Category Archives: Honeyeaters

The passing parade

On these baking days the best strategy is just to sit and wait and the birds will come to you … especially if you can find a quiet bushland pool.

Brown-headed Honeyeater, Muckleford State Forest, 17th January 2021

Common Bronzewing

Diamond Firetail

Spotted Pardalote (female)

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

Superb Fairy-wren (male)

Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Grey Teal

Visitors to the waterhole

Just a selection of visitors to a small, drying waterhole in the Muckleford bush at the weekend.

I’m on the lookout for Black Honeyeater and Yellow-plumed Honeyeater – no luck so far but late summer is the time when these dry-country specialists are likely to turn up.

Rufous Whistler (male), Muckleford State Forest, 9th January 2020

A splendid colour-banded Eastern Yellow Robin

Black-chinned Honeyeater

Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Striated Thornbill

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The waiting game

Sitting by a pool of water with the camera is one of my favourite pastimes.

The ‘trick’ is to be observant and patient, as many species of birds will soon become accustomed to your presence and resume their natural patterns.

Honeyeaters, of which we have a multitude of local species, are without doubt the most frequent visitors and locally its Yellow-tufted and Fuscous Honeyeaters that tend to dominate proceedings.

From time to time something special appears, perhaps a Yellow-plumed Honeyeater or Black Honeyeater if you’re really fortunate. In the sequence below I’d estimate that over a period of two hours there were 200+ visits from Yellow-tufted and Fuscous Honeyeaters before the Black-chinned Honeyeater dropped in. It was well worth the wait! This species is by no means rare locally, I hear it on most visits to the bush, but it is seriously outnumbered by other honeyeaters and always a delight to observe.

A couple of days later at the same spot, a real highlight – a juvenile Black-chinned Honeyeater – evidence of successful local breeding.

Fuscous Honeyeater, South German Track, Muckleford State Forest, 3rd January 2020

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

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Black-chinned Honeyeater

Juvenile Black-chinned Honeyeater, 5th January 2020

A twist by the pool

It appears that summer is about to hit with a vengeance.

Water will become a precious commodity in the bush over coming months – here’s hoping for some regular downpours to replenish our waterways. This site at the Rise and Shine will be familiar to readers as it has featured regularly in recent years as a favoured drinking hole for bush birds.

It produced the goods in a recent visit – Brown-headed Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Peaceful Dove, Eastern Rosella and even a Sacred Kingfisher paused momentarily before spotting me and departing. Fuscous Honeyeaters dominated as usual, but in a twist, a partially leucistic individual was also observed.

Red-rumped Parrot (male), Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve, 18th November 2020

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Fuscous Honeyeater … not quite the usual

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike gathering nesting material

Grand Final Day highlight … of sorts

Not exactly the Grand Final day highlight I was hoping for … but beggars can’t be choosers!

This Painted Honeyeater, sporting portentous colours, was spotted at Welshmans Reef late yesterday afternoon. A woodland migrant to the box-ironbark country Victoria, this species is listed as Vulnerable in Victoria. It’s a mistletoe specialist … but more on that when the veil of disappointment is lifted.

Painted Honeyeater, Welshmans Reef, 24th October 2020

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Woodland musing

For a while now, decades in fact, I’ve been an interested observer of landscape change in the Newstead district and more generally across the box-ironbark country.

Three overarching observations:

  1. Significant areas of farmland, prime grazing land last century, are now largely de-stocked and actively regenerating – especially with eucalypts and native grasses.
  2. This farmland sits within a mosaic of  ‘bush’ – forest and woodland, much of which is public land in varying states of recovery. The legacy of repeated clearing (many areas were harvested for timber multiple times since the 1850s) is often reflected in regenerating eucalypt thickets where the stem density may be 10 to 100 times greater than it was pre-clearing.
  3. Bird populations know what’s going on … there are distinct patterns of species richness and abundance that reflect the past history of land use and management.

What is happening in central Victoria is not unique, in many parts of the world agriculture is retreating from areas where it was once pervasive, a phenomenon described as land abandonment. In my experience the greatest variety and numbers of birds tend to be found in areas where the original fabric of veteran trees has triggered natural regeneration of understorey plants and this is happening where farming practices are changing and land is recovering with or without direct intention.

