Barmah …

I visit Barmah National Park from time to time largely because it’s the one spot in Victoria where the Superb Parrot turns up. I’d love to add it to my state list and one day I might.

The Sandridge track runs from the park entrance to River Road and the mighty Murray. It’s about 15km of dirt road and a good test of the camper trailer which passed with flying colours coping well with the corrugations and some muddy patches. And the muddy patches on the way in were nothing compared to the muddy patches on the way out after a night of steady downpour. It really was the first sharp bite of winter, there were blizzards and snow down to 700 metres in the high country.

I had a more realistic target as well as the elusive parrot which was to photograph the beautiful Azure Kingfisher. I was able to camp right on the river bank at a spot where I have seen adults feeding a brood of youngsters on a previous trip. The light was actually quite good during the afternoon so it was just a game of patience.

Good things soon happened. This Jacky Winter presented itself for a nice natural portrait. While the next one came even closer, posing on the UHF radio aerial.

A White-bellied Sea Eagle cruised up the river …

A Kangaroo checked me out.

A Scarlet Robin took a bath not far off

And yes, the Azure Kingfisher played nicely.


Spotted Harrier …

Birds of prey make their living in different ways; Kestrels are fond of mice, Peregrines are fond of pigeons, Brown Falcons are fond of snakes. Hunting technique are appropriate to the creatures hunted.

Harriers go about their business fairly low over open country with wings upswept. In Australia we have a couple of members of the guild, Swamp Harrier and Spotted Harrier. One prefers wetter habitats the other drier habitats.

The dry plains around my home seem ideal for Spotted Harrier but for all that they are only occasional visitors. I was looking for quail when I encountered this one, so was he probably.

Spotted Harrier

When looking for mice in the grass slow flight is an advantage. Kestrels and Black-shouldered Kites can hover. They are both smaller birds, there is only so much energy in a mouse and hovering is expensive. The equation works for the small birds but hovering is too expensive for harriers to undertake except very briefly.

So slow flight it is. The upswept wings contribute to lateral stability, very helpful when flying close to stall speeds. If a wing stalls it drops relative to the other wing and the bird as a whole side slips to the affected side. Under these circumstances the lower wing develops more lift than the upper wing and tends to restore the bird to level flight (at a slightly lower altitude).

The upward angulation of the wings is called dihedral and it can be seen in this photo of our gliding harrier …

Spotted Harrier note the dihedral

A Bird or Two …

The birding in Kidepo was rich. Bird photography snatched on the run could never do it justice but here are a few of the more cooperative species.

Clapperton’s Francolin
African Wattled Lapwing
Dark Chanting Goshawk
Stone Partridge

To describe the Stone Partridge as a cooperative species is quite a stretch but I was particularly lucky with this group. It would be nice to improve on this shot but it would require the investment of quite a lot of time.

Flappet Lark
Abyssinian Roller
Grey-backed Fiscal

East …

Some birds are residents, some are migrants. Some birds just wander around in response to conditions, none of them care a fig about state boundaries. So if you hang out near the borders of your state or territory your list will grow.

I live in the western half of Victoria where sooner or later you can expect to find Budgerigars, Diamond Doves, Black and Pied Honeyeaters and other occasional visitors. These are birds that spill out of the more arid interior.

Over in the east of the state their counterparts are birds of the east coast forests that wander around the corner from New South Wales, usually in summer. There have been reports recently of a few congregating in one particular front yard in the little town of Metung. It seemed a good time to put in some time in the Gippsland Lakes region. The weather gods thought it might be a good time to visit the same area.

The Fig Trees of Mairburn Road deserve to be as famous as the Flame Trees of Thika. In the space of half an hour I saw Koel, Channelbill Cuckoo, Topknot Pigeon, White-headed Pigeon and Figbird. All in or close to two enormous Morton Bay Figs thoughtfully planted as ornamentals in somebody’s front garden. Thanks, mate.

These three were new to my Victorian list …

Channel-billed Cuckoo
Topknot Pigeon

You can’t spend all your time pointing your binoculars and telephoto lens into fig trees in people’s front gardens. You have to consider the Grevilleas in their back gardens …

Eastern Spinebill
Little Wattlebird

and maybe even wander into the forest …

Spotted Pardalote

Natural Newstead …

Well I’m back from Broome, life is back to normal. I was wondering how to conjure up a post from the ordinary, the  humdrum. It occurred to me to post some recent photos of Australian Reed-warbler.

For those of you who enjoy the natural history side of the blog, there is an excellent blog run by Geoff Park called Natural Newstead.  Geoff limits his observations to the area around his home, also in the Victorian Goldfields, about 40km from mine. It’s well worth a visit.

Just as I was delving in my catalogue Geoff posted this …

I’ve been trying for years to get some decent images of Australian Reed-warblers, especially that iconic shot of one perched sideways on the stem of a reed. It remains an ongoing project.

Like these perhaps …

and two for the price of one …

They’re even harder to get in flight …

White-bellied Sea Eagle …

These are absolutely magnificent creatures. Females are larger than the males and may have a wingspan up to 2.2 metres (7 feet 2 inches). They are found along the seashores and major waterways of Australia, New Guinea, the Indonesian and Malayan archipelago, Thailand, around the Bay of Bengal to India and Sri Lanka. They mainly eat fish which they catch in their talons or find dead but they are not averse to other animals such as turtles, sea-snakes and birds.

This pair let me get fairly close before they took off. They are generally pretty wary.