Monday, March 15, 2010

Heyfield Birdwatchers March 2010

Here's a short list of birds we don't often get to see around home - Rufous Fantail, Rose Robin, Black-faced Monarch, Crested Shrike-tit, Red-browed Treecreeper and Mistletoe Bird. A small group of HBW's saw these and more in the Colquhoun Forest at Kalimna on the weekend.

As a means of doing a 'shakedown camp' for a later exercise, I took my tent etc up to Kalimna on Saturday afternoon. John and Nancy were staying in a nearby motel and they caught up with me late in the afternoon. To that stage there hadn't been much to report. I'd had a few sightings of Golden Whistlers while pitching the tent, but not much else to excite the masses! I was getting worried. Asking people to drive for a couple of hours to see a Golden Whistler, a beautiful bird no less, was bothering me a little.

An aside -
Just as I was about to cook tea, IE heat the baked beans, another camper pulled in. Bloke got out, said hello, surveyed the site, chose his spot and reversed in. He then set up his slide on camper arrangement and after perhaps 10 minutes, a lady got out of the cabin, climbed up into the camper and proceeded to ring her friends and family on her mobile. Her loud conversations went something like, "We're in some bush at Lakes Entrance. It's a beautiful spot...." Just how she knew it was beautiful I do not know! This went on for quite some time. As darkness approached, I went spotlighting and returned an hour or more later to hear the lady say good night to the last person. Next morning, I left at 10 am to meet the other HBW's nearby and I still hadn't seen either person more than 5 metres from their vehicle. They'll probably dine out on some tales of their bush camping trip for some time after they get home!

After listening to some night noises - Boobooks galore, Sugar Gliders yip yipping away in the tree behind my tent, and I think, the 'descending bomb' like whistle of a Sooty Owl, I slept well.

Breakfast just after daylight was prepared with an orchestral performance in the background - Grey Shrike-thrush, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Lewin's Honeyeater, Treecreepers, Golden Whistlers, the mournful note of the Crested Shrike-tit and plenty more largely unknown to me - was perhaps a good omen for the day ahead.

On a quick scout around the campsite, it became apparent the beautiful and accommodating Eastern Yellow Robins were almost in plague proportion.

Just before meeting up with the rest of the crew, I managed to get up close to the Crested Shrike-tit. Duncan and I have seen them in good number at this site some years before, so perhaps this endangered bird is well established in the area.

We did a fairly short loop walk that should have taken little more than half an hour. An hour and a half later we got back to the cars having seen and heard a panoply of birds. All the while, the persistent sad downward trill of the Fan-tailed Cuckoo accompanied us.

Lyrebirds, Whipbirds and Lewin's Honeyeaters were calling from the depths of cover in the gullies. In the tree tops, Spotted Pardalotes, White-naped Honeyeaters, Orioles, Treecreepers and Whistlers had us almost falling over as we leaned backwards to get a good enough look to ID each flash of a bird as it zoomed through.

Lunchtime produced a family of Rose Robins and some Black-faced Monarchs before everything went quiet again. It was like someone had thrown a switch. Boy, were we sated though? We had some great images in our heads for the long drive home. An iced-coffee at Stratford helped too, (I put this in for Tony).

Wonderful day, great birds, pleasant company, must do it again soon.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Kites and Gliders

Yesterday I went out to Northpoint again. The strip was busy, but not with 'diamonds'.

As I headed for the western end, the resident Whistling Kites were demonstrating their gliding and landing techniques. John often calls these birds and they frequently respond to his whistle and come gliding in.

When I got to the end of the strip, there was a launch in process.

Attach the string!

Take up the slack!

Chew some dust!

We're up and away!

John and Marg were hosting some gliding friends from Melbourne and Benalla. As we earthbound individuals stood around, the mobile phones were ringing. Partners and friends in Melbourne were advising of the weather patterns heading our way.

Here's a pic of John coming in. The cloud behind was a bit ominous!

As I left, there were some frantic arrangements being made for the safe storage of some fragile machinery. I wonder how the kites got on?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Shopping Trip

G'day All.
Glen said, "I need to do some food shopping in Sale tomorrow."

I said, "OK, I'll come with you."

Glen said, "No, you know what happens when we shop together."

I said, "I'll find something to do."

Glen said, "Go bird watching or something."

I said, "Alright, if I have to".

I haven't checked Jack Smith Lake for some time. The water level was still low, and the waders absent. A lone Cormorant sat on a post and three Crested Terns were resting on the shoreline. "Hmm" thinks I, "Might have been better off shopping."

Just as I started to search the rush beds for that ever elusive photo opportunity of a Striated Wren, a 'seegle' cruised along the dune tops -

As I tried getting the Sea Eagle into some sort of focus, something flashed through the frame at great speed. After a couple of clicks I looked about for what the speedster might have been and then noticed a 50 strong flock of White-throated Needletails hawking for insects above the coastal bushes.

Wonderful. Haven't seen any Needletails for a year or more and here they were down almost at my level. No storms around either. The challenge to get an acceptable picture of these speedsters was just about beyond me. Still, great to see them.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Colour And More At Northpoint

John G left a message - "The diamonds are on the strip." (Explanation - diamonds = Diamond Firetail Finches and strip = aircraft landing strip).

John and Marg are keen Heyfield Birdwatchers from Coongulla and I'd asked John to let me know when the Diamond Firetails were around again. I recall as a teenager in this district that I used to 'pedal me grid' out toward Seaton and see these beautiful little birds in large flocks. I don't remember seeing one in the wild since.

As I arrived I was checked out by the resident sentries...

John met me and we started heading toward the strip. Various Thornbills, Blue Wrens, Grey Fantails, Willie Wagtails, etc, flitted around us as we moved slowly along. I glimpsed an Azure Kingfisher that was too quick for a picture.

This Whistling Kite up high on a branch wasn't too quick for me though...

It turns out after getting the shots from the camera and looking more closely, the bird was remaining in the one spot while it devoured a fish meal from nearby Lake Glenmaggie.

The next tick was a White-throated Treecreeper working his way up the trunk of a Stringy-bark. I always enjoy getting an acceptable shot of these birds as they can often test your patience with moving quickly in low light, and just as the camera focuses, they invariably dash around the other side of the trunk.

We walked to the end of the strip without seeing the diamonds. What's that rule about not nominating a 'target' bird before you go out? Oh well, I'd seen some of my favourite bush birds, I was happy.

On the return walk, both John and I tried to turn sightings of Red-browed Finches into Diamond Firetails. Then John spotted a diamond in the distance. I got the bins to my eyes and at last saw an old favourite in the wild. There seemed only to be the one individual but we tracked it for a bit and I managed some barely acceptable photos.

Pizzey describes the status of the Diamond Firetail as uncommon, sedentary but locally nomadic. Considering the time I spend cruising this district for bird sightings, I can confirm the uncommon. I was rapt to see one.

Back to John and Marg's for a cuppa. The bird watching wasn't finished though. As we sat outside in the garden, we were being watched ourselves ...

When John spread some seed about, the passing parade really started ...

Add Rainbow Lorikeets to the list and the colour kaleidoscope was complete.

Thanks J & M for a lovely time. My bird watching desire has been sated - for a day or two anyway.