Dinosaur in the trees

It was hot and dry and I had just avoided a Red-bellied Black snake on the path to the Double Creek Inlet. I heard a hiss and to my right was a metre and a half long dinosaur sitting in a tree head height only a few feet away. I walked back a bit and took a few photos. You will see these large reptiles on most visits to Mallacoota. They can be quite passive if left alone and great to photograph. This was one of the largest Lace Monitors that I have seen and he did not budge when I squeezed past to keep walking along the path…he probably thought he could take me, probably right too.

Lace Monitor, Double Creek Inlet, Mallacoota, Vic

Lace Monitor, Double Creek Inlet, Mallacoota, Vic

Lace Monitor, Double Creek Inlet, Mallacoota, Vic

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Lace Monitor, Double Creek Inlet, Mallacoota, Vic

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Ignorance is bliss

While staying in Mallacoota I visit Bastion Point several times a day at various tides looking for the birds that usually stop by this part of the coast. On most visits I came across a flock of Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos. I think it was an extended family as there were several adults and a bunch of juveniles still begging for food. The sound young cockatoos make when begging would make anyone give them food just to shut them up. On this occasion the adults  were quite agitated while the younger birds played around, looking about I found a young whistling kite on a tree branch nearby watching them all intently.

Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo, Bastion Point, Mallacoota, Vic

Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo, Bastion Point, Mallacoota, Vic

Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo, Bastion Point, Mallacoota, Vic

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Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo, Bastion Point, Mallacoota, Vic

Preening and teasing each other

Immature Whistling Kite, Bastion Point, Mallacoota, Vic

Immature Whistling Kite watching the Black-cockatoos

Superb Fairy-wren, Bastion Point, Mallacoota, Vic

A bright male Superb Fairy-wren on lookout. 

Feathering a nest

Just after I photographed the pair of Common Bronzewing on the Casuarina Track I stood on a small wooden boardwalk bridge over a dry creek bed. I had stopped to listen for birds and I watched as a pair of small Spinebills brought back nesting material, landing onto the bridge railing checking around and then flying into a nearby tangle of vines and shrubs at the corner of the bridge. I carefully moved along the bridge and finally found a narrow vantage point that gave me a view of the well camouflaged nest. I stood and watched for a while, took a few images and then left them to it. The last photo shows the little builder pushing deep into the nest and shaping it via some vigorous contortions.

Eastern Spinebill in nest, Casuarina Track, Mallacoota, Vic

Eastern Spinebill building a nest, Casuarina Track, Mallacoota, Vic

Eastern Spinebill in nest, Casuarina Track, Mallacoota, Vic

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Eastern Spinebill in nest, Casuarina Track, Mallacoota, Vic

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Mr and Mrs Bronzewing step out

Walking along the Casuarina Track leading down to the coast from the Mallacoota township, I saw quite a few birds including this pair of Common Bronzewing. This species is usually quite timid and with a panicked clatter of wings will take off through the trees and disappear quickly. I could the hear the male with his booming call from further down the track so I walked carefully and quietly and tried to approach. This time the pair just stood and watched as I fiddled with the camera trying to get a better shot in the low light forest.

Male Common Bronzewing, Casuarina Walk, , Mallacoota, Vic

Male Common Bronzewing, Casuarina Walk, Mallacoota, Vic

Female Common Bronzewing, Casuarina Walk, , Mallacoota, Vic

Female Common Bronzewing

Leptograpsus and Leptopius

Ok, well beetles have become a pain in my cloaka, it took me several hours to search various insect sites and databases looking for the name of this quite large weevil beetle. I learnt many new things about beetles that I was not really looking for example: weevils are the largest grouping of beetles.

