I visited one of my favourite birding sites yesterday – the Western Treatment Plant also known as the Pooh Farm. It is a 200 square kilometer site for the treatment of Melbourne’s waste products. Before the treated water is released into the Bay it moves through large areas of settling ponds and ocean side lagoons. Over the years it has become a major site for Bird species including many migratory birds that spend the Northern Winter in Southern Australia. It has become famous and has actually been named a world RAMSAR Wetlands. It is a great place to drive around and study the various shorebirds as well as the resident birds like the raptors. I made 23 trips there last year and it has become a regular spot for me when the conditions (temp, tide and winds) are right for a day visit – it is a very wind exposed site with limited tall vegetation and no facilities. People drive from hours away and interstate to visit a place that is only 35 mins away for me. A permit and key system is in place and to get full access to the 2 major areas one has to purchase permits and sit an induction process.
And a common question I get when people ask about the site – “What is the smell like?” There is no “off” smell, just the smell from the sea and the vegetation. There are heaps of insects but nothing that bites. It is the insects that help bring in such huge bird numbers.
The Lagoons are adjusted by the Melbourne Water engineers and suit different birds at various times of the year. Each species has a food and water depth requirement. The photo below was taken in Nov and yesterday it was dried out. And yes I have often nearly driven into the water while trying to drive, use binoculars and take photos all at the same time.
If anyone wants to head out to the “farm” let me know….it is a great experience and I look for any excuse to go.
I found 75 species yesterday and attempted to take a few photos while driving the various roads…..
Wow! Again great photos! I did not realise you could see brolgas in Victoria. Especially liked the red necked avocet.
Given the location I am surprised there were no photos of the common variegated floater! (groan… poor joke)…
More seriously… I would be interested to know what sort of photographic equipment you use (my camera recently drowned in a bushwalking misadventure and I am thinking about getting more serious, especially since seeing your photos). I guess you are using a DSLR with a collection of lenses of varying focal lengths. What sort of range are you shooting at… do you use a tripod? Probably naïve questions, I know, but I’m a photographic neophyte.
Thanks Andrew, I am currently using a Canon EOS 7D as my main unit and an old EOS 40D on a Black Rapid strap as my backup. I use the 40D for wider angle shots with a Canon zoom lens 17-85mm. My main lens is a Canon 400mm F5.6 prime. For a while I was using the Sigma 150-500mm zoom but the prime is much better quality, faster and a lighter weight (important for long walks). For bird shots I just use the prime lens. I started to carry the second unit when I switched to the prime so I could also take closer images of other animals – it is difficult to take a pic with the prime lens of a reptile and get it all in without backing up 30-40 ft. When walking I use the 7D with a Monopod. It is lighter and much faster to follow the birds – the tripod is really only good for set shots and landscapes. I use a heavy tripod for the spotting scope at wetlands and the Treatment plant when I am in the car. When driving around the treatment plant and any state forests and national parks (i.e. the You Yangs) I carry the camera on the front seat and use a bean bag (full of bird seed as it happens) to give me stable support on the car window frame.
The range I shoot at can vary depending on the bird, location and vegetation. I get as close as I can as fast as I can and I try to get as much light as possible to freeze the action and to be able to crop the image if the quality stays high. I use Lightroom as my processing app on a MAC workstation with a very good screen. Hope this helps – feel free to ask any questions, I am still very much a beginner when it comes to photographing birds but I am picking up good tips from others all the time.
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