Wednesday 17 April 2024

Wild Bird Wednesday 612 - Welcome Swallow

The Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena) is the common swallow in Australia.  (There are records of Barn Swallow - but they are few and far between and cause a great deal of excitement in birding circles).

These are young birds.  I assume that they are still being fed as they got very excited when another (adult?) bird flew near them.  Unfortunately this other bird was rather more cautious than the younger birds, and never really flew into picture.

However, I think you can see that the young birds got rather excited at the prospect of food.  I recall a similar look on the faces of my kids, and still see at tea time with my cats!

The Welcome Swallow is one of a limited number of Australian bird species that are doing well at present, and their population size is increasing.

As ever, to join in with WBW click on the link below.  SM

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Friday 12 April 2024

Winter Sun at Titchwell.

Titchwell is an RSPB Reserve on the north coast of Norfolk in the UK.  I visited it in February this year - and was lucky enough to get some sunshine (and good birds!).

It turns out that I was in the UK during the wettest 18 months on record - which is something of an achievement I think!

It really was a wonderful afternoon / early evening.  SM

You can find more skies at Skywatch Friday.  SM

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Wild Bird Wednesday 611 - Great White Egret

While I was in the UK earlier this year I went to the National Nature Reserve at Shapwick Heath to see the Starling Murmurations (there will be a post about that soon!)

While we were all waiting for the Starlings - and listening to Bitterns booming - a Great White Egret (Ardea alba) flew along the draining ditch next to us, and started hunting in the long grass on the far bank.  

20 years (or maybe a little bit more) ago, this would have been almost unthinkably unusual: there had been few records of this species in the UK, and was seen 'less than annually'.  These days, while it is still a good bird to see in the UK, I saw at least 4 in the month I was there.  Probably in response to climate change, this bird is expending its range into the (formerly) chillier parts of the world.

The bird did not have any success on the far bank and flew across the ditch and landed in some flooded grass on the near side of the ditch.  

Almost as soon as it landed, it stabbed at a fish in the water and caught what looks like a goldfish! (Although I suspect it is a Rudd!). At one time the bird dropped the fish, but caught it again in mid air.

It was a great thing to see - although the fish may offer a different opinion.

As ever, to join in with WBW click on the link below.  SM

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Thursday 4 April 2024

Up, Up and Away

Last May, for my Birthday, we booked a family balloon trip over Melbourne.  Bad weather, bad luck and busy lives conspired to take us almost a year to be able to make the flight.

All four of us travelled into East Melbourne in the wee hours of the morning yesterday, to be collected and taken ballooning.  It was dark when we got up, and still dark when we arrived at the take off point.

None of us had ever been up in a balloon before, so it was all a bit exciting.  

The nature and route of the journey is controlled by the direction the winds are blowing - and its only possible to steer by finding wind blowing in the direction you want to go.

The first stage of the journey involved unpacking and then inflating the balloon.  The first stage of inflation involves blowing air into the balloon with a huge fan, and only after the balloon is partially inflated are the burners used to add hot air.

About to start filling the balloon with air from the fan

The balloon was very big!

Adding some hot air.

More hot air

Once the balloon itself floated upright, we all had to get into the basket to act as ballast!  More hot air was then blasted in.

Eddie, the pilot, did a few pre-flight checks, and then we took off.  Silently. Straight up.

Of course, many of the pictures that follow are not of our balloon, but of some of the others that flew with us. 

Melbourne is huge!  And seeing like this was really rather remarkable.

One of the surprising things about being in a balloon is that there is no wind - as Eddie said, 'you dont feel the wind, because you are the wind!'  There was only an occasional breeze when you moved between air masses that were moving in different directions.

We flew over some rather iconic landmarks - none more iconic in Melbourne than the MCG.

St. Paul's Cathedral 


Fed Square and the City

Centre Square, MCG

The MCG.  (The pink lights on the side are to help the grass grow.) And the balloon pilot gave the balloon a nice glow with the burners!

Looking back at Richmond and the City

Finally we passed over the city and landed on a sports oval.  I have to say, I have had bumpier landings in a conventional airplane!

Handbrake on!

Just as we landed, Eddie opened the 'hand brake' on the ballon.  It's a huge hole at the top of balloon that vents all (well most of) the hot air from the balloon and reduces its buoyancy. 

And down.

Back on the ground, we deflated the balloon, packed it into a bag - think about putting the worlds largest sleeping bag into a sac, and went for breakfast!

What a great morning!  SM

Wednesday 3 April 2024

Wild Bird Wednesday 610 - On Crake Pond

Last week I ventured yet again to Werribee Sewage Works - and I knew that the specific combination of time of the day, weather, and time of year would mean that the early morning light on 'The Crake Pond' would be good.

If you are amongst the band of merry birders that I have taken around Werribee, the Crake Pond is often the first place we stop - and it's justifiably famous for its crake sightings.  And while none of the less abundant crakes showed up, the pond did not let me down.

As I arrived I could see at least one Australia Spotted Crake / Australian Crake (Porzana fluminea) feeding on the mud.  So, I backed the car away from the pond, got my camera and flask of tea ready, and then drove back to a vantage spot.   As is often the case, I stayed in the car - using it as a hide / blind - and supported my camera and lens on a bean bag filled with barley seeds.  It's a simple but very stable method.

These are some of the birds I saw:

Australia Spotted Crake / Australian Crake (Porzana fluminea

Red-kneed Dotterel (Erythrogonys cinctus)

Black-fronted Dotterel (Elseyornis melanops)

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata)

and the Buff-banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis).

Not my usual single species posts - but there you go.

To join in with WBW click the link below.  And to be shown around Werribee, come visit Australia!

Cheers,  SM.

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Wednesday 27 March 2024

Wild Bird Wednesday 609 - American Robin

Following on from last week's post about the European Robin, this week we have the American Robin (Turdus migratorius).  This Robin is a Thrush, and as the second part of its scientific name suggests, it migrates!

I saw this bird in Ontario, which I think is more or less at the northern edge of its year round range.  As you go further north in Canada this species becomes a summer visitor.

You can certainly see why this bird was called a Robin!

As ever, to join in with WBW click on the link below.  SM

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