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.

 

 

New Victoria Dam

The ubiquitous New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae), New Victoria Dam, Korung National Park, Western Australia.

Over the last few days my FaceBook feed has been seeing some seriously tasty bird photos from one of the groups that I belong to. The photos all come from one area  – New Victoria Dam which is 30Km east of Perth on the Darling Range in Korung National Park. So when the Beloved Significant Other (BSO) announced she was competing in a croquet competition at a location just 20 minutes drive away I immediately volunteered myself as driver.

 

 

 

 

There are two starting points to the walk and which you choose will largely depend upon when you visit. If you visit outside of office hours Monday to Friday or anytime at the weekend then y ou have to use the upper carpark as your start point as the access road is shut. During office hours you can drive down to the lower carpark keeping in mind that if stay till after 5pm then you won’t be able to drive out. I started at the upper carpark which only adds 800m each way to the walk. The walk consists of a 7Km round trip down past the New Victoria Dam to the Old Victoria dam wall and the garden and picnic area. There used to be a path through the trees at the edge of the road but it has become quite overgrown and indistinct so you are best walking along the access road. As you walk down the road on your left is the  gravesite of Francis Weston who died in 1876 aged two days, his parents lived in the timber workers settlement at Bickley. When you get to the lower carpark walk through it and then follow the trail markers. After walking through the forest you come to New Victoria Dam. Walk down the steps and at the bottom turn right onto the road and walk down to the remains of the Old Victoria Dam.

 

The gravesite of Francis Westson who died in 1876 aged two days. His parents lived in the timber workers settlement at Bickley.

 

The steps down to the New Victoria Dam.

 

The original dam was built in 1891 and pumped water via pipelines to Kings Park and a reservoir there on Mount Eliza. The dam became the first permanent water source for Perth and was operated by the private City of Perth Waterworks Company. As the water catchment area took in agricultural land and timber settlements there were fears that it would be polluted by raw sewage and excrement from livestock. Between 1895 and 1900 typhoid broke out in Perth and 425 people died. The water was tested and found to be contaminated so the government took control and made changes to prevent re-occurrence. By 1988 the concrete structure was beginning to degrade to such an extent it could no longer be repaired so in 1990 work on the new dam commenced and because of the use of roller compacted concrete it was completed by the following year. It can hold 9.5 million kilo-litres and is used to supply drinking water to Kalamunda and Lesmurdie. 

 

The wall of the old Victoria dam and the garden beside it.

 

In the lee of the old dam there is a grassed picnic area and toilets. Thickets of ti-tree and one-sided bottlebrush or claw flower have been planted and the thick vegetation along the creek line provides dense cover for a number of bird species. On this trip I used the picnic gazebo as an impromptu bird hide and spent a couple of hours watching the various birds feed and drink. I saw  red-eared firetails, mistletoe birds, splendid fairy wrens, western spinebills, new holland honeyeaters, white faced herons and rosellas. The dam spillway feeds water to the pond and creek that provides a year round water supply which means that the birds are always active all here. If you are there at dawn or dusk then kangaroos can be seen feeding on the grass. It is a great little spot and doesn’t require too much effort to get there.

 

Red-eared Firetail (Stagonopleura oculata), New Victoria Dam, Korung National Park, Western Australia.

 

White Faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae), New Victoria Dam, Korung National Park, Western Australia.

Dry River Bed

Australian summers are hot and dry, and while we are not in a drought cycle like the Eastern States, it does get very warm here in York. 45º C is not unheard of. The hot weather and the lack of rain means that the Avon River largely dries up with the exception of a few deep pools, and so I often go walking along the dry river bed with Frida my faithful canine companion as it allows me to view quite a variety of wildlife that congregates around the pools.

Western Whistler by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Female Western Whistler, sometimes called the Western Golden Whistler, (Pachycephala occidentalis). York, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM10 with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II lens. Exposure: 1/1000sec, f7.1 at ISO 500.

 

Southern Scrub Robin by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A Southern Scrub Robin, Drymodes brunneopygia, achives vertical take off. The Nyoongar name is Djibot. York, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM10 with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f7.1 at ISO 500.

 

White-faced Heron by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae). York, Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with LEICA DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f6.3 at ISO 250.

 

Brown Honeyeater by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Brown Honeyeater, Lichmera indistincta.The Nyoongar name is Djindjoko. York, Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with Panasonic LEICA DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f6.3 at ISO 3200.

 

Sacred Kingfisher by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Sacred Kingfisher, Todiramphus sanctus. Known by the Nyoongar as Koonyenok. Avon River, York, Western Australia. Canon EOS 550d with a Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f6.3 at ISO 250.

It’s not just birds we see, there are small fish in the ponds (difficult to photograph) and masses of different insects like this damselfly below.

Blue Ringtail Damselfly by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Blue ringtail damselfly (Austrolestes annulosus,) at rest on the Avon River, York, Western Australia. Canon EOS 550d with a Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f6.3 at ISO 1250.

 

Frida usually takes my photographic hijacking of her morning walks with good grace. She usually waits for me either in some convenient shade or as shown below standing in some water. She’s not as daft as she looks!

Keeping Cool by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Frida waiting patiently in the cool of a water pool.

The other morning we were quite surprised to have a fox pop out of the long grass on the river bank and on to river bed. Initially it took off, but when it saw that Frida wasn’t in hot pursuit slowed down and turned back. The fox and Frida then played a mad game of chase up and down taking it in turns to be the chaser and the the chasee. Quite delightful to watch. It was like the canine equivalent of Kevin Costner’s film Dances With Wolves. Unfortunately by this time the battery in the camera had run flat so I was unable to take any photos of this rather special occurrence. Although this being a predominantly farming community most round here would not regard it as such as they belong to the “only good fox is a dead fox” brigade. A couple of days later we went back to see if the event could be repeated and I had a pocket full of batteries to ensure that I got some photos. We did find the fox in the same location but this time both it and Frida were indifferent to each other and the fox disappeared into the undergrowth on the opposite bank. Again I stuffed up the photography and all I got was the slightly blurred image below. Perhaps we’ll try again.

