Thursday 31 January 2013

Sky Watch Friday - A Simple Sky

I'm trying to find new things to say about skies - or new ways to frame them.  I still take shots of sunsets and pink clouds - but I'm trying something else.

Here is a simple Australian summer sky - taken at Cape Tourville in the Freycinet National Park in Tasmania.

This was taken with my generally bomb-proof little compact.

All comments appreciated - even if you say "go back to sunsets!"

More skies can be found here at Sky Watch Friday.

Enjoy the pictures

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Wild Bird Wednesday 29 - A fondness for Gulls.

I have always have a fondness for gulls.  Storm driven flocks bunkered down on fields, under hedgerows, around my old home in Somerset.  Truly wild birds on Ireland's equally wild west coast. Birds roosting on the ice at Blaydon, working on urban nature reserves, searching for Monopod, the one legged Mediterranean Gull.  Kittiwakes on the Baltic Flour Mill in Gateshead.

As a beginning birder gulls can be a bit of nightmare - too many similar species, too many different plumage types.  Often, just too many birds in one place to be able to look at them all.

That was the past - welcome to the present.  Australia has only three species of resident gulls; the Silver Gull, the Pacific Gull and the Kelp Gull.

Only the Silver Gull - the appropriately named Larus novaehollandiae  - is common and widespread.  For much of Australia this bird is pretty much all you have in the way of gulls.  (Although there are many other compensations I have to say!)

The bird comes in at around 40 cm long with a wingspan of over 90 cm,  the blood red bill and legs of the adult in full breeding plumage make it a good looking bird.  This is the classic chip stealing "sea-gull" of all coastal holidays.

The Pacific Gull (Larus pacificus) is a huge bird.  It has a wing span reaching 1.5m and grows well over 60 cm in length.  Under all circumstances this is an impressive bird.  As you can see from the pictures the bill is disproportionally large, even for a bird of this size.  As far as I know we dont really know why the bill is just so big.  This cracking looking bird is only found along the South Coast of Australia - with some bird also travelling up the west coast.  All in all its an impressive bird.

Last and in some ways least is the Kelp Gull (Larus dominicus).  This gull has a very restricted (but growing) distribution in Australia.  It is only found here with any regularity in the SE of Australia, and Tasmania is a strong hold.  This is the only Australia gull that gives the classic "laughing" noise so beloved of sound-track editors and holidays programs.  This gull is only slightly smaller than the Pacific gull, but the size and colour of the bill are the best field features.

On my recent trip to Tasmania I managed to see all three of these species in a single day - and there are not too many places here where you can do that.

Now its your turn.  Remember to visit and comment on as many of the WBW sites as possible.  

Over to you!

Monday 28 January 2013

Our World Tuesday - "Our home is girt by sea"

Yet another quick post today.

The line "our home is girt by sea" is from the Australian National Anthem - and is the cause of much confusion, amusement and typically appalling Dad jokes.

Given that this weekend was a three dayer courtesy of Australia Day, I thought I post some picture takes while I was girt by sea.

I've started to develop a real love for snorkelling in the often crystal clear waters of Australia.  

The first of these two images come from Tasmania, where I was able to drift over golden granite boulders dappled with sunlight and grazed by fish.

The second is from Point Lonsdale on the mainland.  Here a set of reefs cuts off the bay on which Melbourne stands - Port Phillip Bay - from the sea beyond.  At low tide these area is a series of interconnected rockpools and shallow water.  Its perfect for exploration and drifting.

With very little investment you can enter a wilderness within ear shot of good coffee and all the delights  civilisation has to offer.

You can see more shots from around the world at Our World Tuesday.

Enjoy the pictures.

Thursday 24 January 2013

SkyWatch Friday - The end of the day....

Just a quick Tasmanian sky.  Exposure of about 2.5 seconds and a lot of luck!

You can find more skies at SkyWatch Friday.

Enjoy the pictures

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Wild Bird Wednesday 28 - Shy Albatross

As you may have gathered I have been in Tasmania for a while, and the last two WBWs were brought to you courtesy of the schedule function and intermittently functioning mobile broad-band.  So, if I did not manage to reply to your comments or visit you site pleas except my apologise!

Tasmania is a truly wonderful part of Australia - with a rich heritage, globally significant landscape areas and wildlife that has not be decimated (too badly) by development, deforestation, rabbits or foxes (although the fox problem has unfortunately arrived in the island state).

We spent all of out time there on the east coast.  During our visit we went on two boat trips - neither of them ever really get you out of sight of the shore, but the scenery and wildlife were stunning.

