The path to our door

There was quite a variety of treats in store for me on a trip back from Newstead to our place at Strangways last Saturday. First up was a beautiful foggy scene on the flats of the Jim Crow Creek.

Morning on the floodplain of the Jim Crow Creek at Strangways

Morning fog on Jim Crow Creek

As I drove up our lane, I was delighted to see a pair of Restless Flycatchers Myiagra inquieta hovering and catching insects. They have been a bit shy of the cameraman until this day when they let me get to within 5 metres whilst they hunted in the winter sun.

Restless Flycatcher (Myiagra inquieta)

Restless Flycatcher I

Restless Flycatcher (Myiagra inquieta)

Restless Flycatcher II

Restless Flycatcher (Myiagra inquieta)

Catching spiders as well as flies

A pair of Jacky Winters Microeca fascinans was also hunting along the fence line.

Jacky Winter (Microeca fascinans)

Jacky Winter

When I got home after quite some time rolling on the ground getting shots of the birds, for some unknown macrophotographic reason I put on my reading glasses and had good close look at the stone path to our door. I was impressed to find numerous tiny mites with white-spotted black bodies and orange legs. They were from 0.5-1mm long. And with them were some velvety looking grey grubs with six legs and again only 0.5-1mm long. They were quite challenging photographic subjects and I will keep working to try to get some good photos of them. At first I thought the grey ones might be tiny Velvet Worms, but from my reading they would need more legs to qualify. The people at bowerbird.org.au have identified it as a springtail, hexapods once classed as insects, but with internal mouths. The reading I’ve done says that they live on fungi, microbes  and other material in the leaf litter. I wonder if the mites could be Trombidiformes, but would really appreciate any help with identification of either. The grains in the sandstone path give an indication of their size, or lack thereof.

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Mite

Tiny

Springtail

Mite and friend

Together

Dust-bathing choughs

In my bush rambles I sometimes come across scratchings similar to those shown below. As can be seen from the accompanying images they are the work of White-winged Choughs, engaged in dust bathing.

I’ve written about this activity before … and while choughs are not the only birds to exhibit this behaviour it forms a regular part of their daily rituals.

White-winged Chough dust bath, Fence Track, 24th July 2017

White-winged Choughs ‘at the bath’

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Watching warblers

The image below is classic Speckled Warbler habitat – just moments before I took the photograph a pair of these woodland icons were foraging in the foreground.

I managed some hastily composed images before the birds disappeared in their usual cryptic fashion down the hill.

Speckled Warbler habitat, Fence Track, 24th July 2017

Male Speckled Warbler

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Female Speckled Warbler

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The eyes have it

After a week away I managed a short woodland ramble this afternoon.

The birds were doing nicely – Speckled Warbler, Weebill, Grey Fantail, Yellow-faced Honeyeater and Spotted Pardalote in addition to the inquisitive couple pictured below.

Varied Sitella, Fence Track, 24th July 2017

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Brown Thornbill in Golden Wattle

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Little Pied Cormorant

This Little Pied Cormorant, spotted on a bush dam along Bell’s Lane Track, was very confiding … it’s not often you get such a close look at this species in this  type of habitat.

Little Pied Cormorant, Bell’s lane Track, 14th July 2017

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Currawong portraits

A group of Pied Currawongs has made the yard their domain over recent days. It’s provided an opportunity to capture some nice close-up portraits.

Pied Currawong, Wyndham Street Newstead, 9th July 2017

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Why …

… does this bird not occur in the wild in central Victoria?

Emu, Mia Mia Road, 8th July 2017

Emus are perhaps Australia’s most distinctive and widely recognised bird, after all they feature with the Red Kangaroo on the ‘coat of arms’, the formal symbol of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Across much of Australia the Emu can still be found, especially throughout the inland and in less closely settled coastal districts. In central Victoria it is not unusual to see Emus but these are almost always escapees from ill-fated ‘farming’ ventures.

A combination of threats has led to the demise of the original populations many decades ago. The clearance and fragmentation of areas of suitable habitat, deliberate slaughter, collisions with vehicles and predation of the eggs and young have been the major factors in this decline. Whenever I come across the beautiful Cranberry Heath in our local bushland I am reminded of its value as Emu ‘tucker’. Like many small shrubs in the box-ironbark this plant has declined in parallel with the Emu.

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