The three habitat images below exemplify this:

#1 woodland bird habitat (private land) – large old trees, natural regeneration and patchiness – ideal for Jacky Winter, Hooded Robin, Diamond Firetail and Swift Parrot

#2 woodland bird habitat (public land) – woodland thicket with fair to middling understorey – not as bird rich as #1 but has potential … just wait 100 years or so to see this realised.

#3 woodland bird habitat (private land) – woodland thicket with minimal understorey – maybe a Brown Treecreeper or two and the odd Scarlet Robin … this too has potential but would most likely benefit from some active management (fire, thinning, planting etc) … and time!

There are layers of complexity too – while #1 woodland bird habitat is good it could be even better with replenishment of missing shrubs, grasses and forbs.

Jacky Winter, Green Gully, 5th September 2020. This species does best on the margins of intact bush and open country – especially abandoned farmland.

#1 – Woodland bird habitat ***

#2 – Woodland bird habitat **

#3 – Woodland bird habitat *

Eucalytpus regrowth is an important part of the story – it is ideal breeding habitat for a range of woodland birds, such as the Yellow Thornbill (pictured below), Mistletoebird and Weebill. Black-chinned Honeyeaters also enjoy this habitat.

Yellow Thornbill nest in eucalyptus regrowth

The tail end of a Yellow Thornbill

Peeking out from the beautifully woven nest of grass, moss and synthetics

Black-chinned Honeyeater

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To read more about land abandonment here is an interesting article from the Yale School of the Environment.

Why mornings are best

I wish I was more of an early riser … sadly I’m not.

On the rare occasions that I make the effort it is almost always richly rewarded. Yesterday was a foggy start in the Muckleford bush as bird calls rang out around me – Eastern Yellow Robin, Pallid Cuckoo, Black-chinned Honeyeater and Golden Whistler were stand-outs.

As the first rays of sun broke through the fog, a few birds … including the Fan-tailed Cuckoo pictured below, soaked up the warmth before beginning their morning foraging.

Birds are almost always easier to observe and photograph at this time of day, allowing a closer approach and often performing some interesting antics.

Tunnel Track, Muckleford State Forest, 5th September 2020

Dew-laden web

Galah and nest hollow

Fan-tailed Cuckoo

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Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Wattlebird factory

Our home garden is essentially a wattlebird production line.

The combination of Yellow Gums (offering a healthy supply of nectar and lerp) and denser shrubs (offering multiple safe nesting sites) are the reason we have numerous families of Red Wattlebirds in the home garden year round.

Nesting commences in early August and during spring the constant calls of begging Red Wattlebirds can be heard from dawn until dusk. The youngsters gather together on exposed perches while the parents convey bills full of insects at regular intervals to the eager mouths.

These two recently fledged nestlings were being fed every few minutes, right on dusk.

Red Wattlebird … almost fledglings, Wyndham Street Newstead, 4th September 2020

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Young and adult Red Wattlebirds

Each bout of feeding is somewhat chaotic

Tufties breeding

Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters are into the swing of breeding again.

This species typically nests at low levels in shrubs, or as in this case, a coppicing eucalypt. They make beautifully woven nests from grass and cobwebs, sometimes incorporating wool into the suspended basket.

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Muckleford State Forest, 5th August 2020

The nest was suspended amongst the foliage of a coppicing Red Box

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Two eggs … so far

Things are starting to move …

There is a definite hint of spring in the air with a run of sunny days this week.

In the Rise and Shine the birds are responding. Eastern Yellow Robins are keeping close company and I’m sure the first nests of the season will be underway. Likewise, Peaceful Doves are showing early signs of courtship activity.

Peaceful Doves, Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve, 15th July 2020

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Eastern Yellow Robin

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Also observed yesterday afternoon: Spotted and Striated Pardalote, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Black-chinned Honeyeater, White-naped Honeyeater, Fuscous Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Little Eagle, Crimson Rosella, Eastern Rosella, Grey Shrike-thrush and Brown Treecreeper.