Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

February 15, 2010

The Port of Echuca

Filed under: General — Tags: — admin @ 12:13 am

Echuca Paddle-Wheel Steamers

Yesterday I stopped at Echuca on the Murray River in Northern Victoria, Australia, specifically to take a few photos of the paddle wheel steamers and have a ride on one. When I arrived at the Port of Echuca, I was a bit skeptical, as it seemed a bit touristy for my liking. But as I went around, I realized it was all fair dinkum and ridgy-didge. Its all real and authentic as it was in ye olde days.

Paddle Wheel Steamer
P.S. Pride of the Murray

So I booked my passage for the one hour trip up the river and had a walk around. They have an old blacksmiths shop, a wood turning shop and various other old shops and sheds. They even have an old picture theater where you can see old news reels and those penny arcades machines. Its quite nice, and even though it is slightly touristy, it is all real and worth having a look.

Echuca Port
The Port of Echuca

The Wharf is all made of wood and as it was in the days of the river trade, and they have even kept the original rail line and a few of the rolling stock, as well as the station and some of the machinery and buildings. I congratulate Echuca on doing a marvellous job on the restoration of the Port and the Paddle-wheel steamers – hip hip hooray! The paddle wheel steamers must have been the main way that supplies and freight was carried up and down the river. It would have been a lot easier than hauling by bullock cart, thats for sure!

Emmy Lou
P.S. Emmy Lou

I had a ride on the P.S. Alexander Arbuthnot. It had a 10 horse-power steam engine. The boiler attendant chucked these big lumps of wood into the fire and off we went. It was fantastic. So quiet and peaceful as we headed up the river. I would highly recommend a ride on a paddle wheel steamer. It’s great.

February 14, 2010

Gunbower Island

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , , — admin @ 4:03 am

Gunbower Island

Gunbower Island is supposed to be some really large inland island. Don’t know if its true or not. It is an island because the Gunbower Creek comes out of the Murray River and then goes back into it. So, therefore its an island. doh! I stopped at Cohuna in Northern Victoria, which is between Kerang and Echuca. There I turned off onto Gunbower Island and stopped along the creek. After a cuppa and a lie down, I went for a walk along the creek to see what was there.

Lots of Brown Treecreepers is what I saw mostly. They were everywhere. On the trees, the ground, and the dead trees in the creek. There were a few water birds in the water such as Purple Swamphen, Australian Wood Duck and cormorants. Half way along and I was surprised by a White-plumed Honeyeater who swooped down onto the track in front of me and took off with what looked like a bee. He then settled on a dead tree branch and proceeded to bash it around a bit.

White-plumed Honeyeater
White-plumed Honeyeater

After he had bashed it around a bit, trying to kill it, I think, he flew off again. It was quite remarkable. I thought honeyeaters ate pollen, but I guess they eat insects as well. Maybe they should changen their names to insecteaters?

White-plumed Honeyeater
White-plumed Honeyeater

Further on, I was surprised by another bizarre sight – there were a couple of Australian White Ibis foraging around in the bush. It was strange to see them in a woodland setting. I am not used to that. Then again, one more interesting event. A Sacred Kingfisher kept getting chased off by some Noisy Miners. I guess they were defending their territory. All in all it was a strange and eventful day. Not so much for exotic or rare birds but for interesting ornithological behaviour.

Gunbower Island bird list

Azure Kingfisher
Sacred Kingfisher
Little Pied Cormorant
Purple Swamphen
Australian Shelduck
Yellow Rosella
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Superb Fairy-wren
White-plumed Honeyeater
Pacific Black Duck
Australian Reed-warbler
Australian Raven
Welcome Swallow
Red-rumped Parrot
Noisy Miner
Australian Wood Duck
Australian White Ibis
Straw-necked Ibis
Galah
Australian Magpie

Middle Lake Ibis Hatchery

Filed under: Birds — admin @ 3:18 am

Kerang Lakes

The Reedy Lake Ibis Rookery is about 9 kilometers north of Kerang in Northern Victoria along the road to Swan Hill. There is a hide set up that has two stories so you can look over the lake. There are thousands of Straw-necked Ibis on the lake and morning and afternoon they make long glorious V’s in the sky as they fly off into the distance. Mostly, though, they just sit around in dead trees all day.

