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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Pick on your own size!

The Peregrine Falcon is the world’s fastest bird and one of the most powerful.

Renowned for preying on flying birds of similar size to themselves; such as pigeons, ducks and parrots, they are known to occasionally taking even larger birds.

I was excited yesterday to receive a call from our friends Ken and Liz at Werona. Lucky Ken had witnessed an adult Peregrine strike, then ultimately kill an Australian White Ibis, a bird more than twice its size. Realising that it would be unable to carry such a load I made a dash to Werona in the hope of seeing some action. Sure enough when I arrived the calls of a young Peregrine could be heard in the company of its parents. Over the next hour or so we looked on in awe as the adults made a series of visits to the unlucky ibis to remove flesh for the expectant youngster perched nearby.

Peregrine Falcon, Werona, 2nd February 2020

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Not so lucky for the ibis!

The Peregrine on its prey

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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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Eastern Rosellas #2

As I’ve remarked many times on this blog, being up close to wild birds is a privilege and a joy.

Today’s note is a follow up from yesterday’s on Eastern Rosellas … this time at the water and no more than ten feet from where I quietly sat.

Eastern Rosella (immature), Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve, 27th January 2020

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Peaceful Dove

Eastern Rosellas #1

Eastern Rosella’s have different temperaments – ‘town dwellers’ are confiding and often comfortable in the presence of people, while the ‘bush dwellers’ tend to be wary and reserved.

At this time of year, after a reasonable breeding season, mixed groups of adults and juvenile birds can be readily seen throughout local woodlands, adjacent towns and farming areas. The youngsters have yet to learn about life’s hazards.

Earlier in the week as I sat by my pool in the ‘Shine’, a succession of  Eastern Rosellas arrived in the trees around the water. While the adults kept a safe distance, the juvenile birds happily drank and bathed in the receding pool.

Eastern Rosella, Rise and Shine, 27th January 2020

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Just add water …

About a week ago the Newstead area (and much of central Victoria) received a welcome dose of summer rainfall. Locally, falls ranged from 20 to 40 mm, providing some useful run-off into dams and leaving standing pools of water throughout the bush. A visit to one of my favourite spots in the Rise and Shine was amply rewarded, with a procession of birds arriving for a drink as dusk approached – Fuscous, Brown-headed and Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, Eastern Rosella, Eastern Yellow Robin, Diamond Firetail, Willie Wagtail and Peaceful Dove.

I was concentrating on some Dusky Woodswallows, adults and juveniles,  gathering above the pool, when a different bird slipped in for a drink. It was an immature White-winged Triller. In late spring we had an influx of White-winged Trillers and I observed some nest building before the summer heat really kicked in. It’s great to see a result in the form of a young triller!

The adults, very vocal while breeding, have been largely quiet over recent weeks. This is typical of many woodland birds, migrants and residents alike. No point advertising your presence when breeding is done.

Dusky Woodswallow (adult), Rise and Shine, 27th January 2020

Juvenile Dusky Woodswallow

White-winged Triller (immature)

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Life goes on …

There is an ancient Yellow Box in the Rise and Shine that I’ve photographed a few times over the past decade. Sadly the last few leafy branches were lost around three years ago and the tree died.

The living tree was not only old and gnarly, it displayed the most amazing spiral pattern in the bark. This has likely occurred as a result of the growing tree’s differential access to moisture and nutrients (e.g. more abundant on one side) or a prevailing wind affect on what is a very exposed site. Despite its passing the old Yellow Box continues to provide life, a Yellow-footed Antechinus searching for insects delighted us on an early morning stroll … as did the Black Kite, observed sunning on our return trip to home.

Yellow-footed Antechinus, Rise and Shine, 26th January 2020

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Black Kite