Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

October 13, 2009

Borah Creek Bird Photography 091011

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Borah Creek Bird Photography 11th October, 2009.

That afternoon I went up the road to Borah Creek reserve. There were lots more Brown Treecreepers here as well. Brown Treecreepers are highly sociable birds, living and breeding communally. They were on the ground a lot feeding which is quite common with Brown Treecreepers in general. They search for insects on the ground, probing among leaf litter, grass and fallen timber. They hop one foot in front of the other through litter.

Brown Treecreeper
Brown Treecreeper (Climacteris picumnus)

Here is a shot of another Brown Treecreeper up on a tree branch. The streaked markings are quite defined on this bird. This may be a male because they have patches of black and white streaking on the upper breast, whilst the female has rufous or white streaking.

Brown Treecreeper
Brown Treecreeper, possibly male.

I surprised a pair of Brown Quail in the grass and off they flew, but I did not see them again. There were both White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike in the trees up in the grasslands. Down by the creek, There were a few White-browed Scrubwren who were flittering around the wire and the tree roots on the creek bank. They were funny when they were going in and out the holes in the wire.

White-browed Scrubwren
White-browed Scrubwren (Sericornis frontalis)

I was hearing this very low hoo hoo sound, and I thought it was an owl. I went looking for the perpetrator of this sub-bass snarl but could not see the “owl” that I was looking for. I eventually found the culprit, a male Common Bronzewing. I laughed at myself very profoundly. Their preferred habitat is the natural vegetation of woodlands and open forests. They eat mainly the seeds of grasses and shrubbery, grazing on the ground.

Borah Creek bird list 11/10/09

Willy Wagtail
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Galah
Laughing Kookaburra
Superb Fairy-wren
Brown Quail
White-plumed Honeyeater
Australian Raven
Brown Treecreeper
Tree Martin
White-browed Scrubwren
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Straw-necked Ibis
Black-fronted Dotterel
Common Bronzewing
Rufous Songlark
Little Friarbird

October 12, 2009

Da Thriller in Manilla

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Manilla Riverside Bird Photography 11th October 2009.

I went into Manilla after Adams Reserve just to charge up the batteries. I stopped by the river and thought I might go for a walk along the river. There were a few birds around, you never know. There were quite a few common birds and I am thinking to myself, lots of common birds, but nothing too unusual or different. Boy, was I to change my tune.

First up, there were Noisy Friarbirds, Galahs, Crested Pigeons, Rainbow Lorikeet, Magpie-larks. ho hum, how ordinary. Further on up the river I spotted a pair of Pacific Black Ducks fishing for something in the river. Then, shock , horror, a Silver Gull flew past. You could have blown me over with a feather! What was he doing in this neck of the woods. There was also a Little Pied Cormorant as well to make me feel like I was back at the sea side.

Then I spotted my first Dollarbird for the summer. He was up on a wire and looking radiant in his beautiful plumage.

Dollarbird
Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis)

He even did a pirouette for me to show his little dollar markings on his wings.

Dollarbird
Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis)

Then to top it all off, I spied a Double-barred Finch just sitting on a branch right near me. I had the camera clicking away like crazy, I can tell you.

Double-barred Finch
Double-barred Finch (Taenopygia bichenovii)

Which do you think is his best side?

Double-barred Finch
Double-barred Finch (Taenopygia bichenovii)

This place was starting to look far from ordinary by the minute. As well as all that I had been hearing an owl hooting over the other side of the river. And this was at midday. I was getting back to the car and ready to put it all away when I heard this commotion above me. It was a couple of Pied Currawongs chasing a Channel-billed Cuckoo. It went on for ages with the Channel-billed Cuckoo eventually wearing out the currawongs. It was like a fighter plane dogfight in the Battle for Britain.

Channel-billed Cuckoo
Channel-billed Cuckoo (Scythrops novaehollandiae)

At the end the Channel-billed Cuckoo was doing laps of the park, honking loudly for everyone to admire him. “I am the greatest!” It was quite extraordinary.

Channel-billed Cuckoo
Channel-billed Cuckoo (Scythrops novaehollandiae)

I would highly recommend a walk along the river at Manilla. There is a wide variety of bird life and you never know what you might see. To get there, just turn off before the bridge and park any where under the bridge next to the river and just start walking.

Manilla Riverside bird list

Eastern Rosella
Dollarbird
Straw-necked Ibis
Double-barred Finch
Channel-billed Cuckoo
Galah
Crested Pigeon
Noisy Friarbird
Australian Raven
Rainbow Lorikeet
Magpie-lark
Willy Wagtail
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Silver Gull
Superb Fairy-wren
Australian King-parrot
Common Starling
Pied Currawong
Pacific Black Duck
Australian Reed-warbler
Red Wattlebird
Little Pied Cormorant

Adams Reserve Bird Photography 091010

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Adams Reserve Bird Photography, 10th October, 2009.

Wedge-tailed Eagle
Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax)

Adams Reserve is just out from Manilla in North-western New South Wales. Just call in to the Tourist Information Office in Manilla and get a Manilla Bird Routes brochure, and you will be set to go. I arrived in the afternoon, after a mammoth trip from Walcha, then through Tamworth. As soon as I got out of the car, there was a Wedge-tailed Eagle wheeling above me. He stayed there for a while, but I had to leave him, as there were heaps of other birds calling out to me. There were Brown Treecreepers everywhere. I have never seen so many treecreepers as in the last couple of days.

Brown Treecreeper
Brown Treecreeper (Climacteris picumnus)

There were a few honeyeaters that were around. but not that many. Just a few Scaly-cheeked Honeyeaters and White-plumed Honeyeaters. Imagine my shock when a Rainbow Bee-eater plonked on a branch right in front of me. I was so surprised that I ruined the shot and its all blurry. doh! I guess the highlights of the afternoon would have to be the Wedge-tailed Eagle, Brown Treecreepers and the lovely Rainbow Bee-eater. Hopefully in the morning there will be lots more birds for me to take good photographs of. Selamat Tidur!

Brown Treecreeper
Brown Treecreeper

During the night it rained a bit, but when I got up in the morning, you could hardly tell. It was as dry as anything. It was still a little bit overcast and a tad cold, but the sun did come out later on for a while. There were a few Noisy Miners and Noisy Friarbirds out and about early but not much else.

White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike (Coracina papuensis)

The local Wedge-tailed Eagle made another appearance, being hassled by a lone Magpie-lark (or was it a Pied Butcherbird? ) today.

Wedge-tailed Eagle
Wedge-tailed Eagle

There were a few Brown Honeyeaters around again and I spotted a nice Rufous Whistler, who just happened to be singing a fine song. la la la, it went. On the road out, I spotted an Eastern Rosella and a Brown Falcon sitting on a fence post.

Wedge-tailed Eagle
Wedge-tailed Eagle

Adams Reserve Bird List 10/10/09

Wedge-tailed Eagle
Scaly-cheeked Honeyeater
White-plumed Honeyeater
Brown Treecreeper
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike
Rainbow Bee-eater
Willy Wagtail
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Superb Fairy-wren
Red-browed Finch
Pied Currawong
Galah
Crested Pigeon
Magpie-lark
Rufous Whistler
Noisy Miner
Noisy Frarbird
Eastern Yellow Robin
Spotted Turtle-dove
Australian Magpie
Australian Raven
Dusky Woodswallow
Eastern Rosella
Brown Falcon

October 10, 2009

Mummel Gulf NP Bird Photography 091009

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Mummel Gulf National Park Bird Photography 9th October 2009.

Mummel Gulf National Park is about sixty kilometres from Walcha. It had been nearly twenty years since I have been here last. At that time(1992) I as was part of the North East Forest Alliance blockading so that the area would not get logged. It is a joy to see it as a National Park.

Scarlet Robin
Scarlet Robin

There is a lovely camping area at New Country Swamp with toilets and fireplaces. When I got there it was about 10:30am. A bit late but I thought I might just go for a look around and take the camera with me, just in case. I followed a track into the bush and happened upon some thornbills who were gathering nest material that looked like an old one that had fallen down. It was made up of moss and stringy bark.