Straw-necked Ibis
Straw-necked Ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis)

When I arrived late in the afternoon, I went straight along the track to the hide and climbed up the stairs to the top. As well as the thousands of Straw-necked Ibis, I did happen to see one Australian White Ibis. He must have felt a bit out of place. There were a number of other water birds such as Purple Swamphen, Black Swan, Great Egret, Pacific Black Duck, and Australian Shelduck.

Australian Shelduck
Australian Shelduck (Tadorna tadornoides)

I then went along the Nature Trail, which is a 350 meter walk that follows the foreshores of Middle Lake and weaves through a wetland/River Red Gum woodland. There were quite a few Tangled Lignum (Muelenbeckia cunninghamii) bushes that were quite strange. At the end of the track, I spotted a Whistling Kite roosting on a dead tree at the edge of the lake and off he flew.

Whistling Kite
Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus)

Later on a Square-tailed Kite came flying towards me from from the east.

Square-tailed Kite
Square-tailed Kite (Lophoictinia isura)

There is a Cultural Trail that goes over the creek and along the road following the next lake. Reedy Lake region was inhabited by the Brapa Brapa people. The walk has got a ring tree, a scar tree and a midden, which is also known as as an aboriginal cooking mound. I happened to spot a few White-fronted Chats. I was delighted with this sighting because I had seen none since seeing them ages ago at Chat Flats on Ash Island in the Hunter Valley.

White-fronted Chat
White-fronted Chat (Epthianura albifrons)

The next morning I got up early after a very cool night and went around for another look. I first went along the Cultural Trail to see if I could spot the White-fronted Chats again. But they were not there. Instead, I spotted some Blue-faced Honeyeater who were having a feed. The young one looks like he is having a good whinge about something or other, and dad is being very patient with the little brat. 🙂

Blue-faced Honeyeater
Blue-faced Honeyeater (Entomyzon cyanotis)

The Darters seem to fly around a lot here. And they fly around quite high as well. This one did a circle around the creek and was probably going back to his roost, which was a big gum tree alongside the creek.

Darter
Darter (Anhinga melanogaster)

I went back to the hide and the thousands of Straw-necked Ibis were about as well as some Grey Teal and Dusky Moorhen. This Great Egret would just fly in and take over the Ibis’ roosting spots, scattering the Ibis and making himself at home.

Great Egret
Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Kerang Lakes bird list

Australian Raven
Welcome Swallow
Willy Wagtail
Superb Fairy-wren
Straw-necked Ibis
Australian White Ibis – 1
Purple Swamphen
Great Egret
White-fronted Chat
Black Swan
Pacific Black Duck
White-plumed Honeyeater
Square-tailed Kite
Whistling Kite
White-breasted Woodswallow
Galah
Australasian Shelduck
Noisy Miner
Darter
Little Black Cormorant
Little Pied Cormorant
Eastern Rosella
Red-rumped Parrot
Magpie-lark
Crested Pigeon
Australian Magpie
Blue-faced Honeyeater
Pied Butcherbird
Grey Teal
Dusky Moorhen
Laughing Kookaburra

February 6, 2010

Bumbang Island

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , , — admin @ 2:46 am

Bumbang Island

6th February 2010.

It has been raining for about three days and the wind has swung around to the south so it has become cold as well. I even had the doona on me all night. Its weird, the weather, it goes from very hot to very cold, and it will probably go back to very hot again in a couple of days. This morning I did not feel like getting out of bed, but eventually I got out, had breakfast and headed up river about a couple of kilometers from Robinvale to Bumbang Island. You could not actually get across to the island but I stayed on this side and walked along the bank. There were quite a few house boats tied up along the river, and there was one particularly old one that had a paddle wheel driving it. The dog from that house boat came out and spent the time with me.

There were quite a few Yellow Rosellas around, who seemed to be flying in and out of the grape vines. The guns were going off to scare away birds, but they still seemed to be flying in and out without worrying too much. A bunch of Welcome Swallows were darting around over the water and the Yellow Thornbills were twittering away madly in the trees lining the river bank. There was not a lot of bird action around but this mob of Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike were having a bit of fun in the dead trees. This is a juvenile one. They have the black mask across the eyes and the adults have a full black face going right around the eyes from forehead to chest.

