A stunning bud burst

by Patrick Kavanagh

We recently sighted the first Golden Wattle Acacia pycnantha on our place to burst into flower for the season. Always a stunning and joyful vision! It prompted me to train the high power macro lens on the erupting flower buds to see how the process works. I was amazed when someone pointed out to me the tiny insects on the bud at the earliest stage of flowering. How many can you count? I have also been fascinated by the marvelous shapes of the still-budding Spreading Wattles Acacia genistifolia so I’ve included a few more high magnification shots of these.

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Golden Wattle buds at bursting point, Strangways, June 30th 2015

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Look closely for the tiny insects on the surface of the buds.

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A great sight in mid winter!

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Spreading Wattle buds opening.

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Beauty in miniature.

Babblers on Mia Mia Road

Back in the 1960s we had two species of babbler in the Newstead district, the still reasonably common White-browed Babbler and the now sadly departed Grey-crowned Babbler.

Grey-crowned Babblers are hanging by a thread in Victoria, having become locally extinct in many places like Newstead over the past 40 years. There is still a small population scattered across northern Victoria with Boort and Kerang a couple of stronghold locations, but their long-term prospects are not great. Locally, White-browed Babblers seem to be travelling well – around Newstead they benefit from areas of coppice regrowth and even home gardens on the outskirts of town. They love making their roosting and breeding nests in dense shrubs with easy access to open ground for foraging amongst fallen timber and leaf litter. Long may they reign in the district.

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White-browed Babblers, Mia Mia Road, 28th June 2015.

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Three out of five ain’t bad

A late afternoon excursion across the Moolort Plains today yielded some excellent raptor views – here are three of the five species spotted. A number of Brown Falcons and Black-shouldered Kites were also observed but refused to pose for the camera.

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Nankeen Kestrel, Moolort Plains, 29th June 2015.

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This Whistling Kite was disturbed from the roadside at Rodborough, rising with an unlucky Australian Magpie – a trace of blood on the beak evidence of its grisly end. Unfortunately for the photographer the kite dropped the magpie moments before I clicked … sadly for the magpie it made no difference!

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Whistling Kite, Rodborough, 29th June 2015.

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I spotted this Wedge-tailed Eagle near Moolort, heading on a westerly bearing across the plains.

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Wedge-tailed Eagle, Moolort, 29th June 2015.

A visit from Birdlife Ballarat

John Alexander and I hosted a keen group of birdwatchers yesterday from Ballarat Birdlife. The group has made regular visits to the district over many years and it was great to share some observations and tales from the past. Sadly I was only able to spend a few hours with them on Spring Hill but we still made some nice sightings, including good views of Crested Bellbird and a cooperative Rufous Whistler (pictured below).

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Ballarat Birdlife group on Mia Mia Track, 28th June 2015.

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Rufous Whistler @ Spring Hill, 28th June 2015.

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The pale bill base suggests an immature bird.

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Finishing off a caterpillar plucked from the foliage.

Click here for a list of birds seen on the day and here for a trip report.

Winter highlights

by Dean McLaren

Whilst neither flora nor fauna, these few shots of the wonderful winter light this week, are unmistakably ‘Natural Newstead’, in both its dying and waking moments. And while not quite as spectacular as the Southern Lights displays that are around at the moment, they certainly made for an impressive sky.

All three images were taken on Pound Lane, and one imagines being quite the confused shepherd, when it was both red at night and red in the morning!

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Newstead lights #1

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Newstead lights #2

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Newstead lights #3

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There was limited opportunity to get out with the camera today, but this pair of Eastern Rosellas certainly brightened up a gloomy day with their rich hues.

The sexes are almost identical in this species, the male just a little brighter than the female, meaning they can usually be distinguished when seen together.

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Eastern Rosella, Wyndham Street Newstead, 27th June 2015.

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Eastern Rosella pair – male at right.

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Male Eastern Rosella … I think!

It’s worth a look back at my post from late May, Farewell to Autumn, where the ‘Eastern Rosella’ is most likely a Crimson x Eastern hybrid – one noticeable difference is that the plumage on the upper back is like that of the Crimson rather than the yellow and black of the Eastern Rosella.

Last season’s winners

As the next breeding season approaches it’s easy to forget what happened last time around. Nature is a numbers game and progressing from egg to adulthood is a risky business – we usually only see the lucky ones. At this time of year it’s not unusual to see birds in transitional plumage, such as the case with the White-naped Honeyeater and Black-shouldered Kite shown below.

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White-naped Honeyeater (adult), Cemetery Road Newstead, 24th June 2015.

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A few splotches of brown on the head and the orange gape indicate a first year bird.

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Yellow Gum flowers – at their peak.

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Black-shouldered Kite, Joyce’s Creek, 23rd June 2015.

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Traces of buff on the neck – another first year bird.