Friday, 3 November 2017

171030 - 171102_Wilsons Promontory

Tuesday [55 species]

John and Marg organized a fabulous three day outing to Wilson’s Prom and surrounding locales including the Yanakie Isthmus. Rod and Michele, Jos, Sue, Deirdre, Bev, Peter and Jack joined to start the excursion from Foster where we had lunch in the refurbishing main Street.

First stop was the Cody Gully Walk (site 01) at the end of Simpson Street in urban Foster where we quickly had our target bird – Scarlet Honeyeater which is currently irrupting all over southern Victoria. Find mistletoe, find Scarlet Honeyeater … and Mistletoebirds too.
Eastern Spinebill
Scarlet Honeyeater
Next we dropped our gear off at Tobolo Lodge in the back street of Yanakie (site 02) which was to be our home for the next two days. Tom and his Red Jungle Fowl descendants – his chooks – were great hosts with a superb house with many bedrooms, bathrooms, lounge rooms, kitchens …

From there we went down Millars Road to Shallow Inlet (site 03) – White-fronted Chats feeding young -- then on to the other side of the isthmus to Duck Point in Corner Inlet (site 04) where we walked through the bush to the beach and back to the caravan park via the point. Highlights there were Red-capped Plovers, Red-necked Stints, a White-bellied Sea-eagle and a pair of Sooty Oystercatchers, one with a flag E8.
Sooty Oystercatcher E8
White-bellied Sea-eagle
Caspian Tern
Tuesday evening’s meal was Spaghetti Bolognaise and Lasagne with the smoothest cheesecake ever made. Lots of conversation, of course, and a relatively early night. 

Wednesday [25 species, total 80]

A small cohort of birders rose early and had a quick look at the Shallow Inlet site again (site 05) as the tide and light were favourable compared to the previous evening.Striated Fieldwren and Golden Whistler were the standout visible bird but there were hundreds of Eastern Whipbirds with their usual fleeting glimpses.

After breakfast we headed off south into the Wilsons Promontory National Park wioth our first stop at Darby River. Here we walked the track to the beach (site 06) with an informative and interesting commentary from Rod and Michele about all things floral and geological. A wedgetailed Eagle and a White-bellied Sea-eagle were seen riding the stiff onshore breeze and another pair of Sooty Oystercatchers (1F, 1Z).
Darby River beach surf

Darby River explorers
A flower
Sooty Oystercatcher 1K
Sooty Oystercatcher 1Z enjoying a worm
Onwards to Tidal River (site 07) and a stop at the visitor centre and a park bench for lunch under the watchful, ever-vigilant eye of a mature Pacific Gull pretending to be a scavenging Silver Gull.
Australian Wood Duck, female. Lounging at Tidal River
After lunch it was on to Lilly Pilly Gully (site 08) where we spent more than two hours quietly walking (and talking) the two or so kilometres in and out to a short loop in the temperate rainforest of myrtle beech and tree ferns. Gang-gang Cockatoo, Australian King-Parrot, Crescent Honeyeater, Brown Gerygone. 
Grey Fantail most common bird after the cuckoos
It was a lovely walk after which we went back to the digs as we had not left enough time for a further site without compromising dinner which was a BBQ (under the direction of Master Chef Rod), salad and cheesecake #2 plus lots more good conversation including “How good a sleeper are you?”

Thursday [18 species, total 98]

This was our final day. After a clean up and final look at Yanakie (site 09) our first stop was to revisit Cody Gully Walk (site 10) to show Deirdre and Peter the Scarlet Honeyeater which they had missed on Tuesday. Easily found in the same mistletoe! From there we went to Agnes Falls (site 11) where we spotted Dusky Moorhen, White-eared Honeyeater for the first time. On to Toora Bird Hide (site 12) where 36 minutes yielded only 16 species but …Little Egret, Eastern Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Great Knot, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Crested Tern. The scope was put to good use.
Eastern Curlew
A short drive to Welshpool, the loos and lunch where we met Gary who hosted us to his dairy farm (site 13) on the northern shore of Corner Inlet where we finished our outing with two hours of birding in reclaimed bush (samphire and tussocks) and the beach. Shelduck, Teal, Great Egrets, cormorants, 10 Australian Pied Oystercatchers (two with flags – NN, 6C) 400 Black Swans80 Red-necked Stints, Caspian and Whiskered Tern and Jack’s highlight, 3 Australian Gull-billed Terns; two in breeding plumage and 1 in non-breeding plumage. On the way out John and Marg flushed a Brown Quail and the last bird to be seen was Noisy Miner!!
Wilsons Prom viewed from Corner Inlet

Australian Pied Oystercatcher 6C
Australian Pied Oystercatcher NN
Australian Gull-billed Tern
adult breeding plumage
Australian Gull-billed Tern
adult non-breeding plumage
Red-necked Stints
Red-necked Stint
Over the entire time we heard (and occasionally saw) many Pallid and Fan-tailed Cuckoos, Shining and Horsfields Bronze-cuckoos. By the end EVERYBODY could identify them by ear both quickly and correctly. Stepped up, stepped down, slide up (whistling the dog), slide down.

