Scarlet and gold

It only takes a tiny pool to form and the birds will come from everywhere. This puddle, formed from Friday’s rain along Tangey’s Lane, proved irresistible to the local birds … Yellow-tufted, White-naped, New Holland, White-plumed and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Eastern Yellow Robin and the highlights – a pair of Crested Shrike-tits and a male Scarlet Robin, all visited within minutes as I stood nearby. Little and Purple-crowned Lorikeets could be seen and heard buzzing overhead.

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Crested Shrike-tit (female), Tangey’s Lane Newstead, 31st April 2016

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Crested Shrike-tit (male) in Hedge Wattle

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Scarlet Robin (male)

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Saturday ‘leftovers’

I haven’t been able to get out with the camera over the past week, so here are some ‘leftovers’ from earlier in the month. The rain yesterday (8mm) was welcome indeed.

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Eastern Rosella, Wyndham Street Newstead, 17th April 2016

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Fuscous Honeyeater, Muckleford State Forest, 17th April 2016

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Female Superb Fairy-wren

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Welcome Swallows at the Uniting Church

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Immature White-plumed Honeyeater

What bird is that?

For ages I’ve been contemplating writing a blog post on bird identification field guides.

Mercifully, both for readers and myself, I’ve failed to do so!

I can now do better than that …

Chris Watson, a fellow bird blogger and curator of The Grip, has produced a terrific analysis of the major field guides to Australian birds. His blog post, Birds in Dead Trees, is an objective and subjective survey of the features, pros and cons of the five current contenders : Simpson & Day, Pizzey & Knight, Morcombe, Slater and Campbell. 

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It’s an excellent summary and will certainly be useful in deflecting future inquiries from friends and acquaintances.

For the record, my personal favourite is The Field Guide to Birds of Australia by Pizzey and Knight, but the first book that got me excited about birds is pictured below. I received a copy of Australian Birds by Robin Hill as a birthday present almost 50 years ago and still regard it with affection!

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Weebill and lerp

I’ve often observed Weebills gleaning lerp from eucalyptus leaves, but until last weekend had never been able to snap one in the act.

Lerp is the sugary secretion produced by sap-sucking psyllid insects – an extraordinarily important element of many Australian ecosystems. Honeyeaters, lorikeets, thornbills and a host of other birds depend on lerp for energy. The sugary casing can assume a range of configurations, often looking like ‘fairy floss’.

I was reclining on the front veranda to take this image – as usual a bevy of birds were visiting the bird bath – Yellow-faced Honeyeaters are a common visitor at this time of year, the Willie Wagtail I suspect was just passing through.

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Weebill about to devour lerp, Wyndham Street Newstead, 25th April 2016

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Willie Wagtail

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Yellow-faced Honeyeater

The supercharged honeyeater

I’m sure most readers will be aware that the Red Wattlebird, a ubiquitous and prominent inhabitant of home gardens, is actually a honeyeater.

In our garden and surrounds there are about ten of these aggressive, noisy characters – they monopolise nectar sources, the bird baths and high perches, chasing off the smaller birds with relentless enthusiasm. One of the benefits of planting a variety of small shrubs in the garden is that they provide refuges for these smaller birds against the constant wattlebird attacks. Despite their temperament I like Red Wattlebirds – they are a handsome species when seen in brief moments of relaxation.

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Red Wattlebird, 24th April 2016

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A touch of gold

What a beauty!

This male Golden Whistler was the highlight from a late afternoon stroll yesterday in Rotunda Park. Unlike Rufous Whistlers, which are year-round residents in the local bush, Golden Whistlers arrive from loftier sites along the Great Divide in early autumn. The male is a spectacularly beautiful bird – the brick-red iris is shown off to advantage in this image.

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Male Golden Whistler, Rotunda Park, 24th April 2016

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Male Common Bronzewing

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Male Crested Shrike-tit

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Immature Eastern Spinebill

Strepera graculina

The Pied Currawong Strepera graculina is a spasmodic visitor to Newstead. An altitudinal migrant, it breeds along the Great Dividing Range, migrating to the lower lands of the Goldfields every autumn. I’ve spotted a few birds passing through over recent weeks but over the past few days a small flock has been calling regularly throughout the town – it seems they have been attracted to fruit such as olives and are happy to hang around.

Handsome and intelligent birds they can be quite difficult to photograph as they are wary of people. I suspect grape growers have trouble with them in orchards.

The scientific name has the following origins … strepera  is from the Latin streperus, meaning ‘noisy’, while graculina is from graculus meaning ‘unknown bird’ – this appears to be because the species looks like a corvid but is different. I enjoy their rollicking calls at this time of year.

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Pied Currawong, Newstead township, 23rd April 2016

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