NANKEEN NIGHT HERON (Nycticorax caledonicus)

The first time I saw a Nankeen Night Heron (Nycticorax caledonicus) on the bank of the Ornamental Lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, I nearly passed out with excitement.

NANKEEN NIGHT HERON photographed from my special secret hiding place down a rarely used path in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

I’d never seen one before.

A juvenile NANKEEN NIGHT HERON – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

I thought I was looking at a very rare bird, but of course I later saw it was very common in the RBG, Melbourne Zoo and even, my current home location (just haven’t seen it here yet).

Perhaps not very well focused, but this long-distance shot of the dead tree where the NANKEEN NIGHT HERONS bask in the late Winter sun in the Royal Botanic Gardens gives you an idea of how many there were that day.
A further distant shot of the upright part of that dead tree. Sometimes you’d see as many as 25-30 Nankeen Nigh Herons on its upper branches.

It’s a large, but comparatively dumpy, large-headed heron.  It’s beak is large, deep and black.  This heron has yellowish legs.  The plumage is a distinctive dark cinnamon above with dark crown and white drooping crest in breeding season.  The underparts are buff shading to white.

The juvenile is also distinctive with dark brown above and plentiful bold white spots.  (It’s called the Rufous Night Heron on some web sites).

I think it is my favourite bird of all I’ve photographed (since I took up Photography as a hobby in 2010).

I managed to get some great shots up-close in the outdoor restaurant area at Melbourne Zoo’s Japanese Garden entrance.

It even beats my second favourite – the White-faced Heron.

Since I can’t get outdoors for a walk today, despite the superb cool weather  and fluffy white clouds scattered across the vivid blue Summer sky, I decided to share some images from my archives.

Hope you enjoyed them 🙂

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

The Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) is huge, often known as Jabiru.

The adult is unmistakable, with white body contrasting black flight feathers, back and tail, and iridescent purplish neck and head.  The black beak is massive.  The legs are long and bright red, although the colour seems to vary in my old photo folder.   Seems to be more of an orange colour, but I suppose that is the Auto White Balance setting I used back in the day I shot these photos.   A couple of the images in this post seem to be on a warmer White Balance Setting (as you’ll notice).

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

Eyes are dark in the male and yellow in the female.  The immature bird is brown above paling to whitish below, beak and legs grey.  Apparently the voice has deep booms with the beak clappering and to be honest, I can’t remember this sound from my many Zoo visits, (where the images below were made in the enormous Great Aviary).

I’ve never seen it in the wild, with it being found predominantly in the far north, or far north-eastern, areas of Australia.  But in re-booting my nature blog and starting a proper bird index of the 101 (errr……probably more like 110) bird species I’ve photographed in parks, nature reserves, Royal Botanic Gardens and Melbourne Zoo, its forms part of the list.

I think I’m up to about 40 birds I’ve shared and listed in the right-hand column of this page, so there are quite a few more species to share from my archives in future posts.

I found it a little difficult to find a really sharply focused image in my old iPhoto folder this morning, so I’ve uploaded an array of images hoping that some of them will be clear enough to see some of the feather colours and details.

Twice I’ve seen what I presume is a mating display (?) or aggressive display (?) between 2 of these stunning birds, but not being familiar with the movie/video features of my camera didn’t know how to capture it.

It was well worth seeing 🙂

 

BUFF-BANDED RAIL (Gallirallus philippensis)

I’ve never seen a Buff-banded Rail, (or any other Rail for that matter), in the wild, but viewing it in The Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo reveals it might be hard to see in long grass anyway.

It looks similar (to me) to the Lewin’s Rail (Rallus pectorals) in my Photographic Field Guide Birds in Australia (by Jim Flegg), but the Lewin’s Rail seems to have a longer beak.  I do so hope I’ve got the identification of the bird in this post, correct.

This bird is found locally in Newells Paddock Nature Reserve, only a bus/walk away from my home, so hopefully, when I get back to nature walks, I’ll have an opportunity to search for it.

