The local bush hasn’t looked as good for years … of course memory does play tricks, but it’s a cracker of a spring.
Healthy shrubby understorey is a key driver of bird populations and there has been a steady recovery in some areas of the Muckleford bush since the Millennium drought broke in 2010. Rough Wattle Acacia aspera is one of the plants priming this resurgence. In full flower it’s home to a myriad of insects and this of course brings the insectivorous birds to feast and breed.
Hooded Robins are competing at present with a host of other woodland birds for their share. The Eastern Yellow Robin (pictured below) was chasing the Hooded Robin pair in a minor territorial dispute, before all resumed regular duties.
Rough Wattle, Mia Mia Track, 12th September 2020
Female Hooded Robin with nest-building material
Hooded Robin pair
Male Hooded Robin
Eastern Yellow Robin … on the lookout
If you are fortunate enough to be able to do so it’s a wonderful time to be in the bush.
We are truly on the cusp of spring – flowering wattles and robins building nests. At present Golden Wattle Acacia pycnantha, Spreading Wattle A.genistifolia and Rough Wattle A. aspera, are all in flower.
Meanwhile the Eastern Yellow Robins are putting the finishing touches on a nest – the unbanded female is doing the ‘heavy lifting’ while the banded male is hanging around to offer morsels of reward.
Golden Wattle in flower, South German Track, 31st July 2020
Eastern Yellow Robin (female) with cobwebs
Adding the cobwebs to the rim of the nest
Using the wing to shape the bowl
The male with a courtship offering
The female, post bath, back at the nest
Golden Wattle has been flowering for a couple of weeks now … a clear sign that spring is just around the corner.
Golden Wattle, Rise and Shine, 17th July 2020
It provided the backdrop for a nice selection of birds at the Rise and Shine on Friday evening … a small flock of Swift Parrots zipped through, a lone Fan-tailed Cuckoo calling and a pair of Hooded Robins the complement for those featured below.
Varied Sittella acrobatics
While they can be seen locally in all seasons, for me at least, the White-eared Honeyeater is a winter bird.
It is found throughout the box-ironbark country, but also further north in dry mallee environments as well as tall forests along the Great Divide and all the way to the coast. Often regarded as sedentary I certainly see it in greater numbers during the cooler months, perhaps birds from further south enjoying a winter break!
It is a curious species and will often join mixed-species feeding flocks of insectivores – the individual pictured here was one of a trio with a group of Brown and Buff-rumped Thornbills, a Grey Fantail and some Weebills that had congregated in a patch of Hedge Wattle.
White-eared Honeyeater, Clydesdale, 20th June 2020
Brown Thornbill in Hedge Wattle
Update: Suggestions for the mystery feather include … Square-tailed Kite, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Southern Boobook, Powerful Owl and Tawny Frogmouth. Nothing definitive as yet but will keep you posted.
Late yesterday I ventured to a favourite spot on river – an area I call ‘The Reserve’, where the Muckleford Creek meets the Loddon River.
Newstead Landcare has been doing a great job of restoration in this area, planting a variety of local small trees, shrubs and grasses. These plantings are doing well in their own right, as well as suppressing weeds such as blackberry. A Eastern Yellow Robin perching in a Silver Wattle in dappled sunlight was the highlight of the day.
Eastern Yellow Robin, Loddon River Reserve, 22nd March 2020
Now to the puzzle.
I found this feather the day before near Bruce’s track. It has me baffled, apart from some confidence that it belongs to a raptor. The dimensions are 140mm from the tip to the base of the shaft and 75mm wide. It feels as though it’s too wide to belong to a diurnal raptor, but I’d be interested in readers thoughts.
Who am I?
We’re heading towards autumn with the recent rain and cooler nights a sign of pleasant days to come.
I’ve spotted a few Grey Currawongs recently in the Muckleford bush and last evening came across a youngster, calling expectantly to an accompanying parent. The yellow gape of the juvenile is evident in the images below, while the adult looks a little ragged – the result of post-breeding moult.
