Friday, October 11, 2013

Spring Sensations

There's no doubt about it, spring is here. While we've had a bit of a rough start here in Adelaide with some pretty wild weather, it seems that things are finally calming down and the days warming up. The mild weather has meant more chances for birding, and I've really been enjoying getting out and about on a more regular basis. Good weather, also means good photography, and I'm finally pleased to be getting some nice images again too. I had fully intended on writing another blog sooner, but between work, winter weather and wisdom teeth removal, things have been pretty busy.

Fortunately, with our good conditions here in Adelaide and the dry conditions inland, it seems like we're going to have a good influx of seasonal visitors. There's also already plenty of breeding going on, the resident red wattlebirds at my place already have one almost independent young and everywhere I've been I've seen adult birds collecting food for their chicks.

Musk Lorikeet, Glossopsitta concinna, at Cobbler Creek Recreation Park

However, no matter what the season, the birding tends to be what you make of it, and you never see the seasonal visitors and occasional vagrants unless you go out and look for them in the first place. The same goes with resident birds, there's been white-winged fairy wrens at Whites Road Wetlands for a very long time, but I'd never found them before until I asked somebody exactly where to look, then find them I did. That occasion gave me my very first views of a male bird, and though a very large crop of a poor photograph, I feel compelled to share an image.

Male White-winged Fairywren, Malurus leucopterus, at Whites Road Wetlands

A few days prior to visiting Whites Road, I had been up to Pengilly Scrub to check for seasonal visitors. That visit was my first experience of Rufous Songlark, and they absolutely filled the place. It was near impossible to hear any other bird due to the constant calling of them, they drowned everything except the woodswallows out. Because of this experience, I was able to immediately ID a Rufous Songlark at Whites Road from the call. It's strange to come across something you're sure you've never heard before, then all of a sudden it's everywhere.

Kestrel morph Brown Falcon, Falco berigora, at Pengilly Scrub

After seeing a couple of reports of Blue-winged Parrots at Pengilly Scrub, I once again made the trip up in an attempt to see them. I did my research before-hand, double checking the difference between them and Elegant and listened up on the call. After about 45 minutes at the site I heard their distinctive call as I flushed them out of some long grass and managed to get my eyes on one before it landed. Again, the image is terrible, but the birds were very flighty and would never have let me anywhere near them. Then again, photographing birds isn't always about the quality of the image, it's also about the moment.

Blue-winged Parrot, Neophema chrysostoma

The time spent at Pengilly also allowed me some great opportunities to photograph some nesting woodswallows, this pair were particularly obliging and I have included some video from that session with them.

Dusky Woodswallow, Artamus cyanopterus

All that's left to do now, is to keep going back out into the great outdoors at the promise of more birds, more photography, and more fun.

Black Swan, Cygnus atratus, on nest. Greenfields Wetlands (North Magazine rd site)

Friday, June 7, 2013

May Meanderings

While I haven't got a particular story to tell from one exciting outing, I have been out a few times in May (apart from Gluepot) and so I just thought I would share a few of the images that I've captured this month. They're not all spectacular, but we'll say they have character!

First up, this New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) taken from my lounge room window. The light was poor, but they never perch there when the sun's out!

While this is a terrible image of all of the species in it, it's the closest I've ever been to a Freckled Duck! Stictonetta naevosa at Greenfield's Wetlands (Nth Magazine Rd).

Black Swans (Cygnus atratus) at Greenfields Wetlands, seems to be the time of year for them there.

You may find that the remaining images have somewhat of a similar theme to them....

Galah, Eolophus roseicapilla, in the park behind our house. I'd been keeping an eye on the birds feeding on the lawn all day, then finally the sun crept down enough for some good light and I crawled my way around to take some shots.

Just landed, which is why he's all ruffled. 

Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus), caught mid-flap. Really special when you get to capture this in my opinion, it only adds to their beauty.

The same lorikeet, but in sharper focus this time, haha.

Eastern Rosella (Platycercus eximius) male. 

The female of the pair, she was checking out this hollow, though I could have told her it was too large and saved her the trouble. I appreciated her sticking around for some shots though, it's not often I get to photograph these beauties.

Last, but certainly not least (especially with that voicebox), a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. Beautiful birds, when my family lived in Melbourne my bedroom was on the upper floor of a two story. One Sulphy used to perch on the gutter above my window at 6am and screech his head off! 

That's all for now, I hope you've enjoyed the brief insight into my May birding. I'm looking forward to this month, after all we've got a long weekend now and I'm hoping to tick off a couple of easy year birds that I'm missing.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Whirlwind Gluepot Adventures

Recently plans were made to meet up with some Feathers and Photos members for a journey to Brookfield Conservation Park. Much to my delight, some late changes were made to these plans and we (Chris, Rich and I) ended up heading out to Gluepot instead. Gluepot, being the wonderful mallee and spinifex dune habitat that it is, is quite a drive away and so there I was hating myself as I dragged my sleepy body out of bed at 3am to prepare for the journey.

At 4:30am Rich and I arrived at Chris' place and we all jumped into his car for the rest of the drive. There was much talk about what we wished we see over the course of the day. Our first bird for the day was a Laughing Kookaburra as we waited in the dark at Waikerie for the ferry to take us across the river. We arrived at Gluepot just as dawn was breaking and soon after driving through the gates we spotted two emus. We met up with another F&P member who had been camping at Gluepot for the past couple of days, and progressed to our first stop with high hopes of regent parrots, the Grasswren Hide. Here I was treated to not only some great birds, but Rich was kind enough to lend me his 300mm for the day, and I also got to try Peter's 400L for a short time in the hide!

Mulga Parrot (Psephotus varius) pair.

Female Regent Parrot, Polytelis anthopeplus.

The activity at the hide was incredible, mallee ringnecks jostled with mulga parrots and grey currawongs for the best drinking spot. Soon after they were joined by a flock of approximately 15 regent parrots, a life bird for me and a stunning one at that. The noise and activity escalated before most of the birds spooked. We didn't have to wait long however and most of the birds returned, the first flock of regents was replaced by a smaller second flock and we also got to see striped honeyeater and common bronzewing. The lighting was fairly poor with a bit of cloud, but the experience was just magic.

Grey Currawong (Strepera versicolor), clearly top-dog at the bath

Male Regent Parrot, Polytelis anthopeplus

Striped Honeyeater, Plectorhyncha lanceolata. A striking bird, even with it's monochromatic feathers.

Some opportunistic hunting around the hide found some white-browed treecreepers, no decent photos, but great to see. Our next task proved near impossible. We pulled over at a spot that is renowned for red-lored whistler and striated grasswren. After much time walking and searching, and more walking and fruitless searching, we finally found a wren. It ended up being a variegated, but we did find a striated grasswren a short time later. I managed to get my very first feeble glimpses, but it was enough. We did find two whistlers, but they were both female goldens, there was much disbelief!

For lunch we planned a drive to old Gluepot, here we decided we could look for the reported major mitchell's and eat lunch in the hide, a brief side-stop on the way in a little active patch of mallee found us quite a few species for the day list including jacky winter and white-fronted and white-eared honeyeater. We arrived at old Gluepot in separate cars, three of us first in the one found a flock of 8 major mitchell's. We were all thrilled and started our approach for some better photos. Unfortunately, Peter who was driving to join us flushed a flock of white-winged choughs whose alarm calls flushed the major mitchell's! The first thing Peter did on arrival was ask us if we'd seen any majors...! Nobody was thrilled.

Major Mitchell's Cockatoos, Lophochroa leadbeateri.

The hide at old Gluepot was a haven for the honeyeaters, spiny-cheeked, brown-headed and red wattlebird flitted here and there and bickered about this and that while we ate lunch. A fruitless search was conducted afterwards in the direction the major mitchell's fled to, though we glimpsed a wedge-tailed eagle overhead and Chris found a stunning owlet-nightjar. Just as we planned to move on from old Gluepot we all heard a single unmistakeable call of a major mitchell. We all hurried in the direction, there was much more fruitless searching.

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Acanthagenys rufogularis.

Giving up on the majors we headed back towards the Grasswren hide. We stopped along the way when a chestnut quail-thrush dashed across the road in front of the car. We ended up sighting two but we couldn't get them to cooperate for photos. Meanwhile, a southern scrub-robin was having a bit of fun with us as we were stalking the quail-thrush. We ended up spending quite some time trying to get the little fellow to cooperate, but I think he outsmarted us nearly every time.

Southern Scrub-robin (Drymodes brunneopygia) finally caught in the open!

The final stop was some searching around the grasswren hide, we came across a nice little patch where we tried to get a red-capped robin to perch on an attractive looking branch. Ten minutes later, he had landed on everything but the branch we intended. Still, we ended up setting ourselves up near a perch he was using and came away with some shots from there instead. As it was getting near dark, we returned to the homestead and walked to the dam hoping to see some nightjars hawking for insects. The night was too cool but I did get to see my very first splendid fairy wren (a female of course) and the dam was abundant with bronzewings on dusk (and a nasty feral cat).

Male Red-capped Robin, Petroica goodenovi.