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, juvenile (Coracina novaehollandiae)

Down on the corner of the island bend, a Whistling Kite flew over me, soared across the river and came back towards me. He seemed to check me out for a little while, but was not really interested. Mostly I have seen Whistling Kites along the Murray River, and a pair of Australian Hobby, but that has been it for raptors.

Whistling Kite
Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus)

As I was going back to the car, a pair of speedboats came racing by, towing the racing skiers behind them. They must have been practicing for some races that are coming up next month.

Ski Boat

Robinvale bird list 6/2/10

Yellow Rosella
Red-rumped Parrot
Galah
Noisy Miner
Kookaburra
Blue-faced Honeyeater
Laughing Kookaburra
Australian Wood Duck
Pacific Black Duck
Little Black Cormorant
Little Pied Cormorant
Willy Wagtail
Welcome Swallow
Crested Pigeon
Yellow Thornbill
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Australian Magpie
Magpie-lark
Whistling Kite

February 3, 2010

The Mighty Murray River at Robinvale

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , , — admin @ 5:12 am

Murray River – Robinvale

This morning I drove about 2 kilometres down stream from the bridge across the Murray River at Robinvale and just kept walking downstream from there. There were quite few birds around when I got started. Mainly Brown Thornbills and a solitary Sacred Kingfisher. This is a juvenile White-winged Triller I think. If I got it wrong please let me know.

White-winged Triller
White-winged Triller (Lalage tricolor)

I headed inland a bit away from the river at one stage. It was dry sort of mallee country with low trees, mainly grey box type of trees. A big mob of about twenty White-winged Choughs came hopping across the forest floor. They are very funny the way they move across the ground. There were also lots of Brown Treecreeper. They seem to inhabit forests with trees that are a bit scaly, like the stringy barks and the grey box.

I kept walking and walking along the banks of the Murray River, hoping to get a look at the Euston Weir, but I just never did see it. There must be a massive bend in the river there. There was a good looking swampy patch over the other side of the river, but I do not know how to get to it. I will try another day. This Murray River is massive. I cannot even begin to comprehend the size of it. And the flood plain is just covered with millions of hectares of agriculture. Its mind-bogglingly immense.

When I got back to camp a pair of Red-rumped Parrots were feeding right near my camp, so I had to get the camera out and lay on the ground to get some low angle shots. I like this one the best.

Red-rumped Parrot
Red-rumped Parrot (Psephotus haematonotous)

Robinvale Bird List 3/2/10

Brown Thornbill
Yellow Rosella
Sacred Kingfisher
Brown Treecreeper
White-winged Chough
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Australian Wood Duck
Whistling Kite
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Australian Magpie
Willy Wagtail
White-winged Triller
Little Pied Cormorant
Darter
Crested Pigeon
Magpie-lark
Purple Swamphen

February 2, 2010

Euston Weir

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , , , — admin @ 7:04 am

Euston Weir

This morning I went out to the Euston Weir which is about 2 kilometres up river from Robinvale. It is Lock and Weir #15 on the Murray River system and is 1100 kilometres from the river mouth, 47.6 meters above sea level and constructed in 1937. I was hoping to see the raptor that had been nesting up there. I still haven’t received word from the experts whether it is a Brown Goshawk or a Collared Sparrowhawk. Notice that it has got something in its right talon. I cannot really make out what it is, but it looks fluffy. 🙂 Thanks to Paul and James for help with the ID. It was a Brown Goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus).

Id required
Brown Goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus)

I am taking lots of shots of Yellow Rosellas, still trying to get a better and better shot. I still have not got a great shot but this one is interesting because she has just taken off from the branch on which she was resting.

Yellow Rosella
Yellow Rosella (Platycercus elegans flaveolus)

And again, another shot of a Great Cormorant. This photograph is a little sharper and more detailed than yesterday. I am reasonably happy with it, although there is not much action going on. I am not quite sure if the yellow under the chin is breeding plumage or not. Do you know?

Great Cormorant
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

I liked this shot of this very common bird. There are heaps of them flying across the Murray River, so I wanted to get one that shows off the nice yellow plumage under the wings.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita)

This shot is an educational photo. The Magpie-lark on the left is a female with the white face and upper throat. The male on the right has the black face and throat with no white. This makes them relatively easy to spot the male and female of this species.

