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Archive for February, 2011

Glenbrook, Blue Mountains NP.

February 28th, 2011

A few Sundays ago I visited this national park, located at the foot of the Blue Mountains. What a gorgeous place it is! Not just this section of the park, but the roads, the trees and habitats that I encounter as can you as long as you visit. 🙂

I wanted to descend into the valley below Pisgah Rock near Nepean Lookout, but when I walked to the end of the trail I realized the descent is some 200 meters from the top to the creek below, and I really did not have time to carry out the climb. Sad, but that’s how it was. It was a semi-warm Sunday, but as I had arrived at Pisgah Rock the southerly buster that was predicted earlier hit and it suddenly got very windy atop the precipice.

Pisgah Rock Lookout, Glenbrook

Pisgah Rock Lookout, Glenbrook

I went for a quick walk to the west of the lookout to peer into the adjacent gorge and noted the healthy flowering gums, which had a few interesting species of birds. The prettiest being the Scarlet Honeyeater, which sadly I could not get a photo of. There were also Yellow-faced Honeyeaters as well as a few Eastern Spinebills, which were easily identifiable from their piping calls. Then the big surprise came when I heard an Australian Owlet-nightjar call from its daytime roost. Usually the calls I hear from these tiny nightbirds are something like a three note “whirr-whirr-whirr” and it is often they call during daylight hours. I am not sure of the significance of the call itself, but this is it.

When I backtracked to Pisgah Rock, I heard the calls of a Rockwarbler. These birds are only found in the Sydney basin and are endemics; very, very pretty birds indeed and they live on the rocky sandstone outcrops around the Blue Mountains and areas where similar habitats are found close to Sydney. A quick playback of their calls got a response with two adults quickly flying in very close to investigate the intruder. I was not able to get any photos for the batteries in my flash were not working well. Later I realized that I mixed good ones (fully charged ones) with semi-flat batteries so that was the answer to my question. In any case, I enjoyed their company for the rest of my presence there and I am not fussed to not get any images. Happy to just observe any wildlife.

I made my way back towards Euroka Camp Ground as it is known for quite friendly Eastern Grey Kangaroos and worst case I knew I could obtain an image or two of these amiable macropods. The weather was deteriorating and I was not confident of getting too many good images (if any), but my enthusiasm never vanes. Arriving at the grounds I noted no kangaroos, just a few Sulfur-crested Cockatoos. Nothing really special. I drove right to the eastern end of the trails to a car parking area, where I photographed some Noisy Miners, perhaps the most common Sydney honeyeater species. I believe all birds are pretty, common or not, friendly or not, pain in the backside or not. These guys also have their place in the ecosystems surrounding us and are natives of Australia.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo

Seeing a little bit of commotion on the grass adjacent to the car park, I was quick to find the marauding goanna (Lace Monitor, Varanus varius) lurking around and as soon as it spotted me it found the first tree and climbed as high as possible to escape the human danger. Once I was about 30m away, it climbed back down and headed into the bushland and I followed the edge down to the little creek there to check the path that runs along it. As I walked barely 100 meters, I noticed a new species of snake about which I got quite excited. It was a Green Tree Snake (Dendrelaphis punctulata) and no more than about 600mm long high in a little sapling. It was terrified of me and quickly dropped into the creek to disappear in the greenery. I managed one image that is sufficient for identification.

Green Tree Snake living up to its name; in a tree.

When I drove back to the main camping area, I noted there were two adult and one young Eastern Grey Kangaroos near a little causeway with the curious tourists poking their little point and shoot cameras at them. One young girl from overseas (I guess somewhere in Europe) was flicking bits of bread to them. I “gently” explained to her that the roos will prefer to eat vegetation rather than bread. She kind of smiled and probably thought I was a dork, but to me the welfare of the animal is more important than some silly tourist’s pride to feed a wild animal human garbage.

Not long after that the local cockatoo population began to stir as a Collared Sparrowhawk flew in a zig-zag about the trees and gosh, did I wish it would take out a cocky, but it was not to be. All in all the dreary afternoon was pleasant and mild with an exciting few encounters. Though not that much to write home about.

Enjoy your nature time!

A friendly Noisy Miner. An underrated, common, yet pretty species.

Nature Photography

Photographing friendly Satin Bowerbirds

February 15th, 2011

I was talking with a friend of mine, Stephen Davey of the avkomp photography fame who is also 51 today (Happy Birthday my man!), and got some good info out of him on a spot where he once photographed Satin Bowerbirds. Funny, because the species has been a target for me for some time since I think they have the most stunning violet eyes and the plumage between the sexes is very different with the males being a dark blue/black color whereas the females are mostly green with mottled patterns throughout their plumage. All in all, these characteristics make them very pretty and desirable as a photography subject.

The Satin Bowerbird's eye is mesmerizingly beautiful.

