Category Archives: Migrants

Autumn observations

The calls of Pied Currawongs, autumn migrants to the district, have been echoing around town for a few weeks now.

Another familiar cool-season visitor, the Eastern Spinebill, has now arrived. I’ve been hearing the odd one since mid-April and visited a favourite haunt yesterday, Rotunda Park. Sure enough, three immature birds were flitting about in the Newstead Landcare plantings. As is the usual case, the young birds arrive first, followed a few weeks later by the adult spinebills. Look out for them in local gardens over winter.

Earlier in the day I enjoyed close views of a trio of Eastern Yellow Robins, one with colour bands, in the Muckleford bush. A male Scarlet Robin was also sighted, along with White-throated Treecreeper, Golden Whistler, White-naped Honeyeater, Grey Shrike-thrush, Speckled Warbler, Brown Thornbill and a Grey Currawong.

I’m still hearing a Shining Bronze-cuckoo calling around town (at Dig Cafe last Friday) and some White-breasted Woodswallows were seen at Joyce’s Creek the same day.

EYR1

Eastern Yellow Robin, Tunnel Track, Muckleford State Forest, 8th May 2022

EYR2

II

Scarlet1

Scarlet Robin (male)

Bracket

Bracket fungus on Grey Box

ES1

Eastern Spinebill (immature), Rotunda Park

ES2

II

Subtle shift

There has been a changing of the guard in recent days.

I spotted my first Flame Robin for the autumn two days ago, a female, arriving furtively to drink at a small bush dam. A number of Golden Whistlers also visited the water, a beautiful male avoided my camera. In the distance an Eastern Spinebill was calling, the first I’ve heard since last winter.

Around town in recent days both Shining Bronze-cuckoos and Fantailed Cuckoos have been calling, most likely birds heading northwards on their annual passage, although a few individuals remain in the box-ironbark over the cooler months. Meanwhile the usual array of honeyeaters complement the picture, as the subtle shift to winter beckons.

FlameRobin

Flame Robin, Mia Mia Track, 22nd April 2022

GoldenWhistlerrt

Immature Golden Whistler

WhiteNapedHE

White-naped Honeyeater

WhiteNapedHE2

II

YellowfacedHE

Yellow-faced Honeyeater

YTHE22April

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

YTHE22April2

II

A lesser known migrant

Autumn has arrived and so we say farewell to a number of breeding migrants for another year. In recent days Rainbow Bee-eaters have departed, along with Sacred Kingfishers a little earlier in the month.

A less well-known migrant, the Tree Martin, can be seen at present gathering in large feeding flocks in the Muckleford bush. This dainty aerialist breeds locally in tree hollows – the red gum swamps of the Moolort Plains are a favoured place as well as the intact bushland around Newstead.

The flocks, comprising adult and immature birds, can number in the hundreds, with the birds feeding above the canopy as well as sweeping down over water in search of insects. From time to time they will perch in small groups on exposed branches, amongst the foliage or alighting fleetingly on the ground where they will pick up dry leaves … possibly a habit associated with their breeding behaviour. Whilst these images were taken earlier in the month the birds are still around – the first cool days of April is when they typically head north.

TM1

Tree Martin, South German Track, 3rd March 2022

TM2

II

TM3

III

TM4

IV

TM5

V

TM6

VI

TM7

VII

TM8

VIII

TM9

IX

Hungry mouths

Nesting Sacred Kingfishers are efficient and very effective when it comes to raising their young. I recently watched a pair ferrying a variety of prey to their brood, the hissing calls of the nestlings clearly audible from 20 metres away.

Both parents were visiting the nest site, a tunnel in an erosion gully, at regular intervals … not more than ten minutes apart. The highlight was when one of the adults arrived with a Tree Dragon Amphibolurus muricatus, the largest item I’ve ever seen taken by this species.

Kingfish1

Sacred Kingfisher with grasshopper, Newstead area, 4th January 2022

Kingfish4

Grasshopper #2

Kingfish3

Arriving with a Tree Dragon

Kingfish2

II

Kingfish5

This time with a Bougainville’s Skink

All the colours …

As we swing into the New Year Rainbow Bee-eaters are busily feeding the next generation. Dragonflies, cicadas, moths and grasshoppers … and the occasional bee, are all on the menu.

RBE1

Rainbow Bee-eater, Muckleford State Forest, 4th January 2022

RBE2

II

RBE3

III

RBE4

IV

RBE5

V

RBE6

VI

RBE7

VII

A gentle request: The Newstead area welcomes birdwatchers and bird photographers. Please respect the wishes of private land owners when enjoying these pursuits.

Playing it cool

In the past week or two I’ve heard Pied Currawongs calling in Newstead. I suspect this species, normally a cool season migrant, is expanding its range with some younger birds now remaining all-year round.

Meanwhile, the next generation of Grey Currawongs are appearing. This currawong is resident in the box-ironbark forests surrounding Newstead and is a wary and nervous bird around humans.

The baking weather enticed this adult Grey Currawong to bring its recently fledged youngster for a brief drink at a waterhole on South German Track. Moments earlier this perch had been occupied by a Sacred Kingfisher and soon after the currawongs departed a Laughing Kookaburra arrived, much to the consternation of the honeyeaters gathered around.

The juvenile Grey Currawong was clearly feeling the effects of the heat, its wings held apart from its body and bill agape. The iris of the young currawong is paler than that of its parent, while the yellow gape will be disappear slowly in coming months.

GC1

Grey Currawong (adult), Muckleford State Forest, 30th December 2021

GC2

Grey Currawong (adult) at left with juvenile

GC3

Juvenile Grey Currawong

BCHE

Black-chinned Honeyeater

Seen and heard

While it has been the usual suspects getting in the way of the camera on recent visits to the Muckleford bush, there are a number of interesting observations to report.

Yesterday afternoon I heard at least two Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters, occasional summer visitors from the mallee country further north and the previous evening a small party of White-throated Needletails. The latter usually arrive at ahead of a storm front but these ones appeared under clear blue skies, circling overhead for a few minutes and then disappearing before I could grab the camera.

Also … Sacred Kingfisher, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Crested Shrike-tit, Whistling Kite. Pied Currawongs were also heard calling last night in town.

tufty1

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Muckleford State Forest, 29th December 2021

Brownhead

Brown-headed Honeyeater

Peaceful

Peaceful Dove

Easily fooled,

… that’s me, not the kingfisher.

I’ve been staking out a pair of Sacred Kingfishers in the Rise & Shine for a few weeks now.

Last season a pair nested in an exquisite hollow (image #2 below) in a Long-leaved Box and I was convinced they were using the same site again.

One of the adults arrived with a freshly caught skink and as I waited expectantly for it to disappear into the hole, it darted, much to my surprise, into a different hollow in the same tree. Both adults made a number of visits during my short vigil. I suspect the young have just hatched, based on the lack of white-wash around the hollow entrance.

King1

Sacred Kingfisher with a freshly caught skink, Rise & Shine Bushland Reserve, 20th December 2021

King2

Last season’s nesting site

King6

Arriving with a wolf spider

SK1

II

King3

III

King4

Departing with a fecal sac

King7

Not quite sharp!

Skink’s end

A gentle, repetitive thudding sound distracted me from watching a pair of Australasian Grebes milling about on the dam.

Looking upwards the originator of the noise was revealed – a Sacred Kingfisher, banging its catch against a tree branch. The unfortunate victim was a Bougainville’s Skink Lerista bougainvillii, a common reptile across the box-ironbark country. This small skink feeds during the day amongst leaf litter, generally under cover, but this one clearly aroused the interest of the kingfisher and met its demise.

SacredK1

Sacred Kingfisher with Bougainville’s Skink, South German Track, 3rd December 2021

Sacred1

II

SacredK2

III

SacredK3

IV

Down to earth

Rainbow Bee-eaters have been back with us for over a month now, spending most of their time in the air over their breeding grounds.

During November the birds can increasingly be seen perched lower down around prospective nesting sites, trilling enthusiastically and occasionally dropping to earth. Tunnel refurbishment is underway and egg-laying will commence shortly.

RBE1

Rainbow Bee-eater, Joyce’s Creek, 5th November 2021

RBE2

II

RBE3

III

RBE4

IV

RBE5

V

RBE6

VI

RBE7

VII

RBE8

VIII

RBE9

IX