Magpie-lark
female and male Magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca)

Euston Weir bird list 2/2/10

Grey Teal
Galah
Welcome Swallow
Yellow Rosella
Brown Treecreeper
White-plumed Honeyeater
Australian Reed-warbler
Red-rumped Parrot
Little Black Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Australian Pelican
Australian Magpie
Magpie-lark
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Australian Wood Duck
Crested Pigeon

February 1, 2010

Robinvale Bird Photography

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , , — admin @ 11:31 pm

Robinvale Bird Photography

This morning I followed the Murray River just west from the bridge at Robinvale. As usual, there were heaps of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos about everywhere. As well as them screeching monkeys there were a few kookaburras, and quite a few Red-rumped Parrots as well as Yellow Rosellas.

I heard a lot of screaming from the Whistling Kites as well. Back home, they do not seem to make noise at all compared to these birds around the Murray River. There are quite a few of them, wheeling over the banks of the river on both sides.

Whistling Kite
Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus)

This Australian Hobby was coming in from the other side of the river and landing in a tree near me and screeching away like crazy and pretending that he had a broken wing. I do not know what his story was.

Australian Hobby
Australian Hobby (Falco longipennis)

I also found a couple of reed-warbler nests in the bull rushes after I noticed one trying to catch what looked like a grasshopper or a moth. They were hanging on a single reed stem and were intricately built.

Nest of Australian Reed-warbler
Australian Reed-warbler nest

There were quite a few Rainbow Bee-eaters catching bugs over the river. Sometimes they would catch a bug and bash it against the side of a branch.

Rainbow Bee-eater
Rainbow Bee-eater (Merops ornatus)

This is a funny photo. It looks like these kids are having fun, just jumping from one branch to another. “Wheee, look at me, mom”!

Striated Pardalote
Striated Pardalote (Pardalotus striatus)

Robinvale bird list 1/2/10

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Laughing Kookaburra
Red-rumped Parrot
Rainbow Bee-eater
Australian Wood Duck
Pacific Black Duck
Striated Pardalote
Australian Raven
Whistling Kite
Brown Thornbill
Yellow Thornbill

From Hay to Robinvale

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , — admin @ 11:11 pm

Hay to Robinvale

From Narrandera I got on to the Sturt Highway and headed for Hay. I stopped in at Hay Park for a rest and there were some Straw-necked Ibis and I spotted something up underneath a water tower. They were juvenile Blue-faced Honeyeaters. They must have had a nest up there somewhere. They were screaming out for some food.

Blue-faced Honeyeater
Juvenile Blue-faced Honeyeater (Entomyzon cyanotis)

On the road again, I stopped half way to Balranald at Ravensworth truck stop. I could not believe the number of sparrows there were. Way out in the middle of nowhere and they were there feeding away on these outback bushes. There were plenty of seeds for them to feed on, so why not. Most of them seemed to have their mouths full of these seeds.

House Sparrow
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

I finally made it to Robinvale and stopped at Euston Weir for some breakfast. I could hear this screeching so I got out the camera and this raptor was chasing away all these Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. I had a better look and it had a nest up in a tree. I could not tell if it was a Collared Sparrowhawk or a Brown Goshawk. Could you help to identify this bird, please.

ID please
Collared Sparrowhawk or Brown Goshawk?

There were some cormorants swimming around on the other side of the weir in the turbulent outflow. A couple of White-faced Herons sat on the railings and further down the river was a bunch of Great Cormorants and Little Black Cormorants.

Great Cormorant
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

The Yellow Rosella is also known as the Murray Smoker or the Murrumbidgee Lowry. This parrot is found feeding on the eucalyptus blosssoms of Red River Gums on flood plain forests along the mid-Murray, lower Murrumbidgee, Lachlan and Darling Rivers. The Yellow Rosella is considered a sub-species of the Crimson Rosella.

Yellow Rosella
Yellow Rosella (Platycercus elegans flaveolus)

Further up past the caravan park in Robinvale I stopped for some lunch and this female Red-rumped Parrot roosted really close to me so I had to take her photo.

Red-rumped Parrot
Red-rumped Parrot (Psephotus haemaonotus)

Robinvale bird list 31/1/10

Yellow Rosella
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Laughing Kookaburra
Australian Wood Duck
Magpie-lark
Willy Wagtail
Crested Pigeon
White-faced Heron
Great Cormorant
Little Black Cormorant
Little Pied Cormorant
Australian Pelican
Brown Treecreeper
White-plumed Honeyeater
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

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