I received an email mid week, telling me that the sender had photographed 10 different species of bird at the Peter Murrell Reserve at Kingston, and all that in a few hours. Having not visited this reserve in several months, it was tempting, but I know only too well, that trying to emulate someone else's experiences, is almost always fraught. However, Friday morning was one out of the box, with very light winds and a fine forecast, and, from my experience, an ideal day for a visit to this reserve. It proved a great choice, despite the date!
I arrived early, and with an air temperature still in single digits, and lightly overcast, realised that I was going to be "under dressed" for the first hour or so. But there was an upside to the temperature, as a number of birds were using the fence line to hunt from. The first bird that I noted was an adult Swamp Harrier, making forays to catch insects from a distant fence post. Nearer, were families of Welcome Swallows, also pouncing on still grounded insects. I stopped to take numerous shots of both adults and juveniles, both seemingly reluctant to move from their vantage point. Further along the fence wires, were numerous young Dusky Woodswallows, also waiting for a feed from their parents, although obviously quite capable of catching insects for themselves.
A familiar call caught my attention, as a family of White-fronted Chats flew over, not a species that I expected to see here, but they're great nomads, and were probably in transit! Disturbing some Green Rosellas feeding in a nearby shrub, their alarm call in turn flushed 2 Blue-winged Parrots, feeding in among the dry grass. Rarely managing to photograph these parrots, I set off in pursuit. As often happens, this proved fairly pointless. I would hear their tinkling calls coming from a nearby shrub or tree, but their colouring made them almost invisible, and I only saw them after flushing them. I gave up. The "chase" was not entirely wasted though, as I recorded New Holland Honeyeaters, Silvereyes, Brown and Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Superb Fairywrens, Scarlet Robins, Australasian Pipits, Tree Martins, Grey Shrike Thrush, Grey Fantails, and numerous families of Goldfinches. It was, as the email had implied, really 'humming".
After abandoning the bluewing chase, I walked into the nearby lightly forested areas, around the presently dry creek line, looking for the Forty-spotted Pardalotes that I usually see at this spot. I could hear a small group of Spotted Pardalotes, and I had already seen a few Striated, all in the tree canopy, but it took a while to find the Fortyspots. I finally found them, but at this juncture, I was faced with a dilemma. The bluewings re-appeared, and quite close by. The fortyspots were nearly close enough to get a few shots, do I leave them and try for the bluewings? The bluewings won. I reasoned that the fortyspots are here virtually all the time, the parrots only briefly. I managed several shots of the bluewings, and had the bonus of photographing an adult Pallid Cuckoo in the same thorn bush. The latter being dive bombed by Welcome Swallows and Dusky Woodswallows. I still managed to 'scramble' a few shots of the, by now, parting fortyspots, as well as a juvenile Fantailed Cuckoo.
By mid morning I had had my 'fill', and wandered back along the fence line, now devoid of birds. Back past the second pond, now sporting a flock of Wood Duck, but I still had one "photo opp" to come. As I neared the upper pond, a flock of around 30 Masked Lapwing took to the air, calling raucously. I guessed they'd spotted a raptor, which indeed they had, a juvenile Swamp Harrier. Unlike the adults, juvenile Swamp Harriers are dark brown, looking almost black at a distance, and I watched this one as it neared. I'd hoped it would quarter the area along a nearby ditch line, and for a change I guessed correctly. It passed probably 50 metres away, and I managed a few shots before it was obscured by nearby trees. A great way to end a memorable morning. The above are a small selection of the many images that I took. I only wish you could have been there!