Photographer gets great support from a birder at Jervis Bay, NSW.

Python, Diamond

So, now I have got your interest, we get on with the main game.

Thanks to Andrew Wood of Illawarra Birding Tours (http://www.illawarrabirdingtours.com.au/) I had a great day and a half around Jervis Bay area. Added 6 bird species to my identified species list, bringing it to 191. Also visited some lovely spots. As you will see from the web site, comfortable accommodation is also available in Culburra Beach, which is ideally located for photographers and birders to explore the great variety available around this area.

This Diamond Python wasn’t going anywhere fast, having found a treasure spot in the sun. Just in case, I kept a close eye on the end of the tail, which seemed miles (well several kilometres) from the head.

Amongst the newly sighted species were the Black-Faced Monarch, Eastern Bristlebird, Brown Gerygone, Olive Whistler, Common Bronzewing, Yellow-faced Honeyeater and Brown Thornbill.  The first three are the Brown Gerygone, followed by the Olive Whistler.

Thornbill, Brown

The Eastern Bristlebirds hadn’t read “How to have my photo taken 101”, which involves standing still for a second. However, we did see three, typically darting, half running and half flying, across the path from scrub to scrub.

A useful and surprisingly detailed text is “The Complete Guide to finding the Birds of Australia” by Richard Thomas, Sarah Thomas, David Andrew and Alan McBride.

Also no decent photo of the Brown Thornbill, just one of it rushing to avoid having its photo taken.

The Black-faced Monarch was a fleeting glimpse, attempting to camouflage itself beside an autumn leaf.

Monarch, Black-faced

Eastern Whipbirds are often heard and extremely rarely seen. We got a good look at both the male and female.

There were plenty of honeyeaters, New Holland, White-cheeked, and a first sighting of a Yellow-Faced Honeyeater.

Honey-eater, New HollandHoneyeater, White-cheeked (2)Honeyeater, Yellow-faced (2)

The Common Bronzewing is, well common, but was my first sighting, and was a last find as we headed home.

Bronzewing, Common

There were also many usual suspects, in order below: Australian Pelican, Nankeen Kestrel, Grey Butcherbird, Yellow Robin, Australasian Gannet, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Eastern Spinebill, White-faced Heron, and Hoary Headed Grebe.Australian PelicanKestrel, NankeenButcherbird, Grey

Gannett, Australasian

 

Heron, White=facedGrebe, Hoary Headed (2)

Always repaying closer inspection, an assortment of ducks revealed a Hardhead (first photo), and Wood Ducks.

Duck, Hardhead

Ducks Wood ducks inc br male in centre; Hardhead m in front; pacific black ducks front right and back left

The two in the water are Hardhead in front, and the Pacific Black, as is the one at back right.

There also was a single Caspian Tern, looking somewhat forlorn amidst strangers.

Tern, Caspian

Finally, a subtle variation were some Silver-eyes, race ‘lateralis’ – Tasmanian based which fly up here for winter.

 

 

Silvereye, lateralis (tas race)

Michael Monaghan

April 2019

Up close with Nankeen Night Herons

Since I have only ever seen two individual Nankeen Night Herons before, and they were some considerable distance away, I thought it worth highlighting the excitement of seeing three, all in one huge Elm.  Thanks to a fellow walker who spotted them.

As is usual, they kept very very still. I believe they can sit totally still for hours at a time. They were very keen to observe us too.

The first set are of two birds which were adult but non-breeding.

IMG_1194IMG_1201IMG_1209IMG_1213IMG_1224

A while later, we noticed a third bird, which turned out to be a breeding adult. This is evidenced by the twin white plumes from the back of the head.

IMG_1279IMG_1269IMG_1267IMG_1252IMG_1249IMG_1248IMG_1234IMG_1225

The light was unusually kind, with a clear blue sky and the sun shining through the massive canopy to give the birds a lovely colour.

Michael Monaghan

March 2019

Jerrabomberra Wetlands not so wet

Everywhere I have been in the last month (except the coast) has been typified by a lack of water. Dams, creeks, wetlands – very little water to be found.

The very low water levels at the Jerrabomberra Wetlands is bringing a bit of a change of behaviour.

This Australian Reed-Warbler was exploring the dry mudflats rather than hiding as usual in the reeds, warbling I guess.

I have not seen both Red-Kneed Dotterells and Black-fronted Dotterells grazing together before.

IMG_1466IMG_1471Paradoxically, the Red-Kneed Dotterells are the ones with the most black on their fronts.

Let’s hope it rains soon.

 

Michael Monaghan

March 2019

Grampians

IMG_1201What an extraordinary region. The Grampians are a range of sedimentary uplifts some  300m high. One can only imagine the forces at play.

Firstly though, being settled by Launcestonians, Mechanics Institutes were a precursor to civilisation (Byaduk and Macarthur):

IMG_0991IMG_0947

This is the Grampians from my accommodation:

Halls Gap is, somewhat surprisingly, a gap in the Grampians Ranges. It is well seen from this lookout on the Mount Victory/North Grampians road;

IMG_1338IMG_1344IMG_1345IMG_1346IMG_1348

Mackenzie Falls are, well deservedly, a highlight of this area.