Brown Thornbill
Brown Thornbill

The track eventually hit the main dirt road into the park so I followed that for a kilometer or two. I spotted lots of treecreepers, a few pairs of Scarlet Robins, and a Shining Bronze-cuckoo, who was posing daintily for me. A Spotted Pardalote also made an appearance, hamming it up for the camera.

Scarlet Robin
Scarlet Robin

I could not get away from them. It was midday and the birds just kept turning up. It seems like they play all day long around here. I hiked back to the camp and on the way down saw a thornbill hanging upside down from a fern. He was doing it repeatedly. There must have been some insects inside a leaf curl or something like that.

Brown Thornbill
Brown Thornbill

In the afternoon I think I saw a White-throated Treecreeper. It was so dark I could not see his eyebrows properly. The White-throated and Red-browed Treecreepers have a similar looking breast, but the Red-browed has some rufous speckling on the top of the belly whilst the White-throated has a much larger area of white on the breast.

Red-browed Treecreeper
Red-browed Treecreeper

I thought I had seen a Pallid Cuckoo, but it did not have the stripe through the eye, plus he had some rufous/chestnut marking around the flanks and some colour in the wings, so I surmised it must be a Fan-tailed Cuckoo, probably a juvenile. That night I heard some Masked Lapwings coming in to roost at the swamp.

In the morning the weather had come over all foggy and cloudy. It was miserable so I set out anyway. There were still heaps of birds chirping away merrily. I spotted a few Crimson Rosellas and some more Red-browed Treecreepers. The Scarlet Robins made another appearance, and I even spotted a juvenile feeding on the grass down at the camping area.

Mummel Gulf NP bird list 9-10/10/09

Grey Fantail
Brown Thornbill
Red-browed Treecreeper
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Welcome Swallow
Little Wattlebird
Red Wattlebird
Scarlet Robin
Spotted Pardalote
Shining Bronze-cuckoo
Pied Currawong
Eastern Yellow Robin
Fan-tailed Cuckoo
Australian Magpie
Masked Lapwing
Crimson Rosella
Superb Fairy-wren
Eastern Whipbird (H)
Laughing Kookaburra

Cottan-Bimbang NP 090108

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Cottan-Bimbang National Park Bird Photography 8th October 2009.

“On top of the Great Dividing Range”

Cottan-Bimbang National Park is about eighty kilometres from Walcha along the Oxley Highway going from Wauchope to Walcha. In the afternoon I had stopped at the Ellenborough River but there seemed to be not much there. I camped for the night at a road going off into the forest.

Before dark, I went for a short walk along an overgrown track. It was mainly rainforest mixed with eucalypt trees. There were quite a few White-browed Scrubwrens and thornbills. You could hear quite a few whipbirds as well. A pair of Crimson Rosella came to visit me just on dusk and while I was having dinner a Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo flew past.

In the morning I drove further on and went down the Myrtle Scrub Road for a couple of kilometres. Again, there were lots of thornbills and White-browed Scrubwrens. The whipbirds were making quite a racket and I saw quite a few more Crimson Rosella. A Brush Turkey crossed the path and hurriedly ran away into the bush when he saw me.

They Myrtle Scrub Road is a circuit that goes for fifteen kilometers along some pretty spectacular country and habitat. It joins back onto the Oxley Highway further down. A trip down this road is highly recommended for the potential and the scenery.

Cottan-Bimbang NP bird list

Australian Magpie
Australian Raven
Eastern Whipbird (H)
Brown Thornbill
Australian Brush-turkey
Crimson Rosella
White-browed Scrubwren
Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo
Rufous Fantail
Buff-rumped Thornbill
Lewin’s Honeyeater

October 8, 2009

Kattang Nature Reserve Bird Photography 091008

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Kattang Nature Reserve, 8th October, 2009.

The weather blew up something shocking over night. The wind was howling from the south at more than sixty knots. There were some horrendous gusts which shook the van and made me think it was going to blow over. In the morning it was not much better, the wind was still blowing very hard, but the sun was starting to peek out over the clouds. So, I ventured up to the Kattang Nature Reserve at Camden Heads and did the walk to Perpendicular Point. I have no idea why I went out, the weather was appalling. I was thinking to myself that I had to be crazy to be doing this, Why oh Why?

Despite my reservations, I spotted a Little Wattlebird pretty well straight away. So there were some birds out today and they were not all tucked away in bed still. Further on a Grey Fantail was scrabbling about with a couple of Brown Thornbills and making a hell of a racket. Then a little bit later, a Grey Shrike-thrush was singing me a song – probably about what sort of dill would be out on a day like this?

Grey Shrike-thrush
Grey Shrike-thrush (Collurincla harmonica)

I did not go right out to the end of the Point as the wind was almost knocking me over on the exposed tops of the hills. There were a few Gannets down the beach looking for a feed. And that was about it. Not much of a day, but at least I got some exercise.

Kattang NR bird list 8/10/09

Grey Fantail
Brown Thornbill
Little Wattlebird
Grey Shrike-thrush
Australasian Gannet

Laurieton Bird Photography 091007

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Laurieton Bird Photography, 7th October, 2009, pm.

Brahminy Kite
Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus)

After my visit to Dunbogan National Park, I drove to Laurieton. In the afternoon I went for a surf at North Haven breakwater. When I got in a Brahminy Kite flew down the river. I was still wet, so I had to manically dry myself and get the camera out. He circled me a few times and then he flew off towards Pilot Beach on the other side of the river.

Striated Heron
Striated Heron (Butorides striatus)

Later on in the afternoon, I was having trouble deciding where to go. I was just parked on the southern side of the river at Camden Haven and saw a Striated Heron fly to the breakwater just near where I was sitting. So I grabbed my camera and took some photos of it.

Striated Heron
Striated Heron

After that, I thought to myself “I could just go along the river, there might be some other good birds to see.” As it happened, I heard these outrageous sqwarking and a Pied Oystercatcher flew down the river, or was it up? Well, towards the sea, whatever that is. I found a patch of scrubby bush just in from the road and happened upon a mob of Variegated Fairy-wrens. They were too quick to get a decent photograph of them.

Further up the road, I spotted some Superb Fairy-wrens. I did not think that the Variegated and the Superbs hung out in the same area. But the Superb Fairy-wrens were on the other side of the road, so that may have been the demarcation line. About six Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos had been flying around all afternoon and I spotted them going past a few times. They were flying back and forth over the river.

Osprey
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

The Ospreys were roosting on the navigation light pole at the end of the breakwater.

Australasian Figbird
male Australasian Figbird (Sphecotheres vieilli)

I spotted a male Australasian Figbird in a tree at Depot Beach and he had a young one with him. He even followed me around for a while. I do not know what his problem was.

Australasian Figbird
immature Australasian Figbird

Laurieton Bird List 7/10/09

Australian Pelican
Little Black Cormorant
Little Pied Cormorant
Australasian Gannet
Whimbrel
Darter
Pied Oystercatcher
Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo
Variegated Fairy-wren
Superb Fairy-wren
Little Watttlebird
Australian Raven
Red-browed Finch
Crested Tern
Australasian Figbird
Welcome Swallow
Osprey
Brahminy Kite
Crested Pigeon
Australian Magpie
Grey Teal

Dooragan NP Bird Photography 091007

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Dooragan National Park Bird Photography, 7th October, 2009.

Dooragan National Park is North Brother Mountain, just a few kilometres from Laurieton on the Kew to Laurieton road. I stopped just before the top of the mountain and walked down the Laurieton to Switchback Track, which is two kilometres long. But I only went down for about twenty minutes. It is very steep!

The track pushes down through a range of vegetation types. The aspect and the elevation influences the different vegetation types on the mountain. It has:
* Dry Eucalypt Forest – Blackbutt association
* Rainforest adjoining wet eucalypt forest
* Brush Box and Grass Tree communities
* Dry eucalypt forests – Blackbutt and Casuarina associations.

After I came back up, I walked from the Switchback to the summit. This track went for less than a kilometre and was a moderate grade, traversing the side of the mountain to the summit. At the summit you could see all the way to North Haven and Lake Cathie, on the way to Port Macquarie to the north. If you walk a five hundred metre track you can see all the way to Diamond Head and Crowdy Head to the south.

