Werribee Treatment Plant
Yesterday, I was going through my photos from the Western Treatment Plant with Glenn. He was saying how our sigma lens wasn’t working as good as he’d hope and that the Canon lens I’d borrowed was doing a better job.
It was true that the Canon lens was focusing a lot faster. However, I argued that that the Sigma lens was still pretty good. Glenn has a habit of not going through his photos properly. He’ll choose the best ones from a glance of the folder. That means he often misses the small details – the details that can really make the shot.
Yesterday, he was upset because I had gotten shots of birds of prey eating mice and he didn’t. As the below photos show, methinks he was mistake. He actually got better shots. They have much more detail and capture different moments.
He did take other photos, although he was right in that the quality was meh in some of them. It was mostly due to the settings of the camera and the fact we didn’t change them for different lighting. And at times the car was moving.
A cormorant I’m pretending has a case of the giggles.
A beautiful Avocet
I learned SO MUCH yesterday – and the information is mixing with other bits of information I’m getting and turning me into a nerd.
I saw a golden headed cisticola yesterday and couldn’t figure out what it was. You know why? I hadn’t seen it in winter before and didn’t know that the top of their head turned blue.
We struggled to find any double banded plovers. I’ve since learned that there have been significantly less DBP’s in the Geelong region, according the the GFNC winter wader count. This is a quote from the email I got. I’m not sure about the etiquette with posting but it is so fascinating.
It is interesting to note that this lack of birds has also been observed this winter by other wader teams around Port Philip Bay eg Avalon and Western Treatment Plant but not so much the Westernport and Corner Inlet /Gippsland counts. Numerous suggestions as to what this might represent have been circulated including a reduction in open exposed ground in some Port Philip Bay sites which have been fenced off for conservation but actually have meant there is less open area for these birds. The other interesting factor back in New Zealand is that it is a beech mast year. In a mast year beech forests produce a higher than normal amount of seeds. Rats and stoats feed on the seeds and turn on native birds when the seeds run out. This may have put the Double-banded Plover young at risk and we may be seeing the result of a poor breeding season. We will see what next winter brings for these birds and what our wader experts across the Tasman think.
I’ve already posted twice about Wednesdays trip to Werribee Treatment Plant. It seems I am a glutton for punishment because I am adding a third post in as many days. This post, however, is about a bird that is fast becoming a favourite.
I’m talking about Barn Owls.
[Read more…] about Seeing barn owls TWICE MORE at WTP
I’ve recently learned that birds start their nesting and breeding behaviour in mid winter so that the babies are ready when the food sources arrive in spring. This means awesome photo opportunities – especially if you manage to get photos of them sexing or tending to their babies.
This made me reconsider taking a break from birding over winter. I hadn’t gone to the treatment plant in about 6 months and was really keen to return there.
That’s actually a porky pie. I’ve gone outside the plant twice recently, looking for owls. But that doesn’t count 🙂
I put my feelers out on Facebook and connected with a Werribee birder called Paul. I had been wanting to take Glenn to the treatment plant for some time. He’s been reconnecting with his love of photography now that things in our lives have slowed down. I knew he would love it. He doesn’t necessarily care about birds in the same way that I do but there is always a smorgasbord of animals there. Lots of opportunities to get photos of birds eating and flying.
Then it hit me. He was servalpaul! Both Glenn and I had been following his instagram account for some time. We both loved his high quality photographs and I frequently used his work as example of what Glenn could accomplish. Glenn was a bit ‘meh’ about going to a sewerage farm (side story: so was the train station attendant, who said birdwatching was an obscure hobby) but perked up when I told him that someone he admired would be taking us there.
We got to Werribee Station shortly after 9.30am – minus Glenns wallet – and headed out to the plant.
Black kite. I love seeing them here. They are so common in many areas of Geelong, especially around Fyansford Common. I’m almost bored with them because I see them instead of my favourite, the black shouldered kite. Still, it was so awesome getting up close detail shots of them. Glenn was in his element and quickly forgot about his bad mood.
Swamp harrier. I learned you can tell what they are via their white rump. I suck with birds I don’t see frequently and need to brush up on bird of prey ID.
We got to see a brolga pair up close, which was beyond amazing. I know you can see them at Serendip Sanctuary and get good views but nothing compares to seeing such a beautiful bird in the wild. I did get to hear them call as they flew off, it sounded different to what I expected.
Someone was channeling Vivian Maier. Glenn said he was thinking of doing something similar.
A swan sitting on a nest. Some do breed all year round because there is a constant food source.
Black shouldered kite
I was so, so lucky to get this series of photos. The black shouldered kite was on a fence eating its delicious rodent lunch when it flew off, alarmed by the noise of the car. All 3 of us quickly fired off a series of shots. I had borrowed Pauls ‘spare’ camera at this time as the Nikon battery had died. It was the same as Glenns model but with a superior lens. This meant I could get a different perspective to Glenn, which came in handing as he accidentally had stuff on the wrong settings.
