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

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

170802_Raymond Island

Twelve Heyfield Birdwatchers gathered at the Island side of the ferry and met with Robert Wright who guided us around some of the parts of the island he knows and loves so well. Our walk before morning tea was along the boardwalk from the ferry to the point where we had great excitement watching 50 or so Burranan Dolphins and several Australian Pied Oystercatchers. Then back via A'Beckett Park, a private house with Nankeen Night-Herons in their backyard and three Tawny Frogmouths. No-one spotted the TFs so Robert's Cherry Ripes were safe. After a cuppa we drove a short way to see a pair of Gang-gang Cockatoos then on to the old school site where we walked through the bush to Lake King. No Hardheads or Great-crested Grebes in the rafts of Hoary-headed Grebes so Robert's Cherry Ripes were still safe. We ate lunch seated by a paddock filled with Eastern Yellow Robins, Superb Fairy-wrens and nest-material-gathering Spotted Pardalotes with Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos calling in the distance. We then walked around the Raymond Island Flora Reserve and then drove to the jetty at the end of Gravelly Point Road. The lake was flat as. Plenty of jellies in the water but no Hardheads, GCG or seahorses. Finally we headed back to the ferry via the north side of the island. The weather was about perfect with hardly any wind. Many thanks to Robert for a great day. Jim did win a Cherry Ripe for spotting the fourth Tawny Frogmouth before the rest of us. 53 species in all. A great day.

Koala Phascolartos cinereus
One of several seen during our visit.

Burranan Dolphin Tursiops australis
Robert commented that he often saw small groups of three or four. We saw at least 50! All in one pod. Sometimes all pretty close together and then spread out over 4-500 metres.

Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus
We had hoped to boat to Crescent Island and view the colony of breeding Peicans and see them in their breeding flush. The boat trip was a no-goer but we did have one pelican in breeding flush greet us as we drove off the ferry and started our walk.

Pacific Gull Larus pacificus
Two birds here. The first two images are the same bird. Yes, it does have a fish hook apparently caught in feathers but was behaving normally. It has the features of a second year bird. The second bird looks a bit older with more white starting on the front of the head but is still a second year bird.

Chestnut Teal Anas castanea

Common Bronzewing, males Phaps chalcoptera

Eastern Yellow Robin Eopsaltria australis

Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae

Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides