Category Archives: Animal

Where do they hide?

Camping at Halls Gap, in the Grampians, I got up early one morning to check out the locals birds. Walking across the road to some paddocks near a few houses I watched several deer resting after a nights feeding. Apparently there are 6 species of deer in the forests and associated farmland in Victoria and they number in the tens of thousands.  It seems incredible that I have only seen them a few times over the years. I spend so much time in the forests and yet I never see them. There is still so much to be aware of when walking around. As soon as the general campground started to wake up these two quietly wandered back up the slopes and into the forest.

Deer, Halls Gap, Grampians, Victoria

Deer, Halls Gap, Grampians, Victoria

Deer, Halls Gap, Grampians, Victoria

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Too hot to be bothered…

By the time I had left the Nurcoung Bushland Reserve it was getting quite hot (by mid-afternoon it would be low 40’s). Driving out along the rough bush tracks,  I spotted a large male Grey Kangaroo resting in the hole he had scraped in the shade of a bit of scrub. He sat up as I walked closer and then decided it was too hot to leave the shade…he probably reckoned he could take me…I reckon he could too. I walked back to the car and left him to it…

Male Grey Kangaroo, Nurcoung Reserve, Victoria

Male Grey Kangaroo, Nurcoung Reserve, Victoria

Male Grey Kangaroo, Nurcoung Reserve, Victoria

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Koalas of Cape Otway and an old Coach Trail

On the recent trip to Apollo Bay we explored a few spots along Cape Otway including the Cape and Lighthouse area. The road leading into the lighthouse park passed through a Manna Gum forest full of Koalas. Of course we had to stop and take a few shots. Never pass up a chance to photograph an animal that barely moves…

Koala, Cape Otway, Great Otway National Park

Koala, Cape Otway, Great Otway National Park

Koala, Cape Otway, Great Otway National Park

A large male Koala reaching for a snack

Koala and joey, Cape Otway, Great Otway National Park

Koala and joey

Koala and joey, Cape Otway, Great Otway National Park

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Koala and joey, Cape Otway, Great Otway National Park

It has been a hard day…

Koala and joey, Cape Otway, Great Otway National Park

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One of the sites I visited a few times was the Old Hordern Vale Road, a dirt road winding up into the local hills behind the Apollo Bay township. It is a good spot  to find the white morph Grey Goshawk (which I did get to see – lifer!). At the end of the road amongst a few empty weekenders and a forest of very tall Mountain Ash Gums I found the old Cobb and Co coach road. The old track  winds around the Mountain Ash ridges and rainforest gullies and finally comes out several kilometres away, re-connecting to a weekender road and back onto the main highway. Along the way I found a good variety of bird species, more Koalas, and some pretty spectacular trees. Definitely a spot I will return to on future trips to the region.

Koala, Old Hordern Vale Rd, Apollo Bay

Koala, Old Hordern Vale Rd, Apollo Bay

Old Hordern Vale Rd, Apollo Bay

The old Cobb and Co coach road – now a nice wide trail leading into and around the local hills. 

A large gum tree, Old Hordern Vale Rd, Apollo Bay

A large gum tree, Old Hordern Vale Rd, Apollo Bay

Stinkers in the garden

For some reason Wallabies don’t seem to panic as easily as Grey Kangaroos. They can be quite approachable particular in areas where they have become accustomed to people walking around. As long as you don’t cut off their escape paths they are happy to keep eating and just keep an eye on you. We recently saw a few Black or Swamp Wallabies at Cranbourne Botanical Gardens – woodlands area. They are usually on their own or with a joey.  We were able to take a few shots and slowly creep forward before they ambled off. They have nice colouring especially in late afternoon sun light. The Grey Kangaroos were much more flighty and generally took off as soon as they saw us.
According to Wiki, the swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolor)  has some unusual names that I have not heard of before including black-tailed wallaby, fern wallaby, black pademelon, stinker (in Queensland), and black stinker (in New South Wales) due to its characteristic swampy odour (which we did not smell on this occasion but now I am curious).
Black Wallaby, Cranbourne Botanical Gardens

