Category Archives: Spring Hill and the Mia Mia

Early mover …

The exception always proves the rule.

It’s notable to see a Golden Wattle flowering in early May … they typically start in the second week of July around Newstead.

Spreading Wattle has been flowering since February but is at its best over autumn.

The yellow hues of our honeyeaters are a nice complement to the golden spray of the wattles.

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Golden Wattle in flower, South German Track, 2nd May 2021

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Spreading Wattle

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Fuscous Honeyeater

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Yellow-faced Honeyeater

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White-naped Honeyeater

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Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

A vagrant peregrine?

Sighting a Peregrine Falcon always stops me in my tracks.

This bird was observed yesterday in the Muckleford bush, just south of Bell’s Lane Track, surveying its surroundings from a high perch in a dead eucalypt.

This individual, however, looked a little different … the usual full black helmet was lacking and instead this bird was slaty-grey on top with a distinct pale cheek patch.

There are many different subspecies of Peregrine Falcon world-wide and two of these, ssp. calidus and ssp. japonensis are occasionally seen in Australia, more so in the north. Both have pale cheek patches with this bird looking more like calidus … but I’m hardly certain of my identification!

The falcon watched me intently from about 80 metres, buzzed a few times by honeyeaters and defecating in style before taking off to the north.

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Peregrine Falcon, south of Bell’s lane Track, 1st May 2021

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My notebook

Apologies in advance for more images of honeyeaters.

This blog is, in part, a daily (almost) diary of happenings in the natural world around Newstead. White-naped Honeyeaters have appeared in large numbers in recent weeks to join the usual throng of Yellow-tufted and Fuscous Honeyeaters, while a few Yellow-faced Honeyeaters are about as well. Dusky Woodswallows remain for now, before departing north in May, while the first flurry of Flame Robins witnessed recently was a taste of things to come. Olive-backed Orioles are still raiding the fig tree at the river reserve, from where I heard the calls of a Powerful Owl just before dusk earlier in the week.

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Fuscous Honeyeaters, Mia Mia Track, 25th April 2021

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Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

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Yellow-faced Honeyeater

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White-naped Honeyeater (adult)

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White-naped Honeyeaters – male below and immature above

An early arrival

Yesterday’s bitter southerly was a taste of winter. I’m not quite ready for it just yet!

It’s not all bad however, as we can look forward to the arrival of a suite of birds from other locales, that choose to spend the cooler seasons in the box-ironbark country.

One of these species is the Flame Robin which typically arrives locally in late April. Yesterday afternoon I spotted a handful of ‘brown birds’ along Mia Mia track and then glimpsed a couple of lovely male birds in their company. I’ve been expecting them, but suspect these individuals are heading further north to the riverine plains.

Watch out in coming weeks for Eastern Spinebill, Swift Parrot and Rose Robin.

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Flame Robin (adult male), Mia Mia Track, 11th April 2021

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Yellow-faced Honeyeater

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Scarlet deficit no more

After nary a Scarlet Robin all through summer the species has been following me around on the past few visits to the Mia Mia.

This lovely pair were sharing a new territory with a pair of Red-capped Robins … a nice combination.

The Collared Sparrowhawk arrived on the scene, pursuing a honeyeater before perching for a few minutes in a nearby Grey Box. The square-tailed silhouette of the raptor in flight confirmed the identity.

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Scarlet Robins, Mia Mia Track area, 5th April 2021

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Male Scarlet Robin

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Female Scarlet Robin

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Collared Sparrowhawk, Mia Mia Track, 5th April 2021

April signs

April is the time when Golden Whistlers arrive in numbers to the box-ironbark country, as they disperse from their breeding grounds at higher altitudes to the south. Immature birds dominate the early influx, with the spectacular males lagging by a few weeks. Colloquially known as thickheads (the first image below explains why), the female is rather nondescript, lacking the fine streaks of its woodland counterpart, the Rufous Whistler. Close inspection reveals the lemon vent, a diagnostic feature. Also returning are small numbers of Scarlet Robins, largely absent during the heat of summer, after breeding locally during spring. Their movements are something of a mystery to me as they are found year round further north, although reporting rates are higher during the cooler months.

