What a place to stay… WA, birds… yehey… YEHEY!!!

After that lovely “impromptu” visit to Vasse Wonnerup estuary, we arrived at our destination just outside Dunsborough, WA.

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 8.15.29 amWe stayed at the Wyndham Resort & Spa, which may sound a little ‘5 star-ish’  but 5 star it is not. Nor did we expect it to be. But it was a wonderful place to stay and great value for the money at that time. This is basically a very upmarket motel with great facilities if you want to use them. Room nights were very affordable and our expectations were not high. I was surprised. VERY surprised. It was dark by the time we arrived and thankfully we explained that we’d been travelling and for a short time, the hotel agreed to keep the kitchens  open, so after dumping luggage in the room, a hearty meal was taken. As we were kind of pleasantly surprised to be greeted this way, indulgence naturally followed and a great steak coupled with recommended Margaret River wine was enjoyed fully. The desserts were great too! what a great start to a Margaret River photography visit! And it just got better and better…

Next morning I awoke eager with anticipation. I’d asked for a room on the ground floor with access to the gardens though I’d not much idea how extensive the gardens would be. How pleasantly surprised was I? I’d not even finished my early morning coffee and cigarette ritual when the desire to get camera, lens and tripod became overwhelming. Birdsong? Lots! Recognisable? Nope. Gotta go SEE where this chorus is coming from…

So camouflage clothing was donned with verve and outside I went. Kids at the resort were doubtless still in the land of nod, so a relative quietness was appreciated, save for nature’s splendid orchestra that caressed my ears and served up auditory ecstacy. I commenced an amble around the resort. No plan, just a mere wander. I was first greeted by a small group of New Holland Honeyeaters. I’d seen a couple of these near Yanchep but hadn’t managed to shoot them.

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Here you can see the trademark of nectarivores, with that long tongue partially protruding beyond the beak – I imagine this bird and just finished extracting nectar from a plant and this is the equivalent of ‘licking its’ lips’.  I walked further and caught a glimpse of motion in the distance. And much noise. Couldn’t tell exactly what all this hullabaloo was about,  save for it was coming from a bird. A swimming pool began to come into view and the noise and motion was coming from a shower head where bathers rinse off the pools’ chlorinated water. And all became clearer. The light levels were still very low so I set the camera to compensate for exposure, lightening the scene by about EV +2 stops. I could see wings beating furiously, a hovering, and knew a fast shutter speed would be required. And then with a shutter priority in the camera and a shutter speed set to 1/2500 of a second, focus was achieved. I was enraptured with the sight my eyes were presented with and chuckled heartily…

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A juvenile Splendid Fairy Wren had seen its’ reflection in the chromed shower head and took exception to its’ own image, doubtless imagining this was a rival of sorts. Haha.

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I watched and photographed this gorgeous little bird, in very low light, for several minutes before it finally figured out that its’ potential adversary was not going to be either thwarted or defeated.  It was very nice to witness this lovely little bird in action though and surprising to hear such volume emanating from such a small package. For readers around the world, this bird in size is akin to a juvenile fledgling wren in Europe, a fledgling Tailor Bird in Asia and around 50% of the size of an American Chickadee. I have no idea whether this bird is the typical Splendid Fairy Wren or the desert morph subspecies (the former has white cheeks when adult and the latter cyan cheeks). From the photo I’d guess it’s definitely male and most likely the desert morph subspecies.

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With hotel gardens behind me I ventured out behind the property. A lake was right before me… Happy Days indeed! There was a portion at the hotel end of this expanse of water that was heavily weeded and seemingly shallowed, so I made a beeline for that. Instantly a few birds could be seen to be wading and I approached with some caution, fearing I’d cause them to take flight.  First in view was a Yellow Billed Spoonbill, typically moving their bills beneath the water from side to side, trying to identify and locate a hearty meal.

