Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

May 16, 2009

Green Point Bird Photography 090515

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , , — admin @ 12:09 am

Bird Photography at Green Point, 15th May, 2009

I am supposed to use eye-catching headlines and opening paragraphs, so here goes.

“Bad Day Turns Out Sorta OK”

Today started out really crap but ended up not too bad. How is that for a grabber? Still pretty lame? Yeah, I reckon so too. So lets just carry on with the story. This morning I was headed for Cams Wharf again, but the wind was starting to howl so I decided to go to Green Point on the shores of Lake Macquarie, near Newcastle, NSW. I was hoping that it might be a bit more protected from the wind there. It was sort of kind of. That was when I went into the under growth or understory of the rainforest remnants, but more on that later on.

White-faced Heron
White-faced Heron(Egretta novaehollandiae)

This White-faced Heron has a fish in his bill, see? It looks like a tiny little bream or something like that. A pretty good catch for sure. There have been a lot of juvenile White-faced Herons around lately, I wonder why that is so? Maybe they are growing up from being born in the Spring. I dont know. I will find out, i think.

Anyway, I went around the perimeter of the lake until I got to Green Point proper, then headed inland and followed a few tracks. I found this large track which led to suburbia, but it wasn’t near where I parked the car in Valentine, so I struck back towards the lake along this rugged creek valley track with remnant rainforest bits and found a Bell Miner colony(see previous post for the story and photos). I finally hit the lake and then followed it back towards Valentine. On a bridge over a little creek which flows into the lake I came upon a Golden Whistler and a mob of Brown Thornbills and Brown Gerygone. Thanks to Grant for the identification.

Golden Whistler
Golden Whistler(Pachycephala pectoralis)

That was about it for the birds in the bush, so I followed the lake back towards my car. About ten steps before I got to my car, with the camera turned off, I spotted a pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles soaring towards me. I turned the camera back on hurriedly and took a few shots. They were both adults with fully developed plumage, and they were magnificent. They carried on across the lake towards Awaba.

White-bellied Sea-eagle
White-bellied Sea-eagle(Haliaeetus leucogaster)

Well that was it I thought. I am out of here. But no, there was no end to this story. I saw a Nankeen Kestrel fly past and land on a telegraph pole down the street. I walked down the street and took some photos. I got a few strange looks as I did so. ha ha.. 🙂

Nankeen Kestrel
Nankeen Kestrel(Falco cenchroides)

I finally got into the car and drove off. Birds always seem to appear when you have packed everything away and are just about to leave. And there you have it. A crap day that turned out semi-ok. What do you reckon?

Bird Species List, Green Point, 15/5/09

Rainbow Lorikeet
White-faced Heron
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Silvereye
Superb Fairy-wren
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet
Bell Miner
Brown Thornbill
Brown Gerygone
Golden Whistler
White-bellied sea-eagle
Nankeen Kestrel
Australian Magpie
Noisy Miner

May 15, 2009

Bell Miner – Manorina melanophrys

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , , — admin @ 7:43 am

The Bell Miner(Manorina melanophrys)

I came across a colony of Bell Miners today. I got lost and was finding my way back to the lake and lo and behold, they were in this rainforest remnant in a creek line. But let us start from the beginning. I was going to Cams Wharf this morning, but on the way the wind had gotten up pretty strong from the north west so I decided that it might be too windy down there, so I made a detour and headed for Green Point, which is on Lake Macquarie between Valentine and Belmont, which are suburbs of the city of Newcastle.

It was turning into a pretty ordinary day until I stumbled upon the Bell Miner colony. I was coming back towards the lake after I had gotten a bit lost and thought that I might be headed way back into suburbia in the wrong direction. They were calling and playing around in this remnant rainforest section that was deep in a valley. They were quite curious about me and came relatively close to me to see what I was.

Bell Miner

The preferred habitat for the Bell Miner is the dense understory of riparian forest with psyllid infestation, usually with dieback. They eat mainly insects, especially the aforementioned psyllids and their lerps. They also eat nectar. Bell Miners have a complex social structure and can have a colony of between 8 to 200 birds. There are breeding pairs and helpers who defend the nest, feed the young, as well as associated domestic duties.

Bell Miner

Bell Miner Associated Dieback(BMAD) occurs in eucalypt forests where Bell Miners feed on the psyllids. Increases in Bell Miner populations, as well as psyllid infestation, associated with tree stress from things such as weed invasion, logging, pasture “improvement”, burning off forests, and soil nutrient changes have been cited as causes of the spread of dieback.

