Notes to readers of this Blog


Thank you for dropping by to check out my blog. You will see a lot of other Blogs about birds I follow down the left hand side. I strongly encourage you to check some of these out as well, they are entertaining and I love to see birds from all over the world, I hope you do too.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

An Owl during the day - photos and story

Recently I was in a river bed, checking out the birds in the trees. A chain of events took place which even though not entirely surprising, the result was a lovely surprise.

The dog was chasing a military dragon around the creek bed and the tree roots. The dragon was never in any danger of being caught so I let the dog go unhindered. Finally the dragon skipped across the sand and around the back of a tree across the river a bit from where I was standing. The dog chased, and the dragon shot up the tree judging by the dog's response. The next second, a Barn Owl popped its head out from a tree hollow just above where I was standing. I'm not sure who got the biggest shock. It looked straight down at me, almost indignantly saying "how dare you awake me on this hot afternoon". Before I could react, the owl flew off to a nearby tree. Camera in hand I followed, mainly by the sound of the Yellow-throated Miners that were harassing this intruder into their space. I still had trouble seeing the owl, they really melt into the river gums' trunk and branches when they don't want to be seen.

Finally the Miners were too much and the owl flew around in a wide arc, settling near its original tree. I managed a couple of shots in flight, but still couldn't be sure it was a Barn Owl. I eventually found the owl looking down at me from a high branch and snapped off a couple of shots. By this stage, the dog was panting and I was sweating in the afternoon heat. I decided upon seeing the strange pink discolouration of the owl around its nose/mouth/cheeks that it was probably overheated from fright or the unexpected foray away from the cool of the hollow. The dog and I left it to return home to its own version of air-conditioning.

Barn Owl

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Backyard visitors

Sitting outside in the mornings, the "thunk" on the verandah tin roof is constant. The Australian Ringnecks sit in the tree above and pick off the seed podded branches, dropping them on a regular basis. Sometimes, they sit on branches beyond the roof line and they fall to the ground. A little while later, some of the birds flutter down and continue their feeding.

Australian Ringneck

They are joined by a variety of other birds coming to the ground to feed, among them are the Western Bowerbird, interestingly, eating the same seeds, and the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, which tends to go for the pods, but not the seeds themselves as far as I can tell.

Western Bowerbird

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

enjoying the bird bath water

Monday, 17 November 2014

Western Bowerbird

It is always a pleasure to work out what is in the local neighbourhood based on what the Western Bowerbird mimics. Whistling Kites, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters and a lawn mower were among the repertoire of this particular bird. Here are a few shots that show the bird as well as that beautiful pink splotch on the back of its head.

Western Bowerbird

Thursday, 6 November 2014

An Eastern Yellow Wagtail was a surprise at Papunya

Sometimes when bird-watching, something odd triggers a response in the brain that says "that's unusual". This happened to me recently at Papunya. I was watching a Glossy Ibis and a Yellow-billed Spoonbill, themselves rather bizarre in a small remote community in the middle of Australia, when something caught my eye closer to me. I watched this little bird do an unfamiliar, yet not unseen before by me, flight pattern. A short flight, and then quick bobs for insects. My brain starting saying "Wagtail", but not the normal Willie Wagtail we have here, more like the Grey Wagtail I saw at the Alice Springs Water Treatment Plant last year. Even though the camera is still not working properly, I proceeded to try to get some images for identification. Alas, they weren't great, but I thought I could still ID the bird from the photos. My first thought was that it looked very similar to the Grey Wagtail. I then followed the bird as it continued further away from me and drove the car to the other end of the ponds (I can't go inside the ponds as it is fenced off and only workers are allowed inside). A few more shots from the new location and I was starting to get excited, and decided to use Twitter to alert some other Alice Springs birders of the find. I eventually managed to send through a photo off the camera via the iPad. "Looks like a Grey...... hang on, someone else has said looks more like a Yellow..." came the replies. Finally after a lot of people's opinions, it turned out to be an Eastern Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla tschutschensis), not unheard of as a sighting in Australia, but a rare find. I owe a great big thank you to Will Cormick who works at the Alice Springs Water Treatment Plant who had shown me the jizz of the Grey Wagtail. Without this knowledge I probably would have overlooked this bird. Also to Chris Watson who helped enormously in the ID of the Yellow v the Grey and Jeff Davies who assisted Chris and therefore myself, and finally Rohan Clarke from Birdline Australia who finalised the sub-species. The birding fraternity really is an amazing group considering the majority do this in their own spare time and all free of charge.

Apologies for the quality of the photos, but here they are:

Eastern Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla tschutschensis)

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Disaster or blessing? Time will tell

I have had my Canon 7D for about 16 months now. The other day I used it in the car, then got out and went to take more photos and something had happened. The autofocus wasn't working. Initially I thought it was a problem with the lens, which has been playing up recently.
After trying other lenses, I started to twig something else was wrong. After searching on-line, I found a lot of threads about a particular problem with the Canon DSLRs. Extreme change in temperature can do something to the chip inside the camera. Alas for me, the issue with mine was the autofocus.
Still, I am a bird-watcher, and after a few days of just being a bird-watcher, I'd had enough. I had to head into Papunya from Mt Liebig as I had some students at Papunya I needed to do some training with at some stage. Took the camera along "just in case".
After visiting the students, I visited the Poo Ponds (as we weird bird-watchers do) and was pleasantly surprised to see among other birds, a Yellow-billed Spoonbill that had been there last week, an Australian Pratincole (which hadn't), 5 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and one Wood Sandpiper (some of which had been there last week) as well as a number of other birds including a Whiskered Tern. I was contemplating my navel or maybe I was looking at the settings on the camera, can't remember which, when I heard a mad panic among the birds on the ponds. I looked up to see a Brown Falcon had just made a swish at none of them in particular, and followed that all the way to the far side of the ponds from me. Eye up at the eyepiece, my ears were alerted to another panic session in front of me. The Pratincole was piping wildly and the White-necked Heron (hadn't noticed that there - great bird watcher I am) flapped madly as something else zoomed past me. Black Falcon! Oh no! Today of all days, no autofocus, no IS on the lens, oh well. I watched and the Pratincole managed to escape. All three birds then circled high, the Black Falcon the highest until it was just a dot under the clouds.

So, disaster or blessing? I had set the camera to the "M" dial mode. I couldn't move the F stop from 5.6 so I figured that would have to do for the aperture. I had the shutter speed at 1/1600th and the ISO at 800. I also had changed the focus point to the max 19 points rather than a single or extended spot I normally have. OK, all the settings at what I hoped might work and clicked away at the Black Falcon. Below are the results. As to the question, I have often been amazed how some photographers only ever use manual focus for their photos. Maybe not a disaster, but maybe not a blessing either. All these shots are from today.

Black Falcon

Pacific Black Duck

Whiskered Tern

White-necked Heron

Yellow-billed Spoonbill

Friday, 24 October 2014

Photos of birds, scenery and reptiles from Mt Liebig to Glen Helen

There were some enjoyable photo opportunities on the drive back from Mt Liebig to Alice Springs. Here are a few photos I took between Mt Liebig and Glen Helen.