Black Wallaby, Cranbourne Botanical Gardens

Black Wallaby, Cranbourne Botanical Gardens

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Black Wallaby, Cranbourne Botanical Gardens

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Black Wallaby, Cranbourne Botanical Gardens

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Black Wallaby, Cranbourne Botanical Gardens

Black Wallaby also called a Swamp Wallaby

Nests, Dreys and Bandicoots

Saturday was another lovely Winter’s day in Melbourne and we decided to head down to the Melbourne Botanical Garden, (Cranbourne), also known as Australian Garden. We started at the Stringybark Picnic area and walked along  the forest paths looking birds and reading the various information signs. We came across a large curious nest only a few metres off the ground. I could not figure out what made it or what was using it – I could see a brown furry looking lump through the side entrance but could not confirm what it was – I was unable to get closer without bashing through and damaging the prickly bushes in front. Last night, a local naturalist (Gio) suggested that it was most likely a Drey – a round nest made by a Ring-Tailed Possum. I did not know that Possums made nests like this nor had I ever heard of a Drey…

Drey, Cranbourne Botanical Gardens

Drey, Cranbourne Botanical Gardens

Moving around the paths we saw a number of Eastern Yellow Robins and watched for a while as they hunted. I found one of their freshly made nests. Very similar style to the previous nest that I have posted about from Moorooduc.

Robin's nest, Cranbourne Botanical Gardens,

Robin’s nest, Cranbourne Botanical Gardens,

The highlight of this part of the day was spotting a Southern Brown Bandicoot, a threatened marsupial species, often wiped out from areas by foxes. This site is protected by a fox proof fence and so the species is surviving. We saw one dart across a path. As we were walking back to the car my eagled eye walking partner yelled out that I was about to step on another one. This little guy was not very scared of me at all and we moved back a bit and took a few photos. It had some nasty healed up scars on its rump and a missing tail. I was surprised by its size – roughly the size of a small cat – much bigger than I expected. It moved around the path, had a little stretch and at some point decided to bolt off the track but only into the fringe where we watched it a bit more while it napped. We left it alone and drove to the main part of the gardens.

Southern Brown Bandicoot, Cranbourne Botanical Gardens

Southern Brown Bandicoot, Cranbourne Botanical Gardens

Southern Brown Bandicoot, Cranbourne Botanical Gardens

showing some old healed wounds on its back, its tail is also missing

Southern Brown Bandicoot, Cranbourne Botanical Gardens

Long claws front and back and a long nose that was surprisingly agile

Southern Brown Bandicoot, Cranbourne Botanical Gardens

Southern Brown Bandicoot

Southern Brown Bandicoot, Cranbourne Botanical Gardens

Leaping from the path to the scrub a few feet away – very powerful back legs

The You Yangs in Winter

The You Yangs Regional Park (about 45 min SW of Melbourne) is a great place to visit and to photograph birds and wildlife in general. There is a variety of vegetation and terrain that brings in a good selection of birds at various times of the year. At the moment several of the gum tree species are flowering and many Parrots, Lorikeets and Honeyeaters are visiting.  Recently I drove with a few local birder friends and we explored the usual spots and then onto a few new ones that I had not been to before. For the middle of winter there were quite a few birds and animals around.  The Koala of course was safe up his tree and just ignored us. The Grey Kangaroos we came across along one of the walking tracks were wary but generally unconcerned – the larger ones took off first into deeper less exposed scrub followed by the younger ones and a few remaining females with Joeys in the pouch just stood up and watched us walk by. Enjoying the early morning sun on a cold winter’s morning was more important than panicking about a few walkers passing.   We even had enough time to take a nice series of images. The local sounds were made up of Wattlebirds, Magpies, Kookaburras and several large family tribes of White Winged Choughs. In amongst these usual sounds we kept our ears open for the various Thornbills, Robins and Weebills. At one section that I have not explored that much we found a small group of White Throated Treecreepers. They move around a tree very quickly and are often defy gravity working their way along the bark upside down looking for hidden insects.

Scarlet Robin, You Yangs Regional Park

Scarlet Robin, You Yangs Regional Park

Musk Lorikeet, You Yangs Regional Park

Musk Lorikeet

Large Gum Tree, You Yangs Regional Park, Victoria

Large Gum Tree

Koala, You Yangs Regional Park

A napping Koala, You Yangs Regional Park

Young Grey Roo, You Yangs Regional Park

Young Grey Roo

Mum Grey Roo and Joey, You Yangs Regional Park

Mum Grey Roo and Joey

White Throated Treecreeper, You Yangs Regional Park

White Throated Treecreeper

White Throated Treecreeper, You Yangs Regional Park

II

 

Birds of the Bellarine

The second day of my Easter trip exploring the Bellarine Peninsula took me to several coastal parks and bushland reserves and while the number of birds were not large the photo opportunities to get closer to the regulars was quite good.

Black Wallaby, Ocean Grove Nature Reserve, Victoria 4 April 2015

Black Wallaby, Ocean Grove Nature Reserve, Victoria 4 April 2015 – feeding on new grass growth after a bush fire in the area.

Red Browed Finch, Ocean Grove Nature Reserve, Victoria 4 April 2015

The Lookout – Red Browed Finch, Ocean Grove Nature Reserve, Victoria 4 April 2015

Silvereye, Lake Connewarre, Victoria 4 April 2015

Silvereye, Lake Connewarre, Victoria 4 April 2015

Silvereye, Lake Connewarre, Victoria 4 April 2015

A careful selection

Silvereye, Lake Connewarre, Victoria 4 April 2015

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Silvereye, Lake Connewarre, Victoria 4 April 2015

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Superb Fairy Wren, Lake Connewarre, Victoria 4 April 2015

I just want to sing ! – Superb Fairy Wren, Lake Connewarre, Victoria 4 April 2015

Welcome Swallow, Edwards Point Wildlife Reserve, St Leonards Victoria 4 April 2015

Welcome Swallow, Edwards Point Wildlife Reserve, St Leonards Victoria 4 April 2015

A squadron of Pelicans flew over me as I walked along the Point – there were 6 large birds flying in perfect formation gliding along the coast.

Australian Pelican, Edwards Point Wildlife Reserve, St Leonards Victoria 4 April 2015

Australian Pelican, Edwards Point Wildlife Reserve, St Leonards Victoria 4 April 2015

Australian Pelican, Edwards Point Wildlife Reserve, St Leonards Victoria 4 April 2015

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Red Browed Finch, Edwards Point Wildlife Reserve, St Leonards Victoria 4 April 2015

Red Browed Finch, Edwards Point Wildlife Reserve, St Leonards Victoria 4 April 2015

Opposite my accommodation in Queescliff was a park overlooking the beach and the heads at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay. In the park are some large mature trees planted by the early settlers of the area. The trees are stunning and beautifully shaped by pruning and the wind. The one below reminded me of a giant bonsai. I spent some time one evening in nice late afternoon light walking around it and using my wide angle lens trying to capture the feeling. I failed miserably – I never thought that taking a photos of trees would be so much harder than birds.

Conifer, Queenscliff,  Victoria 4 April 2015

Conifer, Queenscliff, Victoria 4 April 2015

Pine, Queenscliff,  Victoria 4 April 2015

Pine, Queenscliff, Victoria 4 April 2015

While I was staying at Queenscliff there was a full eclipse of the moon that lasted for several hours and finished with a rare blood moon. While I did not stay up for the full blood moon (too cold and I had an early start the next day), I did get a few early eclipse shots trying out various settings. I got very few clear shots due to clouds  but was happy enough with the one below.

