Alex's Big Year 2021

199 posts / 0 new
Last post
sue818
sue818's picture

Lovely group, Alex and I like that you are at their level. Pleased to hear that you can get to Landing Lights for some exercise. I'm birding vicariously by looking at everyone else's posts or sorting old pictures. No where interesting around me at present.

Stay safe and strong and we will get together again when it all settles.

michaelrt71_1
michaelrt71_1's picture

Beautiful shots, Alex. Your red-browed finch looks a little like a bored farmer! Contrast colours on the oriole are stunning too.

I am wondering about your take on the 'exercise not recreation' as it relates to bird-watching/photographing. Crawling on your elbows through the grass carrying a big lens has to count as 'high-intensity interval training' surely. ;-)

Thanks for sharing, and keep them coming!

Michael

karentwemlow
karentwemlow's picture

Great pics Alex! I was confused yesterday with the new lockdown restrictions in Sydney but I've been told we can still travel within our LGA for exercise, unless you are in one of the extra lockdown LGAs? Wasn't sure if you were. But if travelling outside your LGA (if you live near the boundary) travel is restricted to 5km. Hope you can still enjoy some birding.

karentwemlow
karentwemlow's picture

PS How cute is that little fluffed up fairywren?!

dwatsonbb
dwatsonbb's picture

Beautiful Alex.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

Thanks for the comments all :-) 

Michael - yes, with the cops taking a heavy-handed attitude to enforcement, I'm being pretty careful - but given I walk 5-10km on any of my bird walks, it would be hard for them to say I wasn't exercising

Karen - yes, the LGAs are tiny here in the city - I'm fortunately not in one of the special concern ones, so I have to keep within 5km of my home (and not go into the special concern LGAs). I'm actively trying to make the most of it - and I have 2 local bird areas that are good, and can canoe down the Cooks River to Botany (just!) within my range, so its not like I'm completely stuck. And yes, if exotics are out of the question, I'll enjoy my fluffy fairywrens :-) I hope spring brings you some more visitors to your own beautiful "back-yard" :-) 

Sue - sorry to hear you are stuck :-( I actually might have to go to Armidale (can travel for essential work under exemption) and while it will be lockdown or work there, I might get a roadside bird or two if I'm lucky :-) 

sue818
sue818's picture

Thanks, Alex. I am birding in a way by sorting photos ... at present, I am re-visiting NZ 2014 & finding new birds like Dunnock, Wrybill and NZ Bellbird... will get to the fabulous flight shots of numerous shorebirds soon. That keeps me relaxed. 

Devster
Devster's picture

Another noice set Alex. Glad to see you remaining positive in these difficult times

karentwemlow
karentwemlow's picture

Ah yes if you are confined to your LGA and your LGA is smaller than 5km then yeah having a 5km limit is a good thing! My LGA is huge so there's plenty of space for me to explore, but I don't go out much, generally just the bush around home for me. Kinda not much different to normal. But I hope if you can't get to the birds then they will come to you! 

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

Well, I managed a brief escape from Sydney lockdown, and swapped it for Armidale lockdown lol. Had to go up for the start of our latest solar farm, and travelled under an exemption for esential construction work. Brief side note to mention, for a few hours on Saturday Australia produce more power from solar than from coal - a huge and exciting milestone :-) 

And while it was a work trip, I stayed there for the weekend and was able to go for a walk around Dumaresq and Dangar dams for waterbirds, do some hiking through the forests and gorge rims around Dangar and Gara Gorge, and stop at a few promising roadside stops - so it was a wonderful break from these 4 walls and my own LGA. Just driving 600km was bliss - I was so tempted just to keep on going. 

And on the first day of work, I saw a lifer - Banded Lapwings, strutting around the recently slashed fields where we were constructing the solar fam foundations. Very exciting, but I didn't have my camera - oh well. I did get a few more for the Big Year list though. 

171) Blue-billed Duck - quite a few on Dangar Lake near Uralla. They were up-sun and quite far off, but I lay in the reeds for a while and eventually they came close enough for passable photos. The males are unmistakeable, but I enjoyed learning a bit more about how to ID the females. They look quite like female Musk Ducks with the spiky tails and speckly colouring, but the shape of the beaks are distinctive. 

5) Replacements - Musk Ducks. I'll include these as they are interesting ducks, and these are somewhat better photos. Male had his leathery breeding flap evident, and was doing a lot of displaying, splashing around and shaking his head and flap. No photos of that behaviour as he was well up-sun, and is a very difficult bird to photograph unless he is in strong light. They swim very low in the water and apparently can hardly walk, their legs are so weak - but they are strong divers.  Got a slightly better photo of the female, showing the peculiarly oily sheen of their feathers. Not very attractive ducks, but very interesting.

sue818
sue818's picture

Great shots, Alex. So pleased that you managed some time elsewhere.