Spreading Wattle Acacia genistifolia is now flowering, adding a welcome touch of colour to the dry bush. This species usually starts flowering in January and will continue through till late autumn.
Adult Grey Currawong, South German Track, 8th February 2020
Juvenile Grey Currawong
Adult Grey Currawong … in moult
On recent nights’ excursion into the bush, there have been a few beetles to be found. On new shoot of Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa), a small Leaf Beetle, about 10mm long.
Nearby, on another Grey Box sucker, a somewhat larger beetle.
I also found a beautiful Ladybird on a Golden Wattle.
I have to say that, although the invertebrate numbers have lifted a little with the onset of Spring, it is still harder to find subjects than in previous years. I assume this is the result of the dry conditions.
On checking on the ever-reliable Shiny Everlastings in our bush during the daytime, I was pleased to find this tiny wasp.
As I kept watching, she seemed to be laying eggs in the flower. The flowers she was most interested in had brown discolourations in the central flower parts. I’m not sure if a diseased flower attracts the wasp, or wasp have changed the flower.
Laying in the central flowers
Before another burst of welcome spring rain, the Mia Mia was bathed in sunshine this morning. While the birds didn’t perform for the camera a carpet of wildflowers more than compensated.
Blue Caledenia Cyanicula caerulea, Mia Mia Track area, 8th September 2019
Pink fingers Caladenia carnea
Leopard Orchid Diuris pardina
Plougshare Wattle Acacia gunnii
Rough Wattle Acacia aspera
Downy Grevillea Grevillea alpina
Tall Sundew Drosera auriculata
Red Box leaves catching the dew
List: Shining Bronze-cuckoo, Black-eared Cuckoo, Pallid Cuckoo, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Speckled Warbler, Brown Thornbill, Yellow Thornbill, Striated Thornbill, Grey Shrike-thrush, Crested Bellbird, Red-capped Robin, Red Wattlebird, White-throated Treecreeper, Superb Fairy-wren.
It’s wonderful to wander through our bush full of flowering Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha). As the colour fills the woodlands, invertebrates seem to be waking up.
Golden Wattle blossom
The flowers attract many pollinators and in the sunlight of a still clear day, minuscule flies are common. Some of this seem well under a millimetre long, but I’ve yet to manage a photo of one so small. This one was about 3 mm long.
Fly on Golden Wattle
Ants on the wattles seem more interested in the secretions from the little gland in the bend of the leaf petiole than they are in the flowers. This one was only couple of millimetres long.
Ant at leaf petiole gland
Looping caterpillars like this one of the moth genus Chlenias are out in force. This one is hanging from a Golden Wattle.
Others were munching on leaves and flowers.
These same caterpillars are also very keen on the Drooping Cassinia (Cassinia arcuata).
Chlenias sp. on Cassinia
The Cassinia is also favoured by small flies at the moment.
Fly on Cassinia
Nearby, a Climbing Sundew (Drosera macrantha) seemed keen on the small flies that were visiting the Cassinia shrubs. Can a plant be keen on something? I was very excited to find this plant as I’ve not seen this species of Sundew on our place in the 25 years that we’ve called it “our place”. Thanks to Frances Cincotta for identifying the plant for us!
A Climbing Sundew feast.
1 – occurring together in space or time.
2 – in agreement or harmony.
Pretty much sums up the following collection, assembled yesterday in the Mia Mia. The male Scarlet Robin foraged on the woodland floor in front of me, with the Common Bronzewing perched above. Scented Sundew Drosera aberrans and Rough Wattle Acacia aspera – yet to peak, provided a lovely complement.
Rough Wattle, Mia Mia Track, 11th August 2019
Male Scarlet Robin
Male Common Bronzewing
Scented Sundew, Red Box and Chocolate Lily