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
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!
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!
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
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!
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 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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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!
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
An unexpected delight! Spotted tiger quolls playing together
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!
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
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!
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
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.
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!
And finally, just for fun, a cheeky New Holland Honeyeater posing for us while dancing up and down on the window