Sunday, October 02, 2005

2005-10-01/02 Capertee Valley - Part 1

A pair of Rainbow Bee-eater sand bathing at dusk, Glenowlan Bridge

This is my last trip to Capertee Valley in year 2005. Main reason of driving 4 hours here is still the same - to see my favorite endangered Regent Honeyeater. Alas, my camera's cable release became faulty and it is always a jinx that the Regent Honeyeater had really put up a very good show this time.

The best shows are usually the live shows - I became the fascinated audience to have witnessed this endangered honeyeater preening and gliding in front of me. However, I still managed to take a few photos by using timer shutter on my camera. (Now you know that I am not a serious photographer and my equipment is not that high end)

Carpertee Valley inthe morning. The morning dew has made the grass look a bit bluish.

Renegerated vegetation

The Rainbow Bee-eater started to congregrate just before sunset and enjoyed their sand-bathing. This is my ever observation of bee-eater species practising sand bathing. Photo was taken using timing shutter.

Tall and mature trees provide good shelter as well as suitable nesting holes for birds. During breeding season, it is not uncommon to find 4~5 active nests of various bird species on the same tree.
This is a typical tree which has provided nesting holes for various birds including the endangered Regent Honeyeater.

Capertee Valley at dusk

This is the cosy cottage that I stayed for a night.
Bumping into a family of wild kangaroo is one of my memorable Australian experiences. How relaxing!!
This is my favourite spot to take a photo of Capertee Valley. Seen from Pearson Lookout, I am most satisfied with this particular shot as the mountains look very bluish. That is why the vast mountain range in this region are also referred as Blue Mountains.

2005-10-01/02 Golden Moments Part 2

Regent Honeyeater seems to prefer building its nest close to the tree canopy. That made it alot harder to spot the nest. In fact I did not see the nest but had noticed a pair keep returning to a specific spot.

In lower part of the tree, there are other birds which were also breeding by buiding nest on the same tree. These included Sacred Kingfisher, Willie Wagtail, White-plumed Honeyeater and Noisy Friarbird.

Sacried Kingfisher, taken at Warriewood Wetlands, Sydney Northern Beaches.

Willie Wagtail, taken at Maroubra.
This tame looking little bird can be very aggressive when defending its nesting territory. I have seen the pair drove away a much larger Noisy Friarbird when it wandered too close to the Wagtail's nest.

However, Regent Honeyeater does not seem to do so well in defending its nest. I had witnessed a Noisy Friarbird flew to the canopy and plucked some fine twigs to repair its nest 'down stair'.
The Regent Honeyeater become very agitated by this intruder. It flapped its wings very rapidly and dashed from one branch to another, trying to distract and scare the Noisy Friarbird. However the Noisy Friarbird was completely oblivious of this highly annoyed Regent Honeyeater, as if he knows,
"Go on jumping around, I am sure that you will never have the gut to hit me, unlike that pair of Willie Wagtail at the middle storey, they are smaller but really a pain in the neck."

That might explain why Regent Honeyeater becomes endangered as they are not as successful as other birds.

This messege is clear eventhough you are not a birdwatcher

The following four photos were taken at another spot in Capertee Valley. It was so unexpected that there were at least 4 of Regent Honeyeaters feeding the nector and two birds actually took a brief nap 5 feet above me. A curious and friendly resident came over and I had shown her the Regent Honeyeaters where she could observe it with naked eyes.

The 2 photos below are the first photos that I took in July 2005

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

2005-09-08 Where is my Golden Angel?

Scene along Glen Davis Road, Capertee Valley
08 Sept 2005 was my 4th trip to Capertee Valley. There must be a good reason for visiting this part of NSW - the birdlife is rich especially there are many australian birds that are not easily found at other parts of Australia.
(A commonly seen sign boards in Capertee Valley, this is not national park)
However, a reminder to anyone who is not familar with this area that - Capertee valley is actually not a national park or a nature reserve! It is a valley surrounded by Wollemi National Park and Gardens of Stone National Park. In fact the whole area consists of farmlands, scattered woodlands and small villages. Most importantly, almost all the areas consists of private properties and therefore trepassing to this properties is NO NO.
Alas, I have no luck of Regent Honeyeater in this trip. The active nest that I discovered about 2 weeks ago had been abandoned. Somemore I hardly heard them calling this time. It was certainly not a good day for me and not a good day for Regent Honeyeater either. Looks like the place has become suboptimal for this endangered bird. (However, according to a friend who had visited Capertee Valley few days afterwards indicated that the situation is not that pessimistic. That means I should make another trip to catch up with them again)

All the photos shown in this blog were taken same day on 8 September, with the exception of two photos of Regent Honeyeater that were shot on my 2nd trip on 23 July.

