Category Archives: Migrants

At the hotspot #3

Here are the results of some armchair birdwatching at my latest hotspot. It is always a thrill to catch a glimpse of a Chestnut-rumped Hylacola … and that is usually all you get. This area is one of the few reliable spots for this species in the Muckleford bush and this inquisitive male posed momentarily before running off ‘mouse-like’ as is its habit.

The Rainbow Bee-eater was photographed the previous evening, one of a small flock of six hawking round the dam. I heard them again in the distance last night. Also of note was Diamond Firetail, Black-chinned Honeyeater and Tree Martins chasing insects above the water.

Eastern Yellow Robin, South German Track, 22nd March 2018


Chestnut-rumped Hylacola (male)



Rainbow Bee-eater, 21st March 2018

Another ‘hot spot’

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

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater



White-naped Honeyeater

Diamond Firetail (adult)


Juvenile Diamond Firetail

Same place, different faces

I have a habit of returning to the same places in the local landscape, often over successive days.  One of the narrow tracks running west off Mia Mia Track is a personal favourite that I tend to visit at least once every fortnight. Two excursions this week, the first on Thursday and again last night produced a very different set of birds.

Brown Thornbills were ‘hiding’ during my first visit, but were the highlight under dull skies last night. Also of note were Buff-rumped Thornbill, White-eared Honeyeater, Scarlet Robin and a small flock of Rainbow Bee-eaters, none of which I’d observed the day before. The diverse understorey of wattles (especially the Rough Wattle), peas and heath are a key reason for this sites avian richness.

Brown Thornbill, Mia Mia Track, 16th March 2018





… and that leaf again!

Something always turn up!

The day before it was a Double-banded Plover amongst the Red-capped Plovers at Cairn Curran. This time it was a lone Red-necked Stint, enjoying the company of others as it foraged on a small area of exposed mud near Captains Creek.

This tiny wader has featured numerous times before on the blog … here in flight March 2015 and another note around that time where a few birds were seen in breeding plumage before migration.

Red-necked Stint (with Red-capped Plovers), Cairn Curran, 12th March 2018

Red-necked Stint


Immature Red-capped Plover

Male Red-capped Plover


Black Swans

Todays post is dedicated to the memory of Joan Butler, who passed away last week aged 84 years. Joan had a wonderful love and knowledge of Australian birds, especially those from places around Newstead including the Sandon bush and Muckleford forest. Her interest stemmed from when she was a child attending school in Sutton Grange … I especially remember her story of the Grey Shrike-thrush that came each spring to nest on the window sill, opposite the teacher’s desk. Joan lived for many years at Captain’s Gully overlooking Cairn Curran Reservoir.

Vale Joan!

Blending in …

Another visit last evening to Cairn Curran to check on the Red-capped Plovers.

Red-capped Plovers, Cairn Curran, 11th March 2018

It wasn’t a surprise to spot a ‘loner’ in their midst, a Double-banded Plover.

Double-banded Plover (at front) with Red-capped Plovers

This species is a regular winter visitor to Cairn Curran, albeit in small numbers … I think the most I’ve ever seen would be three of four individuals together. While they are not dissimilar to the more common Red-capped Plovers, there are some distinct differences … size (DBPs are about 30% larger), facial markings (DBPs have a buff wash on the face) and leg colour (greenish in the DBP and black in the RCP). Double-banded Plovers, as their name indicates, also have two breast bands but these are often not prominent in non-breeding birds. They also have a bulbous head, compared to the flattened crown of the Red-capped Plover.

Double-banded Plover, Cairn Curran, 11th March 2018

Double-banded Plovers breed in New Zealand – some of the population nest on inland riverbeds, and these birds tend to migrate to Australia. Others nest on coastal lagoons and estuaries, and some lowland pasture, but these birds tend to be more sedentary. To my knowledge this pattern of migration and breeding is unique amongst Australian and New Zealand birds.



Male Red-capped Plover

The early bird

On Saturday morning I heard, for the first time this autumn, the unmistakable piping call of the Eastern Spinebill.

This diminutive honeyeater is a cool season migrant to the Newstead district, usually arriving in April in our garden to feed on flowering Grevilleas and Correas. They linger until late winter most years before heading back south to higher altitudes to breed. Not far from here, at places such as Daylesford, Eastern Spinebills can be found year round.

The juveniles generally arrive first, perhaps they’ve been ejected from breeding territories by their parents – the adults appear a few weeks later in my experience. This year’s sighting is somewhat earlier than usual, last year I spotted my first spinebills around the 20th March at Rotunda Park and in preceding years it’s been well into April before the first birds arrived. As always I’d be keen to learn of other local observations.

Juvenile Eastern Spinebill, Wyndham Street Newstead, 11th March 2018



Farewell to summer

It’s been a marvellous summer for birds although I’d like to think next time around we might be blessed with a few more downpours. Here are three favourites that I’ll miss over the next few months.

Sacred Kingfisher, Rise and Shine, 2nd January 2018

Rainbow Bee-eater, Sandon State Forest, 3rd January 2018

White-breasted Woodswallow, Cairn Curran, 1st January 2018