Alex's Big Year 2021

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karentwemlow
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Ah no worries re the pelican.... is it ok to just add fact sheets for new ones as I just copy and paste the fact sheet into the list for scoring purposes, makes it a simpler process.

And oh no that study sounds terrible Sue! The things we put animals through....

karentwemlow
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It's not a big deal if there are extra fact sheets there, the scoring sheet won't it count twice if it's duplicated. But I normally check the calculated score in my sheet versus the final number in the post, and for some reason I thought it was 2 out.... maybe it was late and my brain not working well...

I went camping down in the backyard/national park with Leo on the weekend. I didn't sleep much! Way too uncomfortable for me, so was tired much of the weekend. The rest of it was fun though.

Devster
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Some really great photos there Alex. I do love the Rose Robins, such a vibrant colour on them. I also like your Musk Lorikeets as I haven't photographed any yet so they would be a lifer for me.

AbbyGrace
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Alex another great set of photos! Love that Cockatoo shot. (I wouldn't mind if some of my shots were like your EBC shots :D )

dannyka6
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I'd fallen way behind so I've just read my way through your adventures climbing the charts over the last little while and wow, some incredible birds and some really terrific photography there Alex, awesome work.

A lot of great sites to remember if I make it up to Sydney, and that outback trip sounded fantastic! What a great way to see some different birds. I only just saw the Southern Whiteface this year, and the Inland Thornbill last year when I hit some dry inland spots, changing habitats really makes for different birds.

TommyGee
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Wow Alex. Just wow. So many birds! So many great photos. If I had to pick a favourite, it'd be the Jacana.

Alex Rogers
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Ah, so many nice comments, thanks all :-) Its such a pleasure sharing pics with people who like that sort of thing lol

I had to go to Gunnedah Monday to one of my solar farms, and got to spend an afternoon birding around the Tamworth area the next day. Just  driving between Tamworth and Gunnedah through the farmlands was good - the mouse plague was evident, mice everywhere, and the raptors are having a field day (literally), breeding as fast as they can and scooping up the bounty. Not just the raptors, every row of solar panels onthe farm had a fat magpie or 3 taking a breather from scooping up a tasty mouse treat. I managed to get into some woodland too, it was raining and grey which compounded the difficulty of shooting woodland birds - but I managed to get a few for the list. 

138) Far overhead, so an EBC, but was still pleased to see Wedge-tailed Eagles and not just as specks in the distance. I'd love to find them on the ground one day. 

139) I was stalking some parrots along a riverbank and heard this extraordinary rattling noise coming from behind a tree. It was this Restless Flycatcher, doing his scissor-grinder imitation. 

140) Noisy Friarbird - found a big flock of then living up to their name, noisily defending a stand of flowering gums from all comers. They were having a running battle with a mob of Musk Lorikeets, and generally prevailing. I love the gorget of feathers around their necks - such an incongruously elegant (almost medieval) touch setting off a face only its mother could love. 

141) Rufous Songlark - this took me much longer to ID than I spent observing it lol. I was convinced it was a Grassbird of sorts, but turns out to be a Songlark. LBJs....

142) But this guy is no LBJ - my heart almost stopped when I first saw him, I've always wanted to see properly and photograph a Crested Shrike-tit. Raining and dark, but I managed a shot or two which I'm pleased with in the curcumstances (I'd have lost the shot completely a year ago). Next time I'd like one posing in the sun please :-) Only the second time I've ever seen one, and the first time I've managed a picture. Amazing birds :-) 

Alex Rogers
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143) Fuscous Honeyeater - not the most exciting of honeyeaters, but super exciting for me as it was a lifer! Never seen them before, and was very excited to see a few of them, and not very shy, so even in the rain and gloom I was able to get a decent portrait. This is a young one, the adults lose the orange on the beak and gape and even lose the eye-ring, retaining only a subtle yellow plume to ID them

144) Fan-tailed Cuckoo - have heard them lots this year, very distinctive trilling call, but this was the first time I got a good sighting, and even managed to get a photo, so I was happy

145) Jacky Winter - lots of them around the river, and quite bold / confiding. I like this portrait, pity about the stick background, oh well, should have paid more attention to the angle. 

146) Perhaps my most exciting bird of the day - Turquoise Parrots! Aren't they gorgeous?! I stalked them forever to get this shot - crap light, and wary birds. But I was lucky, there were about 15 of them, and while they never let me get close, they didn't fly too far away, so I had several chances and made like a leopard in the long grass to get this shot. They are spectacular in flight, with fluoro yellow tails flashing - I tried endless shots to catch one in flight, but never got one - will settle for this portrait though :-) 

147) White-throated Treecreeper - only got a glimpse of this guy, so will have to settle for an EBC shot, for now. Also saw Brown Treecreepers. 

And a bonus shot to replace an earlier EBC - a double Double-barred Finch shot :-) 

Alex Rogers
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And final couple for the trip - I stopped to take a pic of a hawk hovering and diving over a farmer's field, and then followed it from tree to tree until if finally perched in the sunlight for a second to let me get this shot - I'm quite pleased with it, and said "thank you" nicely to the bird :-) 

148) Nankeen Kestrel with mouse. I'll also add a BIF shot of somewhat less quality, but cool to see how they carry their prey. 

149) Dusky Woodswallow - oops, nearly missed him off the list, he was hawking along the river in the dusk. Appropriate, I guess. 

sue818
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Wonderful set of shots, Alex... that work trip paid off big time. I think the Turqouise Parrot would be my favourite but they are all great photos. Interestingly, you have beaten me to the post as I also have a Turquoise Parrot, Fuscous HE, Restless Flycatcher and Crested Shrike-tit to post from yesterday in the Capertee Valley. Shows how well distributed some birds are. I love the story with each post as well.

Your number is climbing fast but I think the lovely Nankeen Kestrel might be 148 not 138.... almost to 150!

Alex Rogers
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Thanks Sue, corrected, and added a final bird. How cool that we got a matching set of birds - and I think you would have been pretty excited to see the Turquoise Parrot :-) Aren't they cool birds? 

sue818
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I was over the moon when 20 came up from beside the road alongside about 10 Diamond Firetails while 3 Crested Shrike-tits noisily shredded the bark over my head! Awful late afternoon light but a lifer for me in terms of a photo. Enriched my day and lifts the spirit.

dwatsonbb
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Wow Alex some great shots, looking forward to many more.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Devster
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Wow, what a set. So many great birds! My favourite would have to be the Flycatcher. Great pose and background. Their scissor call is certainly very different and weird when you hear it for the first time. I do love how you've captured the Turquoise Parrot amongst the dull background and dead branches, really makes him stand out. The Crested Shrike-tit is one of my nemesis birds as I have yet to see or photograph one. The Kestrel and Double-bars are lovely shots also. 

AbbyGrace
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Wow I agree with everyone, what a set! Love seeing birds that we don't see here or that I haven't seen yet, like the Double-Barred Finch's. Isn't that Turquoise Parrot bright! And great shots of the Nankeen Kestrel with its prey.

Alex Rogers
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I haven't been out birding much, lots going on with life generally, but managed a quick trip to Bushell's Lagoon out Windsor way. Not a great many birds, but I did see a sea eagle scaring the ducks, a couple of Whistling Kites, loads of Royal Spoonbills and Australasian grebes, and enjoyed the walk. 

150) Azure Kingfisher. I was excited to see it and snapped this awful EBC from a long way away, and was slowly stalking it to get closer when a farm tractor scared it off and that was it. Sorry, but EBC! I haven't seen one for 4 years, and its the first photo I've shot of one. 

I'll post a couple of singing cuties to make up for it - female Superb Fairywren, and a Golden-headed Cisticola strutting their stuff

Devster
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Nice one Alex. Sometimes you just have to take what you can get. Love the little singing beauties!!

dwatsonbb
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Still a good shot of the Azure, your hard on yourself calling that an EBC. The other singers are nice shot to.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

TommyGee
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Great shot of the Nankeen Kestrel Alex, but the Double-barred finches are my favourites from this latest lot! :) 

Alex Rogers
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Had a lovely walk with Karen and Sue out in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Birds were very quiet though, saw a few distant honeyeaters and treecreepers, but there was really very little activity and no photos worth the name. But lovely to walk in the Blue Mountains and get my ration of eucalyptus scent, as well as to meet another Big Year friend :-) 

I stopped at Pitt Town Lagoon on the way home, but it was also very quiet. The floods damaged a lot of the shoreline habitat, and there were very few birds, I reckon it will take years to recover. So not a very successful birding day, but always great to go walking in the sun and letting the heartbeat get slower :-) 

151) Australasian Pipit - I did get one of these on the turf farms near Pitt Town - not a great pic but its my consolation shot for the weekend. 

karentwemlow
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Thanks for trekking out here, in hindsight we might have seen more had we stayed around my place for the day, but I do love that view from Vale of Avoca lookout so wanted to share. 

Glad you got one to add to your list though :-) 

dwatsonbb
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Great your getting out and meeting with other. That's a nice shot of the Pipit.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Alex Rogers
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I had a fun day at the Taronga Zoo with my son today. He isn't much of a bird fan so couldn't spend as much time as I'd have liked in the amazing aviaries - but saw some awesome birds even so. I can count the Brush-turkey, as they were free ranging everywhere - but I'll post a few of the others just for interest. 

152) Australian Brush-turkey. Nice to see one in full colour and full sun. 

Regent Honeyeater - I've never seen one, and may never, its looking increasingly improbable. But the Zoo is one of several groups working on breeding and release programs, and they are breeding well in captivity (although you may have heard about the difficulties they are having teaching them the right song :-(  Anyway, these guys are the reason I decided the Zoo is a positive thing, and it was fabulous to spend some time in the aviary with them flying "free" around me. Such spectacular birds, this photo doesn't do them justice. 

Southern Cassowary - dodgy photo too, but its probably representative, the bird was deep in a dark rainforest habitat, and peered out suspiciously every so often from the gloom - it was fabulous to see one, and I was happy to get any photo at all :-) 

Red Junglefowl - you probably know this as the ancestor to all our deomestic chickens - some 8000 years ago some enterprising person perhaps in Indonesia caught a couple and kept them in a pen - leading to the chooks that we know today. Such a striking bird! 

Oh, and they have a few mammals and reptiles too :-) But I won't bore you with those pics. ...

AbbyGrace
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Loving your zoo photos Alex, thanks for sharing.

dwatsonbb
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The Brush Turkeys are so colourful, love that profile shot.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

sue818
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Nice, Alex. Beautiful light on the Casowary and the Junglefowl. I have only seen the Regent Honeyeater once in the wild when a few were seen on the Chiltern Trail near Ingleside in Sydney. An unusual bird.

 Pleased to hear that your son liked the zoo as well. It was wonderful to meet up with you and Karen for a good bush walk.

TommyGee
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Nice photos Alex. I do like the brush turkeys.

Devster
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Nice Alex. I was very lucky to see a Regent Honeyeater, when there were a pair at Springfield Lakes a couple of years ago. There were about 20 other photographers there when I went. Real Paparazi thing happening. You could tell when the bird moved into a good position becuase it went from quiet to photo frenzy clicking. lol. Glad you got to meet up with fellow Big Year Birders

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

Sooooo - lockdown again. And had to cancel yet another holiday, this time I have my two boys with me, and the lockdown stretches for their entire school holidays, so we are cooped up in my apartment.  :-(

Ah well - necessary - and at least I have good company. 