In the meantime, here’s a few old images from the zoo made 4-5 years ago.

Buff-Banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis)

It’s a medium-large Rail with a distinctive white head (ehrrrrr…..in most of my shots it looks brown 🙂 ), stout sharp brownish beak, dark crowns, prominent white supercilious over chestnut cheeks, and grey throat.

It rarely flies and has long grey legs.  These images were made from an overhead boardwalk in the Aviary which is about 15 feet above the ground, so most images were made from that angle/height.

This bird is mostly active at dusk and I’ve seen it only rarely on my many zoo visits in the past.  I suspect this is partly due to its excellent camouflage (as much as my zoo visits were during early afternoon).

Found in many of the coastal areas of Australia, apparently it squeaks, clicks, croaks and has a raucous bray – not like my usual local bird life who bring sweet music to my ears regularly each day now, with the Superb Fairy-wren having the cutest song in the cooler mornings.

Of course we’re in to Summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

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My days seem so busy with health matters in recent months, I haven’t had much time to devote to my blog(s) and Photography, but then I was trying to reduce my computer time anyway.

I’ve downsized my balcony garden (and not replaced my much-used herbs and other green veggies in anticipation of surgery and not being able to water the garden) – the garden was getting too big anyway.  I’ll replant and redesign next Spring. I had to re-arrange several pieces of furniture in my tiny studio-style apartment yesterday and today, (to allow a tradesman with a ladder to measure & quote for window UV film next week), and a host of Spring cleaning tasks I don’t normally do.

I did a massive cleanup of the bird poop on my balcony which I had neglected.  Had to rearrange some kitchen cupboard contents as it’s too painful to twist at the moment.  We had a dust storm in Melbourne  last week, and dust has got into the most surprising of places indoors, necessitating extra housework too.

Melbourne’s weather is predictably UN-predictable and who knows whether it will be hot or cold for Christmas/New Year.

Gosh, it might even snow as it did in August 1849, July 1882 and 1951, OR a tornado (like February 1918) or other freaks storms as in February 2005.  I think the whole world’s weather patterns have been extreme to say the least. 

In the meantime, it’s still mainly images from my archives that you’ll see on my nature blog.

Bird images are the easiest as they are well filed in my old iPhoto library.  Flowers a little less so.  But each time I view the old photo folders I do a tiny bit of culling, re-editing and re-filing, so it has been a useful exercise.

BLUE-WINGED KOOKABURRA (Dacelo leachii)

While we’re on the subject of Kookaburras, (see previous post), I thought to share my not-so-good shots of the Blue-Winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii).  

The bird is clear enough, but I didn’t make a good job of erasing the cage wire in the foreground.

Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii)

After hundreds of hours of practice over about 3 years, I became quite good at photographing birds through fine cage wire at the Zoo – so that the wire disappears completely – but not so with the images in this post.  And this bird’s cage wire had large gaps between each strand, so I have no excuse.

But I’m still going to share so you can see the difference between the 2 Kookaburras.

Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii)

The Blue-Winged Kookaburra is only found in the far north, or north-west, of Australia so I can’t bring you any images made in the wild, only at the Zoo.

This bird is slightly smaller than the Laughing Kookaburra and has lots of blue on the wings.  The rump and tail are a lovely azure blue in the male and the tail is chestnut barred black in the female.

This one is noisy, and has a poorly formed cacophony of harsh cackles and screeches.

Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii)

Here’s the photo of the Laughing Kookaburra in the previous post which was located in the  same size cage next door for comparison.

The Kookaburra has its own enclosure at Melbourne Zoo and despite the cage wire between the bird and my camera, this shot turned out pretty well.

By the way, if you’re new to bird photography, there’s nothing I can recommend more that practicing photographing birds at your local zoo (if you live in a city like I do).  

