Hoodies reappear

After laying low over summer a pair of Hooded Robins has surfaced again at the Newstead Cemetery.

This area is ideal ‘Hoodie’ habitat – an open woodland of veteran trees (Yellow Box and Grey Box), surrounded by native pasture with plenty of fallen wood. I suspect this pair has been around all along, it’s just that I’ve overlooked them on my few visits to the site since Xmas. This spot is one of a handful of locations where Hooded Robins have been resident over recent years. Hopefully they are still hanging on in their other strongholds.

Male Hooded Robin, Newstead Cemetery, 27th March 2020

… there is an insect in that curled up leaf!

A splendid bird!

Male Hooded Robin at left with female at right … perched in a veteran Yellow Box

Female Hooded Robin

Lake things

There are some interesting sights to be had at Cairn Curran Reservoir at the moment.

A small group of Yellow-billed Spoonbills have been seen each evening this week, perched rather than feeding, while Whistling Kites are ever-present.

A single Caspian Tern, the first I’ve observed for some time, provided distant views.

Also on the list: Nankeen Kestrel, White-faced Heron, Black-fronted Dotterel, Little Pied Cormorant and Australian Shelduck.

Yellow-billed Spoonbills, Cairn Curran Reservoir, 27th March 2020

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Caspian Tern … in silhouette

Whistling Kite – showing diagnostic underwing pattern

Big things

Birds don’t come much smaller than a Striated Thornbill, featured in a post earlier this week. Weighing in between 6 – 8 grams they are one Australia’s tiniest songbirds. Today’s featured species is one of the continent’s largest birds.

The White-bellied Sea-Eagle tips the scales at anywhere between 2.2kg (small males) to 3.4kg (a large female). This majestic raptor is 400 times heavier, on average, than the diminuitive thornbill.

White-bellied Sea-Eagles are a common sight on the waters of Curran Reservoir, a great local spot for raptors – Brown Goshawk, Nankeen Kestrel, Black Kite, Whistling Kite and Wedge-tailed Eagle has also been observed there this week.

Adult White-bellied Sea-Eagles at Cairn Curran, 25th March 2020

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‘In Memorium’ (to a moth)

by Frances Cincotta

Alfred Lord Tennyson was right about nature being red in tooth and claw!

This morning I watched five minutes worth of a grim battle between a Bull Ant and an adult Cup Moth on a paver under my verandah at Newstead.

Bull Ant (Myrmecia sp.) tearing into the body of a female Painted Cup Moth at Newstead Natives Nursery, 25th March 2020

Despite the size difference between the combatants and me thinking the Bull Ant’s eyes were bigger than its stomach I could see after a while that the ant was going to be the victor. I couldn’t watch ’til the bitter end.

Wrestling match continues

Our local eucalypts are defoliated every few years by the colourful caterpillars of this local moth species. Next time you are bitten by a Bull Ant and are cursing the existence of a species that can deliver such a painful sting, keep in mind that the ants might be helping keep Painted Cup Moth numbers in check. Or perhaps the female moth had done all its egg-laying and was old and tired near the end of its life, and that’s why it got caught?

Painted Cup Moth in its larval or caterpillar stage (photographed by Frances Cincotta November 2017)

Small things

Another visit to Bruce’s Track last evening.

Birds were again scarce … a party of Buff-rumped and Striated Thornbills, a single White-throated Treecreeper and a couple of convoys of White-winged Choughs.

… and Pied Currawongs calling in the distance … first signs of their autumn arrival from further south along the Great Divide.

Striated Thornbill in Box Mistletoe, Bruce’s track area, 24th March 2020

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Artistic licence … remains of a White-winged Chough nest

Ten minutes in the life …

of a Brown Falcon.

This sequence was gathered last evening near Picnic Point. I first spotted the falcon perched in a roadside Grey Box. As I watched on it floated slowly to the ground in the adjacent stubble paddock … hunting.

The foray was apparently unsuccessful.  The bird then flew across in front of me towards Picnic Point. I located it again minutes later, perched in a favourite dead tree on the edge of the reservoir. It permitted me a close and careful approach before we both departed.

Brown Falcon, Picnic Point, 24th March 2020

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A bright spot and a puzzle

Update: Suggestions for the mystery feather include … Square-tailed Kite, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Southern Boobook, Powerful Owl and Tawny Frogmouth. Nothing definitive as yet but will keep you posted.

Late yesterday I ventured to a favourite spot on river – an area I call ‘The Reserve’, where the Muckleford Creek meets the Loddon River.

Newstead Landcare has been doing a great job of restoration in this area, planting a variety of local small trees, shrubs and grasses. These plantings are doing well in their own right, as well as suppressing weeds such as blackberry. A Eastern Yellow Robin perching in a Silver Wattle in dappled sunlight was the highlight of the day.

Eastern Yellow Robin, Loddon River Reserve, 22nd March 2020

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Now to the puzzle.

I found this feather the day before near Bruce’s track. It has me baffled, apart from some confidence that it belongs to a raptor. The dimensions are 140mm from the tip to the base of the shaft and 75mm wide. It feels as though it’s too wide to belong to a diurnal raptor, but I’d be interested in readers thoughts.

Who am I?