Category Archives: Moolort Plains

Magic sky

Returning home from up north last evening.

Magic sky over the plains … click to enlarge.

Looking south from Moolort Plains towards Mount Koorocheang, 14th February 2020

II

Moolort Plains 6pm

Yesterday was unsettling. A dust cloud rolled in from the north-west during the afternoon and this is what the Moolort Plains looked like at 6pm.

The Wedge-tailed Eagle, clearly not enjoying the conditions, was sheltering on a low branch in a Grey Box before I unknowingly disturbed it. No late afternoon soaring circles today.

Looking north-east towards Mount Tarrengower

Wedge-tailed Eagle

II

Starlings in a dust cloud … not quite a murmuration

Stranded Buloke

Diversity is good

Yesterday’s afternoon jaunt across the Moolort Plains was rewarded with a diversity of observations. My close-up views of a Horsfield’s Bushlark contrasted with frustratingly distant glimpses of a Spotted Harrier and a party of Black-tailed Native-hens around a rapidly shrinking pool along Boundary Gully.

Horsfield’s Bushlark, Moolort Plains, 19th January 2020

II

III

Black-tailed Native-hens at Boundary Gully

Spotted Harrier @ Boundary Gully

Summer evenings … golden light

Summer evenings bring a golden light to the plains country.

I was idling, enjoying the beautiful contrast from Black Kites, Galahs and Straw-necked Ibis, when a Peregrine Falcon appeared to disturb the dusking peace.

Black Kite, Moolort Plains, 11th December 2019

II

III

Straw-necked Ibis

II

Peregrine Falcon

A nice first

I observe Stubble Quail each year on the Moolort Plains, usually in the form a departing ‘projectile’ that whirrs away from near my feet.

Unlike Brown Quail they are pretty much confined to open farmland – grassy roadside verges, cereal crops and of course later in the season, stubbles. Brown Quail frequent similar habitats but are also found in areas with sparse tree cover. The images below are my first of this species locally. They are difficult to photograph, being secretive and rarely venture from cover during daylight hours. I’m almost certain this male is part of a breeding pair with an active nest. It was flushed a number of times from the same general spot as I was photographing a suite of other grassland species. This set of images captured the bird on one of its returns.

Male Stubble Quail @ Ullina, 13th November 2019

II

III

IV

Variety and abundance

In a highly modified landscape it’s wonderful to occasionally come across a place that retains something of its original qualities, undisturbed by the plough and little altered by grazing or fertiliser.

Such spots often surprise with an abundance of wildlife that’s in stark contrast to the surrounding country. I came across such a gem at the weekend, on the volcanic plains near Ullina. A narrow road reserve, it had has been ‘saved’ from intensification by the presence of basalt ‘floaters’ scattered in profusion across the site. It was alive with birds – a male White-winged Triller was something of a surprise as they usually prefer wooded areas rather than open grassy country. A pair of Stubble Quail took off with a whirr as I was surrounded by grassland birds of great variety and number – Brown Songlarks, Australian Pipits, Horsfield’s Bushlarks  and Eurasian Skylarks.

Basalt country – south of Glengower, 10th November 2019

Male White-winged Triller

Horsfield’s Bushlark

Brown Songlark (male)

Brown Songlark (female) – note the black belly

Australian Pipit

Another Pipit … I think!

Note: This last image has me a little baffled – I suspect it’s an Australian Pipit but there is something of a crest … like an Eurasian Skylark … but the bill is too slender and legs too long. Shame the hind claw is obscured as that would help. What do you reckon?

A flash of blue … and a hint of orange

I took an excursion to the southern margins of the Moolort Plains on Sunday morning. The highlight was a single Blue-winged Parrot on Cotswold Road at Glengower. What an extraordinarily beautiful bird!

It’s unusual to see Blue-winged Parrots in central Victoria in late spring. The stronghold of the species is Tasmania and southern Victoria, where they breed in coastal and sub-coastal forests and woodlands. After breeding the Tasmanian birds disperse to the mainland in autumn and along with the Victorian population can move long distances into semi-arid regions over winter. I’ve most commonly encountered them during the May-July period, either on the plains or in box-ironbark country. Some male Blue-winged Parrots (like this one) develop a pale-orange belly – echoing the striking plumage of the Orange-bellied Parrot, one of Australia’s most critically endangered species.

Blue-winged Parrot, Glengower, 10th November 2019

II