Flighty Friday

[Written 22nd June, 2015]

Okay, now I get it!

It really is a big deal.

Actually I’m a bit exhilarated!

I finally found them! Well actually a really nice guy with his twins in a pram wearing a camera found them, and came and got me so that I could see them too. Many thanks to him for that, but what I mean is I finally got to see them!

gum tree, eucalypt

Several of the Swift parrots at Macleod station

The famous Macleod Station Swift Parrots!

Otherwise named by other birders as The Great Houdini! They have certainly nailed the vanishing act on the last three times I’ve gone looking for them! But to be fair, thanks to some advice from another birder, I’ve realised that I’ve been looking for the wrong thing.

branch, acrobat

The belly of an upside down Swift parrot doing acrobatics

I’m used to rainbow lorikeets and musk lorikeets. You can tell where these birds are at all times of the day and night by the raucous racket that they make! So every time I’ve gone over the Macleod I’ve followed the noise. This has been an unfailing tactic in the past, so I went by history and experience. This did lead to a first in a lifetime sighting of a few Scaly-breasted Lorikeets mixing with the Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets, but no Swift Parrots.

pink flowering gum, musk lorikeet

Just for variety, one of the Musk Lorikeets, the noisy ones!

So today was my ‘4th time is the charm’ visit! The plan: walk quietly around the station looking up into the eucalypt trees for sight of birds, rather than listening for their sound. And it was the perfect plan. Even without the kind gentleman I would have come across them, but sharing it with someone else was nice. The excitement and satisfaction is better shared, otherwise random shrieks of joy and jumping up and down clenching fists frightens nearby innocent strangers and inspires parents to gather their children and retreat to a safe distance!

colours

So many different colours! It’s hard to take it all in!

So, the Swift Parrot. This flock is estimated to be up to 30 birds, so I’ve heard. The word has spread like wildfire among birders around the country, and people have traveled serious distances to see these gorgeous creatures. Most days I see people posting photos to Facebook of their experience with finding these quiet, well camouflaged birds. And the sightings have been very reliable every day for several weeks. And now I’m a part of it!

climbing, food

This Swift parrot climbing up the tree for more food

Why are we so excited and motivated to see those beauties? Well for a start they are just stunning! Pretty colours, graceful flight, acrobatic climbers and most significantly, they are endangered. These parrots breed only in Tasmania in the summer; during those months they can only be found in that state which is their home territory and the location of their nests in hollow trees. They migrate to south-eastern Australia, i.e. Victoria and maybe southern NSW, in the winter. They are considered nearly extinct in SA. Year old birds who won’t be breeding sometimes stay here for the summer while the majority of the population head back to Tassie.[1]

magazine, celebrity

I feel like I’ve met a celebrity in the Swift Parrot! I might never see them again, and here they are on the cover of Birdlife’s quarterly magazine!

So they’re endangered, only here in the winter and they’ve set up shop right here in the city, in the square between a strip of shops, a kindergarten, a school and a train station of all things! Not exactly the distant, peaceful, undisturbed bush/forest that you would imagine.

Noisy Miner, power struggle

The annoying Noisy Miners trying to shoo off the Swift Parrots…eventually they won, for now

Which gives me an opportunity to grind one of my favourite axes!

I take issue with people favouring the country to the exclusion of the city.

hello

Well Hello there! Nice to see you

Of course you all have the right to your own opinion. And to be clear, I grew up in the country, moved to the city when I was eighteen to study instead of moving to another country city, moved back to the country for a job when I was twenty two because my city option fell through, and moved back to the city because trying to live in the country was killing us when I was twenty six.

pretty

Just so pretty from every angle!!

I love the country. It really feeds me to find some green spaces. I love the city; my life is there and I love the energy and opportunities.

I don’t understand having a total block opinion of the city. It’s the greatest variety of types and cultures and one opinion can’t apply as a blanket. My husband came from the city, my pharmacist education came from the city, some of the best days of my life have been in the city. Of course growing up in the country was something I loved too.

territory wars, back off

Territory wars are rife around Macleod, Noisy Miners vs. anything else! This Swfit parrot is telling Noisy to back off!

Having a narrow view of those “city people” and “city drivers” is not well thought out. Most “city people” don’t live in the city, as in the CBD. Not many people live in the actual city. We live in suburbs of the city, just like you live in suburbs of country; there is pretty much no difference between where I live and you live in most cases.

The majority of “country people” and “country drivers” don’t live in the country, as in open plains and wide spaces. Not many people live in the actual country. And as above, suburbs vs suburbs.

flock, quiet

A flock of Swift Parrots – if they sit still it’s pretty easy to miss them!

Those in the CBD and those out in the open country can debate the issue, but most people forget that for the rest of us, we’re actually living more or less the same life whether we’re in a town or city.

I can find undisturbed bush land where you can’t hear any traffic and feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere within a 10 minute drive or bike ride from my house in the middle eastern suburbs. Once there you would have no idea that there’s a freeway just the other side, that you’re surrounded by housing. And at the centre of a lot of towns you’ll find it hard to find a park, be walking past plate glass buildings and have all the fumes of the cars just like the city.

rainbow lorikeet, pink flowering gum

Can’t forget a photo of the many Rainbow Lorikeets that rule the rest of the playground at Macleod

I think it’s time we agreed everything has it’s good and poor aspects, and stop being scared of what we don’t know. You never truly know until you go and experience the other side of life. So get out there, live on the other side.

pose

Another shot in bad light so it doesn’t do this bird justice, but what a pose!

It’s always pros and cons. If you didn’t have the city, you couldn’t live the life you enjoy. Without the country, you wouldn’t have many essentials that make up life as we know it.

tomorrow

What a day! What an experience! I’m tempted to head back tomorrow…..

Point being, if a flock of an endangered species of bird that can migrate to anywhere they like choose the suburbs of the city instead of the country, can it really be that bad?

[1] Museum Victoria Field Guide to Victorian Fauna, free app

OOh ooh ooh!

Today at photography class I shot a truly good photo of a bird!

All the stars were aligned and everything just came together perfectly!

I had the white balance, exposure, aperture and ISO values all plugged in resulting in a right shutter speed; I was standing with my camera pointed in the right direction balanced on a solid platform to avoid camera shake; the natural lighting was coming from the best angle and a little teeny tiny birdie landed right in front of us! I fired off two shots and they are amazing!

There is a real exhilaration about getting the perfect shot! Getting the exact colours right, having the focus in the best spot, getting a clear shot and going home with deep satisfaction and a perfect keepsake.

All of this is due to the photography class that I’ve been taking over the last six weeks. Taking bird photos on automatic was okay but I was having issues getting the focus right and ended up missing a lot of shots that should have been awesome. Going through your photos at home and finding all of them are blurry, focused on something insignificant, or just plain timed wrong was giving me the irrits!

So my husband was telling me that a photography class would be a great idea and was encouraging me to get out the manual and learn more about the settings. He loves that sort of thing but the idea of it just filled me with a desire to do literally ANYTHING else in the world! I took photography classes in Year 9 and enjoyed them but twelve years later my memory of what I learned there is a bit dim!

One day when I was out in one of my favourite bird watching spots I noticed a flyer for an eight week course and enrolled the next day. I’m up to week six now and I’ve learned a lot! I have a lot more practice to do to get more of these perfect shots. But the skills I’ve learned have definitely improved my photos and I’m excited to think that they can be improved further.

So the bird. Another brand new one to me which is exciting in itself!

The original shot of a delightful Spotted Pardalot, I believe the red rumped variety

The original shot of a delightful Spotted Pardalot, right time and right place

The edited shot of the pardalot, still clear despite being significiantly cropped showing a good clear shot

The edited shot of the pardalot, still clear despite being significantly cropped showing a good clear shot, correct focus and no camera shake! Yay!

So this moment makes the photography class feel very worthwhile! Yes there was some fluke and chance in getting the photo but I had done everything possible with the manual settings to allow myself every opportunity of success. And that feels good!

This is one example.

The other was a demonstration of a not quite there moment which could also be looked at as an almost there moment; depends on your mindset right?

A fluffy little White-browed Shrub Wren hiding behind at least four branches stealing the point of focus! shrubbery

A fluffy little White-browed Shrub Wren hiding behind at least four branches stealing the point of focus!