I did manage to get down to Melbourne - it was grey and rainy and I had to cut my trip short, couldn't stay the weekend as planned. But I did manage to get in a few quick walks in the rain, mostly around the Port Philip coast near the WTP, and saw a couple of birds, including some cool ones :-)  

153) Yellow-billed Spoonbill - I had never noticed the very sexy hexagon stockings they wear :-) 

154) Brolga - only the second one I've seen, and the first I've got close enough to for a portrait. 

155) White-winged Chough - bit of an EBC in bad light, and a mad shot on top of that lol

156) Cape Barren Goose - he was foraging in the water weeds :-) 

[edit - actually already put in at 99 - will replace] Singing Honeyeater - I just love the name :- ) They were in the coastal heath, and quite accommodating

Alex Rogers
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158) Black-shouldered Kite - had some great views of them hunting mice, but the weather was shocking, and white birds against grey sky = hard. I eventually got a distant perched shot of one eating a mouse. 

159) Little Raven - yes, they look very like the Australian Raven - but the hackles are smaller, and call is different. But I have to confess if their range overlapped in this area I'd struggle to differentiate them . 

160) Common Starling - I haven't taken an interesting photo of starlings this year, but I quite like this semi-abstract of a big flock of starlings exploding from a puddle in the pouring rain. 

161) Last photo of the day in the fading light and rain - female Flame Robin - bit of an EBC and a high ISO desparation shot, but it works

Actually I had a lot of fun trying to take photos in the grey and rain - bit of a technical exercise - sometimes it can be a good learning experience, and sometimes it can add a bit of atmosphere. You certainly have to try harder..... A couple of bonus shots just for fun: 

Rock Doves (actually they may be racing pigeons, I saw a few people releasing racing birds on my walk, but didn't see where these originated). Simple shot, I just like the pattern against the sky

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo - one of my favourite birds, and I quite like the atmosphere of this shot in the pouring rain. I have proved that my D500 and lens combo is well and truly rainproof :- )

Devster
Devster's picture

Some nice shots there Alex. Love the Cape Barren Goose especially with food still on his beak.

dwatsonbb
dwatsonbb's picture

Another good range of photos, I also especially like the Cape Barren Goose, and also the Brolga, but they are also good.

Wishing everyone in lockdown a safe return to the new normal.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

sue818
sue818's picture

Another great lot of photos, Alex... i especially like the portrait shots of the Cape Barren Goose and the Brolga. Stay safe.

karentwemlow
karentwemlow's picture

Oh wow a Brolga, nice work :-). Hope you can have a good time under lockdown with your kids... I need to try to work tomorrow with Leo around, hoping he can at least go outside with his dad for the day. If it doesn't rain I will be encouraging some camping for them!

By the way I have a Singing Honeyeater at #99 for you already.

AbbyGrace
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Another great set of photos Alex. Pity your trip got cut short. Love your Brogla shot. Hope you are going well with lockdown.

Alex Rogers
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Thanks for the fact checking Karen - not sure how I did that, I'll replace. 

Lockdown grinds on, just extended for another month, and no real idea how we are going to get out of this one, Delta seems to move faster than our contact tracers can, even in full lockdown. 

So birding is hard, can only exercise within 10km of home. Luckily have some lovely walks in that range, but it is seriously crimping my style. Ah well. 

157 (replacement) - Australasian Gannet. I got down to the sea cliffs at Maroubra with my brother on the weekend for my exercise, just happened to be carrying my camera too :-) Lots of very distant seabirds feeding, and whales leaping, a glorious day. Finally a gannet came a little closer (about 500m) to the shore, and I could get a basic shot. 