Lunar Eclipse, Queenscliff,  Victoria 4 April 2015

Lunar Eclipse, Queenscliff, Victoria 4 April 2015

Drop Bear and Robin

I recently visited the family farm for a few hours of stacking 2 tonne of firewood with Fanior Ann and Henry Martin. After the job was done and the payment of lunch was settled, I had plenty of time to pass by Moorooduc Quarry to see how the Peregrine Falcons were getting on. I only heard and glimpsed one of the resident falcons but I did have good views of a Wedgetail Eagle drifting over on the afternoon air currents – too far above for any good shots. I found a few of my regular sidekicks as well as an ancient(ish) rock drawing of the legendary and deadly Drop Bear….

Brown Thornbill

Brown Thornbill

White Eared Honeyeater

White Eared Honeyeater

White Eared Honeyeater

White Eared Honeyeater II

Drop Bear

Drop Bear – on the other side of the quarry I noticed an old warning etched into the rocks – everyone has a different opinion on what a drop bear looks like – this is as good as any I have seen.

Eastern Yellow Robin

Eastern Yellow Robin

Eastern Yellow Robin

Eastern Yellow Robin in a typical hunting pose – about to launch down onto the ground after a meal…

Jets, Eagles, Whistlers and Robins

Woodlands Historic Park is in Greenvale near the Melbourne Airport. I visited last week after my walk along Cororoit Creek. I was pretty hungry and the only places I could see to eat along the way were crappy fast food outlets. I would rather go hungry than eat cardboard covered in salt, grease, sugar and fat. At the turn-off to get to Woodlands I saw a food truck at the Aircraft viewing area. I never knew about this area until I saw it on google maps while looking for the Woodlands Park. I stopped for some really good quality Turkish style food (chicken fillet burger and some fresh Dim Sims – ok a little junky but it was fresh made and really good). While waiting for it to be made several planes landed at the airport. The planes fly low right overhead as they land. It is a sight to see. Several mums had kids there watching and the kids were loving it – like giant dinosaurs flying overhead and landing nearby with a roar. They were too close to get in a shot using my 400 mm. Next time I will take a wider angle and wait for an airbus A380 to come in. One of the regular spotters said that was the best plane to watch as you can feel the turbulence and feel its size and at night it feels like it is going to land on you.

There are several good birding spots at Woodlands and the site I have been to a few times is near the Aboriginal Cemetery and Back Paddock gate. There is a large mob of Grey Roos hanging around that don’t seem too bothered by birders popping in or visitors with kids and strollers.

Grey Kangaroos

Grey Kangaroos

I found a pair of Red Capped Robins and they ignored me while they had a squabble about something. The male would approach and be gently attacked by the female. If the male backed off the female would jump in and get him hot and bothered again. It was strange to watch and I had no idea what was going on. I assumed it was a bit late in the season to be a courtship ritual. After a while they broke off and started hunting – with a similar style to the Eastern Yellow Robin – from a higher perch and then pouncing onto the prey on the ground.

Red Capped Robins

Red Capped Robins in a stand-off

Female Red Capped Robin

Female Red Capped Robin

Male Red Capped Robin

Male Red Capped Robin

Red Capped Robins

Red Capped Robins – another stand-off

Male Red Capped Robin

Male Red Capped Robin

Male Red Capped Robin

Male Red Capped Robin – looking for moths and other insects

Female Red Capped Robin

Female Red Capped Robin keeping an eye on me as I circled around trying to get better shots

Rufous Whistler

Rufous Whistler – I looked up from my stalking and found this guy trying to figure out what I was up to. His partner was in the next tree hunting amongst the tree branches and leaves.

Rufous Whistler

Rufous Whistler II

Rufous Whistler

Rufous Whistler III

Wedge Tailed Eagle

Wedge Tailed Eagle – several Eagles passed over head during my few hours at Woodlands. The Galahs gave a panicked call alerting me that something was above.

A Serendipitous Visit to Serendip Sanctuary

When I visit the You Yangs I usually pop into a local bird and animal sanctuary at the base of the You Yangs Range. It is little known park close to Melbourne, free to visitors, with breeding programs for several  rare birds. It  also maintains a sanctuary for injured birds and animals, some too badly injured to be released. It is a great place to see and photograph rare and hard to find birds. The aviary birds are used to people and so are quite relaxed and offer photographers a good chance to get in close. Around the site are many wild birds breeding and taking advantage of the abundant food and protection. There are some large wetlands and many migrating visitors. The park also has resident populations of emus and Brolgas.

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo

Emu

Emus are free to wander around and don’t bother people too much.

Emus

Emus – these two snuck up behind me to see what I was doing (unsuccessfully trying to photograph a family of Black Chinned Honeyeaters)

Emu and chick

Emu and chick walking and feeding along the edge of the main lagoon – the chicks are very cute and there were a number at the Sanctuary but considering how protective (and big) the parents are I kept my distance.

Black Wallaby

Black Wallaby – relaxed and snoozing in the shade.

Black Wallaby

Black Wallaby II

Magpie Geese

Magpie Geese – several thousand were spread across all the lagoons and wetlands.

Magpie Geese

Magpie Geese

Magpie Goose

Magpie Goose – does not quite make my top 10 prettiest birds list…

Tawny Frogmouth,

Tawny Frogmouth – nocturnal specialist and master of camouflage.

Tawny Frogmouth,

Tawny Frogmouth II

Bush Stone Curlew

Bush Stone Curlew

Red Rumped Parrot

Red Rumped Parrot

Red Rumped Parrot

Red Rumped Parrot II

Buff Banded Rail

Buff Banded Rail – secretive wetlands bird that birders only usually get glimpses of – but at Serendip there is an aviary full of them that allows for long views and many photos. In fact you have to be careful while you move around taking pics. They get under your feet while looking for insect snacks.

Buff Banded Rail

Buff Banded Rail II

Whistling Kite Nest

Large Whistling Kite nest – the Kites were still around and making a nuisance of themselves amongst the nervous flocks of Magpie Geese

Cape Barren Goose

Cape Barren Goose  – this one followed me around the Wallaby/Kangaroo Pen – he must have been expecting a feed. He made me a bit nervous as every time I turned around he was a few steps closer to my backside.

The Garden of Scare Cow and Birdman

During a recent visit to St Kilda, I dropped into the Veg Out Community Garden. It is a community plot garden primarily for local apartment dwellers who do not have access to green space to grow veggies. The plots are located on what was once a lawn bowl club’s greens. The garden is clean, well maintained and supported. The garden rows and plots have a number of sculptures and artwork either made by the plot gardeners or the local artists working from studios located in the grounds. The artwork can be quite eclectic and eccentric. It is well worth the visit and a great place to have some takeaway lunch from the local delis and cafes in Acland St.

Veg Out Community Gardens

Veg Out Community Gardens – the old car will be incorporated into the design of the garden.

Veg Out Community Gardens II

Veg Out Community Gardens II

Veg Out Community Gardens III

Veg Out Community Gardens III

Rusty Eagle Sculpture

Rusty Eagle Sculpture

Rusty Eagle Sculpture II

Rusty Eagle Sculpture II

Birdman of the Chicken coop

Birdman of the Chicken coop

Scare Cow

Scare Cow – not sure whether the cow would scare off birds or not but it certainly had me looking twice as I walked past

Scare Cow II

Scare Cow II

Feral Pigeon, Veg Out Garden

Feral Pigeon, Veg Out Garden

St Kilda Pier – fishing, fashion, falling and feathers (but no rats!)

The St Kilda Pier has it all – a cafe, great views of the city, yachts, fishing, evening promenades, fashion, parachuting, Little Penguins and Rakalis.

St Kilda Pier

St Kilda Pier

Melbourne City Skyline from St Kilda Pier

Melbourne City Skyline from St Kilda Pier

Melbourne City Skyline from St Kilda Pier II

Melbourne City Skyline from St Kilda Pier II

Looking back into St Kilda from St Kilda Pier

Looking back into St Kilda from St Kilda Pier

Paragliding, St Kilda Pier

Paragliding, St Kilda Pier

Fishing off the rocks - baseball caps are usually the norm around here but this hat might change the local fashion scene...