We had a very enjoyable time. Many thanks go to John and Marg for organizing it and Gary for hosting us.

Ninety-eight species in all. Not bad for 48 hours of socializing.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

171003-4_Serendip Sanctuary and the Western Treatment Plant

Heather arranged two days away on the plains of western Melbourne towards Geelong.

Day 01
Keith and Veronica, John and Marg and Jack and Ethan met up at Serendip Sanctuary for lunch and an afternoon in the Parks Victoria site. Although Serendip has enclosures to keep the land-dwelling animals contained, almost all of the birds are at liberty to fly away. Their "resident" birds are three emus and a brolga pair (with one chick). We hadn't ventured far before Ethan [with 14yo eyes and ears] spotted some Purple-crowned Lorikeets in a beautiful red flowering gum. Multiple photos were taken. "In" the next enclosure were six Yellow-billed Spoonbills on nests, a solitary Nankeen Night Heron, Red-rumped Parrots and Eurasian Tree Sparrows. We had wandered off the path a bit and a ranger came over to put us back on the straight and narrow but as soon as she discovered we were mild mannered birders, changed her tune prompted, no doubt, by Ethan's observation of the NNH which they don't see there often. It seemed to me that birders have a reputation of being very considerate of species in the environment and she gave us quite a bit of slack! On we went through the various hides [with Magpie Geese and Black-fronted Dotterels very close] then on past the Australian Bustard enclosure (the third contained species and part of a research program) to the lakes and walk to the bird hide. Ethan spotted a Restless Flycatcher in a profusely flowering gum so Jack went over to have a look [it had gone] whilst the others went on to the hide and saw two more Scissors Grinders. Four o'clock came too soon and we had to leave but went to our accomodation at Little River via the Kevin Hoffman Walk at Lara. Tea at the Little River Hotel and an early night were in order. Here are the images from Day 1. These were all taken by Ethan who is a birding marvel with tremendous knowledge and a keen interest to investigate and learn.

Black-fronted Dotterel Elseyornis melanops

Emu Dromaius novaehollandiae

House Sparrow Passer domesticus

Nankeen Night-Heron Nyctiocorax caledonicus

New Holland Honeyeater Phylidonyris novaehollandiae

Red-browed Finch Neochmia temporalis

Restless Flycatcher Myiagra inquieta

Red-rumped Parrot Psephotus haematonotus

Day 02
Sunrise at 6.54 am and we left the hotel at 7am to drive the few kilometres to the WTP via Beach Road where we stopped for a view of the breeding Banded Lapwings. Only those present over 180cm tall could see the pair through the scope at about 300 metres just over the rise. From there we went on to the Crake Pond in the Western Lagoons where we saw all three crakes: Australian Spotted, Spotless and Baillon's. We watched them for 40 minutes or so and MANY photographs where taken. Ethan has a way with birds and was able to get to within two metres of them just by staying quietly sitting/crouching waiting for them to come to him. From there we went to the Beach Road boat ramp then into the Plant via Gate 4. We stopped at the junction of the inner and coastal tracks and saw waders in the ponds there. Onwards via Lake Borrie, through Gate 8 to the Borrow Pits. No Orange-bellied Parrots but avocet and stilts, sandpipers, dotterels and a tiger snake to accompany morning tea before heading to the bird hide overlooking Port Phillip Bay and the mouth of the Little River but no waders at all and no Dez Hughes. So we took the coastal route back to Gate 4 stopping again at the wader pond where we easily saw Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Red-necked Stints and Curlew Sandpipers. At this point it was lunchtime. Jack and Ethan headed off to Tullamarine for Ethan's flight home to Cairns, Keith and Veronica followed whilst Heather, John and Marg left soon after.

Our intrepid band saw 95 species of birds over the 24 hours, 55 species at Serendip and 68 species at the WTP. It was a great birding event. Many thanks to Heather for organising a successful outing.

Ethan was visiting from Cairns and had not really used his camera, a Canon 1100D, much at all. It was partnered with a 2kg Tamron 150-600 lens and the results are just fantastic. His knowledge and easy manner was much appreciated by the group. He can visit us again anytime. Here are his WTP images with the exception of one contributed by Heather.