Having done everything with the settings to get the shot, I changed over to manual focus; something I’m just experimenting with lately.

Got it in focus! Yes...ish, unfortunately by this time a few seconds on the wren was tired of waiting around for me :) shrubbery

Got it in focus! Yes!…ish. Unfortunately by this time the wren was tired of waiting around for me and had started to push off so not a great shot but at least I had more control over the photo 🙂

Exciting times! I’m looking forward to my next class 🙂

Serendipity

I had been looking forward to this past Saturday all week!

It was going to be my very first bird watching outing with BirdLife Australia, a group that I have recently joined as they seem to perfectly fit my need for like-minded people who are just as excited by finding birds as I am! They are a bird watching, photographing and conserving group and there are a bunch of great benefits to being a member! Exciting times!

So far all of my bird watching has been fairly ad hoc, on the run and just as I happen upon it. I’ve been fortunate to have wandered into many excellent birding locations by chance and happenstance, and a few excellent recommendations from friends have definitely given me a helping hand in the right direction. We are very blessed in Australia with birdlife, and Victoria is no exception. Luckily many varieties of birds still happily inhabit our backyards and local parks so that often we don’t need to make an effort at all to see many birds of all colours and sizes and sounds.

I joined this group a little while back and mostly for their regular birding outings as I still have a fair amount of caution about diving into thickly wooded areas alone! I’ve been testing out my nerves lately about going out alone into nature, and I’ve found out about myself that I’m okay walking around grassy open parks, okay with going into thicker wooded areas if it’s just a short section of the park, happy in any parks near a busy road and occasionally with full mobile reception and fully charged battery I’ll brave further off road. And so far I’ve been perfectly fine, so I’m gradually getting less jumpy and wide-eyed 🙂

My generalised anxiety has mostly abated with the treatment that I’m on for bipolar and depression but being a female alone in a area where no-one can see me, probably no-one can hear me scream and where I could potentially although quite unlikely but still scarily be attacked is one residual fear that I can’t quite shake off. I’m getting a lot better but I guess it probably is a safe and self-preserving habit to have. Especially since I’m taking most of my excursions during the middle of the day, which isn’t a peak time for other people to be walking through parks and gardens. Anywho, point being, I’d rather go with a bunch of strangers that I’ve never met than by myself 🙂 Especially when every one of the strangers is as interested or more in birding as me, and probably not so much in the other people around them.

Having said that, if I can coerce my husband or one of my friends to go with me, and they’re available during the same non-working hours as me, I’d definitely take that over the stranger business!

Moving on. My other motivation for joining a bird watching group was their expertise in identifying and locating birds and their intimate knowledge of birds and where to go and what to find when.

The particular sub group who had organised this bird watching trip are especially interested in photography which is perfect for me!

I’ve taken the opportunity while I am off work and free during the day to take an eight week course in photography. I saw a flyer for the course when I was out on a bird watching walk at Blackburn Lakes and it looked like exactly what I’d been needing.

The poster asked if I had a digital SLR camera but was still using it on auto? Why yes I was. It asked if I was frustrated with my photos and wanted to learn how to master my camera? Absolutely! So I signed up and started the classes. And I have learned a LOT! Still more to go but I’ve done five classes and I have already been able to apply a lot of what I’ve learned to my photography but I need to practice, practice, practice. I’m also learning the imperfections of my camera as I go along, and my list of what I need is growing…I can see that an upgrade will be in the cards some day but in the meantime I’m just enjoying being able to take better photos than what I could before 🙂

So, bird watching group found and joined; photography course turned up at the right time with the needed skill set; and now I’m all set for a day out enjoying the best of both! Yay for me!

So Saturday morning, Serendip Sanctuary, somewhere short of the You Yangs. I woke up to a good going fog and it was consistent all the way along highway and kept up to some degree most of the day. It was interesting to see how the fog showed up in photos taken at long zoom.

The Serendip Sanctuary wetlands, gum tree, green grass, water

The Serendip Sanctuary wetlands

A good drive with no traffic later, I pull into the car park. High excitement! Followed by a few moments of oh my goodness I am way out of my league! when I saw all the tripods, enormous camera lenses, binoculars, camouflage, neutral toned clothing and vibe of general expertise! Oh no I’m the amateur surrounded by experts! But everyone was very reassuring and helpful and in fact very keen to teach and show me the ropes.

