Sunday, December 13, 2009

Heyfield Birdwatchers - December '09

G'day Bird Watchers,
A small group braved the coolish wind and the start of the 'silly season' to have our final outing for the bird year at our spiritual home, the Heyfield Wetlands. The emphasis for the day was not so much on the birds but more about reviewing some of our exploits and speculating about the upcoming new year.

Purple Swamphens and Eurasian Coots had babies in the reed beds just in front of the information centre building.

On one of the back ponds we disturbed a family of Black Ducks from their feeding around the edges and they immediately swam under the direction of their parents toward a stump in the middle.

As they gathered around the stump, they packed in very close and even put their heads under the water. The parent birds swum off a bit but kept a close watch on the young ones.

To the naked eye, the stump looked like, well, a stump!

Very clever that, I thought.

Seasonal best wishes, felicitations and salutations to the lot of you. Hope to catch up with everyone again next month - yep, that's right, you don't get annual leave in this group!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bird On The Limit

Yesterday I had to meet Glen at the Traralgon station at 430. I left home, (30 minutes from Traralgon), about midday. When I got to Traralgon I was about 4 hours early, so I had to find something to do! "I wonder if the camera and binoculars are in the ute? Yep, that was lucky, might as well check out Morwell National Park to fill in some time." Does anyone believe that little story?

In a quiet moment on one of the tracks I heard some little bird calls that I couldn't quite recognize. It wasn't quite the 'zizz, zizz, zizz' of the White-browed Scrubwren, more a deeper 'zizz-it, zizz-it, zizz-it'. I moved a little off the track and stayed in one spot for a time and eventually caught sight of a pair of much smaller birds than the 'scrubbies'.

I followed them quietly for a time to get a better view and eventually caught up with them in a spot where I managed a picture or two...

They were Brown Gerygones. Not a common bird to see in our neck of the woods, being just about at the southern limit of their range. Sweet little bird. And, they were being surprisingly accomodating of my presence. Looking about I discovered why.

Could it be? I sat and waited for some time and eventually, after numerous March Fly and mossie bites, one of the birds obliged with a visit.


Strewth, look at the time, Glen's train is only 20 minutes away. In my rush back to the ute in the car park I foolishly disregarded the patches of stinging nettles - I was in shorts too.

There's a beaut fish and chip shop just about next to the station, so it was 'sea-food and vegetables' and a cappachino for dinner. But where? The Traralgon Res of course.

We sat among the waterbirds for a while, then strolled around the track as the sun got low. At one point a Butcherbird going butchers and a Willie Wagtail joining in, drew our attention to a Black-shouldered Kite on top of its lookout tree.

A nice conclusion to a beaut afternoon.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Small Tale of Woe.

G'day Blogworld,
This morning I decided to forgo the usual Thursday game of golf and head for the hills. I've been wondering what some of the favourite foothill gullies are like after the recent bit of rain, so I went up to 'Owl' Creek.

On the way I drove past numerous paddocks like ...

and this ...

Lots of farmers are making hay while the sun shines at the moment.

For those first two pics I opted to set the camera on auto 'Landscape'. I was satisfied with the results, got back into the ute and proceeded on to my destination.

After scrambling down the rock face to the creek bed, one of the first birds I saw was a Red-browed Treecreeper. Pretty unusual, and a first for me. Up with the camera, click, click, ... and the bird was away. You know what the 'woe' bit is now don't you? I'd left the camera settings on Landscape! *#@&%#*!

I assure you all, it was a Red-browed Treecreeper - true dinks.

Ah well, just on a bit I came across a family of White-browed Scrubwrens and with the camera settings changed, I fired away.

There is always a mob of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos roosting in the lower part of this gully and as you approach they scream 'blue murder'. As I moved up toward the rocky gorge, they continued their raucous screeching which made trying to pick other bird calls a fruitless exercise.

In a brief lull of quiet, I managed to hear the 'rusty hinge' call of the Gang-gang Cockatoo and I happened to locate a pair high up on a limb. These birds of course readily feed in parks, gardens, (and golf courses), where they can be very accommodating, allowing you to approach quite close. However, seeing them in this more natural environment I reckon they can be just as endearing, even at a distance.

Well, it's hot and windy here now and that means there are greens to be watered, I'd better get moving.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bushy Park

G'day All,
We've been celebrating here - good rain at last. We've had two nice events that have given us 65mm. This all happened a few hours after the greens were cored, as though planned. The course dam is close to full.

