Category Archives: Eucalypts

Ducks, hollows and owls

It’s the middle of winter and Australian Wood Ducks are starting to think of breeding. At this time of year it’s common to see pairs alighting in River Red Gums around town and calling to each other as they stake out potential nest sites. This species, sometimes mistakenly called the Maned Goose, nests in tree hollows – River Red Gums are especially favoured. Some hollows are already taken. – Southern Boobooks are year round tenants!

Australian Wood Duck (male), Newstead, 22nd June 2019

Australian Wood Duck (female)

The male showing off its distinctive mane

Southern Boobook … evidence of successful hunting last evening between the nostrils!

The walk is always worth it!

It was too dull to chase birds with the camera late this afternoon … for a change my focus turned to other matters.

Bush patterns after rain, Spring Hill Track area, 24th may 2019

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Nice spot for an Owlet Nightjar?

Firewood harvesting …the legacy a decade on

Cherry Ballart … seen better days!

Nodding Greenhood leaves

Saloop Saltbush and ant nest

Cranberry Heath

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The end of my stroll coincided with the sudden arrival of a mixed species feeding flock – Flame Robins, Grey Shrike-thrush, Golden Whistler, Speckled Warblers, Striated and Buff-rumped Thornbills … not a bad finish!

It’s Yellow Gum time!

Yellow Gum Eucalyptus leucoxylon has really started flowering well over the past month across the district. Unlike Grey Box, which has also enjoyed a good spell of flowering, Yellow Gum attracts a lot more birds. In the backyard at home Eastern Spinebills, White-naped Honeyeaters and even a Black-chinned Honeyeater have joined the other honeyeaters on the nectar flow. Out at Strangways Musk Lorikeets are using the veteran roadside trees … I also caught distant views of a Noisy Friarbird, an irregular visitor from areas further north.

Red Wattlebird feeding on Yellow Gum flowers, Wyndham Street Newstead, 18th May 2019

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New Holland Honeyeater in the same tree

Musk Lorikeet in Yellow Gum @ Strangways, 19th May 2019

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Oases and refuges

There are some interesting things happening in the landscape this autumn. Firstly the appearance of dry country birds, such as Black Honeyeaters and Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters and worryingly the disappearance of many small insectivorous species from dry areas of our local bush. At this time, lower areas of the landscape, such as small drainage lines and the Loddon River valley itself become important refuges. I’ve mentioned earlier this month the excellent flowering of Grey Box. Stands of veteran Grey Box in more fertile and moister parts of the landscape become veritable oases of food for birds over autumn. Such is the case along the Loddon River at present, where large numbers of honeyeaters, woodswallows and lorikeets are enjoying the nectar flow. At the same time Eastern Yellow Robins, largely absent from surrounding areas, can be found along the river in reasonable numbers.

Black-chinned Honeyeater, Cemetery Road Newstead, 12th March 2019

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Eaqstern Yellow Robin

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Dusky Woodswallows and Grey Box

Woodswallows, especially the White-browed Woodswallow, are well-known for their fondness for eucalypt nectar. All species have divided, brush-tipped tongues which can be used to advantage when taking nectar from flowers. I came across a small flock of Dusky Woodswallows yesterday afternoon, a mixture of adults and immatures, alternating between catching insects and visiting the flowering Grey Box. The Yellow-footed Antechinus bobbing about in front of me was an unexpected bonus.

Dusky Woodswallow (imm.) feeding on Grey Box blossom, Cemetery Road Newstead, 12th March 2019

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The fine white streaking on the crown signify an immature bird

Yellow-footed Antechinus

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A fascinating trio

Honeyeaters are the most numerous and abundant group of birds to be found in the local bush.

Three species are pictured below. The Fuscous Honeyeater Ptilotula fusca and Yellow-tufted Honeyeater Lichenostomus melanops are common and widespread throughout the Muckleford bush. The third species, the Yellow-plumed Honeyeater Ptilotula ornata, is an unusual and rare visitor. I’ve been seeing it over recent days and have received a number of other local reports. Typically a dry-country honeyeater associated with mallee eucalypts, its local strongholds are to our north in places such as the Whipstick Forest near Bendigo  and areas around Tarnagulla and Inglewood. What we are witnessing, I suspect, is a movement of immature and non-breeding birds into our area in search of nectar. It’s been very dry further north and flowering Grey Box locally are too good to pass up.

Fuscous Honeyeaters, South German Track, 26th February 2019

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

Yellow-plumed Honeyeater (non-breeding adult)

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III … plus a colourful companion

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