Cuckoos, caterpillars and thornbills

It’s been an interesting few days in the garden – Red Wattlebirds nesting, Common Bronzewings have returned and some nice spring migrants showing up.

This Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo announced its presence with repeated plaintive calls from a series of high points around the house.


Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo, Newstead, 27th August 2014.

This species often parasitises fairy-wrens and thornbills, so downtown Newstead offers good opportunities. Cuckoos love eating caterpillars – these images of a Yellow-rumped Thornbill dispatching one while the bronze-cuckoo called above seemed apt.


Yellow-rumped Thornbill with caterpillar, Newstead, 27th August 2014.


Dispatched in a blur!


Finishing off the job.

Wattlebird family

A planted Wirilda Acacia retinodes in the yard beside the house is home to a duo of newly hatched Red Wattlebirds. I was alerted to the nest by the parents, disappearing into the top of the dense shrub on a regular basis as I sat outside having lunch.


Adult Red Wattlebird with a bill full of insects, Newstead, 27th August 2014.

Both adults paid visits every five minutes or so, sometimes with a meal of insects, with nectar on other occasions. Red Wattlebirds dominate our yard – they were a bit jumpy yesterday when a lone Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo appeared searching for hosts. The combined efforts of the wattlebirds and New Holland Honeyeaters eventually evicted the cuckoo.


The brush-tipped tongue is visible in this shot.


One of the nestlings squawking for another meal.


One of the parents sitting later in the afternoon – sheltering the youngsters from the sun.

Spring bird photography workshops with Chris Tzaros

Chris Tzaros and I are hosting two bird photography workshops this Spring, in Newstead. Both workshops will be held on Saturday 11th October, the first for early birds (7.30am – 12.30pm), with the afternoon session commencing at 1.30pm and concluding at 6.30pm.

Each workshop is limited to 10 participants at a cost of $100. You can email me,  to book a place in one of these highly regarded workshops – please indicate your preferred time slot.

Swift Parrot, Mia Mia Track Muckleford State Forest. Image by Chris Tzaros.

Swift Parrot, Mia Mia Track Muckleford State Forest. Image by Chris Tzaros.

Each session will include a 90 minute illustrated talk, ‘Bird Photography: Tips & Techniques’, together with a field session in the local bush. The workshops cater for a range of participants, from budding photographers to those with more experience wishing to improve their techniques and field craft. As they say … book early to avoid disappointment!

Click here for more information.

Red-capped Robin - Chris Tzaros

Red-capped Robin. Image by Chris Tzaros.

Striated Pardalotes. Image by Chris Tzaros.

Striated Pardalotes. Image by Chris Tzaros.

I’ve come all this way …

This tiny wader, a Red-necked Stint, has just made a remarkable journey. Its breeding grounds are in Siberia and Alaska. During the northern hemisphere winter most of the population journeys all the way to Australia, a distance of more than 10,000km. At the end of our southern summer they fly all the way back again in a remarkable feat of navigation and endurance.

No wonder this one is hungry. Feeding along the shoreline of the lake is profitable – the slowly rising waters flushing out insect larvae, perfect for refuelling at the start of a summer holiday.


Red-necked Stint with insect larva, Cairn Curran, 23rd August 2014.


A successful extraction.


Gone in the blink of an eye!

The falcon and the tiercel

The Peregrine Falcon is an extraordinary bird and every encounter is memorable. The male falcon, also known as a tiercel, is much smaller than the female. As a consequence the males tend to take smaller prey, leaving larger items for the more robust and powerful female. In our area Galahs are a favourite target of Peregrines, probably too large for the tiercel – I like to imagine starlings, mynahs and sparrows are on the menu for the lesser half!


Male Peregrine Falcon, Newstead area, 24th August 2014.


The tiercel (at left) welcoming back the female Peregrine.


In level glide.


The female Peregrine braking as it approaches the perch.


The female at the perch.


Another view of the tiercel.

An odd couple

While searching along the shoreline at Cairn Curran yesterday my eye was drawn to a ‘pair’ of tiny waders feeding together in the shallows. Closer inspection revealed them to be two entirely different species. The slightly larger bird is an uncommon resident – a female Red-capped Plover, the other a Red-necked Stint, possibly newly arrived on migration from the northern hemisphere.


Red-capped Plover, Cairn Curran, 23rd August 2014.


Red-necked Stint, Cairn Curran, 23rd August 2014.

Both birds happily fed together for 30 minutes while I watched, occasionally flying in tandem to a new feeding spot. It’s nice to see the first of the migratory waders back on the lake – this is a sure sign that there are warmer days just around the corner.


The stint – perhaps showing a few traces of breeding plumage.


Female Red-capped Plover.

In black and white

Today was dominated by black and white birds.

These two immature Black-shouldered Kites were spotted out on the plains, with one of the parents nearby. They look to be just fledged, leading me to suspect they are the result of a winter breeding effort.


Immature Black-shouldered Kite, Moolort Plains, 23rd August 2014.


Bugger … missed the shot!

A distant view of one of our resident White-bellied Sea-eagles, dispatching what appeared to be a carp, was perhaps the highlight of my visit to the lake. I wish it had come as close as this Australian Pelican.


Australian Pelican, Cairn Curran, 23rd August 2014.


White-bellied Sea-eagle, Cairn Curran Reservoir, 23rd August 2014.

Postscript: Thanks to fellow nature blogger, Duncan Fraser of Ben Cruachan, for a nice enhancement to the image of the immature Black-shouldered Kites.

Black-shouldered Kites - take II.

Black-shouldered Kites – take II.