Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

April 27, 2009

Bird Photography Willie Retreat 090407

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Bird Photography at Willie Retreat, Macquarie Marshes 7th April, 2009

After stopping at Warren, I drove on to Willie Retreat which is up the Carinda Road. I missed the turnoff, which goes off to the right at the Mara crossroads, and had to go back about twenty kilometers after asking a farmer.

At Willie Retreat, I stayed in the Woolshed, which was spartan but adequate. It had facilities for cooking, a fridge, and most importantly, power to charge the batteries and run the laptop.

In the afternoon, I went out and shot some photos around the homestead and the Mini-wetlands. These Apostlebirds(Struthidea cinerea) were just hanging around my van and were within meters of me, jumping around and squwarking and carrying on.

Apostlebird

I saw this bird hovering over a grasshopper, then going in like a raptor. I thought it was some type of tiny kite, but it turned out to be a White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike(Coracina papuensis).

White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike

I liked this shot of the starlings that all came in and clustered around the dead tree near the water hole.

Common Starling

There was a bunch of Grey-crowned Babblers(Pomatostomus temporalis) jumping up to this branch. I think they were digging out grubs. I think this one is an immature bird as it does not have a yellow eye. They are really funny birds and carry on like a bunch of idiots. ha ha..

Grey-crowned Babbler

There were a few restless flycatchers around as well, but I thought that they were odd looking willy wagtails. I only found out later what they were. There were a bunch of White-browed Woodswallows(Artamus superciliosus) hanging around on the trees and on the fences.

White-browed Woodswallow

Bird Species List for Willie Retreat 7/4/09

Apostlebird
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike
Common Starling
Red-rumped Parrot
Grey-crowned Babbler
Australian Pipit
Emu
Restless Flycatcher
White-browed Woodswallow
Grey Fantail
White-plumed Honeyeater

Bird Photography Warren 090407

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Bird Photography at Warren 7th April, 2009

I left Newcastle about 1pm on the Monday and drove to Singleton then Merriwa along the Golden Highway(86?). Stopped at Mendooran where there is a good rest area with BBQ, lights, and toilets. I drove on through to Gilgandra and slept at a rest area about 30 kilometers west of Gilgandra.

On Tuesday morning I awoke about 6:30am and it was freezing cold, so I put on the flanny, a jumper and some long pants, as well as shoes and socks. That is how cold it was! I took some photos of the sunrise then drove to Warren for breakfast. On the way into Warren I saw that there were heaps of raptors hanging around the sewerage runoff just outside town. So after breakfast I went back for a good look.

Black Kite

Not a bad site, hey? There were a few black kites hanging around the dead trees near the water. I got onto the mounds and had fantastic views of the birds.

Black Kite

Also hanging out on the dead trees was a Juvenile White-necked Heron(Ardea pacifica), also called a Pacific Heron. Note the spotted neck. Some of them have red spots on their wings. This one did not seem to.

Juvenile White-necked Heron

Anyhoo, back to the Black Kites(Milvus migrans), which i could not get enough of.

Black Kite

And another, this one was checking me right out.

Black Kite

There were also a pair of Black Falcons(Falco subniger) flying around and roosting in a big eucalyptus tree at the end of the water hole. They are a spectacular bird and I was very stoked to see them.

Black Falcon

Some of the other members of the HBOC saw a lot of waterbirds over the road, such as blue-billed ducks, musk ducks, pink-eared ducks, etc. But I missed out on all those. I saw a couple of grey teals and some swamp hens, and that was it. In the trees around the water hole there were various birds such as White-plumed honeyeaters and Spotted Bowerbirds.

On the road from Warren to Carinda on the Way to Willie Retreat, I saw a couple of Wedge-tailed Eagles flying off road kills, but did not manage to get a decent enough photo of them.

Bird Species LIst, Warren area, 7/4/09

Black-shouldered Kite
Eastern Rosella
Noisy Miner
Galah
Red-rumped Parrot
Bluebonnet
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Black Kite
Rock Dove
Cockatiel
Juvenile White-necked Heron
Black Falcon
Nankeen Kestrel
Whistling Kite
Crested Pigeon
Spotted Bowerbird
White-plumed honeyeater
Wedge-tailed Eagle

March 23, 2009

Bird Photography Jerusalem Creek 090322

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Bird Photography – Jerusalem Creek, 22nd March, 2009

This day I went on an outing to Jerusalem Creek with the HBOC. Jerusalem Creek is just out of Dungog, towards Chichester Dam up in the Barrington Tops National Park.

When we got there, we saw a Bassian Thrush(Zoothera lunulata) just hopping around in the car park.

Bassian Thrush

We set off following the track through the rainforest, past the waterfall to the right. At the lookout near the waterfall we saw a grand total of two birds, a couple of grey fantails. Setting off back along the track, we saw plenty of places where the lyrebirds had been scratching in the dirt. We heard some Glossy Black Cockatoos and saw a couple of scrub-wren but nothing much. It was as dead as a door nail.

Down on a bridge in the valley we spotted what we thought was a whipbird but the photos were a blur. I just could not get a decent shot of him because of the darkness and the leaves in the way.

Later on, coming up the hill, we managed to spot a grey Shrike-thrush(Colluricincla harmonica) up in the trees on a casuarina.

Grey Shrike-thrush

And here is another photograph of the Grey shrike-thrush.

Grey Shrike-thrush

There was not much else that I saw. All in all it was a pretty dead day, not many birds around. But i did manage to photograph two new birds for that day and I had a wonderfull walk through the rainforest, so it was a good day after all.

March 22, 2009

Birds in Flight Photography

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Ash Island,  20th March, 2009

Today was a bit of a dud when i went to Ash Island. There was a White-bellied Sea-eagle sitting on a power pole and he flew off but I did not get a decent shot of him, and he was flying away from me, anyway. The only thing around were the Black-winged Stilts and the obligatory Swallows and a flock of what I thought were Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, but they were too far away on the other side of the pond to get any good photos.

So, I just practiced my Birds in Flight(BIF) photography. Here is what I do.

Black-winged stilt

I use the back focus button and I have the AutoFocus(AF) set on AI-Servo. It is best to have the bird coming along ways rather than straight at you. And try and get the light so that the bird’s face is lit and not in shade. Try to photograph the birds in flight from the front, rather than going away from you.

Normally I use Manual Exposure. For dark birds, I overexpose about 2 stops and for white birds, i will overexpose about 1.3 stops.

I try to have at least a shutter speed of 1/1000 or more, maybe 1/1250. I do not think it is necessary to go faster than this. If I have enough light I will try and get the best ISO i can , and try and get an aperture something like f/8. But mostly I use f/5.6, because I like to keep a lower ISO. If you have a top end camera you can bump up the ISO and the inbuilt noise-reduction will sort out the jaggies for you.

Black-winged stilt

The photo above was shot at 1/1000, f/5.6 and ISO250.

What else is there? Oh yeah, I only use the center focus point, and not the nine points. That is my opinion, I think the center focus point only is faster and does not go tracking off onto other crap in the viewfinder. But try it for yourself.

Black-winged stilt

But herein learn the secret of Birds in Flight Photography. Dont worry too much about all the technical details. Get the basics down. That is your exposure, and make sure you have a fast enough shutter speed, ie , greater than 1/1000. The big secret is practice, practice, practice. Just keep doing it and doing it until you get competent at it.

The end.

March 17, 2009

Bird Photography Tomago 090317

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Bird Photography at Tomago Wetlands, 17th March, 2009.

