Danika's Big Year 2022

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dannyka6
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Vast improvement shot 143) Little Grassbird - very excited to catch this Grassbird out in the open after a couple of failed shots earlier in the day in another section of the WTP, and my very cropped, very pixellated shot from earlier in the year at WTP. 

dannyka6
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Also improvement shots of 121) White-bellied Sea-Eagle - adult and immature, since the last shot was heavily cropped!

Adult perched on a pole in Port Phillip Bay, and immature flying directly overhead - I'm still amazed this shot worked out as I was literally shooting straight up!!

dwatsonbb
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Some great improvements Danika, love the Little Grassbird, and eagles are always special.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

michaelrt71_1
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Congrats on the Red Knots, Danika, in flight too! Its comforting to hear someone else's focus bounces around so much on the little birds, but it looks like you nailed a couple in the end.

Agree with Dale, eagles are hard to ignore. Nice composure shooting straight up; its such an awkward position with a big lens.

sue818
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Great shots, Danika. Love that Little Grassbird shot!

AbbyGrace
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Wow Danika you have been having a great time! Red Knots and a Male Pink Robin!! Amazing. Awesome shots!

dannyka6
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Well I'm back, have been a bit quiet on the birding front lately, haven't been too well over the last little while but Abby inspired me to get out and about again after her very successful trips to Stockyard Point and The Gurdies recently!

I'm so glad I decided to go out to Stockyard Point today, despite the forecast of a 3.5m tide and 25-30kmph winds. I nearly left it too late to walk along the beach to the point, getting there 2.5 hours before high tide and the waves were still lapping at my feet and forcing me to do gymnastics over the beach trees! It's not for the faint-hearted, walking that narrow beach - it disappears quickly as the tide rises! And by the time the tide was high there was no beach at all, I had to commando roll under a fence and climb over a gate to take the paddock option home...ignoring the 'no trespassing' signs!! I've been told before that the farmer is ok with birders going that way, I hope that's true! I still felt a bit weird! It's a well worn track along the fence, so I'm definitely not the first to go that way. And Abby pre-informed me that the electric fence is off, so thanks for that!!

I was so so thrilled today to FINALLY nail a LIFER in the form of Terek Sandpipers!! I've been out to Stockyard before to try for this bird, but to be honest I now realise that I was looking for a much larger bird, and probably overlooked it amongst the other sandpipers. Thanks to Ian for making sure I saw them today, love helpful bird watchers!

192) Terek Sandpiper - despite being a mainly overcast, cloudy day the sun did burst out of the clouds for a brief 10 minutes shining a light on the birds in a beautiful way!! Our shutters just went off!!! Stunning! But I do like the shot of the Terek amongst the other tiny birds, reminding me that it really is pretty tiny! I need to stop looking for a Curlew-sized bird...the 5 Tereks that I saw seemed to prefer to stick right on the shore which was hard to get an angle on, over the sand dune. Thankfully as the water rose, all the birds took off en masse and when they landed they were a lot closer. Here's the juxtaposition of Curlew and Terek Sandpiper bills!

193) Double-banded Plover - have been looking for these all year, but I'm glad I didn't find them until now, because they were stunning in their full breeding plumage! I've never seen that before, incredible! There were a good 100 or so DBPs at Stockyard, amazing to see!

Quite a number of the birds today were banded, so I took as many ID photos as I could because I love reporting banded birds to https://vwsg.org.au/contact/sightings/ which is the Victorian Wader Study Group. After a couple of weeks, they send you back a report showing where the bird was originally banded, and all the places that it has been reported since...I find it fascinating! Do other states have a similar option?

I know there's a national group https://www.awe.gov.au/form/on-line-reporting-of-banded-bird/confirmatio... where you can report any banded bird or bat, but this is specifically for waders, which is cool. 

