Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

February 18, 2009

Ash Island Bird Photography 090218

Filed under: Birds — steve_happ @ 11:41 pm

Ash Island Bird Photography 090218

18th February, Ash Island, Hunter River, Newcastle, Australia.

This morning I went to Ash Island. It had been raining for a week, so I expected there to be lots of water around and there was. Along Milham Road there was a few White-breasted Woodswallows hanging out on the fence line. Further on down Ramsar Road a Black-shouldered Kite flew by, so I stopped the car and started taking photos as he flew by and settled in a tree. After a While, he took off and fluttered over a paddock for a while and then took off to the west.

Black-shouldered Kite

The light was really crap and hardly any of my photos turned out all that good. Well, back to my story, after the Black-shouldered Kite flew off, a Whistling Kite flew over my head, so I took some photos of him. But, I had it on Av priority so they came out too dark. But here it is anyway so you can have a look. I had to crank the exposure up nearly two stops.

Whistling Kite

After that I headed off to Wagtail Way and a pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles flew in. I waited patiently while they sat on a telegraph pole. While I was looking at something else, one of them flew off and I got nothing. Then they other one flew off while I was looking at some Common Greenshanks flying past. I was not impressed. I got crap all shots of the sea eagles. So I headed off homewards and on the way spotted some white-fronted chats. At the end of Milham Road, there was a Great Egret in the pond there so I took a photo of him eating a frog.

Egret eating Frog

Over the other side of the road, an Intermediate Egret was chomping down on a frog. I guess there were lots of frogs around after the rain, and the egrets were making a meal of it. ha ha pun intended. 🙂

Egret eating frog

Ash Island Bird Species List 18/2/09

Cattle Egret(Ardea ibis)
White-breasted Woodswallow(Artamus leuroynchus)
Black-shouldered Kite(Elanus axillaris)
Whistling Kite(Haliastur sphenurus)
White-bellied Sea-eagle(Haliaeetus leucogaster)
Masked Lapwing(Vanellus miles)
Common Greenshanks(Tringa nebularia)
White-fronted Chat(Epthianura albifrons)
Great Egret(Ardea alba)
Intermediate Egret(Ardea intermedia)

February 16, 2009

Bird Photography Belmont Lagoon 090216

Filed under: Birds — steve_happ @ 11:34 am

Bird Photography Belmont Lagoon 090216

16th February, 2009. Belmont Lagoon, Newcastle.

N.B. Click on photos to get a bigger size.

I went back to Belmont Lagoon this morning. The weather was a bit better but there were fewer birds about. Isn’t that always the way, expectations are the opposite of what actually happens. ha ha. There were a few Little Black Cormorants in the lagoon and some Caspian Terns were wheeling about overhead, looking for a feed.

Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern – 1/3200, f/5.6, ISO400.

Further down the road I saw a White-browed Scrubwren, a first for me.

White-browed Scrubwren
White-browed Scrubwren – 1/250, f/5.6, ISO800.

There were a few other birds like Grey Fantails and I came upon another first for me, the White-cheeked Honeyeater. Things were looking up for me.

White-cheeked Honeyeater
White-cheeked Honeyeater – 1/1250, f/5.6, ISO400.

Another first for me was on a wire, the Spotted Turtle-dove. Black Swans flew on past me, and I saw a bunch of yellow thornbills as well as some Silvereyes, who were doing their acrobatic act as per usual. Then I came upon the Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo.

Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo
Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo – 1/1250, f/5.6, ISO1600.

I headed up the peninsula and came upon this family of White-breasted Woodswallows. There were five of them and they just loved posing for the camera. They were not shy at all. It was getting pretty comical after a while, as they kept following me around, almost saying “look at me, look at me, take my photo, mister”. This one had a bug in his mouth and was just swallowing it.

White-breasted Woodswallow
White-breasted Woodswallow – 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO400.

On the way back I photographed an Olive-backed Oriole.

Olive-backed Oriole
Olive-backed Oriole – 1/250, f/5.6, ISO400.

And last but not least, I saw a Little Wattlebird, who was doing the cookle cackle call.

Bird Species List

White-cheeked Honeyeater(Philydonyris nigra)
Spotted Turtle-Dove(Streptopelia chinensis)
White-browed Scrubwren( Sericornis frontalis)
Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo(Chrysococcyx basalis)
White-breasted Woodswallow(Artamus superciliosus)

Little Black Cormorant(Phalacrocorax sulcirostris)
Caspian Tern(Sterna caspia)
Black Swan(Cygnus atratus)
Chestnut Teal(Anas castanea)
Grey Fantail(Rhipidura albiscapa)
Yellow Thornbill(Acanthiza nana)
Silvereye(zosterops lateralis)
Olive-backed Oriole(Oriolus sagittatus)
Little Wattlebird(Anthochaera lunulata)

February 15, 2009

Birds Seen up to 15th February, 2009

Filed under: Birds — steve_happ @ 5:50 am

Birds Seen up to 15th February, 2009

Acanthizidae – Australasian Warblers

* Acanthiza chrysorrhoa – Yellow-rumped Thornbill
* Acanthiza nana – Yellow Thornbill

Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks, Eagles

* Accipiter novaehollandiae – Grey Goshawk
* Circus approximans – Swamp Harrier
* Circus assimilis – Spotted Harrier
* Elanus axillaris – Black-shouldered Kite
* Haliaeetus leucogaster – White-bellied Sea Eagle
* Haliastur sphenurus – Whistling Kite
* Hieraaetus morphnoides – Little Eagle

Alcedinidae – Kingfishers

* Alcedo azurea – Azure Kingfisher
* Dacelo novaeguineae- Laughing Kookaburra
* Todiramphus sanctus- Sacred Kingfisher

Anatidae – Swans, Geese, Ducks

* Anas castanea- Chestnut Teal
* Anas gracilis- Grey Teal
* Anas rhynchotis- Australasian Shoveler
* Anas superciliosa – Pacific Black Duck
* Aythya australis- Hardhead
* Cygnus atratus- Black Swan
* Malacorhynchus membranaceus- Pink-eared Duck

Anhingidae – Anhingas

* Anhinga novaehollandiae- Australian Darter

Anseranatidae – Magpie Goose

* Anseranas semipalmata- Magpie Goose

Ardeidae – Bitterns, Herons

* Ardea alba- Great Egret
* Butorides striata- Striated Heron
* Egretta garzetta- Little Egret
* Egretta intermedia – Intermediate Egret
* Egretta novaehollandiae – White-faced Heron
* Nycticorax caledonicus – Rufous Night Heron

Artamidae – Woodswallows

* Artamus leucorynchus- White-breasted Woodswallow
* Artamus superciliosus- White-browed Woodswallow

Campephagidae – Cuckooshrikes

* Coracina novaehollandiae- Black-faced Cuckooshrike

Charadriidae – Plovers

* Charadrius ruficapillus- Red-capped Plover
* Elseyornis melanops- Black-fronted Dotterel
* Erythrogonys cinctus- Red-kneed Dotterel
* Vanellus miles- Masked Lapwing

Cisticolidae – Cisticolas

* Cisticola exilis- Golden-headed Cisticola

Climacteridae – Australasian Treecreepers

* Climacteris picumnus- Brown Treecreeper
* Cormobates leucophaea- White-throated Treecreeper

Columbidae – Pigeons, Doves

* Macropygia amboinensis- Brown Cuckoo-Dove
* Phaps chalcoptera- Common Bronzewing

Coraciidae – Rollers

* Eurystomus orientalis- Dollarbird

Corcoracidae – Australian Mudnesters

* Corcorax melanorhamphos- White-winged Chough
* Struthidea cinerea- Apostlebird

Corvidae – Jays, Crows

* Corvus coronoides- Australian Raven

Cracticidae – Butcherbirds, Allies

* Gymnorhina tibicen- Australian Magpie

Estrildidae – Waxbills, Munias

* Neochmia temporalis- Red-browed Finch

Falconidae – Caracaras, Falcons

* Falco cenchroides- Nankeen Kestrel
* Falco longipennis- Australian Hobby

Haematopodidae – Oystercatchers

* Haematopus fuliginosus- Sooty Oystercatcher
* Haematopus longirostris- Pied Oystercatcher

Hirundinidae – Swallows, Martins

* Hirundo neoxena- Welcome Swallow

Laridae – Gulls

* Larus novaehollandiae- Silver Gull

Maluridae – Australasian Wrens

* Malurus cyaneus- Superb Fairywren
* Stipiturus malachurus- Southern Emu-wren

Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters

* Anthochaera carunculata- Red Wattlebird
* Anthochaera chrysoptera- Little Wattlebird
* Epthianura albifrons- White-fronted Chat
* Lichenostomus penicillatus- White-plumed Honeyeater
* Lichmera indistincta- Brown Honeyeater
* Manorina melanocephala- Noisy Miner
* Manorina melanophrys- Bell Miner
* Meliphaga lewinii- Lewin’s Honeyeater

Monarchidae – Monarchs

* Monarcha melanopsis- Black-faced Monarch
* Myiagra rubecula- Leaden Flycatcher

Motacillidae – Pipits, Wagtails

* Anthus richardi- Richard’s Pipit

Oriolidae – Orioles

* Oriolus sagittatus- Olive-backed Oriole

Pachycephalidae – Whistlers

* Pachycephala rufiventris- Rufous Whistler

Pandionidae – Osprey

* Pandion haliaetus- Osprey

Pardalotidae – Pardalotes

* Pardalotus punctatus- Spotted Pardalote

Pelecanidae – Pelicans

* Pelecanus conspicillatus- Australian Pelican

Petroicidae – Australasian Robins

* Eopsaltria australis- Eastern Yellow Robin

Phalacrocoracidae – Cormorants

* Phalacrocorax carbo- Great Cormorant
* Phalacrocorax melanoleucos- Little Pied Cormorant
* Phalacrocorax sulcirostris -Little Black Cormorant
* Phalacrocorax varius -Australian Pied Cormorant

Podicipedidae – Grebes

* Podiceps cristatus- Great Crested Grebe
* Tachybaptus novaehollandiae- Australasian Grebe

Psittacidae – Parrots, Cockatoos

* Cacatua alba- White Cockatoo
* Cacatua leadbeateri- Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo
* Cacatua sanguinea- Little Corella
* Eolophus roseicapilla- Galah
* Platycercus elegans- Crimson Rosella
* Platycercus eximius- Eastern Rosella
* Psephotus haematonotus -Red-rumped Parrot
* Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus- Scaly-breasted Lorikeet
* Trichoglossus moluccanus- Rainbow Lorikeet

Ptilonorhynchidae – Bowerbirds

* Ptilonorhynchus violaceus- Satin Bowerbird

Rallidae – Rails, Waterhens, Coots

* Fulica atra- Eurasian Coot
* Gallinula tenebrosa- Dusky Moorhen
* Gallinula ventralis- Black-tailed Nativehen
* Gallirallus philippensis- Buff-banded Rail
* Porzana fluminea- Australian Crake
* Porzana pusilla- Baillon’s Crake

Recurvirostridae – Stilts, Avocets

* Himantopus himantopus- Black-winged Stilt
* Recurvirostra novaehollandiae- Red-necked Avocet

Rhipiduridae – Fantails

* Rhipidura albiscapa- Grey Fantail
* Rhipidura leucophrys- Willie Wagtail
* Rhipidura rufifrons- Rufous Fantail

Scolopacidae – Sandpipers, Snipes

* Calidris acuminata- Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
* Calidris ferruginea- Curlew Sandpiper
* Tringa nebularia- Common Greenshank

Sternidae – Terns

* Gelochelidon nilotica- Gull-billed Tern
* Hydroprogne caspia- Caspian Tern
* Sterna hirundo- Common Tern

Strigidae – Owls

* Ninox boobook- Southern Boobook

Sturnidae – Starlings

* Sturnus vulgaris- Common Starling

Sulidae – Boobies, Gannets

* Morus serrator- Australasian Gannet

Sylviidae – Gnatcatchers, Goldcrests, Warblers

* Acrocephalus stentoreus- Clamorous Reed Warbler

Threskiornithidae – Ibises, Spoonbills

* Platalea flavipes- Yellow-billed Spoonbill
* Platalea regia- Royal Spoonbill
* Plegadis falcinellus -Glossy Ibis
* Threskiornis molucca- Australian White Ibis
* Threskiornis spinicollis- Straw-necked Ibis

Zosteropidae – White-eyes

* Zosterops lateralis- Silvereye

Belmont Lagoon Birdwatching 090215

Filed under: Birds — steve_happ @ 4:39 am

Belmont Lagoon Birdwatching 090215

15th February, 2009. Belmont Lagoon, Newcastle.

I met up with the guys from Birding Oz at Maccas at 7am. It was raining and I had no expectations whatsoever. I did not even take my camera the weather was that bad. Well we had breakfast and then headed off to Belmont Lagoon. We parked at Cold Tea Creek and headed up the road. First off we saw some White-breasted Woodswallows(Artamus leucorynchus) that were roosting on the wires. Further up the road along the creek there were some Brown Honeyeaters(Lichmera indistincta), and Common Starlings(Sturnus vulgaris).

In the Lagoon there were heaps of Black Swans and a couple of Australian Pelicans. Then someone spotted an Osprey(Pandion haliaetus) who flew over the lagoon. Further along the creek, a Striated Heron(Butorides striatus) was seen sitting on a branch of a mangrove tree. It was a magnificent experience just watching it. I had never seen one before. Higher in the trees there was a Little Wattlebird(Anthochaera chrysoptera).

Then a Grey Goshawk(Accipiter novaehollandiae) was spotted on the telegraph poles to the north. It was the grey morph. In the melaleuca trees were spotted birds such as Rufous Whistler(Pachycephala rufiventris), Lewin’s Honeyeater(Meliphaga lewini), Grey Fantails(Rhipidura fuliginosa), and Red-browed Finch(Neochmia temporalis).

On the way along a little peninsula there was an Azure Kingfisher(Alcedo azurea), a Dollarbird(Eurystomus orientalis). Later on we saw a Nankeen Kestrel(Falco cenchroides) hovering near the sand dunes and on the way back along the creek we spotted a Sacred Kingfisher(Todiramphus sanctus), as well as some Australian White Ibis(Threskiornis spinicollis), a couple of Masked Lapwings(Vanellus miles), and a few Australian Ravens(Corvus coronoides).

Bird Species List.

White-breasted Woodswallow
Brown Honeyeater
Great Egret
Black Swan
Australian Pelican
Striated Heron
Little Wattlebird
Grey Goshawk
Rufous Whistler
Lewin’s Honeyeater
Azure Kingfisher
Nankeen Kestrel
Sacred Kingfisher
Australian White Ibis
Australian Raven
Masked Lapwing

February 14, 2009

Hunter Wetlands Centre 090213

Filed under: General — steve_happ @ 7:14 am

Bird Photography – Hunter Wetlands Centre 090213

13th February, 2009. Hunter Wetlands Centre, Shortland, Newcastle. NSW Australia.

It has been raining all week and this morning it stopped for a little while so I went to the Hunter Wetlands Centre at Shortland. As soon as I got there I spied Marj and she had spotted some dollarbirds. So we took some photographs of them.


There were a couple of Sacred Kingfishers in the trees but they flew off before I could get a shot of one of them. There were the usual swamp type birds such as the Purple Swamphen and the Dusky Moorhen. I spotted a juvenile Olive-backed Oriole as I went around the main pond. There were some Silvereyes on the Wild Fennel plants around the pond, and I accidently shot this one of a Silvereye in flight. I could claim that I planned this, but I did not. ha ha.


I took off over to the Egret Rookery and this one flew over me. I quite like this one. Its a bit different to the run of the mill photo. Maybe like an xray photo. Who knows?

Egret i think

There were quite a large number of Ibis and Egret young birds in their nests and hanging out in the trees as well as this Nankeen Night Heron, which may be a Juvenile, but I do not know.

Nankeen night heron

The Whistling Kites were circling over the rookery all the time so I managed to shoot off quite a few photos of them in flight. I love how they adjust their tail feathers to make little micro-adjustments to their flight. They are such cool fliers. I love to watch them.

Whistling Kite

See the angle of this Whistling Kite’s tail and how he is looking and adjusting all the time. Amazing!

Whistling kite

This Whistling Kite has the typical under wing pattern. Notice again how he has the tail at an angle, adjusting his flight. They are so awesome.

Whistling kite

Continued part 2 next post:-

Hunter Wetlands Centre 090213 – Part 2

Filed under: Birds — steve_happ @ 7:13 am

Bird Photography – Hunter Wetlands Centre 090213 – Part 2

13th February, 2009. Hunter Wetlands Centre, Shortland, Newcastle. NSW Australia.

Continuing on from the former post, I spotted this Juvenile Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike in the casuarina trees next to the other pond. I dont know the names of the ponds at the wetlands centre, doh! I did not even know that we had the Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes in our area. I thought that they were mainly out west.

black-faced cuckoo-shrike

In the pond there were some Black-winged Stilts and then I spotted some Black-fronted Dotterels over the other side of the pond. They were hanging in what looked like family groups of 3 or 4. In all there might have been about a dozen or so Black-fronted Dotterels. They were feeding on the mud flats at the edge of the pond. And then, this Buff-banded Rail came out of the reeds onto the mud flat. He stayed there for a couple of minutes and then went straight back into the reeds.

buff-banded rail

There were more Whistling Kites flying over the pond near the Freckled Duck enclosure. A couple of them were hanging around roosting in the trees to the side of that pond. One of them had only one leg as far as I could tell. I am pretty sure that we saw a Little Eagle over to the north flying over the reed beds. All in all there were about five raptors flying over the pond at this stage, so it was pretty full on with raptors. Back at the main ponds, there were some Australian Wood Ducks and the standard Pacific Black Ducks, along with the Magpie Geese. There were some more Black-fronted Dotterel in the main pond below the restaurant, who were chasing the young ones away.

Immature Black-fronted Dotterel

I had thought the one above was a Double-banded Plover but I was mistaken. It is an immature Black-fronted Dotterel. Here is one of the parents who were chasing away the teenager. I am assuming that they were kicking him out of the nest, so to speak.

black-fronted dotterel

And last but not least, is this photo of a baby Dusky Moorhen. There were about three of them very close to me. Sometimes too close so that I could not even focus.

baby dusky moorhen

There were some Superb Fairy-wrens that were hanging out around the edges of the pond as well. And thats about it. It was a great day and I certainly did not expect such a wide diversity of birds. It seems like you always have a great time when you least expect it.

February 11, 2009

ABC TV Catalyst Ladybird Best Photos

Filed under: macro — steve_happ @ 7:06 am

I put a few of my ladybird photos in to the ABC TV (Australia) program Catalyst for their Ladybird Survey.
One of them was selected as being one of the Best Photos. Here it is. Click on it to see the larger version.

lady bug

The Best Photos slide show can be seen here:

Click here for Ladybird Best Photos

Your best photos

There are some seriously good nature photographers out there! So overwhelmed are we by the number and quality of your contributions to our National Ladybird Survey, we thought we’d open a gallery displaying the best photos. They reveal the extraordinary beauty of these creatures in great detail and offer a glimpse into the lives of these fascinating beetles. The gallery will be regularly updated with the most exciting submissions until the end of the survey in March 2009.

Go to the google map to see where all the ladybirds are situated in Australia.

Click here to go to google maps of ladybirds in australia

February 10, 2009

Bird Photography Ash Island 090210

Filed under: Birds — steve_happ @ 11:18 am

Bird Photography Ash Island 090210

10th February, 2009. Ash Island. Newcastle.

It was overcast today and the southerly is blowing. It was about 24 degrees Celsius. I got up late and headed out to Ash Island about 11am. I stayed out there for about three or four hours. It was a frustrating day. But oh well, you get that. When I got to Ramsar Road, the water was over the road because of the very large tide. I thought about turning around and going home – I should have – but I didn’t but slowly plowed through the flooded road and went to Wagtail Way. Not much going on, just the usual bunch of silver gulls and black-winged stilts. The only thing worth keeping from the shots of them was this young stilt.

Black-winged Stilt

Off to the north there was a white-bellied sea-eagle soaring and fighting with the masked lapwings but he never came my way. I drove on down the road and had a look around, but nothing much doing. So I decided to go home, after hours just waiting for some raptor to come near me. On the way home I decided to go down the road near the old schoolhouse. There were a bunch of egrets hanging in the cattle yard so I stopped to take some photos of them. In the trees near the cattle yard were a bunch of what I think were rufous whistlers, as well as red-browed finches, grey fantails, and some yellow thornbills.

Yellow Thornbill

This Yellow Thornbill was sitting in the casuarina trees. I like all the nuts in this photo.

yellow thornbill

There was a rabbit that came right up close to me in the cattle yard. He never saw me but i could not get a decent shot because of all the cattle pen railings that were in the way. This Intermediate Egret was in the field next door, catching grubs or something in the grass.

Intermediate Egret

Anyway, this is about it for the day. Not much to show for a long day. Maybe next time will be better. At least the weather is cooler, now. 🙂

February 9, 2009

Flash Experiments in the bush

Filed under: Strobist — steve_happ @ 12:29 pm

Strobist Experiments in Low Light

9th February, 2009. Glenrock Lagoon. Newcastle.

This evening I went to Glenrock to test a flash set up. I had an external flash – an el cheapo ebay one – tied to a canon flash cord. I had the flash to the side mounted on a right angled flash bracket. I wanted to test if I could get a picture in the bush under extremely bad lighting conditions.

So I trudged on down the track from kahibah that goes down to the creek. But there were no birds at all in sight. I could hear heaps of bell miners and other stuff going off their brains, but nary a one could I see to take a photograph of. Eventually I got down to the creek and had to take a photo of a white flower. Here it is..


This was at 7:07pm with an overcast sky. Exposure was: 1/250 shutter speed, Aperture of f/5.6, ISO400. Manual Mode.
I think this is quite good. There is plenty of detail in the flower and the lighting is quite good. Not brilliant but reasonably good. I would be happy with this.

Then some sulphur-crested cockatoos roosted in some trees above the creek. So at last I could test the strobe on some birds. I used the same exposure but it was a bit later in the evening at 7:33pm. I have no idea why the background on this one is so dark and the next one I got a blue sky. Weird.


And here is the final one at 7:36pm. It is getting quite dark by this time and there is very little light. I am glad that I was getting any picture at all.


So what are my conclusions from this very less than scientific experiment? I think my setup could be successfully used to photograph birds under extereme lighting conditions such as in a rainforest or very early or late in the day. I am confident that I can use this rig for photographing birds under the canopy.

Bird Photography Ash Island 090209

Filed under: Birds — steve_happ @ 1:00 am

Bird Photography Ash Island 090209

9th February, 2009, Ash Island, Hunter River, Newcastle.

Woke up again this morning at 6:30am and drove off to Ash Island. It was a bit quiet along Wagtail Way but there were heaps of black-winged stilts around. This pretty little model just could not stop looking at herself. They are so superficial and shallow these birds. 🙂

Black-winged Stilt

There weren’t many egrets around for a change, but this one flew past, so I practiced my bird in flight (bif) technique on him. There is not much contrast, but here it is anyway. doh!


There were lots of ducks around, mostly Chestnut Teal, like this one. Notice the green patch on the wing. This one is a male. The females look a lot like grey teals.

Chestnut Teal

Also there were heaps of welcome swallows around. These birds are so cute, but I cannot follow them in flight, they are too fast for me and flit around in too many different directions. Some day I hope to get a decent photograph of a welcome swallow in flight.

Welcome Swallow

I went over to the other side of the pond, where I saw a Buff-banded Rail on the road. I got out to have a look for him, but I could not find him, so no photograph. In the distance a White-bellied Sea-eagle was soaring just above where I was initially. I should have stayed where I was, it pays to be patient, doesn’t it?

Anyway I headed off back home and on the way took this photo of a masked lapwing. It is a good photo for diagnostic purposes and identification help. But these birds are pretty well unmistakable with their yellow masks and distinctive call.

Masked Lapwing

This Australian Pipit was on the road, so I took his photo.

australian pipit

This Silvereye was hanging out on the Mustard Seed bushes. I think that is the name of the bush. I don’t really know.


Well, it was not the most exciting of days but I managed to get a few photos. The lesson for today is that one needs to be patient.

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