Author Archives: Geoff Park

Just add water …

What a difference a drop of rain makes!

As mentioned previously it hasn’t been a particularly wet year, but just enough to encourage a few local freshwater meadows to spring into life.

Just how birds such as the Black-winged Stilt find these oases is a mystery to me  … clearly not to the birds.

Black-winged Stilt, Moolort Plains @ Campbelltown, 19th August 2019

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White-necked Heron and Yellow-billed Spoonbill

White-necked Heron

Local variations

Female Red-capped Robins are always less spectacular than their male counterparts, however, some individuals (such as the one pictured below) can be striking. This female, found singing sweetly near Spring Hill Track yesterday, is possibly the most colourful one I’ve seen. The crown was a bright, rusty-red with a few splashes of red on the breast. Most females lack the red colouration – locally I’d say about 30-40% of females have some colour but not usually as bold as yesterday’s find.

Female Red-capped Robin, Spring Hill Track, 17th August 2019

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Yellow-footed Antechinus near Bells’s Lane Track

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List: Crested Shrike-tit, Eastern Yellow Robin, White-throated Treecreeper, Little Lorikeet, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Musk Lorikeet, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, White-naped Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, Eastern Rosella, Crimson Rosella, Little Eagle, Grey Shrike-thrush, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Weebill, Striated Thornbill, Yellow Thornbill, Varied Sittella.

In broad daylight

The Southern Boobook is, of course, a nocturnal bird. Seeing one in broad daylight is unusual, unless you happen to come across a roosting individual and in these cases they are usually secreted in a hollow or deep shade.

The bird pictured below was found by the roadside on the outskirts of Newstead earlier this week (thanks for the call Dean!). Perhaps it had survived an overnight encounter with a vehicle, but by the time I arrived it was looking reasonably healthy and able to fly strongly towards a safer home in the Muckleford bush.

Southern Boobook, Newstead, 12th August 2019

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Co-incident

adjective:
1 – occurring together in space or time.

2 – in agreement or harmony.

Pretty much sums up the following collection, assembled yesterday in the Mia Mia. The male Scarlet Robin foraged on the woodland floor in front of me, with the Common Bronzewing perched above. Scented Sundew Drosera aberrans and Rough Wattle Acacia aspera – yet to peak, provided a lovely complement.

Rough Wattle, Mia Mia Track, 11th August 2019

Male Scarlet Robin

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Male Common Bronzewing

Scented Sundew, Red Box and Chocolate Lily

A Black Swan event … sort of

The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an ancient saying that presumed black swans did not exist – a saying that became reinterpreted to teach a different lesson after black swans were discovered in the wild.

The theory was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain:

  • The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history,  science, finance, and technology.
  • The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities).
  • The psychological biases that blind people, both individually and collectively, to uncertainty and to a rare event’s massive role in historical affairs.

Last weekend I visited a lovely shallow, freshwater wetland on the Moolort Plains, at the southern end of the plains near Campbelltown. Two things surprised me, firstly that the wetland was close to full (it’s been an ‘average’ winter but not especially wet), and secondly, that there were five active Black Swan nests scattered across the wetland. This is a great result and demonstrates the ability of this species to breed opportunistically when conditions and habitat are suitable.

Black Swan on nest, near White’s Swamp on the Moolort Plains, 4th August 2019

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Black Swan sentinel

On the cusp

As always there are interesting matters ‘afoot’ in the local bush. Flame Robins have graced us with their presence over the past few months – over coming weeks they’ll head south to their spring breeding grounds. Enjoy the last few sightings of this glorious species while you can. As recently noted, Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters are nest-building. This species is pretty adaptable when it comes to nesting sites – the location shown in the images below, a cleft between a bark strip and trunk, contrasts with the recent nest secreted amongst Cassinia and Hedge Wattle at the Rise and Shine.

Flame Robin, Mia Mia Road, 3rd August 2019

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater – nest-building in the Mia Mia, 3rd August 2019

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The power of White Box

White Box Eucalyptus albens is a local eucalypt that is often overlooked.

A magnificent tall tree when mature, veteran specimens can flower profusely to provide a rich winter resource for nectar-feeding birds, especially honeyeaters and lorikeets. The best stand that I’m aware of close to Newstead is along Bell’s Lane Track in the Mia Mia. Yesterday afternoon it was being visited by small numbers of Musk, Little and Purple-crowned Lorikeets. They were showing interest in a number of hollows – with some competition evident between the larger Musk Lorikeets and the dainty ‘purple-crowns’. Purple-crowned Lorikeets are uncommon locally, trailing both Musk and Little Lorikeets in numbers. Hopefully the retention of large trees in both the forest and adjoining private land will improve their future prospects.

Little Lorikeet feeding on White Box flowers, Bell’s Lane Track, 3rd August 2019

Purple-crowned Lorikeet feeding on White Box

Purple-crowned Lorikeet inspecting a potential nest site

As were Musk Lorikeets

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Pre-nuptial behaviour in Purple-crowned Lorikeets

Also observed: Blue-winged Parrot (flying through), White-browed Babbler, Crested Shrike-tit, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater (nest-building). Numerous Fan-tailed Cuckoos and Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoos.