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 🙂

 

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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.

ECLECTUS PARROT (Eclectus roratus)

Eclectus Parrot – female

This large, unmistakable, short-tailed parrot is only found in the far northern tip of tropical Queensland (Solomon Islands, Sumba, New Guinea and the Moluccas).

Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus) – male

It’s highly unusual in the parrot family for its extreme sexual dimorphism of the colours of  the plumage; the male having mostly bright emerald-green feathers and the female mostly bright red and purple/blue colour.

We have a couple in Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary and they are best friends with the lovely pink Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo featured in the previous post.  Here’s a repeat of those images……

They seem to all live in, or around, the same tree stump in the Great Aviary and at times seem to actually ‘talk’ to each other, OR groom each other’s necks.

It took me quite a few zoo visits before I realised they seem to share their food and what looks like……passing nuts to eat other, or eating the same nut together?  Hard to say exactly.

I imagine they would be very easy to see in even the most lush tropical tree foliage.

NOT A GOOD SHOT PER SE, BUT IT DOES SHOW A BIT OF THEIR UNDERWING COLOUR.

The juveniles are duller in colour and have a brownish beak.

MAJOR MITCHELL’S COCKATOO (Cacatua leadbeateri)

Australia has several Cockatoos, but my favourite has to be the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo (Cacatua leadbeateri).  

It’s not seen as far south as my state of Victoria, but Melbourne Zoo has a very handsome ‘Cockie’, so I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph it several times on my many zoo visits over the years.

It’s found in opens land, scrub, mallee and mulga and mainly in central areas of the country.

The body is a pale pink, with white wings, back and tail.  It’s forehead is more reddish in colour  with an upswept crest.  When the crest is erect, (which I’ve never seen I must admit), it’s banded with yellow and pink.

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo & male Eclectus Parrot

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo with female Eclectus Parrot

BLUE-FACED HONEYEATER (Entomyzon cyanotis)

When I first bought a camera in May 2010 and took up Photography as a hobby, I felt a bit like a fraud sharing images on my Nature Blog from the Zoo’s Great Aviary (located at Melbourne’s main Zoo in North Melbourne).  We have 3 zoos, the other 2 are much further away from the city centre in the nearby countryside.

Blue-faced Honeyeater (Entomyzon cyanotis),

A nature photographer should be sharing images from the wild I thought.

But then I asked myself the question…..why do I blog?  What is this blog about?  (and I think these are questions you need to ask yourself when you first start blogging on the internet).

The answer was pretty easy.  This particular blog is about my Photography hobby and specifically about Nature Photography.

It’s about the nature that surrounds where I live and where I go for walks.  Initially, it was about flowers, trees and occasionally insects, but then came birds, beaches, lakes, rivers, parks, gardens and nature reserves.

It’s not about The Wild or Wilderness regions of Australia.

It’s about my own urban ‘backyard’ and its immediate surrounding areas.  

It’s about sharing nature through my eyes.  The small details are what appeals to me, so you won’t see very much in the way of landscapes or seascapes on this blog.  Without a car these days, I can’t get to the unique blue/grey/green-toned mountainous regions which are truly breath-taking in Australia and as diverse as the deserts, rich tropical rainforests, temperate or unique coastal  regions.

Australia is one country you should put on your Bucket List I might add.

(e.g.” The Great Ocean Road, on the southern coast in my state of Victoria, is one of the most spectacular drives in the world, stretching 243 kilometers from Torquay to Allansford, just 10 minutes from Warrnambool.  It was built by returning soldiers from WW1 between the years of 1919 to 1932 and is the world’s biggest War Memorial”).

…..back to the bird featured in this post……

The Blue-faced Honeyeater (Entomyzon cyanosis), found in the northern and eastern states, is not really found as far south as Melbourne to my knowledge, so I’m happy to share these images from the Zoo’s Great Aviary.

Dinner of mealy worms in the Great Aviary

This Honeyeater is a large one and distinctly easy to spot due to the bright to dark blue face and cheeks.  It has a prominent white eye (amidst black crown and nape) with prominent black bib and white moustachial streaks joining the white breast.  Its back and longish white-tipped tail are a striking golden olive-green. Found in open woodland or any areas with trees in the wild and certainly easy to see up close in the Zoo’s Great Aviary, especially at feeding time.

So I’ve stopped feeling guilty about photographing Australian Birds in enclosed areas to share online, particularly as some of my favourite images in my 2 photo libraries were made at the Zoo.

AUSTRALIAN PELICAN (Pelecanus conspicillatus)

You could never miss identifying an Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus).

They’re enormous.

Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus)

….and they’re found all over the country except inland to the west.

They have a short tail, very bulky-bodied appearance with a long neck and stout short legs.   The head, neck and body are all-white.

The adult has a short rough crest.  The wings are long and broad, white, with flight feathers producing a broad black trailing edge above and below.

The immature is dark brown and off-white.  While the image below is a wee bit over-exposed, it’s the only photo I have of a young Pelican so it belongs in this post.

