Category Archives: Spring Hill and the Mia Mia

Gold is the colour …

Gold is the colour of the bush at present – wattles, honeyeaters and robins are the embodiment of a wonderful spring.

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Mia Mia Track, 16th September 2020

Eastern Yellow Robins continue to delight … the final image in this sequence is a first for me.

Eastern Yellow Robins

Female at right

Male at left

Curious and delightful birds

II

Magic moment!

In the engine room

The local bush hasn’t looked as good for years … of course memory does play tricks, but it’s a cracker of a spring.

Healthy shrubby understorey is a key driver of bird populations and there has been a steady recovery in some areas of the Muckleford bush since the Millennium drought broke in 2010. Rough Wattle Acacia aspera is one of the plants priming this resurgence. In full flower it’s home to a myriad of insects and this of course brings the insectivorous birds to feast and breed.

Hooded Robins are competing at present with a host of other woodland birds for their share. The Eastern Yellow Robin (pictured below) was chasing the Hooded Robin pair in a minor territorial dispute, before all resumed regular duties.

Rough Wattle, Mia Mia Track, 12th September 2020

Female Hooded Robin with nest-building material

Hooded Robin pair

Male Hooded Robin

Eastern Yellow Robin … on the lookout

Welcome back Lalage

Perhaps a smidgeon earlier than usual, White-winged Trillers have arrived back from their northern vacation.

First hearing their distant rattling calls, two individuals were then spotted right in front of me near Mia Mia Track. The pied bird is a sub-adult male, retaining vestiges of the brown immature plumage. The other is an immature female, the pale barring on the flanks a distinctive feature. Trillers belong in the cuckoo-shrike family Campephagidae – the White-winged Triller is scientifically known as Lalage tricolor (formerly sueurii). Trillers, like cuckoo-shrikes, have a penchant for caterpillars.

The origin of Lalage is vague, deriving apparently from a reference to an unidentified bird, by the Greek grammarian Hesyschius. The epithet sueurii, now replaced by tricolor, was named for Charles Lesueur (1778-1846), a French draughtsman and zoologist who was part of the Baudin expedition to the South Seas in the Geographe from 1800-1804.

White-winged Triller (sub-adult male), Mia Mia Track, 10th September 2020

White-winged Triller (immature female)

II

III

IV

Sittella central

I’ve been visiting a hotspot on Mia Mia Track this week.

Hooded and Eastern Yellow Robins, along with Rufous and Golden Whistlers were conspicuous and active during each visit, as were a party of Varied Sittellas.

The sittellas, seen foraging in the late afternoon sunshine on Thursday, were then spotted gathering nesting materials yesterday. The nest, almost complete, is high-up in the fork of a dead sapling – perhaps 1o metes above the ground.

A sittella nest is a thing of beauty. The delicate cup features vertically arranged shreds of bark, bound together with cobwebs, including a few threads that have been used to anchor the structure. The final touches include spider egg sacs that are arranged around the rim.

Varied Sittella, Mia Mia Track, 10th September 2020

II

Still foraging in the same spot, a day later.

The nest, almost complete

II

III

A late winter treat

What a delight to be able to photograph a Rose Robin in the local bush …especially a spectacular male.

Rose Robins are regular migrants to the box-ironbark country, arriving in small numbers from late autumn and departing for their breeding grounds in the tall, wet forests to our south by late winter. They are not at all common locally – over the years I’ve only seen a handful. This male was found in a damp gully with Yellow Box and flowering Golden Wattle to the north of Bell’s Lane Track. As I observed the bird the calls of Flame Robins (also heading south), Scarlet Robins and even a Red-capped Robin provided the accompanying soundscape.

Male Rose Robin, Muckleford State Forest, 20th August 2020

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

Many thanks to Nevil Amos for the tip-off.

Galahs in the Mia Mia

It is not unusual at this time of year to observe a Galah in flight carrying a spray of eucalypt foliage. The birds, both male and female, use the foliage as nest-lining. This pair is one of a number that have commenced nesting in the Mia Mia. They are particularly fond of alluvial drainage lines with a selection of veteran trees from which to choose a suitable hollow.

Galahs (female at left) in courtship mode, South German Track, 16th August 2020

The male arriving at the nest hollow in a Grey Box with spray of Yellow Gum foliage

II

III

Ready for departure

Sights and sounds

As I wandered along a side-track in the Mia Mia at the weekend the unmistakable sound of Olive-backed Orioles  could be heard coming from a couple of different directions. A common spring migrant, this is something of an early record as they generally arrive in the first week of September. As I tried to track down the birds calling in the trees nearby I spotted this individual ‘skulking’ in the undergrowth. This one was uttering a selection of different notes, softer and including some mimicry for which orioles are renowned.

Orioles are considered by some to have few equals as a mimic – the breadth of their repertoire is impressive … Whistling Kite, Crimson Rosella, Noisy Friarbird and Grey Shrike-thrush to name just a few of the species that have been noted being impersonated by this oriole. One of the theories put forward to explain their mimicry is that it allows them to feed in mixed flocks with more aggressive birds, such as large honeyeaters and figbirds.

Olive-backed Oriole near South German Track, 16th August 2020

II

Moments later another early arrival appeared quietly overhead, just above the canopy – a Square-tailed Kite back in one of its favourite haunts. Spring is in the offing!

Square-tailed Kite

II

III

In the trees and on the ground

Treecreepers, of which we have two local species, are aptly named. They do indeed ‘creep’ along the trunk and branches of trees, generally eucalypts, in search of insects. Unlike the (almost) strictly arboreal White-throated Treecreeper, Brown Treecreepers spend considerable time foraging on the ground. At the weekend I enjoyed watching this Brown Treecreeper searching for insects amongst the dew-laden moss-beds as some of its ‘colleagues’ behaved in more typical treecreeper fashion nearby.

Brown Treecreeper, South German Track, 9th August 2020

II

III

IV

Grey Shrike-thrush

Property inspection

In recent weeks I’ve observed a number of species of parrots (galahs, cockatoos, red-rumps etc.) checking out prospective spring breeding sites.

It was nice to see one of our rarer local parrots during a visit to the Mia Mia during the week – a pair of Purple-crowned Lorikeets inspecting a Yellow Gum for potential nesting hollows in the late afternoon sun.

Fingers crossed for some soaking rain over coming days. The wet start to winter has been followed by a prolonged dry spell.

Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Mia Mia Track, 5th August 2020

II

III

IV

Tufties breeding

Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters are into the swing of breeding again.

This species typically nests at low levels in shrubs, or as in this case, a coppicing eucalypt. They make beautifully woven nests from grass and cobwebs, sometimes incorporating wool into the suspended basket.

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Muckleford State Forest, 5th August 2020

The nest was suspended amongst the foliage of a coppicing Red Box

II

III

Two eggs … so far