Bell Miner

The Bell Miner is very territorial and will often scare other bird species away from the Bell Miner colony’s territory.

Sources: Simpson & Day Field Guide, birdsinbackyards.net, bmad.com, museumvictoria.com.au,

May 13, 2009

Surfing Photography Newcastle 090513

Filed under: Surfing — Tags: , , — admin @ 11:50 pm

I started off at Catherine Hill Bay, but there was nothing doing there. There was plenty of swell and the wind was coming offshore, but it was closing out. I went past Caves Beach and it was too big for it to handle it there. Crabbes was breaking and there were guys out at both the left and the right. It seemed a bit fat to me and maybe the tide was way too high for it, possibly.

I went out the headland to see if there were any waves in the channel but there was not enough swell for it to break properly, plus the tide was too high for it to break properly. Maybe it was all right at low tide. I do not know. I went past Merewether and that was not really doing it either. There was a fair crowd out there, but not much action at all. The swell direction was a bit weird as well.

Flat Rock Surfing

So, I ended up at Flat Rock. Good ole Flat Rock. It seems to work relatively consistently. Today was not the best as the swell was coming in a bit too straight in my opinion. It was a bit wide, as well. But, anyway I got some photos. Here is a bigger set wave that pushed pretty wide. I do not think it is as hollow out wide, but that i just me, perhaps.

Flat Rock Surfing

I like this cut back, its nice and flat and the spray is coming off real good. ha ha.

Flat Rock Surfing

Well that is it, let us see what the surf is doing tomorrow. The wind is coming from offshore at least and winter is coming, with the cold weather,, brrr..

Cams Wharf Bird Photography 090513

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Bird Photography at Cams Wharf, 13th May, 2009

This morning I went to Cams Wharf, on the eastern side of Lake Macquarie, near Newcastle. Very much thanks to Maureen for giving me the tip to go there. It turned out very productive. When I got there, I parked near the boat ramp and went left along the foreshore reserve towards Nords Wharf. And lo and behold, there was this Laughing Kookaburra(Dacelo novaeguineae) just sitting there on a low branch and in the sun light. He was very obliging and stayed there while I fiddled with my exposure settings and rejigged my shutter speeds and ISO, etc. He actually was laughing a little bit, so it was living up to its name.

Laughing Kookaburra

There were heaps of blossoms out on the trees, so there were quite a few different bird species feeding on the nectar. This one is a Scaly-breasted Lorikeet(Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus) who is harvesting the nectar with his brush tongue. They also forage for pollen, fruits, and seeds from the umbrella tree.

c4e-0350

This Australian Raven(Corvus coronoides) flew over, no doubt looking for some mischief. The Australian Raven feed on a wide range of foods such as grains, fruits, insects, eggs, and carrion.

Australian Raven

I was chasing some Silvereyes and other small birds on the way back, and this Yellow-faced Honeyeater(lichenostomus chrysops) did the right thing and perched right in front of me in the sun light. So, of course I took a photo of him. Or, it could be a her, but I don’t know.

Yellow-faced Honeyeater

I had walked back to the boat ramp by this time, so I went right to the north along the lake front. There was a wooden foot bridge over a creek, so I walked over it and into the scrub on the other side. These Musk Lorikeets(Glossopsitta concinna) were feeding in the trees. This was a first for me, so I was plenty glad to see them and get a photo. It is claimed that they got their name because some people reckon that they smell a bit musky.

Musk Lorikeet

This Rainbow Lorikeet(Trichoglossus haematodus) came up really close to me and was foraging in the tree bark, I guess for grubs. They feed mainly on nectar and pollen, as well as fruit, seeds, and insects.

Rainbow Lorikeet

I tried for ages to get a decent photo of a Noisy Friarbird(Philemon corniculatus) as they would stay in the shade and move around chasing each other around like kids. This one was giving me the evil eye. I reckon they look like vultures, and are just a little bit ugly. 🙂

Noisy Friarbird

This immature Grey Butcherbird(Cracticus torquatus) was having a great time hunting for food. Here he has what looks like a caterpillar pupa, which he subsequently dropped. I think he was learning how to hunt and was just practicing. I am not sure about his age, but I am thinking he was really young.

Grey Butcherbird

Well that is about it, all the photos are used up. It was a great spot and I am sure that I will go back and get some better shots, especially of the Noisy Friarbird and the Musk Lorikeet.