There were mainly Rainbow Lorikeets about and a few Australian King-parrots. The male king parrots have an all-red front and head, whereas the females have a green chest. Up the top were a Kookaburra, a pair of magpies, and on the way back I saw an Eastern Yellow Robin, a couple of Grey Shrike-thrush and heard an Eastern Whipbird.

Dooragan Bird List 7/10/09

Rainbow Lorikeet
Australian King-parrot
Laughing Kookaburra
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet
Australian Magpie
Grey Shrike-thrush
Eastern Yellow Robin
Eastern Whipbird (H)

October 4, 2009

Baillons Crake

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Baillon’s Crake

Genus: Porzana
Family: Rallidae
Order: Gruiformes

The Baillon’s Crake (Porzana pusilla) is Australia’s smallest crake, and was formerly known as the Marsh Crake. Its size is from 15-18 centimetres. They often walk over the water weeds they are so light. Their bill is olive-brown and their eyes are red with a light blue-grey eyebrow. The abdomen is a light blue-grey, and they can be paler towards the throat. Their upper parts are brownish, streaked black. The flanks and undertail coverts are barred black and white.

Baillon's Crake

They are distributed mainly along the coastal areas of the Australian mainland, particularly the south, and Tasmania. They are also found in Europe, Africa, Asia and New Zealand. They favour freshwater swamps with water plants such as Triglochin procerum, Vallisneria spp, Potomageton spp, Baumea spp and Bolboschoenus caldwelli.

The Baillon’s Crake feeds on aquatic insects, small freshwater molluscs, and the green shoots of water plants. They probe in mud or shallow water with their bills.

They breed from Spring to Summer. In southern Australia, the breeding period is from August to January. Their nests are well hidden amongst dense vegetation with an approach ramp, and are made from reed stems, grasses and water plants. The stems of the plants around the nest are woven to create a canopy that hides the nest from any enemies that may be lurking about. They lay from 4 to 8 eggs and incubate them within 16-18 days. Both sexes look after the eggs.

Hunter Wetlands Centre Bird Photography 091004

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Hunter Wetlands Centre 4th October 2009

This afternoon, the weather was coming in all cloudy and windy, so I went over to the Hunter Wetlands Centre, at Shortland. Its a great place, no matter what the weather. In the ponds in front of the centre were the usual lot of water birds – Eurasian Coot, Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Magpie Goose, Australian White Ibis, Grey Teal, Chestnut Teal and Australasian Grebe.

The rain started to come down so I took some shelter near a pond. There was a Royal Spoonbill feeding in front of me. He was in full breeding plumage. This consists of long white plumes coming from the back of their heads, a creamy-yellow wash across the upper breast, yellow patches above the eyes and a pink patch on the forehead.

Royal Spoonbill
Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia) in breeding plumage.

There was also an Great Egret next to him, coming into breeding plumage. Breeding plumage for the Great Egret consists of a turquoise colour on the face, and delicate ornamental feathers coming from the back. The diagnostic feature to distinguish Great Egrets is that the line below the eye extends past the eye. In Intermediate Egrets this line stops at the back of the eye.

Intermediate or Great Egret?
Great Egret (Ardea alba)

In the Australian White Ibis breeding pond, there were five Whistling Kites roosting on the dead trees. They were not doing much flying around in the drizzle. I do not blame them. I think this was was a juvenile.

Whistling Kite
Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus)

Hunter Wetlands Centre bird list 4/10/09

Eurasian Coot
Dusky Moorhen
Purple Swamphen
Australasian Grebe
Welcome Swallow
Willy Wagtail
Magpie-lark
Magpie Goose
Australian White Ibis
Little Egret
Intermediate Egret
Royal Spoonbill
White-faced Heron
Little Black Cormorant
Pacific Black Duck
Grey Teal
Chestnut Teal
Australian Raven
White-cheeked Honeyeater
Brown Honeyeater
Red-browed Finch
Superb Fairy-wren
White-browed Scrubwren
Laughing Kookaburra
Spotted Turtle-dove
Whistling Kite – 5
Noisy Miner
Silvereye
Yellow Thornbill

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