Flames at dusk

Winter must be just around the corner.

I spotted my first Flame Robins for the year late on Sunday afternoon – a small party of males and ‘brown birds’ – females and immature males, near the Newstead Cemetery. The first wave of birds are most likely heading north but we’ll be graced with others over the colder months until they depart in spring.

FR1

Male Flame Robin, Cemetery Road Newstead, 22nd May 2016

FR2

II

FR3

Female or immature Flame Robin

The owl and the owlet

To be able to see both our smallest and largest nocturnal birds on the same day is a real treat.

This Australian Owlet-nightjar was spotted on Saturday morning in the Mia Mia, while the pair of Powerful Owls were found roosting later that day in their usual abode along the Loddon. The rictal bristles on the owlet are quite impressive close-up.

ON1

Australian Owlet-nightjar, Mia Mia Track, 21st May 2016

ON2

II

ON3

III

PO1

Male Powerful Owl, Loddon River @ Newstead, 21st May 2016

PO3

II

PO2

Female Powerful Owl

Chough encounter

by Patrick Kavanagh

I was foraging under some logs looking for some invertebrates to photograph and heard the sound of these White-winged Choughs Corcorax melanorhamphos just a couple of metres from me. I started flicking leaf litter around with a stick and they were content to let me move amongst them as they started foraging on the ground. Good shots were hard to get even though I was very close as they move quickly and there were often grasses, sticks and shrubs in the way. After a while they settled on a branch in one of those cuddly Chough conclaves and watched bemused as I took photos and made strange noises so that they’d all look at the camera. Such entertaining birds to watch.

White-winged Chough a_16-05-21_8

White-winged Chough foraging, Strangways, 21st May 2016

White-winged Chough a_16-05-21_16 crop

II

White-winged Chough a_16-05-21_31 crop

III

White-winged Chough a_16-05-21_51 crop

IV

White-winged Chough a_16-05-21_27 crop

V

In search of my holy grail

Every birder has their ‘holy grail’.

For me it’s the Spotted Quail-thrush Cinclosoma punctatum.

A walk late yesterday afternoon in the Mia Mia started uneventfully – the usual suspects were out and about – Fuscous, White-naped and Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, raucous Red Wattlebirds and a few White-eared Honeyeaters which are welcome autumn migrants.

Fuscous

Fuscous Honeyeater, Mia Mia Track, 20th May 2016

RW

Red Wattlebird

White-nape

White-naped Honeyeater

WEHE2

White-eared Honeyeater

Then, suddenly, a dark shape shot by not far overhead – a male Spotted Quail-thrush. The bird posed briefly on a stump and then alighted to call from an elevated perch nearby. I managed a couple of dodgy photographs before it disappeared.

SQT2

Male Spotted Quail-thrush

SQT1

The male calling from an elevated perch

The Spotted Quail-thrush is by no means a rare bird, but locally sightings are few and far between. I’m sure some readers will be very familiar with the species in other parts of its range. I’ve certainly seen it regularly in other places, often in coastal areas of Gippsland and southern NSW.

I see them perhaps half a dozen times a year in the Mia Mia. These are my first photographs … must do better!

Bush companions

Autumn is the time to see mixed species feeding flocks in the local bush.

These two ‘beauties’ were part of a small flock that also featured Scarlet Robins, Buff-rumped Thornbills and a White-Throated Treecreeper. Typically such flocks are made up of insectivores and travel quite close to the ground as they work their way through the bush in search of insects.

GF1

Grey Fantail, Fence Track Muckleford State Forest, 17th May 2016

GF2

II

GF3

III

GF4

IV

GW1

Male Golden Whistler

GW2

II

Subtle differences

We’re hosting a bevy of Eastern Spinebills in the garden at the moment. The autumn migration of this species has peaked – a few juveniles were the advance party about a month back, followed by the strikingly coloured adults.

The adults are similar in appearance – the main difference is in the crown colour – grey in the female, jet black in the male. A truly charismatic honeyeater!

Spinebill1

Female Eastern Spinebill, Wyndham Street Newstead, 12th May 2016

Spinebill2

Male Eastern Spinebill

Spinebill3

Female Eastern Spinebill

Spinebill4

Female Eastern Spinebill

I see red!

Folks who wander regularly in the local bush will immediately recognise these rounded blue-green leaves – they belong to Red Box Eucalyptus polyanthemos.

RedBox2

Red Box foliage, Fence Track, 16th May 2016

While Red Box remains a common tree species locally, veteran specimens are exceedingly rare, more so in my experience than any other. Red Box timber is prized for its strength, hardness and durability – sealing its fate to fence-posts, building material (including bridge-decking) and of course, firewood. The specimens remaining in the forest today are either spindly saplings, or as in this case, coppice-regrowth. It’s anyone’s guess as to the age of this Red Box – the remains of a massive stump from which the coppice stems have sprouted was nearly 1.5 metres across!

RedBox1

Muti-stem coppiced Red Box of indeterminate age.

The decline of large old trees is one of the key reasons for the disappearance of many iconic woodland birds – Regent Honeyeater and Grey-crowned Babbler would have been common in the local bush when this Red Box was a sapling. Not all is gone – I was cheered by the sight of a pair of Scarlet Robins looking dazzling in the dry bush on a gloomy afternoon.

SR1

Male Scarlet Robin

SR2

Female Scarlet Robin …

SR3

… revealed!