I tried out The Gurdies but had no luck today for robins or Blue-winged Parrots. It was very windy there too, but unlike at Stockyard Point this didn't work in my favour in the bush. Fortunately at Stockyard the wind forced all the birds to come in to land towards us, and to roost facing us!! It was a good day for photography there!

A bonus Red-capped Plover in its breeding glory. 

194) Gull-billed (Asian) Tern(ssp affinis - I still have to use the photos to tell the difference between these two, and it was so windy today that I could hardly hold my binos steady enough to see fine detail on the spot, and my eye was watering on the side of my head where the wind was hitting me! These birds are very graceful and beautiful, I love them!

195) Australian (Gull-billed) Tern ssp macrotarsa - no fact sheet

1st bird is an Asian/Gull-billed Tern - very straight bill, full breeding plumage

2nd bird is an Australian Tern - "drooping", slightly curved downward bill, immature

3rd bird is an Australian Tern - breeding adult

4th bird is an Asian/Gull-billed Tern - adult non-breeding I think, very straight bill

Correct me if you think I've misnamed any of these, they are my best efforts, not confirmed by experts. 

Pretty happy with today's work, it was awesome to be at the beach, lying in the sand, with tiny birds walking up to within a few metres!! The bliss of bird watching! Love it! 

sue818
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Another wonderful set, Danika. You can have both Gull-billed Tern and Australian (Gull-billed) Tern on your list so could you please adjust your numbering to include 195 for the Australian Tern? Well done distinguishing them as Terns are difficult at the best of times. Love the breeding plumage of the shorebirds.

dannyka6
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Thanks Sue, I didn't realise both terns were in the list, I'll definitely add that now :) It's amazing seeing the beautiful breeding plumage coming through!

dwatsonbb
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Wow, some great photos in there. Terek Sanpiper would be new, there was one recently here but was a good 21/2 hours drive for a maybe double there, didn't bother!

Love the Double-banded Plover with the orange bands. Those small birds can be a challenge to get close to, so you have done extremely well. You also have some nice photos of Red-caps there as well.

Can't offer any help with Tern ID, I haven't seen enough variety.

Also love the story around the effort to get those photos, thankfully.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

dannyka6
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Thanks Dale, I'm glad to finally pick up the Terek after seeing others photos for a few years. I agree, 2.5hours is a bit far for me too, although I know some birders who would definitely go the distance for a maybe!! Actually I think I'd call them twitchers...but I'm not so "passionate"/"dedicated"!

One more to add to my list...gradually getting to 200!

Abby introduced me to Bunyip State Park on Sunday arvo, and I loved it. She got a brief glimpse of the Southern Emu-wren but I missed it, was hoping for a better look than earlier in the year. Will have to keep persisting with that one! 

But I finally got to see a bird I've been hoping to see - 196) Crescent Honeyeater!

They were everywhere but it was challenging to see them in the dense bush, up high, with the afternoon light and they are so fast! When one finally sat for us, neither for us could get our cameras to focus through all the many many twigs and bits of grass...ah, frustrating! But in the end, I managed to get some shots I was happy with - yay!

We also had a great day out on Thursday looking for a Rose Robin...didn't find it, but found a terrific male Scarlet Robin, a male Golden Whistler that followed us up and down the track, and I got to upgrade my Musk Lorikeet photos.

Replacement 160) Musk Lorikeet, 59) Scarlet Robin, 152) male Golden Whistler (doesn't count as Golden Whistler cos I posted Western Whistler).

We also found a passionate birder who was meant to be working on some road repairs, but was checking out the local bird life! He told us about being involved in the annual Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo count at Edenhope...Abby and I immediately added Edenhope to our list of places to visit sometime in the future!! More than 2.5 hours Dale, so we'll have to incorporate it into some other travel haha. 

dannyka6
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Another question - does domestic goose count as a species? I know that we can count one species of domestic duck, but not sure about geese.

Thanks!

dwatsonbb
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Great photos again Danika.

