Monday, September 28, 2015

Mallee birding in the spring

Yesterday was a lovely sunny Sunday. I awoke at 5am so decided to head to the Mallee at Monarto Conservation Park for a few enjoyable hours of birding. 
One of my favourite honeyeaters is the Tawny-crowned Honeyeater which is one of the most common species at this park, although they can be hard to get near and they don't sit for long so getting a good photo is challenging (which makes it fun). 
Being early spring the Brown snakes are waking up and looking for food and I spotted a couple of them sunbaking on the narrow sandy tracks. The scuttle off in a hurry, the poor little critters are far more scared of us than we are of them.
I've found the trick for photographing the Tawny-crowned Honeyeater is to find their little group then wait for them to come to you.
Tawny-crowned Honeyeater
They don't sit for long
Another challenging species in this park is the Shy Heathwren, which is not called this for nothing!
They scuttle beneath the shrubs and rarely allow themselves to be seen, and then, when they decide to pop up to call, they have the remarkable ability to always position themselves between me and the early morning sun making them almost impossible to photograph.
The back lit Shy Heathwren calling in the shady undergrowth

Shy Heathwren
Common Staling feeding a chick in a nearby hollow

Diamond Firetail
A quick trip to Kyeema Conservation Park after lunch  was rewarded with a Scarlet Robin and some orchids in flower.
Scarlet Robin


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Grey-headed Lapwing Twitch

When the call went out that there was a Grey-headed Lapwing in Penrith NSW I nearly cried.  With my income significantly reduced after changing jobs recently my bank account said NO NO NO!

I tried to ignore the urge, tried to avoid Facebook and the emails but over the coming days I received numerous text messages from my birding mates asking when I was going to chase it and telling me to ignore the bank manager.

I resisted, trying to behave responsibly for the first time in my life but when they started sending me photos and telling me I'd regret it for the rest of my life if I didn't go I started to weaken. 

After visiting my friend Dave on Thursday night I told him about it and gingerly asked him if he would like to join me on a crazy, irresponsible twitch, surprisingly he agreed! So a mad ten minutes ensued as we both jumped online to book flights and a hire car. 12 hours later we were in the air flying to Sydney!

After collecting the hire car we were on our way, or so we thought. What we had not expected was a massive traffic jam which took FOREVER to get through. Getting an sms while stuck in traffic, telling us the bird was there didn't help as I tried in vain to drive the small little shit box over the other cars.

The one hour drive to Penrith took over two hours and we both had literally turned grey by the time we got to the location.

After inventing more swear words than I though humanly possible, shaking with anxiety and hyperventilating we pulled up the car and jumped out to look through the gate. NOTHING but a few Masked Lapwings wandering about on the grass.

Forlornly I looked over at Dave who had become a dribbling mess. His body was visibly shaking, clenching his fists repeatedly while pacing & muttering through his clenched jaw. His clothes were in disarray. His hair was matted from his sweat covered brow & he had some how managed a 3 day stubble in 2 hours... There was nothing more to be done, I had to take control, this was a medical emergency!

I bundled his remains back into the car and drove him to gate A. The security guard took one look at him and let us in. I think she realised it was a matter of life and death.

Driving along the track  searching the grassy roadsides we found the bird instantly! We both gasped in shock! It looked MAGNIFICENT!

Grey-headed Lapwing! Our quest was complete...


I think we stopped breathing for a few minutes then we woke up and the cameras went ballistic!



Using the car as a hide was helpful as the bird was not concerned by our presence and when it finally looked in and saw Dave it was so amused at his dishevelled remains it came right over to us for a closer look.



After about 45 minutes observing this fantastic bird we left it in peace. Grey-headed Lapwing! YES! Lifer for both of us!! WOO HOO! TICK! 716 on my Australian Life List. What a privilege!

We made a point of thanking the very kind security guard for her assistance and reassured her that she no longer needed to ring an ambulance.

We drove further up the road to a pretty little spot with some old buildings and lantana which had lots of Red-whiskered Bulbuls calling.

After the anxiety, adrenaline and Cortisol had rushed through our bodies we were both exhausted, dehydrated and starving so we enjoyed a long lunch and a large glass of red back at the airport to recover.

Exhausted jubilation just after finding the bird!