Our group of bird watching and photography enthusiasts, all much more well equipped than me! lens, camera, camouflage, tripod

Our group of bird watching and photography enthusiasts, all much more well equipped than me!

Before I even got into the park I had seen several emus grazing in the paddock next to the sanctuary! Awesome! I’ve hardly ever seen emus in the wild; how exhilarating!

Emus in the wild! Not a great photo at full zoom and the fog really shows up at that distance!, grassland, bushland

Emus in the wild! Not a great photo at full zoom and the fog really shows up at that distance!

It turned out to be the most amazing day out! I think one day back a few months ago around Kialla Lakes I counted 25 species of birds in one day. Someone else is the group was counting on Saturday and I heard that they got over 50! Of course some we can’t take much credit for; some sections of the park were enclosures of captive birds, so that was easy game but that didn’t take any of the enjoyment out of seeing birds that I haven’t seen before.

Fun fun fun! I highly recommend this beautiful sanctuary; I find it absolutely astonishing that so many beautiful birds and animals can be accessed for nothing at all! Zero charge; amazing! There are enclosures, open park land, paddocks, waterways and wetlands, hides walking tracks; everything you need for bird watching.

One of the hides looking out over the wetlands, gum trees, swamp

One of the hides looking out over the wetlands

So of course I have to add some photos, but I promise only to post birds I have seen/posted ever before. I’m a bit disappointed with my photos, a lot had annoying camera shake which has me warming to the idea of a tripod but still not sure how it’ll work for me. I’ll have to keep thinking about it…

Ok not new but I am very proud of how this photo of a pair of Chestnut Teal ducks turned out!, wooden post, trees

Ok not new but I am very proud of how this photo of a pair of Chestnut Teal ducks turned out!

Overall I think my shutter speed was too slow for a lot of photos so I ended up with a lot of blurry shaky photos; but at least I know how to improve my shots next time.

Another shot that I am very happy with, I think the bird is a White-Browed Scrubwren but happt to take other opinions, gum tree, branch

Another shot that I am very happy with, I think the bird is a White-Browed Scrubwren but happy to take other opinions

Male Red-Rumped Parrot showing all of his fabulous colours; of course it is easier to get great shots in a small enclosure, bird wire, bird feeder

Male Red-Rumped Parrot showing all of his fabulous colours; of course it is easier to get great shots in a small enclosure

Female Red-Rumped Parrot, very difficult to find through the viewfinder!, green grass, dew

Female Red-Rumped Parrot, very difficult to find through the viewfinder!

Definitely not new, but I love this picture of a Willy Wagtail at rest for a brief second, wooden post

Definitely not new, but I love this picture of a Willy Wagtail at rest for a brief second

Okay I officially take back my statement that I will only post new birds; I just can’t stick to it!

Cute little bunny rabbits hopping around the enclosures, green grass, paddock

Cute little bunny rabbits hopping around the enclosures

I find male Superb Blue Wrens are always delightful to photograph no matter how many times I get the chance, green grass

I find male Superb Blue Wrens are always delightful to photograph no matter how many times I get the chance

I got such a great series of this New Holland Honeyeater but this is one of my favourites, gum tree, blossoms

I got such a great series of this New Holland Honeyeater but this is one of my favourites

Beautiful Cape Barren female goose with gosling in the nest

Beautiful Cape Barren female goose with gosling in the nest

Now this really is a first, an apparently an uncommon sight: the White-Winged Chough!, gum trees

Now this really is a first, an apparently an uncommon sight: the White-Winged Chough!

