Category Archives: Spring Hill and the Mia Mia

Sacred things

This is sacred habitat.

Aulluvial-terraces Herb-rich Woodland in the Mia Mia, 9th December 2017

This is a sacred tree.

The nest site in a River Red-gum

This is a sacred hollow.

The hollow showing evidence of occupation

Meet the care takers.

Sacred Kingfisher about to enter the nest, 9th December 2017

The female above the nest site

Here’s the male

Woodswallows in the Mia Mia

These Dusky Woodswallows were so intent on counting that they pretty much ignored as I sat nearby with the camera. Two pairs of the birds were feeding in the gully below Mia Mia Track, dropping to the ground from a variety of perches to catch ants and other insects.

Dusky woodswallow, South German Track, 8th December 2017

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In their company were a host of Brown Treecreepers, including recently fledged juveniles, Sacred Kingfisher, Eastern Yellow Robin and Diamond Firetails. It’s a lovely spot for woodland birds.

Juvenile Brown Treecreeper

Male Red-rumped Parrot looking resplendent

Around the traps

While it was a quiet weekend with the camera I did manage to get out for a couple of brief jaunts.

Here is what I saw.

Barking Owl, Rotunda Park Newstead, 11th November 2017

Grey Shrike-thrush incubating, Rotunda Park

Little Eagle over Mia Mia Track

Musk Lorikeet in downtown Newstead

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Male SuperbFairy-wren, Loddon River, 12th November 2017

A sacred courtship #1

I was fortunate last evening in the Mia Mia to observe a pair of Sacred Kingfishers engaging in courtship behaviour.

Their loud contact calls drew me to the pair – perched near a hollow in a tall Grey Box. Both adults were making brief sorties from nearby perches to enter the nest site appearing to delve and excavate with their bills in preparation for nesting. Sometimes they would disappear briefly into the hollow while on other visit they perched at the entrance. On a couple of occasions the male (pictured here) caught a prey item and called loudly whilst displaying with its tail towards the female. While many of our bush birds are feeding young at present these spring migrants are in the early stages of breeding.

Male Sacred Kingfisher arriving at the nest hollow, Mia Mia Track area, 8th November 2017

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A bit harsh perhaps?

In my last post I insinuated that the male Mistletoebird is not exactly pulling his weight when it comes to nest-building.

While at first glance this does seem to be the case, from both my observations and those in the literature, I think the story is a little more complex than suggested.

Yesterday I was watching the pair on Spring Hill Track and noted that while the female was busy adding material to the evolving nest the male was very busy keeping intruders, in the form of other male Mistletoebirds, away from the nest site. On a number of occasions I watched as he aggressively chased at least one and possibly two other males away from the area surrounding the nest site. Territorial behaviour like this is a big drain on the energy reserves of birds and perhaps this division of labour has evolved as an efficient and effective approach to breeding in this species.

Male Mistletoebird, Spring Hill Track, 25th October 2017

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The female at the nest site

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Trying to help!

Mistletoebirds are a favourite of mine.

These tiny birds are common in and around Newstead where they feast on the ripening berries of mistletoes that abound on local eucalypts.

They build the most intricate and delicate nest, a purse-shaped structure that is woven from grass, cobwebs and flowers – typically suspended in the canopy of a small shrub. Earlier in the week I spotted a pair on Spring Hill Track in the first throes of nest-building – a male busily flitting about, displaying and singing near the site while the female was collecting materials and doing the actual construction work. The male doesn’t offer much practical help in this process!

Male Mistletoebird, Spring Hill Track, 23rd October 2017

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Female Mistletoebird in Grey Box – the beginnings of the nest can be seen below the birds feet.

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Back from the north

The first warm days of spring bring waves of migrating woodswallows into the district from the north. In some years these flocks, which consist largely of White-browed with smaller numbers of Masked Woodswallows, contain hundreds of birds – usually the numbers are more modest.

These two species of woodswallow regularly breed locally but they are fickle in their habits, sometimes building nests and even laying eggs before mysteriously disappearing virtually overnight if conditions are not suitable. Last year very few visited the Newstead area and I found no evidence of breeding.

On Friday I cam across a small flock along the fence lines on Mia Mia Road, after hearing them overhead earlier in the day. A number of were dropping to the ground in search of insects. I wonder if this is their method of assessing the local conditions to decide if it’s worth hanging around?

White-browed Woodswallow (male), Mia Mia Road, 20th October 2017

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The females were less confiding