Being in a different hemisphere meant that I missed the arrival of a number of spring migrants this year.
Before I left in mid-September all five cuckoos (Pallid, Fan-tailed, Black-eared, Horsfield’s and Shining Bronze) had arrived, along with White-winged Trillers. Returning at the weekend I was pleased to now see the three species pictured below in their usual haunts.
A number of Olive-backed Orioles were calling beautifully at the Rise and Shine, while along the Loddon River both Rufous Songlarks and Sacred Kingfishers (two pairs) could be easily located from their distinctive and far-carrying calls. These three very different birds share a common attribute, each is a spring breeding migrant to central Victoria after spending the winter in northern Australia.
Olive-backed Oriole, Rise and Shine, 13th October 2019
Rufous Songlark, Newstead Cemetery, 13th October 2019
Sacred Kingfisher, Loddon River @ Newstead, 13th October 2019
Amongst the chattering chorus of woodswallows, at present in their hundreds at the Rise and Shine, it would be easy to overlook some of the less vocal species.
I did, however, at the weekend pick up the mournful descending call of a number of Black-eared Cuckoos – like both White-browed and Masked Woodswallows this species is a spring migrant from the north.
In the same genus, Chalcites, as both the Shining Bronze-cuckoo and Horsfield’s Bronze -cuckoo, the Black-eared Cuckoo is less strikingly marked and also less common in the Newstead district. Like its relatives it has a fondness for caterpillars and as these images show plays a key role in regulating the numbers of cup-moths whose caterpillars can be responsible for large-scale defoliation of eucalypts in the box-ironbark ecosystem. Black-eared Cuckoos tend to arrive a little later in the season than the other local cuckoos and are most often observed during October and November, coinciding with the peak breeding activity of their hosts, such as the Speckled Warbler.
Black-eared Cuckoo with Cup-moth caterpillar, Rise and Shine, 12th October 2019
Note the trace of metallic sheen at the base of the wing coverts
We’ve just returned from a month-long expedition in search of flamingos in the northern hemishpere … well, not quite, but we did see Greater Flamingos in the Algarve!
I was delighted to receive a number of updates from home while we were away, especially to hear that White-browed and Masked Woodswallows had arrived in good numbers in early October.
I ventured out to the Rise and Shine yesterday afternoon and was pleased to see hundreds of the birds in residence. I also managed to find one pair of White-browed Woodswallows with a nest, the female apparently incubating. These birds can be a a touch enigmatic and will often desert their nests if conditions aren’t suitable. Fingers crossed for some nice spring rain later this week to encourage them to to stay.
White-browed Woodswallow (male), Rise and Shine, 12th October 2019
White-Browed Woodswallow (female)
Female White-browed Woodswallow courtship preening the male
Th female beside the nest – hidden amongst the foliage of a Long-leaved Box
List: White-browed Woodswallow, Masked Woodswallow, Black-eared Cuckoo, Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Mistletoebird, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Fuscous Honeyeater.
In central Victoria spring can be a brief interlude between winter and summer.
Earlier this week at the Rise and Shine I was watching a pair of Hooded Robins engaged in courtship, the pair sitting close together on low perches with the female wing-fluttering and vocalising towards the male. As I watched this display a party of Flame Robins moved through, presumably heading south and ‘uphill’ after their winter sojourn in the box-ironbark. Meanwhile a Square-tailed Kite, one of our warm season migrants, floated above the treetops nearby. White-winged Trillers were also showing off, but sadly eluded the camera.
The ‘Shine’ is a wonderful vantage point from which to observe these seasonal transitions.
Male Hooded Robin, Rise and Shine, 4th September, 2019
Female Hooded Robin
Hooded Robin (pair)
Male Flame Robin
List: Hooded Robin, Scarlet Robin, Eastern Yellow Robin, Flame Robin, Shining Bronze-cuckoo, Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo, Square-tailed Kite, Spotted Pardalote, White-winged Triller, Brown Treecreeper, Weebill, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater.
It’s my favourite time of the year again.
Eastern Yellow Robins are getting busy and apparently nest-building in the local bush. There will be lots to report in coming weeks.
Eastern Yellow Robin, Rise & Shine, 18th August 2019
The next few weeks will be an exciting time in the local bush. This Brown-headed Honeyeater provided a brief cameo of what’s in store.
Brown-headed Honeyeater collecting nesting material, Rise and Shine, 18th August 2019
I’ve always been somewhat surprised at the lack of interest shown by birds when Golden Wattle comes into bloom each winter.
Last weekend I witnessed a remarkable burst of honeyeater activity amongst a small copse of flowering wattle at the Rise and Shine. It was a cold day, with sunshine ‘in and out’, as a mixed flock of honeyeaters descended on the blooms with great enthusiasm. The White-naped Honeyeaters dominated the scene, with smaller numbers of the other species. Once again this observation shows that humans only glimpse a fraction of nature’s rich tapestry!
Brown-headed Honeyeater feeding on Golden Wattle, Rise and Shine, 18th August 2019