Ok Ok if the last backyard birds was a little stretch over what is my backyard this one is a huge leap – across the road. From my neighbour across the road’s front garden came this delightful occurrence – Carnaby’s Black-cockatoos roosting. These large cockatoos are now endangered thanks to widespread land clearing so it was fantastic to have them visit the neighbourhood.
Welllllllll…not strictly true. This Nankeen Kestrel was on the power pole on the nature strip in front of our house. Another metre and it would have been in the front garden so I’m claiming it. They often perch there in the cooler months to either observe the field opposite for small animals or to eat the small animal they’ve just caught. This one was running an observation post.
Well it seems that the COVID-19 restrictions have been in place for an age. Here in Western Australia the social distancing requirements aren’t as strict as some places, but we still aren’t able to go where we want and do what we want. It makes me more appreciative of what my parents went through growing up in the Great Depression and then after that the Second World War. But anyway to keep myself from going totally mad I’ve been working on a few projects. This one is to document all the birds that come into our backyard. I’ve not got them all by any means. Some are very elusive and just don’t want their photos taken for some reason. Can’t imagine why. Here is a selection form the last couple of weeks.
Well that’s it for this week. Stay safe, keep positive and try and keep busy.
The last few mornings dog walks have been spiced up by some very territorial brown goshawks. As we walk along the river and then down onto the river bed we can hear them calling and chattering. It then goes quiet for a second or so and then there is a loud whoosh as you are buzzed from behind. As the bird passes overhead you can feel the air current generated by its wings. At first I thought the birds were objecting to the dog but I and this pattern persisted for about a week. But then something happened that disabused me of that notion – my hat suddenly became the victim of a bird of prey. The last time it happened they managed to knock it off my head. I’m beginning to think my bicycle helmet may be more appropriate headwear.
This could have been titled Hyden – the return. Hyden is a small town in the middle of the Wheatbelt in Western Australia some 292Km east of Perth. Regular readers will remember that we’ve been before and maybe somewhat perplexed as to why we’d bother to visit again. Well Hyden’s claim to fame is Wave Rock which is a large granite rock face that has been eroded in the shape of a perfect breaking wave. More than 100,000 tourists make their way there very year. Most just stay about an hour before zooming off to another destination to get the perfect instagram shot without taking any time to see what else is there. A great shame really as there is so much more to offer. When I wrote about our previous visit I concentrated more on other sites and the Aboriginal heritage of the area. This time I’ll look at what Hyden has to offer in terms of the natural world.
We decided to make a three day trip and on our way we’d stop off in Corrigin whose main claim to fame is the being the holder of the world record for the number of dogs in a ute and being the home to a dog cemetery. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Corrigin is a bit obsessed with dogs. Anyway it was a nice spot to break the journey, stretch the legs, make the bladder gladder etc. Corrigin does have a pretty impressive wildflower drive which begins just opposite the dog cemetery just on the outskirts of town. Most people just pull up in their car, jump out and walk a couple of metres. They then declare that there’s nothing to see and rush off in a cloud of red dust. Just take your time and have a poke about and you’d be amazed at what you can find. Here are a few examples.
When we got to Hyden we drove out to the Wave Rock Resort on the shore of Magic Lake which is where we were staying. The lake is quite startling. It’s not very big but is comprised of crystal clear salt water with a gypsum base. That pale coloured lake bed combined with the water makes a giant reflector that takes on the colours of the sky so as the day progresses the lake changes colour. To add to it’s other worldly qualities is that it lies in the middle of a salt plain which is fairly uniform in colour and is covered in mainly scrubby bush and a smattering of trees. It all made me want to get the tripod and graduated neutral density filters out.
The next day we decided to combine the Wave Rock Walk Circuit with the Hippo’s Yawn Loop and the Breakers Trail to create a loop that would take us from the resort up to the Hippo’s Yawn then along the bottom of the rock out to the Breakers picnic area and then back to our accommodation at the resort. The best part of it was that we could take the dog as it is all very pet friendly. Along the way we hoped to see more orchids and birds as we passed through the salt plain and into the bush at the base of the rock.
