Category Archives: Rotunda Park

A woven treasure

The chatter of Weebills provides a pleasant accompaniment on many of my walks. Such was the case last weekend at Rotunda Park, a party of Weebills foraging in a patch of Cootamunda Wattle. The birds weren’t chasing insects, rather they were gathering spent wattle flowers to decorate an almost completed nest in a nearby Golden Wattle.

A Weebill nest is a beautiful creation, a small domed structure woven from grass and cobwebs, interspersed with flowers within and on the exterior …perhaps as camouflage. At least four individuals were contributing to the finishing touches on the nest, suspended less than a metre from the ground. Weebills are known to be cooperative breeders.

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Weebill arriving at the nest site, Rotunda Park Newstead, 28th August 2021

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Grey Fantail

So predictable!

After yesterday’s post on the return of the male Rose Robin I thought it worth checking the other spot where I’ve seen this species over recent years, Rotunda Park in Newstead.

Sure enough, a female Rose Robin was easily located amongst the wattles at the western edge of the Park – exactly the spot where I observed a female on the cusp of spring 2020.

Rose Robins have a particular habit, while perched, of lowering their wings and cocking their tail, and then twitching them simultaneously. The second last image below is a poor depiction of this distinctive behaviour.

What I find truly remarkable is that such a small bird can seemingly return to exactly the same location in successive years.

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Female Rose Robin, Rotunda Park Newstead, 30th May 2021

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Grey Fantail and Hedge Wattle

It’s a good year for Grey Fantails … their gentle calls can be heard in the home garden, around town and in the surrounding bushland.

These dainty flycatchers make a most exquisite nest – a shallow cup of cobwebs and grass, often with an elongated tail.

I was following a Yellow-faced Honeyeater into a clump off Hedge Wattle when I spotted this nest. Moments later one of the adults arrived to sit.

Grey Fantail, Rotunda Park Newstead, 11th October 2020

Grey Fantail nest in Hedge Wattle

The bird returns …

… and settles.

A charm of its own

Back in April 2017 I encountered a Rose Robin (identified as an immature male) at Rotunda Park in Newstead. While I haven’t seen one there since I made a visit yesterday afternoon on a hunch. Over the past fortnight I’ve spent some time with a magnificent male Rose Robin in the Muckleford bush and I thought … maybe I might get lucky at Rotunda Park.

Sure enough a female Rose Robin was soon spotted in the wattles along the drainage line. While I have a very limited data set I suspect this small, migratory robin favours dense, moist gullies during its winter sojourns in the box-ironbark country. Furthermore I have a theory that it is resident in favoured locations during its visits.

The female Rose Robin is not nearly as spectacular as the male, however, it has its own charm as evidenced by the images below. The faint pink wash on the breast was more obvious from certain lighting angles.

Female Rose Robin, Rotunda Park Newstead, 29th August 2020

Male Rose Robin, Muckleford State Forest, 24th August 2020

Distinct pale orbital ring

Small white forehead patch

Pale grey upper parts and relatively long white-sided tail

Faint pink wash on the breast

Sign of the times

My first Eastern Spinebill of the autumn – at Rotunda Park on Good Friday.

An adult male, it was hanging around some of the flowering Rock Correa along the Mia Mia Creek. Most years immature individuals arrive first so I was a little surprised to see this handsome male.

Eastern Spinebill (adult male), Rotunda Park Newstead, 10th April 2020

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Flowering season

I hear on the ‘grapevine’ that there are areas of the box-ironbark experiencing some of the best flowering in the past decade.

Not so around Newstead. At this time of year Grey Box Eucalyptus microcarpa is usually at its peak, with Yellow Gum E. leucoxylon just starting to flower. This year has been a light season for Grey Box and it’s too early to say what will happen with Yellow Gum … hopefully it will spring into life and attract hordes of Swift Parrots!

In the meantime we’ll need to be satisfied with the colour and playful antics of Galahs.

Grey Box – flowers, buds and fruits – Rotunda Park Newstead, 5th April 2020

Galahs @ Rotunda Park

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To follow a theme

The theme for the next month is going to be … ‘What is happening to our woodland birds … blip or collapse?’

I’ve already alluded, in recent posts, to a worrying summer decline in both species richness and abundance of our local woodland birds.

During the week I paid visits to Rotunda Park and Mia Mia Track and on both occasions observations followed recent trends – very few birds and a lack of variety. No sign of robins (apart from a single Eastern Yellow Robin in the Mia Mia) or whistlers and very few honeyeaters. Let’s see what happens over the next month … I’d be very interested in other local notes to add to the mix.

Weebill, Rotunda Park Newstead, 27th February 2020

Yellow Thornbill @ Rotunda Park

Grey Fantail @ Rotunda Park

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Eastern Yellow Robin in the Mia Mia, 28th February 2020

Brown Thornbill in the Mia Mia

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Postscript: Damian Kelly, another active local birder, sent me the following note after reading this post …

I read your resent blog posts about species numbers with interest. Being out and about quite a bit I have to agree with your comments. Apart from a few Yellow Robins and a couple of Jacky Winters locally I have not seen any other small insectivores so far this year. Quite disturbing. 

Not only in the Newstead orbit but further afield – for example Mount Lofty (near Redesdale) is usually a good spot for Scarlet, Hooded and Yellow Robins. A recent visit yielded none of these, although I did see a couple of Jacky Winters. No Speckled Warbler which I have seen in the past. 

Same for a couple of Coliban water race tracks at Elphinstone and Mt Alexander – Scarlet and Yellow Robins usually present, but not seen in recent visits this year. Even the wetter Blackwood area was way down on species – no robins part from a solitary yellow. Rufous Fantails and Bassian Thrush were very rare compared to previous years in January. Grey Fantail was common.

The bush surrounding parts of Tullaroop seems to be faring better with Varied Sittella, various honeyeaters, Weebills, Shrike-tits and such like in reasonable numbers, but no robins. Plus one WB Sea-Eagle the other day. Also lots of Tree and Fairy Martins.

Lynne, as you know, studies spiders quite a bit and she is reporting significant declines in numbers of both the ground dwelling wolf spiders (like the one in Frances’ recent post on your blog) and the arboreal orb weavers as well as the black house types that she encourages on the windows of our house. She reckons that insect numbers (as evidenced by fewer insects caught in webs) are significantly lower which results in lack of food and subsequent breeding.

I did a lot of surveys – 20 minute 2 hectare – for Connecting Country in spring/early summer last year and patterns were similar. This covered 17 surveys at 9 different locations and the pattern was similar. Of course less insects limits bird food as well. A link with the robins? Who knows…..

Clouds and birds

I’ve consulted my cloud identification chart – not surprisingly I’m stumped for an ID on the clouds pictured below. Feel free to enlighten me!

I watched them all the way home along the Calder on Monday evening and managed to capture the ‘closing stages’ over Rotunda Park. Thirty minutes later they had disappeared entirely.

I’m more comfortable with birds than clouds but always prepared to learn!

Clouds over Rotunda Park, 16th December 2019

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Little Eagle @ Joyce’s Creek, 15th December 2019

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Nice light @ Rotunda Park

It was gorgeous light at Rotunda Park last evening. The Common Bronzewings and Spotted Pardalotes were revelling in it.

Common Bronzewing, Rotunda Park Newstead, 29th August 2018

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Spotted Pardalote

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Autumn gold

Every autumn we have an influx of Golden Whistlers, altitudinal migrants from further south along the Great Dividing Range. While small numbers remain year round one of the familiar sounds of autumn is the sweet, musical whistling of this gorgeous bird echoing throughout the local bush.

The adult male is a spectacular combination of black and gold and while typically a bushland bird they are regular visitors to home gardens.

Golden Whistler (adult male), Rotunda Park Newstead, 6th May 2018

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