On both of these trips I finally got to sea living albatross!  I can only claim one species - Shy Albatross (Diomedea cauta), but that will do for me.  These are absolutely stunning birds with a wingspan of over 2m (thats about 6 feet!).  At one stage we were in a boat with 3 huge outboard motors moving along a decent speed, and we were over taken by an albatross that was not even flapping its wings!  It just shot past.

The trip was a wee bit bouncy and the birds are very fast moving, so I ended up with a low hit rate on the pictures.  I was just shocked at how many birds I saw - there must have been upwards of 20 different birds around the boat at one time ore another.  At times we could see five or six at the same time.   Now I like watching dolphins (pictures to follow), but I could not believe the number of people on the boat who seemed slightly unimpressed by the albatrosses!  How can that be!  Strange people.

So, here in my general order of preference are my favourite Shy Albatross shots from both trips:

Many of the shots I took ended up in the recycle bin - and a good number did not even contain albatross!  But I loved the fact I could take dozens of images, often in rapid fire mode - if anybody anywhere has lingering doubts about digital imaging, they should try taking pictures of rapidly moving birds, from a bouncy, crowded boat!

But now is your turn to link up to WBW.

Remember to visit, comment and link back to WBW!


Monday 21 January 2013

Our World Tuesday - The View from the Hill

This is a famous view.  Its from the very top of Mount Amos, looking down into Wineglass Bay at Freycinet on the east coast of Tasmania.

The beach - but the not the view - has been listed as being in the Top Ten beaches in the world.  I think the view is better from the hill than on the beach itself.

It was a decent climb to the top of Mount Amos - with a few steepish rocky sections.  The National Park guide uses words like "steep", "strenuous", "difficult" and "only for experienced walkers".  I have to say I enjoyed the looks on peoples faces has my kids - one of whom is still 7 - mountain goated their way up the hill.  The day before they had been introduced to the joy that is Barley Sugar!  I think that kept them moving!

Should you be so inclined I think you should climb this hill if you ever get the chance!

You can find more pictures from around the world here at Our World Tuesday

Enjoy the pictures.

Sunday 20 January 2013

Macro Monday - Green Rosella

I been away in Tasmania for a couple of weeks - so if I did not reply to one of your comments it may have been due to technological limitations, rather than my bad manners!

I'm trying to get organised so this is just a quick post.

One morning I found a Green Rosella below one of the large windows of the house we were renting.  Unfortunately it was stone dead.  I could not help but notice the beautiful plumage - or be reminded of a certain Monty Python sketch!

I was half asleep, but I was also aware of the bird lice walking about on the parrots feathers, so it was all a bit rushed!  When I found one on my leg I gave up and went to get a cup of tea!  When I got back to the parrot, the ants had found it as well!

So,this is the best image I came up with!

You can find more macro images here at Macro Monday.

Enjoy the close ups.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Wild Bird Wednesday 27 - White Faced Heron.

I always like watching herons - although I have not managed to get any of those "flipping the fish in the air with a casual wave of the beak" kind of shots yet.  (You know who you are, and you know you make me green with envy!)

So, here is a White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) doing absolutely nothing at all! These birds are about 65 - 70 cm tall and a pretty common in my neck of the woods.  I think they may be the default heron on most of my trips out with camera and binoculars. 

I love the sentinel stillness of these birds - the way they watch, the way they wait.  I think they would make good photographers.

This is a different bird - but still waiting none the less.

Now its your turn to get involved with WBW.

Visit, invite and comment - that all you have to do!

Monday 14 January 2013

Our World Tuesday - Masons Falls

While summer is a time when we can relax, it has a darker side in Australia.  Summer brings the threat of bush fires on most days - and when the hot north wind blows the fire risk grows with each breath of wind.

This is what happened three years ago when 173 people died on 7th February - it was a terrible day, and there has never been a day when the fire risk was higher.

We recently visited some of the areas that had been burnt.  While much of the bush land has undergone a remarkable regrowth, the empty house blocks and brand new buildings speak of a different story.  I still found it a strangely unsettling experience to visit the places where people so recently died.  The street names were like a series of flash backs to the news stories of the day.

Much of the infra-structure in the area was destroyed by the fire and the National Parks staff have been slowly repairing and reopening the park.  One of the most recently opened was Masons Falls.

We have had a few dry months - which is already raising the spectre of fire again - so there was not much water falling down the falls, but it was nice to get back into the forest.

This is a link to this part of the King Lake National Park.

You can find more images from around the world at Our World Tuesday.