When we got to the base of the rock the vegetation changed from the scrub of the salt plain to thick bush fed by the water run off from the rock. We both enjoyed pocking around in the undergrowth looking for flowers, taking photos of each other and trying to dissuade Frida, our dog, from trying to climb up the rock face in search of interesting holes. It was amazing to see so many orchids – the blue beards were like a carpet in places. It was absolutely wonderful to see.
All in all we had a great time. There is so much to see and do that we’re already talking about going again. If you are planning a trip to Wave Rock there is a whole lot more to it than posing for a selfie for Facebook on the rock.
The other day I’d been up on Mount Brown (which is a grand name for a moderately sized hill) looking for interesting birds to photograph. The conditions were great, but the birds uncooperative so I gave up and started driving home. At the bottom of the hill I caught out of the corner of my eye a nankeen kestrel hunting on an empty block. It swooped down into the long grass and quickly took off again obviously holding something. So I did something I’d never thought that I’d do. I’ve just been really getting into this bird photography malarkey and have been watching YouTube videos for tips. Mostly British videos, but the occasional American one. I’d noticed that quite a few of the American ones had the photographers driving around looking for birds and photographing then from the car. Well I started to follow this bird in the car. It didn’t go far. It landed on the power lines outside of Marwick’s Barn obviously to catch its breath. It obviously decided that the power lines was no place to deal with the kicking and struggling mouse so it moved to the top of a nearby power pole. So I pulled up on to the dirt shoulder and hanging out of the driver’s side window I photographed madly.
There were no niceties, the kestrel didn’t even both to dispatch its prey before eating – it just pulled the mouse apart. I continued snapping frantically. When everything was finished the kestrel noticed the sound of the camera and gave me a hard stare. Rumbled! With a look of disdain it flew off.
Went looking for these…
…and found one of these.
Short Beaked Echidnas or Nyingarn in Nyoongar are also sometimes called spiny anteaters and belong to the Tachyglossidae in the monotreme order of egg-laying mammals and are not related to anteaters found in the Americas or hedgehogs. Together with the platypus, echidnas are the only surviving members of the order Monotremata and are the only living mammals that lay eggs. Now if you think a mama that lays eggs and raises its young in a pouch is weird then one of the other characteristics is even stranger. Their hind feet point rearwards! Yup that’s right, their feet are on backwards. How do echidnas have sex?
… it’s a bit like fishing. There’s always the one that got away. It doesn’t matter how prepared you think you are the opportunity presents and disappears in a nano second. One of my photography lecturers used to talk about what he called ‘the retrospective drive home’ where you analyse everything you did and didn’t do that contrived to create that missed opportunity. The frustrating thing is as you try and tell someone about it they invariably say “A photograph or it didn’t happen”. Well this time I’ve got the photos to prove it! Sort of.
The other day I was walking along the Swan River foreshore at Claremont when I saw an Osprey drop like a stone from the air and scoop up a fish. In less than the blink of an eye it was over. I was ready the camera was out of the bag and had a long lens fitted, it was switched on and the settings were optimised. So what did I get?
With some Photoshop magic this is what I got.
That was the best I could get – pathetic isn’t it? There I am with (hang on the other half may read this) an untold amount of money tied up in photo equipment and this is it! I remember watching the original Bladerunner where they had a fancy doodad that could extract a useable photo out of some ridiculous enlargement. You know that film was set in 2019 and it is now 2018 and we haven’t got that fancy photo doodad let alone flying cars. The future is such a disappointment. So as I walk away from the scene looking dismally at the LCD on the back of the camera I’m mentally kicking my backside.
Half an hour later I hear a commotion coming from the water. A shoal of fishing flapping on the surface coming on to the shoreline. Low and behold a fin and then a head break the surface. It’s a pair of bottle nosed dolphins driving fish into the shore. With the relaxes of a dead cat I leap into action and fire off a burst.
Well this time I got a sharp photo of something recognisable as a dolphin. But that is the best I got. This wildlife photography lark is hard – the wildlife aren’t giving me chance.