Today I went with the HBOC survey group to Tomago Wetlands. This is the second time I have been to Tomago Wetlands. The first time it was very dry. The weather was clear with sunny skies and a temperature of about 24 degrees Celsius. But, the big news is that I have seen four, count them 4, new bird species, with photos. The other big news is that it was officially raptor day at Tomago, with no less than than ten raptors seen during the morning. Australian Hobby, Black-shouldered Kites, Swamp Harrier, and Whistling Kites. As soon as I pulled up in the car, there was an Australian Hobby right where we met up.

So off we went into the wetlands and stop near the gates where we saw a heap of birds in the Casuarina trees. And the first new bird was a Shining bronze-cuckoo(Chrysococcyx lucidus). It may be also called a Golden Bronze-Cuckoo, but I am not sure about that.

Shining Bronze-cuckoo

Up towards the river was a Male Mistletoebird(Dicaeum hirundinaceum). I think there may have been a female one, but I am unsure about that. First time seen for me.

Mistletoebird

The next new bird was Dicrurus bracteatus, the spangled drongo. This bird is very easy to spot with its distinctive bifurcated tail.

Spangled Drongo

Along the flats there were a lot of grassbirds, Golden-headed Cisticolas and some Southern Emu-wren. We managed to disturb a Latham’s Snipe(Gallinago hardwickii) which took off into the air and flew quite a ways, more than they usually do.

Latham's Snipe

Going back to the parking spot, we spotted a couple of Whistling Kites(Haliastur sphenurus) and here is one of them.

Whistling Kite

So all in all it was a great day for me with four new birds – Shining Bronze-cuckoo, Spangled Drongo, Mistletoebird, and Latham’s Snipe.

Bird Species List for Tomago Wetlands, 17/3/09

Australian Hobby
Black-shouldered Kite
Whistling Kite
Swamp Harrier
yellow-faced Honeyeater
Southern Emu-wren
Shining Bronze-cuckoo
Spangled Drongo
Mistletoebird
Golden-headed Cisticola
Latham’s Snipe

March 4, 2009

Newcastle Seabirds Photography 090304

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Bird Photography of Seabirds at Nobbys and Newcastle Baths, 4th February, 2009.

This morning I took a trip to the Newcastle Harbour and walked along the Nobbys breakwater inside the Harbour. There were a bunch of Silver Gulls, Common Terns and Crested Terns roosting on a rocky outcrop. I took a few photos but they were a fair way off and not up to par.

A Darter was drying its wings on a rock in the harbour.

Darter

After that, I drove over to Newcastle Baths which is on a rock shelf next to Newcastle Beach. There is always a lot of Gulls and terns roosting there. They take off for a bit of fishing, then fly back in for a rest and a squabble.

One of my main objective was to get some terns in flight. So here is a Crested Tern(Sterna bergii).

crested tern

And another of one coming in to land.

crested tern

This one is just landing..

crested tern

A Pied Cormorant flew past. He looks like he is in full breeding plumage. Notice the yellow and the blue around the eye.

Pied Cormorant

And a Sooty Oystercatcher was lugging what looked to be a sea snail over to his mates. There are usually about a half a dozen Sooty Oystercatchers hanging around here.

Sooty oystercatcher

So that is it for today. I hope to go over to Merewether Baths another day to photograph the terns. They roost there every day as well. and also further along Burwood Beach at the rock shelf there.

March 3, 2009

Seaham Bird Photography 090303

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Bird Photography at Seaham, Hunter Valley. 3rd February, 2009.

This morning we went to a property at East seaham which is on the Williams River past Raymond Terrace in the Lower Hunter Valley. The first thing we saw when we started off was about three Pied Butcherbirds. Here is one of them.

Pied Butcherbird

We walked along the river side for a fair way and then headed back up the paddock. Something must have disturbed the birds at the dam because of some reason, probably a raptor. This flock of mixed Australian White Ibis and Straw-necked Ibis flew around and around. Its funny seeing them mixed up like this. Or is it?

Ibis

Way in the distance on a hill we saw a Wedge-tailed Eagle.

