Southern Boobook @ Welshmans Reef

This magnificent Southern Boobook turned up in Welshmans Reef on Saturday morning.

The following series of poses highlight why this species belongs to the hawk-owl tribe (Ninoxini) within the family of typical owls (Strigidae). Unlike the other local Ninox species (Powerful Owl and Barking Owl), where the male is larger than the female, the sexes are of similar size.

In recent times the Southern Boobook (Ninox boobook) has been separated taxonomically from the Morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae). The latter is largely a Tasmanian bird with small numbers visiting mainland Victoria during autumn-winter, but mainly found coastally. The Morepork has bright yellow eyes and a spotted forehead – it is actually more closely related to the New Zealand Boobook than it is to our local Southern Boobook.

The bird pictured here is quite rufous toned … many of the field guides depict darker tones.

Southern Boobook, Welshmans Reef, 24th October 2020

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Many thanks to local resident, Lachlan McKinnon, for alerting me to its presence.

Grand Final Day highlight … of sorts

Not exactly the Grand Final day highlight I was hoping for … but beggars can’t be choosers!

This Painted Honeyeater, sporting portentous colours, was spotted at Welshmans Reef late yesterday afternoon. A woodland migrant to the box-ironbark country Victoria, this species is listed as Vulnerable in Victoria. It’s a mistletoe specialist … but more on that when the veil of disappointment is lifted.

Painted Honeyeater, Welshmans Reef, 24th October 2020

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There and back … always in October

I’ve been tardy with this post.

A text from Janet, at 6.15pm on Wednesday 14th October, alerted me to the arrival of Rainbow Bee-eaters back at one of their favourite haunts – the Newstead Cemetery. Coincidentally … or perhaps not … I was on Mia Mia Track at the time, listening to a small flock of White-browed Woodswallows high overhead.

It was a warmish evening with a gentle northerly, perfect conditions and timing for the the reappearance of these wonderful migrants. Here are the arrival dates (approximate) of Rainbow Bee-eaters back in the Newstead district over the past decade or so … no obvious pattern, but I’ll look again at the climate records for this period.

  • 2010 – 27th October
  • 2011 – 22nd October
  • 2012 – 19th October
  • 2013 – 13th October
  • 2014 – 21st October
  • 2015 – 5th October
  • 2016 – 16th October
  • 2017 – 29th October
  • 2018 – 27th October
  • 2019 – 23rd October
  • 2020 – 14th October

Male Rainbow Bee-eater, Newstead Cemetery, 21st October 2020

Female Rainbow Bee-eater

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A gentle request … The Newstead Cemetery has become a favourite for birders and photographers in recent years.  The site is surrounded by private farm land. Please show respect when visiting.

As spring unfolds…

With the warmer weather and many flowers emerging, the variety of insects in our yard at Strangways is increasing dramatically.

Leaf Beetles are very plentiful. One I found climbing on the flower buds of a Red-anther Wallaby Grass.

And a very green beetle on a Golden Wattle.

Leaf Beetle on Golden Wattle

And Ladybird Beetles are also around in numbers.

Small Transverse Ladybird Beetle (Coccinella transversalis) on Shiny Everlasting

With the flowers out, it’s also a big time for native bees. Blue flowers are particularly favoured and a Digger’s Speedwell is certainly pulling them in. Tiny Homalictus Sweat Bees (about 3mm long) get themselves right into the flower and seem to bite on the stamens. This one wasn’t going to let go no matter how much I twisted the flower around to get a good view.

Homalictus bee

On one of the many flowering Shiny Everlastings (Xerochrysum viscosum) I found another bee in the Lasioglossum genus of Sweat Bees- a Chilolictus . I often find that once an insect has found a flower that it really likes and starts getting stuck into the pollen, they will often sit there without regard to my very close camera and big flash diffuser. This little bee was totally immersed – literally.

Chilalictus immersed in Everlasting flower
Eventually getting out, covered in pollen.

This particular bee just crawled off the flower and onto my hand. It seemed quite happy on my skin, perhaps enjoying a bit of sweat, living up to its name.

Sweat Bees like sweat!

Geocorid bugs, or Big-eyed Bugs are also making an appearance on grasses and flowers. This one was on the flower buds of a Red-anther Wallaby Grass.

Big-eyed Bug

Ants are also into flowers. Wrinkle ants (Rhytidoponera) seem very fond of the Shiny Everlastings.

Rhytidoponera ant

 

Many things …

… are happening in nature at present.

On the other side of the river, on Pound Lane, Tawny Frogmouth chicks are growing steadily. In these images the male is sitting – one fluffy youngster obvious, the other obscured.

Meanwhile in Wyndham Street we’ve been visited by Sacred Kingfishers, my only recollection of them this close to home in 20 years. A single bird has been calling for at least a week and was joined by another yesterday afternoon. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Rainbow Bee-eaters arrived about a week ago … stay tuned for tomorrow’s post.