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Female Golden Whistler, Mia Mia Track area, 3rd April 2021

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Female Golden Whistler in full voice

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The yellow vent is diagnostic

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Male Scarlet Robin

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Female Scarlet Robin

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Female Red-capped Robin

The joy of autumn rain

While some parts of the continent at present are experiencing almost unprecedented amounts of rain, here in central Victoria we are enjoying the Goldilocks effect … not too little, not too much … but just about right.

This morning I tipped 37mm of rain from the gauge … a perfect autumn break as far as the bush is concerned, which made for some interesting sights yesterday afternoon in the Mia Mia.

I was also pleased to come across some autumn flowering orchids, including Parson’s Bands and what I think is one of the Midge OrchidsCorunastylis sp, but not sure which one.

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Autumn downpour, Mia Mia Track, 21st March 2021

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Midge Orchid – please help with species identification if you can?

Currawongs on the move

Pied Currawongs, arriving around town in recent days from the southern ‘highlands’, are making themselves known with their distinctive calls. They appear to have arrived a few weeks earlier than usual this year.

Meanwhile, in the surrounding bush, the resident Grey Currawongs have become more active and obvious than was the case during the heat of summer. Both species of currawongs are omnivorous; taking a variety of fruits, seeds and invertebrates as well as small birds, eggs and nestlings. Grey Currawongs are said to forage mostly on the ground but the birds pictured below were spotted in the early morning sunshine, searching for insects and spiders under eucalypt bark. At this time of year they form small, loose feeding parties – announcing their presence with characteristic ‘clinking’ calls in flight. A distinctive feature of the Grey Currawong is the pincer-like beak, lacking the hooked tip of its pied relative.

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Grey Currawong, South German Track, 20th March 2021

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Tree Martins in the forest

Tree Martins are warm season visitors to the district. They usually arrive in early spring, often overlooked as charismatic counterparts such as Rainbow Bee-eaters and Sacred Kingfishers grab our attention. They typically nest in tree hollows, using both live and dead trees – sometimes in small, loose colonies but often solitary. Unlike the mud-nesting Fairy Martin they generally lay their eggs on a bed of leaves, occasionally augmented with mud.

Tree Martins are most obvious in autumn as they gather in large, post-breeding flocks in the forest, especially near water. Last evening by my favourite bush dam a flock of 100+ birds gathered to chase insects before dusk. They are an enchanting bird, dipping low across the surface of the water or hawking above the canopy in search of prey. From time to time the birds would gather on the ground, picking up dry leaves or pebbles for no apparent reason. I’ve also seen this behaviour from Fairy Martins.

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Tree Martin, Muckleford State Forest, 18th March 2021

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Tipping into autumn

It’s been a terrific summer … softened by La Nina, with a good dose of post Xmas rain followed by a cool February.

This was my last summer visit to the Mia Mia and I was well rewarded. There were lots of Rainbow Bee-eaters assembling before they head north, their acrobatics amongst the Yellow Gums a sight to behold as they feasted on flying insects.

The begging call of a juvenile Sacred Kingfisher led me to two youngsters, their parents keeping a watchful eye at a safe distance.

Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters are making ‘hay while the sun shines’. As I photographed one gathering nesting material a Chestnut-rumped Heathwren bobbed past in the background. It then proceeded to unleash a short burst of song, including some mimicry that included snippets of ‘tufty’ calls.

Juvenile Sacred Kingfisher, South German Track, 28th February 2021

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Yellow-tufted Honeyeater gathering nesting material … wallaby-grass seeds I think!

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III … mimicking Yellow-tufted Honeyeater