Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The vocal talents of a male Superb Lyrebird

Superb Lyrebird male
Although not great picture quality, we captured the vocal talents of a male superb lyrebird 13/7/13 during a bushwalk, they are great mimics and here you can hear him mimic perfectly the calls of a Black Cockatoo, Eastern Whipbird, Yellow Robin, Eastern Rosella, Kin Parrot, and Wattle bird, among others!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary: Willow's Whisper to the World

POSTED BY JOANNA LUCAS, copyright: All content is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced without proper credit and a link to the original post. Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary: Willow's Whisper to the World
this is a must-read, but a heartbreaking blog post, I'm crying my eyes out after reading it...

Friday, 8 June 2012

Lakes Entrance Getaway

Lakes Entrance is around 200km East of Latrobe Valley in Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. 
where Victoria is in Australia
where Lakes Entrance is in Victoria
Recently we were fortunate enough to spend a long weekend at this lovely spot, staying at the fantastic Lakes Country Cottages  in the picturesque hills above the town. What lovely hosts they are at these self-contained cottages, and the scenery, comfort, and convenience there was perfect! 
Of the many highlights during our visit, the best was undoubtedly seeing hundreds of dolphins just metres away from the beach at Lakes Entrance. They made a large whirlpool around a school of fish and it was amazing to see the Terns in their hundreds working with the dolphins from above to catch their prey. Pod after pod came jumping through the waves for quite some time before the tide began to go back out and with it, the dolphins. 

Dolphins at Lakes Entrance beach

We also visited some of the many lakes around which are a haven for birds and wildlife, and despite some bad weather, captured some shots of the many species of water birds that abounded.  

pair of pelicans on the shore of one of the lakes

Intermediate Egret on the shore of one of the lakes

Lakes Entrance is also close to the Great Dividing Ranges, and in the bushland around the town we spotted some woodland birds too.

male King Parrot

pair of Eastern Rosellas

Great Egret on the jetty near the many boat cruise lines at Lakes Entrance
flock of Little Corellas, an unusual visitor to our next door neighbour's Cotoneaster plants, seen before we took to the road

wallaby at Sale Botanical Gardens en route to Lakes Entrance

female Satin Bowerbird

Grey Shrike-Thrush

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

Bronze-wing Pigeon 

Swan sitting on nest at shoreline of one of the lakes

(unidentified) Duck at the same lake as the swan above

Intermediate Egret

male King Parrot

Chestnut Teal male and three females near Nyerimilang Heritage Park
There are so many attractions in and around Lakes Entrance that are too many to mention here, and a long weekend was simply not long enough to do justice to it. Despite that, we thoroughly enjoyed our jam-packed getaway and can't wait to visit this region again.:)

Friday, 27 January 2012

Banded birds at Jack Smith Lake Reserve

Information Board near the entrance
As a volunteer for a Coastal Weeds Project (being jointly undertaken by Birds Australia and Melbourne University), I recently visited my local beach to collect some data, and do a bit of birding whilst there.

wildflower at Jack Smith Lake 
I visited Jack Smith Lake Game Reserve as a result, which is located on the coastline near Woodside beach, part of 90 mile beach-a pristine stretch of beach in Gippsland, Eastern Victoria.

