Category Archives: Fence Track/Bruces Track

Brown Thornbills @ Fence Track

This is the second instalment in the thornbill identification series.

The first instalment covered some general tips and featured the Striated Thornbill. Today it’s the turn of the Brown Thornbill.

This species is generally found close to the ground, foraging in dense shrubs or in the epicormic foliage of eucalypts. Locally, wherever there is a good shrub cover, you are almost certain to encounter Brown Thornbills. They especially like areas of Gorse Bitter-pea, Rough Wattle and Coffee-bush.

The set of images below illustrate the key features of this thornbill:

  • brick-red iris
  • rufous forehead with delicate scalloping
  • bold dark streaking on the throat and breast
  • rufous rump

Brown Thornbills are active and inquisitive birds. At this time of year they are often found in the company of other thornbills and insectivores in mixed species feeding flocks. In this instance both Buff-rumped and Striated Thornbills were feeding nearby. Not far to our north the Brown Thornbill can be found together with a close relative, the Inland Thornbill. This latter species is relatively common around Bendigo, in similar habitat to the Newstead area. The main obvious difference is that the Inland Thornbill has a grey-brown forehead, rather than rufous and it also tends to carry its tail cocked. I’m always alert to the possibility of seeing an Inland Thornbill locally but have never done so.

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Brown Thornbill, Fence Track, 11th June 2021

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BT5

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What’s flowering this week?

Just a selection on what’s on offer in the local bushland at present.

Here’s hoping for a little rain … or a lot, over coming days.

Gold-dust Wattle, Fence Track, 20th September 2020

Shiny Everlasting

Waxlip Orchid

Gorse Bitter-pea and Waxlip Orchids

Murnong pair

Murnong and Hoverflies

Spiky Guinea-flower

A ridge on Fence Track

A brief visit to Fence Track earlier in the week.

Lots of birds, including the elusive Speckled Warbler, were enjoying the wildflower carpeted ridge.

Also seen: Brown, Buff-rumped and Yellow Thornbills, Grey Fantail and Yellow-faced Honeyeater.

Brown-headed Honeyeater in Cherry Ballart, Fence Track, 6th September 2020

Silvereye

Murnong (Yam Daisy)

Early Nancy amongst a carpet of Scented Sundew

Golden Moths

Now that’s a skill!

Striated Thornbills exemplify the extraordinary skills that birds possess in the use of their bills … and their feet!

I hadn’t realised until close examination of the second image below revealed the tiny thornbill dangling from Yellow Gum foliage as it searched with its bill for an insect secreted between the ‘welded’ leaves. I didn’t witness a successful extraction but that was due to my lack of skill, not that of the thornbill!

Striated Thornbill, Bruce’s Track, 15th August 2020

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Superb Fairy-wren (female)

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Silvereye

Hello in there

It’s nice to see good numbers of thornbills at present in the local bush – Yellow, Striated and Buff-rumped Thornbills have been seen on most recent rambles.

Brown Thornbills are less obvious but have different habitat preferences. This species enjoys areas of thick understorey – patches of Gorse Bitter-pea and Sweet Bursaria are especially favoured. They tend to be a little secretive in their habits but patient waiting will draw them out.

Brown Thornbill in Sweet Bursaria, Bruce’s Track, 5th April 2020

Buff-rumped Thornbill in Golden Wattle

Brown Thornbill popping out into the open

R.I.P: John Prine (October 10, 1946 – April 7, 2020)

Three of a kind

This cooperative group of Superb Fairy-wrens provided a nice distraction on Saturday afternoon – between passing rain showers.

An adult male in full breeding garb was also in attendance but eluded the camera.

Superb Fairy-wrens, Bruce’s Track, 4th April 2020

Superb Fairy-wren (male in non-breeding plumage)

Superb Fairy-wren (adult female at left, immature at right)

Superb Fairy-wren (adult female)

A closer look

Autumn in the box ironbark = mixed species flocks of woodland birds.

It’s often a good time to see small birds close up as they move through the bush in loose parties, searching the layers – ground, shrub and canopy, for insects.

I watched such a flock late on Friday afternoon – Buff-rumped and Striated Thornbill, Grey Fantails, a Grey Shrike-thrush and what I assumed was a pair of Scarlet Robins.

The adult male Scarlet Robin, pictured below, is unmistakable. The other bird, which I had initially identified as a female, is actually an immature individual of indeterminate sex. The ‘give away’ is the buff wing bars – these are typically white in an adult female.

There are a lot more honeyeaters getting about in recent days – flocks of White-naped Honeyeaters and small numbers of White-eared and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters are now scattered throughout suitable habitat. With wonderful rain, things are looking up!

Striated Thornbill in Cherry Ballart, north of Fence Track, 3rd April 2020

Adult male Scarlet Robin

Immature Scarlet Robin

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Small things

Another visit to Bruce’s Track last evening.

Birds were again scarce … a party of Buff-rumped and Striated Thornbills, a single White-throated Treecreeper and a couple of convoys of White-winged Choughs.

… and Pied Currawongs calling in the distance … first signs of their autumn arrival from further south along the Great Divide.

Striated Thornbill in Box Mistletoe, Bruce’s track area, 24th March 2020

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Artistic licence … remains of a White-winged Chough nest

A bright spot and a puzzle

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

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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?

In a class of their own … at least around here

My first Speckled Warbler since Xmas, a male near Bruce’s Track. The bird was silent, however, it popped up from the ground to a see what was causing the intrusion (me) and allow just enough time for a few quick images.

This species used to be in the genus Cthonicola until it became Pyrrholaemus sagittatus in 2016 – one of two species in this group along with the Redthroat, a dry country species that occurs across much of central Australia. The Speckled Warbler is a pretty different looking bird to the Redthroat although their calls share some similarities.

Speckled Warblers are distributed throughout the Muckleford bush, Sandon State Forest and areas of local private land with suitable habitat. They prefer rocky areas with scattered shrubs, tussock grasses and fallen wood. Nowhere are they common, a sighting is always a special treat.

Male Speckled Warbler, Bruce’s Track, 21

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