The Loddon River upstream of Cairn Curran is a sad sight at present – it has retreated to a series of disconnected pools and these are disappearing rapidly as autumn continues to be dry and unusually warm.
I’m looking forward … hoping for a restorative flow!
Loddon River @ Newstead, just upstream of the highway bridge, 13th April 2019
A Whistling Kite patrolling the river corridor
Powerful Owl, Loddon River @ Newstead, 13th April 2019
The remain of an unfortunate Galah dangling below a satisfied owl
Powerful Owl close-up
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
Eaqstern Yellow Robin
I like snakes, when they’re at a distance … not so when I step on one, as has happened only a couple of times, thankfully, over a career of wandering through the bush.
Earlier this week along the Loddon, while pursuing a graceful White-faced Heron I managed to step on an Eastern Brown Snake – fortunately the owner had recently moved on!
Eastern Brown Snake skin – hung for effect in a River Red-gum sapling.
White-faced Heron, Loddon River @ Newstead, 21st February 2019
The sound of the Willie Wagtail is synonymous with the Australian bush, found in almost all habitats across the entire continent. For Indigenous Australians it has a special significance, both venerated and feared at the same time. Not surprisingly it features prominently in aboriginal folklore and language, known typically by local names that mirror its voice of ‘sweet agitation’.
While I’m sure the Dja Dja Wurrung people of central Victoria had a special name for the Willie Wagtail (help please!), the neighbouring Tjapwurrung call it tjerrap tjerrap, while the Wiradjuri further north know it as djirrijirri.
I was surprised to see this pair yesterday evening along the Loddon tending a nest. It is at least their second nesting effort for the season and the parents were not happy with my brief intrusion, displaying in typical fashion while I made my images and departed. Willie Wagtails almost always nest close to water, very sensible in this hot, dry landscape of ours.
Willie Wagtail, Loddon River @ Newstead, 2nd January 2019
- Dialects of Western Kulin, Western Victoria Yartwatjali, Tjapwurrung, Djadjawurrung, Barry J. Blake, La Trobe University
2011. Click here to read.
- Wesson, S. (2001) Aboriginal flora and fauna names of Victoria: As extracted from early surveyors’ reports. Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages, Melbourne. Click here to read.
As summer commences two of our migratory species tend to fall a little silent. The Sacred Kingfisher and Rainbow Bee-eater are both tunnel nesting species, the former using both earthen tunnels as well as tree hollows. At present the birds will be incubating and they tend to be less vocal than will be the case in a few weeks when feeding young.
In Rainbow Bee-eaters both sexes excavate the nesting tunnel – you can see some evidence of activity on the bill of the male below. In both the Sacred Kingfisher and the Rainbow Bee-eater both sexes incubate, although my observations suggest the female bee-eaters do the majority of sitting.
Rainbow Bee-eater (male), Loddon River @ Newstead, 2nd December 2018
Sacred Kingfisher with prey
Australian Wood Duck (female)
The loud, screeching calls of flocks of corellas are a feature of the natural soundscape of the summer months around Newstead.
Increasingly it’s Little Corellas that are forming these flocks along with their larger relative, the Long-billed Corella. Little Corellas can be distinguished by their handsome crest and lack the extensive pink colouration around the face and neck.
Little Corellas, Loddon River @ Newstead, 2nd December 2018