Here is a collection of images, taken over the past week, in and around the Mia Mia/Spring Hill Tracks area – a treasure trove of local biodiversity.
Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Mia Mia Track, 12th April 2014.
Male Golden Whistler, Spring Hill Track, 16th April 2014.
Little Eagle (immature), Mia Mia Road, 16th April 2014.
Yellow-footed Antechinus, Mia Mia Track, 12th April 2014.
Ruby Saltbush Enchylaena tomentosa, aka ‘Plum Puddings’ is a fantastic native plant for home gardens.
We planted a few some years back; they are now well established and volunteering throughout the garden. At this time of year they produce a bounty of small, fleshy, tomato-shaped fruits – a favourite meal for local birds.
Common Bronzewing searching for ‘plum puddings’, Newstead, 16th April 2014.
Yesterday I witnessed Red Wattlebirds, Crested Pigeons and a Common Bronzewing make repeated visits to the plants, where they feasted on the ripe, pink fruits. As the fruits ripen, they dry to black and fall beneath the foliage, where the ants pick them up and ferry them back to their underground nests.
Ruby Saltbush belongs to the Chenopod family.
Crested Pigeon with Ruby Saltbush fruit.
Freshly fallen fruit amongst the black, dried fruits from last season.
That first good drop of rain in the autumn can transform the bush. This year it looks like we’ve had a real ‘autumn break’ … fingers crossed!
While we don’t usually associate autumn with orchids, there are some lovely local species that flower now rather than in the spring. Two such species have appeared over the past week – Parson’s Bands Eriochilus cucullatus and the Autumn Greenhood Diplodium revolutum (formerly Pterostylis revoluta).
Parson’s Bands is a delicate species – it usually occurs as a single flower, sometimes in small loose colonies on open, rocky sites. They are apparently pollinated by native bees, although I’ve never had the good fortune to see a pollinator in action.
Parson’s Bands, Spring Hill Track area, 12th April 2014.
Autumn Greenhoods also grow in loose colonies - they are a tall (~ 15cm), robust species. Like other greenhoods, this species can be overlooked (especially by birdwatchers!) – once you get your eye in however it can be surprising the number that can be found.
Autumn Greenhood, Spring Hill Track area, 12th April 2014.
The robust flower of the Autumn Greenhood.
The waterhole on Mia Mia Track was the spot for a visit on Saturday. While my search for Swift Parrots was largely fruitless, there were lots of honeyeaters milling around the dam, bathing and drinking. Brown-headed, Fuscous and Yellow-tufted were in good numbers, along with this party of White-naped Honeyeaters. A sudden alarm chorus caused the honeyeaters to scatter, followed by the arrival of a Collared Sparrowhawk overhead.
White-naped Honeyeaters @ the waterhole on Mia Mia Track, 12th April 2014.
A good view of the square tail confirmed the identification, with the brown streaks on the throat and upper breast indicating an immature bird. Judging by its bulk its a young female.
Immature Collared Sparrowhawk, Mia Mia Track, 12th April 2014.
The sparrowhawk perched directly above me in a Yellow Gum for a few moments, before heading off towards Spring Hill Track. Not long after that, the honeyeaters resumed their activity, safe in the knowledge that danger had passed.
The sparrowhawk perched for a few moments before floating off above the canopy.
The brown barring on the throat and breast indicates an immature bird.
Swift Parrots have returned to one of their favourite winter haunts, the Mia Mia Valley, east of Newstead. I went searching for them yesterday afternoon – while hearing some birds in the distance, I was unable to get any photographs. As proof of their arrival, Chris Tzaros captured these lovely shots, after spotting a small flock last Sunday along Mia Mia Track.
Swift Parrot, Mia Mia Track, 6th March 2014. Photograph courtesy of Chris Tzaros.
A glorious shot of one of our favourite autumn visitors. Photograph courtesy of Chris Tzaros.
Swift Parrots return to the mainland each autumn after breeding in Tasmania. Photograph courtesy of Chris Tzaros.
Blossom is scarce at the moment – there is some Grey Box flowering, but Yellow Gum hasn’t started yet and it looks like being another poor season locally. Hopefully the ‘swifties’ will find enough food to hang around, otherwise they will most likely head further north for winter. Small numbers of other blossom feeders, including Musk, Purple-crowned and Little Lorikeets were about yesterday and honeyeater numbers are steady, providing excellent bird watching opportunities.
Silver Gulls are common birds over much of Australia, even inland where they can be found near water in dry, arid regions. Some folks malign them as aggressive and noisy, however I find them engaging and lots of fun to photograph.
Silver Gull (adult), Cairn Curran, 5th April 2014.
The photographs below highlight some of the differences between adult and immature birds. To my knowledge Silver Gulls don’t actually breed at Cairn Curran so the immature bird below has arrived from a breeding colony elsewhere. The transition from juvenile to immature and finally adult plumage is complicated – I suspect this may be a second year bird.
Immature Silver Gull @ Cairn Curran.
Another bird in immature plumage.
Adults have a red-orange bill, without a black tip. The iris has a distinctive thin red outer band and there is a complete absence of any brown in the plumage.
… always an interesting combination.
Brown Falcon pair, Moolort Plains, 5th April 2014.
White-bellied Sea-eagle nest, Cairn Curran Reservoir, 5th April 2014.
Yellow-billed Spoonbills at Cairn Curran, 5th April 2014.
Immature Wedge-tailed Eagle, Cairn Curran, 5th April 2014.