Author Archives: Geoff Park

Team pelican

Australian Pelicans are great team players.

Anyone who has spent time watching pelicans is likely to have witnessed their team efforts for catching fish. Often they will form an upside down ‘V’ or half-circle, which then transforms into a ring as they encircle a hapless school of fish. At Cairn Curran I’ve seen up to thirty birds do this – what a wonderful sight to watch the whole flock synchronise its motion as they feast on their favourite tucker.

Australian Pelicans fishing @ Cairn Curran, 6th December 2019

II

III

Arriving to join the team

Not just a mudlark …

The Australian Magpie-lark Grallina cyanoleuca is something of a bogey bird for me – I’ve struggled to get good local images of what is a relatively common bird.

Neither a magpie or a lark, the bird affectionally known as the Mudlark (it builds a nest from mud) or Peewee (for obvious onomatopoetic reasons) is actually a large, aberrant flycatcher, more closely related to the monarch flycatchers than its namesakes.

Australian Magpie-larks typically nest close to water where a ready supply of soft-mud is shaped into a deep feather-lined bowl, usually placed in a shady spot on a horizontal branch. This nest is overhanging the Loddon River, in a River Red-gum of course, with the female in attendance when I found it yesterday evening.

Australian Magpie-lark, Loddon River @ Newstead, 4th December 2019

Then female arriving at the nest

Male Magpie-larks have a black throat and white eyebrow

Sitting pretty

Sacred Kingfisher nearby

Stalking in the shallows

Each time I’ve visited Joyce’s Creek @ Cairn Curran recently there has been a different bird species to enjoy. Last evening a Great Egret was stalking through the shallows on the eastern edge of the inlet.

Again, I also observed – Black-tailed Native-hen, Hardhead, Grey Teal, Pacific Black Duck, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Darter, Black-fronted Dotterel and Australian Pelican, Whistling Kite, Collared Sparrowhawk and Great Cormorant. Freckled Ducks and Glossy Ibis appear to have moved on … at least for now.

PS: Click on the images below to enlarge.

Great Egret, Joyce’s Creek, 3rd December 2019

II

III

IV

V

Sweet songsters

At this time of year the sweet song of the Mistletoebird is a constant feature of the garden soundscape. We have a number of Yellow Gums on the block, with an ample supply of mistletoe berries to attract a regular stream of these beautiful songsters. Yesterday only males were about suggesting that their partners may be incubating nests in nearby gardens.

Male Mistletoebird, Wyndham Street Newstead, 1st December 2019

II

III

Attracted to its reflection in a side mirror

Grey Shrike-thrush … another sweet songster

The river narrows

Just a few metres downstream of the Punt Road ford the Loddon River changes into a narrow meander, fringed with a variety of aquatic plants. This spot is hidden from casual passers-by but well worth a visit.

Full of interesting water plants, the area provides wonderful habitat for birds especially, at this time of year, Australian Reed-warblers. They perch sideways on the Common Reed as they forage for a variety of insects – ladybirds, mayflies, stonefly nymphs and others, amongst the lush riparian vegetation.

Water Ribbons and Water Plantain, Loddon River @ Newstead, 30th November 2019

Water Ribbons Triglochin procera

Flecked Flat-sedge Cyperus gunnii …I think!

II

Water Plantain Alisma plantago-aquatica

Australian Reed-warbler

II

III

IV

V

Common Reed Phragamites australis

Hedge saltbush and wrens

Hedge Saltbush Rhagodia spinescens is a ‘good doer’ in our home garden, so much so that it requires regular heavy pruning to stop it smothering other plants.

Whilst not indigenous to the district (it occurs naturally further north), it’s a wonderful plant for small birds – especially Superb Fairy-wrens. The plant is full of insect life and the seed fall regularly attracts Red-rumped Parrots and rosellas. The dense foliage also makes excellent nesting sites for wrens and other small birds that inhabit our garden, such as White-browed scrub-wrens.

Female and male Superb fairy-wrens – on Hedge Saltbush in the home garden @ Newstead, 27th November 2019

II

Male with tucker

Not sure where these two fit into the clan!

I’ve been queried a number of times recently about the raptors being seen in the centre of town. Black Kites are now well and truly resident in the district and are seen most days cruising low over Newstead. They are keen on rats, mice and young rabbits. The deeply forked tail separates the Black Kite from other local raptors of similar size, such as the Little Eagle, Whistling Kite and Square-tailed Kites that are also occasionally seen at this time of year.

Black Kite, Newstead, 27th November 2019

II

A ‘rabbit-hunter’ in the making

I’ve been watching a pair of Little Eagles over recent weeks.

A relatively common local raptor, this species can found throughout local forested areas and occasionally in more open country, though seldom far from remnant bush. They are a renowned predator of rabbits and will often nest close to where there is likely to be a good ‘supply’ of their favourite meal.

At least one small eaglet is visible in my recent images of the nesting pair. I’ll check in on process again soon.

Little Eagle incubating, 15th November 2019

II

Adult with eaglet, 23rd November 2019

II

III

IV

One of the adults cruising over the nest site