Bird Species List, Cams Wharf, 13/5/09

Little Pied Cormorant
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Crested Tern
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet
Eastern Rosella
Musk Lorikeet
Rainbow Lorikeet
Australian Raven
Laughing Kookaburra
White-faced Heron
Australian Magpie
Australian Wood Duck
Satin Bowerbird
Noisy Miner
Noisy Friarbird
Grey Butcherbird
Silvereye

May 11, 2009

Catherine Hill Bay Bird Photography 090511

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Bird Photography at Catherine Hill Bay, 11th May, 2009.

This afternoon I went to Catherine Hill Bay at the northern end near the cemetery. I wandered around the edge of the cemetery where there were quite a few Little Wattlebirds. You can tell that there are Little Wattlebirds around because of the distinctive call. I think it sounds something like “Cooklecackle”. I continued around the edge of the cemetery and took a photo of this Australian Magpie(Gymnorhina tibicen) who was just sitting amongst the branches of this banksia tree. It was quite strange really, the bird was just sitting there, looking out. It seemed to be hiding or something.

Australian Magpie

There were also quite a few Superb Fairy-wrens as I headed towards the lagoon at the end of the beach. I walked along the lagoon and headed out to the headland where I saw this Silver Gull(Larus novaehollandiae) that looked like he was trying to catch the wave in the background.

Silver Gull

This Little Pied Cormorant(Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) was sitting there checking out the waves, wondering if he should go out or not. He did go out, eventually and caught a few fully sik tubes, dood.

Surfer Shag

Bird Species List, Catherine Hill Bay, 11/5/09

Little Wattlebird
Superb Fairy-wren
Australasian Gannet
Silver Gull
White-faced Heron
Little Pied Cormorant
Australian Magpie

May 10, 2009

Belmont Lagoon Bird Photography 090510

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Bird Photography at Belmont Lagoon, 10th May, 2009

This afternoon, after all the rain of the morning, I went to Belmont Lagoon, which is just next to the ocean, and is fresh water, feeding into Cold Tea Creek at Belmont South, which goes into Lake Macquarie, which is in turn connected to the sea, via the Swansea Channel. So, you see, it does eventually get to the ocean. But in a roundabout way. But, I digress. As soon as I got out of the car, I saw a couple of Spangled Drongos just behind a couple of houses in a tree.

Spangled Drongo

The Spangled Drongo(Dicrurus bracteatus) frequents jungle and open forest. They are migratory, arriving from the north during October and leaving in March. Some birds go to South-eastern New south wales in autumn and winter, whilst others remain in the north all the year. Insects from the main bulk of the bird’s diet which they catch in flight. The bristles around the base of the bill assist in catching insects by guiding them into the open bill.

Spangled Drongo

I walked on to the end of the road and then turned right, towards Belmont South. Usually I turn left and head towards Jewels. I saw a White-bellied Sea-eagle in the distance but it was too far away. This one looked very large. There were a few Spotted Turtle Doves on the wires and a mob of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters scampering through the trees. On the way back I saw some Southern Emu-wrens(Stipiturus malachurus) in a casuarina tree. This one here is a female. The male was on the other side of the tree and did not come out into the open, I only have a blurry shot of a male in the background of a couple of photographs.

Southern Emu-wren

The Southern Emu-wren lives mainly in swampy heathlands and feeds on insects. Their nest is oval with a side-entrance near the top. They are of the Family: Maluridae and Order: Passeriformes.

Southern Emu-wren

This Great Egret(Ardea alba) was fishing in Cold Tea Creek as I walked back. There were quite a few fish in the creek, jumping around. they were probably mullet, as it is a breeding area for mullet in the lagoon. Here, this Egret is having a good go at a fish.

Great Egret

And this is what the Egret managed to catch – a rather small mullet, I presume. But its pretty good fishing on his part. Well done, Mr Egret.

Great Egret

Sources:
centennialparklands.com.
What Bird is That, N W Cayley.

Bird Species List, Belmont Lagoon, 10/5/09

Great Egret
Spangled Drongo
Silver Gull
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Grey Fantail
Black Swan
Superb Fairy-wren
Southern Emu-wren
Spotted Turtle-Dove

Hunter Wetlands Centre Bird Photography 090509

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Bird Photography at the Hunter Wetlands Center, Shortland, Newcastle, 9th May, 2009

This morning I drove around the beaches to see if there was any decent surfing around to photograph. Flat Rock just was not breaking properly and neither was Bar Beach or Merewether. So I headed off to the Hunter Wetlands Center at Shortland. Luckily they have a cafe at the Wetlands Center so I was able to get my morning fix of coffee before I started.

