Category Archives: Spring Hill and the Mia Mia

Stepping with care

I endeavour to step carefully as I wander through our local bush, especially at this time of year.

A carpet of wildflowers underfoot – and as the days warm there are other possibilities!

I crouched down amongst a field of Blue Pincushion and Silvertop Wallaby-grass, then the ground suddenly ‘exploded’.

A wondrous sight – a Painted Button-quail nest, with four beautifully marked eggs.

Blue Pincushion-1

Blue Pincushion Brunonia australis, Mia Mia Track, 26th November 2022

PBQ nest-1

Painted Button-quail nest

WallabyGrass-1

Silvertop Wallaby-grass Rytidosperma pallidum

Where are the relatives?

Dusky Woodswallows have been back in good numbers after a brief absence during winter. Nesting is now in full swing.

Usually by this time of year we would expect them to have been joined by their relatives, White-browed and Masked Woodswallows. Alas, no sign of these fellow migrants as yet, although they typically appear on the first of the spring northerlies, often in large mixed flocks. Conditions this year have been cool and wet, and would seem to have delayed their movement south.

DW6-1

Dusky Woodswallow with prey, Bell’s Lane Track, 21st November 2022

DW1-1

II

DW7-1

III

DW5-1

Dusky Woodswallow, Muckleford State Forest, 22nd November 2022

DW4-1

Early stages of nest-building in a River Red Gum

DW3-1

II

DW2-1

III

Bush craft

The artistic creations of woodland birds are on display in the local bush at present.

The Jacky Winter, a delightful small flycatcher weaves a delicate nest from thin stems of native grass and cobwebs. The structure is a shallow bowl, often placed like this one in the horizontal fork of a small branch.

Olive-backed Orioles contract a more substantial nest, a hanging basket woven together with grass, cobwebs and narrow bark strips (Red Stringybark is a favourite material). The nest is typically suspended in the canopy of a sapling and well camouflaged.

The adobe nests of the White-winged Chough are scattered throughout. These structures can last for decades, sometimes abandoned after one season, other times refurbished with additional rims added to the original structure over a number of seasons.

Painted Button-quail continue to surprise, pleasantly. This one was foraging just north of Mia Mia Track amongst the Rough Wattle that is doing brilliantly in our soggy spring. I’ve now logged five separate locations for this species over the past week.

JW2-1

Jacky Winter weaving, Mia Mia Track, 13th November 2022

JW3-1

II

JW1-1

Jacky Winter … weaving in monochrome

Oriole1-1

Oilve-backed Oriole incubating

Oriole2-1

II

ChoughNest-1

White-winged Chough nest

BQ1-1

Painted Button-quail, Mia Mia Track, 13th November 2022

The Riders

I’ve been keeping an eye on a pair of Australasian Grebes (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae) that have built a nest raft on a little dam in the Muckleford Forest, waiting for the moment they start taking their chicks for rides out onto the water. Sure enough, this week they had their three tiny chicks out and about.

It was quite impressive to see how well hidden the three chicks were under the wings of the parent that was carrying them.

One of the young about to join its siblings under the wings

While one parent had the chicks snuggled under wings, the other was out foraging and bringing food back to the little clutch.

Some food for the little ones.

The young would stay well hidden except when food arrived or when time came for the parents to swap roles. It was great to watch the smooth changeover – a few chattering calls and the young ones slide off the back of one parent and climbed up onto the other.

Climbing into position.
Getting excited about some food.
And into the water
On still waters

Courtship update

A interesting time last weekend, watching treecreepers in the Mia Mia.

Both of our resident local species, the Brown Treecreeper and the White-throated Treecreeper, can be easily observed in this spot.

While the White-throated Treecreeper favours somewhat moister micro-habitats than the Brown Treecreeper, both co-exist happily in the gully lines of the Mia Mia.

Brown Treecreepers forage on fallen logs and on the ground as well as tree trunks and branches. The White-throated Treecreeper rarely comes to ground and tends to favour eucalypt trunks and large branches in search of prey.

As these images show, spiders form a significant part of the diet of both species.

The Brown Treecreeper in the first image is a female (note the rufous feathers on the upper breast). It paused on the trunk of a small Grey Box and began to flutter its wings on the approach of the male. In a flash the male passed a spider to the female, to complete the act of courtship.

The male White-throated Treecreeper was observed inspecting a potential nesting site, high up in a large Grey Box. As it checked out the hollow it captured a spider and then flew off, presumably in search of its partner.

BC1-1

Brown Treecreeper (female), Mia Mia Track, 8th October 2022

BC2-1

II

BC3-1

Courtship feeding (male at right with spider)

BC4-1

II

BC5-1

III

WTTC1-1

White-throated Treecreeper (male)with spider

WTTC2-1

II

Not so pallid …

Pallid Cuckoos, usually the last of our species of migrant cuckoos to arrive back in the box-ironbark, have become vocal over the past week or so. I heard my first birds in late September, with a few fleeting observations since then.