Australian Spotted Crake Porzana fluminea

Baillon's Crake Porzana pusilla
Baillon's Crake pretending to be an Australian Weed Wobbler.

Spotless Crake Porzana tabuensis

Black-winged Stilt Himanoptus himanoptus

Red-necked Avocet Recurvirostra novaehollandiae

Golden-headed Cisticola Cisticola exilis

 Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis

 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata

Red-kneed Dotterel Erythrogonys cinctus

Singing Honeyeater Gavicalis virescens

White-fronted Chat Epthianura albatross

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Bird ID Correction from 01 March 2017

Brown Goshawk v Collared Sparrowhawk

At our visit to Macalister Wetlands back in March, we [probably, me/I] called an overflying raptor a female, juvenile Brown Goshawk. See the blog here. Whilst "cleaning up" my bird images on the computer today, I looked again and decided I may not have been correct. I put the image onto the FaceBook Australian Bird Identification page and Luke Flesher and Angus Daly confirmed my thoughts.

Critical aspects of this bird are:

There is no evidence of moulting [shorter feathers growing out] interfering with the features of identification.

Tail feathers
The difference between the two species is in the length and shape. CS have shorter inner retrices so the tail should appear "squared off" and generally have a central notch. This is the case here. The tail is not rounded and you can just see a small notch. BG have outer retrices which are progressively shorter giving BG tail a rounded appearance.

Tail Length cf Leg Length
The BG has a long tail and, when viewed from below, there is a lot of tail uncovered by legs. The CS has a relatively shorter tail and, as above, the legs take up a bigger proportion of the tail length.

Toe length
The middle toe of the CS is much longer than the BG relative to the other toes on the foot. The legs are also quite slender compared to BG. BG legs look like they couldn't break but CS legs look like a decent bang would break them!

These wings are quite wide. The Australian Bird Guide for CS says, "Secondaries bulge beyond the rest of the trailing edge of the wing". This is what we see here.

The smallest bird is a male CS [30cm]. Next biggest is a female CS[40cm]. Only slightly bigger is a male BG [40cm] and the biggest is a female BG [50cm].

Both Morcombe and Pizzey quote the same figures. When a single bird flies over with no reference to anything else [where was the harassing magpie you may well ask?], it is very hard to judge size. On the day I recall John and I both thought it was a "large" bird, larger than a CS would be. But I was wrong. Just goes to show how challenging our hobby can be.

Juvenile, probably male, Collared Sparrowhawk.

170906_Peach Flat

Although the quantity of species was not extravagant [46], the 10 birders plus Rod and Michele saw a quality gathering. A slow walk around the lakes, with water about 2 feet below full, took until morning tea. Flame Robins,  20+ Satin Bowerbirds, a Hardhead, Aussie and Hoary-Headed Grebes, resident White-faced Herons, two Little Pied Cormorants, Flame Robins, overflying Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos, Willie Wagtails, plenty of European Coots with one youngster and Flame Robins [8] were the standout species. Did I mention Flame Robins? There were 3 fully coloured males and 5 females/juveniles. The Australian Bird Guide tells me they are "often seen in loose groups of up to 20 birds ... the only Petroica to form flocks". They had accompanying escorts of Yellow-rumped Thornbills. Just magic. Good images taken by all in nice dry weather but a bit windy.

Light drizzle accompanied morning tea after which we walked up George Creek for 650 metres then ascended to a ridge top with nice views then returned to our morning tea stop for lunch. The only new birds we saw during our walk through the dry forest with manuka and dogwood understory were Yellow-tufted and White-naped Honeyeaters. Nice dry weather for walking.

Back for lunch and the variable weather swung between some light rain again and brilliant sunshine during which Bev saw a Mistletoebird, Heather saw 20+ Satin Bowerbirds again. We had finished lunch and were starting to pack up to go when the superstar arrived.

A male Rose Robin. Excellent views by all. LOTS of images taken. A most amenable bird. For the day we saw Flame, Scarlet and Rose Robins and Jacky Winter. Four of the potential eight robins at Peach Flat. A great day and a big thank you to Rod and Michele for hosting us.

Images: Alexander, Winterbottom

Australasian Grebe Tachybaptus novaehollandiae

Hoary-headed Grebe Poliocephalus poliocephalus

Hardhead Althea australis male

Satin Bowerbird Ptilonorynchus violaceus

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater Lichenostomus melanops melanops

Flame Robin Petroica phoenicea First two images, male. Third image, female

Scarlet Robin Petroica boodang, male

Jacky Winter Microeca fascinans

Rose Robin Petroica rosea