Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Balyang Sanctuary and the Barwon River

With a public holiday today and reasonable weather, I was looking for somewhere local to go birding. There were a few too many people and dogs frequenting the beaches around home to make it worth looking for wading birds so I headed into Geelong to check out the birds at Balyang Sanctuary and the adjoining Barwon River. Balyang Sanctuary was the focus of one of my earliest posts in this blog but I have not been there with the camera for several years and there are usually cormorants and darters breeding on the river so I was looking forward to seeing what I could find.

As I was preparing the camera and tripod, an Australasian Darter took off from a branch on the other side of the lake and I managed to get one shot off hand-held with whatever settings I had on the camera at the time. Fortunately, I had the ISO up and aperture large enough to get a reasonably fast shutter speed (1/640) on Aperture Priority, though nowhere near fast enough to freeze the wings - I only really got them like this because they were at the top of the wing beat so not moving very fast. I was on single shot auto focus so I couldn't manage to get any more shots.

Australasian Darter, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/640

There were several species of ducks on the lake, including a pair of Chestnut Teals that cooperated long enough for me to get a shot of each.

Chestnut Teal (male), Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/320
Chestnut Teal (female), Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/400

However the most interesting birds on the edge of the lake were Red Junglefowl (Domestic Chicken), with this rooster foraging along the bank. There are frequently domestic ducks and geese around this lake but I've never seen chickens before and this male is pretty close to wild-type.

Red Junglefowl (Domestic Chicken), Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1600

The duck boxes that have been constructed in various locations on the lake also make great landing platforms for other birds to shake themselves dry after a bath.

White-faced Heron, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/4, 1/1600

In addition to the lake, the sanctuary also has an area of open woodland and several species of birds utilise the holes in old River Red Gums for nesting.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/11, 1/400
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/11, 1/125
Rainbow Lorikeet, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/11, 1/125

But not all the parrot action was in the nest holes...

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/2500
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/2000

and the highlight was this pair of Long-billed Corellas.


Long-billed Corella, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/400
Long-billed Corella, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/500
Long-billed Corella, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/500
Long-billed Corella, Balyang Sanctuary, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/8, 1/500

The sanctuary is adjacent to the Barwon River where there are often ducks and coots on the river - no ducks today but this Eurasian Coot was swimming close to the bank in lovely light and showing bow-wave ripples in the mirror-like water.

Eurasian Coot, Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1000

Cormorants and darters can be found perching along the river

Australasian Darter, Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/800
Australasian Darter, Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1000

and nesting in the trees along the west bank.

Little Pied Cormorant, Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/8, 1/1250
Little Pied Cormorant, Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/11, 1/500
Little Pied Cormorant, Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1600
Little Pied Cormorant, Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/2000

An Australasian Darter nest was also in this cluster of cormorant nests

Australasian Darter (juveniles), Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/11, 1/800

with four young darters squirming for room

Australasian Darter (juveniles), Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/11, 1/320

under the not-so-watchful eye of Dad.

Australasian Darter (adult male + juveniles), Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/11, 1/500

It's amazing how much difference there is in size within clutches like this.

Australasian Darter (juveniles), Barwon River, Geelong
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 400, f/11, 1/250

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Ricketts Point...for Bob

This afternoon I had the great pleasure of attending the launch of the book: Teacher Inside Out written by Bob Whiteway. Bob taught high school for 40 years, including the 6 years I spent at Beaumaris High School in the 1970s. He has been an active environmentalist and advocate for marine conservation for many years and was instrumental in the creation of Ricketts Point (in Beaumaris) as a marine sanctuary (see The Age article from 2003). As I've noted in several other posts, I grew up in and around this beautiful beach so, in Bob's honour, I spent a couple of hours there late this afternoon photographing the usual avian suspects.

