Author Archives: Geoff Park

Plains sunset

A wonderful sunset last evening on the Moolort Plains.

Tarrengower from the Moolort Plains, 24th June 2020

Red Gum wetland #1

Red Gum wetland #2

The view west towards Mount Moolort

PS: I heard my first Fan-tailed Cuckoo for the season on 22 June (centre of town) – at least six weeks early … perhaps an overwintering bird? Also a small flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos – heard but not seen yesterday morning.

A winter bird

While they can be seen locally in all seasons, for me at least, the White-eared Honeyeater is a winter bird.

It is found throughout the box-ironbark country, but also further north in dry mallee environments as well as tall forests along the Great Divide and all the way to the coast. Often regarded as sedentary I certainly see it in greater numbers during the cooler months, perhaps birds from further south enjoying a winter break!

It is a curious species and will often join mixed-species feeding flocks of insectivores – the individual pictured here was one of a trio with a group of Brown and Buff-rumped Thornbills, a Grey Fantail and some Weebills that had congregated in a patch of Hedge Wattle.

White-eared Honeyeater, Clydesdale, 20th June 2020

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Brown Thornbill in Hedge Wattle

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Time on …

The last few minutes before dusk often produce the most marvellous light.

Just so last evening at Joyce’s Creek – the sun appeared momentarily from behind gathering storm clouds – minutes later it dropped below the horizon.

Australian Pelicans, Joyce’s Creek, 19th June 2020

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Well, I’ll be blowed

After years of missing out on Grey Butcherbirds locally it was terrific to finally see one recently – courtesy of Darryl O’Bryan.

Lo and behold, on Sunday morning another one turned up … this time in our home garden!

I first spotted it sitting on a verandah table from whence it proceeded to feed on some ripening pomegranate fruits nearby. The resident garden birds – honeyeaters and wrens especially, became quite upset and it was ultimately driven off by a Red Wattlebird.

What is causing this ‘influx’ of Grey Butcherbirds? I suspect this is a prime example of how chance is a key factor in bird observations – they have been here all the time in low numbers and patchily distributed across the landscape. Occasionally we bump into each other!

Grey Butcherbird (immature), Wyndham Street Newstead, 14th June 2020

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The reaction of one of the resident New Holland Honeyeaters

Note the distinctive hooked bill

The grey-brown upper parts indicate an immature bird

Clearly a different individual to the one seen recently at Pengally Lane

Sittellas in the garden

Varied Sittellas are common in the bushland surrounding Newstead.

They are, however, infrequent visitors to the centre of town – generally only seen outside the breeding season.

A small party passed through our home garden briefly last Friday – one of them appeared to snare a midge from the bark of a Casuarina and then offer it (unsuccessfully) one of its companions. See Patrick’s recent post for some close ups of these tiny insects.

Varied Sittellas, Wyndham Street Newstead, 12th June 2020

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The orange wing panel …

and upturned bill is a distinctive feature of this species.

Three, two, one …

Hooded Robins are one of my favourite woodland birds. I was delighted to encounter a trio along Gully Road at Welshmans Reef at the weekend.

The party consisted of two ‘adult’ males and an adult female. Hooded Robins are known to form monogamous pairs but it’s not uncommon  for there to be one or more ‘helpers’ that assist the parents raise the nestlings.

They are considered to be facultative cooperative breeders – the involvement of helpers occurs under some conditions but not under others. This behaviour is very common amongst Australian birds. I’m not aware of any genetic or banding studies of Hooded Robins but it is likely that more often than not this involves related individuals – off spring from previous breeding events.

On closer inspection one of the males (the central bird in the first image below) lacks the full hangman’s hood, suggesting that it is likely to be a sub-adult – presumably one of last season’s success stories.

Hooded Robins, Gully Road Welshmans Reef, 8th June 2020

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Female (at left) and male Hooded Robin

Male Hooded Robin

Non-nondescript

Nondescriptlacking distinctive features or characteristics, is a word that I have sometimes erroneously applied to the Jacky Winter.

This small, woodland flycatcher is anything but, in spite of its rather uniform grey plumage – slightly darker above than below.

Watching a Jacky Winter in action is always enjoyable. They can be quite tame and allow a close approach as they perch low on fallen wood, branches or rocks from whence they dart in search of insects. They will quite happily catch low-flying insects or terrestrial prey. This is the first one that I’ve ‘captured’ with a centipede – a highlight of the weekend.

Jacky Winter, Newstead, 7th June 2020

An awkward pose … but it does at least highlight the white outer tail feathers of the Jacky Winter, a diagnostic feature

Snaring a centipede

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Golden days

I’ve been enjoying Golden Whistlers since the first ones turned up in mid April, on their annual downhill wintering movement into the Newstead area. Up until yesterday my close-up sightings were mainly immature and female individuals.

Golden Whistler (adult male), Newstead area, 7th June 2020

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Live streaming

Australian Shelducks are well-known for their V-formation flying as well as their tendency to form long, often ragged flight skeins – occasionally numbering hundreds of individuals.

At present they are the most abundant duck on Cairn Curran, with small numbers of Grey Teal, Wood Duck and Pacific Black Duck keeping them company.

Australian Shelducks @ Joyce’s Creek, 5th June 2020

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Australian Pelicans

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Female Australian Darter

A darter in the mirror

Late yesterday afternoon Cairn Curran was like a mirror.

This female Australasian Darter ‘shattered’ the illusion in spectacular fashion.

Australasian Darter, Cairn Curran Reservoir, 5th June 2020

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