A Black-winged Stilt mirrored in the wetlands, not as good a photo as I would have liked; reeds, water

A Black-winged Stilt mirrored in the wetlands, not as good a photo as I would have liked

My favourite photo of a male Superb Blue Wren, unfortunately affected by reflection from the glass, swamp, window sill

My favourite photo of a male Superb Blue Wren, unfortunately affected by reflection from the glass

I have been trying for a while now to get a good picture of a Welcome Swallow flying and this is the best yet; still have a ways to go, swamp, wetland

I have been trying for a while now to get a good picture of a Welcome Swallow flying and this is the best yet; still have a ways to go

A beautiful example of the many Magpie Geese around the waterways, wetland, swamp

A beautiful example of the many Magpie Geese around the waterways

A very cute Wallaby checking out the surroundings, one of several lounging around, leaves, dirt

A very cute Wallaby checking out the surroundings, one of several lounging around

The easiest shot of Red-Browed Finch ever; of course they were safely in their enclosure from which they could come and go, but we could not!, drinking, dish of water

The easiest shot of Red-Browed Finch ever; of course they were safely in their enclosure from which they could come and go, but we could not!

Another new kind of duck! YAY! This one is the male Freckled Duck, it was quite shy so I was not able to get a good clear shot, grasses, red nose

A new kind of duck! YAY! This one is the male Freckled Duck, it was quite shy so I was not able to get a good clear shot

This Beach Stone-Curlew did NOT want to be photographed! He just kept walking away

This Beach Stone-Curlew did NOT want to be photographed! He just kept walking away

An unexpected delight! Spotted tiger quolls playing together, branches

An unexpected delight! Spotted tiger quolls playing together

What a beautiful multicoloured Buff Banded Rail! A lovely discovery, green grass

What a beautiful multicoloured Buff Banded Rail! A lovely discovery

For a duck afficionado, this Musk Duck is just amazing! What strange characteristics it has!, rocks, green grass

For a duck afficionado, this Musk Duck is just amazing! What strange characteristics it has!

Another delightfully colourful bird, the Blue-Faced Honeyeater - none of my shots were in clear focus but this shows the colours at least

Another delightfully colourful bird, the Blue-Faced Honeyeater – none of my shots were in clear focus but this shows the colours at least

An inscrutable Tawny Frogmouth sitting on a log on the ground, safe and sound in his enclosure, grey, brown

An inscrutable Tawny Frogmouth sitting on a log on the ground, safe and sound in his enclosure

Red-Cheeked Honeyeater, very common but still a fun shot, eucalypt

Red-Cheeked Wattlebird; very common but still a fun shot

I wish I could have got a clear shot but any shot is great for my very first time seeing Brolgas, especially when there is an adorable baby Brolga!, fences, gates, green grass

I wish I could have got a clear shot but any shot is great for my very first time seeing Brolgas, especially when there is an adorable baby Brolga!

Also the first close-ish photo that I have gotten! I was told that it is a Black Shouldered Kite; I have no idea, birds of prey are an area I have no experience in at all!, dead tree

Also the first close-ish photo that I have gotten! I was told that it is a Black Shouldered Kite; I have no idea, birds of prey are an area I have no experience in at all!

I have an amendment to make to a previous post from Lake Drysdale where I wrote that I saw and photographed Masked Lapwing plover chicks. I was mistaken; they are in fact their own species, the Red-Kneed Dotterels.

Entertaining little Red-Kneed Dotterels fishing along the shoreline, bushes, march

Entertaining little Red-Kneed Dotterels fishing along the shoreline

One slight conflict of birding with experienced birders is that I am ecstatic at every bird I see, and they are only really excited if it seems to be an unusual or interesting bird…ah well, I still made use of their expertise and knowledge so no complaining 🙂

I am told this was another Black Shouldered Kite; I will have to check it out for myself. One slight conflict of birding with experienced birders is that I am ecstatic at every bird I see, and they are only really excited if it seems to be an unusual or interesting bird...ah well, gum tree

I am told this was another Black Shouldered Kite; I will have to check it out for myself. 

A gorgeous little Black-Fronted Dotterel fishing along the shoreline, water, reflection,

A gorgeous little Black-Fronted Dotterel fishing along the shoreline

Wow! I do not know what to say about this odd looking male Australian Bustard! Quite unique!, bushes, green grass

Wow! I do not know what to say about this odd looking male Australian Bustard! Quite unique!

And finally, just for fun, a cheeky New Holland Honeyeater posing for us while dancing up and down on the window

And finally, just for fun, a cheeky New Holland Honeyeater posing for us while dancing up and down on the window