Last year a pair of Australian Ravens nested in a large Red Ironbark in our front yard. They are back again this year and have become quite territorial over recent weeks. The bird pictured below was photographed moments after ejecting a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo from the bird bath!
While often dismissed as simply a ‘large black bird’ these images highlight the complexity of their colouration when seen up close. The plumage is an interplay of black, blue and green sheens and the iris features a wonderful powder blue ring. I’ve found this species and also the Little Raven to be very difficult to photograph – they are extremely wary in most situations.
Australian Raven, Wyndham Street Newstead, 18th July 2018
As an aside, the most popular post on Natural Newstead over the years is “Sorry, but we don’t have crows around here”, written on July 7th 2013. It was my response to the oft heard claim about observing a crow, when in fact locally, all of these ‘large black birds’ are most certainly either Little Ravens or Australian Ravens.
These two Common Bronzewing fledglings have just descended from the nest.
That means they most likely arrived in the nest as eggs about 5 weeks ago – around the middle of March. As always I’m surprised at what is happening out there with our birds …
Common Bronzewing squab … not long flown the nest, Wyndham Street Newstead, 29th April 2018. Evidence of late summer breeding.
I located the two fledglings from their quiet contact calls … superficially similar to that of a Spotted Pardalote
The second fledgling was smaller and less colourful
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!
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)
It’s always good to stumble upon another ‘hot spot’.
In this instance a bush dam on South German Track in the Muckleford bush came up with the goods. While I’ve made a number of visits to this spot over the years I’ve never before seen it so alive with birds – it is one of the few places to offer a safe drinking site for bush birds at present. Honeyeaters (including a wary Black-chinned Honeyeater) were dominant as usual, but the highlight was a party of Diamond Firetails – including the encouraging sight of a juvenile bird, evidence of local breeding success.
Rainbow Bee-eaters hawked for insects overhead – it won’t be long before they depart for northern climes.
Fuscous Honeyeater, South German Track, 18th March 2018
Diamond Firetail (adult)
Juvenile Diamond Firetail
It seems one of my favourite local pairs of Wedge-tailed Eagles has raised one youngster this season.
The offspring was seen perched with its parents in a distant dead tree to the north of Cemetery Road during the week. The pale head, shawl and upper parts of juvenile and immature birds sets them apart from the adults which become much darker with age. Click here for a more expansive image of the juvenile coming in to land.
Wedge-tailed Eagles, Cemetery Road Newstead, 15th February 2018
Juvenile Wedge-tailed Eagle
For the past month I’ve been watching a pair of Weebills tending a nest above our wood shed … the tiny ball of cobwebs, flowers and grass suspended and largely hidden amongst the Yellow Gum leaves. The same site was used last year … and the year before that!
Weebill nest, Wyndham Street Newstead, 10th February 2018 … look closely and you’ll see the the top of the nest
Sadly, this morning, I discovered a tiny Weebill dead on the ground below the nest. I’m unsure as to whether it’s a juvenile or one of the parents. It is now being quickly recycled by the local meat ants.
A sad sight
Meanwhile life goes on in the garden.
Juvenile White-plumed Honeyeater