Category Archives: Honeyeaters

Keeping an eye on bird numbers

Following yesterday’s post regarding the apparent decline in bird numbers in our local bush, I’ve received a number of comments suggesting that my observation reflects a more general pattern across the central Victoria. It will be important to see what happens over coming months, as I recall a similar pattern during the Millennium drought, which was followed by an encouraging ‘bounce back’ following good rainfall in 2010/11. Yesterday afternoon I visited a favourite waterhole in Providence Gully. It was reasonably active with a number of different honeyeaters – White-plumed, Brown-headed, Yellow-faced, Yellow-tufted and Fuscous along with Rufous Whistler, Mistletoebird, Red-browed Finch and White-browed Babbler all present in and around the water.

Grey Kangaroo, Providence Gully, 6th January 2019

Red-browed Finches

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Immature White-plumed Honeyeater

Yellow-faced Honeyeater

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Bird baths doing their job

Returning home after a few days on the coast I was pleased to see our bird baths doing their job. I’d filled them to the brim when we left on 23 December and most had at least a pool of water remaining, after a succession of days in the ‘high thirties’.

Heatwave conditions can be tough, for small birds especially. There was a steady procession last evening to our home garden watering points – Weebill, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Common Bronzewing and Brown-headed Honeyeater, in addition to those pictured below.

Galahs, Wyndham Street Newstead, 28th December 2018

Australian Magpie

New Holland Honeyeater

Male Spotted Pardalote

One small gully

This one small gully on the edge of the Sandon bush yielded a rich bounty of birds, and other creatures on Friday evening.

Brown Treecreeper with food for youngster, Sandon State Forest, 14th December 2018

Immature Diamond Firetail … evidence of 2018 breeding success

Male Mistletoebird … caught in the act!

Male Rainbow Bee-eater

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater preening

Eastern Yellow Robin arriving to drink

Yellow-footed Antechinus

It’s all happening

Earlier this week I found this White-plumed Honeyeater nest suspended in River red-gum above the Loddon River.

At least two small nestlings were being fed by the adults, as they ferried food from the neighbourhood at regular intervals.

In the space of a few minutes I observed what looked like either a dragonfly or damselfly delivered, one of the adults remove a fecal sac from the nest and a sudden alarm call uttered from the nest site as a raptor passed overhead. Little vignettes of nature in action!

White-plumed Honeyeater feeding nestlings, Loddon River @ Newstead, 26th November 2018

Close-up reveals either a dragonfly or damselfly being fed to the nestlings

Removing a fecal sac

A raptor overhead elicited an alarm call from the parent

Subtle tones in the Mia Mia

While the extraordinary colours of kingfishers, bee-eaters and parrots are a daily delight over summer, the subtle tones of many of our woodland species are well worth a closer look.

Such was the case on a recent visit to the Mia Mia.

The Brown-headed Honeyeater below was dusted with pollen on its forehead, the Brown Thornbills were fossicking for insects in the Rough Wattle, while a male Rufous Whistler delighted with a rollicking song.

Brown-headed Honeyeater, Mia Mia Track area, 20th October 2018

Brown Thornbill

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Male Rufous Whistler

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A frenzied mobbing

A couple of days ago, I heard a remarkable racket of small bird song emanating from a Long-leafed Box tree Eucalyptus goniocalyx in our back yard. It took me a while to see what the object of the fury of at least 10 different species of small birds was. Tucked between two branches, crouched and looking very disconsolate was a Southern Boobook. Buff-rumped, Striated, Brown and Yellow Thornbills, Scarlet Robins, Grey Fantails, Silvereyes, Striated Pardalotes, Yellow-faced and Brown-headed Honeyeaters were all going hell-for leather at it.

Southern Boobook (Ninox boobook)

A rather grumpy looking Boobook owl

I got quite concerned that the mobbers might exhaust themselves in this process and overlook the nests they were protecting as the owl was going nowhere in the daylight. But after about twenty minutes, in unison, they took a break for a couple of hours, only to return a couple of times in the day for a few more goes at the hapless owl who just wanted some kip.

I couldn’t manage any photos of the birds as they were mobbing, but they all dropped in for a drink at the bird bath and I managed a few pics then.

Buff-rumped Thornbill (Acanthiza reguloides)

Buff-rumped Thornbill – Acanthiza reguloides

I don’t know if it was the presence of the owl or just that it’s the height of breeding at the moment, but the level of aggression between species as well as within was unusually high in this bird bath melee. A pair of Grey Fantails seemed to be the most obstreperous of all.

Grey Fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa)

Grey Fantail – Rhipidura albiscapa

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis)

Silvereye – Zosterops lateralis

Brown-headed Honeyeater (Melithreptus brevirostris)

Brown-headed Honeyeater – Melithreptus brevirostris

It was great to get a clear view of the Brown Thornbill fledgling that has been carefully shepherded around our yard by its very diligent parents. They seem to like to build and feed close to our house which I like to believe is because they use us to keep predatory birds and cuckoos away.

Brown Thornbill fledgling

Brown Thornbill fledgling – Acanthiza pusilla

And of course, a delightfully soaked Superb Fairy-wren!

Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)

Superb Fairy-wren – Malurus cyaneus

 

Not fussed!

I used to get frustrated with the fact that native Australian birds often seemed quite at home amongst ‘foreign’ weeds.

My emotions have mellowed over time.

Eastern Yellow Robins seem to really like hanging out amongst the clumps of Blackberry along the Loddon River, while our fledgling Red Wattlebirds have spent most of the past week hiding amongst the foliage and flowers of exotic shrubs bordering our yard.

Red Wattlebird fledgling, Wyndham Street Newstead, 29th September 2018

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Eastern Yellow Robin, Loddon River @ Newstead, 29th September 2018

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Please note: This post is not advocating a case for ‘weeds’, merely observing that some of our more adaptable species are quite at home in local ‘weedscapes’. I’ve yet to see a Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Crested Bellbird or other more particular woodland bird in anything other than intact native habitat.