Author Archives: Geoff Park

Down to earth

Each year when they arrive we first see them high up, performing their aerial acrobatics in search of insects as they display their skills to prospective partners. Over the next couple of weeks they move progressively earthwards, cautiously at first to perch on the breeding grounds, making brief forays to the soil as they reacquaint themselves with their territories. Then they move to the actual nesting sites – to investigate the tunnels vacated in previous years, where generations of Rainbow Bee-eaters have been raised to help complete the (hopefully) endless cycle.

Rainbow Bee-eater, Newstead Cemetery, 5th November 2019

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A welcome drop

What a welcome drop of rain over the weekend!

After a couple of days in the mid 30s we have received 29mm of rainfall since Saturday. I think the Brown Treecreepers are happy – this one was spotted collecting nesting material (looks like wool or fur) and visiting its nest site in the Mia Mia. Sacred Kingfishers could also be heard calling from a number of areas nearby.

Brown Treecreeper with nesting material, Mia Mia Track area, 1st November 2019

After leaving the nest site – a hollow in a low stump

Sacred Kingfisher

White-faced Heron hunting for insects after the rain

Gatherings

Woodswallows have been gathering along Mia Mia Road on a consistent basis over the past few weeks.

Three of the four locally occurring species can be seen at present – White-browed Woodswallows are the most numerous, along with smaller numbers of Masked and Dusky Woodswallows (the latter two species are pictured here). Masked Woodswallows are sexually dimorphic, the females looking like a paler version of the male with a faint grey mask – in Dusky Woodswallows the sexes are identical.

Dusky Woodswallow, Mia Mia Road, 3rd November 2019

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Male Masked Woodswallow, Mia Mia Road, 21st November 2019

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Female Masked Woodswallow

Excellent progress

The frogmouth family at Pound Lane is making excellent progress.

Two healthy nestlings are starting to lose some of their fluffy white feathers and are now sitting proudly in the nest under the watchful eye of the parents – the male is in attendance in this sequence of images.

Tawny Frogmouth family, Pound Lane Newstead, 30th October 2019

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Fur not feathers

I’ve had a few recent reports of Koalas around Newstead. Local residents often mention hearing their bellowing calls, which can be a disconcerting when heard for the first time close up.

Dean MacLaren spotted this magnificent adult male during the week on Pound Lane. Safely ensconced in a small Grey Box, it enabled us to get some nice shots as it looked into the afternoon sunshine.

Koala, Pound Lane Newstead, 30th October 2019

Koalas are thinly distributed throughout the box-ironbark landscape and are often encountered in and around towns. The males tend to move around more than the smaller females as they search for suitable feeding trees.

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Compulsory reading …

I’m an avid reader of the Guardian – I suspect quite a few blog readers share my enthusiasm.

Earlier in the week an article  [originally published in The Conversation] with the troubling title ‘Australia’s beloved native birds are disappearing – and the cause is clear’, easily caught my attention.

The story summarises some recent work, by a group of highly respected researchers from the University of Queensland, on how habitat loss has affected multiple Australian bird species. The research team have developed a measure, the loss index (sounds somewhat innocent but it’s not!), to communicate how long-term, incremental loss of native vegetation is impacting on Australian birds – not just the rare and charismatic species, but also those (such as the Rufous Songlark and Rainbow Bee-eater pictured below) that don’t quite make it to the threatened species lists. Reading the article left me feeling deeply troubled …

… across Victoria, and into South Australia and New South Wales, more than 60% of 262 native birds have each lost more than half of their original natural habitat. The vast majority of these species are not formally recognised as being threatened with extinction

… not just because of the alarming record of insidious loss, but because it reinforces the personal (and often long-term) observations of local birders, naturalists, farmers and other landholders across the landscapes of Australia, about what exactly is going on with our unique biodiversity. I would urge you all to read the article and ponder, like I am at present, about what more we can do.

Male Rufous Songlark, Welsmans Reef, 27th October 2019

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Male Rainbow Bee-eater

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A fairy-wren nest

We have a number of local families of Superb Fairy-wrens.

Living in small family groups of 4-5 birds the numbers seem pretty healthy and they are obviously breeding successfully among the dense garden shrubs around home and next door.

Gordon, our eagle-eyed neighbour, has a good track record of finding the odd nest as he spends some quality time in the garden. The nest pictured below was in a typical site, hidden in a low shrub with nearby cover offering a number of secret pathways for the parents (and helpers) to safely use on their visits.

Interestingly one of the nearby shrubs is a yellow daisy – adult male Superb Fairy-wrens are renowned for courting females with yellow petals plucked from flowers such as this.

Female Superb Fairy-wren, Wyndham Street Newstead, 27th October 2019

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The carefully hidden nest – with three eggs