Saturday, July 25, 2009

More Winter in the Adelaide Hills

Today was another beautiful winters day in South Australia. Bright and sunny, hardly a breeze and a maximum temperature of 15C (59F). I decided to go to the northern part of the hills this time, concentrating on Parra Wirra Recreation Park, and Mount Crawford Forest Park. Parra Wirra is all natural scrub, and Mount Crawford is a mix of forestry (mainly Radiata Pine) and also remnants of natural scrub. The scrub is mainly eucalyptus, with a fairly open understory with one of my favourite native plants the Grass Tree. These shots show Jenkins Scrub at Little Mount Crawford, and some Grass Trees. The flower spikes are yellow when they are fresh, and honeyeaters love them!! The birding was really good and I managed to get improved shots of quite a few species. I was amazed when I got home....I had taken over 420 shots in the 5 hours I was in the hills. I guess this is one of the joys of digital!! My first stop in Parra Wirra was a mistake!! I took a wrong turn which after about 6Km (4 miles) turned out to be a dead-end. As I turned round, I heard one of our loveliest songsters, Golden Whistler. It was competing with another great singer, Grey Shrike-thrush.
Then I noticed a movement lower down in the tree, and spotted a female Scarlet Robin. The female is a fairly typical LBJ, but does have a dusky red wash to her breast. I hunted around and soon found what I was looking for....Mr Scarlet Robin!!
On the way back to the main road is saw a small group of Peaceful Doves......
and then some Red-rumped Parrots. Now these must be one of the most frustrating birds for photographers. They are stunning birds, but they are pretty timid, and spook easily, and they always stay in the shade. However, this pair obiously hadn't read the rule book. They didn't spook, and after about 15 minutes they came out of the shadows and into the sunlight!!
Finally, in Mount Crawford, I heard a Fan-tailed Cuckoo, and after chasing it for a few minutes it settled onto a favoured song perch and sang it's heart out for at least 20 minutes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday Morning - Dreaming of South Africa

This weekend was filled with "domestic duties", so I didn't manage any time for birding. So it was particularly tough getting up for work this morning - the forecast is sunny and 21C (70F) which is not bad for mid winter!! With all the rain we've had, the air is particularly clear at the moment and perfect for photography. As I was waiting for the bus there was a lovely sunrise happening, and an early shower gave me this view from my desk when I got to the office. (sorry about the reflections in the window).

On the bus, I had been daydreaming, and was thinking about a previous job, where commuting to the office wasn't a metropolitan bus ride, but a flight to Budapest one week, maybe to Singapore or Stockholm another, and for almost a year was a monthly trip to South Africa.

While I was in South Africa, I made sure I made the most of it!! Hiring a car, or sometimes a local guide at weekends. One such weekend, I found myself in Durban on the Indian Ocean, and I hired a car and took a trip up the coast for a weekend in St Lucia. Near here is a fantastic game reserve, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi (pronounced Shloo-shloowee).

I stayed here overnight as guests had the advantage of being allowed out into the park from dawn (about 05:15) whereas day visitors could only enter at 06:30. what really amazed me was that although the camp was almost full, no-one was stirring, and I had the park to myself until about 07:00!!

These are some of the photos I took that morning:





Common Fiscal

Open-billed stork

Impala with Red-billed Oxpecker


This one was taken later in the day. I had been seeing signs of Rhino all day, but had still to see them. On the way back to the gate I passed a little track that I did not remember driving, so turned round and took a slow drive. As I turned a bend in the track..........
A fantastic end to the weekend, and to this post.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


As the sky cleared this morning after a week of heavy rain, I noticed the resident pair of Peregrines toing and froing around the office block next my office window. Last year they successfully fledged a chick, and hopefully they'll do the same this year. It got me thinking about what a great country Australia is for raptors. We are blessed with the second largest eagle in the world, Wedge-tailed Eagle, and a whole host of kites, falcons, hawks and eagles. Here are few that I have managed to capture over the past couple of years. After being in Australia for 7 months I moved from Sydney to Adelaide, and as I drove through the Hay Plain, a wonderful stretch of flat, open scrub with saltbush and bluebush, I happened across this "Wedgie" - my first good photo opportunity with one: More recently, I found this one on a recently roadkilled joey, and he was so full that he could hardly fly!! Notice his bulging crop in the second photo. Another lovely eagle is the White-bellied Sea-eagle. this is a juvenile bird taken over Karatha in the Pilbara in Western Australia on a long distance twitch for Red-legged Crake - (but that is a whole different story). Black Kite is partially migratory in South Australia in that we get a lot more in the summer, with only a few overwintering. Sometime they can be in flocks of twenty or thirty, but I have never managed any decent photos. These were taken of a small group at Montecollina Bore in the Strzlecki Desert in South Australia. One of them appeared to be eating on the wing. I hadn't heard of that before. Finally, some falcons. Brown Falcon is very common, and about the same size as Peregrine though built more like an Accipiter. This one was taken at Farina, on the same trip as the kite photos. Australian Hobby is much more scarce, and I'm lucky if I get to see more than one or two each year. Like Brown Falcon, Australian Kestrel is also pretty common. This one settled beside me at Magic Point, Maroubra which is only a few Km from Sydney city centre. He was totally unconcerned that I was only about 5m (16ft) away and sat for about 20 minutes before opening his wings and drifting off. What a gorgeous bird!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sooty Oystercatchers

This weekend was another trip up to Whyalla, and as the forecast was dull, wet and windy, I didn't take my camera with me (to be honest I forgot it). Well, I'm sure we all know by know that weather forecasting is not an exact science, and Sunday dawned bright and breezy, so we took a walk by the Marina and Beach. I have often seen a small flock of Sooty Oystercatchers here, usually flying and calling, but never withing range.......until Sunday!! I did have my compact camera with me, so I started to slowly stalk them. The main problem with a beach is that there is nothing to hide behind!! So I slowly zig-zagged along the beach...... Getting closer.... Until I took one step too far.....

As you can see from the above photo, there was also an adult Pacific Gull on the beach, accompanied by a juvenile

And also what is locally referred to as "Whyalla Gull". It is actually a Silver Gull, and a number of them have had their plumage stained by iron oxide from the local steel works.

There was no sight of the pod of dolphins that usually haunts the marina, just one solitary Pelican......

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Birding Bloopers!!

I was recently browsing through the archives on Trevor's Birding, and I came across a few postings of amusing anecdotes about birding mistakes and mis-fortunes. They reminded me of a couple of funnies that I was involved in. Back in England, I used to try and get down to the Isles of Scilly each autumn for a weeks twitching. Many of you will know this is a ritual migration of many english birders. All are armed with bins' and 'scopes, and many have short range walkie talkies enabling quick communication of that mega rarity. One October, as I was happily watching Jack Snipe at Lower Moors, call came through: "Does anyone know the difference between a Nightjar and a Nighthawk?" "Where are you?" "Er, up at Green Lane" "OK, We'll be there in five minutes" Meanwhile, hundreds of birders (including me!) where making their way up to Green Lane from various locations across the island, all listening out for the confirmation call. A few minutes later out came the call everyone was waiting for: "All Birders heading to Green Lane, the Nightjar is a cowpat" He'll take a long time to live that one down. Another birding tradition is the year list, and in the northern hemisphere the New Years Day trip has always been a highlight. The pleasure of "ticking" House Sparrow and Starling, Magpie and Blue Tit............... One year a group of friends and I had decided on a trip to South Devon to give our lists a flying start. This journey usually took about 90 minutes, but there is not much traffic on the road at 05:30 on New Year's Day, and we were there in less than an hour!! Freezing cold, pitch black, 30 minutes before sunrise listening to Mallard quacking, Teal and Wigeon whistling, and our teeth chattering!!. Then as the light came up someone called "Little Egret!", (at that time it was still a reasonably rare bird in the UK) four 'scopes all focused, eyes straining through the gloom, eventually all agreeing on the ID of a beautiful ................white plastic pipe!! I'll finish with a couple of photo's - A Nighthawk and a Nightjar, the Nighthawk was taken at Bolivar Flats in Texas and the Spotted Nightjar here in South Australia............but which one is which..........

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Moon

Tonight there was an amazing full moon, and some very eerie cloud shapes. I tried getting some photos, but the only way to get the cloud even remotly was to overexpose by so much that the moon overpowered everything else.
So I concentrated on the moon, and got a reasonable shot by underexposing by 2 stops using my telephoto zoom at its full range (400mm)
Next I added my 1.4x extender.
and finally added another extender (2x this time) giving a total of 400mm x 1.4 x 2 = 1120mm.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Whales at Victor Harbour

This weekend Maryann and I headed down to Victor Harbour, on the Fleurieu Peninsular, south of Adelaide. Encounter Bay is a popular site for watching Southern Right Whales. They spend part of the winter here when the Southern Ocean is too cold for their calves. During the whale watching season, there is an information centre in Victor Harbour where they give you the latest information on sightings.
On Saturday there were a couple of whale sightings off Granite Island, which is linked to Victor by a causeway.
A popular way to get to Granite Island is by horse-drawn tram, which also gets you at eye level with any birds perched on street lighting along the way. This is an adult Pacific Gull. As we approached the island there were some Little Pied Cormorants loafing on the rocks. Offshore, I only saw one whale blow a long way off, but there were good numbers of birds flying by, predominantly Silver Gulls and also a few Australian Gannets, but nothing close enough to photograph. (This Gannet was taken a couple of years ago in New Zealand) The next spot to try for whales was a few Km east towards Goolwa, at Basham Beach. We did see a couple of whales here, but the weather wasn't good and this is the best of a bad bunch of photos.
Back in 2003 I was lucky to spend a fair amount of time in South Africa on business, so I have supplemented this post with some photos of Southern Right Whales I took on a pelagic seabird trip off the Cape of Good Hope.