How best to celebrate? Why, go birding of course!

There has been a report that the Rainbow Bee-eaters have arrived in the district. Bushy Park is their old haunt, so that's where I headed yesterday but I drew a blank. The river bank has been modified to some degree since I last saw the birds there.

A young Brown Falcon was working the scrub as I walked along. The smaller birds were scrambling for cover as he came wheeling in. For a moment he perched on a nearby dead tree and eyed me off and probably thought, "Too old and leathery".

It was a very pleasant wander along the bank of the Avon. Whistlers, Wrens, Cuckoos and Yellow-faced Honey-eaters were ducking and diving and all the while old Ben, (almost volcano- like), was brooding in the background.

A quick flash ahead caught my eye and as I stalked it down, I discovered it was a Willie Wagtail. I was about to drop the glasses and realised that this was a common bird I had yet to get a decent photograph of. Still haven't!

A little further on there was a commotion in the low scrub that could only be a family of White-browed Scrub-wrens having a squabble. Bit of a favourite, the 'scrubbies', so I watched the performance through the glasses for a while. They didn't seem to be too aware of my presence so I crept around for a better angle and some cover. I find them notoriously difficult to get an open view of, as they flit rapidly through the undergrowth. Eventually they came into view on an exposed branch. Quick, click, click, click... Again, click... Check the screen. Lots of blurred brown patches as they exited the field of view, but I did manage one or two worth saving.

No Bee-eaters but! What was the title of that previous blog?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Target Bird

Between waterin', mowin', and corin' the greens, yesterday I snuck across to Sale for a little while.

Down at the Redgate Reserve, the Rufous Whistlers were in fine form. This bloke came in to check me out when I started imitating one part of their call described by Pizzey as; "...a ringing, almost explosive 'eee-chong', uttered singly or several times...".

I headed for the common next and along the track I got some wonderful views of Darters at various stages of growing up. I think it was a pretty good year for this specie in the common - there are still several 'live' nests.

Anyway, that heading. I'm always loathe to nominate a target bird when I'm about to head off to a location. So many times I get disappointed when the bird fails to materialise, or rather when I fail to spot it.

A week or so ago, Val and Dierdre assured me they'd seen a Scarlet Honeyeater at the common, and they even showed me the tree in which they had seen it. Oh yeah thinks I. But, there has been a few reports of this bird reaching our little south-east corner this season, so I thought I'd give it another go.

Lo and behold, in the very tree ...

Thanks ladies, haven't seen one for a couple of seasons until now. Beautiful. One day I might be able to do justice to it with my camera.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Bit of Catching Up

G'day Readers,
I'm not getting a lot of opportunity to get away and look for birds and flowers at the moment. Undoubtedly you are aware of the continuing dry, hot conditions that we are enduring in the south east corner at present. I have managed a couple of 'excursions', so in no particular order here are a couple of abbreviated results.

John, Nancy, Jim and I did a quick tour of some spots down the Latrobe Valley a week or more back. We picked a hot day, and it was pleasant to mooch around in the cooler forested areas including the Morwell National Park, where the Butterfly Orchids were on display.

I did the bird survey at Swallow Lagoon Reserve Friday fortnight ago and although I was missing Duncan, I wasn't alone. My post on this included a story and some pics of a Goanna, and an Echidna entertained me for a short while also.

Yesterday I got away for a couple of hours to the Sale Common. Val and Dierdre guided me to where they'd seen a pair of Striated Pardalotes nesting in one of the massive Red Gums that line the waterholes.

The 'Pards' are a bit of a favourite - beautiful little birds. They allowed us to click away while they took turns to dive in and out of their hollow, occasionally pausing on a nearby branch. This next shot shows one exiting with a small twig in its beak. I'm not sure what that is about.

Many of the large trees in the common are occupied at present. We saw 'live' nests of Darters, Pied Cormorants, Whistling Kites, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Rainbow Lorikeets.

Last Wednesday morning I helped Martin from Greening Australia do a bird count at 3 sites within his Grassy Woodland Restoration Project nearby. The sites are all on private property, the owners of which have been wonderfully co-operative and extremely interested in the entire process. Thank goodness for people like Martin and everyone that supports him within his organisation. You can't but feel optimistic for their efforts.

Anyway, I digress a little. At the first site, Martin spotted a colony of White-browed Woodswallows amongst the Red Gums. I can barely recall seeing one of these birds in our area years and years ago. No doubt they do visit on occasions, but not all that often I feel, so it was wonderful to see a very active group of them.

