We had a great weekend at Riverwood Downs for our recent "Birds and Nature" Photography retreat. The weather was kind, the birds were plentiful and the country hospitality ensured our bellies were full of wholesome food to give us the energy to tackle the outdoors.
Many birds were at various stages of breeding, from building nests, to feeding fully-fledged young, providing us with plenty of chances to capture some great images.
A huddled party of Superb Fairy-Wren warming up in the early morning sun and demanding magpie and galah babies, with soft morning light falling on them, were our first signs that the breeding season had been successful. Some kids had found a juvenile Eastern Koel that had fallen out of a fairly low hung nest of a pair of Noisy Friarbirds and they enlisted the help of one of the workers to "fork-lift" the youngster back to the nest. We came across a pair of Olive-backed Orioles on a nest, only after the pair had chased off a Torresian Crow that must have ventured too close. The attached photo shows the shortness of the brooding birds tail from being squashed in the nest.
The highlight for me though was a pair of Cicadabirds that were consistently hanging around the same area. After observing the male collecting lichen from a tree branch and flying to a River Oak where the female was, there was a hint that nest building was taking place.
A newly fledged Rufous Whistler was nearby as well. A pair of Magpie-larks had 3 babies bursting out of a nest near reception.
Scarlet Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills proved to be a challenge as they were constantly being chased from the nectar filled flowers by the bullying Red Wattlebirds and Noisy Friarbirds whilst the Rainbow Lorikeets seemed oblivious to all the activity around them. Busy Yellow Thornbills, Brown Thornbills and a single Spotted Pardalote also allowed us opportunities to develop the skills required to track small, erratically moving birds through the changing light conditions of the foliage.
The bizarre behaviour of the weekend went to a party of around 30 Tree Martins that were constantly landing on the ground and picking up white objects and flying off. We initially thought they must have been ant larvae but they looked a bit big for that. After rattling off heaps of photos we went for a closer inspection only to find small piles of slim-line cigarette filters. We hoped they weren't eating them ( or smoking them!) and can only wonder whether they were using them as a nest lining. They were also visiting sites of old camp fires on the grass and presumably picking up small pieces of charcoal. Has anyone seen this sort of behaviour before?
I have attached a very overblown shot of a Tree Martin in flight with the said filter. It was taken in low light at a distance, but you get the idea!
A combination of being outdoors photographing and then indoors in the heat of the day whilst Lynn ran some workshops on Lightroom and Photoshop was a good balance.
We are running another one mid-week in March 2017, starting with a meet and greet on the evening of Monday, March 13th and finishing at lunch time on Wednesday 15th. It would be great to see some more interested people coming along and we are offering an early bird package of $299 ( up to 13th February), normal rate $350. Check out our Tours and Retreats page for more detail or click on the direct link below.