Sunday, February 15, 2015

Perth Buzzard Twitch

This time last weekend I was lying flat on my back in a sunny Perth park watching a very rare visitor to Australia that was drifting slowly over my head on the thermals.
Crested Honey-buzzard

The adventure started when the local birding websites started reporting the arrival of two Crested (Oriental) Honey-buzzards at a suburban park in Perth. These birds are so uncommon in Australia that only three or four have ever been seen here before, and not all those were seen well enough to be documented.
Crested Honey-buzzard

Showing its long neck and small head

I looked at an Asian field guide and saw that they are a really spectacular bird. Then Joy rang me, so that was two of us who wanted to see it. We sent some emails and by Wednesday night six of use had booked our seats to Perth and I had booked a large 8 seat family-type wagon. A twitch is such fun when it is done with friends!
Australian Hobby

We arrived at the lake and there was already a group of birders standing around chatting. "Have you seen it" we asked? "Oh yes" they said, "it came over 15 minutes ago and hasn't been seen since". Aaaargh! Not good news when you have just flown 2,700 km (1,700 miles) and driven for an hour from the airport. Had the bird flown north never to be seen in Perth again?
Dark morph Little Eagle in heavy moult

Our luck held and we did see it in the distance about an hour later. Sigh, the tick was safely in the bag. We then took a break, went and booked into the motel and then had lunch. Back at the lake there was no sign of the bird so we decided to drive around the lake looking. Before we got to the end of the street the call came in that it was about 1/2 a km behind us. A quick U turn, a fast but short drive, and we piled out of the car.

For the next hour or so we just lay around and watched both birds circle over us, fly off a bit, come back, circle, fly off, return – they put on a beautiful show, just for us. Then we noticed the sign; we were right at the end of Mega Street, how appropriate is that!

In between buzzard visits we had a veritable parade of raptors with Australian Hobby, Little Eagle, Swamp Harrier and Whistling Kite all paying a visit.
White-browed Scrubwren

On Sunday we drove north to look for a Western Fieldwren which two of the group hadn't seen. We had no luck with the fieldwren but we did end up at Lancelin where we found some Roseate Terns, which also turned out to be a tick for two of the group.
Bottle-nosed Dolphin feeding along the beach at Lancelin

The plane left Perth at about 5:30 in the afternoon but because of the time difference and a three and a half hour flight we weren't in Melbourne until about 11:00 pm. Still, not bad really, a 40 hour twitch with 5 friends, lots of good times, lots of laughs, lots of birds for the year list and the workers in the group were back at work Monday morning. Now all we do is have to wait for the next vagrant to turn up ....
Straw-necked Ibis

All text & images © Jenny Spry

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Australia Day Weekend

Scarlet Honeyeater at Fairy Dell near Bruthen

Joy and I were joined by Mel for this year's Australia Day Weekend excursion to Orbost and the Croajingolong National Park in east Gippsland. Mel wanted to find her 500th Australian species and Joy and I wanted to help her and at the same time have some good birding in what I think is one of the most beautiful places in Australia.
Black-faced Monarch

Eastern Whipbird

The weather was perfect with no wind and lightly overcast skies. We even got some gorgeous sunsets and some passing thunder storms – gotta love a good thunder and lightning show! Even when we did get heavy rain it was Camelot-like and happened during the night.
Sooty Owl. Yes, it is a bad photo but I don't like using bright spotlights especially as they are a threatened species

Masked Owl. Another bad photo for the same reasons as above, but hey, how often do you get to see a Sooty or Masked owl?

And it wasn't only birds that kept us interested. Moths, butterflies, flowers, spiders, snakes and lizards were all out enjoying the weather and by the time we were heading home I had 100 bird species on my trip list. Best birds were Masked Owl, Sooty Owl and Eastern Ground Parrot.
Red-bellied Blacksnake. The venom can be deadly but they are not aggressive unless you annoy them or stand on them.

Mel called a quiet warning to me and I looked down to see I was about one metre from the snake and that was closer than I wanted to be so I just stood and waited for it leave. It was very beautiful. Thanks for the photo Joy.

Tiger Snake. I used the telephoto for this shot because Tiger Snakes have a deadly venom and they are  aggressive. I nearly ran over one once and as I backed the car away the snake attacked the car. It is another beautiful snake but not one to mess with.

On the long drive between Melbourne and Orbost we alternated between spotting birds for our trip list and helping Mel come up with songs that have reference to weather in their lyrics. We came up with about 20 or so for Mel to add to her list but my suggestion of Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmund Fitgerald was deemed too obscure, even though I assured them that it was all about weather. It seems that what Mel was looking for was well known sing-along type songs to brighten a long road trip, not songs of death and disaster. Sigh, ah well, I tried (smile).
A beautiful moth on a Banksia leaf

Sword Grass Brown Butterfly, on Sword Grass

Jewel or Spiny Spider mending her web

Wood Duck, also known as Maned Duck

The coastal lakes at Marlo

And just a rather nice sunset over the Marlo (Orbost) aerodrome

Text & images © Jenny Spry