Yes we can count 1 as a domestic goose species, so long as it is in the wild so to speak - not captive or contained. There are sadly heaps of dumped/escaped domestic species out there.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

dannyka6
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Perfect, thanks Dale :)

At lunch at the Studley Park Boathouse, we were joined at very close quarters by the local wild geese - never realised how blue their eyes are! They really are quite pretty, and quite huge.

197) Domestic Goose - no fact sheet

sue818
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Nice ones again, Danika. So pleased that you saw (and heard) the Crescent Honeyeaters... they were quite vocal in Tasmania. Love all the shots. You are finding some wonderful birds.

AbbyGrace
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Nice shots of the Crescent Honeyeater! Also I'm glad you had a great time down at Stockyard Point!

karentwemlow
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What a colourful set of birds, lovely photos. I really like the Musk Lorikeet.

dannyka6
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I've been on a little twitching bender myself, although I didn't drive 300km, Dale!! Just across the city.

I've been watching the Swift Parrot sightings on ebird, Facebook and Instagram for a while, and have taken a few trips to check out some different spots with no luck. But after a few days of sightings at Lysterfield Park, in a different spot to last year but only a few hundred metres away, I thought it was worth a drive. It was a FREEZING cold day, I've got a knot in my back from shivering while carrying the camera on that shoulder, but eventually it was worth it.

Swift Parrot is a totally apt name for this little buddies! They fly totally differently to Rainbow Lorikeets who have a very direct, purposeful path. Swift Parrots are like acrobats, with no notice they just dive and dart and completely change direction mid-flight making it very hard to track them! Also, they LOVE the very tops of trees so my neck is not in a great state either from craning to search for them but no pain, no gain!

I counted 5 parrots all up, possibly there were more but that was all I ever saw at one time. They were constantly on the move, even when I tracked where they'd landed, by the time I got there they would more than likely have taken off again! Frustrating, but satisfying when I finally got some shots. Not terribly great, but I got them!

198) Swift Parrot - excuse the multiple photos! I've tried to cut down to just a few!! I believe I saw juveniles as well as adults which is exciting! They are just as acrobatic in the trees, half of my shots are of them upside down or sideways! These are all extreme crops, thanks to DxO software for cleaning up the grainyness!

- - -

Unfortunately, our trip to WTP to check out the Orange-bellied Parrots was not such a success. That's a whole other story!!

Apparently "over-zealous" photographers have been pushing the ethical birdwatching boundaries, getting too close to birds and flushing them in an effort to take photos, speeding through the area where they are presently, trampling the marsh etc. 

So Melbourne Water have closed all the roads in the area where the OBPs are for the next 8-12 weeks!!! Including the Little River bird hide, and all accessory roads that could possibly provide a back way into that area. And they are surveilling the parrots and the area. Yikes!! Unfortunately Abby got the email AFTER our trip, and I didn't get it at all so we went not knowing.

So there goes our shot of seeing the OBPs at the WTP this year - was hoping to add that lifer to my list but the chance has been taken away. I'm always hopeful that someone will see them elsewhere nearby; we'll see. Although I notice that there aren't any sightings on eBird...wondering if they are being screened??

dwatsonbb
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Swifties are grand little birds, and hard to find, unless you can find a decent food source for them. Have only seen them a couple of times, and not great photos. You have done well with them, some lovely shots there.

OBP - I sort of agree they need restrict access, as they are so vulnerable, and yes some birders don't give a crap. My philosophy is to try and "Take nothing but photos and memories, and leave nothing but footprints". One day you might get lucky, especially if the numbers continue to increase.

I can almost guarantee good sightings, BUT, you need to come to Tassie, either walk for 7-8 days (one way) or pay for an expensive day trip to Melalueca. You do have a chance of seeing them on the  West Coast (they do OBP surveys at Arthur River) once migration commences, but I guess you would need to be reallly lucky.