They also build bowers (well the males do) and he will steal even blue clothes pegs from your line as it is mostly the blue that he is after. He then rearranges the different objects in front of his bower to impress any passing ladies that may show interest in his offerings. His bower is made from twigs and it makes a nice tunnel in which he can woo his potential mate. When he leaves the area to search for food, a rival male may come in and destroy his creation so he can go back to square one. Nice aye? I guess grass cutting is even present in the bird world! 🙂 Once a lady accepts his advances and likes his bower then they may mate right in the middle of it, after which the female flies off and raises the young on her own while the male just gets to fly around and look extremely handsome.

This is the set-up used.

In any case, I have learned that they take fruits pretty well and that if there is a place I could get them close, using some fruits as temptation may get them to my perches for photos. Little did I know that once I speak to Stephen my thoughts would come closer to fruition than once thought. So he advised me where to go and what to expect. Basically, I saw a few images in his gallery of Satin Bowerbirds and asked where they were and how he got them. Half the battle is knowing some people who willingly share info. Stephen trusts me so I was privileged he gave me the spot, even though it’s a picnic area you would not get too many bird photographers there, or at least not the secretive ones who don’t like to share anything anyway. I arrived at around 14:30 in the afternoon in 38-degree (Celsius) heat and it was steaming down there by the creek in the forest. 🙁 I ran down and filled my two buckets with sand so I can place the perches in and hang the fruit offerings on the end in a small container. I ran a small vine on one of the perches, and not sure if it was a good idea or not, but did it anyway. I chopped up some grapes (into about 1/6 of normal size) and blue berries (in half, and later got whacked by the wife for they are expensive fruits) then put about two dozen pieces into the container and sat 8m away on my little stool waiting.

Female or immature Satin Bowerbird. Still gorgeous whichever it may be.

Well, it took no more than ten minutes for the first birds to fly close, inspecting from about five meters away then bingo, one landed on a perch than another then they squabbled a little and both ended up taking turns in feeding. Then they flew off with the grapes probably feeding a nest full of young. I simply waited a few more minutes before they returned for round two. I was in this first semi-shaded location for about two hours then decided to move to a more lit area as the sun was getting lower, though not low enough, plus being deep in a gully along the creek line, I would never get the golden morning or evening light since the mountains block it out. I didn’t even use a stool in the second spot, deciding to hand hold the camera and could get to less than five meters away from the perch.

Male Satin Bowerbird. He is stunning!

Though at 300mm on a camera with an APS-C sensor that’s a field of view equivalent to 480mm and way too tight, so I backed off as I wanted some full body shots. In this spot, I also saw the first male for the day and he was as unafraid as the female/immature birds.

All in all, I had an absolutely super few hours with these magnificent birds. Hope you enjoy the images.

Nature Photography

The majestic Nepean Weir

February 9th, 2011

I discovered this spot by sheer accident five years ago when, after years of battling out with transparency film, I bought my first digital SLR camera. The spot immediately made a huge impression on me for I have become so interested in photographing topside wildlife after a decade of underwater photography and writing that it hit me with new photography subjects like a quad-header 86-class diesel pulled coal train descending the Blue Mountains.

You see the weir area is a convergence of the plains and mountains as well as a river and streams. I have personally observed 136 of the 138 listed species of birds here alone in the short time I have been visiting with the exception of Scarlet Robin and Wedge-tailed Eagle (both of which I have observed not too far from this area). An official list is kept on an internet database (www.eremaea.com) and it’s linked to the Birds Australia Atlas that picks up bird records for reference made by bird observers visiting the location.

See my list of birds here:
http://www.eremaea.com/SiteSpeciesList.aspx?Site=14476

Now that the list has got you excited, let me share some images I made recently at this spot. I love to explore and have not found some areas yet for I have not had the time that I wish I had to look and find animals. I hope you enjoy this small visual extravaganza.

Australian Darter (male)

Duckling wingflap

White-browed Scrubwren

Cormorant fly-by

Tender moment

Nature Photography

Red-capped versus Scarlet Robin.

February 7th, 2011

This weekend just gone I was very pleased to note that in one part of the bush I was visiting there was a male Scarlet Robin in attendance and I photographed it both Saturday and Sunday morning. A lovely Canadian birder, Allan Gilbert, has been trying to track one down so I sent clear map/directions to him and his wife Sharon to see if they can find the bird. Today I received the following e-mail from Allan.

Ákos:
Sharon and I went out to the Devlin Rd bush to look for your Scarlet Robin, and were so proud of ourselves finding a Robin just where you said it would be! I wasn’t able to take a photo, but we carefully observed the red front cap, and the red belly with lots of white on the flanks… Then when we got home and looked it up in the book, we realized what we saw a Red-capped Robin, not your Scarlet Robin!!! So I guess we have to go back! Go figure! Otherwise, it seems that the Devlin bush is very quiet except for Buff-rumped Thornbills.

Anyway, I sent an e-mail back to Allan to check as I have not seen the Red-capped Robins here this year, only the stray Scarlet Robin. Below are two images of the species so you can look and see the differences for yourselves.

Happy Birding!

Nature Photography