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The spoonbills number four and I focused on the nearest as it turned towards me. The bill emerged and then the bird proceeded to throw back its’ bill to manouevre it’s catch into swallowing position…

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As I looked at this bird through my viewfinder I chortled freely, as the positioning of the body and thereafter bill reminded me a little of a hippo. Haha. Nonetheless the bird seemed more than happy with its’ spoils from prawning and proceeded to toss one back into it’s gaping bill.

Light was less than friendly whilst the sun strengthened, as the direction from which i’d have preferred to shoot the birds meant shooting into a strengthening sun… not a winning photography scenario. I was blessed, though, as in the distance I espied a raptor. It was a long way away and much too distant to photograph meaningfully. I got the bird in my viewfinder, focused accordingly, took a shot and proceeded to magnify the image ‘in-camera’ to identify what I thought might be an Osprey. Sure enough an Osprey is exactly what it was, circling and gaining height on the distant thermals. I picked up my tripod sand camera gear, (cumulatively weighing around a good 8 kilos and somewhat cumbersome in size and balance),  and jogged as far towards the bird as pathways would allow…  any further and I would have needed a boat or helicopter. I hoped it would venture in my direction and thankfully a higher power was smiling on me that morning. The Osprey ceased circling and proceeded to glide with such lack of effort that if I didn’t know better, I’d have described it as positively lethargic. Ever closer it came and my pulse quickened. And closer. Still closer…

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Perhaps for some an Osprey is not such a great find. This one is an Eastern Osprey and against an unruffled sky, this bird seemed to me to be the personification of majesty, at the very least a prince of the skies, and lord of avian anglers. It glanced purposefully in my direction and I hope it realised the respect in which i held this bird. Perhaps it did 🙂  ?  Whatever, it neared some more. What sheer joy that such glorious elegance could be bestowed upon my camera sensor that day, from such an exquisite creature.

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The bird flew on, perhaps unaware of the pleasure it had just given me, as I savoured its’ every move and considered the irony of the birds’ posture; the epitome of calmness riding the wind, yet with a latent potential for hunting and ensuing savagery upon whatever prey it targets.

Western Australia was being lit considerably at this time. The morning sun was casting light into what recently was shadow,  with predictable illuminations and generous warmth. And aside from that, my smile alone must have added considerably to the available light that day, in Geographe Bay.

Just when I had started to wonder if this photography trip may be ‘front end loaded’, with such marvellous sights captured at the beginning few days of our visit,  Western Australia just continued to further delight and take my breath away. I was marvelling. And if  anyone had asked me to set music to what I had experienced thus far, (and in hindsight now, what was to come), then Bachman Turner Overdrive would have headed my playlist.

“B-B-B-Baby, you just ain’t seen nothing Yet…”

What a place. Great landscapes, fabulous wildlife, super friendly people throughout, awesome food. Oh YES! OMG! I almost forgot!!! Australians amazing a Brit with their fish ‘n’ chips? Surely not? Well, they DID! I will try and dig out the impromptu restaurant we had that experience at… but that’s or a later post. I DID, however, ask what fish they had used. They said Spanish Mackerel. I was in hysterics and asked to see the chef. NO WAY that Spanish Mackerel could be served that way… filleted and battered? You gotta be kidding! But the chef showed me the mackerel. and described the filleting method. And WHAT an outcome. The surprises just seemingly kept coming…

Happy Days indeed!  🙂

3 thoughts on “What a place to stay… WA, birds… yehey… YEHEY!!!”

  1. Thanks for sharing the beauty and stories you’ve captured. You brought me great serenity at a time I was needing to feel closer to nature and what the Almighty has given to us. Treasure’s that so many overlook! Thank you again for sharing these wonderful moments in time. What I wouldn’t give to travel the world looking for such timeless captures. 🙂

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    1. Kim
      Sorry I hadn’t seen your message until now… I have been a tad buddy writing a book. I am delighted the pictures and stories brought you what you needed and I only hope what I publish may do so again. Very best wishes… Ade

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