Doing the good work

Much like in the ‘real world’, in the bush the good work is largely done quietly and without fanfare.

This White-plumed Honeyeater was one of a small party feeding on River Red-Gum lerp at a site in Green Gully. I was entranced by the dexterity of the birds as they systematically worked through the fresh new growth to feed on the tiny sugary lerp (the intricate casings of psyllid insects). Many local forest and woodland areas have been hit by significant lerp damage in the past six months. Healthy populations of insects gleaners, such as pardalotes, smaller lorikeets and honeyeaters play a major role in reducing psyllid impact as part of the natural functioning of local ecosystems.

White-plumed Honeyeater, Green Gully, 16th January 2018

II – look closely to see a tiny lerp casing at the tip of the honeyeater’s bill

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Take away skinks

This pair of nesting Sacred Kingfishers first featured a few weeks back, on the 9th December 2017 to be precise … and then again on New Years Eve when I discovered the female incubating a recently laid clutch.

I captured the following sequence last Sunday, with what I suspect is the male kingfisher delivering small skinks to the incubating female. My bet is that the eggs are about to hatch. I’ll keep my distance for now and provide an update next weekend.

Sacred Kingfisher with skink, Mia Mia Track area, 14th January 2018

The male displaying near the nest

This skink had been decapitated and shed its tail!

The incubating female dining in

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The eggs revealed beneath the sitting bird

Not just bark

The heat at this time of year produces some amazing bushland effects, especially with the bark on our local Yellow Gums. During a run of very hot days long strips of bark, grey-blue on the outside and orange on the inside, peel away to reveal the classic ‘look’ of the Yellow Gum aka White Ironbark. The accumulation of bark on the forest floor is a key driver of the ecology of this landscape – Yellow-footed Antechinus are one of the animals to profit and not surprisingly are abundant where there is good cover of fallen bark.

Yellow Gum, Mia Mia Track, 13th January 2018

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Yellow Gum bark on the forest floor, Mia Mia Track

Yellow Gums, South German Track

Red Box … not to be outdone!

Yellow-footed Antechinus on South German Track

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Three raptors

Not a great deal on offer today – three raptors ‘captured’ on a brief wander across the plains on Friday evening. The Black-shouldered Kite is one of a pair with an active nest.

Brown Falcon, Moolort Plains, 12th January 2018

Juvenile Nankeen Kestrel

Nesting Black-shouldered Kite with mouse

Historical marker

Calm evenings are a wonderful time to visit Cairn Curran. This set was observed as I sat above the reservoir at Joyce’s Creek earlier in the week. The site is traced by a ragged line of dead River Red-gums that mark the original course of the creek – a reminder of a past landscape.

Looking north-east along the original course of Joyce’s Creek, 10th January 2018.

Australasian Darter (female), Joyce’s Creek @ Cairn Curran, 10th January 2018

Australasian Darter (male)

Female Australasian Darter in level flight

Great Cormorant

Whistling Kite

The importance of a good technique

The highlight of a short excursion this morning to the Rise and Shine was observing a flock of Varied Sittellas foraging for insects.

These small, bark feeding specialists are handsome birds, especially when you see the splash of orange across their extended wings. I’ve watched them feeding many times but was fascinated to see a couple of the birds repeatedly flicking both wings simultaneously to disturb insects. This technique is commonly used by a number of insectivorous species – the Grey Fantail and Willie Wagtail come immediately to mind, but is not commonly seen with sittellas.

According to Joseph and Olsen (2011) … The birds zig-zag actively up and down the trunk and along branches with a rocking horse motion, probing and levering the bark with their upturned bills and occasionally flickering one wing, probably to flush cryptic prey.

It worked very effectively  this morning as the birds were having some success in dislodging insects. I’d be interested to hear from any folks who have observed this behaviour in Varied Sittellas.

Varied Sittella, Rise and Shine, 11th January 2018

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Gotcha!

Reference: Stray Feathers – Reflections on the Structure, Behaviour and Evolution of Birds by Leo Joseph and Penny Olsen, CSIRO Publishing (2011).

High and dry

In spite of a very dry summer, the breeding season continues to roll on.

For aerial insect hunters, like this Dusky Woodswallow, warm summer days are a boon for flying insects. As I watched this adult at the nest (with at least two young), small flocks of woodswallows were foraging high above the forest as the morning started to heat up.

Dusky Woodswallow nest, Sandon State Forest, 10th January 2018

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White-winged Chough nest