(Glen Alice Road, Capertee Valley)

(Glen Alice Road in Capertee Valley. With Wollemi National Park in the backdrop)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

2005-09-08 Other Capertee Highlights

Besides the bad news with Regent Honeyeater, there was not any Swift Parrot seen either. The site where Swift Parrots were abundant about 3 weeks ago was now replaced by Musk Lorikeets and a small number of Little Lorikeets.

The White-plumed Honeyeater seems to do well in this breeding season. This fledging perched only one foot above the ground, about 5 meters away from the road. I was first alerted by the noisy parents as I had accidently stumbled too close to the fledging. As soon as I realised I was too close for the parents' comfort, I quickly stepped back and observed from a distance. Slowly, I followed the movement of the parents and soon then started feeding the fledging. This fledging actually stood out among the darker twigs. However it is not easy to spot it as the fledging remained motionless (did not even blink) most of the time, except when being fed by its parent.

On other sites, there seems to be alot of White-plumed Honeyeaters in group of 4 or five (Some may be juveniles). This is the most abundant and probably the most successful honeyeater in Capertee Valley.

How badly I wish I had witnessed Regent Honeyeater breeding successfully like this.

Breeding is not just confined to birds in Capertee but also for the Kangaroo. This is my first photo of the marsupial sharing pastures with the cattles. I only discovered after examining the photos at home, that the kangaroo actually had a joey in her pouch!! See inset photo on the right.

This is an Olive-backed Oriole. A lonely vocal bird in the woodlands. This is my first time recording this oriole in this trip. It is probably a migrant from the north turning up in this woodlands in spring time.

These two Rainbow Bee-eaters are probably also sping visitors. It seems like the bird on the top is a male as it has longer central tail feather.

It is always hard to see raptor on perch. This is a Collared Sparrowhawk. It looks very similar to slightly larger Brown Goshawk.

This is a 'bird-eating' raptor. However, the aggressive Noisy Friarbird is not its target, I think. The friarbird in fact stayed close with the sparrowhawk. When the sparrowhawk flew away, it looked as if it was being escorted by several Noisy Friarbirds.

Seeing a very elusive terrestial bird like this Painted Button-Quail must be a bonus, especially I did not expect to see one, let along to photograph one! This is probably a male and it has rich yellow legs, which is seldom observed in the fields.

Jacky Winter is another common birds seen in the open lands. A very active bird that often stand still on the fence or bare tree branch.

To compensate for not seeing Swift Parrot and not seeing many Regent Honeyeater, I was rewarded for a very good view of this pair of Turquoise Parrots - my first time of seeing them. Sometimes easily confused with another much more common Red-rumped Parrot (See my earlier postings). The pair was having an afternoon nap on a dead pine tree and posed well to me for almost 15 minutes. Female on the left and male on the right. The male has a small but diagnostic red patch on the shoulder (not seen in this photo).

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

2005-08-21 Nesting Regent Honeyeater

Typical scenary in Capertee Valley - farmland with sparse trees which serve as critical habitat for Regent Honeyeater.