Lovely blue bill captured well and a great comparison of species... the Musk Ducks have such short bills. Did you mean to attach Hoary-headed Grebe info sheet?

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

172) Australasian Figbird - have been saving this one as a local, but got some reasonable shots on the roadside at Gloucester of males and females. I see Michael got some this week too, feeding on the same type of tree - any idea what the tree is? They obviously love it :-) 

173) White-necked Heron - the first bird of my trip, actually hunting on the front lawn of a house in Stroud! I did see another up at Dumaresq dam, but I liked this photo. Reckon he has a worm there. 

174) White-naped Honeyeater. Total EBC shot, but the red eye, white bib and white nape are distinctive. Was pleased to get even this, as they were foraging in the treetops about 30m up, so this was a lucky shot. Haven't seen them for a couple of years :-) 

175) Spotted Pardalote - deosn't do this gorgeous little bird justice, but I never got close to one. I did see 3 or 4 on the trip, and they always make me happy, such amazing colours. 

sue818
sue818's picture

Another wonderful lot. I should know the tree but escapes me at present. Looking forward to more as work takes you to the regions.

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

176) Scarlet Robin - haven't seen one for a year or two, so was very cool to find this male in full colour. I stalked him through the forest for a long time, and eventually he perched in the clear :-) 

177) White-browed Scrubwren - another bird I've tried several times to find this year with no success. Eventually this guy stopped darting about just long enough to kill something, and I snatched an EBC. 

178) Varied Sittella - don't think I've ever photographed these, so quite exciting :-) 5 of them scurrying through the treetops like mice, eventually they flew to a dead tree in the sunlight and I could grab a shot. 

179) Red-browed Treecreeper - a lifer! And super exciting find. There were lots of White-browed Treecreepers, dozens, with their very distinctive call. I had seen earlier that Red-browed were also in range, and I thought I'd listen to their sound recording on PK Birds to see if they sounded similar. I played it once - and immediately this guy flew to me, checked me out, and proceeded to glean the tree in front of me. I was so shocked I almost forgot to photograph him! They sound very different, by the way, and I'd been hearing them all along - but much less distinctive song. 

I also posted the White-throated Treecreeper for contrast - saw dozens and dozens in the forests there. 

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

180) White-winged Triller - I needed some help in identifying this, I'd thought grassbird initially, but the heavy eye stripe and shape was wrong. They can be hard to ID in their eclipse colouring. Its pretty early days as these guys normally only migrate south in spring, so quite unusual to see one here in August. Poor shot taken in the rain and low light

181) Speckled Warbler - great to see these again :-) 

182) Torresian Crow - I'm open to correction on this one - its not an Australian Raven (too small / slender, and the hackles are much smaller, but there are Forest Ravens, Little Ravens and Torresian Crows all in this area (Gloucester, near Barrington Tops) too. I didn't see any wing-flicking behaviour when calling, so probably not a Little Raven, and Forest Ravens are really normally confined to the forests - so by deduction, I'm going with Torresian Crow. Any advances on this? (I did try to memorise the call, but then got hopelessly confused when listening to playback - by auditory memory is poorly trained.)

And a couple of bonus pics that I quite liked: 

Noisy Miner getting aggro with his reflection. Warning - objects in the mirror may appear more fearsome than they are!

Rainbow Lorikeet checking out a potential nesting site

sue818
sue818's picture

Another nice lot, Alex, what a rewarding time at work. Love that Noisy Miner shot but so many great shots. I find the netted pattern on the wings quite useful in identifying White-winged Trillers but I am useless at Corvids. Best suggestion is to try ABID.

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

Thanks Sue :-) Yes, it was great to get a break from Sydney, and only a little bit cheeky to extend that into a weekend's birding... Good point re netted pattern on WW Trillers - the pippity-larky birds have similar, but yes, this is much more distinct - I'll remember that, thanks. Yes, my corvid is with ABID now and there have been no takers in advising me for 24 hours lol - they are tough to distinguish and I think most observers really do it by sound / call. As for why I had the Hoary Headed Gredbe datasheet - I spent an hour or more stuffing about with tele-extenders and manual focus on my biggest lenses trying to get a photo of a HHG faaaar out in the lake. eventually successful in getting an acceptable shot, edited it, wrote it up here - and then just before I posted it, checked my data and found I had it as #10 on my luist from January already! Seems like that was a lifetime ago! So I deleted the pic and write up, but missed the datasheet. 