Thanks for reading through this. If the weather breaks shortly, I might be able to get a bit more of this type of stuff done - such a chore, NOT!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Concern Allayed

Mornin' All,
I've been a little concerned that one baby Chough hadn't survived its fledging. This first picture was taken nearly three weeks ago and both babies in the nest seemed of equal size - and pugnacity.

A day or two after taking the shot, the nest was vacant. In the intervening time I've managed to spot the family foraging on the ground around the course but there seemed only to be one youngster present, so I was telling myself to be philosophical about it.

Yesterday I was able to spend some time to follow them through the bush a little and to my delight I discovered that both youngsters were present.

Concern allayed - so far!

Friday, November 13, 2009


G'day Blogwatchers,
I ducked over to Maffra today to see how a chap I know was getting on with his 'dicky' knee. On a scale of 1 to 10, the recovery is going OK. (See DF, I can see through your stoicism).

On the way home there was a little piece of bush that I haven't checked for some time - hang the watering, the camera was in the ute, so why not? There wasn't a lot going on, except this little Jacky Winter kept eyeing me from its perch.

Mmm thinks I, back in my aviary Gouldian Finch days, that piece of open feathering on the belly usually meant the bird was incubating some eggs. Eventually I spied a blob of feathery, cobwebby material in a horizontal fork. I thought it too insubstantial to be a nest at first and it was quite exposed.

However, that was it alright, for a short time later the bird flew in and settled down into position.

So small, open and fragile. Just amazing.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Heyfield Birdwatchers - Nov '09

Subtitle: A Few, (very few), Waders At Last

A small group of dedicated ‘birdos’ braved the heat and journeyed east a bit to try yet again for some waders. After car pooling in Stratford, we headed straight for Hollands Landing, on McLennan Straits between Lakes Wellington and Victoria. The nearby Victoria Lagoon has been a successful wader spot on previous occasions, but as we turned the last corner before arriving at our destination, it was evident the water level was probably too high. At the end of the track we could see numerous Swans, a few distant Terns and that was about it.

After moving on a little and checking out the new works at the landing, we opted for a short walk beside the straits where there was a little more swampy marshland to investigate. More Swans, a few Caspian Terns and the odd Pacific Gull were resting in the distance. As we scanned the distant shoreline, someone declared there were some small grey birds hunkering down in the clumps of Beaded Glasswort. Waders at last! A small group, maybe 50, ‘sharpies’, (Sharp-tailed Sandpipers), were well concealed in their surroundings.

These Siberian migrants are always a delight to see.

Back to the cars and around to The Woodpile track for lunch on the shore of Lake Wellington. We picked a shady tree with a view to the west and opened the tuckerboxes to the delightful chorusing of Rufous Whistlers all about.

Mostly we had our attention to the whistlers or our lunch boxes, but Val assures us that she briefly spotted a Dolphin. From time to time there are reports of these marine mammals in the lake system, and research has shown that a small pod of about 50 animals will periodically visit the area. Good one Val, where was your camera?

We were just hopping back into the cars and a White-winged Triller was spotted. This was a very accommodating bird except that although it was just a few metres above us, there always seemed to be a branch, leaf or twig between it and my camera. Nice sighting though Dierdre!

We next called in to a small bit of bush on some private property – permission was obtained. Some debate ensued on the species of a bird sitting on a nest whose tail was about all we could see. Eventually the head and bill became visible to settle the argument – Grey Butcherbird.

On a large dam on the way out, a small group of Royal Spoonbills, Swans, Shellduck and Grebes were spied. The Spoonbills took off and sought refuge in a nearby dead tree.

By now we were hot, tired and thirsty, but Linda persuaded us to check the Stratford Highway Park as we went by. Glad we did. The list here included Sittellas, Eastern Yellow Robins, Mistletoe Birds, Olive-backed Orioles and their fascinating suspended nest, more Rufous Whistlers and a ‘whistling the dog’ Shining Bronze Cuckoo.

By now, the iced coffees at The Peppercorn in Stratford loomed large. Great day, 40+ species and yep, some waders! Thanks folks, let’s do it again in a month.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Survey at Swallow Lagoon

Duncan and I have been doing bird surveys at a small patch of remnant native bush between Stratford and Bairnsdale, known as Swallow Lagoon Conservation Reserve. Yesterday was the ‘spring’ survey for this season, and if you’ve been following DF’s Ben Cruachan Blog you’ll understand why the apprentice had to do the job without the master!

