Archive for Mar, 2019

31
Mar
19

In the pink

The main arterial that punctures its way into Melbourne from the west is the Westgate Freeway. It crosses the Yara River by way of the magnificent 2.5km long Westgate Bridge. Beneath the busy roadway is a small recreational area; Westgate Park.

Throughout the world there are a small number of rare lakes. The salinity, algal and bacterial content of these lakes, when the temperature is right, turn the water pink for a while. One such ‘Pink Lake’ occasionally occurs in Westgate Park and in mid March was at its ‘pinkest’ for a long time. Tania and dropped down from the bridge to take a look. I’m not sure what was going through the mind of the the White-headed Stilt I photographed feeding in what appeared to be a vast quantity of Strawberry Nesquik … but it certainly made a pretty picture.

26
Mar
19

The UK Mammal Photographer of the Year

The UK Mammal Photographer of the Year is an award based upon an annual competition run by the Mammal Society. I don’t normally enter competitions. I’m a bit too bashful. ;0) Anyways, I was talked into entering the 2019 event and I was lucky enough that my photo of a Minke Whale ‘Minke Miniscus’ taken last June, won the runners-up prize. https://www.mammal.org.uk/2019/03/did-someone-say-cheese/ gives all the details. My congratulations to the winner, Roy Rimmer, who’s photo of a mouse is lit to perfection.

 

 

23
Mar
19

Sitting tight

There are two Martin species in Victoria with pale rumps; Tree Martin and Fairy Martin. We stumbled upon a young Fairy Martin that tolerated close approach the other day. Sitting tight on the track ahead of us it posed well for photographs.

19
Mar
19

Unexpected Arrivals

Anyone that watches birds knows that if you see a raptor, a bird of prey, whatever you are doing or watching your eyes are inextricably drawn towards it. This can be mildly distracting when you’re trying to watch something else but can range upwards of damn right awkward when you’re driving!

Last week our eyes were fixed on a Swamp Harrier as it quartered the coastal scrub. A Swamp Harrier is akin to a cross between a Hen and a Marsh Harrier. It’s large, dark, flies with its wings held in a shallow ‘V’ and has a white rump. It came close. I fired off a few shots and as I looked at the back of the camera to inspect the results I became aware of something large nearby that wasn’t there when I started photographing the Harrier. I squinted against the bright light reflecting off the water. Not but 50m away were a couple of Brolga.

Brolga are large birds of the crane family. One of two species of crane found in Australia. In northern Australia they are abundant but in Victoria Brolga are scarce; they are now down to around 500 birds.  Although we’d searched for them in the past we’d failed to find them. It seemed that a pair had now found us! I think my opening comment was along the lines of “Where the **** did they come from?” Neither Tania nor I had seen them fly in. We’d been absorbed with the flypast of the Swamp Harrier.

The Brolga stayed with us for around 10 minutes as they drank and preened before departing north. What a treat!

 

 

15
Mar
19

Swapping Continents

I arrived in Australia a couple of days after finishing the Southern Scotland Tour at the beginning of March. Having recovered from a bout of food poisoning acquired on the Cathay Pacific flight one of the first places Tania and I visited was the Werribee treatment plant. What a wonderful place for birds it is. For those that have never been imagine Titchwell RSPB … on steroids. It does however have the downfall of being wrapped up in colonial administration worthy of a banana republic. It reminded me of visiting a shrimp farm in Gambia thirty odd years ago when I had to offer everything I owned short of a pint of blood before I was allowed to enter. Anyways that’s a story for a different time. Having applied for a permit online to visit Werribee then travelled to pick up the gate key in a completely different location to the reserve itself, sat through a training induction for the third time in as many months, signed a disclosure document, offered up my ID and made a promise to change from my shorts into long trousers, I was on my way. … but not before being given the following parting shot by the lady administrator …. “I hope the Tufted Duck is still around for you” she said.

I had heard a Tufted Duck was floating around on one of the lagoons somewhere. Completely lost of course and way off it’s Eurasian home turf, it had even hit newspaper headlines here in Victoria. I reassured the lady that I would not be seeking any Tufted Ducks as I had in the previous few days been knee deep among them in the Scottish lowlands. I could see a moment of confusion on her face as she looked down at the Norfolk address I’d given her. I made her none the wiser as I picked up the gate key and fled the office. I can only conclude she thought Norfolk was perhaps in Scotland somewhere.

I was processing a few shots from the South Scotland Tour this week and I noticed this photo. A drake Tufted Duck, caught in the wind with a fraying hairstyle worthy of Donald Trump rather than Donald Duck. The Tuftie was sharing a pool with a rather secretive Green Winged Teal from America. It’s a small world… especially if you can fly.

Next years Southern Scotland Tour will be available for booking shortly.

12
Mar
19

Otter and otter

For the second time in as many weeks we came across a very sociable Otter on tour. This time it was north of the border on our Southern Scotland tour last weekend. Amid a flurry of Goosander we watched this enigmatic mammal catching and eating fish.

02
Mar
19

A miss was a hit

Missing something by just minutes is always pretty galling. Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers had been seen shortly before we got to the site. By the time we got there I could hear nothing of them. Just the distant drumming of a Greater Spotted. However; there was consolation .

Lesser spot would have been the golden ribbon around a suite of Breckland birds on the ‘Breckland Birding Day’ a week or so ago. Some beautiful singing Woodlarks, best ever sightings of displaying Goshawk, crest raising Firecrests, a flock of leaf litter tossing Hawfinch, more Brambling than you could shake a hairy stick at and some of the reddest male Crossbills you have seen in your life! Throw in a bold Water Rail with black faced Siskins and a small flock of Marsh Tits and we had a day that was memorable.

For me however the thing that topped the lot were the two Otters feeding beside us as we waited for the Lesser Spots… beautiful.




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