Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

December 28, 2009

Ash Island Bird Photography 091228

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , , — admin @ 10:46 am

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Ash Island Bird Photography, 28th December, 2009

The rain has been falling since Christmas Day. I have been stuck inside for four days, so this morning I got up early, fully thinking that I would be going out to Cooranbong to check out the new spot along Dora Creek. I was all dressed and ready to head off, when it started to rain again. Boy, was I peeved! And that is putting it politely compared to what I said at the time. 🙁

So I stuffed around doing other stuff, thinking that the rain would stop, and kept waiting and waiting until past midday until it looked like it might clear up. So out I went to the Hunter Wetlands Centre because its always pretty good there in inclement weather. But it was closed. It was a public holiday today. I had no idea. Things like public holidays have no meaning to me.

So, off I headed to Stockton Sandspit, but the rain came down on the way, so I stopped in at SuperCheap Auto to buy some oil. After that, I had a coffee and did the shopping waiting for the rain to stop. Finally the rain did stop after shopping, so I drove to Ash Island, to see if I could find the Little Crake on the corner. I had a good look for the crake but there was none to be seen. There is still no water in the corner pond, despite all the rain.

I spotted some Golden-headed Cisticola, so I chased them, hoping to get some photos of something at least. It turned out I got some decent photos of them. This one lauched himself off a bush, and luckily I caught him mid-flight.

Golden-headed Cisticola
Golden-headed Cisticola (Cisticola exilis)

This one looks like a fledgling with the white gape.

Golden-headed Cisticola

There were some Superb Fairy-wrens flying around the bushes as well. All of a sudden, a Swamp Harrier flew over real low looking for a feed.

Swamp Harrier
Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans

He flew over a few times and then headed south-east towards the river.

Swamp Harrier

A Nankeen Kestrel was hovering overhead when I went for a walk along the track towards the river. There were also a few White-faced Heron and some crabs scrabbling around in the mud. I also managed to get a shot of a Fairy Martin showing the white bum, squarish tail and bronzy-coloured head.

Fairy Martin
Fairy Martin (Hirundo ariel)

After that, I went down the road looking for some more birds, but found nothing at all. It was quite bizarre. But at least I got outside today after what seemed like ages being stuck indoors in the rain.

Ash Island Bird list 28/12/09

Willy Wagtail
Masked Lapwing
Australian Magpie
Superb Fairy-wren
Magpie-lark
Golden-headed Cisticola
Swamp Harrier
Nankeen Kestrel
Eastern Rosella
Australian Raven
Australian White Ibis
Pacific Black Duck
White-faced Heron
Fairy Martin

October 18, 2009

Ash Island Bird Photography 091019

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Ash Island Bird Photography, 19th October, 2009.

The Baillon’s Crake decided to come out into the sun today. The last time was all overcast and spitting with rain. So today I got some good light. When I got there at the first corner at Ash Island, Robert was already there having a look. He said that the Black-tailed Native-hen had made an appearance earlier. As soon as he left to go to work the Baillon’s Crake came out of hiding. Thanks, Robert. 🙂

Baillon's Crake
Baillon’s Crake (Porzana pusilla)

Robert also pointed out a Little Grassbird to me, so that was good because I now have a faint idea of what the differences are between the Australian Reed-warbler and the Little Grassbird, and also the Golden-headed Cisticola, which I saw later. Well, I think it is a young one and it is having a massive whinge – what a brat! 😉

Golden-headed Cisticola
Golden-headed Cisticola (Cisticola exilis)

After the corner I went down to where the radar stations are and found absolutely nothing. Going out again I thought I spotted something that looked like a Koel so I stopped and went looking for it but could not find the scally wag. I heard what I thought was an owl but I think they only turned out to be some pigeons. I am getting sucked in a lot by these mimics lately. 🙁

The Baillon’s Crake was back at the corner pond on the way out so I took some more photos of it. Here he is having a good old scratch. Maybe he had some wax in his ears. “What’s that? I can’t hear you. Speak up.”

What's that? I can' hear you, I have wax in my ear.
Baillon’s Crake

I did happen to see the Black-tailed Native-hen, but it was a very quick glimpse and then it was back off again into the reeds.

