Apostlebird – Australian Native Bird Photo

We stayed in Hay Caravan Park on Sunday night (5/8/12) and headed out early Monday for our drive to Hattah. We had grand intentions to visit Hay wetlands in the morning but after driving around in circles for half an hour we gave up and moved on. The landscape around Hay is extremely flat and we seemed to drive for ages without seeing any hills or trees.

Hay Landscape

Not long into the trip we started to notice a number of raptors soaring in the sky, being mainly Black and Whistling Kites. I managed to see my first Wedge-tailed Eagle up close as it perched on a power pole. Unfortunately it took to the sky before I was able to get a decent shot. We kept driving until we started to come into some woodland and Heyn noticed a Black Kite land on a dead tree not far from the road. We got out and stalked the bird trying to get close. I got a few shots before it took off.

Black Kite – Hay, NSW

Not long after the Black Kite we stopped to try and photograph a Brown Falcon and failed miserably. Whilst out of the car we heard and saw a Brown Songlark displaying. They have an unusual behaviour were they seem to fly directly up 10 metres then belt out a massive song whilst hovering. I would have loved to have captured this behaviour but they had a knack of moving every time I got close. Next stop was Yanga, NSW where we visited a rest area Heyn had been once before. We were rewarded almost immediately when we saw both Blue Bonnet and Red-rumped Parrots in the trees, there were also some Chestnut-rumped Thornbills and some Spiney-cheeked HE. I got some bad ID shots of the Parrots but managed to get a few nice CRT.

Name: Chestnut-rumped Thornbill (Acanthiza uropygialis)
Location: Yanga, NSW (06/08/2012)
Gear: Canon 7D and EF400 5.6L @ F6.3 1/500 ISO400 400mm +0.3exp Call playback.

A shot off a Bluebonnet Parrot which was a new bird for me.

Bluebonnet Yanga,NSW

We arrived at Hattah-Kulkyne National Park mid afternoon and made out way to Lake Mournpall Campground. Problem for us was about 30 high school students had just set up camp. For our sanity we drove back and setup at the Lake Hattah camp ground. Fellow birder Geoff Gates soon joined us and whilst having a chat we were joined by some of the most interesting and fun birds I have ever met, Apostlebirds.

Name: Apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea)
Location: Lake Hattah Campground, Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, VIC (06/08/2012)
Gear: Canon 7D and EF400 5.6L @ F7.1 1/200 ISO800 400mm +0.7exp.

These birds roam around in little family groups hence the name apostle. Our group was nine members strong and they chatted away to one another and kept us entertained. The ones at the camp ground were very tame making taking photos a little easier. Also present in the camp ground were Grey Butcherbird, White-winged Chough, Australian Magpie, Raven, Kookaburra and Noisy Miners.

Name: Grey Butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus)
Location: Lake Hattah Campground, Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, VIC (06/08/2012)
Gear: Canon 7D and EF400 5.6L @ F7.1 1/320 ISO800 400mm +0.7exp.
Crimson Rosella (Yellow)

After setting up we went for a small wander around and came across 10 or so Yellow Rosellas feeding on some flowering grasses. They are a beautiful subspecies of the Crimson Rosella we get on the coast but are distinctly yellow in colour. Like a lot of wild parrots they were pretty flighty and did not allow me to get very close so I had to make do with a far away shot. We headed back to camp for dinner and after the sun went down Geoff spotted a Tawny Frogmouth fly past. We got out the spotlight and sure enough not 10 metres from camp was a Tawny Frogmouth. I had never seen a single night bird yet alone photograph one so it was a great experience. We all took plenty of shots of this unusual bird before we went for a drive looking for Owlet Nightjar. We stopped about half way between the info centre and Lake Mournpall and played a call. We heard a couple of birds respond, lucky for us one bird decided to come and check it out and I ended up getting my second night bird.

The first morning at Hattah we drove out to the Nowingi Track to look for Mallee Emu-wren, Lucky for us we found them almost straight away with a party responding to some call playback. We were unable to get any shots so we ventured out to the dirt road where it was a little more open. We then tried the playback again and the same party came to investigate. Photographing this bird in the Spinifex proved to be almost impossible and I have huge respect for anyone who has managed a decent photo. I saw both the male and female and I managed to grab this partially clear shot of the female. This proved to be the only successful occasion of the three visits we made trying to photograph this elusive bird.


Another bird that was high on my list to see was the beautiful Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo. Often referred to as the Pink Cockatoo it is restricted to arid and semi-arid inland areas of Australia. Luckily Hattah is a known location for this bird so I was stoked to see a pair searching for a nesting hollow in some dead trees not far from Lake Mournpall Camp Ground. Unfortunately the sky was overcast and the birds were high up making it tough to get any decent shots.

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri)

We managed to find a spot about 200m south of the information centre past the rangers house which contained lots of small birds. Those being Variegated Fairy Wren, Southern Whiteface and Chestnut rumped Thornbill. The whiteface was a new bird for me and I managed to get a couple of shots.

Southern-Whiteface Hattah,VIC

One of the birds I really wanted to see on the trip was the spectacular Spendid Fairy-wren. I had seen some amazing images of the male and was hoping to get a few keepers. We got lucky when we heard some bird activity on the way to Lake Mournpall. We got out of the car and I saw my first Splendid Fairy-wren. There was a large collection of dead sticks which appeared to be within the birds territory. We spent some time in average light and got a number of shots.

Splendid Fairy-wren, Hattah, VIC

Where there is a male Fairy-wren there are usually always a few females nearby. I had to take a few shots of the female as she was calling.

Splendid Fairy-wren-Female, Hattah, VIC

I was also lucky enough to see a number of Red-capped Robins in Hattah. They are such a pretty bird to watch and I was glad to photograph this species numerous times during the trip.

Red-capped-Robin, Hattah,VIC

Whilst out looking for the Mallee emu-wren I did manage to see a couple of new birds including Hooded Robin and White-fronted Honeyeater but was unable to get any decent shots. I did manage to spot a Striped Honeyeater and took a quick shot.

Striped Honeyeater, Hattah,VIC

An amazing few days and lots of new birds seen. Our next destination was Gluepot in South Australia.

Read: Epic Birding Journey Part 1– Fivebough Swamp, Binya State Forest and Nericon Swamp

Useful Resources

Parks Victoria – Hattah-Kulkyne National Park

Birds list for Hattah-Kulkyne National Park

Bird Photography Techniques Used To Capture Beautiful Bird Images

I always try and photograph birds when the light is good. Feel free to read my article on the importance of light in creating beautiful bird images. I am also always looking to create engaging bird images by capturing good eye contact. Be sure to read my article containing tips on head angle and eye contact for great bird images. I also always photograph birds in RAW, read my article to see why.

Ever wonder how I get nice clean, smooth backgrounds in my photos? I explain 4 steps to a smooth background here. I utilised these techniques during this trip.

Photographic Gear Used

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  1. Hi Duade, lovely set of images from Hattah Kulkyne, just got back from my second time there, a magic place. You are dead right about the Mallee Emu-wrens being difficult, it took 4 long days of trying before I got clear shots, but got both male and female.

    cheers from
    Colin aka Seesee

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