 

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) on the Avon River river bed. York, Western Australia.

The soundtrack for summer in the Western Australian bush is provided by Broome based band the Pigram Brothers and their track Dry River Bed provided the title and inspiration for this blog entry.

 

When your drifting on the ocean
and the sea is a perfect blue
But those storm clouds on the horizon
are keeping you true to who are you
So take me away ‘cross the spinifex plains
where the true mirage never ends
And the smell of the rain is a long way away
lay me down on my dry river bed
Don’t have no white picket fence,
don’t have no green english lawn
Just got heat waves dancing for me,
on the red dirt where I was born
Feel the heart of my country,
beating to them lonely blues
Gotta get back there, gotta get back there,
I’ll be back there real soon
Pigram Brothers – Dry River Bed
Music and Words: ( S Pigram/A, D, G, P, S Pigram, P Mamid)

Tootling in Toodyay

We decided to walk along the Bilya Walk Track on the banks of the Avon River in Toodyay ostensibly looking for birds. Although it was a fine winter’s day the ground was yes wet, flooded in places, and the river very high from the winter rains.

 

Toodyay Bird Walk by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Helen and Frida out looking for birds along the Avon River.

 

 

Frida by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Gratuitous shot of Frida

 

 

Toodyay Bird Walk by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The track was flooded in places necessitating some paddling.

 

Oxalis pes-caprae by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A bee pollinating Oxalis pes-caprae. Also known as Bermuda buttercup, African wood-sorrel, Bermuda sorrel, buttercup oxalis, Cape sorrel, English weed, goat’s-foot, sourgrass, soursob and soursop. It is a noxious weed introduced from South Africa to Australia. Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

 

Toodyay Stump #1 by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Toodyay Stump #1 Tree stump, Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

Toodyay Stump #2 by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Toodyay Stump #2

 

Knobbly by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Knobbly Close up of a tree trunk. Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

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

 

Crested Pigeon by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Crested pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes), Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

Weebill by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Weebill, , Australia’s smallest bird. Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

Neighbours by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
White-faced heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) and a western corella (Cacatua pastinator subsp. derbyi), Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

So mission accomplished and a good day out.

Bleedin’ Taters*

The secret to time lapsing is having a comfortable chair to sit in while you wait for the shoot to finish.

Got up at “stupid o’clock” the other morning to try out a new bit of time lapsing equipment. Streuth it was cold, and as I drove down to Monger’s Crossing I mused that the brass monkey would be tucked up at home in bed if he was sensible. A Swedish friend of mine once told me that there’s no such thing as cold weather just poor clothing choices. Well I took Matts’ advice to heart and I had more layers  than an onion.  On reaching the river it was dark and foggy, not the most photogenic conditions, but I thought for the purpose of this test it would be OK.  So I set  up the camera and sat down to wait for it to shoot one frame every twenty seconds for one hour.

The Canon EOS 550d and Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 OS on the Syrp Genie Mini pan and tilt kit.The observant will have noticed that the camera is held together with gaffer tape.

I tried watching a video on my iPod but it was so cold that the battery ran flat real quick so I thought I’d take a few pictures of my companions on the river bank.

 

A yellow billed spoon bill searching for food on a cold and misty morning on the banks of the River Avon. York, Western Australia.

 

A white-faced heron wading on the banks of the River Avon on a misty winter’s morning. York, Western Australia.

As to the time-lapse, well bearing in mind it was just a test to see how it worked, well it was a reasonable first attempt. The only downside was that the camera sensor was filthy and that meant a lot of cloning in Photoshop.

 

 

* English is pretty confusing at the best of times for non native speakers. “Taters in mould” is Cockney rhyming slang for cold.

To Twitch…

…  or not to twitch. That is the question. I fear I could be on the brink of another obsessive hobby – photographing birds. It is a worry. Oh well at least it’s not train spotting! Now where did I put my parka and thermos?

Striated Pardalote by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A striated pardalote (Pardalotus substriatus) found on the Avon Walk Trail in York, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM-1 with OLYMPUS M.75-300mm F4.8-6.7 II lens. Exposure: 1/2000th sec, f7.1 at ISO 800.

 

White-faced Heron by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
White-faced heron ( Egretta novaehollandiae) on the banks of the Avon in York, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM-1 with OLYMPUS M.75-300mm F4.8-6.7 II lens. Exposure: 1/1600th sec, f8, ISO 800 and +1.7 stops exposure compensation.

 

Red-capped Robin by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Red-capped robins (Petroica goodenovi) can be found in the sheoak trees on the banks of the Avon River. York, Western Australia). Olympus OMD EM-1 with OLYMPUS M.75-300mm F4.8-6.7 II lens. Exposure: 1/1250th sec, f7.1, ISO 800 with +0.7 stop exposure compensation.

 

 

Willie Wagtail by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Willie wagtails (Rhipidura leucophrys leucophrys) can be seen bobbing around catching insects along the banks of the Avon River, York, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM-1 with OLYMPUS M.75-300mm F4.8-6.7 II lens. Exposure: 1/160th sec, f8, ISO 800 with +1.3 stops exposure compensation.

 

 

Zebra Finch by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A female zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) perched near the Avon River in York. They are not native to the mid Wheatbelt, but can be found further north. They are common in York and are most likely the offspring of escaped cage birds. Canon EOS 6D with EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +2x converter. Exposure: 1/2000th sec, f7.1 Iso 800.