Fishing off the rocks – baseball caps are usually the norm around here but this hat might change the local fashion scene…

Black Swan W36

Black Swan W36 – see previous post on logging tagged Swans

Pied Cormorant

Pied Cormorant

People visiting Melbourne often have on their lists a visit to Phillip Island to see the Little Penguins at the Parade. A nice local secret is that there is a colony of Little Penguins at the breakwater on the St Kilda Pier (only a few kilometres from Melbourne CBD). One can get very close to a penguin (a few feet) and get great photos for free anytime of the day. Eggs are laid, chicks raised and fed, swims taken, adults moult and sunbake…all within easy reach (with a camera). The site is monitored by the local Rangers as well as the local fishermen who are very happy to point out the best spots to see them and to advise of the required etiquette when getting close to the Penguins.

Penguin colony access from St Kilda Pier

Penguin colony access from St Kilda Pier

Little Penguin napping

Little Penguin napping

Little Penguin moulting - this guy looked quite uncomfortable, scratching with his wings and beak. He was under a wooden bench ignoring everyone .

Little Penguin moulting – this guy looked quite uncomfortable, scratching with his wings and beak. He was under a wooden bench ignoring everyone .

Look at me, look at me!

Look at me, look at me!

Little Penguin rock climbing - he had just come out of the water and was climbing up to his regular roost/grooming rock

Little Penguin rock climbing – he had just come out of the water and was climbing up to his regular roost/grooming rock

 I think this is my best side...

I think this is my best side…

yes I am very cute aren't I?

Yes I am very cute aren’t I?

you had better think I am cute!

You had better think I am cute!

Like, whatever, I am out of here...

Like, whatever, I am out of here…

A bonus at the site is the regular appearance of the Rakali. The fishermen tie up a fish with string and a little marine mammal pops out for a snack. It is the spitting image of the biggest rat you have ever seen and scares the tourists when one pops out of the rocks. But size, fur colour and webbed feet give away what it actually is…The water rat has been renamed the Rakali to remove the rat name association and I think it works well. We have Rakalis along the canal behind our house in Elwood (a nearby suburb) but have not seen one for quite a while. There are local volunteers who will sit for a few hours each evening and wait for Rakalis to move past and count and observe them for the local Eco teams.

 I am not a rat, I am a Rakali...a native water mammal, a water ah um ....rat

I am not a rat, I am a Rakali…a native water mammal, a water ah um ….rat

Rakali - notice the webbed rear feet

Rakali – notice the webbed rear feet

Rakali III

Rakali III

Little Pied Cormorant grooming and drying his feathers.

Little Pied Cormorant grooming and drying his feathers.

Greens Bush – The Fox and the Cuckoo

An early morning follow-up visit to Greens Bush produced a few interesting bird shots as well as a young fox exploring his neck of the woods.

The Eastern Spinebills were fighting with the New Holland Honeyeaters over the nectar in the flowering Mistletoe hanging from the local gum trees.

Young Eastern Spinebill

Young Eastern Spinebill

Black Faced Cuckoo-Shrike

Black Faced Cuckoo-Shrike with its distinctive look and call.

Brown Thornbill feeding a Shining Bronze Cuckoo

Brown Thornbill feeding a Shining Bronze Cuckoo chick – the adult female Cuckoo will lay a similar looking egg into a target bird’s nest. The host parents will raise the young cuckoo as their own and don’t seem to realise that it is not their own species – even when it looks and sounds very different and can be much bigger – as above. The Thornbill jumped over the young Cuckoo and fed it from the right hand side.

I have spent quite a bit time out and about this year and have seen a number of  foxes. This one was quite small and seemed to be on its own having a look around.

Young Fox out and about exploring

Young Fox out and about exploring

Hears the shutter click and starts to trot forward to investigate

Hears the shutter clicks and starts to trot forward to investigate

Slows down as he sees that something big is up ahead (me)

Slows down as he sees that something big is up ahead (me)

Finally sees me clearly, freezes and bolts back along the path...

Finally sees me clearly, freezes and bolts back along the path…