Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Red-rumps in the grass

Tra la la la la la

It's a Van Morrison thing.

I'm sure there's a rule against dandelions in bird photography, but fortunately I have never looked into such rules and I present to you the brightly coloured male Red-rumped Parrot, on top, and the drab and wretched female below. These are lovely parrots and I see them much more in summer than spring or winter. I assume that's because the young are now independent.

Up close and personal

Swans don't spend all day baring their teeth. It's easiest to see them when they are preening although preening means moving at a million miles an hour (minimum) and it is more than my limited photographic skills are up to. (But don't you get sick of those super crisp and clear shots that you see on the other nature blogs and websites, that leave nothing to the imagination? I do. Not that I'm envious or anything..)

I noticed the swan teeth last year and had the chance to photograph them today. The angle is from above as I'm not prepared to jump in the pond with camera and snorkel. However you get the idea. These are not real teeth, just serrated edges. My husband suggests a relic from the dinosaur era. I guess the serrations help for grinding grasses and reeds which swans eat quite a bit of. I have read the 'teeth' are used to help eat or catch little fish but I think that is garbage. I've spent hours swan gazing and there are mini fish and tadpoley things everywhere and never once did a swan make a move to catch one. I'm sure a few go down by default as swans drink all the time and I believe young swanlings would eat snails in the grass, but I think the serrations are for grinding the tough vego diet. I'm happy for you to make up your own mind.

The closed eyes seem standard while preening.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Waterbirds on the move

Two great waterbirds in two days. Cool. Maybe all the rain means these waterbirds are on the lookout for new locations, though I really think both were just passing by. This White-necked Heron was at a tiny dam in a park where I first saw one of these herons back in November. It could be the same bird back again. As I opened the park gate today, the heron flew to the nearest tree, where it stayed a minute or so before taking its leave.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Great Egret

The way I see it, there's photograghy then there's egret photography. Extreme whiteness makes them a challenging subject though I am happy to say these pictures are better than previous attempts. Egrets are beautiful birds, and definitely not regulars around here. This morning was the only time I've seen one at the pond. Many thanks to egret identifier extraordinaire GD for his assistance.

Reed Warbler trilogy

Reed Warblers are so loud and cheeful, it's easy to like them, and they'd certainly be high on the loudness to body weight scale, if such a scale existed. There's at least two Reed Warbler families at the pond and following are three shots of one of the young ones which fledged mid November. Ahem yes, it's been taking me a while to get some shots! The pictures look better if you click and make them bigger.

As you see, no sunshine this morning, but at least no floods here either.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Not a bunny

Unlike birds, kangaroos are not waterproof and these Eastern Grey Kangaroos were still drying out this morning, after heavy rain last night.

Juvenile Red Wattlebirds

This pair of young wattlebirds were left alone for a few minutes today. I'm sure mama wattlebird gave strict instructions that they were not to leave that branch in her absence. She was none too impressed to find a pesky photographer hanging about on her return, and made sure the young birds knew how foolish they were for following the letter of the law.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Where's Wally?

You're having trouble spotting the Baillon's Crake? That's just the way the crake likes it, keeping itself well out of trouble, in hard to photograph reed beds.

If you have a good memory you might recall I noticed a Baillon's Crake at the pond a while ago. Knowing that Baillon's Crakes are migratory and that many show up in Victoria, I was keen to know whether the November crake was checking in for long stay or a was a mere fly by nighter. To date, I have seen a crake, five times since and the bad photograph above, is from a sighting yesterday. Each sighting has been a week or more apart so the crake is good at cover. Since the first sighting I have only seen it up close once, in a tiny mud patch. Usually it's in the weedy, reedy sections of pond where it walks on water like a jacana. Sometimes it is so fast, I think of it as a mini goose on speed.

I'm really happy to know that the crake stuck around. I have read they like artificial wetlands (how they work this out I'm still wondering)and they also like sewage ponds so possibly maybe they aren't too choosy. The interesting thing I've noticed about Baillon's Crakes, is that although they are secretive, they will also happily go about crake business when people are watching. My kind of bird. 

Old cockatoo

I don't know if this Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is diseased or just old, but it seemed so relaxed and content as it ate dandelion flowers this morning, alongside a bunch of much younger cockatoos. Youth is not everything. 

For my very old friend JW :-) who is having a serious birthday soon, and yes I still smile the other way 'round!
Ik wens je een heel gelukkige verjaardag.