Enjoy the pictures.

Macro Monday - Common Brown

One of the pleasures of photography is learning about the limitations and possibilities of the gear we save so hard to purchase.

After a long wait I got a longer lens at Christmas, and was delighted to find how close it's minimum focus distance is.  While it's never going to be a macro lens, its going to be good for butterflies and dragonflies where an extra bit of distance from the subject can be a help.

So here are two shots of a Common Brown - (Heteronympha metope).  I like the translucent feel of the first and the slightly battered condition of the second.  I assume that they have both overwintered somewhere, although the first seems to have an easier run than the second!

You can find more macro shots at Macro Monday.

Enjoy the close ups.

Friday 11 January 2013

SkyWatch Friday - A wader sky

I just can't help it - here is another shot involving waders!

We may be able to record the sky in its many moods, but birds leave us in the shade when it comes to that most sky-full of activities flight.

This mixed flock of wader caught my eye a while ago - and I thought I see what it looks like in Black and White (what a silly name - but it does sound better than Shades of Grey!)

You can find more sky shots at SkyWatch Friday.

Enjoy the skies.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Wild Bird Wednesday 26 - Dusky Moorhen (again)

I know I posted some picture of this bird a couple of weeks ago - but I can't resist posting another one.

I think we can get carried away with the need to visit designated Nature Reserves and miss out on the small and often overlooked patches of nature that lurk in our local area.  Keeping this in mind I'm trying to visit some of these "small places" now that I have long summer evening after work.

This image was taken early on a wonderfully still morning on a small pond formed by the Eastern Freeway.  It has less chance of becoming a well known nature reserve than my back garden!

If I was going to be picky, I'd would have liked to have been able to get rid in the duck in the background - but I could not find a way to do it and still get a good profile of the moorhen.  Oh well!

Now its your turn to get involved with WBW.   Don't forget to visit as many sites as possible and to invite your friends and family to link to WBW.

Monday 7 January 2013

Our World Tuesday - The Sun is out.

Although we try to grow vegetables in our raised beds I can't resist popping in a couple of sunflower seeds as well.  I love the shear spectacle of their flowers - this year only one of the seeds got its act together - so this flower is getting special attention.

Its also a sure sign that we are in the real summer - no more of this phoney "It may be summer, but maybe not" kind of weather.

I like the flowers - and it seems the visiting bee does as well.

You can find more shots from around the world at Our World Tuesday.

Enjoy the pictures.

Sunday 6 January 2013

Macro Monday - Bee

This is a little bit of a blast from the past.  The spring trees have lost their flowers, but we still have lots of bees.  There is a hive in a garden just down the road.  They only time I see lots of bees is if there is any water sitting around in the garden.  Misdirected water - or high jinks by the kids - makes small pools that the bees drink from.

So, for those of you in winter here is a vision of the spring to come.

You can find more macro shots at the wonderfully logically named Macro Monday.

Enjoy the close ups.

Friday 4 January 2013

SkyWatch Friday - Big Sky / Big Mud

By the early afternoon the sky over Werribee Sewage works was putting on a bit of a cloud show.  The birds that we had banded had left the Big Mud and headed off elsewhere.

I love the scale of this picture.  The open spaces, the distance, the colour - and I suppose I find it amusing that its a sewage works!  (or, if the truth be told for this part, it used to be!).

You can find more skies (and probably less mud) at SkyWatch Friday.

Enjoy the pictures.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Wild Bird Wednesday 25 - Waders (and one other)

This post really follows on from the post on Tuesday.

After we had processed all the Terns we set off for another part of the Sewage Works - and in an area of tidal mud we sent another two nets.  Then the part of wader banding that most people find surprising kicked in; we sat back for an hour, drank tea and let the rising tide push the birds towards the nets.

This time the birds cooperated and we ended with about 60 birds - mostly Red Necked Stint, but also a small number of Sharp Tailed Sandpipers.

Sharp-Tailed Sand Piper.
Red Necked Stints
Red Necked Stints
Red Necked Stints
We worked our way through these birds - and reset the net in the middle of the afternoon.  Nobody comes banding just to sit down!

We moved off to our third location of the day for one last catch.  Unfortunately, things did not go to plan and most of the birds moved off before we had a chance to trap them.  I made up for it with these pictures.
Red-Necked Avocet
Golden-Headed Cisticola
All in all it was a great day.  If you get the chance to get involved in a banding trip you should.

Now its you turn to get involved with WBW. 

Dont forget to visit as many WBWers as possible, and to invite any other bloggers you know to join in.