It soars frequently and is one of the very few birds I’ve ever captured in flight.  They were probably standing still in the air held aloft by wind gusts LOL 😀

I suppose I am exaggerating as I have photographed the odd bird mid-flight, but its more through luck, than skill with the camera.  Methinks not enough practice (when it’s so much easier to photograph birds that stand still for me).

The best photos I’ve got in my bird library were made at Melbourne Zoo, where, if you know the right winding path through some thickets below the tree-top Orangutan enclosure, you can get very close indeed.

 

It’s such a thrill to get up close to these magnificent birds.

Australian Pelican

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I’ve photographed quite a few down at Brighton beach (a southern bayside beach from Melbourne City – accessible via public transport from the city), but now I live in the west, a little too far away from my present home location to re-visit at the present time.

The other images I’ve made were at Jawbone Conservation Reserve and Marine Sanctuary in the western bay suburb of Williamstown.  I’ve been there via bus (and taxi 🙂 ) a few times now, but still haven’t got around to taking the heavy telephoto lens down there to capture the birds perched on the islands or marshland stretches.  The first 3 images below were captured through a wooden hide, so if I’d had the long lens, I would have been able to capture them up close (as I did at Melbourne Zoo).

APOSTLEBIRD (Struthidea cinerea)

When I cleared out my whole nature blog and started afresh, my main aim was to set up a better index in the sidebar for both birds and plants (as well as the intermittent news on my apartment balcony garden), but inevitably I’ll also end up with the more dull and less interesting Australian birds.

This Apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea), photographed in Melbourne Zoo’s great aviary, is one of them.

APOSTLEBIRD (Struthidea cinerea) – The Great Aviary, Melbourne Zoo.

The best way to describe this bird, usually found in more inner regions of eastern Australia, is DULL.

Body dull, lead-grey with a darker eye patch and dark brown wings.  Tail long and black, wedge-shaped.  Beak, dark grey, robust and almost triangular.  Legs short, giving an awkward almost horizontal posture, with the tip of its long tail on the ground.

It flies low, with frequent glides.  When feeding it hops, walks and runs actively and is often aggressive.

Not usually seen as far south as Melbourne where I live, but to be honest, I don’t think I could identify it in flight in the wild anyway, as its so similar to many other dark-coloured Australian birds, so was pleased to photograph it standing on a nearby branch at the Zoo.

MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor)

This white swan is huge and distinctive and you can never miss it on the rare times you might see one in Australia.  It’s an introduced bird and now quite scarce, being only found in the wild in the vicinity of Perth in Western Australia.  Various people say they’ve seen them in public gardens, or lakes, in my state of Victoria, but I’ll bet they’ve been captured elsewhere and let free in the vicinity, not really a wild bird.

I photographed this lovely specimen swimming around the pond in The Japanese Garden at Melbourne Zoo and found it quite challenging to get some definition in those white feathers which appeared overexposed in the bright sunlight, so had to tweak the mid-tones back and forth in post processing (which I rarely do much of).

They’re normally silent, but do occasionally hiss or grunt – can’t say I’ve ever heard them utter a sound.

 

 

CATTLE EGRET (Ardea ibis)

The Cattle Egret (Ardea ibis)  is large compared to other native birds, but is actually the smallest of the Egrets, and unmistakable in its breeding plumage with long yellow or ginger plumes on its head, neck , back and throat.

It’s frequently found feeding among grazing animals which is probably where the name came from (I presume).

The breeding adult is white, often rather scruffy, with yellowish beak and legs.  Cattle Egrets are found in most coastal regions of Australia, not necessarily close to water, although it breeds in trees over water.

These photos were made in Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary and the images below gives you some idea of how large this space is.

While Melbourne Zoo, located to the north of the city and easily accessible via tram from William Street, is open 365 days of the year, there is the odd occasion when the Aviary is closed for maintenance, so if you’re visiting to specifically visit the Great Aviary, it might be worth a phone call before you leave home/hotel.

Another hint: Don’t go during the school holidays in Melbourne, as young children have a habit of running down the boardwalk and squealing excitedly, which kind of…… spoils the experience a wee bit…..well it does for me.   Not that I have anything against young children enjoying themselves, but I really do think, for the enjoyment of other visitors, parents might try to discourage loud boisterous behaviour in this particular area.  There are signs at the Aviary entrance requesting that children don’t run anyway.

I could easily spend 2 hours in the Great Aviary and have done so many, many times over the years.

GREVILLEA ‘MOONLIGHT’

GREVILLEA is a diverse genus of about 360 species of evergreen flowering plants, native to rainforest and more open habitats in Australia.  I believe this variety, which I photographed at Melbourne Zoo, is called GREVILLEA ‘Moonlight’ and is one of the most popular (as it flowers all year round).  The flower is gorgeous and very attractive to birds, honeyeaters in particular.

I managed to capture a LITTLE WATTLEBIRD (Anthochaera chrysoptera), a large, slim, rather dull Honeyeater, on one of the Zoo bushes, not far from the back entrance/exit.

GREVILLEA ‘Moonlight’ is tough and adaptable and great as a feature plant, but also makes an effective informal screen or hedge.