You learn very quickly how to hold a camera very, very still in order to get one DSLR focal point through tiny 1/4″ (yes, quarter of an inch) cage wire AND you learn exactly how far the subject must be from the cage wall in order to make the wire lines disappear.

Seriously  🙂

Here’s a good example……a Crimson Rosella, well maybe its got slightly different feather pattern and no blue cheeks, but we’ll call it a Crimson Rosella, photographed behind very fine cage wire.

  1. THE BIRD IS CLINGING TO THE WIRE AND TOO CLOSE.

2.  THE BIRD IS FURTHER BACK BUT STILL A BIT TOO CLOSE TO THE WIRE AND I PROBABLY DIDN’T HOLD THE DSLR STILL ENOUGH.

3. THE BIRD IS JUST THE RIGHT DISTANCE AWAY FROM THE CAGE WALL and I MANAGED TO HOLD THE DSLR (with its 9 focal points changed to 1 focal point) VERY STILL. Sometimes you get a haze of funny lines in the background, but it is possible to make the cage wire disappear.

Or better still……..

4.  PHOTOGRAPH IT IN THE WILD, LIKE I DID (for the first time ever in my western suburb), BEHIND MY APARTMENT BUILDING WHERE THERE IS A LARGE TREE ON THE EDGE OF FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE.  Image made on the 24th October, this year.  I’ve cropped the image and lightened the shadows to make the bird more visible.  I was so surprised and excited to see this colourful Rosella near my home I admit I had trouble keeping the camera still and I didn’t have a long telephoto lens at the time.

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NOTE: I started going to the zoo in 2012 and over about 3 years of annual membership, I went there about 100 times (going by the dates in my photo library).  You only have to visit a minimum of 3 times per year to make Annual Membership worth paying for.

Sometimes I’d go 3 times a week in Melbourne’s hot summers as the temperate rainforest landscaping was so shady and exceptionally cool.

Melbourne’s main Zoo, located in North Melbourne (and easily accessible by tram from the city centre), is open 365 days per year, although from time to time, they do close certain exhibits for maintenance.  Sometimes I’d go specifically to do nothing else but practice bird photography in The Great Aviary (where you can walk around on the long boardwalk which criss-crosses the enormous space and get quite close to some of the birds, especially at feeding times).

I might add, on overcast cool days, many of the birds were roosting on branches at the top of the enormous Aviary where it was warmer and quite hard to see, so I’d choose a sunny day if I was visiting in Winter if you’re a Tourist.  Secondly, if you specifically want to see the Great Aviary, phone the zoo beforehand and ensure its not closed (on your chosen day) for maintenance.

TREE WARATAH (Alloxylon flammeum)

WARATAH

It’s probably timely to feature one of Australia’s most flamboyant trees (after the Protea in the previous post).

I hope I’ve got the identification correct as its slightly more fiery in colour than the red Waratah which is the national emblem of the state of New South Wales (above my state of Victoria).

WARATAH

Most Australian trees are quite modest in their flowering, but this particular one is truly spectacular and when in flower, at full-grown height of 18 meters,  must be a wonderful sight indeed.

This species originated in the Atherton Tablelands near Baldy Mountain Forest Reserve in Queensland.

Its scarlet-red, nectar-rich, bird-attracting flowers are abundant on the tree.

The images in this post come from Melbourne Zoo’s landscaping, just in front of the lion enclosure, not far from the Proteas featured in the previous post.

WARATAH

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(Interruption to this post to say I just saw a House Sparrow on my Blueberry bush which I’d placed on top of the air-conditioning outlet about 3 feet off the tiles of my balcony, right in direct view above my computer screen.  The bush is about 4′ in front of my direct view over the screen so I could keep an eye on it.  Unfortunately, I only had the 150-500mm lens on my desk with the lens cap off and the bird was too close to get in focus.

Looks like time to get the cotton netting out to protect all those lovely berries from the bird life that visit my balcony each day

All I can say is that I hope the still-green berry was tart and put the Sparrow off from having another snack).