Although it was lonely work without him it was a fruitful day, and everywhere I went I was imagining what Duncan would be saying as I came across an interesting sighting or two. A pair of Brown-headed Honeyeaters, White-winged Trillers at a couple of sites, and a female Leaden Flycatcher, a first for us at the reserve, were probably the highlights. The number of species and the quantity of birds did seem to be up a bit on recent results.

As I was leaving and just shutting the gate, a chorus of angry Sulphur Crested Cockatoo screechings caught my attention. Throughout the survey I’d noticed the cockies were going to nest in many of the huge old hollow trees in the reserve, and as I suspected, the cacophony of screeching was due to ….

Strange. Not long back I had an encounter with a goanna near Rosedale. Now this one. Off to Victoria Lagoon with the Heyfield birdos tomorrow, I wonder since these things often happen in threes, will we spot another ‘monitor’.

No bird pics – sorry. Without my living field guide, I was too busy checking ID’s of sightings and calls to get the camera out.

PS: There is an upside to DF's piece of misfortune. An interesting story is unfolding over at his blog - feel free to click on the Ben Cruachan link on the right hand side.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Some LV Orchids

G'day Readers,
Yesterday, Duncan and I took a trip to a couple of well known reserves in the Latrobe Valley where we'd heard there were some orchids in flower. The valley is less than 50 kilometres from us here in central Gippsland, but the weather patterns can be so different as can be the variety of flora.

Our first stop was at the Edward Hunter Reserve in Moe, a place neither of us had previously been to - 'fresh fields and pastures new' I can remember my dad saying!

Part of the wetland area - Edward Hunter Reserve, Moe.

I had to mow some fairways before we could get away, so we arrived just at cuppa time. So eager were we to explore the new territory, we wandered about adjacent to the car park, drinking our coffee as we looked. We hadn't finished our drinks before we had located a 'first tick' orchid for both of us, a Leek-orchid.

Leek-orchid, Prasophyllum sp, (odoratum?).

Please forgive my lack of positive identification for a lot of this stuff, I'm quite new to the game, and at this stage I'm just enjoying the delights of discovering some of these beautiful terrestrial orchids.

We headed off along several walking tracks and with noses to the ground we took numerous detours into the bushland and grassland areas. Compared to our little corner of the world, there seemed to be flowers every few steps.

The next delight was to come across quite a few colonies of the beautiful, (Spotted I guess), Sun-orchid.

Spotted Sun-orchid, Thelymitra sp, (ixiodes?).

In close proximity to the above were some similar flowers without the spots. Probably another specie we surmised, but this one was interesting for the 'bug' that was on the flower. I took shots of several of these plants and only discovered the aphid like insect in most of the pictures once I got them into the computer.

Thankfully, if they were aphids or similar sap suckers, they were not in plague proportion and nor were they to this stage doing any obvious damage to the plants.

We came across another first tick plant for us both, when we climbed up onto a much drier hillside. My photograph doesn't do it justice, but the purple tipped labellum and the general colour and form probably makes it a Honey Caladenia. There was a very useful information board at the car park with an extensive list of the flora and fauna in the reserve and this gave us the clue.

Honey Caladenia, Caladenia hildae?

By now it was after 1pm and we were starting to feel hungry. Back at the ute, with the field guides out, we enjoyed some good reseach time with our lunch.

From Moe we headed straight to the Crinigan Road Reserve in Morwell. Just like at Moe, we were barely out of the vehicle and were standing in a large patch of Green-comb Spider-orchids and Salmon Sun-orchids.

Green-comb Spider-orchid, Caladenia dilatata.

(Blogger seems to be playing up - suddenly I can't get rid of the italics!? Sorry about that.)

Here is an enlarged view of this beautiful orchid, showing some of the intricate detail of the flower.

We quickly explored some of the familiar tracks of the reserve and at one point came across a 'forest' of the Spider-orchids.

Twelve months previous to this, Duncan recalled seeing some Sickle Greenhoods in a damp spot just off one of the tracks. Unerringly he zeroed in on to the spot and we found just a couple of plants of this generally uncommon greenhood.

Sickle Greenhood, Pterostylis sp.

What a day we had! We got home late, tired and dirty, and near full camera cards - you can't ask for much more than that.