Your other option to see wild birds, is to volunteer for the OBP program, and you might get a free trip to observe the birds (I think you need between 2 and 4 weeks available or summer, but I think that is also hard to get into.

Sorry about the long comment, bit OBPs are dear to my heart, and subject to health and finances, I hope to visit them again in the future.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

sue818
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Wonderful shots, Danika. I have not seen Swift Parrots although they do visit the Sydney area. OBP also remain unsighted so another visit to Tassie at the right time might be a plan for the future.

dannyka6
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All good points Dale, and I agree - just disappointed we didn't get the chance to see them so close to home...but hey, gotta have a wish list :)

Thanks for the lovely comments, both of you!

dannyka6
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Well finally we snatched a little bit of travel interstate for a short break, not a birding trip you understand, but I can't go anywhere without the camera...even if I did have to leave the big lens at home. We were breaking in a new lens, Sony 24-105mm, not a great zoom range for birds (it's real purpose is portraits) but I managed to get a few additions to the list and finally cracked 200 birds photographed in a year after 3 years in the making!! YAY! Thanks Gold Coast, I have so many more plans for you but they'll have to wait.

199) We arrived at the hotel in Southport and wandered around the corner to grab some lunch. I sat down in the lovely sunshine, looked up at the blue sky and there, right across the road was not only an Osprey but it was perched on a small platform where it had built an enormous nest!! Later it flew off, did a round of the bay then returned. The next day I saw it eating a fish on its perch...wow, what incredible events!!

200) After lunch we were meeting a friend in Southwater Parklands to catch up, so we wandered through the park and immediately heard the strange call of a raven-type bird...quite different to the ones I'm used to in Victoria. Turns out it was a Torresian Crow! I've seen them before in QLD and NSW but not for 4-5years so it seemed all new. That distinctive call is heard all over the Gold Coast, and I managed to get some good shots eventually - the ones here are from the next day at The Gold Coast Botanical Gardens.

Similar to our ravens, the juveniles have a dark eye and the adult had a white eye ring. They are quite glossy. 

I also saw a couple of Scaly-breasted Lorikeets - not great shots but an ok flight shot.

Heavily cropped shots of course, but the quality of the camera impressed me this trip. Previously I guess I thought it was the long lens which was so impressive but the full frame compared to my old APS-C really comes through when cropping. 

dannyka6
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Alright, day 2 of the Gold Coast!

I was up super early for me, the sun was pouring in early and I just couldn't lie in, knowing there were birds out there!! My hubby had a cold and was happy sleeping in a bit, so I got up and had another walk through the Broadwater Parklands since that was the closest park to me. It's beautiful, all along the beach on the inlet, well kept and there are ponds and trees and grass for days.

Cracking into my next hundred...

201) Wandering along the park I heard the most beautiful song! I reminded me of the Grey Butcherbird, but it wasn't that...I followed the song and it turned out to be a Pied Butcherbird! I had a quick flight snap from earlier, but it wasn't that good so I was pleased to improve on it with this gorgeous bird perched up on top of a light. Tricky angle, but I really enjoyed the song

202) The next new bird for my list was a Figbird. I chased it all around the park!! It finally landed and stayed in a very annoying spot at the top of a tree, and I had to use manual focus to shoot through the twigs so not my favourite shot but its all I have. I got one shot later at the traffic lights (no I wasn't driving!), its at least a clear shot but far away

203) After hubby got up, we took a lovely walk down through Surfer's Paradise, then hired a car since it started to rain and went to The Spit for a look at the ocean. As soon as we arrived we could see Brush-Turkeys running around - they are hilarious! I always find it so funny to see birds running, don't know why, its just amusing :) These turkeys are just awesome, and they are very entertaining. I was super lucky with the 2nd shot, I was standing in the bush off the track and it walked straight towards me! I squatted down and got this close up, hardly even cropped. 