IMG_1168IMG_1176Along the many walks there were lots of birds to be seen, the highlight seeming to be the male and female Scarlet Robin:

IMG_1157IMG_1164

But I was lucky to bump several times into Paul and Laura, and under a single oak tree near the Warnook Weir, Laura showed Sherlock Holmes observation powers to look up to see what had pooped down. I was again lucky to be summoned to identify the strange birds.

At first there seemed to be two Nankeen Night Herons, my favourite bird. Later we found there were in fact three, one breeding male and two others. Perhaps my most amazing bird findings ever. I can’t possibly choose the best photos so this is a selection

 

IMG_1195IMG_1201IMG_1213IMG_1252IMG_1263IMG_1275The last photo is of the breeding male with the show-tell  feather spur from the back of the neck.

Many of the usual suspects graced the shallows, including this Great Egret pair.

IMG_1288 The Grampians are certainly extraordinary.

 

IMG_1137IMG_1091IMG_1100IMG_1138

And the guests on the lawns at the excellent Halls Gap Valley Lodges included superb fairy wrens (including males losing their breeding blue) rabbits, emus, kangaroos, white browed scrubwrens, white browed babblers (my first sighting), crimson and eastern rosellas, kookaburras and many assertive sulphur-crested cockatoos. The white-browed babblers (my first sighting) are at the end.

IMG_1127IMG_1025IMG_1325IMG_1308

IMG_1065IMG_1047The swing got lots of attention from this ‘roo. To borrow from Austentashus: “You can garoo, you can!”

IMG_1064Michael Monaghan

March 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Famous Eccles and the Story of the Big Bang

The Famous Eccles is, well famous, for his outstanding contribution to the foundation of modern comedy, through the Goon Show. There is a classic sequence where Bluebottle comments on Eccles’ Oxford tie. “I didn’t know you went to Oxford”. Says the famous Eccles: “Yup, yup. I went to Oxford.” Bluebottle: “Oooh! What did you do in Oxford?” Replies the famous Eccles: “Bought a tie.”

He was insanely famous, because Mount Eccles, a volcanic small mount near Macarthur, in mid-west Victoria, was named after the “famous Eccles” nearly a century before he came into existence. I suspect Doctor Who.

The Tumuli are worth finding, hard as that might be. Old Crusher Road is a sealed ok road. The Tumuli are on private land and clearly not cared for, but at this stage are still identifiable as capsules of lava which popped out from below through weaknesses in the earth’s crust. Very rare and should be better looked after.

Harman’s Valley lookout on the road from Macarthur to Hamilton is awesome. Fantastic signage too. You can see Mt Napier, which last went up only 8000 years ago, and the river valley created by the lava is evident.

These are lava caves, at Balyduk near Macarthur. The lava from Mt Napier, as is commonly the case, was hotter on the inside, so the relatively cooler flow formed a “skin” and the hotter internal flow kept moving. So a channel was formed inside the cooler skin, and over millenia some of the walls collapsed forming caves.

Victoria’s volcano country is not well known but is fascinating. And the more so, because our indigenous people would have seen it happen.

 

Michael Monaghan

March 2019

 

 

 

 

Scotts (no apostrophe) Creek, NW Otways, South-west Victoria.

Whoever created the European names for all the places around here must have decided the apostrophe was more trouble than it was worth – none to be seen.

Trees are nearly as scarce as apostrophes, it being grazing land. But nearby there were Yellow Robins, and a Yellow-rumped Thornbill (last of the four).

 

 

 

This looks like a Eurasian Skylark, also my first sighting, being very similar to the Bushlark but with a much longer tail.

IMG_0709.JPGThe sunrises were spectacular indeed:

 

Nearby at Timboon, a foodies delight, there is one of the several wooden trestle rail bridges still standing across Victoria. Built in the late 19th century it is in good nick, although there are no rail tracks anymore.

 

IMG_0690Peterborough, where the Curdies (no apostrophe) River doesn’t actually run into the ocean at the moment, has many spectacular sandstone rocks suffering the same inevitable erosive fate of the no-longer-twelve apostles. I called on Peter from Peterborough but he was on the phone, I assume to the Coulda Been Champions.

 

b

 

Walking in the You Yangs.

The words You Wang in the local indigenous language mean something like: “big rock in open ground.”  They are in a large granite range, part of the extensive volcanic remnants prevailing in mid west Victoria, and are just north of the Melbourne-Geelong Freeway, about 25 km east of Geelong. The first known European visitor was Matthew Flinders, and the highest of the granite peaks is now named after him.

The area was very dry with little undergrowth and now with large tracts of planted eucalypts.

IMG_0634

The most exciting find were my first sighting of Rufous Whistlers:

IMG_0584IMG_0585IMG_0586

There was also excitement with this odd looking blueish wren. Turns out to be a male Superb Fairy Wren after breeding season, its striking light and dark blue special purpose colouring almost back to normal.

Grey Fantails were plentiful, there being just enough scrub-like cover for them:

IMG_0599

A couple of just visible birds are proving hard to identify. The second turns out to be a female Rufous Whistlebird, and the first is a juvenile Rufous Whistlebird.

 

Michael Monaghan

Feb 27, 2019