Red-capped Plovers

It was a very hot, sunny day with very little wind, so it was so refreshing to reach the sand and feel the cooling sea breeze. There were few birds on the beach this time, but as the day began to end and the fierce sun started to go down some red-capped plovers were running along the sand some distance away. The photo of them included is terrible but the best I could manage before they took flight, and not wanting to go home without photographing a single bird I didn't delete it!
The Lake in the Reserve was low in water compared to the last time I visited in October, and the birds there were extremely wary. It was impossible to go close enough to the lake to photograph the duck species I could see in my binoculars, so I was not able to identify any of them unfortunately.
Little Black Cormorant on Jack Smith Lake, Black swans, Eurasian Coots and unidentified duck species in the background
 The best I could manage was this pic of a Little Black Cormorant shot from full zoom range while I concealed myself behind a banksia tree.  I also saw some Hoary-headed Grebes in the lake, but being such small birds the photographs of them shot from such a distance were not sharp enough to include here.
The Lake has many nesting boxes and old fence posts for perching in it, but gun shooting is still permitted at this reserve. I observed many spent shell cases on the ground around the foreshore of the lake, so it appeared the bird's wariness was due to this. I personally find duck shooting an absolutely abhorrent practice, so it was distressing to see the shell cases and the fear shooting had caused these peaceful and harmless birds.
 I can understand the shooting of feral animals that cause damage to  the delicate ecological balance of native species of flora and fauna, but other methods of control might be more humane. The shooting of native ducks however is something I can't understand at all....

juvenile Copperhead
Walking back and forth from the lake to the beach throughout the day meant I was lucky enough to spot a baby snake basking in the sun, despite the absence of birds during the hottest part of the afternoon. A young Copperhead was gracefully winding it's way across the sandy path leading through the dunes. It's head size was only that of a small skink, and it's total length was around 35cm. You can bet I was careful to observe the ground very carefully for it's relatives after seeing this beauty!

juvenile Copperhead
Back on the beach early in the evening and there were still very few birds around other than the ubiquitous Silver gulls and the larger Pacific Gulls, the latter of which kept a constant vigil of the tide by flying up and down the beach in search of food.
Pacific Gulls 

I almost missed noticing a group of Crested Terns because of this until I was very close to some Silver gulls hanging around near some fishermen.  When I was only metres away I finally saw that some of these 'gulls' were in fact, Crested Terns.

Crested Terns, some banded

Crested Terns
I was even more surprised when I looked at the photos back home and saw some of the Terns were banded! In contrast to the birds on the lake, these terns were remarkably approachable, allowing us to near them within metres without showing any signs of distress. For me this showed the excellent handling skills of the person(s) involved in banding them, and after the distressing observations of the terrified lake birds it was very encouraging to experience.

2 banded Crested Terns

The sun was setting back at the Lake in the reserve when the sound of many small birds twittering filled the air. Among the branches of a Banksia a family of Silvereyes were busy chorusing. Being on the Southern coast of the mainland directly North of Tasmania, I wondered if they were of the migratory Tasmanian race of Silvereye, however I didn't get enough photos of the fast-flying little beauties to be able to tell with any degree of certainty. Lacking the expertise myself as well I cannot identify their race from the photos here, but I wonder if anyone reading could tell me? It would be great to know if so.
fledgling Silvereye
pair of fledgling Silvereyes

On the subject of reader feedback, if anyone can send me some information on anything I can do to help duck shooting become outlawed in Victoria I would greatly appreciate it.

Crested Terns, some banded

One of my last photos here from Jack Smith Lake Game Reserve is of one of the many Eastern Grey Kangaroos living there. Its wonderful to drive out of the reserve at dusk as this is when they appear in large numbers, happily grazing in family groups on the grass either side of the gravel road in the reserve.

young Eastern Grey Kangaroo
It's also when I have been rewarded every time I've visited with a glimpse of some raptor species, on this particular day it was a Brown Falcon with a swamp rat in it's talons, having just seized it from the road adjacent to a reed bed.

banded Crested Terns

Jack Smith Lake Game Reserve is a beautiful spot to visit for a day, and the coastline is totally superb. There are numerous bird species known to inhabit this spot including Blue-winged and Orange-bellied Parrots. Please click on the enclosure link for more info on this spot should you like to visit it too.

little bird footprints in the sand (sunglasses in shot to give an idea of bird size)

