What The Duck!?!

 

 

Kodara by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A male musk duck (Biziura lobata) swiming on Lake Goollelal in Yellagonga Regional Park, Western Australia

 

 

Now it is fair to say that Australia is home to some pretty strange animals. One only has to look at the Platypus, the echidna and even the humble kangaroo. To my mind one of the strangest is the musk duck (Biziura lobata). They can be found on fresh water lakes in the southwest corner of Western Australia.

What makes them so strange? Well to start with they don’t quack like a duck. They emit a sound that is more akin to a demented sonar. They are rarely seen on land and are reluctant fliers. On the water they float very low in the water often giving the impression that just their head is above the waterline. They are prolific underwater swimmers staying under for as long as a minute and diving up to a depth of 6m and demonstrate incredible agility as they do so. In appearance they are a very dark grey to black, have a stiff tail and broad heavy bill. The males are considerably larger than the females and weigh over 3Kg while the females can weigh up to 1.5 Kg. This makes them the second heaviest diving duck in the world. The males also have a strange leathery lobe under the bill, and in the breeding season they have a very strong musk odour hence the name. The courting behaviour of the males is quite striking – they strike the surface of the water with their feet then immediately after make a couple of clucking sounds followed by a lot of whistles and a grunt. This is repeated very five seconds or so for as long as half an hour. The first time I encountered this was at Lake Seppings in Albany. I heard these odd splashes and weird sounds repeatedly coming from just beyond the reed beds but couldn’t see what was causing the commotion. As I continued walking the reeds parted sufficiently and with the help of standing on a nearby bench I was able to see what was going on. It really is quite a performance and once seen never forgotten. In Perth Musk Ducks can be seen on both lakes in the Yellagonga Regional Park and Herdsman Lake. Hard to see at first so listen for the strange noise and you’ll soon find them.

They are not hunted as they are not considered nice enough to eat and the only thing that threatens their status is the clearing and draining of wetlands.

 

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Lake Claremont

 

Originally what is now Lake Claremont was a swamp with a series of small pools edged with reeds and then surrounded by paperbark trees. There was abundant plant an animal life and it was an important hunting and gathering place for the Mooro clan of the Nyoongar in the warmer months of the year.

 

Lake Claremont by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The bird observation platform allows visitors to watch the birds in the grasses and reeds at Lake Claremont.

 

In 1831 European settlers began to clear the land for farming and by the 1890’s there were market gardens and a then state of the art dairy farm. Things looked good and the area prospered. However, this state of affairs was short lived as by the turn of the Twentieth Century the water level rose and the farms were flooded and a permanent lake which rises and falls with the seasons was formed. In the 1950’s Claremont Town Council reclaimed large areas for a rubbish tip and renamed it Lake Claremont in the process. In the 1960’s it was decided to beautify the lake and its surrounds. Sections were infilled to create a golf course and the school playing fields. In time two small bird sanctuary islands were created and there has been a move to manage the the lake in a more ecological manner. The Friends of Lake Claremont are an enthusiastic and very active bunch of local residents and volunteers who have undertaken to assist in the conservation and enhancement of Lake Claremont. There activities have been crucial in weed eradication programs and revegetation projects working in tandem with pupils from  Scotch College and Graylands Primary School. They also have annual public events including Clean Up Australia Day, National Tree Day and Celebrate Lake Claremont Day (community fair). More details can be found on their website.

 

Lake Claremont by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The infamous Lake Claremont crocodile. Lake Claremont, Western Australia.

So that was then and this is now. What does the lake offer today? Well the wetlands of the Swan Coastal Plain are internationally acknowledged as a bio-diversity hotspot having a greater number of endemic species than most other regions in Australia. Since colonisation three quarters of the wetlands have been drained for urban development. Those that remain are adversely effected by the introduction of feral animals and plants. In this context Lake Claremont is like a biosphere. In the past ten years or so eBird Australia has listed 116 species of bird that can be found on or around the lake which makes it somewhat of a birders paradise. The path around the lake and the bird observation platform make it easy to spot birds all year round. To make it so that you know what you are looking for you can down load an illustrated brochure listing the birds from the Town of Claremont website.

 

Lake Claremont by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Lake Claremont has a dual use path around its edge which is popular with runners and cyclists.

In addition to the nature based activities there is a 3 Km dual use path that circumnavigates the lake which is very popular with walkers, runners and cyclists. Dogs are welcome on a lead. The walk is enjoyable all year round and if you start the car park and head off in a clockwise direction then you can stop at the TeeBox Cafe shortly before returning to the car park. For the youngsters who need to burn off some energy before looking at the ducks there are two playgrounds. If dad doesn’t care for looking at the ducks then he has the option of playing a quick nine holes of golf.

 

Dit by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A juvenile pied stilt (Himantopus himantopus) at Lake Claremont, Western Australia.

 

Marli by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A black swan (black ) gathering nesting material at Lake Claremont, Western Australia.

