Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Super Sunday

It began with Philip Peel’s organized outing at Lake Murdeduke. I refer to Phil as the “Birder Whisperer” because he is amazing at organizing outings and getting birders together and getting birders to birds. At this point I have lost track of all the birds that he has helped me find. He has shared information and knowledge with me (and many others) freely and patiently. Phil is the best of what birding is about.

Lynn and I rocked up in Troopi just after 8am (GOD it felt good to be doing that again, if only for the day!). There were about 45 birders at the lake taking part in Phil’s outing and I don’t think anyone was disappointed. The main targets were the continuing Buff-breasted Sandpiper and the Ruff. They were well seen by all. They were Aussie Lifers for Lynn and she had great views of them both. I got a few photos as well.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Ruff (the big one)
After the lovely morning at the lake, a few of our dear birder friends: Karen, James, Oakley and Alan decided to head down to the Great Otway N.P. Distillery Dam Picnic Grounds with Lynn and me. After a bumpy, dusty ride on the back roads (thanks to Oakley’s Google Maps) we arrived in the parking area of the picnic grounds by the little dam. And it was amazing. 

This was just after noon, which is not usually considered a great time for birding. And yet we ended up with 37 species right there. It was a stationary eBird list! The first big thrill was when James quickly spotted a Satin Flycatcher in the small tree right over the water. It was a male and female together. I have seen these birds before, but always only high in the canopy and these birds were at eye level!

Over the next three hours we all just marveled. Gang Gangs, White-necked Heron, Spinebills, Grey Goshawk and not only were the birds awesome, but so was sharing this experience with people who truly get it! These were fun, intelligent, witty, charming and knowledgeable friends who share this deep passion for birding and the natural world. It was a bonding that was close to spiritual. I will never forget it. And then Oakley saw the swift.

Above are Mr and Ms Satin Flycatcher (he is the blue one)

Gang Gang Cockatoo (male)

White-necked Heron
One of the dwindling number of land birds available to me as an Australian lifer was the Fork-tailed Swift (or Pacific Swift). Oakley spotted one overhead in company with a few Needletails. I “saw” it, but instead of using my binoculars, I swung the camera up and shot. This produced three photos of empty, blue sky and the birds disappeared behind the trees. We continued searching through the little groups of Needletails passing above without seeing any with that longer, pointy tail. Eventually the others lost interest and were distracted by a Diamond Firetail (very unusual for that area). However I continued to stare up into the sky. I got really good at spotting Needletails. And then… after about a half an hour I saw a long, pointy tail on a very dark swift! I had it! I kept it in my bins until it disappeared behind the canopy. So sweet. And a couple of hours later, Oakley, Karen and Alan saw another one just up the road in Anglesea as well.
L to R... James, Oakley, Alan, me, Karen and Lynn... the joy was palpable!
Lynn and I headed back to Lara and had a Fish and Chips dinner as our “Lifer Pie” treat. It was one of the most amazing days of birding that I have ever had. And that is really saying something. You don’t have to travel around the entire continent to have a phenomenal day of birding, you just have to be in the right places with the right people! And on that Super Sunday we certainly had both!

Peace. Love. Birds.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Doing A Bit Of Birding

I have actually been getting out and doing a few little birding jaunts lately. Getting settled into our tiny house has continued of course. And I am learning that this place, this “village”, has its pluses and minuses. Seemingly, the pluses still out-weigh the minuses and I am dealing with it. It is located wondrously well in regard to birding spots. So at least that is a very good thing.

I have gone over to Serendip Sanctuary and the You Yangs Regional Park a few times (both being less then ten minutes away). I can pop over and bird a couple of hours and then still get back to go to the grocery, or whatever else needs doing. Here are a few photos from those spots.

Dusky Moorhen, Serendip
Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Serendip

Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Serendip

Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Serendip

Little Eagle (dark morph), Serendip

Musk Lorikeets near Serendip
              Troopi in the You Yangs                        
Fan-tailed Cuckoo, You Yangs

Brown-headed Honeyeater, You Yangs
I also went up to Eynesbury, a spot where Lynn got her lifer Speckled Warbler last year. They were still around as well as a stunning, young Pallid Cuckoo.
Speckled Warbler, one of three in Eynesbury
Brown Treecreeper, Eynesbury

Young Pallid Cuckoo, Eynesbury

And then I heard about the Painted Button-quail.

I have had less success with Button-quail than with any other group of birds. My main bogey bird, or nemesis bird, is the Black-breasted Button-quail. I had not put quite the effort into Painted that I had put into Black-breasted, but I had repeatedly tried for them in “reliable” locations in NSW and VIC without success. I was aware that they had been seen lately in Mangalore Reserve in Victoria, however that is two hours away. But then it got personal. I got a text from Philip Peel. He and David Adams and Owen Lishmund had seen 3, yes three PBQ’s on Wednesday morning. So I decided to go the next morning.

My friend, Carolyn Edwards, wanted to go as well. She and I headed up there at 6am. We took the back way up through Gisborne as it avoids the Western Ring Road and is a much nicer drive. We did not arrive until about 8:30. I birded hard. I looked where they had seen them first of course. But they had seen the birds at 7:30am. I also tried further along the path and off the path, but I returned to search “the” area repeatedly.

Later in the morning, I ran into another birder who had seen three PBQ that very morning quite close to where Phil had seen them! He had seen them at 7am. In the meantime, Carolyn flushed a single bird in a wooded section where there were a lot of platelets (the round, bare spots created by feeding button-quail). I dashed over there and searched that area without success. I decided to return to Mangalore the next day and arrive very early.

Friday morning I left the house at 4:45am. The traffic around Melbourne is really not bad at 5:15 and I arrived at the reserve about 6:30am. I eagerly headed to “the” spot, peering ahead and carefully scanning the ground, but no button-quail were to be seen. I searched where Carolyn had flushed one the day before, but no button-quail. I walked back and forth and to and fro through the area (a total of 10 kilometers according to my Fitbit) and no bucking-futton-quail! The bogey-bird curse was beginning to suck the very life-force out of me. I was getting very sad, but I was determined to keep trying.

After about two hours, I headed to the left of the path and went in a bit deeper than I had before and looked around without seeing hide nor feather of button-quail. I was making my way back toward the path and heading through the area (again) where Phil and company had seen them. And then, loud whirring wing-beat sounds exploded to my immediate left. I turned and watched three Painted Button-quail zooming off through the trees. I got cracking flight views, although not quite as much fun as if I had seen them on the ground, but cracking, lifer views none-the-less. Yes! Evidently there are three PBQ that hang around that small area. I looked in, searched, walked through, and scoured that area for two days. And when I finally found them, it was within 20 meters of the GPS coordinates that Phil had given me!

I need to get back up to Inskip Point, QLD and see about those damn Black-breasted. But that will have to wait for awhile. Here are a few photos from Mangalore Reserve.

Where the Painted Button-quail were..

White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike

Rufous Songlark

Owlet Nightjar peeking out and being cute

Long-billed Corella looking very long billed indeed.

Peace. Love. Birds.