More garden visitors … not all welcome

The lure of water and the last of the summer fruits is attracting a range of birds in the garden at the moment.

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Immature Crimson Rosella, Wyndham Street Newstead, 1st March 2015.

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New Holland Honeyeater … with fascinator!

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White-browed Scrub-wrens are a welcome resident.

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This one seemed interested in the last of the mulberries.

All of the above are welcome – unfortunately a small flock of House Sparrows has also arrived in recent months. They are quite aggressive towards the smaller birds such as firetails, wrens and scrub-wrens … might be time for a campaign!

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A bloody House Sparrow!

Swallows at the end of summer

It’s the end of summer and Welcome Swallows are gathering in moderate-sized flocks across the plains. These birds were enjoying a feast of insects attracted to a freshly cut Lucerne paddock near Picnic Point.

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Welcome Swallow (adult), Moolort Plains, 2nd March 2015.

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Juvenile Welcome Swallows

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This one appears to be a moulting adult.

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More than one swallow makes the summer!

Weebill portraits

Weebills are a feature of our garden year round.

These tiny insectivores are related to the thornbills – both are in the family Acanthizidae, but the Weebill is of a different genus, Smicrornis, rather than Acanthiza to which the various thornbills belong.

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Weebill, Wyndham St Newstead, 1st March 2015.

Weebills could easily be described as nondescript, that is until you hear their powerful call … for such a small bird they have a mighty voice.

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The underparts are a pale lemon.

Their short bill is ideally for prising small insects off the surface of leaves or from fissures in the bark of eucalypts and wattles. In the garden their preferences are more diverse – I often spy them searching for insects in our Black Mulberry, or amongst the Buddleias.

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A Weebill on the hunt for insects.

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Note the cream iris and pale eyebrow. There are very faint streaks on the upper breast, otherwise Weebills lack the bold streaks or spots of their thornbill ‘cousins’.

… and the breeding continues

by Patrick Kavanagh

One of the Pardalote nesting boxes at our place is hosting its fifth batch of Striated Pardalote nestlings this season. I thought this was remarkable enough, but as I was taking some photos of the adults bringing in food for the nestlings, another party of Striated Pardalotes came to check out the nest box. Soon the parents arrived back at the nest and there was quite a commotion with about 8-10 birds vigorously contesting the tree with much calling, advancing and spreading of wings. The parents prevailed, but they were interrupted by the intruders several more times during the day.

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Striated Pardalote, Strangways, 27th February 2015.

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Distant views … still awesome!

Two White-bellied Sea-eagles at Cairn Curran last evening.

I disturbed them near where Captain’s Creek enters the storage. Lots of European Carp wallowing in the receding waters are a bonanza for these magnificent birds.

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White-bellied Sea-eagle, Cairn Curran, 27th February 2015.

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Rainbowbird gatherings

At this time of year small groups of Rainbow Bee-eaters gather in the forest to fuel up in readiness for their northerly migration. Each autumn this coincides with the flowering of Grey Box which attracts a diversity of flying insects, including bees, on which the Rainbowbirds can feed.

Many of the birds are juveniles, like the one pictured below – their plumage is more sombre than the adults at this stage. Some of these will return next spring as breeding adults.

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Juvenile rainbow Bee-eater, Mia Mia Track, 25th February 2015.

I came across a flock earlier this week along Mia Mia Track, about a dozen birds in total, feeding in the air above the canopy, occasionally swooping down low to catch an unwary insect.

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Moments before alighting at the perch.

Nestled in a Grey Box

It feels like autumn – cool, crisp mornings and the Grey Box is starting to flower. Let’s wish for an influx of Swift Parrots in coming weeks.

I was intrigued to find some Fuscous Honeyeaters nesting along Mia Mia Road. The nest, at head height, was slung amongst a cluster of Grey Box blossoms – three fluffy nestlings responding to a stream of visits from the parents.

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Fuscous Honeyeater feeding nestlings, Mia Mia Road, 24th February 2015.

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Departing the nest with a faecel sac.