Australian Pelican, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/11, 1/200
Australian Pelican, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/11, 1/400
Australian Pelican, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/4, 1/5000
Australian Pelican, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/11, 1/400
Black Swan, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/4, 1/2500
Australian Pelican, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/4, 1/2500
Australian Pelican, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/4, 1/3200
Australian Pelican, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/4, 1/2500
Little Pied Cormorant, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/11, 1/200
Little Pied Cormorant, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/4, 1/2000
Pacific Gull (immature, 1st year), Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/4, 1/2000
Pacific Gull (immature, 1st year), Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/4, 1/1250
Pacific Gull (adult), Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/4, 1/1250
Pied Cormorant, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/4, 1/4000
Pied Cormorant, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/4, 1/2000
Pied Cormorant, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/4, 1/4000
Silver Gull, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/800
Silver Gull, Ricketts Point, Beaumaris
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/4, 1/8000

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Yan Yean

I spent today with the Melbourne Birdlife Photography group around Yan Yean, on the NE rural fringe of Melbourne.

First stop was Yellow Gum Park, a small reserve surrounding a disused quarry within a bend of the Plenty River (see map). 

I arrived early enough to spot a few kangaroos still hanging around. These two were photographed from the car as there was very little cover to try and stalk them on foot.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Yellow Gum Park, Plenty, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1000

Many of the eucalypts were in flower and there seemed to be a lot of birds singing in the treetops and around the river but they remained aloof and elusive but I did manage to get a couple of shots (both from the car park).

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Yellow Gum Park, Plenty, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1250
Little Raven, Yellow Gum Park, Plenty, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1250

Next stop was Laurimar Wetlands in Doreen, where there were plenty of waterbirds to be found and photographed. As one of our bunch quipped: "If there's nothing to be found in the bush, go to a shopping centre" (the wetland is right on the edge of the Doreen shopping centre).

Australian Pelican, Laurimar Wetlands, Doreen, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/2000
Australian Pelican, Laurimar Wetlands, Doreen, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/4000
Australian Pelican, Laurimar Wetlands, Doreen, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/4, 1/8000
Australian Wood Duck, Laurimar Wetlands, Doreen, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/640
Hardhead, Laurimar Wetlands, Doreen, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/2000

We then headed for the Yan Yean Reservoir Park for lunch and more birding in the afternoon. Several species of parrots were heard and seen, including Rainbow and Little Lorikeets, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Galahs and Long-billed Corellas and one group found a pair of Gang-gang Cockatoos. I only managed to photograph these Eastern Rosellas in a tree near the picnic ground.

Eastern Rosella, Yan Yean Reservoir Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/800
Eastern Rosella, Yan Yean Reservoir Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/640

The afternoon highlight, though, was the wetland between the dam wall and the road, which, among the usual ducks, grebes, moorhens and swamphens, provided sightings of two species of Crake. Two Baillon's Crake were foraging among the reeds and while easily spotted, they remained difficult to photograph as they were constantly on the move and views usually obstructed by reeds.

Baillon's Crake, Yan Yean Reservoir Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/640
Baillon's Crake, Yan Yean Reservoir Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/1000

A solo Spotless Crake was foraging along the far bank of the wetlands allowing good views, albeit in and out of shadows and a fair distance away but it's always good to see these secretive little birds.

Spotless Crake, Yan Yean Reservoir Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/320
Spotless Crake, Yan Yean Reservoir Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/1250

An Australian Reed-Warbler was calling loudly from among the reeds and many of us stopped to see if we could capture an image.  This is often the best you see of this species...

Australian Reed-Warbler, Yan Yean Reservoir Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/5000

...but with some persistence, you can eventually get some better views as these birds often start singing from low down among the reeds and then come up to the tops of the reeds to continue their calling.

Australian Reed-Warbler, Yan Yean Reservoir Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/3200
Australian Reed-Warbler, Yan Yean Reservoir Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/4000
Australian Reed-Warbler, Yan Yean Reservoir Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/1000

I even managed to remember to switch over to video and capture the song (along with some other birds and Pobblebonk frogs in the background).

video


There was also almost no wind allowing some shots of damselflies and dragonflies.

Common Bluetail, (Damselfly), Yan Yean Reservoir Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/500
Common Bluetail, (Damselfly), Yan Yean Reservoir Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/160
Wandering Percher, (Dragonfly), Yan Yean Reservoir Park, Victoria
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x1.4 adapter), ISO 800, f/8, 1/3200

So, once again, the Melbourne Birdlife Photography group provided a brilliant day out and I managed to finally photograph two relatively common species (Eastern Rosella and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike) that had eluded me since starting this blog 5 years ago!

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