Little brown bird of the plains

This bird is I suspect, often overlooked by even enthusiastic bird watchers. Horsfield’s Bushlark Mirafra javanica inhabits the plains country west of Newstead. It’s common name might seem a bit odd, but it can be found in open woodlands, especially in the more northern parts of its range which extends over much of eastern and northern Australia.


Horsfield’s Bushlark, Moolort Plains, 25th October 2014.

Two similar species are also found in the same habitat on the Moolort Plains, the Australasian Pipit, together with the less common and somewhat cryptic Eurasian Skylark. This latter species was introduced from Britain in the 1850s and is often heard rather than seen as it spirals to great heights in its song flight. Horsfield’s Bushlark is a breeding migrant to our area although small numbers remain during winter.


The mottled upper breast and white eyebrow are shared with two similar species, the Australasian Pipit and Eurasian Skylark – the bushlark has a much stubbier beak.

Tunnel denizens

While my recent attention has been drawn to the arriving Rainbowbirds, other less exuberant tunnel nesters are quietly going about their business. Pardalotes are tiny insectivorous birds, that belong to their own family Pardalotidae. We have two local species, the Spotted and Striated Pardalotes. This morning I watched a pair of Striated Pardalotes bringing food to an active tunnel at the Newstead Cemetery. Most visits involved the delivery of flower-spiders, gleaned from nearby shrubs.


Striated Pardalote, Newstead Cemetery, 31st October 2014.


The female entering the tunnel.


The male arriving with a bill full of spiders.


The female about to depart the perch.


One of the local Rainbow Bee-eaters watching over proceedings.

Kite gathering

Last weekend offered lots of photographic opportunities. Late on Sunday I witnessed a interesting gathering of kites out on the Moolort Plains. About a dozen birds – half of them Black Kites, the remainder Whistling Kites, were all perched on a dead tree in the middle of the plains. My arrival prompted them to form a swirling mass in the air above me for at least ten minutes before they dispersed.


Black Kite, Moolort Plains, 25th October 2014.


A very tatty-looking Whistling Kite.


Kite v Kite!


Another portrait of my favourite kestrel.

Interesting times

In the bush it seems like the main breeding season is drawing to a close, with many bush birds currently feeding young. Out on the plains though there is still plenty of activity, with raptors getting busy raising youngsters, or in the case of this Spotted Harrier, just getting started.

The harrier looks like it’s back at a favourite site – a small Yellow Box/Grey Box remnant in the middle of the cropping landscape. This is a perfect spot to raise a family with the prospect of a plentiful food supply before, during and after harvest.


Adult Spotted Harrier, Moolort Plains, 25th October 2014.


Spotted Harrier nest in Yellow Box.


The photographer gets a sideways glance!


Female Nankeen Kestrel overlooking the nest hollow – the weak sounds from inside the hollow suggests the eggs are no more.

Site fidelity

Many birds show great fidelity to nesting places, choosing the same area from year to year, although the exact site may vary. This ‘pair’ of Tawny Frogmouths has nested in much the same spot amongst a copse of Yellow Gums at Clydesdale for a number of years now. Last year’s nest suffered a sad fate, when the branch on which it was located was blown off in a storm. Undeterred the birds have nested in another Yellow Gum nearby, with two downy chicks looking great at the moment. It’s nigh impossible to know for certain that it’s the same pair – the loss of one parent often sees a replacement move in to fill the breech. The offspring are typically ejected from the territory once they reach sexual maturity.


Adult Tawny Frogmouth with two nestlings, Clydesdale, 25th October 2014.


I’m guessing the chicks are less than ten days old.


It’s all a bit tedious really!

Bit of a mixture

Along with the birds, I enjoyed some lovely light, late on Saturday afternoon. Here is an eclectic set, all snapped in and around the Newstead Cemetery.


Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Newstead Cemetery, 25th October 2014.


Wood Ducks – male at right.


One of a small flock of Straw-necked Ibis.


Eastern Silvereye (mainland form).


This adult Crimson Rosella allowed a close approach.

River citizens

Just downstream of the highway bridge over the Loddon at Newstead is always a good spot for birds. At this time of year Sacred Kingfishers, Clamorous Reed-warblers and White-backed Swallows have arrived to breed, joining local residents such as the Rufous Night Herons. These birds can be seen throughout the year, usually three or four individuals together – although it appears numbers may be even healthier, with six seen last Saturday evening.


Rufous Night Heron, Loddon River @ Newstead, 25th October 2014.

They are wary at dusk as they come down from their roosts in the fringing River Red-gums to hunt for aquatic prey along the water’s edge. The adults are a rich, rufous colour above with several slender white plumes arising from the dark grey nape.


See if you can spot the two birds in this photograph.


Adult Rufous Night Heron disturbed from its roost.


Always wary!


Two of the six birds seen on dusk.