sue818
sue818's picture

I thought that you may have forgotten to post the Grebe. Good luck with the Covid ID as I find them very difficult unless heard. Forgot to say great news, seeing two lifers, even if the first eluded the lens. I was in Coral Bay in WA the first time that I saw a Banded Lapwing ... but now see them much closer to home. 

sue818
sue818's picture

Are the seed pods from a Sycamore tree? They have those lovely winged seeds.

dwatsonbb
dwatsonbb's picture

Some more great photos Alex. You need to make the most of your opportunities I reckon. Unfortunate for some, can't go far with lockdown, we can only hope of freedom for all soon.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

michaelrt71_1
michaelrt71_1's picture

Great shots, Alex! Love the noisy miner composition - about time that bird had a good look at itself!

sue818
sue818's picture

Banded Lapwing sighted at Eastlakes Golf Course! I hope that is in your 5 kms from home.

al
al's picture

Alex, photo 102 is a Black Kite not Whistling. 

sue818
sue818's picture

Oh dear, al is correct, Alex. Sorry I missed that one at the time. 

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

Good catch, Al, thanks. I posted the wrong photo, anther shot of the Black Kite  - here is the bird I should have posted

102) Whistling Kite replacement pic

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

Sue - good hint, thank you! Yes, Eastlakes and Landing Lights are the 2 places still within my 5km range, so I will definitely go and have a look. Would love to get a photo - but they are pretty skittish, much more so than the Masked Lapwings. I'll go have a look. 

Michael - thanks :-) I love how scary the Miner in the mirror looks - I can see why he got upset lol

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

Had a nice walk around the Landing Lights on Sunday. And was rewarded with a bird I've only ever seen once before :-) 

183) Grey Goshawk

and a couple of bonus pics just because its going to be slow going otherwise lol

Little Egret - liked the moody early morning light and the colours in the marsh vegetation. He is just coming into his breeding plumage

Royal Spoonbill - I took some better photos, but on editing this one, I noticed I'd caught him catching a fish! 

dwatsonbb
dwatsonbb's picture

Great photos Alex, glad you have a couple of decent spots within your range. Hoping it all ends soon.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

sue818
sue818's picture

Great set of birds, Alex. Wonderful to get that Grey Goshawk so close at any time let alone while in lockdown.

michaelrt71_1
michaelrt71_1's picture

Great to see the grey goshawk; they are local here too, but hard for me to catch. 

TommyGee
TommyGee's picture

That's a beautiful set of birds from the Landing Lights Alex :) I've only seen a Grey Goshawk once, it was the white morph in Tasmania. 

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

It was my birthday on Sunday, and got up at crack of dawn to get a walk in before my kids woke up. Glorious sun at the Landing Lights, and the birds were really active, spring is in the air. Lots of the usual suspects (and I always enjoy trying to take better shots of the little wrens and finches) but I also got lucky with two new birds for the year :-) 

184) Striated Heron - rapid flyover, and for once I managed to catch him by reflex, and sorta in focus :-) 

185) Horsfields Bronze-cuckoo. A female, from the grey eye and duller colouring. Quite hard to get these shots, it was being harassed by the Superb Fairywrens, and was moving from deep cover to deeper cover. Good to see them back in Sydney - although the Fairywrens clearly don't agree, as they are the main host species for these little cuckoos. 

And then a few shots just for fun - Superb Fairywrens, Red-browed Finch, Red-rumped Parrot and a couple of other photographers enjoying the morning

dwatsonbb
dwatsonbb's picture

Wow that looks like nice habitat. Some new birds to me, and again I appreciate the variety from everyone. Hopefully Gladys will follow through and extend your range soon. Thanks again.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Devster
Devster's picture

Sorry Alex, I noticed it's been a while since I have seen your photos and posted. You have a great variety there. I particularly like the Grey Goshawk. The Red-browed Treecreeper would be a lifer for me. I like the birders photo too. Nearly a double century I feel I am dragging behind

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

Thanks Dale & Dev. Dale - Gladys has gone, but we will get out of hard lockdown on the 11th I think, then be able to travel out of Sydney from the end of the month - bring it on! Dev - your little road trip has brought you right back into contention! The race is on with Sue :-) 

No new birds for me - been getting some nice shots and enjoying the local birds, but I'm desperate to get out into a new area and see some new birds. 