Sacred Kingfisher

Nice to discover a Sacred Kingfisher in the neighbourhood. It was close to a small dam at the base of Mt Majura. But what is that Noisy Miner doing in my shot? If the current version of Photoshop has a Noisy Miner edit I will have to re-consider my poor attitude to post production.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

One of the many things I did not learn in high school..

And if I did not spend so much time gazing at waterbirds now, I might never have noticed the amazing fact that you can see right through one duck nostril and out the other to the world beyond. True. Look. The Hardheads at the pond have flat beaks and I don't think it's possible with them but it's possible with swans and Pacific Black Ducks. Try peering through next time you see them!

Crested pigeons in the morning

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Swan song

Swans can be not nice. I was away for a night over the weekend and during this time the swan family returned and attacked the remaining swanling. A young family saw the attack and told me about it a day later. Led by the mother swan, the swans went for the neck and legs of the swanling. They cornered it in the drainpipe, beneath the viewing platform, and would not let it out. The family told me that after the swan family left, the swanling hid in the reeds and cried. 

The following morning there was no sign of the swanling for quite a while but it came out of the reeds eventually. At that hour it is usually in the middle of the pond.

Sometimes if I sit quietly at the edge of the pond the swanling will swim very close then stay close grazing on algae or grass. I know swans everywhere approach people, because people feed them and that they become pests in picnic areas, but for now this swanling and I enjoy occasional quiet moments together.


It's hard to say what made the swans turn on this one. Maybe it's the runt and they don't like it. Maybe things went weird after the loss of the dominant male. Maybe this is just what swans do. I have no expertise here so feel free to leave a comment.

The other swans can't be too far away for them to fly in like this. All family members were accounted for, so they're surviving the wild world. A few days before the attack I heard two of the swanlings were back at the pond but I didn't see them. About a week earlier I did see one of them back. I was happy to see it and took it as a sign the others were safe. Mostly the visiting swanling ignored the live-in, with a bit of hissing when they got too close.

The mystery of what happened to the father swan seems less mysterious now that I have spoken with several people who pass the pond frequently. A couple of people had seen the father swan walking with a bad limp and I also heard about a dog owner setting his dog on the swans. A woman tried to intervene but the dog owner was abusive and the woman left upset. 

The father swan was always the one to put himself between the young ones and any danger. In our neck of the woods, one big danger is dogs. Although there is a sculpture at the pond celebrating the rare Regent Honeyeater, the pond adjoins an off-leash park for dogs and I guess the council classifies the wetlands as mixed purpose/multi use. Dogs swim in the pond a lot, out into the middle and the odd one goes crashing through the reeds. I can only assume the father swan was bitten by a dog. Perhaps the wound became infected or else he bled to death. In any case, his body was floating in the pond for a few days. I wrote about that here

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Reed Warbler

Good things come in small packages, such as this Australian Reed Warbler who finally sat still at the right moment (for me!), or my charming young nephew who is six years old this month. We love having you in our family JJ. Happy birthday and see you at your party.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Trick of the light

This post is dedicated to the ever observant LO, who noticed the amazing green purple, colour change effect that can be seen as light hits the wings of Pacific Black Ducks.

And also many happy returns for your January birthday. Blogpost now, cupcakes later!

Bearded Dragon

What a beautiful lizard. I think it is a Bearded Dragon but happy to stand corrected. It was a great photographic subject, absolutely not going anywhere else on this hot day.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Hey ma, I'm growing up!

This is a very cute, young Welcome Swallow. It has several siblings and cousins at the pond and they like to sit around together and observe the world, often balancing on reeds like this, bobbing up and down. The young swallows are not nearly as shy as the Reed Warblers and four or more will sit together.

I've been reading a lot about photography since I got my new camera and am still not too wise. For now all my shots are jpeg with no post production except cropping. I relate to the school of photographers whose job is done when the shutter button is pressed! I know this swallow photo is a long way from a perfect image, but it's so sweet I had to show you. And if I wait till everything is perfect, well no blog.

And here is something else I have learned. Catchlights. They are the little shiny dots in the eye. Can you see them? Apparently they make wildlife photographs more appealing. 

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Great Cormorant

Cormorants are proving hard photographic subjects for me. They may look nice and still on those dead branches, but up close they are panting like anything, on these hot days at least, and I end up with many blurry images. Finally this Great Cormorant got the idea to take a swim. After that, it was easier to get a better picture. VoilĂ .