204) The reason I was down in the bush off the track was following another unfamiliar call - which turned out to be a Brown Honeyeater. These are super cute, about the size of an Eastern Spinebill to me, and very fast and agile. Luckily I had my hubby with me, his eyes were much faster than mine at picking it out! I was staring around and couldn't see a thing, even though it was calling loudly. So loud for a tiny bird! Very cute on the banksias.

205) Standing out on The Spit, I caught a couple of birds flying over that didn't fly like Silver Gulls or Terns...so I took a shot, zoomed in on the screen and there was a Gannet!! I haven't seen these this year, I was planning to check them out at Portland where there is the only mainland colony in Australia but this year they have nested offshore on the island and so there are very few birds at the usual viewing spot, according to Facebook sources. I waited and luckily one bird circled back towards us and I was able to take a few more shots. Still not great, heavily cropped, looks like an immature bird to me.

dannyka6
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That's all the additions I have for my Gold Coast trip. But I did see a few other fun things:

-Blue-faced Honeyeaters (no decent shots)

-a crow on the beach - somehow this tickled me fancy, just haven't seen it before

-replacement 191) Rock Dove: loved the first shot for the light in the eye, and the 2nd shot for the interstate variation in Rock Dove, something I first noticed when we went to NSW in Feb

We called in at the Botanical Gardens in the afternoon and took a short walk around, its really lovely! A beautiful lake and grasslands

-Black-backed Magpies...different to the White-backed Magpies we have here in Vic

-a Buff-Banded Rail out in the open! Not a replacement shot, its not really better than my other shot but it was at least not hiding under a bush

-a gorgeous Black Swan family...a young boy, maybe 11-12 heard us coming and held up his finger to his mouth telling us to be quiet, then let us know about the cygnets...he was so cute, he was like "I saw you had a good camera so I thought you'd like to know about them"!! Love a young one who appreciates nature! 

-then we saw a flying fox just flying around in the middle of the day!! I took a quick flight shot, not great but you get the idea. It was actually one of about 5 that we saw flying around that afternoon, maybe because it was overcast they thought it was dusk?? Not sure

dwatsonbb
dwatsonbb's picture

Congratulations on your double century. Most of those would be lifers for me. It is nice to explore some new territory with some birds different than what you normally see.

Some great photos. It is amazing the difference full frame makes, maybe you will be looking for another lens for the Sony?
 

My faves are the Rail and the Turkey, I think because they are both so different. Glad you enjoyed the trip.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

dannyka6
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Thanks Dale. I'm happy with my Sony 200-600mm lens, just that hubby thought for a "non-birding" holiday we could make do with the 24-105mm this time...I think next time I'll stick to my instincts and pack everything :)

An update on 190) Cattle Egret from the WTP with Abby just before our Gold Coast trip...love this shot!

dwatsonbb
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That's a great photo Danika, nice you caught liftoff. The colour contrast of white bird with the green background is cool.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

michaelrt71_1
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That osprey nest is astonishing! What is it really hiding up there? 

Also enjoyed the brush turkey waiting for a lift home.

Am I right in guessing you follow ebird for recent sightings of birds you are after, then hit that site? 

sue818
sue818's picture

Great shots, Danika, love that huge Osprey nest and the Cattle Egret. The camera has done well but the photographer has also done a good job. I must agree that the Pied Butcherbird has a wonderful song which is even more melodious than the Grey Butcherbird. Congrats on the double century.

dannyka6
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Thanks everyone! 

The Osprey nest really is something else, surely much larger than it actually needs for little eggs and babies! Or maybe its just a messy house keeper :)

Michael, yes I do follow ebird for tips on where to go birding when I'm away from home, as well as tips on where rarer birds have been found around my local area so that I can have a crack at chasing them down. I use the hotspots to give me a starting point, but ebird also gives you a list of targets - birds that you haven't seen in your state/area so you can track them specifically. It's actually a pretty amazing tool! But I combine that with a lot of Facebook birding groups and following bird photographers on Instagram...I try to keep abreast of the current birds :) lol

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