Category Archives: Bird Behaviour

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. 

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

Bright bird, hidden home.

While I was standing still and studying the Superb fairy-wrens for the ebird study, I noticed a Yellow Robin flying into a nearby prickly current-bush. I soon found its late season (or second) nest and watched as the Robin made several trips bringing back spider-web and soft materials for the interior of the nest. It would squeeze itself down and shape the bowl.

Later I found another Robin nest carefully placed in the broken fork of a small tree down in a rainforest gully. Unless you stopped and looked at the fork you would never have noticed the nest – it was so well camouflaged with moss and lichen. I must have walked past this nest dozens of times and never saw it or its occupants while it was active.

Eastern Yellow Robin nest, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic,

Eastern Yellow Robin nest, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic,

Eastern Yellow Robin, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Eastern Yellow Robin building and moulding its nest

Eastern Yellow Robin, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Off for more material

Eastern Yellow Robin, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Back to continue shaping

Eastern Yellow Robin nest 2 Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic,

Well hidden Eastern Yellow Robin nest 

Eastern Yellow Robin nest 2 Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic,

Invisible to the casual eye, even though chest high and on the trail. 

Front View, Rear View

For a small bird that is brightly coloured during breeding season, the male Superb fairy-wren is a noisy bird that likes to alert everything nearby that a stranger has come close or into its territory. It is a curious bird that will pop up onto a branch, have a look at the potential danger and then disappear quickly back into low foliage. Over winter, spring and early summer, I have been paying extra attention to these little birds, participating in the study to gauge the male’s transition to full breeding plumage each year. We are supposed to track what plumage stage each bird is in that we find as we walk our favourite areas. The species has a defined territory making the little tribe (2 to 6 birds) easier to find each time. The study has made it more interesting finding this quite common bird. Usually I just record it as a day or site tick on my list and then ignore it. Having to study the individual family groups for a 15-20 minutes session, identifying the sexes, plumage phase types, general activity and any interaction between groups makes it much more interesting. A by-product of this stationary watch means I see others birds as they fly by or pop out of the nearby scrub.

Superb Fairy-wren, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Superb Fairy-wren, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Superb Fairy-wren II, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

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A yellow-tailed Vandal

As I sorted out my camera gear out for my weekly walk around Green’s Bush I heard a crunching in the trees above my car. Several Yellow-tailed black cockatoos were tearing into the branches of a Blackwood tree. Cockatoos will often attack tree branches (and houses) to keep their every growing bills trim and to find insect larvae boring into the wood.

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Male YTBC with pink eye ring

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

One of my favourite birds is the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, a colourful, gregarious bird with a very distinctive call.  It has a confiding nature and the juveniles can be quite curious. When I made a phishing noise the young one photographed below came in closer for a look at me and then started to call. The Birdlife Australia site describes the call as jerky, musical “liquid and guttural gurgling jumble”. Looking at the bristles below the ear I noticed that there are a few yellow ones – the sign of a young bird. Now that I am often carrying recording gear. I hope to record the species quite soon. I have found an area of the southern section of  Green’s Bush where I occasionally hear  the species.

Juvenile Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic,

Young Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic,

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic,

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Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic,

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Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic,

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Using the Bassian Thrush flush zone

While an early start at Green’s Bush means a good chance of finding Bassian Thrush it also means a lot less light available for the photo. The long lens needs a good amount of light for a nice clear photo.  While taking the series of the thrush collecting nesting material I crouched as low as possible to the ground and slowly pushed the bassian using its own flush distance zone to move it into better light. This is the distance that it will allow me to approach (about 5-7 metres) without flying off or moving up the path. If the Bassian does not feel threatened it will just walk up the path away from me and continue to feed to collect material. I move a few metres forward and it moves forward. Crouching down I found I could get inside the usual zone but it was hard on the knees.

Bassian Thrush, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Bassian Thrush, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Bassian Thrush, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

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Bassian Thrush, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Bassian Thrush collecting nesting material

Bassian Thrush, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

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Bassian Thrush, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

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