I hadn’t been out to the Rise and Shine for over a month … it was time for an excursion and the first day of winter was glorious.
The highlight was a party of Crested Shrike-tits. I watched them from close-up, foraging amongst the Long-leaved Box and Yellow Gums for at least half an hour. The birds were unconcerned about me – occasionally dropping almost to ground level as they ripped strips of bark from branches in search of their prey. One of my favourite woodland companions.
Crested Shrike-tit (male), Rise and Shine, 1st June 2017
Crested Shrike-tit (female)
Over past weeks our local Yellow Gums have started to flower … but not the heavy blossoming that I was hoping for.
Rotunda Park is notable for its magnificent veteran Yellow Gums and in the past these have lured Swift Parrots to feed on the nectar during April as they arrived back on the mainland from their Tasmanian breeding grounds. In years of bountiful flowering the birds remained right throughout winter.
I fear that once again this year the paucity of flowering won’t be sufficient to encourage the parrots to pay anything more than a fleeting visit. With the Easter break promising excellent weather I’m hoping a few ‘swifties’ might be about.
Juvenile Red Wattlebird, Rotunda Park, 11th April 2017
Yellow Gum buds
Silvereye feeding on Box-thorn
by Patrick Kavanagh
As summer has drawn towards its end, the number of invertebrates in our bush at Strangways has been dwindling. But there are still some willing sitters for the macrophotographer’s lens. After reaching considerable numbers early in February, there are now only a few Eucalypt Tip-wilter Bugs Amorbus sp. around, including this nymph, which was not far from adult size. The bush has many webs of Jewel Spiders Austracantha minax and some of these might not be happy about it, but have offered a pretty detailed view of their spinnerets, palps and fangs. The gaudy caterpillar of a Tussock Moth Acyphas sp. does not give hints of the more subdued presentation of the adult moth to come. The tussocks of hair from which it takes its name are clear though, as are the two glands at the back that exude a secretion to protect from ants.
Reliable to find at this time are the Muscle Man Tree Ants Podomyrma adelaidae, so named as they live in trees and have well-developed leg muscles for all the vertical work they do. This crew lives in a branch of Long-leafed Box and there always seem a couple on guard duty at the entrance of the nest. To me they are sweet-looking ants and the creamy dots on either side of their abdomens complement their brown skins beautifully.
Eucalypt Tip-wilter bug, Strangways, 25th February 2017
Tussock Moth caterpillar, Strangways, 26th February 2017
After a very busy week there is nothing better than a quick spin around the margins of Lake Cairn Curran. It’s not just the waterbirds that I’m after – small woodland remnants and the plains country invariably produce a nice assortment of birds. I even caught a distant view of a White-bellied Sea-eagle.
Pacific Black Duck with ducklings, Picnic Point, 14th October 2016
Brown Treecreepers can be found in the Grey Box/Yellow Box remnants
Galahs are a signature bird of the plains
Grey Teal about to alight on a farm dam
Red-rumped Parrots inspecting a potential nest site
My first Rufous Songlark of the season – commonly heard in and around the box remnants for the next few months
A pair of Whistling Kites circling their nest site near Picnic Point
The ubiquitous Willie Wagtail
This nest, belonging to a pair of Scarlet Robins has featured during construction in an earlier post.
I’ve made a couple of brief visits over recent days and been delighted by the progress – the female is now sitting on three eggs, a typical clutch size. The nest site is somewhat unusual from my experience. Not so much the site, secreted in a sapling Long-leaved Box, but more so the height. Most nest I find of this species are usually at least 5 metres above the ground.
Scarlet Robin nest, Bruces Track, 8th October 2016
A single egg on the 8th October
The female sitting pretty …. 12th October 2016
Three eggs on the 12th October 2016
This nest was discovered earlier in the week at the Rise and Shine – it belongs to a Yellow-tufted Honeyeater. As you’ll see in a moment, this species typically nests low down in a shrub or eucalypt, but on this occasion selected a crevice on the trunk of a mature Yellow Box.
Yellow-tufted Honeyeater nest, Rise and Shine, 20th September 2016
Another visit the following day provided a surprising turn of events – a pair of Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters were visiting the nest, removing small pieces of wool and bark to add to a different, partially constructed nest in a small Long-leaved Box nearby. It’s a puzzle … was it the same pair having second thoughts and choosing another location? Or could it have been a different pair pilfering material from the original nest builders? I’ll never know!
Yellow-tufted Honeyeater gathering nesting material … from a Yellow-tufted Honeyeater nest!
The second nest suspended amongst Long-leaved Box foliage
A visit to nest #2 with strands of bark gathered from nest #1
Only the birds know what’s going on!
Postscript: John Hutchinson’s terrific Avithera blog has an article on his observation of Brown-headed Honeyeaters apparently dismantling a White-naped Honeyeater nest in Gippsland. John’s note also makes mention of an article (see below) in the journal Corella which I’ll track down soon.
LEY, A.J., D.L. OLIVER & M.B. WILLIAMS. (1997). Theft of nesting material involving Honeyeaters (Meliphagidae). Corella21: 119–123.
Thieving of nesting material in 10 honeyeater species and six other passerines is described, in the Bundarra-Barraba region west of Armidale, New South Wales during a study of Regent Honeyeater’s biology in 1995-96. Theft of nesting material was from both active and inactive nests. The contribution of theft to nest parasite transfer (e.g. lice) and to nest failure in Meliphagidae is discussed.
To understand the forest you first have to know the trees.
This Saturday, 24 September, the new Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests publication, Eucalypts of the Mount Alexander Region, will be launched at 10.30am in the Castlemaine Library foyer.
This 90 page guide by Bernard Slattery, Ern Perkins and Bronwyn Silver aims to help the beginner train the eye to see the differences between eucalypts – and to appreciate how spectacular they sometimes are. It presents the commonest species of the Mount Alexander Region, generously illustrated, and clearly described in plain language. Though firmly based on one local area (the forests and reserves around the town of Castlemaine), it describes species common to the whole Box-Ironbark region, and would be useful to any enthusiast in that region, from Ararat to Chiltern.
The publication of this book has been made possible by a generous grant from the Worrowing Fund through the Norman Wettenhall Foundation. Other supporters have been the Castlemaine Field Naturalists’ Club and Connecting Country.
The book’s cost is $10 and people buying it at the launch will receive a selection of free tree-related bookmarks and a FOBIF fungi poster. Proceedings will start at 10.30 in the Castlemaine library foyer. Refreshments will be served.
I’ve had a sneak preview of the book – it’s a fabulous publication and a significant contribution to further developing our sense of place and appreciation of nature in central Victoria. I feel extremely honoured to have been asked to launch the guide.