Regent Honeyeater (Xanthomyza phrygia)
On 21 Aug 2005, I travelled to Capertee Valley for the 3rd time, to look for my favorate target - Regent Honeyeater and possibly the Swift Parrot. As it turned out that I managed to see the Swift Parrot since my last unexpected sighting at Blue Mountains 5 years ago with the help of Allan Richards.
In my previous trip last month, I had suspected some breeding activities had begun for the Regent Honeyeater. This time I was right that I was very lucky to locate an active nest. The nest was built on a tip of a casuarina branch, making the branch look rounded at the end. Both the parents took turn to feed and brood the nest. The chick(s) was too young and small to be seen from the nest at the moment.
The Regent Honeyeater had become very skittish this time and hence it was very difficult to take any photograph of the ever moving honeyeater. I guess the parents were busy collecting food for its chicks and also there were presence of Noisy Friarbird in the territory, an aggressive competitor. I only managed to get one shot in very poor lighting as shown above.
This trip to Capertee had coincided with the Tree Planting weekend - a conservation effort participated by conservationists, birdwatchers and volunteers to create more suitable habitat for the endangered Regent Honeyeater. There I bumped into a number of birders and volunteers who took part in the tree planting including David Geering and Carol Probet, whom I had met for the first time but had contacted through emails recently.
I hope I could be of any help or some sort of contribution by showing the active nest of Regent Honeyeater through my spotting scope to the volunteers and their families.
One of the preferred habitats of Regent Honeyeater, the Riparian (Riverbank) Woodland
More information about Regent Honeyeater can be found in Birds Australia.
Despite being a very excellent birding site, Capertee Valley is NOT a nature reserve or national park. It is mostly of farmland setting with fragmented woolands consisting of White Box. Many private properties have been converted to secluded residence. There are many 'No Trepassing' signboards are put up on the gates. Some properties even keep guard dogs.
There are also a number of properties that provide accommodations to visitors. Some of these properties have good habitat for birds but are not accessible to outsiders.
It is during this particular good season that birders are able to see many birds by simply scanning through trees beside the road. Look out particularly for blossoming White Box.
Beware of passing vehicles too when birdwatching along the country road. Although the country road is very quiet, most vehicles run at 60km/h onwards.

2005-08-21 Swift Parrot Galore

The highlight of the trip was seeing Swift Parrot in good number. Based on some direction given by a friend, I drove further along Glen Alice Road and look out for a specific property. As this weekend was also the Tree Planting weekend, a number of birders/volunteers were birdwatching along the road. About 11am, David Geering was very kind to alert me that someone has found some Swift Parrots at a particular spot.
When I arrived at the location, it did not take me long to locate the first Swift Parrot. Swift Parrot is very vocal bird and keeps calling around. It is usually heard first before seen. Swift Parrot's green plumage is very well camouflaged among dense leaves of White Box.

The photo on the left shows a typical sight of Swift Parrot (partial view) feeding on nectar and lerp (secretions found on leaves produced by some kind of pest insect).

Alas, the parrot kept crawling from one twig to another and the fine twigs were swayed by the wind. That made photographing very challenging and frustating.

Luckily, there were quite a number of Swift Parrots hanging around. It can be regarded as 'abundant' at this particular spot. Swift Parrot is hard to find, but once it is discovered, it is usually found in numbers because of its gregarious nature.

Better still, a lady showed me a bare branch where a few parrots were roosting. It is not common to find Swift Parrot roosting on bare branch as it is more often found either feeding on nector or flying around swiftly.

Not all Swift Parrots show forked tail. The bird shown on right might suggest how the parrot got its name. Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor) is one of few parrot species that are seasonal migratory. During austral autumn, it starts migrating from its breeding ground in Tasmania to mainland Australia, mainly Victoria, New South Wales, and less commonly in SE Queensland and SE South Australia.

Swift Parrot is an Endangered Species. See more infor from BirdLife International.
Some information can also be found at Birds Australia where there is a link to listen to its call.

Swift Parrot, like most parrot species, is quite an inquisitive bird.

As we know that Swift Parrot breeds only in Tasmania. However, I had noticed that one Swift Parrot (probably the same individual) has visited a nest-like hollow for at least 5 times during 2 hours observation. At one occasion, it even went into the hollow to have a closer inspection. The nest hole was supposedly used by Red-rumped Parrot. A male Red-rumped Parrot was also seen at the nest hollow twice but it was the Swift Parrot that showed more interest in the nest hollow.

2005-08-21 Trip Report for the Day

Common Bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera)

The sightings for the day are :-
Masked Plover
Australian Wood Duck
Common Bronzewing Pigeon
Peaceful Dove
Yellow-crested Cockatoo
Eastern Rosella
Red-rumped Parrot
Swift Parrot (very common, with 4 perched on a branch and 3 foraged on same tree)
Musk Lorikeet (about 5 roosting briefly at Swift Parrot site)

Little Lorikeet
Brown Treecreeper
Noisy Miner
Fuscous Honeyeater
White-plumed Honeyeater
Red Wattlebird
Noisy Friarbird
Regent Honeyeater (Active nest! Also one individual along Glen Alice Road)

Grey Shrike-thrush
Mistletoe Bird (stunning male - a lifer)
Richard's Pipit

As usual I like to wrap up the trip by stopping at Pearson Lookout point to take a scenery photo of the Capertee Valley. Part of the forest falls within Gardens of Stone National Park.

Thanks for the company of those I bumped into.

Capertee Valley as seen from Pearson Lookout at 5pm