At the weekend I observed a fascinating ‘passage of play’ in the Mia Mia, involving a pair of Pallid Cuckoos and the resident Fuscous Honeyeaters.

The first image is of a female (I think) Pallid Cuckoo, the rusty colours around the neck and mantle tend to be diagnostic. The bird was lurking in a copse of Silver Wattle, occasionally dropping to the ground to snatch a caterpillar. Eventually it flew too a high perch where a male Pallid Cuckoo (not pictured) dashed in briefly to bring a caterpillar of its own to the female … an instance of courtship feeding.

This brief interaction triggered a frenzy of attacks from a small group of Fuscous Honeyeaters, a common host species for this species of cuckoo.

On a side note … Rainbow Bee-eaters arrived back on 3rd October, a very early return. More on that later in the week.

PC2-1

Pallid Cuckoo (female), Mia Mia Track, 8th October 2022

PC3-1

II

PC4-1

Mobbed by Fuscous Honeyeaters

PC6-1

II

PC7-1

III

PC8-1

IV

PC5-1

V

PC1-1

VII

As spring approaches …

… our woodland birds are getting busy.

In recent days Mistletoebirds have reappeared around the Yellow Gums behind the house and the first fledgling Red Wattlebirds can be seen perched precariously nearby.

In the Muckleford bush I observed a female White-throated Treecreeper scouting out a potential nest site … many such opportunities will be inspected before a final choice is made.

Down below a pair of Spotted Pardalotes were busily excavating a tunnel in the side of an abandoned mine shaft.

WTTC3-1

White-throated Treecreeper (female), Mia Mia Track, Muckleford State Forest, 29th August 2022

WTTC2-1

II

WTTC1-1

III

Mistletoebird1-1

Mistletoebird (male), Gully Track, Muckleford State Forest, 29th August 2022

Mistletoebird2-1

II

Pardalotenest-1

Spotted Pardalote nest site

SpottedPardalote1-1

Spotted Pardalote (male)

SpottedPardalote2-1

Spotted Pardalote (female)

Wattles, birds and more on show …

It’s mid-August and some familiar local wattles are in full bloom.

While less spectacular than Golden Wattle, Rough Wattle Acacia aspera is one of my favourites.

Along Mia Mia Track there are some lovely patches – not coincidentally this can be a hotspot for woodland birds.

I was interested to observe White-naped Honeyeaters gleaning amongst the Coffee Bush, presumably taking insects.

RW3-1

Rough Wattle

RW2-1

II

RW1-1

III

SilvereyeWattle-1

Silvereye in Golden Wattle

WNHE1-1

White-naped Honeyeater in Coffee Bush Cassinia sifton

WNHE2-1

II

Hovea2-1

Common Hovea

Hovea1-1

II

Babbler-1

White-browed Babbler

White-browed Babblers and more

I’m sure it’s a frequent behaviour, just not one that I’ve witnessed previously.

Moments before the second image was captured the White-browed Babbler at left passed a small food item to the individual on the right, most likely an instance of courtship feeding. This activity is common in many bird species, but happens so quickly that it can be overlooked.

Along with the selection below I spotted my first Olive-backed Orioles of the season and heard a Fan-tailed Cuckoo calling.

WBB1-1

White-browed Babbler, South German Track, 29th July 2022

WBB2-1

Moments after the food pass

WBB3-1

White-browed Babblers

FuscousHE1-1

Fuscous Honeyeater

FuscousHE2-1

II

Spinebill1-1

Eastern Spinebill in Spreading Wattle

Spinebill3-1

Eastern Spinebill (male) singing

The wattles are out and so are the birds

The first burst of Golden Wattle Acacia pycnantha flowering has occurred during the past week, a sure sign that the season has shifted. Flowering will reach a ‘crescendo’ in August. Rough Wattle Acacia aspera has also commenced flowering, but more on that in a forthcoming post.

A visit to the South German Track area at the weekend produced a number of highlights, including fleeting, close-up views of a Chestnut-rumped Heathwren gathering food and a most unusual find – a peacock tail feather suspended in the foliage of a Golden Wattle. I can only speculate about how it got there.

GW-1

Golden Wattle in flower, South German Track, 24th July 2022

BHHE-1

Brown-headed Honeyeater

ES1-1

Eastern Spinebill

ES2-1

II

ES3-1

III

Hylacola2-1

Chestnut-rumped Heathwren

Hylacola1-1

II

Peacock-1

Peacock feather

Silvereye-1

Silvereye

YFHE1-1

Yellow-faced Honeyeater

YFHE2-1

II

YTHE-1

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater