Serendip Sanctuary at the base of the You Yangs, South-West of Melbourne, is a good place to practice your bird and animal photography. I like to visit the sanctuary a few times a year and see what wild birds have turned up. The Bush Stone Curlew and the Scarlet chested Parrot were in a walk through aviary along with many other species that are quite used to people. The Bush Stone Curlew uses it stillness and camouflaged plumage and freezes when threatened or nervous. While walking through the aviary we had to wait for the bird to stop freezing and move out of the way. It had to be hunting insects as it did not have to walk on the track we were on. The Scarlet-chested Parrot is rare in Victoria and usually found in inland Australia. The Magpie Geese are actually wild and are often found at Serendip especially when the water levels are higher. They are not the prettiest bird around – remind me more of a vulture than goose. Apparently they are very good eating in Northern Territory.
Bush Stone Curlew, Serendip Sanctuary, Lara, Victoria
I read about creating “birding minutes” a while back (and eventually I will find the article/blog and reference it). The concept is about recording a site and the experience of that moment, the conditions, location and sounds of the local birds. For my first minute I thought I would use my iPhone and a Rode mic but it did not turn out well so in future I will record using my Zoom and the Rode mic. I recorded my 1st Birding Minute last weekend at Greens Bush on the Mornington Peninsula. It is a favourite spot of mine for an early morning walk amongst varied forest and rainforest vegetation types and usually has many birds but on this occasion it was very still and quiet.
When I visit Braeside Park I always look in a few key spots for one of my favourite birds – the Tawny Frogmouth. Around the carpark there is open area and plenty of medium sized trees that the frogmouths like to roost in during the day. They can be hard to find due to the habit of staying very still and elongating their body to look like a dead branch stump. I have been seeing a pair in the carpark for the last 5 years so knew they were here somewhere. It was hot and I was standing in small grove of Wattles in the shade while I was trying to figure out where the pair could be when I looked straight into the eyes of a frogmouth. I found 2 roosting at head height in front of me and when I turned around to move away so I wouldnt be so close I found another. These were the grown chicks from the pair that I usually see in this area. ( I photographed a parent sitting on the nest last year. )
In the action no-action pose
Blending right in
The 3rd frogmouth and I would guess a parent as it just ignored me as I almost stumbled into it at head height while moving away from the other two – the breeding pair in this area of the Park are used to people and their cars.
Rename a native rodent from water-rat to its aboriginal name “Rakali”, and you can change the public view on an ignored animal. A family of Rakalis on the St Kilda break water has been semi-tamed via a local fisherman feeding them bait, fish and little cheese snacks. The Rakali has a varied diet and can be quite aggressive in its hunting. I have seen one kill an injured Pink-eared duck at the Werribee Treatment Plant.
St Kilda pier and break water is a good place to get up close and personal with the Rakali family as well as the nesting and roosting Little Penguins. On this visit most were still out hunting and I only found one Penguin down a rock crevice burrow.
Little Penguin, St Kilda break water, Victoria
Rakali, St Kilda break water, being fed a snack (notice the rear web feet)
One of the areas to explore when staying in Mallacoota is around Karbeethong Ave and Road. It is a small enclave of lovely houses and BnBs. One of the bnbs is Adobe Mudbrick houses. While I have not stayed overnight I often pass through the grounds looking for one of the regulars to be found there – the White-headed Pigeon. I showed a fellow birder who was new to the area where Adobe was and what to expect and while talking to one of the staff about the birdlife, we watched the antics of the local Rainbow Lorikeets. We also found one of the target birds for the day – The White-headed Pigeon.
One of the main reasons to visit Gypsy Point, north of Mallacoota, is to go on the small boat cruise up the river to see the White Bellied Sea Eagles diving for fish. It is a great experience and something I do at least once on each trip to the far eastern districts. Along with the usual wetland and river birds that you can expect to see is the amazing Azure Kingfisher. It is a tiny bird, much smaller than expected and I am always surprised at its size, speed and hunting prowess. While the light was very dim I did manage to take a few high ISO shots of this colourful bird.
Azure Kingfisher, Gypsy Point – still damp from its last dive into the shallows for prey
White-bellied Sea-eagle, photographed from Captain John’s boat cruise along the river.
I visit Bastion Point each year to try and find the elusive Reef Egret. It has eluded me on 5 visits to Mallacoota. Many other birders seem to find and photograph the egret but I just keep missing it. I loop around the usual coastal spots where it likes to hunt in the rocks pools at the change of tides. While I miss the Egret I do quite often come across the Sooty Oystercatcher, a nice sized wader with all black plumage, bright orange/red eyes and bill and thick pink legs. The Pied Oystercatcher seems much more common than the Sooty and Bastion Point is a good location to find and photograph it (while waiting for my hoodoo bird to turn up)
While the Pied hunts across inlets, bays and waterways and is often seen in large numbers, the Sooty Oystercatcher prefers ocean facing rocky outcrops where it pries off molluscs from the rocks and catches small crustaceans wading in shallow rock pools. I often find them in pairs even in non-breeding season. I am always keen to try and find and photograph the Sooty.
Sooty Oystercatcher, Bastion Point, Mallacoota
The ocean beach side of Bastion Point, Mallacoota
Sooty Oystercatcher feeling for prey in a rock pool