I was so stoked to see that some of the photos had worked out. This series shows the bird transferring the mouse from its beak to its talons. How amazing is that? I definitely have to return there now and WAY more frequently.
We came across an area where there was several birds of prey circling overhead, primarily black kites. I took a photo of this nankeen kestral before sneaking off for a discreet pee. This is one of the perils of birding at the WTP. Worth noting if you are inexperienced at doing a wee anywhere other then a toilet. It’s easier in a dress.
Another black shouldered kite. Extremely common there. I saw two at Barwon Bluff earlier in the week but didn’t have an SD card in the camera at the time. I know I have photos of the wingspan before but I quite liked this one.
The above photos are of two of the black kites that were flying overhead. I was a bit annoyed with myself at this point so only got mediocre photos. It was around this time that a flock of zebra finches flew in. None of the photos are worth posting, but I learned the birds are a lot more beautiful then I gave them credit for. They flew away as quickly as they came. No idea why.
The nankeen kestrel again. Such a beautiful bird, would love to get more photographs.
Red kneed dotterel. Wasn’t originally interested in getting photos of this but the reflection was nice.
A beautiful photo of an egret. Look at how awesome the lighting was. I want to come back here with Glenn on another cloudy, moody day to do black and white landscape shots.
The above two photos are of a flock of ducks near the bird hide. It was at this point we met two people who had discovered the elusive bittern that had been drawing a lot of attention. Ironically, earlier we had also met Steve Davidson and Craig Morley. Craig is the leader of the bird group for the Geelong Field Nats and had been very friendly to me so it was a pleasure to meet him again.
An avocet. I’ve converted Glenn to the dark side, he thinks these birds are beautiful. I hope to find more in the future, preferably closer to shore, for both of us to photograph.
The rare and vulnerable lost hubcap.
Peekaboo! There were yellow rumped thornbills but I loved this silvereye hanging upside down.
Spoonbill. Again, would have loved for Glenn to have had the opportunity to photograph these.
Interesting light. Hey, I dig this stuff. Any of these shots were quick ones done out of the car window.
We saw this black shouldered kite again at the end, where all three of us got a gazillion photos. It was here where we ran into Craig again! He kindly offered us a lift home, as it was easier then going to Werribee – Wyndham Vale – Corio – Home. Glenn learned just how close the treatment plant is to home and we got to look at our photos about an hour earlier then planned.
It was a really fantastic day. Glenn had a ball and Paul was a great guide. He taught us both so much. He helped us realize that yes, we needed to upgrade our gear and gave us camera recommendations that will really help us out in the long run. For me, he dropped random bird facts that helped me understand more about my favourite species.
You can check out more of Pauls photography on his Instagram account or Facebook page. I also enjoy his blog. He did a post about Werribee Treatment Plant and also the amazing Lamington National Park. His instagram pics from WTP use the tag #wtppr
Last night, a bunch of my birding friends went birding in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne. There was no way I could go at such short notice. I watched their adventures from afar and was super jealous when they found a large number of barn owls on Beach Rd.
I was fine with missing out but then my friend Carolyn messaged me this morning asking if I wanted to go looking for the barn owls tonight! She had gone with the others last night, but left after seeing the boobook at Eynesbury. The others stayed out until after midnight.
The following photos show their plumage and markings. I think they are so beautiful.
The back of the bird. This angle will come in useful if I see just the butt poking out from a tree.
Here, you can see the colours on the wings.
A clear side on angle which shows barring? on the tail and spots on the chest.
Under the wings. Note both bars and spots.
Having a scratch, which is adorable. I was thankful to Carolyn for lending me her binoculars.
Fluffing up the features. The sounds my camera lens was making, as well as the flash of the camera, was annoying him at this point.
Turning his head. It looks magnificent.
These photos are mediocre. I had the medium lens with me, the 55-300. I thought the birds would be a lot lower then they were.
They were in a series of pines on Beach Rd, right near the top. We got there just after dark and saw a couple of owls flying over but couldn’t get a definite Id, Suspect one was a boobook.
We walked back to the car, around 6.45. There was one above the car! Another flew in. One would circle around the tree only to land again. I’m not sure what this behaviour is for, nor whether they often stay in trees in groups.
They seemed to handle the torch okay. Suspect the camera disturbed them but my friends had gotten photos the night before and said that it didn’t annoy them. Their photos were significantly better then mine. Carolyn pointed out that this could be due to the number of torches on them. They probably didn’t have their cameras on auto, either.
Mine struggled to focus. My telephoto lens would have definitely been more practical in this setting. I also think a tripod could have been more helpful as slow shutter speed didn’t help.
There isn’t that much else to say. It was so brilliant seeing them. We could only do a quick visit, as Carolyn was leaving for a birding trip. I would love to have observed them for longer because they are really interesting birds. I have little knowledge about owls. I’m so excited to learn more about them.
They are a bird that is apparently very hit and miss. There can be a lot one night and a week later, there can be very few.
Super thankful for this trip – and most of the other ones I’ve done recently. They’ve been very therapeutic and have given me a great starting point to do more research.