Category Archives: Spring Hill and the Mia Mia

Meet the new generation

Rainbow Bee-eaters have been moving into the forest over the past couple of weeks, leaving their breeding grounds as small, mixed flocks of adults and recently fledged juvenile birds.

I enjoyed a delightful interlude last evening along South German Track, where some youngsters gathered around me as they searched for insects and perched cooperatively on low shrubs. The next few weeks will be spent in the forest before they depart to northern climes – generally all have departed by mid March.

Immature Rainbow Bee-eaters lack the dark gorget (or bib) on the throat and while not as strikingly coloured as the adults are still very beautiful birds.

Rainbow Bee-eater (immature), South German Track, 12th February 2020

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Signs of the times

We’re heading towards autumn with the recent rain and cooler nights a sign of pleasant days to come.

I’ve spotted a few Grey Currawongs recently in the Muckleford bush and last evening came across a youngster, calling expectantly to an accompanying parent. The yellow gape of the juvenile is evident in the images below, while the adult looks a little ragged – the result of post-breeding moult.

Spreading Wattle Acacia genistifolia is now flowering, adding a welcome touch of colour to the dry bush. This species usually starts flowering in January and will continue through till late autumn.

Adult Grey Currawong, South German Track, 8th February 2020

Juvenile Grey Currawong

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Adult Grey Currawong … in moult

Spreading Wattle

A babbler in a buloke

Buloke Allocasuarina luehmannii is recognised as a tree of the plains country to our west. There are, however, a few individuals scattered throughout the Muckleford bush. Perhaps they were once more common – they are slow growers, germinate patchily from seed and the seedlings are readily browsed by macropods and now of course, rabbits!

The sequence captured below would have once been a common sight in our district – a White-browed Babbler in a Buloke.

Sadly, times have changed. White-browed Babblers and their larger relative, the Grey-crowned Babbler, have disappeared entirely from the Moolort Plains. The former are still relatively common in the Muckleford bush and areas south of Newstead, but the coincidence of a babbler in one of its favourite habitat trees is now a rare occurrence.

May times change again for the better …

White-browed Babbler in a Buloke, Mia Mia Track area, 2nd February 2020

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Under leaden skies

Yesterday morning dark grey clouds rolled in from the north-west and delivered a very welcome 17mm of rain.

Aptly, just before they burst I encountered a pair of Leaden Flycatchers along Golf Links Track. The female was being cryptic and while I failed to capture any images of her, the male was much more cooperative.

Leaden Flycatchers are summer breeding migrants to south-eastern Australia – they tend to favour the wetter forests along the foothills of the divide to our south. Very similar to the Satin Flycatcher, also a summer migrant, adult Leaden Flycatchers can be separated by their lead-grey (rather than glossy-black) plumage, the presence of a horizontal (rather than concave) breast-band, pale grey (rather than blackish) tail and pale edges to the wing feathers. Both flycatchers are known for their marvellous tail-shivering behaviour. The females of both species are also quite similar. Over the years I’ve seen Leaden Flycatchers at this time of year in the Rise and Shine, as well as Yandoit, but never before in the Muckleford bush. I suspect this pair are on their way back north.

Leaden Flycatcher (adult male), Golf Links Track, Muckleford State Forest, 1st February 2020

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A thirsty wallaby … and a surprise

I’ve been avoiding the Muckleford bush during the hot spell but finally wended my way to a favourite spot on South German Track on Friday evening. This small bush dam has been a treat for birds over the past couple of years and I was on the lookout for Black Honeyeaters and Chestnut-rumped Heathwrens.

No luck on that front, but a thirsty Black Wallaby (an adult male) came within ‘hand shaking’ distance as I sat quietly by the water.

Bird list: White-browed Woodswallow, Dusky Woodswallow, Crested Bellbird, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Fuscous Honeyeater, Tree Martin, Eastern Rosella, Grey Shrike-thrush, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike.

Swamp Wallaby, South German Track, 3rd January 2020

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The surprise … I arrived home to a bevy (10+) of Musk Lorikeets perched on the bird bath in the front garden. Despite this species being an almost permanent fixture in the flowering Red Ironbark overhead I’d never actually seen them descend to the water before. The temperature gauge in the car was registering 39C as I drove in … suspect that might have been the reason!

Musk Lorikeet above the bird bath

Adult (at left) and immature Musk Lorikeet

A welcome drop

What a welcome drop of rain over the weekend!

After a couple of days in the mid 30s we have received 29mm of rainfall since Saturday. I think the Brown Treecreepers are happy – this one was spotted collecting nesting material (looks like wool or fur) and visiting its nest site in the Mia Mia. Sacred Kingfishers could also be heard calling from a number of areas nearby.

Brown Treecreeper with nesting material, Mia Mia Track area, 1st November 2019

After leaving the nest site – a hollow in a low stump

Sacred Kingfisher

White-faced Heron hunting for insects after the rain

Gatherings

Woodswallows have been gathering along Mia Mia Road on a consistent basis over the past few weeks.

Three of the four locally occurring species can be seen at present – White-browed Woodswallows are the most numerous, along with smaller numbers of Masked and Dusky Woodswallows (the latter two species are pictured here). Masked Woodswallows are sexually dimorphic, the females looking like a paler version of the male with a faint grey mask – in Dusky Woodswallows the sexes are identical.

Dusky Woodswallow, Mia Mia Road, 3rd November 2019

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Male Masked Woodswallow, Mia Mia Road, 21st November 2019

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Female Masked Woodswallow