Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Jack Smith Lake & Above

Over the weekend, Marg and I had been trying to spot some Swift Parrots locally for the Birdlife Australia survey but without any luck. As Monday looked like being one out of the (autumn) box, we decided to go down to Jack Smith Lake to see what we might find.

On the way down, we got a close look at first a Whistling Kite then a Wedge-tail Eagle eating some roadkill on the verge. The wedgie decamped into the neighbouring paddock and proceeded to fly over a big, dispersed flock of ewes and lambs, swooping low over each lamb. The lambs didn't seem too fussed and the wedgie may just have been looking for dead lambs.

A quick trip into McLaughlins Beach produced some 70-odd Crested Terns on the beach plus more fishing in the flat sea, together with 3-4 Australasian Gannets. No Flame Robins along the road but numerous Red and Little Wattlebirds plus this little poser:
Superb Fairywren (Malurus cyaneus)
Jack Smith Lake was fairly dry but we had a good list of birds - Red-necked Avocets (2), Australasian Shel-ducks (16), Black-winged Stilts (8), Hoary-headed Grebes (2), Crested Terns (45 on nesting boxes plus another 50+ on the beach), Nankeen Kestrel, White-eared Honeyeater, Red-kneed Dotterels (8-10) were the standouts.
Crested Terns (Sterna bergii) leaping into the air.
Crested Tern accelerating in ground effect for a fast escape.

Red-necked Avocet (Recurivostra novaehollandiae) on the prowl.
A couple of recent shots of interest:
This White-bellied Sea-eagle (Haliacetus leucogaster)was conveniently soaring the clifss over the lake when I was down there with zoom lens at the ready. We've had a couple of instances recently of honking (mating?) behaviour but none within camera range.
Royal Spoonbills (Platalea regia) on the move.
At last, some clear, still nights to get some astrophotography going. This shot is from an EOS60D with a 50mm f1.4 prime lens running on an iOptron portable tracking mount. I stacked 20 minutes of 45 second f2.5 ISO 500 sub-frames in Deep Sky Stacker together with similar numbers of dark, flat and bias frames.
Antares region of Scorpius plus dust lanes. Antares is the bright star to the left of the dust lanes, Messier M4 is the bright object below it and the planet Saturn is the bright object at lower middle right. There are over 20,000 stars in this picture.
A previous post (Out of the blocks) discussed mountain lee waves (Wikipedia) and showed some photos. I've been filming timelapes of them and decided to share one shot today.

Shot at Coongulla in Victoria looking North where the wave is coming off Mt Wellington (5,400 feet) in an increasing NW wind. Thus, the wave length increases as time goes by. Shot as 10 auto-frames per minute and played at 24fps spanning about a two hour  period.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Mount Worth State Park

The Heyfield birdwatcher's latest outing was to Mount Worth State Park, located SE of Warragul (see map here and park information here).

Marg, Jos and me decided we'd stay locally the night before and we found Twitcher's Cottage very comfortable and good value; also only 2km from the park. I recommend it for anyone wanting some bush-walking or bird-watching locally.

Very windy and a few showers the evening before but we spotted a Grey Currawong, 6 Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos and heaps of Eastern Spinebills in the garden or nearby.

Out for a walk nearby before meeting up with the rest of the group in the State Park, we spotted these two lovelies in the nearby bush:
A Bassian Thrush (Zoothera lunulata) moved and jumped around too much for a photo. This one was actually taken a week before in the Edward Hunter Heritage Bush Reserve near Moe (map here); another great spot.
This Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolor) sat and watched us for a bit near a small dam before deciding to take cover. We have one in the bush nearby at home but from time to time, he shows up near the house. Three weeks ago, we spotted him under a Cherry Tree right by the house.
Off to the park to meet up with the rest of the group and Merryn from Twitcher's Cottage as our guide. Birding was secondary to the fabulous vegetation and funghi as the combination of cloudy weather, very tall trees and very thick under-story made spotting very hard.
Dense tree-terns at ground level.
Mountain Ash towered 35-50m above the dense tree-fern forest floor. One old giant is 65m and that is with quite a few metres of its top missing.

A myriad of funghi and plant forms were spotted but I'll leave it to Gouldiae to explain what they are.
Some form of epithyte growing.
Close-up of the same epithyte.
Apart from more Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, White-browed Tree-creepers, Varied Sitellas, Eastern Yellow Robins, and a few "little brown jobs", the highlight was a pair of Lyrebirds heard in the nearby bush. Their mimicry of Kookaburras, Shrike-thrush, Whip-birds, Yellow-tailed Cockatoos and others was fantastic. Merryn suggested that the first visitors of the day are likely to spot them out in the open.

Definitely a place worth another visit!