There were a lot of water birds in the main ponds just near the Center. The Eurasian Coot(Fulica atra) dives for food and here this bird has just dived into the pool and come up with some weed for a feed. They can stay underwater for up to fifteen seconds, and can compress their feathers to squeeze out all the air, which allows them to stay longer under the water.

Eurasian Coot

The Pacific Black Duck(Anas superciliosa) is found in most types of water bodies all over Australia. The mainly feed on aquatic plants with some small crustaceans, molluscs, and insects. The Pacific Black Duck belongs to Family: Anatidae and Order: Anseriformes.

Pacific Black Duck

The Australasian Grebe(Tachybaptus novaehollandiae) feed on small fish and water insects and do deep underwater dives. They belong to Family: Podicipedidae and Order: Podicipediformes.

Australasian Grebe

The Dusky Moorhen(Gallinula tenebrosa) belongs to Family: Rallidae and Order: Gruiformes. It feeds on algae, water plants, and grasses. It is common in most types of wetlands that are surrounded by reeds, and much prefer fresh water to salt.

Dusky Moorhen

Spangled Drongo(Dicrurus bracteatus). Family: Dicruridae, Order: Passeriformes.
The Spangled Drongo is found in northern and eastern Australia, as well as New Guinea and Eastern Indonesia. They prefer wet forests and feed mainly on insects. Its distinctive features include the long forked tail and red eyes.

Spangled Drongo

Sources: birdinbackyards.net, austmus.gov.au, ozanimals.com

Bird Species List for Hunter Wetlands Center, 9/5/09.

Welcome Swallow
Eurasian Coot
Magpie Goose
Australian Grebe
Whistling Kite
Dusky Moorhen
Red-browed Finch
Superb Fairy-wren
Australian White Ibis
Eastern Rosella
Purple Swamphen
Spangled Drongo
Great Egret
Pacific Black Duck

May 9, 2009

Whistling Kite 090509

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Whistling Kite(Haliastur sphenurus), 9th May, 2009

This morning I went to the Hunter Wetlands Centre, at Shortland, in Newcastle. There are usually a few Whistling Kites around, and today was no exception. In my estimation there were four separate Whistling Kites there at the Wetlands Centre today. Its distribution is all over Australia, and also in New Guinea and New Caledonia. They are usually in pairs, and today I saw a pair circling and playing a game where they almost collided, then fly on around in the circle in opposite directions. I am not sure if it was a courting display, just flirting, or siblings playing a game.

Whistling Kite

A distinguishing feature to identify the Whistling Kite is the soaring flight pattern. Its flight is buoyant and easy and it often soars to a great height. They feed on small mammals, birds, lizards, carrion, and insects. In lots of areas, rabbits are their chief prey.

Whistling Kite

The habitat of the Whistling Kite is open woodlands, plains, streams, and swamps. They are also common around farmlands and roads where carrion can be found. They prefer tall trees for nesting, and the bulky nest platform is built of sticks up high, and sometimes can be re-used. The young stay with the parents after fledging for around two months.

Whistling Kite

Another identifying feature for the Whistling Kite is the silhouette or how they hold their wings. The Whistling Kite will hold its wings drooped in a glide.

Whistling Kite

The third feature of the Whistling Kite that will help to identify it is the length of the tail. Typically, the tail will be about 3 times the length of the head, with a rounded end. The most common raptor to be confused with the Whistling Kite is the Little Eagle, which has a shorter tail, and also a slightly different underwing pattern. Here is a photo of a Little Eagle(Hieraaetus morphnoides) to compare the underwing pattern and the length of the tail. Note the brown at the leading edge of the underwing.

Little Eagle

And now back to the Whistling Kite for the last photo of a bird looking for something to eat. He has got his eyes intently on the ground, looking for a feed.

Whistling Kite

The Whistling Kite is of the Family: Accipitridae and Order: Falconiformes.

Sources:
birdsinbackyards.net
Gordon Beruldsen, 1995, Which Bird of Prey is that? , Merino Lithographics. ISBN 0 646 26443 5
N.W. Cayley, 1931, What Bird is That?, Angus & Robertson.
Simpson & Day, Field Guide, ed 7.

May 8, 2009

Newcastle Baths Bird Photography 090504

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Bird Photography at Newcastle Baths, 4th May, 2009

Well I have finally caught up with all my processing and now I can get back out and take some photographs. But today it is raining, so I don’t think I will be going out today. But maybe I will later on, to try and photograph some storm birds in this wild weather. Let’s see how it pans out.

