This is a brief update on current events along Bruces Track.
Firstly this Scarlet Robin is sitting pretty on three eggs – the same number that were there on 12th October … I expect them to hatch any day now – the average incubation period is ~ 16 days. Meanwhile a short distance away a pair of Grey Fantails are tending a nest – the classic wineglass shape is well displayed in the images below. They are also incubating after finishing the nest around the same time as the robins began their vigil.
Scarlet Robin (female) incubating Bruces Track, 23rd October 2016
Grey Fantail incubating
Readers may have noticed an influx of white butterflies over recent days – these are Caper Whites Belenois java, a species renowned for large scale migrations into the interior of the continent at this time of year. With such a wet Spring it promises to be a bumper year for butterflies.
Caper White butterfly
Many thanks to local bird lover and keen observer, Dawn Angliss, for the following story.
Mistletoebirds are renowned for their industrious behaviour – in the construction of their elaborate and beautiful nests and in their approach to food gathering. A pair is currently building a nest in Dawn’s garden and the female has been making repeated visits to the house – I imagine mainly to collect cobwebs for nest construction. In the course of this activity it has deposited dozens of mistletoe seeds on a series of favourite perches near the windows, as displayed in the images below. Many of these seeds are likely to germinate but their fate is sealed without a natural host to parasitise. I’ve never before seen such an amazing collection.
Female Mistletoebird, Newstead, 22nd October 2016
The defecated seeds are hanging in strings from the females favourite perch
Quite a collection!
One of its favourite perches
The female, surrounded by spent seeds adorning a window box.
Mistletoebird nest – this one belongs to a different pair, nesting in the churchyard next door to our home
In no particular order a selection of observations from the past week.
Nature at its finest.
Male Blue-winged Shoveler, Lignum Swamp, 15th October 2016
Eastern Yellow Robin, Mia Mia Track, 17th October 2016
Dusky Woodswallows (courtship feeding), Plunkett’s Lane, 17th October 2016
Australian Admiral on Daphne Heath, Mia Mia Track, 17th October 2016
Sacred Ibis over Lignum Swamp
Red-rumped Parrots, Newstead Cemetery, 19th October 2016
Painted Lady on Daphne Heath
The Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve is just one of a host of places where you can enjoy a spectacular display of Spring orchids.
Scented Sun-orchid Thelymitra megcalyptra, Rise and Shine 15th October 2016
Rabbit-ears Orchid Thelymitra antennifera
Brown-clubbed Spider-orchid Caladenia phaeoclavia
Salmon Sun-orchid Thelymitra rubra
Over the past few months Musk Lorikeets have been a constant presence in the flowering eucalypts throughout the streets of Newstead. It’s been interesting watching their behaviour change in recent weeks, as pairs rather than small flocks make regular shuttle movements between the flowering gums and their nesting sites, many of which are north of the town along the Loddon River. Reminds me that it’s time to take a stroll along the Loddon to catch up on the action of the Muskies and other treats!
Musk Lorikeet, Newstead, 19th October 2016
Willie Wagtails are nesting by the dozen at the moment. An amazing Spring has created ideal conditions for insectivores, such as the Willie Wagtail, and I expect many to breed right into summer at this rate. On the downside I’ve never seen so many mosquitos, making insect repellent a must for a walk in the local bush!
The wagtail nest photographed below is in a typical location – near water (the Mia Mia Creek) in a River Red-gum and placed low down on a slender horizontal branch. The presence of the old stem galls add an interesting dimension the choice of nest site.
The young are well advanced, with the three nestlings looking snug but almost ready to burst from the bowl. The use of horse hair, gathered in this case from a nearby paddock, is a common strategy for this species.
Willie Wagtail nest in River Red-gum, Mia Mia Road, 16th October 2016
Willie Wagtail nestlings up close
One of the parents sitting as the rain started again
If there is one local species that captures my imagination more than any other, it may well be the Hooded Robin Melanodryas cucullata. It may not be the rarest or most spectacular but it has a certain charisma that I admire.
The scientific name has always intrigued me so I thought I’d look up the derivation in HANZAB. The generic name Melanodryas refers to the woodland habitat and black hood of the male (Greek μέλας, black and δρνας, a dryad or wood nymph). The specific epithet refers to the hood (Latin cucullus, hood or cowl). Aptly named it seems – their distinctive markings and furtive nature captured perfectly in this beautiful name.
I was fortunate earlier in the week to discover a nesting pair at one of the few local places where the species can reliably be found. The nest was expertly secreted against the trunk of an almost dead Grey Box – it had been constructed as a shallow bowl on a horizontal platform of bark. Hooded Robins typically choose a fork or branch so this site is perhaps a little unusual. While a male was in attendance nearby only the female was seen to visit the nest to incubate. This species is known to commonly breed cooperatively, often with one or two helpers.
Hooded Robin (female), Newstead area, 17th October 2016
There female alighting on the nest
Reference: Higgins, P.J., & J.M. Peter. (Eds) 2002. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 6: Pardalotes to shrike-thrushes. Oxford University Press, Melbourne. pp 732 – 747.