Monday, 9 January 2012

Summer Roos, Cockatoos, Wrens and flowers in blue hues

wildflower at Traralgon South
Flora & Fauna Reserve
Thank goodness the heat wave stopped long enough for us to venture out again this summer into some of the beautiful spots Gippsland has to offer! Since it's cooled off into a comfortable average temperature in the mid-twenties, a couple of areas visited since my last post have been Blue Rock Lake in Willow Grove, Traralgon South Flora & Fauna Reserve, and the Billy's Creek section of Morwell National Park. Despite it's namesake, Morwell National Park is not in Morwell at all, it's actually closer to Jeeralang and Budgeree in the foothills of the Strzelecki Ranges and technically it's location is Yinnar South, but for some reason it's named 'Morwell National Park'...? The Morwell River, although fairly close by, does not run through it either, so it's a mystery to me as to why it's named after a town that is actually a few towns away.

Superb Fairy-wren at Blue Rock Lake
The Morwell National Park is in two separate sections a short drive's distance away from each other. The more popular section is in Kerry's Road and features an electric bbq, information shelter and bush toilets near the car park area. There are a number of walking tracks traversing a variety of landscapes here, while the other section, Billy's Creek, is situated on Junction Road or alternatively can also be accessed from Braniffs Road.
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Superb Fairy-wren at Blue Rock Lake
This section has a number of walking tracks of various difficulty and length, the main track on the flats and following the bends of Billy's Creek. The views from Clematis Track are well worth the hard work of climbing it, while the main track reaches an old weir before steep cliffs and thicker forest reward the visitor. We visited Billy's Creek a number of times this past fortnight to cool off under the shade of it's gums and dip our feet into the clear water of the creek in the late afternoons. On the most recent visit we were greeted by Eastern Grey Kangaroos along the track quite a few times, photos of which can be viewed below.

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Blue Rock Lake, Willow Grove
The Blue Rock Lake is near Willow Grove, on the way to Mount Baw Baw on the other side of Latrobe Valley. After another hot day we decided to go there for a bbq, a walk, and for birding as the afternoon is the worst time of all at our house on a hot day. Unfortunately for us the lack of insulation in the ceiling means by early evening the house is swelteringly hot inside, despite our best efforts to keep it cool throughout the day with the blinds, windows and doors drawn/closed. This manages to keep it fairly cool until the afternoon, as the floor to ceiling windows facing the sun at that time intensify it's rays and heat up the entire house. Its usually a good time to go elsewhere though and by the time we get home the heat has subsided, well if it hasn't got too hot already that is.

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

It was lovely and cool by the water of Blue Rock Lake, and many birds were observed but only a few captured on camera this time. Even though it was a hot day it was fairly quiet there with only a few fishermen seen nearby, and no noisy boats or other people to scare the birds away. It was blissfully cool, peaceful, and tranquil actually, with really thick grass you could take off your shoes and sink your toes into.

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

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Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo
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Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo
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Look at the muscles on this big guy!
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Don't get too close to Big Daddy!
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Mother Eastern Grey Kangaroo

Traralgon South Flora & Fauna Reserve was absolutely devastated by the 2009 bushfires, and almost 3 years on it is still regenerating slowly. The soil there is mainly sand, a remnant of a bygone era when the valley was under water. The coast is actually some distance away from this area so it is always intriguing to me to find sandy soil and typical coastal vegetation growing there. The middle storey is predominately banksias, with an understory of various rushes, wildflowers and other typical native plants found in sandy soil such as tea tree and grass trees. The lack of substantial new growth there meant there were very few birds to be seen, where once it was full of the sound and sight of birds. I recall seeing my first Rufous Whistler there years ago...

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Family trio: junior, mother and father Eastern Grey Kangaroos
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Moth at Traralgon South Flora & Fauna Reserve
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female Eastern Grey Kangaroo at Morwell National Park, Billy's Creek track
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'I can poke my tongue out at you too cheeky!'
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'Nah, this grass is too yummy to worry about you..nom nom..'
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happily grazing together: 3 species of Cockatoo-Galahs, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos & Little Corellas at Glengarry
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