Rainbow Bee-eaters have been moving into the forest over the past couple of weeks, leaving their breeding grounds as small, mixed flocks of adults and recently fledged juvenile birds.
I enjoyed a delightful interlude last evening along South German Track, where some youngsters gathered around me as they searched for insects and perched cooperatively on low shrubs. The next few weeks will be spent in the forest before they depart to northern climes – generally all have departed by mid March.
Immature Rainbow Bee-eaters lack the dark gorget (or bib) on the throat and while not as strikingly coloured as the adults are still very beautiful birds.
Rainbow Bee-eater (immature), South German Track, 12th February 2020
Yesterday morning dark grey clouds rolled in from the north-west and delivered a very welcome 17mm of rain.
Aptly, just before they burst I encountered a pair of Leaden Flycatchers along Golf Links Track. The female was being cryptic and while I failed to capture any images of her, the male was much more cooperative.
Leaden Flycatchers are summer breeding migrants to south-eastern Australia – they tend to favour the wetter forests along the foothills of the divide to our south. Very similar to the Satin Flycatcher, also a summer migrant, adult Leaden Flycatchers can be separated by their lead-grey (rather than glossy-black) plumage, the presence of a horizontal (rather than concave) breast-band, pale grey (rather than blackish) tail and pale edges to the wing feathers. Both flycatchers are known for their marvellous tail-shivering behaviour. The females of both species are also quite similar. Over the years I’ve seen Leaden Flycatchers at this time of year in the Rise and Shine, as well as Yandoit, but never before in the Muckleford bush. I suspect this pair are on their way back north.
Leaden Flycatcher (adult male), Golf Links Track, Muckleford State Forest, 1st February 2020
About a week ago the Newstead area (and much of central Victoria) received a welcome dose of summer rainfall. Locally, falls ranged from 20 to 40 mm, providing some useful run-off into dams and leaving standing pools of water throughout the bush. A visit to one of my favourite spots in the Rise and Shine was amply rewarded, with a procession of birds arriving for a drink as dusk approached – Fuscous, Brown-headed and Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, Eastern Rosella, Eastern Yellow Robin, Diamond Firetail, Willie Wagtail and Peaceful Dove.
I was concentrating on some Dusky Woodswallows, adults and juveniles, gathering above the pool, when a different bird slipped in for a drink. It was an immature White-winged Triller. In late spring we had an influx of White-winged Trillers and I observed some nest building before the summer heat really kicked in. It’s great to see a result in the form of a young triller!
The adults, very vocal while breeding, have been largely quiet over recent weeks. This is typical of many woodland birds, migrants and residents alike. No point advertising your presence when breeding is done.
Dusky Woodswallow (adult), Rise and Shine, 27th January 2020
Juvenile Dusky Woodswallow
White-winged Triller (immature)
There is an ancient Yellow Box in the Rise and Shine that I’ve photographed a few times over the past decade. Sadly the last few leafy branches were lost around three years ago and the tree died.
The living tree was not only old and gnarly, it displayed the most amazing spiral pattern in the bark. This has likely occurred as a result of the growing tree’s differential access to moisture and nutrients (e.g. more abundant on one side) or a prevailing wind affect on what is a very exposed site. Despite its passing the old Yellow Box continues to provide life, a Yellow-footed Antechinus searching for insects delighted us on an early morning stroll … as did the Black Kite, observed sunning on our return trip to home.
Yellow-footed Antechinus, Rise and Shine, 26th January 2020
Yesterday’s afternoon jaunt across the Moolort Plains was rewarded with a diversity of observations. My close-up views of a Horsfield’s Bushlark contrasted with frustratingly distant glimpses of a Spotted Harrier and a party of Black-tailed Native-hens around a rapidly shrinking pool along Boundary Gully.
Horsfield’s Bushlark, Moolort Plains, 19th January 2020
Black-tailed Native-hens at Boundary Gully
Spotted Harrier @ Boundary Gully
Monday this week was an unpleasant day, a pall of smoke from the fires in eastern Victoria descending on Newstead (and central Victoria) – thankfully for only 24 hours. Our thoughts are with the communities and landscapes that are suffering through this time of unprecedented fires.
I was tempted to forgo the daily ritual of a walk with the camera at day’s end, but headed to river – in hope rather than anticipation. I was delighted to be able to sit and watch families of Australian Reed-warblers amongst the bulrushes. There were numerous juveniles sitting on the bulrush stems waiting for the adults to return from foraging excursions with insects for the begging youngsters. It was a cheery end to a eerie day.
Narrow-leaf Cumbungi, Loddon River @ Newstead, 6th January 2020
Juvenile Australian Reed-warbler
Adult (at left) on a feeding run to the begging juvenile
Things are moving by the Loddon. The first juvenile Sacred Kingfishers have fledged in recent days and Dusky Moorhens have tiny chicks in tow.
The young Sacred Kingfisher is, I think, a product of the nest I’ve been watching over recent weeks.
The moorhens had me a little baffled. While the images below show a couple of chicks, there were in fact three adults with a total of seven youngsters overall – possibly the offspring of two separate pairs in a band together.
Adult Sacred Kingfisher, Loddon River @ Newstead, 3rd January 2020 … that’s a raindrop passing the beak!
Juvenile Sacred Kingfisher
Dusky Moorhen with chicks
Dusky Moorhen chick