Category Archives: Birds

Twitching at Stockyard Point

Stockyard Point near Jam Jerrup in Western Port Bay is a good spot for some high tide wader watching. Once the tide rises many of the waders move across from feeding on the exposed low tide mud flats to the sand spits for a bit preening and sleeping. One of the many species found here is the Australian Pied Oystercatcher, a fairly common bird found along the coast. Not so common and in fact not previously reported in Victoria is the (NZ) South Island Pied Oystercatcher. The SIPO is very similar looking to the Aussie version but with shorter legs, longer bill and different white plumage on the back and underwing. In late June a keen eyed birder spotted this NZ vagrant, and since then many birders have taken the long beach walk to the point to twitch for the SIPO.  On the day we trekked to the point, we spent many hours on the spit, met quite a few birders, found the South Island Oystercatcher (lifer 346) and photographed many other waders. In winter one does not expect to see many waders in Victoria but we were amazed at how many different species had over-wintered in the south rather than fly back to Siberia to breed. A few of the experienced birders suggested that it was due to a very good breeding season in the north in 2016 and that 1st year birds tend to over-winter rather than fly back north. It was long day, standing for 6 hours, exposed to bitingly cold southerly winds, at times wet, but it was one of the best days of birding I have seen.

Stockyard Point Twitch, Jam Jerrup, Vic

Stockyard Point Twitch, Jam Jerrup, Vic – a brief sunny respite from the cold and winds

Waders at Stockyard Point, Jam Jerrup, Vic

Hundreds of over-wintering waders at Stockyard Point

Waders at Stockyard Point, Jam Jerrup, Vic

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Waders at Stockyard Point, Jam Jerrup, Vic

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Eastern Curlews and Godwits at Stockyard Point, Jam Jerrup, Vic

Eastern Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwits

Eastern Curlews and Godwits at Stockyard Point, Jam Jerrup, Vic

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Eastern Curlews and Godwits at Stockyard Point, Jam Jerrup, Vic

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Eastern Curlews and Godwits at Stockyard Point, Jam Jerrup, Vic

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Godwits landing at Stockyard Point, Jam Jerrup, Vic

Bar-tailed godwits landing on a sand spit at high tide 

Waders at Stockyard Point, Jam Jerrup, Vic

6 species in this shot: Red-capped plover, Red knot, Curlew sandpiper, Red-necked stint, Terek sandpiper, Double-banded plover.

Oystercatchers_SIPO at Stockyard Point, Jam Jerrup, Vic

South Island Pied Oystercatcher (left) and Australian Pied Oystercatcher

Flame Robin of Carrum Carrum Swamp

I visited a new site on the weekend. The Seaford Wetlands: a remnant of the old Carrum Carrum Swamp that extended from Mordialloc right around the bay to Frankston. What is left of the old swamp is still the largest natural wetlands left within the Port Phillip and Western Port catchments. I walked through the wetlands from the rear of the Seaford North Primary School and over to the other side where I found a small line of trees and bushes that had a number of birds working the grass area for seeds and insects. Amongst the birds using the fence line as a lookout for insects was a Flame Robin.

Flame Robin, Seaford Wetlands, Seaford, Vic

Flame Robin, Seaford Wetlands, Seaford, Vic

Flame Robin, Seaford Wetlands, Seaford, Vic

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Flame Robin, Seaford Wetlands, Seaford, Vic

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Tracking the Jawbone Thornbills

On the weekend I made a return visit to the Jawbone Reserve in Williamstown. It was cold and windy but at least a sunny winter’s morning. The highlight of the walk was photographing Yellow-rumped Thornbills. They can often be found feeding in a busy twittering mixed species flock working the mid and lower levels of the forest canopy. I also see them feeding on the ground picking at what I assume to be small insects in the grass. On this occasion a flock of nine Thornbills were moving along the grass fringe near the Jawbone lagoons. I kept trying to intercept but they just worked around me at a distance of 20 feet or so. They seems to be moving along with the wind direction so I moved around and in front and let them work up to me. I tried sitting but they moved away so I just stood still as I waited for them to drift toward me. This seemed to work and I was generally ignored. At one point they were only several feet away and did not seem bothered by me at all. This was the first time I have had such a close look at this species. Usually I just hear their chittering in the forest and see a flash of yellow rump as they fly away.

Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Jawbone Nature Reserve, Williamstown, Vic

Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Jawbone Nature Reserve, Williamstown, Vic

Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Jawbone Nature Reserve, Williamstown, Vic

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Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Jawbone Nature Reserve, Williamstown, Vic

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Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Jawbone Nature Reserve, Williamstown, Vic

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Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Jawbone Nature Reserve, Williamstown, Vic

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Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Jawbone Nature Reserve, Williamstown, Vic

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Not so shy skulker

Usually a shy bird, the Grey Shrikethrush is a woodlands and forest skulker, feeding in the low to medium forest canopy. It is often heard and fleetingly seen. I do see and hear it quite often in the various reserves along the Peninsula but never long enough to get many images. At Cape Schanck several seem to have become semi-tame due to the picnic table leftovers.

Grey Shrikethrush, Cape Schanck, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Grey Shrikethrush, Cape Schanck, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Grey Shrikethrush, Cape Schanck, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Waiting for the tables to clear….

Grey Shrikethrush, Cape Schanck, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

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Singing at Cape Schanck

I have been spending a bit time down in Rosebud over the last few months and have started exploring different sections of the Mornington Peninsula National Park. Cape Schanck is the most southern point of the Peninsula and juts out as the meeting place of the wild Bass Strait and Western Port Bay. One of my favourite times visiting the site was during rough southerly conditions and watching Gannets, Shearwaters and Albatross fly by the coast. On this occasion it was fairly mild and many visitors were enjoying the sunny winter conditions. One of the bird species often found in the area is the Singing Honeyeater known for its beautiful and melodic songs.

Singing Honeyeater, Cape Schanck, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Singing Honeyeater, Cape Schanck, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Singing Honeyeater, Cape Schanck, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

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Cape Schanck boardwalk and lighthouse, Mornington Peninsula National park, Vic

Cape Schanck boardwalk and lighthouse, Mornington Peninsula National park, Vic

Coming in to land…

Juvenile Crested Tern, Rickett's Point, Beaumaris, Vic

Juvenile Crested Tern, Rickett’s Point, Beaumaris, Vic

When the weather is fine I like to head down to Rickett’s Point along coastal Beaumaris in Port Philip Bay. At the Point on the rocks is a regular roosting spot for Crested Terns, Silver Gulls and the large Pacific Gulls. On this visit I sat on the rocks close to the colony and watched the juveniles preening and waiting for the adults to come back with food. The terns allowed me to crawl quite close and as  long as I sat down and kept still, they were quite calm and did not flush. As the tide got higher several moved to new rocks and I took the opportunity to practice my flight and tracking shots.    It can be quite difficult to get a clean sequence. A number of shots were not added due to being cut off at the top. To try and get clean shots my settings were 1/6400, F5.6, ISO640 313mm (full zoom of 400mm was too close for a complete image) – with the abundant sunlight I should have shot a much lower ISO but I wanted to crank up the speed to get the detail in the  feathers. I shot over 400 images in an hour of observation, which is always fun (not) to trawl through later and look for gems.

Juvenile Crested Tern, Rickett's Point, Beaumaris, Vic

Juvenile Crested Tern, Rickett’s Point, Beaumaris, Vic

Juvenile Crested Tern, Rickett's Point, Beaumaris, Vic

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Juvenile Crested Tern, Rickett's Point, Beaumaris, Vic

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Juvenile Crested Tern, Rickett's Point, Beaumaris, Vic

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Juvenile Crested Tern, Rickett's Point, Beaumaris, Vic

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Juvenile Crested Tern, Rickett's Point, Beaumaris, Vic

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Juvenile Crested Tern, Rickett's Point, Beaumaris, Vic

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Juvenile Crested Tern, Rickett's Point, Beaumaris, Vic

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Juvenile Crested Tern, Rickett's Point, Beaumaris, Vic

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Juvenile Crested Tern, Rickett's Point, Beaumaris, Vic

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Juvenile Crested Tern, Rickett's Point, Beaumaris, Vic

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Enjoying Jawbone photography

With an abundance of birds that are fairly used to people, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve along the Williamstown coastline is a good place to practice bird photography.

Australian Magpie, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, Williamstown, Vic

Australian Magpie, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, Williamstown, Vic

New Holland Honeyeater, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, Williamstown, Vic

New Holland Honeyeater

New Holland Honeyeater, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, Williamstown, Vic

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Hoary-headed Grebe, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, Williamstown, Vic

Hoary-headed Grebe

Crested Pigeons, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, Williamstown, Vic

Crested Pigeons feeling the early morning cold

Blue-billed Duck, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, Williamstown, Vic

Blue-billed Duck