Alex Rogers
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I'm frustrated at not being able to go out far, and falling well behind my target for the year. So I did a little exercise today, and filtered by current 2021 list against my 2020 list, and there are a good few common birds I'd kinda been ignoring, forgotten or been saving until the end of the year - including House Sparrows, Common Mynahs, Silver Gulls, Rainbow Lorikeets, Figbirds, Bell Miners, Pied Butcherbirds, Royal Spoonbills, Fairy Martins and Spotless Crakes - all of which live within 10kms of me. I have my target list for the month :-) 

sue818
sue818's picture

Nice Gannet shot, Alex. Pleased that you have some spots near you for birding... we all tend to overlook the common ones. I keep hoping that you might see the Lewins Rail at Sydney Park as that is another bogie bird for me. It would be wonderful if you saw it while in lockdown! 
Stay safe, Alex and we will get through this. 

dwatsonbb
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Nice work Alex. 5 of your "common overlooked birds" would be lifers for me. Building your tally nicely, hopefully we can all resume normal programming sometime soon.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

Thanks Sue and Dale. Unfortunately Sydney Olympic Park is just outside my 10km radius, so the Rails will have to wait. 

But Eastgardens Golf Course is close, and I went there on Sunday determined to ignore the prospect of exotic birds, and to enjoy our locals. Got a few from my missing list, plus a couple of photos that I like. 

162) Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike - a long way off and a big crop, but at least he had the sun on his face - they normally come out as black blobs!

163) Australian Raven - they can be surprising difficult to photograph well, with their black on black colouring. I've posted two birds - the adult with his glaring white eye (that always looks out of focus - its not) and wonderful ruff of hackles; and the immature bird with its dark brown eye and somewhat less prominent hackles. 

164) Royal Spoonbill - I've seen lots this year, and rather overlooked photographing them. Not the best shot, its great to catch them with the sun showing how red their eyes are, and the contrasting yellow eyebrow - but it will do for a grey dayraven, and it shows the beak well. 

Bonus shot - Pacific Black Duck - quite like this moody shot of one on the edge of the light. 

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

But the real target at Eastgate was the Fairy Martins - I've seen them there before, and hoped to try to get them this year. And I got really lucky - found a mixed flock of Welcome Swallows, Fairy Martins - and even Tree Martins! I sometimes struggle to distinguish swallow species, and especially martins, so it was great to see them all together so I could really have a look at them all and look for easy distinguishing marks. Juvenile Welcome Swallows can look quite like Tree Martins, but have much redder chests and a very different swallow-tail, whereas both the martins are considerably smaller than Welcome Swallows, have completely white undersides, and much stubbier tails. In flight the Martins are considerably white underneath and the short tails are evident. Distinguishing the Martins from each other is quite easy if they are close enough or still enough - the Fairys have a warm chestnut head (going down to the nape, and not on the chest, unlike the Welcome Swallow) and the Trees have dark almost black heads, with just a little buff forehead. 

I loved seeing them all together, and they were obliging enough to perch on a tree for a bit, and even come down onto the fairway. I wanted to stay and try to get some really nice photographs, but I was in the firing line on the fairway, and had to beat a retreat from some golfers who didn't necessarily share my priorities :-) So these will have to do for now - but in summer when the light starts really early I'll go back and try for more before the golf kicks off. 

165) Fairy Martins - a portrait and a BIF shot 

166) Tree Martin - not a great shot, but quite useful in that it contrasts the Tree Martin (front of the 3 central birds) Welcome Swallow (middle) and Fairy Martin (back). The flock was mostly Tree Martins, quite a few Swallows, and only one or two Tree Martins, so I was happy to get even this shot. 

Bonus Shot - Welcome Swallows. These are juveniles, and from the back look very like Tree Martins as they are so dark - but from the front you can see the russet chest developing, and the swallow tail is distinctive

And another bonus shot - definitely the best shot I've taken of an Australian Grebe - was very happy to catch this. A very productive walk in the park, really :-) 

sue818
sue818's picture

Great set of birds, Alex. It is always wonderful to get similar birds together in a shot or place as comparison makes for a great lesson. Love the Grebe as well as the moody Pacific Black Duck.

