Saturday, 24 February 2018

The usual suspects at Fairy Dell

East Gippsland is very dry at present and Fairy Dell is no exception. Deep Creek at the Fairy Dell Reserve is dry with a small rock hole below the foot bridge holding about 20 litres of water. Clearly this precious water is a magnet for the local bush birds.

About 20 litres of water in a rock hole is all that remains in the dry creek bed.

A loop walk through the Lilli Pilli in the Dell yielded very few birds and none to photograph, although some were calling, including several Superb Lyrebirds. So I decided to sit for an hour or so in the dry creek bed below the footbridge with the camera ready and watch to see which birds came in for a drink and or a bath. Most species were there for a bath as you will see in many of the photos.

Camera and chair partially disguised by a few fern fronds.

The weather was warm, humid, very still and dull (1) due to a fully overcast sky – the mosquitoes seemed to be enjoying the conditions and my presence, though some Bushman’s repellent kept them at bay.

Over an hour or so the usual attractive species came in to the water. They came in in random order and often several species came at once but the photos have been grouped by species.

Please click on photos to enlarge.

The beautiful and endearing Grey Shrike-thrush.
Bird above, fluffed up after a very modest immersion.
Lewin’s Honeyeaters are plentiful at Fairy Dell. Several came in for a bath.
Eastern Yellow Robin – some brown juvenile feathers are still showing on the head so this bird has nearly completed the moult to immature plumage.
Same bird as above after a thorough bath.
Male Golden Whistler.
Same bird as above after a plunge.

Bath finished, the bird has moved to a rock before flying to the cover of the surrounding bush to preen and groom its bathed feathers. 
Immature Golden Whistler – there are of course many juvenile and immature birds in the bush at present. 
Striated Thornbill.
Brown Thornbill.
The ubiquitous Grey Fantail.
The far less common Rufous Fantail – a summer migrant to the south, they will soon be heading north again.
The elusive Beautiful Firetail – or perhaps unobtrusive is a more appropriate description for a bird that is perhaps often present but not seen.

I missed the first Firetail to come in for a drink/dip and just managed to capture a rough shot of the second bird before it zoomed off.

An adult Wonga Pigeon, another common species at Fairy Dell.

The Wonga Pigeon walked out of the dense vegetation onto the dry creek bed about 2 metres from where I sat and then walked to the water where it had a long drink before walking on up the creek bed.

A male Rose Robin – Fairy Dell provides perfect habitat for this species of robin which are the most arboreal of all the robins.
After bathing the robin retreated to shrubs above the creek to dry and preen.

If you choose the right time of day (2) and weather conditions when water is scarce, an hour spent siting in the creek bed by the small pool of water at Fairy Dell will reward you with the joy of a good number of beautiful birds, entertaining behaviour and the potential for a surprise, because you never know what might turn up.

(1) - For the photographers: Due to the very dull conditions I used moderately high ISO settings of 2,500 and 2,000. At f/5.6 this gave shutter speeds from 1/60 to 1/200 – fast enough for a camera on a tripod for stationary subjects. A combination of full frame camera and limited cropping due to a long lens close to the subjects achieved sharp images.

(2) Early to mid-morning and late afternoon are the best times – avoid the middle of the day and early afternoon.