Wedge-tailed Eagle

Then a pair of them starting circling way off in the distance. I think there were a pair of crows harassing them. Its a pity they did not come closer and this is the best shot I could manage. Pretty crappy, hey?

Wedge-tailed Eagle

And on the way back, at the end of the trek, there was an Australian Hobby in a paddock on a dead tree.

Australian Hobby

Bird Species List, East Seaham, 3/3/09

White-faced Heron
Noisy Miner
Wedge-tailed Eagle
Australian Hobby
Whistling Kite
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Intermediate Egret
Australian White Ibis
Straw-necked Ibis
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Grey Fantail

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 26, 2009

Bird Photography Shortland 090226

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Bird Photography at the Hunter Wetlands Centre, Shortland. 26th February, 2009.

This morning I went late to the Hunter Wetlands Centre at Shortland in Newcastle. It was another overcast day and the mosquitos were biting something chronic. I applied the repellant rather thickly. First up is this interesting photo of a moulting male Superb Fairy-wren. His feathers look very bedgraggled.

Superb Fairy-wren

As per usual there was a Whistling Kite circling around looking for a feed. I put this photo in portrait mode for a change. It seems to suit the long wingspan of this remarkable raptor.

Whistling Kite

There were heaps and heaps of Straw-necked Ibis roosting in the trees and causing a general nuisance. They cannot seem to sit still for five minutes before they fly off to another tree. They are constantly flying here and there, but why? Check out the colours on this bird’s wings.

Straw-necked Ibis

Another very occurrence was the sight of this Nankeen Night Heron with a stick in his bill. I am assuming he is building a nest. But why is he building a nest at this very late stage.

Nankeen Night Heron

And here is the obligatory Great Egret. One cannot do anything without a photo of a Great Egret. So here one is, flying.

Great Egret

February 25, 2009

Bird Photography Belmont Lagoon 090225

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Bird Photography at Belmont Lagoon. 25th February, 2009.

This morning I went to Belmont Lagoon to do some more bird photography. I have been going four mornings in a row. I did want to do some surfing photography the other day but it was not very good, so I just carried on to Redhead Lagoon. Well this morning I finally got a photo of a Striated Heron(Butorides striatus). This has been my third trip here without a photo of this bird but today I finally cracked it. Its not very good, not sharp and it is noisy, but it is a photo.

Striated Heron

I made my way along the lagoon edge and along the sand dunes I saw a White-cheeked Honeyeater and a Little Wattlebird or two. There was a White-bellied Sea-eagle roosting on a dead tree in the middle of a swamp. Also roosting on dead trees were a white-faced heron and a cormorant. This young Grey Butcherbird was singing a song for me as I headed back towards the peninsula.

Grey Butcherbird

There were a heap of Red-browed Finch along the road and in the trees.

Red-browed Finch

And once again i came upon a White-cheeked honeyeater. These are becoming quite common to see in coastal heathlands. Maybe that is their main habitat.

White-cheeked Honeyeater

An Azure Kingfisher flashed past me going along the creek, I managed to get a shot off, but it was blurred. Too bad. As ever, the White-breasted Woodswallows were posing quite well. They are the attention seekers, aren’t they?

White-breasted woodswallow

And the Little Wattlebirds were making their usual raucous calls. I am beginning to really like these birds.

Little Wattlebird

And that was it for the day. I processed all the photos up and there they were, the best ones for your viewing enjoyment! 🙂

Click here for Little Wattlebird Call in mp3

Belmont Lagoon Bird Species List, 25/2/09

Spotted Turtle-dove
White-faced Heron
Striated Heron
White-breasted woodswallow
White-cheeked Honeyeater
Little Wattlebird
Red-browed Finch
White-bellied Sea-eagle
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Grey Butcherbird
Grey Fantail
Willy Wagtail
Silvereye
Azure Kingfisher
Black Swan

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