Category Archives: Muckleford NCR

Sights of winter

The onset of winter means a subtle change in the composition of the local bird community.

Eastern Spinebill, Golden Whistler and White-eared Honeyeater are distinctive ‘winter birds’ in the Newstead district, although the latter species may be seen throughout the year. Scarlet Robins also tend to be more abundant during the cooler months.

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Eastern Spinebill (adult female), Red White and Blue Mine, 2nd June 2022

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Gymnopilus junonius (Spectacular Rustgill) on Grey Box

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Golden Whistler (immature)

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Grey Currawong

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Emperor Gum Moth – spent cocoons

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Scarlet Robin (adult male)

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White-eared Honeyeater

Who needs summer …

Many birds, especially honeyeaters, will be drawn to water to bathe at any time of year.

Yesterday afternoon I witnessed a short bathing frenzy in a small bushland pool in the Muckleford Nature Conservation Reserve. The pool was formed from the remnants of a shallow mine-shaft in a gully, filled with silt over the decades and now functioning as a wonderful bird-bath.

At least thirty birds were gathered around the pool, perching in the Golden Wattle and Cassinia between dips.

The majority were White-naped Honeyeaters, joined by smaller numbers of Yellow-faced, Fuscous and Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters. After a few hectic minutes the birds finished their ablutions and dispersed into the surrounding bush.

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Bush pool, Muckleford Nature Conservation Reserve, 1st June 2022

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White-naped Honeyeater, Muckleford Nature Conservation Reserve, 1st June 2022

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Yellow-faced Honeyeater

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The usual and not so …

As we drift into June, shorter days mean fewer birding opportunities.

The area north of Bell’s Lane Track is a favourite spot, at the boundary between state forest and the Muckleford Nature Conservation Reserve.

A series of drainage lines contain some larger Yellow Box and White Box trees and the variety of birds in this area is generally greater than normal for the Muckleford bush.

Late yesterday afternoon I was watching a trio of robins, Flame, Scarlet and Eastern Yellow Robins, when I heard the unmistakable call of a Noisy Friarbird. This large, nomadic honeyeater is by no means common locally and more often heard than seen. The Newstead district is on the southern edge of the range of this species in central Victoria, although these blossom nomads are often recorded outside their usual haunts. Generally moving in small flocks, Noisy Friarbirds are noisy and obvious when feeding. While I spotted a single bird, at least two others were calling.

Also of note was a Fan-tailed Cuckoo, observed at this very spot in the first week of June last year.

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Eastern Yellow Robin, Bells Lane Track, Muckleford State Forest, 26th May 2022

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Flame Robin

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Noisy Friarbird

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Scarlet Robin

Cuckoos and spinebills

I was pleasantly surprised last weekend to encounter two Fan-tailed Cuckoos in the Muckleford Nature Conservation Reserve. I had excellent view of the first bird after it flew to a nearby branch, where it was joined  almost immediately by a second individual.

Both birds were silent and moved on after a few minutes perched in the early morning sunshine. I did hear a brief ‘fan-tail’ trill at a distance a few minutes later.

Fan-tailed Cuckoos are regarded, quite rightly, as late winter migrants to the box-ironbark country. The story is a bit more complicated as they can be seen in any month, although it is unclear if some individuals remain all-year round or if these might be birds from further south. Their silence outside the breeding season is why they largely go unnoticed, until their distinctive calls are heard again from August onwards.

The story with Eastern Spinebills has some parallels, but in reverse. Arriving in good numbers in the autumn they disappear to the high country to breed in late winter, although they are apparently resident in nearby locations such as Maldon and Yandoit. The movement patterns of Australian birds are complex and new insights are continually emerging. Seasonal conditions also play a significant role in what happens from year to year, even for species with fairly well-established movement patterns.

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Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Muckleford Nature Conservation Reserve, 29th May 2021

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Eastern Spinebill (male)

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Grey-shrike Thrush, Mia Mia Track

A creature of habit

Last winter I was fortunate to encounter a male Rose Robin in the Muckleford Nature Conservation Reserve. The birds was present for a number of weeks in the same spot, a moist gully dominated by Yellow Box, White Box and a dense understorey of Golden Wattle.

I was not at all surprised, on a visit yesterday, to again observe a male Rose Robin!

While I have no evidence to prove my case you would have to think it is the same individual. My 2020 sighting was in mid-August, although the bird had been observed there some weeks earlier. I suspect this one will be resident for the winter.

Rose Robins breed further south, migrating in small numbers to the box-ironbark over the cooler months. Like the other Petroica robins, Rose Robins are insectivores but tend to be more aerial in their foraging behaviour.

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Male Rose Robin, Muckleford State Forest, 29th May 2021

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