Overall, it was a productive day and we netted 45 species, 3 of which were new for me and I brought my year list up by approx 20 species! Besides seeing the birds though, it was simply great to get out with like-minded people and enjoy the day seeing, photographing and discussing birds with them. So thanks to them for a great day. :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Greenfields Wetlands

After struggling to find detailed information on these wetlands, I've taken a bit of time to explore them a little so that I could share some information about them. Thanks is owed to Tony for his original information which enabled me to find the northern Magazine rd site in the first place.

Greenfields Wetlands are a series of man-made wetlands which were created in three stages in 1990, 1993 and 1995 and consist of three main sites (two of which I've visited recently).

The Watershed site: Google map with marker 
-Accessible directly from Salisbury Highway in both directions, the entrance and parking area is as for the Watershed Cafe.
-To the extent of my knowledge, the Watershed trails are accessible only during opening hours of the Watershed Cafe from which a key must be obtained for the gate. Although this information is second-hand to me from some time ago, I will update this blog when I find out.

Magazine road South: Google map with marker 
-Not accessible from Salisbury Highway, the turnoff for these wetlands is off of Cormack road. The wetland entrance is at the end of Magazine rd where there is an open gate in the fence.
-The walking trails consist of one main trail which forks at the pumping station (or at the grey fenced in box, whatever it may be).
-The fork to the right crosses Salisbury highway (though I've never taken it that far) and joins the northern section of Barker Inlet Wetlands. See here: Barker Inlet Wetlands brochure (While connected to Barker Inlet Wetlands, Magazine road South is still known as part of Greenfields, at the very least for the purpose of eremaea listing, as I checked with them regarding this issue as I wasn't 100% sure)
-The fork to the left can cross the wetland on a rocky divide, this may be seasonally underwater and may restrict access to the further reaches of the wetland at some times of the year.

Mud map with parking area (P) and walking trails (green and yellow)

-I'm unsure as to how much further the green trail continues as when I visited I didn't take it all the way, parts of the track further up seemed quite overgrown, but it may have just been overdue for a tidy-up.
-Views to the water at this site can be somewhat obstructed at times, but there are also plenty of easy viewing points.

Magazine road North: Google map with marker 
-Accessible directly from Salisbury highway in both directions (at the blue marker on the map), this wetland is visible directly from the road. The parking area and walking trail is located two hundred meters or so up the road (from the blue marker) on the right hand side next to a gate for the salt works.
-This location has a bird hide along the main path (keep to the left/straight), the sun sets behind it so the best time to visit the hide is from the afternoon onward. Views to the water are largely unobstructed on both of the trails.
-This area of wetlands is fantastic for waders and other water birds due to the varying depths and sizes of ponds, and the expanse of mud flats that gradually become exposed over summer.

Mud map of parking area (P), bird hide (H) and walking trails (green and yellow) at Magazine road North

-I'm unsure as to how far the walking trail extends beyond the hide as I have not yet continued past the hide.
-Looking out from the northeast corner of the yellow trail is an expanse of samphire flats, and is the best area to look for White-fronted Chats.

I hope this has been even the tiniest bit helpful to anybody who wants to visit these locations. I felt it was important to share as there have been many occasions when I've been seeking Information on birding sites and it isn't accessible, easy to find, or even written about at all! So if this helps even just one person, I will be happy.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A tale of two Kites

In reality, this is mostly just a tale about one very beautiful Square-tailed Kite, however there is also a brief cameo by a Whistling Kite. I was on my way to the Barossa, for some birding time at Altona CSR Landcare Reserve, one of my frequent locals haunts up until the beginning of this year. I was driving through the back roads of Para Wirra when I flushed the Whistling Kite from the roadside where it had been feeding on some roo roadkill.

The Kite took to the trees, avidly pursued by two Little Ravens and a Grey Currawong. Needless to say, I quickly pulled over and snapped a couple of images out the car window before the attentions of the currawong became too much for the Kite, and it took off.

Whistling Kite (Para Wirra Recreation Park)

It was while I was walking at Altona that I came across the star of the show. I happened to glance at the treeline and thought that a particular branch happened to look "a bit funny." A quick zoom and snap with the camera revealed the culprit. I took a couple of record shots, before deciding to try and move closer to the bird (the path was leading me right to it).

 Square-tailed Kite (Altona CSR Landcare Reserve)

I managed to find a gap in the trees through which to photograph the bird and watched as it ruffled, preened and pooped in its relaxed state.

 The extra-rare headless form!!

After a time, the Kite turned its back to me and I thought I might be able to use it to my advantage to gain some more ground on the bird, and a slightly less cluttered angle.

Much to my pleasant surprise, I walked closer and the Kite barely even blinked, it was very relaxed and settled in to preen again. In fact, the only time it did flinch was when the noise sounding "gun machines" from a nearby property started up. It flinched the first 3 times, then after that, paid it no attention either.

Getting those hard-to-reach places.

While I settled in to watch, the bird simply went about its business of preening. Every now and then it would look straight at me, just to remind me that it was perfectly aware of my presence, but really wasn't too fussed. There were several times when the bird would look in one place and bob its head up and down a few times. It was interesting to see, and I wondered whether it had seen something and was trying to get a better perspective on it.

After preening, it was time for some sunning. I felt really privileged to not only get to spend a whole 20 minutes with this bird, but that I got to see some interesting behaviour as well. I got worried when the wings came out, but it was only for a bit of Vitamin D!

Then came the yoga...

After a few more wing stretches, the Kite's presence became known to a local pair of Grey Fantails, who saw it as their duty to swoop and dive and chatter and tease. The Kite became more alert, but still didn't seem too phased.

At long last, the experience had to end, and it was either going to end with the Kite taking off, or me running out of space on my memory cards. As it turned out, 353 photos later, the Kite casually went on its way and circled over the center of the park for a time (at which point Chris Steeles: managed some great flight shots) before disappearing into the big blue.

A poor quality image, but posted for the feather moult pattern in wings and tail.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Moments from 2012

I always struggle to keep up with this. Now it's a new year, let's hope I can succeed this time!

So I thought I'd give a quick run-down and share some of my favourite images and sightings/moments (even if the images aren't that great) from last year that I haven't already shared previously.

2012 held a lot of birding firsts for me. I'm one of those people who keeps a life list and a year count, in 2012 I roped in exactly 200 species while my Aussie life list sits on 225. Not entirely a bad effort really for a single year in proportion to my Aussie list. I did quite a few trips throughout the year, Telowie Gorge in the mid-north, Boolcoomatta Reserve (my favourite for the year), Brookfield, the Riverland including Murray River National Park, Innes National Park and many of my local patches in the Barossa. Christmas was nice enough to provide me with a nice shiny monopod for my camera (with many thanks to my other half), so I'm looking forward to the sort of shots I manage to get this year.

That's probably enough of the rambling, below are a selection of various images. I could tell you about them all but it would take up even more space, if you would like to know more about a particular image, just leave a comment and I'll happily share.

Sand Goanna (Telowie region, SA)

 Little Eagle (Murray River National Park)

Royal Spoonbill (Murray River, Renmark region)

Grey Butcherbird (Martin's Bend, Berri, SA)

White-breasted Woodswallow (Berri Caravan Park)

Australian Darter female with chick (Loch Luna Game Preserve)

Australian Darter male (Loch Luna Game Preserve)

Apostlebird (Waikerie, SA)

Common Bronzewing (Hart Lagoon, Waikerie)

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Thompson's Beach)

Crested Shrike-tit female (Altona CSR Landcare Reserve)

Yellow Thornbill (Laratinga Wetlands)

White-winged Chough (Brookfield Conservation Park)

Wedge-tailed Eagle and Caspian Tern (Innes National Park)

Crimson Rosella at backyard nest box, unfortunately they didn't use it.

Brown Falcon (Altona CSR Landcare Reserve)

Pacific Gull (Innes National Park)

Grey-tailed Tattler (Yorke Peninsula, SA)

Little Egret (Clinton Conservation Park)

Nankeen Kestrel with mouse prey (Clinton Conservation Park)

Short-beaked Echidna (Altona CSR Landcare Reserve)

Crimson Rosella (Altona CSR Landcare Reserve)

Australian Shelduck (Paiwalla Wetlands)

Grey Fantail (Paiwalla Wetlands)

Whistling Kite (Paiwalla Wetlands)

Restless Flycatcher (Monarto Woodlands/Browns rd)

Rainbow Lorikeet (Belair National Park)

Striated Pardalote at nest hollow (Belair National Park)

Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo (Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park)

Red-rumped Parrot female (Sandy Creek Conservation Park)

Red-rumped Parrot female (Sandy Creek Conservation Park)

Rufous Whistler (Sandy Creek Conservation Park)

Black-fronted Dotteral (Whites Road Wetlands)

Black-winged Stilt (Whites Road Wetlands)

Golden Whistler female (Hale Conservation Park)

Rainbow Bee-eater immature (Hale Conservation Park)

Bassian Thrush, an amazing find! (Hale Conservation Park)

Rainbow Bee-eater (Altona CSR Landcare Reserve)

Wood Duck chicks (Adelaide Botanical Gardens)

Hardhead (Adelaide Botanical Gardens)

Sand Goanna (Altona CSR Landcare Reserve)