I managed to get quite a nice BIF shot of a Great Egret this morning - it will help me in learning my feather anatomy :-) 

Devster
Devster's picture

That is a great shot. You can count every feather on the wings. Good on you for making the most of what you have available. Not long now.

michaelrt71_1
michaelrt71_1's picture

I hear you on the end of month escape!

Beautiful egret shot, stunning wingspan.

sue818
sue818's picture

Lovely shot, Alex. I'll miss Gladys but so looking forward to a release from my 5km. The wildflowers are spectacular and there are so many nice birds around... just not near me! Hoping you guys and gals can get out and about and overtake me soon.

dwatsonbb
dwatsonbb's picture

That is a great shot Alex I reckon I might have fallen over trying to get that one.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

Saturday was the eBird Big Birding Day, and it was the last weekend in lockdown - so I celebrated by doing a tour of all my local birding sites, 5 all up, submitting checklists for the Big Day, but also just enjoying the local birds. I specifically wasn't looking for new birds even for this comp, just enjoing the locals - so of course I saw a lifer! LOL.  But it was mostly about the locals, and spring has definitely sprung! All the birds were super active, building nests, sitting on nests, feeding young, teaching fledgelings to hunt, swooping on intruders, copulating - what a lovely time of the year :-) 

First up, a couple to tick off the list - my two domestic birds in the wild for the year: 

186) Domestic duck - this is a hybrid of some sort, perhaps Chestnut teal or Mallard from the green head, and the white domestic duck that was with it. 

187) Domestic goose - love the colours in these geese. Both living free in Centennial Park, I'll take the ticks as compensation for lockdown...

188) Tawny Frogmouth - on the nest, by the look of it - hopefully some baby frogmouths coming :-) These are not rare birds, but I'm always excited to see them and I really haven't tuned my eyes in for them, only find a couple every year. 

189) Powerful Owls! I knew they were in the park, but have looked for them unsuccessfully many times. This time a kind birder pointed them out to me - way up high in a gum tree, super hard to see, I'd never have spotted them without the guidance. It was really frustrating trying to even see them through the branches - but eventually I found a slot where I could see most of two of the birds, and after waiting 30 minutes looking at their backs, the adult eventually turned his head to preen and I got a shot of his eyes. so EBC shots, but I'm very happy with them :-) Adult, and the back of an owlet, you can just see his downy tummy :-) 

and a couple of improved shots - a Kookaburra who had just been for a swim, and a White-browed Scrubwren to replace my poor EBC earlier. 

Devster
Devster's picture

Well done on the PO! They are amazing birds and often hard to spot. Great shot of the WBSW as well

dwatsonbb
dwatsonbb's picture

Wow another great set. Petty the PO little one wouldn't turn, I think that would have been a great moment to experience (it probably was anyway but....).

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

sue818
sue818's picture

Well done, Alex. Great to get the Powerful Owl and a chick as lifers!  Nice set of pictures. 

TommyGee
TommyGee's picture

Love the peekaboo Powerful Owl :) nice one Alex.

AbbyGrace
AbbyGrace's picture

I'm just catching up on a couple of months of not being on here. Love your Great Egret shot and your Powerful Owl shots, I've only seen a PO once before, truly an awesome bird. I hope you are enjoying your freedom. :)

Alex Rogers
Alex Rogers's picture

Thanks all :-) Yes its brilliant to have some freedom - but birding far afield will have to wait as we are still limited to Greater Sydney until November 1 - at which point I could fly to London (if it wasn't so dark and horrible :p 

It was lovely to get down to the Waterbird Refuge at Homebush today though for a change of scenery. All the usual swans and pelicans and spoonbills and stilts were there, but I dipped out on the crakes and rails you quite often see there and that I'd been hoping to see. But I did get to see a rather special bird: 

190) Grey Plover. I think she may have just arrived from Siberia, a bit early in the season - great to see one of them back :-) Fun fact - something like 95% of all the Grey Plovers that spend the non-breeding season here are female, the males migrate to other continents. They aren't rare in Australia, but they are quite unusual here in Sydney. Pictured here with a couple of Red-necked Avocets - a long way out on the water, so a big lens and a big crop. 

And a few pics just because - some gorgeous baby Pied Stilts, only a few days old and already feeding at the water's edge under the watchful eye of Mama Stilt. And the watchful eye of a hungry Pied Currawong...

sue818
sue818's picture

Wonderful photos, Alex. I was there this morning but could not locate the Grey Plover which had been my target species. What time were you there?

dwatsonbb
dwatsonbb's picture

Good work, glad your out and about.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Pages

 and   @birdsinbackyards
                 Subscribe to me on YouTube