On Monday I went down the baths at Newcastle for a swim and saw the Australasian Gannets fishing, so I went home and got my camera. Here is the post for the Gannets. There were some other birds roosting there and flying around out to sea and here they are. Usually there will be Silver Gulls, Crested Terns, and Sooty Oystercatchers roosting on the rock shelf.

This Sooty OysterCatcher(Haematopus fuliginosis) was wandering out to the end of the rock shelf looking for molluscs, which they prise open with their long chisel-shaped bills. This guy would run back in when the waves came in, it was very comical. Bizarrely, they drink seawater. Their conservation status is “Vulnerable” due to disturbance to their coastal feeding, habitat destruction, and humans that fish, walk dogs, horse ride, and drive their Four Wheel Drives through their nesting and roosting sites.

Sooty Oystercatcher

I saw this Fluttering Shearwater(Puffinus gavia) out the corner of my eye, heading out to sea. He was a bit far off for a decent photograph, but here it is anyway.

Fluttering Shearwater

In New Zealand, the Fluttering Shearwater is called the Pakaha, and breed on islands off the North Island and in the Cook Strait. The Maoris used to eat them, cooking them in their own fat. They are also known as Brown-beaked Petrel, Brown-beaked Shearwater, Forster’s Petrel, or Forster’s Shearwater.

The Crested Tern(Sterna bergii) feeds mainly on small surface fish, which they sight from the air, then plunge downwards into the sea, grabbing the fish. They belong to Family: Laridae and Order: Charadriiformes. The Conservation status of the Crested Tern is “Secure”.

Crested Tern

This Little Black Cormorant(Phalacrocorax sulcirostris) was fishing inside the Newcastle Baths. There were a number of small fish inside the baths, and this little fella was into them.

Little Black Cormorant

The Little Black Cormorant swim relatively quickly, using their large, webbed feet for propulsion. Their feathers are not waterproof, so they have to dry them out occasionally.

May 7, 2009

Australasian Gannets 090504

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 11:26 am

Photographing Australasian Gannets, 4th May, 2009

On Monday I went down to Newcastle Baths for a swim. Whilst there, I saw the Australasian Gannets flying over relatively close to the Baths and diving for fish. So, I hurried up with my swim and jumped on the treadlie and hot-footed it back home to get my camera to take some photos of these magnificent birds. I have always loved watching Gannets diving for fish. It is one of the most spectacular sights ever.

So, let us start with the photos. Here is a juvenile cruising above the ocean, looking for fish. They usually fly around in a circle trying to spot where the fish are.

Australasian Gannet

Australasian Gannets are a familiar sight off the southern coast of Australia and are expert fishers. They soar above the surface of the ocean, herding fish into dense shoals.

Australasian Gannet

After they have spotted their fish, they fold their wings back and dive.

Australasian Gannet

They will adjust their dive with their wings and tail as they are going down, and often will pull out of the dive. Sometimes, instead of diving straight down, they will come down at an angle.

Australasian Gannet

They are extremely streamlined and rocket into the water at a great rate of knots. When they are entering the water, their wings are fully folded back and they make the slightest of splashes, even daintier than an Olympic diver.

Australasian Gannet

The fish are grasped with the aid of small serrations that point backwards along the edge of the bill. A bird stays under the water for only about 10 seconds, and normally swallows the fish before it reaches the surface again. And off it flies, flapping its wings and paddling away furiously.

Australasian Gannet

Finally, the Australasian Gannet gets airborne and wings away over the ocean, ascending gradually and going into a circling formation, ready for the next dive, and the next fish.

Australasian Gannet

In New Zealand, the Maori people caught the young gannets for food and used the bones and plumage of the adults. They used the bones of the Australasian Gannet for chiselling tools that were used in the elaborate facial tattooing. The white feathers of the adult Gannet were used to decorate canoes or worn by tribal elders.

Australasian Gannets(Morus serrator) belong to Family: Sulidae and Order: Pelecaniformes. Their conservation status is “Secure”.

Darren Naish writes in his blog:

From a starting point 30 m or so up in the air, gannets launch themselves at the water at about 24 m/s (that's 86 km/h or 53 mp/h, I think). Using tail, wings and feet, they adjust their trajectory and angle before beginning the entire process: Nelson (1980) wrote that 'Gannets may hustle down in one straight air-slide, corkscrew or even tip backwards of vertical before shooting their wings behind them and entering the water like an arrow'

Go here To read a really good article about Gannets by Darren.

Sources: teara.govt.nz, austmus.gov.au, birdsinbackyards.net,

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