I found this rather large beetle in the sand between the sandstone outcrops of Bastion Point in Mallacoota. It was at least an inch long and not overly worried by me point my long lens within a few feet of it. The closest I got to id’ing it was finding the Leptopius genus in the weevil family. Birds are so much easier to ID compared to all the insects out there. As the tide dropped many crabs started to scurry about and duck into cover as I discovered them. The most common one was the Purple Sand Crab officially know as the Swift-footed Crab with a latin name of Leptograpsus variegatus. Tonight as I was writing this post, I started to look into the latin meaning for lepto and why the coincidence of finding two sand creatures with similar latin names.  I stopped as I was heading down another rabbit hole and I thought I would rather watch a bit of Netflix and relax.

Genus Leptopius (sp), Bastian Point, Mallacoota, Vic

Genus Leptopius (sp), Bastion Point, Mallacoota, Vic

Swift-footed Crab, Bastian Point, Mallacoota, Vic

Swift-footed Crab, Bastion Point, Mallacoota, Vic

A Juvenile Storm Bird

While driving through the Mallacoota township heading out for an early morning walk at Double Creek, I spotted a large bird sitting on the front grass of a roadside home. Due to a bit of early morning mental slowness, I drove past, attempting to catalogue the bird and then realised that I could not identify it. I panicked and pulling over quickly, jumping out with the binoculars to have a closer look. I still could not identify the bird so I grabbed the camera. By walking carefully I managed to get quite close for a few low light photos. I pushed my luck and the bird finally flew up and back into the bushes in the front yard. With the visible striped tail feathers I guessed it was a cuckoo of some sort and that it seemed to be quite passively waiting to be fed. I could hear a few Red Wattlebirds nearby. I continued on my day and later tried to ID what the bird might have been. I was hoping for a lifer and tried to turn it into something I had not seen before but in the end I decided it was a juvenile Eastern Koel, a large cuckoo with a loud call that many residential communities find annoying especially in the middle of the night. While not uncommon for the area, I have only seen dark males high in the trees and of course heard them. It was my first decent photo of one and I learnt about the species while researching: Males are a glossy black, it is a migratory species that arrives in spring in Australia from South-east Asia (Indonesia & New Guinea), adults have bright red eyes and the juveniles have black eyes, while Mallacoota is well south of their usual range down to Mid NSW – they are now quite common in Canberra and thanks to climate change, a few regulars make it to Melbourne, the male’s call is a loud ascending whistle or “koo-el”, being a parasitic bird it lays eggs in other bird species nests: red wattlebird, magpie-lark, friarbirds and figbirds.  It is also called a Pacific or Common Koel, cooee bird, rain bird and storm bird.

Juvenile Pacific Koel, Mallacoota, Vic

Juvenile Pacific Koel, Mallacoota, Vic

Warning calls, take the hint

On the drive into the Mallacoota township there is a spot that I explore each day as part of my birding/photography schedule. During December when I visited it was hot and very dry. Winding through the reserve, the creek was low and mostly dry, just several pools of dark water. As I entered the rain forest and my eyes adjusted to the lower light conditions there were multiple birds on the opposite bank diving into the creek bed and back up onto low branches. There was at least 5 species involved –  Bell Minors, Superb Fairy-wrens, Scrubwrens, a Lewins Honeyeater and a very agitated Grey Fantail. As I stood and watched I noticed movement and saw a large Red-bellied Black Snake. I am not usually concerned about these snakes as they hunt the really dangerous snakes. But they are a sign that other snakes are around. I was not even in the area 15 minutes and I had already found a snake.

The feisty Fantail below was dive bombing the snake and a landing on a branch near me before taking off again.

Grey Fantail, Double Creek Nature Walk, Mallacoota, Vic

Grey Fantail, Double Creek Nature Walk, Mallacoota, Vic

Grey Fantail, Double Creek Nature Walk, Mallacoota, Vic

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Grey Fantail, Double Creek Nature Walk, Mallacoota, Vic

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Red-bellied Black Snake, Double Creek Nature Walk, Mallacoota, Vic

Red-bellied Black Snake, Double Creek Nature Walk