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
Black Swan sentinel
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
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
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.
I went searching for gold today … and found it at the Rise and Shine.
Golden Wattle commenced flowering a week ago locally (at least that’s when I first noticed it) and I was keen to capture its early blooms. I was a little surprised to find Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters making nests.
Does this bird ever rest?
The species was nesting in April this year – at the peak of a dry spell in the local bush. Now wonder they are so abundant!
Golden Wattle, Rise and Shine, 27th July 2019
Yellow Tufted Honeyeater nest-building amongst Hedge Wattle and Drooping Cassinia
Species observed: Fan-tailed Cuckoo (heard calling – first for the season), White-browed Babbler, Brown Treecreeper, Fuscous Honeyeater, White-naped Honeyeater, Grey Shrike-thrush, Crimson Rosella.
The Australian Wood Duck has featured recently on the blog with many pairs staking out potential nest sites at present across the district. This male was observed at the weekend on Muckleford Creek, showing a great deal of interest in a River Red Gum hollow. The site was a little unusual – a large rotting cavity in a horizontal branch above the creek which could be approached at eye level from the adjacent ridge. I’ll watch this site carefully over coming weeks.
Australian Wood Duck – male at prospective nest hollow, Muckleford Creek, 30th June 2019
It’s the middle of winter and Australian Wood Ducks are starting to think of breeding. At this time of year it’s common to see pairs alighting in River Red Gums around town and calling to each other as they stake out potential nest sites. This species, sometimes mistakenly called the Maned Goose, nests in tree hollows – River Red Gums are especially favoured. Some hollows are already taken. – Southern Boobooks are year round tenants!
Australian Wood Duck (male), Newstead, 22nd June 2019
Australian Wood Duck (female)
The male showing off its distinctive mane
Southern Boobook … evidence of successful hunting last evening between the nostrils!
Chris Tzaros and I have just completed another set of bird photography workshops (#29 & #30), with a great group of participants – some local, others from as far afield as Canberra, Adelaide and Newcastle. It was terrific to spend time with keen and experienced folks … birders and photographers, in the bush around Newstead.
A highlight for all was this active Yellow-tufted Honeyeater nest in the Rise and Shine. Two well-grown nestlings were being fed with lerp and insects at regular intervals by the adults.
Yellow-tufted Honeyeater with lerp, Rise and Shine, 6th April 2019
One of the nestlings
Adult at the nest – both nestlings visible