Ash Island bird list 19/10/09

Chestnut Teal
Little Grassbird
Superb Fairy-wren
Baillon’s Crake
pacific Black Duck
Australian White Ibis
Australian Magpie
Black-tailed Native-hen
Golden-headed Cisticola
Australian Reed-warbler
Common Starling
White-faced Heron
Willy wagtail
Grey Fantail
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Masked Lapwing
Fairy Martin
Royal Spoonbill
Purple Swamphen
Australian Raven
Black-tailed Native-hen
Laughing Kookaburra

August 22, 2009

Ash Island Bird Photography 090822

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Ash Island Bird Photography 22nd August 2009.

This morning I went on the monthly Ash Island Wader Survey with Neville. We started at 9 am to co-incide with the high tide that was at 9:30am at a height of 1.59 metres. The morning was mostly overcast with the sun coming out occasionally. At 2pm the temperature was 19 degrees Celsius. We started off at Scotts Point, spotting a few Australian White Ibis and Chestnut Teal. I spotted an immature White-bellied Sea-eagle being harassed by a crow. I have been wondering lately why the raptors do not strike out when being attacked by crows. And why they get attacked. I know magpies will attack raptors who come into their territory when they have young ones.

We checked the water holes along the way and came back onto Milham Road and had a look at Milham Ponds, where there were a few White-faced Herons. Coming in around the other side of Milhams Pond we saw a pair of Red-kneed Dotterels on the southern side. There was very little on Phoenix Flats, just a pair of Masked Lapwings and some Red-capped Plovers. We went back to Milham Road, past Melaleuca Swale, and followed the Hunter River to get onto Ramsar Road. On Teal Waters there were some Chestnut Teals and Black Swans, and around the back past Chat Flats there was nothing. Usually there are some White-fronted Chats there, but more about them later.

We went down Wagtail Way past the Swan Pond which had a couple of Black Swans on it but not much else, except some Black-winged Stilts over the other side. Around the other side we went, where we saw a Swamp Harrier and possibly a Brown Goshawk near Bittern Corner. And that was it for Ash Island.

Black-shouldered Kite
Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris)

We met up with the other wader surveyors at Stockton Sandspit and I managed to get some shots of a Black-shouldered Kite who was hovering over the sandspit. And that was it for the day – not many waders but a great day out, and thanks very much to Neville. 🙂

Ash Island bird list 22/8/09

Australian White Ibis
Straw-necked Ibis
Australian Magpie
Chestnut Teal
Great Egret
Little Egret
Cattle Egret
Willy Wagtail
Grey Fantail
White-bellied Sea-eagle
Brown Falcon
Swamp Harrier
Nankeen Kestrel
Brown Goshawk (?)
White-faced Heron
Welcome Swallow
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Red-browed Finch
Superb Fairy-wren
Eastern Rosella
Pied Butcherbird
Crested Pigeon
Masked Lapwing
Australian Pipip
Red-kneed Dotterel
Pacific Black Duck
Striated Heron
Black Swan
Common Starling
Royal Spoonbill
Purple Swamphen
Black-winged Stilt
White-fronted Chat
Golden-headed Cisticola

May 4, 2009

Bird Photography Ash Island 090427

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Ash Island, Hunter River, Bird Photography, 27th April, 2009.

Well I am home at last. This morning I went to Ash Island, which is on the Hunter River, Newcastle. The temperature was 14 degrees Centigrade at 8 am. I saw a few raptors but they were too far away for any decent shots. Probably also I am getting a bit more fussy now. There was a dead rabbit on the road just before Milham Road starts and the crows and Whistling Kites flew off as I approached. As I said there were lots of raptors in the distance, but nothing came close. The only decent photographs were of Black-fronted Dotterels and a Pied Butcherbird.

The Black-fronted Dotterel(Elseyornis melanops) is of the Family Charadriidae and they are widespread throughout Australia. Their habitat is the shallow margins of wetlands, lakes, marshes and other freshwater bodies of water. The Black-fronted Dotterel feeds on small molluscs and aquatic and terrestrial insects.

Black-fronted Dotterel

C. E. Bryant, in The Emu asserts that: “Particular birds seem to be very local and are often confined to small water-holes and dams. ” This may well be the case as there is always a group of Black-fronted Dotterels at the same spot along Wagtail Way whenever I visit there.

Black-fronted Dotterel

The Pied Butcherbird(Cracticus nigrogularis) is said to be the best singer of the birds of Australia. They belong to family Artamidae. Pied Butcherbirds prey on small reptiles, mammals, frogs, and birds, as well as large insects.

Pied Butcherbird

The nest of the Pied Butcherbird is a bowl of sticks and twigs, lined with grasses and other finer materials.

Pied Butcherbird

Sources: csiro, austmus.gov.au, birdsinbackyards.net, ozanimals.com

March 17, 2009

Bird Photography Stockton Ash Island 090316

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Bird Photography at Ash Island and Stockton , 16th March, 2009.

I went to Ash Island early in the morning and saw a Black-shouldered Kite along the road. He hovered and then dove into a field and flew off. I could not see if he caught any prey. Then down to the pools along Wagtail Way. There were heaps of the usual swallows so I practiced my Bird in Flight photography on them. Nothing came out all that good. The light was pretty low. I went around past the Railway line and then back towards Ramsar Road.

I spotted a Nankeen Kestrel on the way but it was too far away to get a decent shot. Then I headed around to a track off Ramsar Road to have a look at the White-fronted Chats who were once again posing with the bug in the bill. They are such posers, these birds. This one is a male. Notice the dark black band in front with the sharp edges. The male has also a dark black band over the head with distinct edges.

White-fronted Chat

The female White-fronted Chat has a greyish head without the distinctive black bar and the black front bar has not as sharp edges. Also the wing primaries are greyish, whereas they are dark black on the male.

White-fronted Chat

I left Ash Island and then drove to the Stockton side of the Hunter River, just past the wreck. There were about 8 Pacific Golden Plover. This group is distinctive from the group that hang out at the Kooragang Dykes. I took this photo to show the wing feathers.

Pacific Golden Plover

This one still has not got the breeding plumage yet.

Pacific Golden Plover

This Pacific Golden Plover is just starting to get some breeding plumage. Notice the black speckles down the front which will turn fully black with a white line from behind the ear down the sides of the chest.

Pacific Golden Plover

Well, thats about it for today. byeeee.. 🙂

March 2, 2009

Bird Photography Ash Island 090302

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Bird Photography at Ash Island, Newcastle. 2nd March, 2009.

This morning I went to Ash Island. It was an overcast day, and around 20 to 24 degrees Celsius. There was not much around. A very slack day today. I tried out the Sigma flash but I think it does not throw far enough. I will be making a better beamer as soon as I can find out who sells fresnal magnifying lenses. Here is a habitat shot of a Black-fronted Dotterel(Charadrius melanops). Its a very moody shot. I quite like the feel of it.

Black-fronted Dotterel

I saw a white-bellied sea-eagle near the river, but he did not come close enough. On the way home I went down the road to the river on the northern side and saw a Crested Pigeon. I had not taken a photo of one of these before so I thought it may as well not be a totally wasted day. The shots of the Crested Pigeon(Ocyphaps lophotes) came out quite well i thought. They are a nice looking bird.

Crested Pigeon

And here is another.

Crested Pigeon

Bird Species List , Ash Island , 2/3/09.

White-bellied sea-eagle
Common Starling
Australian White Ibis
Black-fronted Dotterel
Black-winged Stilt
White-faced Heron
Crested Pigeon
Common Greenshank
Welcome Swallow

February 27, 2009

Bird Photography Ash Island 090227

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Bird Photography at Ash Island, Newcastle. 27th February, 2009.

Today I went to Ash Island, again! When I pulled up to Wagtail Way, there were the usual Welcome Swallows and the pair of Black-fronted Dotterels at the beginning of the road. So I decided to test out using the Flash. So I put on the flash with a home-made diffuser made out of a milk carton. Here is a photo of a Welcome Swallow(Hirundo neoxena) taken with the flash.

Welcome Swallow

I carried on down the road and there was not much happening. I noticed that the Welcome Swallows were hovering for a longer time than usual so I decided to have a try at catching some in flight. It was extremely difficult to get any in focus, so I just fired away and hoped that some of them would be in focus. Not a recommended technique, in my humble opinion.

Welcome Swallow

Anyway, some of them came out in focus, sort of. The lighting was a bit direct and harsh and coming from behind the birds, so that was another hurdle that I had to jump. This one turned his head obligingly so that his head was in the sun. Thank you little fella.

Welcome Swallow

And here is the last one in this series. I shot so many duds today and I would hazard a guess that maybe I kept about thirty percent of the photos. Not a very good statistic, but these birds are very difficult to photograph in flight.

Welcome Swallow

The only other bird around was this Royal Spoonbill(Platalea regia). Good old reliable spoonbills, they are always obliging with a ready smile and a swish of the bill.

Royal Spoonbill

On the way home I spotted a raptor up in the sky but I am not sure what it was. I am awaiting an ID.

cheers,
steve.

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