 

Bardoongooba by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A pair of Australian Shovelers (Australian) at Lake Claremont, Western Australia.

 

Kalyong by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A pair of grey teals (Anas gracilis) at Lake Claremont in Western Australia.

 

Kwilom by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A purple swamp hen (Purple), Lake Claremont, Western Australia.

 

Rainbow Lorikeet by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Rainbow lorikeets (Rain) were introduced to Western Australiafrom the eastern states of Australia. Lake Claremont, Western Australia.

 

Wimbin by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Pink-eared ducks (Malacorhynchus membranaceus) at Lake Claremont in Western Australia.

 

Dit by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Called Dit by the Nyoongar this juvenile pied stilt (Himantopus himantopus) feeds at Lake Claremont, Western Australia.

 

Bardoongooba by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Bardoongooba called Australian Shovelers (Anas rhynchotis) by European settlers can be readily seen on Lake Claremont.

 

And I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For*


Bamborn by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
I’d gone to Locke Nature Reserve near Busselton looking for common helmet and midge orchids, but they weren’t flowering. This Western Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria griseogularis) and its mate kept darting in and out of the bush as I walked along the track so I photographed them instead.

This nature photography lark is a lot harder than it looks. I follow a couple of YouTube channels from the UK that weekly show the host going out to some location to photograph and /or film a particular animal or plant. They always find it and always get   good images. My experience is a bit different to that. I find that you can go out with all the best intentions in the world,  but if nature isn’t playing ball then you don’t get anything. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve set out to look for the Cleopatra’s Needles Orchid (Thelymitra apiculata) driving 100’s of kilometres to find absolutely nothing. Take last weekend. We were down in the South West of Western Australia as my partner was again playing in a croquet tournament. So I’d researched what was about in terms of birds and orchids and set out to several locations with a specific list of what I wanted to photograph. The first stop was Malbup Creek Bird Hide where I wanted to see tawny frogmouths and white-bellied sea-eagles. Well I spent a nice morning at the hide without seeing them. I did get a nice shot of a shelduck and the local kangaroos were hamming it up for a photo.

 

Koorak by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Not the white-bellied sea-eagle I was looking for. Still he’s a very handsome Australian Shelduck.

 

Yongka by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
No tawny frogmouths to be seen let alone be photographed. The Western Grey Kangaroos were keen to oblige.
The next stop was Locke Nature Reserve looking for common helmet and midge orchids. Well after a couple of hours of scrabbling around in the undergrowth fighting off the unwanted attentions of the local mosquitoes I’d found lots of them, but none in flower. There were some Splendid Fairywrens in the nearby bushes but they really didn’t want their picture taken and kept dancing out of the way every time I got close. On the walk back to the car a couple of Western Yellow Robins flew slightly ahead of me. They would stop and perch periodically and I was lucky enough to grab a few frames.
My last spot was Westbay in Augusta looking for scented autumn leek orchids. Now I’d seen them before at this location and knew where to go. They weren’t there. Not a one was to be seen. But I did find some autumn leek orchids – close enough so I photographed them. Funnily enough the autumn leek orchid has a much more pleasant scent than the scented variety which has decidedly unpleasant pong.
Autumn Leek Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Autumn Leek Orchid, Prasophyllum parvifolium. Westbay, Augusta, Western Australia
So there you have it another rewarding trip. I may not have found what I was looking for but I found other things and really enjoyed my time in the bush and that is what it is all about.
* This weeks musical reference is of course U2’s song I Still Haven’t Found. My favourite version is the one on 1988’s Rattle and Hum album.

Where’s Yer Bin?

No this is not the racist joke joke about  people from ethnic minorities and prison. This is a sensible post about ibis. Now not a lot of people know this – but there are three species of ibis in Australia. The most well known is the Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca) also commonly known as the Australian Bin Chicken and sometimes referred to as the tip turkey thanks to its habit of rummaging in rubbish. I think we can all agree it is not a very good looking bird,  in fact it looks a little primeval.

 

Not So White Ibis by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Australian white ibis, Threskiornis molucca, and not a bin in sight. Herdsman Lake, Western Australia

 

The second ibis that people may be aware of is the Straw-necked Ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis)and they are fairly widespread and can be found around shallow fresh water bodies. They have not succumbed to an urban diet of rubbish but feed on aquatic insects, molluscs, frogs, and on land, they thrive on grasshoppers, crickets, and locusts.

 

Straw-necked Ibis by Paul Amyes on 500px.com

Straw-necked Ibis, Threskiornis spinicollis. Herdsman lake, Western Australia

 

The third is one that most people are unaware of, and that is the Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus).  Seen in dull flat light the bird appears to be a dark dirty brown colour, but it is when it is seen in strong directional light its plumage takes on an iridescent green-and-purple gloss. One might almost say that for an ibis it is a good looking bird. They, like their straw-necked cousins, can be found foraging around large shallow fresh water bodies for  frogs, snails, aquatic insects and spiders. This is also our most cosmopolitan ibis being found not just in Australia but also  in warm regions of Europe, Asia, Africa,  and the Atlantic and Caribbean regions of the Americas.

