A journey around the Moolort Plains yesterday threatened to be dominated by Brown Falcons. They are a nice raptor, but not in the same league as a number of rarer plains inhabitatnts.
The first four images below are all Brown Falcons – all different individuals seen as I did a long loop from Cairn Curran, through Baringhup West and then back to Joyce’s Creek via Cotswold.
It was only on the final leg that I got some welcome variety – a pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles over Long Swamp (perhaps shuttling from Cairn Curran to Tullaroop Reservoir), a few Nankeen Kestrels and single Black-shouldered Kite. Finally, just west of Joyce’s Creek a scatter of Crested Pigeons drew my gaze to a Peregrine Falcon hunting along the basalt escarpment above the waterway. The camera just managed to capture a distant image as the bird departed north at ‘peregrine velocity’!
Brown Falcon near Picnic Point, 15th June 2019
Brown Falcon #2 @ Baringhup West
Brown Falcon #3 @ Boundary Gully
Brown Falcon #4 @ Moolort
Peregrine Falcon @ Joyce’s Creek
Birds are known to occasionally eat wood ash and charcoal, materials that are rich in potassium and calcium. The Black Honeyeater, recently observed locally over summer, is renowned for eating charcoal and ash. After a little research I turned up a paper from 1965 (M. Baldwin, Emu 64 (3) p.208) where the observer noted a number of species consuming charcoal; including Fairy Martin, Dusky Woodswallow, Banded Finch and Zebra Finch.
Until yesterday I had never witnessed this behaviour from an Eastern Rosella. The bird pictured below was feeding with its mate on the ground around the remnants of an old fire when it picked up a small piece of charcoal and proceeded to nibble gently as I watched on from nearby.
Eastern Rosella, Clarke Lane Newstead, 10th June 2019
Loquats Eriobotrya japonica are an ‘old-fashioned’ fruit tree, often grown in home gardens but, at least in my experience, the fruits are of more interest to birds than people!
A few trees can be found flowering over winter in the gardens around town, the flowers providing a useful source of nectar for honeyeaters. Yellow-faced Honeyeaters are partial to feeding on loquat flowers, adroitly working their way in and around the tight clusters in search of open flowers to sip on.
Yellow-faced Honeyeater & loquat, Wyndham Street Newstead, 9th June 2019
Every winter the gardens around Newstead are home to a familiar array of resident and migrant species. Red Wattlebirds and White-browed Scrubwrens are resident year round, while Eastern Spinebills are only with us for the cooler months. Yellow-faced Honeyeaters tend to come and go – they are certainly more common over winter but can turn up at any time of year.
Red Wattlebird feeding on ornamental Yellow Gum, Wyndham Street Newstead, 8th June 2019
I’ve commented many times on the role that exotic trees, especially in town, play in the evolving ecology of our landscapes.
As we move into winter the various types of ash Fraxinus sp. begin to flower, a short lived burst of activity, but important as a source of nutrition for lorikeets.
The church-yard next door is home to a number of Claret and Golden Ash trees and over recent days Musk Lorikeets have been gathering noisily several times each day to feast on the flowers.
Musk Lorikeet, Wyndham Street Newstead, 8th June 2019
The country changes is quite a pronounced way as you head directly south of Newstead. Around Yandoit the vegetation blends from typical box-ironbark species, such as Grey Box and Yellow Gum, to a mix of Messmate, Candlebark and peppermint. This transition coincides with some different landscape features, such as the scoria cone of Yandoit Hill … a great spot to observe raptors like the Brown Falcon featured below.
Yandoit Hill with Mount Franklin beyond, 1st June 2019
Brown Falcon, Yandoit Hills, 1st June 2019
Yandoit Hill with Drooping Sheoak
Last autumn the Olive Olea europaea in our front yard was dripping with fat, juicy olives. This year the pickings are much slimmer – just a handful of miniature berries.
Still, plenty enough to attract a hungry flock of Pied Currawongs.
Olives are a ‘controversial’ plant in some quarters. They are a serious environmental weed in some parts of Australia, the Adelaide Hills for example, but have been planted widely throughout central Victoria … and almost all of us enjoy local olive oil!
I come across the occasional wilding Olive in the local bush.
Pied Currawong, Wyndham Street Newstead, 25th May 2019