Stay safe and hope that you will eventually get to some more distant places. I think this Spring could deliver some especially good birding.

dwatsonbb
dwatsonbb's picture

A great walk in the park. Some great photos, glad you can get out even if somewhat limited. Hopefully back to the new normal soon.

Love the flight shots, but they are all good.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

Thanks Sue & Dale. The local birds are more than just keeping me sane, its great to actually spend some time really looking at the local birds, its amazing what you see when you slow down a bit. Some more local lockdown birds, from Sydney Park today

167) Rainbow Lorikeet - yeah, somehow I haven't bothered taking a photo of one this year, despite them waking me at 6am every day lol. I got up with the birds today, and took some photos in the grevillia outside my door on the street. I'm always amazed at their colours when I really look :-) 

168) Common Myna - had some fun seeing how close I could get before he panicked. Pretty close. I still reckon they are mechatronic, the LED eyes are a dead giveaway. 

and I'll throw in some bonus birds just for fun: 

Coot - poor guy was being chased from one side of the pond to the other by the other birds, and eventually I got a sort of ok shot of him walking on water. 

Australian White Ibis - breeding season is coming, and you can see the (quite disconcertingly naked) skin over the bones on his underwing flushing red. 

Dusky Moorhen - I like the colours in this portrait - sometimes full direct sunlight is the only way to see black feathers. 

dwatsonbb
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Some more great shots.Like the portraits, especially to Dusky Moorhen.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

sue818
sue818's picture

Nice ones, Alex. Love the close-up of the Dusky Moorhen... I think the limited colour palette enhances the shot.

I note that a Chestnut-breasted Mannikin has been reported among Scaly-breasted Munia at Landing Lights recently so it might be worth a visit sometime as well. So pleased that you can still visit some great spots for your exercise.

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

Oh good tip Sue, I haven't seen the Munia there for over a year, so great to hear they are back - and certainly never seen the CB Mannikins there - wow, that would be the extreme southern end of its range, very exciting! I've got a pretty good idea of where they would be, so I'll go hunt for them soon :-) 

TommyGee
TommyGee's picture

Nice pics Alex. I love the Martins! And I definitely agree with you on the Mynas, little robot birds for sure... like something from Tales From The Loop.

Also, that Dusky Moorhen shot is gorgeous.

Devster
Devster's picture

Great variety there Alex. You've captured a lot of good action shots too. In flight, running on water, coming in to land and having a wing stretch. They Moorhen is my favourite folowed by theMartins. I too have trouble identifying them out in the field and have to consult my book.

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

Thanks all :-) 

The lockdown grinds tighter, restricted to 5kms now for my exercise, no more sea cliff or beaches for the next couple of months :-( But fortunately the Landing Lights wetland is JUST within that range, so my local is going to get a lot more visits. Had a lovely walk this morning, spent a lot of time on my belly in the grass taking photos of tiny hedge birds - a bit of fun with some familiar birds. Was looking for Cinnamon-breasted Finches and Munias, none in evidence (but another birder told me she saw some the day before) Definitely felt like spring on the way, and the birds were a lot more active. I'm waiting for my first koel!

169) The Olive-backed Orioles are back - this guy was calling incessantly, which was very handy as he was too preoccupied to hide. 

170) Silver Gull - bit of a snapshot really as he flew up the river - thought I'd tick him off my lockdown list now :-) 

And a few bonus birds, just because

Superb Fairywren - isn't her fluffy chest just gorgeous? 

Red-browed Finch - I guessed their habit of carrying grass stalks was a courtship thing, and he confirmed it by copulating with a female seconds later. Talk about a one second wonder, I didn't have time to focus lol, but it was cool to see. 

Yellow-rumped Thornbills - such gorgeous little birds, and I'm happy with this shot. Lay in the wet grass for quite a while, and was rewarded by him coming closer and closer until he was too close for me to focus. 

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