 

Glossy Ibis by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Juvenile glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus. Herdsman Lake, Western Australia.

Back Yard Birds 3

Carnaby's Black-cockatoos, by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Carnaby’s black-cockatoos, Zanda (Calyptorhynchus) latirostris, preening prior to roosting. York, Western Australia. Canon EOS 6d with Sigma Contemporary 150-600mm f5-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/250 sec, f6.3 at ISO 6400.

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.

Backyard Birds 2

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.

 

Backyard Birds by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A nankeen kestral (Falco cenchroides) uses the power pole on our nature strip to watch for prey in the field oppersite. Canon EOS 6d with Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f7.1 at ISO 100.

 

Birding On The Avon

 

Like many people at this time I’ve had my movements curtailed. Where I live we are allowed out locally for exercise so I’ve been going out for walks along the river to photograph and video the birds that can be found there. This is the third time I’ve tried to video wildlife and it is very hard.I don’t work from a hide so I have to set up quickly and quietly and often the birds will move on before I can get filming. Shooting mainly just after dawn or just before sunset has meant using high ISOs and made focusing difficult. But, the more you do it the better you get. The purpose of the video was to make something, learn something new and help keep me thinking positive thoughts during this time.

Just out of interest I’ll put the stills up below. They were shot on either a Canon EOS6d with the Sigma 150-600mm f4.5-6.3 Contemporary lens or the Olympus OMD EM1 mk ii with the Panasonic Leica 100-400mm f4-6.3 lens. I wonder if you can tell the difference at web size without enlarging to 100% or checking the EXIF data?

Rufous Whistler by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A male Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris). York, Western Australia.

 

Laughing by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Laughing kookaburra, dacelo novaeguineae. York, Western Australia

 

Yellow Rumped Thornbill by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Yellow Rumped Thornbill, Acanthiza chrysorrhoa, York, Western Australia.

 

Yellow-billed Spoonbill by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Yellow-billed Spoonbill (Platalea flavipes), Avon River, York, Western Australia.

 

Great Egret by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Great egret, Ardea alba, feeding on the Avon River. York Western Australia

 

Tatty Robin by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Tatty robin. Red-capped Robin (Petroica goodenovii), York, Western Australia.

 

Brown Honeyeater by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Brown Honeyeater, Lichmera indistincta, York, Western Australia.

 

Yellow-billed Spoonbills by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A pair of Yellow-billed Spoonbill (Platalea flavipes) feeding on the Avon River in York, Western Australia.

 

Dawn Hunt by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A great egret (Ardea alba) and a white faced heron (Egretta novaeholladiae) hunting in the early morning light on the bank of the Avon River in York, Western Australia.

 

Great Egret by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A great egret (Ardea alba) hunting in the early morning light on the bank of the Avon River in York, Western Australia.

 

Red-cap Dawn by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Red-capped Robin (Petroica goodenovii), York, Western Australia.

 

 

Backyard Birds

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.

 

Backyard Birds by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Willie Wagtail on the back fence. York, Western Australia. Canon EOS 6d with Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 Contemporary lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f7.1 at ISO 1600.

 

Backyard Birds by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata. York, Western Australia. Canon EOS 6d with Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 Contemporary lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f6.3 at ISO 400.

 

White-cheeked Honeyeater by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
White-cheeked Honeyeater, W, in my back garden. York, Western Australia. Canon EOS550d with Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f7.1 at ISO 500.

 

Backyard Birds by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
White browed babblers (White) breaking the social distancing rules by communal dust bathing. York, Western Australia. Canon EOS 6d with Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f6.3 at ISO 5000.

 

Brown Honeyeater by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Brown Honeyeater, Brown, in my back garden. York, Western Australia. Canon EOS 550d with Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f6.3 at ISO 320.

 

Backyard Birds by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Australian Ringneck aka twenty-eight parrot,Aus. York, Western Australia. Canon EOS 6d with Sigma 150-600mm lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f6.3, at ISO 6400.

Well that’s it for this week. Stay safe, keep positive and try and keep busy.

Angry Birds

Angry Bird by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Brown goshawk, (Accipiterr fasciatus.) called Matwelitj, by the Nyoongar people of Western Australia. Avon River Walk, York, Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with LEICA DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f6.3 at ISO 640 with + 1/3 stop exposure compensation.

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.

 

Tricky Landing by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
You know what they say “Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing”. Brown goshawk, (Accipiterr fasciatus.) Avon River Walk, York, Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with LEICA DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f6.3 with +1 1/3 stops exposure compensation.

 

What you Looking At? Brown goshawk, (Accipiterr fasciatus.) called Matwelitj, by the Nyoongar people of Western Australia. Avon River Walk, York, Western Australia.

 

Get Lost! Brown goshawks, (Accipiterr fasciatus.) called Matwelitj, by the Nyoongar people of Western Australia. Avon River Walk, York, Western Australia.