Tuesday, September 19, 2017


My, how time flies! I have just checked and it has been a year since my last post. As I look back on the last 12 months I see one of the reasons for a lack of posts is a lack of new birding locations, just repeats of old favourites.

There have been some wonderful trips and weekends but just none that inspired me to do a blog. So, I have decided this is going to be a precis of the last twelve months to bridge from the last 2016 blog to what could be a very busy few months coming up with new places and new birds. My next planned blog will be in mid November.

The images in this blog are chronological and give a glimpse of my meanderings over the last year.

The iconic Christmas Island bird, the Golden Bosun. This is the endemic golden race, Phaethon lepturus fulvus, of the White-tailed tropicbird. 

This cafe is THE place to get breakfast after an early morning of birding, as long as one is not on a diet. The food is excellent and varies day to day.

Christmas Island Gecko

Waiting for swifts to arrive overhead at "swift alley", out by the new detention centre. 

Common Emerald Dove, Chalcophaps indica

Male Frigatebird asleep on a hot day. If one has an inflatable pillow, why not use it? 

Not the best photo in the world but I love the quirky idea of smartening up a derelict forklift

Oceania House or "The Big House", built by the Clunies-Ross family and now being used as a B&B.

Diningroom in Oceania House. The current owners have filled the house with period furnishings.

The Cocos Keeling Islands is not just birding, it is also world renown for diving, kite-surfing and here, Bone-fishing from a purpose-built boat. There was a luxury motor-yacht moored nearby.

The ferry between Home Island and West Island

The new ferry jetty on West Island

My easiest "mega" pelagic seabird ever. A Barau's Petrel circling over the end of the Cocos airport runway

Eurasian Hobby in Perth on my way home from Christmas Island

Noisy Miner in central Vitoria

Australian Hobby near Bendigo, Victoria.

Rainbow Lorikeet

Grey Petrel off Eaglehawk Neck, Tasmania

Southern Royal Albatross off Eaglehawk Neck, Tasmania with a Shy Albatross in the background

Three Minke Whales off Eaglehawk Neck, Tasmania

Dolphin coming in fast from astern to catch a ride on the bow wave as we head back into port

All images & text © Jenny Spry

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Murray-Sunset 3rd to 6th September

This year has been very wet in Victoria, maybe as wet 2010 when all the lakes and dams filled. With the hope that the Mallee parks around Ouyen would be green and their trees would be in flower three of us headed north for a long weekend of birding. Joy had insisted I was to enjoy by birthday properly and had taken an extra day off work. Mel was working on her Year List in the hope that she could see 400 species in the year, and see some new birds as well. I was along for a fun weekend of birding.
Pink Lakes with camping area
Melbourne to Ouyen is a well-worn track for us. First stop is Lockwood South for a cup of tea at the rest stop and sports ground. Usually a well cared for area the rains had sent everything into overdrive and the ground was covered in a long growth of something that looked like Cape Weed.
Orchid Calandenia parva
Second stop was lunch at Lake Tyrell. Usually this is an all but dry salt pan but this year the water levels are high. Strangely Lake Tyrell, 400 km From Adelaide, 400 km from Melbourne and 800 km from Sydney - all as the crow flies - has become the latest must-visit place for Chinese tourists. Sea Lake, the nearest town with a population of just over 600 is a dying wheat town but check out this website: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-24/sea-lake-chinese-tourism-drought-grain-rural-environment-water/7272248    and the photos when you Google Lake Tyrell. The photos are fantastic and you can see why the place has become so popular.

As we left Lake Tyrell and headed north west the rain set in and our hoped for afternoon tea in Timberoo Forest Reserve got washed out. We went their because it is one of the closest places to Melbourne to see White-browed Treecreepers. We slipped and slid along the dirt roads and out to the Mallee Highway and the road into Ouyen. Mel also collects photos of "Big Things" and in Ouyen they have the Big Wheat Sheaf and The Big Mallee-root. She collected photos of them both to add to her collection.
Sunrise on the way into Murray-Sunset

Watching Brown Songlark singing at sunrise

Restful is not a word I would apply to the weekend but fun is. We drove out to Pink Lakes to look for Striated Grasswren and Joy was the only one to see one. Into Honeymoon Track hoping for Red-lored Whistler, Black-eared Miner and Chestnut Quail-thrush. Of course we dipped on the first two but Mel got a tick with the quail-thrush. We also found some Mallee Emu-wrens which I had great fun with 'cos I was road testing my new hearing aid ... and I could hear them!! The aid has three settings, one indoor and two outdoor. Of course it had taken me some time with the audiologist before she did what I wanted with one of the outdoor settings which was to crank up the high frequency end. When I finally said I was happy with the settings she had them at the extreme of the capability and she said the sound would be to loud. She was right, inside or for normal use it is too loud but in the silence of the Murray-Sunset bush it was perfect. All the little bush noises I haven't heard since I can't remember when just whispered in my ear. Of course when a Rainbow Lorikeet goes over my first instinct is to clasp my hands to my ears and duck (smile).
Mallee Emu-wren

Mulga Parrots showing banding at base of tail

Female and male Mulga Parrot

Male and young adult male Mulga Parrots

The fight goes on. Male upper and young male lower

I think "bird(s) of the weekend" were the Mallefowl we found working a nest. In all my years of birding this was the first time I had seen Malleefowl at a nest, mainly because I do not like staking out nests. This particular nest was a bit different because we came across it no more than 20 metres in from the road and we could watch without leaving the car or road. I will need to do some more reading though because there were 3 adult birds near the nest so I assume one pair and an interloper hoping to break up the couple. And, again, because of my new hearing aid I could even hear the low frequency "oooom" call the birds were making.

Malleefowl working nest. The male adds or scrapes off leaf litter and sand to maintain the best  nest temperature for incubation of the eggs.

Planning for a birthday dinner in a town where there are only two options is not too difficult. The hotel does a good, umm? well ... , yes, alright, an OK,  "hotel-style" meal and the Ouyen Club has a nice selection of country town style "Asian come Chinese" dishes. Both were available for dinner on the Monday night and I finally selected the hotel. I chose it for two reasons; first, the hotel offers the standard "sticky date pudding" type desert but the club does not offer dessert and, second, my Great Grandfather used to stay at the hotel in Ouyen when he worked as a fertiliser salesman after the first war. So, dessert and sentiment won out. The BIG error though turned out to be not guessing that Monday night might be the cook's night off at the hotel. The meal was memorable and my 2016 birthday dinner will go down in our birding history annals as the worst hotel dinner ever. Perhaps the worst birding dinner ever, just coming a very close second behind an unexpected camping night meal on the Nullarbor Plain where the only food we had was canned meat and baked beans.

Male Chestnut Quail-thrush

My final count for the weekend was 95 and amongst them the best for me were the Mallee Emu-wrens, Chestnut Quail-thrush, Malleefowl working a nest and the Mulga Parrots having an aerial fight.
So, all in all I have declared my birthday weekend a success; a new bird for Mel, fun birding with friends and a TRULLY MEMORABLE birthday dinner that I will never forget (smile).
Mallee Military Dragon Ctenophorus fordi

Noisy Miner

Australian Painted Lady

White-eared Honeyeater

Four locals on the Brim wheat silos

Two more mallefowl made, from corrugated iron

All images and text © Jenny Spry

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Britannia Seamount

Some trips don't go quite as smoothly as one would want. For example pelagic seabird trips are notorious for getting cancelled at the last moment by bad weather. There is no point in getting upset, bad weather can make a proposed trip anything from just too uncomfortable to see the birds to downright dangerous. It was bad weather that took sea conditions off Coolangatta from being dangerous, to downright suicidal that caused the postponement of our February 2016 pelagic trip. Cyclone Tatiana was heading right toward where we wanted to go.
Phoenix One at her dock

The Britannia Seamounts are some 200 kms east of Coolangatta in Queensland and the organisers had planned a three night trip starting on the 12th of Feb and getting back into port on the 15th. We watched the weather maps all week and at first it looked promising with storms out over New Caledonian promising steady winds from the east. Sadly, as the week went on the storms grew into two cyclonic centres and moved toward Australia with winds exceeding 65 kph off Coolangatta and stronger toward their centres. Right up to Friday morning there was a chance we would go out but by Friday afternoon, after I had flown up from Melbourne, the trip was called off. We spent Friday night on the boat and then caught the plane back to Melbourne.
Bureau weather map

The twin centres of cyclone Tatiana marked up by Rob Morris. We wanted
to go out to where the right hand corner of the mouth is.

After negotiations with the boat's owners a second booking was made for the weekend starting on the 8th of April. This time the weather goddesses smiled on us and we got out. We boarded the Phoenix One and were allocated our cabins and then went and had a very good meal at one of the dock-side restaurants. The boat left harbour late at night and by morning, when we got on deck before sunrise, we were over the south end of the seamount.
The cabin I shared

and our en suite bathroom

Course for the weekend

The main purpose of the trip was to do research on the unusual storm-petrel that has been found in the area. The organisers had the required permits and the hope was one could be captured and have blood and feather samples taken in the hope that an identification of the bird could be made. As it turned out the birds did not co-operate and none were captured but some were seen on the berley slick behind the boat.
Tahiti Petrel

Arctic Jaeger

Bridled Tern

The trip was still a major success though with more than 20 species of seabirds being seen. Included in that total was the first confirmed sighting for Australia of a Band-rumped Storm-Petrel.
Ventral view of storm-petrel

Dorsal view of storm-petrel

Our track as we tried to catch one of the storm-petrels

Wedge-tailed Shearwater

Gould's Petrel

And besides the birds we also had the excitement of a rare mammal. We had lowered the tender and were attempting to canon-net a storm petrel when whales started rise near the boat. They turned out to be a pod of the very rare Cuvier's Beaked Whale and we got good views and photos of both adult and juvenile whales.
Tender with Cuvier's whale in the background

Head of Cuvier's Whale

Markings on back of whale

Whale and young

The next morning we were further north, over the Brisbane Seamount, and the birding was fairly quiet. We had hoped for more of the undescribed storm-petrels but none were in sight. Any bird approaching the boat was carefully watched as other rare birds had been reported from this region on past trips but all was quiet until Rohan suddenly called the Band-rumped Storm-Petrel and the usual panic started to make sure all on board saw it and that confirming photos were taken. It is not every day that a new bird for Australia is seen.
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel

Providence Petrel

Flesh-footed Shearwater

 All images & text © Jenny Spry