In recent months I’ve been observing Blue-faced Honeyeaters more and more often around town. The calls of this recently arrived species are now part of the local soundscape. Earlier in the week I arrived home to see two sitting above the bird bath in the front yard. It was interesting to watch a Red Wattlebird swoop in and join the honeyeaters. In normal circumstances the wattlebird would have caused any smaller birds, even rosellas and galahs, to quickly disperse. The Blue-faced Honeyeater is a similar size to a Red Wattlebird and just as aggressive – they didn’t even blink upon the arrival of the wattlebird.
Blue-faced Honeyeater, Wyndham Street Newstead, 4th April 2019
I was pleasantly surprised last weekend to hear a familiar call in the garden at home. A small party of Brown Thornbills had arrived to forage in the shrubs outside our back-door, perhaps attracted by the water baths nearby. For me, this was a notable sighting, as I’ve barely heard a Brown Thornbill in the bush over summer. Local gardens play a vital role as a refuge for woodland bird species in times of landscape stress.
Brown Thornbill, Wyndham Street Newstead, 3rd March 2019
Common Bronzewing (female)
Common Bronzewing (male)
It has been a dry, hot summer with a succession of cloudless days. I’ve been hoping for the occasional storm-front, not just for the rain it might bring, but also for the prospect of swifts.
Each summer and into the autumn you are likely to see two species of swifts in south-eastern Australia, White-throated Needletails (aka Spine-tailed Swift) and the smaller Fork-tailed (or Pacific) Swift.
Last weekend, just before dusk, a dry thunderstorm passed through Newstead with a handful of Fork-tailed Swifts riding the warm air accompanying the clouds. On this occasion there were no ‘needletails’ amongst the flock, as is often the case. I watched in awe as they sped through the air overhead and then they were gone as soon as they had appeared.
Fork-tailed Swift over Newstead, 17th February 2019
A quiet morning stroll along Wyndham Street was interrupted by a recognisable harsh screeching from the amongst the elms.
The noise, often heard at this tine of year, was coming from an adult Collared Sparrowhawk. At least two birds were seen, one was an adult and the other I’m unsure. Typically the call is heard when an adult is feeding a juvenile – I’ll keep a lookout over coming days as they tend to hang around the same location at this stage of the breeding cycle.
Collared Sparrowhawk (adult), Wyndham Street Newstead, 3rd February 2019
Note the delicately barred underparts and spindly legs
That sparrowhawk stare
Collared Sparrowhawk in profile
The Mulberry tree in our yard is a boon for various species of birds at this time of year.
Frustratingly it draws Blackbirds from far and wide, but Silvereyes are a more welcome sight as they arrive in small groups to feast on the ripening fruit.
A pair of Silvereyes is nesting at present under the canopy of a grapevine next door. Many birds will synchronise their breeding with food availability and the Silvereyes have adapted well to the summer treats on offer in local gardens. While the grapevine shaded nest site is a good option the sitting bird still needed to cool itself during short bursts of incubation.
Silvereye raiding the Mulberry, Wyndham Street Newstead, 20th January 2019
Silvereye incubating … and keeping cool!
After a week away … and no escape from the blistering heat, I was interested to see how the birds in the home garden are faring.
Our family of Superb Fairy-wrens have had some success with breeding and thankfully managed to coax at least two youngsters through the relentless heat. The male looks like it’s moulting into a partial eclipse plumage.
Male Superb Fairy-wren in the home garden, 18th January 2019
One of the juveniles came begging
Female Superb Fairy-wren
The old saying goes that you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your neighbours … I guess we just got lucky!
Pictured below is St. Geordie – the patron saint of birds in a heat wave, keeping our new family of Grey Fantails cool in the 44C heat. The parents and three newly fledged youngsters were doing it tough today, but with Geordie in their corner at least they’ll have a sporting chance.
The ‘patron saint of birds in a heatwave’ … lives right next door!
One of the three Grey Fantails … just fledged, Wyndham Street Newstead, 4th January 2019
One of the parents … looking anxious and tattered
Adult and fledgling Grey Fantails
Adult Grey Fantail