Author Archives: Geoff Park

Book launch: Wattles of the Mount Alexander Region

Wattles of the Mount Alexander Region, another wonderful FOBIF publication, will be officially launched this Saturday 28 April 2018.

The book is published by Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests in association with Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club and Connecting Country. George Broadway (President, Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club) will launch the book in the Phee Broadway Theatre Foyer, Mechanics Lane, Castlemaine, on from 11 am.

Beautifully authored by Bernard Slattery, Ern Perkins and Bronwyn Silver, Wattles of the Mount Alexander Region will make a terrific companion to other FOBIF publications on two very different subjects – eucalypts and mosses. I love these publications … they have broad appeal to a curious and enthusiastic audience, further building an appreciation of ‘the local’ in central Victoria.

Gold-dust Wattle by Bronwyn Silver

A sample of one of the pages in the new guide … this one shows the flowers, phyllodes and seed-pods of Gold-dust Wattle.

If you can’t make the launch, the book will be available from Stoneman’s Bookroom from 28 April. You will also be able to buy it online from the FOBIF website. Cost is $10.

The turquoise-lidded honeyeater

Often first detected by its distinctive, far-carrying call, but when finally seen it is a striking and memorable sight.

The Black-chinned Honeyeater Melithreptus gularis, as described in The Australian Bird Guide (2017).

Black-chinned Honeyeater, South German Track, 22nd April 2018

On most visits to the local bush I hear Black-chinned Honeyeaters, but the strength of its vocalisations betray its numbers. It’s an elusive and enigmatic bird, much less common than its congeners, the White-naped and Brown-headed Honeyeaters, which are reliable visitors to water – along with the usual Fuscous and Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters. This afternoon I watched, from the corner of my eye, a Black-chinned Honeyeater arrive at the dam on South German Track  and make a number of quick dashes to bathe in the centre of the puddle. A couple of images were quickly deleted … out of focus against a garish background.

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Then, just as I was about to depart, two more birds arrived – this time at a favourable perch, and lingered sufficiently to display their full glory. The most noticeable feature of the Black-chinned Honeyeater are the eyelids – a brilliant turquoise!

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There is a northern Australian subspecies of the Black-chinned Honeyeater – known as the Golden-backed Honeyeater M.g.laetior. Intriguingly the birds pictured above appear to be ‘golden backed’.

Visitors from the north perhaps? I think not … just a trick of the late afternoon light.

Reference: The Australian Bird Guide by Menkhorst, Rogers, Clarke, Davies, Marsack and Franklin, CSIRO Publishing (2017).

Golden hour

While outshone somewhat by a quartet of Hooded Robins these creatures were also a feature of a golden hour along South German Track on Friday evening. I was amazed also to hear the calls of a Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo to the west near Mia Mia Track. A single bird appeared briefly, heading east, but eluded the camera. I can’t recall seeing this species deep in the Muckleford bush before.

Peaceful Dove, South German Track, 20th April 2018

Male Red-rumped Parrot

Swamp Wallaby

Yellow-tufted and Fuscous Honeyeater

One, two, three … four!

Not that many years back I was gravely concerned for the future of one of our charming local woodland birds, the Hooded Robin.

When we first came to the district in the mid-1980s they could be found reliably in low numbers at various sites, such as the Rise and Shine and Sandon bush, where a number of family groups held territories. During the late 1990s numbers appeared to drop significantly and they disappeared from most local places. Happily the situation seems to have reversed and I now see (or hear) this species on many outings, counting at least a dozen local places where they can be encountered.

Nevertheless, they will always be at lower densities than other local robins and capturing an image is usually tricky. How good then to last evening when I managed to snap three simultaneously on the same perch – a boldly coloured male and two other individuals … possibly the adult female and an immature. A fourth bird, also immature was perched nearby. Immature Hooded Robins tend to be darker around the face and throat with well-defined white streaks.

Hooded Robins, South German Track, 20th April 2018

Male Hooded Robin

Possibly the adult female

One of the immatures

A lucky encounter in the ‘golden hours’

What is especially pleasing is that there appears to have been a very successful breeding event last summer, during what was a very dry period. Look out for this wonderful little bird – it’s a beauty!

Where did that hour go?

Bird photography is a challenge in low light and the switch from daylight saving to ‘regular time’ has taken me by surprise.

Nonetheless, it can still be rewarding, as there is often a flurry of activity just before dusk as diurnal species prepare for the night ahead. My favourite dam on South German Track was full of action last evening as a host of different species arrived for final drink before settling.

Common Bronzewing, South German Track, 18th April 2018

Pacific Black Duck

Red-rumped Parrot ‘showing off’

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Willie Wagtail

Making it look easy!

The art of fishing has always been something of a mystery for me. Lot’s of time sitting with a rod, pleasantly, but fruitlessly … much to the mirth of my family.

This Great Egret makes the task look deceptively easy.

Great Egret, Cairn Curran, 16th April 2018

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A ‘cool’ homecoming

While it’s always a privilege to travel to exotic places, it’s also nice to be home.

From my limited observation Sri Lanka is the ‘home’ of the egret – Little, Intermediate, Cattle and Great Egrets in abundance across the island. It was fitting then that a couple of Great Egrets were almost the first birds I spotted on arriving back in Newstead yesterday.

It was nice also to see a lone Royal Spoonbill and evidence of Red-kneed Dotterel breeding, with a juvenile in the company of adults at Joyce’s Creek.

Great Egret, Cairn Curran, 16th April 2018

Australian Pelicans, Yellow-billed Spoonbill and Royal Spoonbill … Eurasian Coot in background

Red-kneed Dotterel (adult)

Red-kneed Dotterel (juvenile)