Tawny Frogmouth with nestlings … two in fact, Pound Lane Newstead, 20th October 2020

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Sacred Kingfisher in Wyndham Street

Shine on …

A wonderful display of spring wildflowers at the Rise and Shine at present … these images are from a brief visit last weekend.

Please let me know if I’ve committed an identification faux pas or two!

Milkmaids Burchardia umbellata, Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve, 18th October 2020

Salmon Sun-orchid Thelymitra rubra

Murnong (Yam daisy) Microseris walteri … setting seed

Scented Sun-orchid Thelymitra megcalyptra

Brown-clubbed Spider-Orchid Caladenia phaeoclavia

Showy Parrot-pea Dillwynia sericea

Hooded Caladenia Caladenia cucullata

Grey Fantail and Hedge Wattle

It’s a good year for Grey Fantails … their gentle calls can be heard in the home garden, around town and in the surrounding bushland.

These dainty flycatchers make a most exquisite nest – a shallow cup of cobwebs and grass, often with an elongated tail.

I was following a Yellow-faced Honeyeater into a clump off Hedge Wattle when I spotted this nest. Moments later one of the adults arrived to sit.

Grey Fantail, Rotunda Park Newstead, 11th October 2020

Grey Fantail nest in Hedge Wattle

The bird returns …

… and settles.

A small mystery in the flower garden

As a wonderful spring rolls on a new suite of wildflowers has emerged to dominate the landscape, albeit for a short time only.

At present Chocolate Lilies Arthropodium strictum and Shiny Everlastings Xerochrysum viscosum are providing a stunning backdrop … in this case for a foraging Jacky Winter.

Whenever you think you can predict what a bird might do next your preconceptions are likely to be overturned. As I watched this individual chasing insects from a series of wooden perches it surprised me by displaying a behaviour that I’ve never previously witnessed. It moved from a low twig to perch on a lichen covered rock, a familiar move, but then nestled close to press its underparts on the surface. At the end of a cool, but hardly cold day, I can think of no other reason apart from the fact that the bird was soaking up the warmth of the rock. It then moved in turn to another rock and then another, each time ‘rock bathing’ for at least a minute, before it commenced hunting again as dusk approached.

I’d be interested to know if any readers have observed a Jacky Winter exhibiting this behaviour.

Chocolate Lily, Green Gully, 12th October 2020

Sticky Everlasting

Jacky Winter … rock bathing

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Mistletoebirds at Green Gully

Mistletoebirds are active and vocal at present.

I was alerted on the weekend to a breeding pair at Green Gully.

Local resident Paul, an astute observer, has thoughtfully set out a small basket of superfine merino wool that the female Mistletoe bird is happily relocating into a nearby nest, suspended in a small Grey Box sapling. The wool has been used to form the superstructure of the nest, while spent Golden Wattle flowers have been incorporated with other material such as cobwebs to make this marvellous home.

As we stood observing the ‘comings and goings’ a flock of five Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos passed overhead, travelling north-east … almost certainly the same party seen the previous day in the middle of the Moolort Plains.

Mistletoebird (male), Green Gully, 11th October 2020

Female Mistletoebird gathering nest material

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The almost complete nest, suspended in a Grey Box sapling

The female shaping the nest … the ‘escape hatch’ will be sewn together next

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos … from the plains to woodland

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A canny hunter and climbing the Austrostipas

On a recent nocturnal excursion into our front yard, a slightly odd little tuft on a Drooping Sheoak needle caught my eye. It looked just like a little bit of debris, but on close inspection, I saw that it was one of the most curious looking little predators, a Lacewing larva.

Lacewing larva

These little hunters carry tiny pebbles and bits of decaying vegetation on their backs for camouflage. You can see the mighty pincers on this little one on the right hand side. Aphids and other small invertebrates beware!

Elsewhere in our yard I found an adult Lacewing – I don’t know if they’re the same species, but the two images give an impression of the incredible transformation this little one will undergo.

Adult Brown Lacewing

Spear Grasses (Austrostipa) are flowering at our place at the moment. Whilst I will find their sharp-pointed, spring-curled-tailed seeds annoying as they collect pin-like in my socks and trousers in a month or two, when they are flowering, they are so beautiful.

Spear Grasses flowering with Black-anther Flax-lilies

They also look very beautiful through the macro lens

Spear Grass flowering up close

I’ve seen a few small beetles on the flower stalks, mostly dark and only a few millimetres long. On one tussock, I found quite a number of slightly larger beetles, about 5 mm long.

Climbing a Spear Grass leaf

As they climbed and also descended, I got quite a good view of their undersides.

Back down again

This was the only Austrostipa tussock that I saw these beetles on and when they got to the top of a leaf, they seemed to get very confused about its ending, which made me think they really had intended to climb something different, perhaps something with a decent leaf to eat.

Getting to the top
The substrate seems to run out
And what now?