Category Archives: Bird Behaviour

Spring at Greens’ Bush

For various reasons I have not taken many/any photos on recent visits to Greens Bush. The weather has been cold and wet, it has been quite dark in the forest and most importantly not many birds have sat still long enough to take a decent image. I no longer blast away at any bird and hope that there is a shot in there somewhere. The hours post processing are not worth the result. I try to take only a few shots and get the setup right while stalking the target. This often results in failures and no shots but does save time at the computer. On Saturday I was determined to shoot something rather than just carry the heavy gear around. While the birdlife was abundant and the forest was quite noisy there were not many birds near enough to shoot. What I did find was three different species’ nests all within a few meters of where I had stopped for a breather. For nearly 30 mins I watched as a Golden Whistler returned to a particular bush with more nesting material. The female seemed to be doing all the collecting and building with the colourful male inspecting now and again and standing guard in the next tree. While just standing there I saw a pair of Spotted Pardalotes on a branch just above my head. It took a few moments to realise that they were not being friendly but getting a bit stressed because I was standing next to their burrow. I moved away and straight away they flew down and into the burrow. Turning around at a new bird call I saw a pair of Striated Thornbills flying into their nest, a tennis ball size clump of soft material and spider webs. Spring has started and nesting season is in full swing. I will re-visit in the coming weeks and hopefully see more progress and take a few pics.

Spotted Pardalote near nest entrance, Greens Bush, Vic

Spotted Pardalote near nest entrance

Spotted Pardalote nest entrance, Greens Bush, Vic

Spotted Pardalote nest entrance – a burrow

Striated Thornbill nest, Greens Bush, Vic

Striated Thornbill nest camouflaged inside an over-hanging Eucalyptus branch

Golden Whistler nest (just starting), Greens Bush, Vic

Golden Whistler nest (just starting) – will be more of a traditional cup type nest.

Black Olives for Crimson Rosellas

Once I harvested as many olives as I could process from our little front yard Olive Grove in Rosebud I left the rest for the birds. Previously I had not noticed many birds  feeding on the olives. This year a number of species have enjoyed the late season fruit. I have seen Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Little Corellas, Silvereyes and now a pair of Crimson Rosellas. I was packing the back of my car only a few feet away and these guys just ignored me. The fruit is very ripe and starting to shrivel so must be quite edible even with their raw bitter flavour.

I have read that most parrots/cockatoos are left handed. The fellow below was right handed, grabbing and eating the olives using his right foot. It was windy at times and he did very well to hang on and feed at the same time.

Crimson Rosella, Rosebud, Victoria, 30 July 2017

Crimson Rosella, Rosebud, Victoria, 30 July 2017

Crimson Rosella, Rosebud, Victoria, 30 July 2017

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Winter is moving on…

With a month still to go of winter, I am already seeing signs of the coming spring   and breeding season at Green’s Bush on the Mornington Peninsula. Each time I stay down the coast I visit one of my favourite spots and see what has changed or who is stopping by. This morning I saw good signs of an early spring – Australian Wood ducks flying around inside the forest with several landing on branches and looking into tree hollows for suitable nest-sites. These strange ducks nest in hollows in trees near water very early in the breeding season. I also found a Fan-tailed cuckoo exploring for potential nesting targets along a ridge line above a rainforest creek. It seemed to be following a mixed feeding flock of thornbills and fantails. I usually find the Fan-tailed cuckoo buy its very distinctive call but this one was very quiet and stayed above the foraging thornbills. I saw it several times as I moved along the trail. (another thought is that it is last season’s chick and it is still following its adopted parents hoping for a free feed  – I will have to do some research).

Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

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Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

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Blue-billed, Pink-eared, Black-fronted, Wet-birder

I have made a few return trips to the Jawbone reserve lately. While quite exposed to the cold south-westerly winter weather, it is a place that allows fairly easy access to many birds. Typically I can find up to 50 species. A long but easy walk along the lagoons and scrub land, and the lagoons are narrow so at times a photographer can sneak up quite close. The secret is to not make eye contact and look like you are doing something else – they always seem to know when you are trying to get close and focus on them. The birds here are used to people running, walking and biking along the paths and edges of the lagoons even closer than we were and they were totally ignored…

Pink-eared Ducks, Jawbone flora and fauna reserve, WIlliamstown, Vic

Pink-eared Ducks, Jawbone flora and fauna reserve, WIlliamstown, Vic

Pink-eared Ducks, Jawbone flora and fauna reserve, WIlliamstown, Vic

Pink-eared Duck amongst Grey Teals

Pink-eared Ducks, Jawbone flora and fauna reserve, WIlliamstown, Vic

Pink-eared Ducks spooked by a White-bellied Sea-Eagle drifting along the coast

Blue-billed Duck, Jawbone flora and fauna reserve, WIlliamstown, Vic

Male Blue-billed Duck, Jawbone flora and fauna reserve, WIlliamstown, Vic

Blue-billed Duck, Jawbone flora and fauna reserve, WIlliamstown, Vic

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Birder in the mud, Jawbone flora and fauna reserve, WIlliamstown, Vic

Birder in the mud – sometimes you have to get cold, wet and muddy for the shot

Black-fronted Dotterel, Jawbone flora and fauna reserve, WIlliamstown, Vic

Black-fronted Dotterel watching birders lying in the mud.

A yapping Pink-eared Duck

Also called a zebra duck, the Pink-eared Duck is a beautiful bird that sits low in the water, filter feeds with its distinctive bill, flies and gathers in very large flocks and yaps or whistles when disturbed or in flight. An added bonus are bright pink ear coverts made up of 9 pink feathers  – this pink patch becomes more pronounced and colourful as the bird matures.   The ones I watched seemed to have a light pink patch rather than the full dark pink so maybe they were testing each other in a youthful gathering. The duck are thought to mate for life. I often see many in huge flocks (10,000s+) at the pooh farm. There were 50+ at Jawbone on the weekend and due to the width of the lagoons I managed to get fairly close without spooking them too much – a very difficult thing to do at the pooh farm where they spook much more easily due to the number of raptors cruising for a meal. We noticed that as they yapped  they lifted their head as part of the display, making the fleshy part of the bill more visible. It is a very odd but beautiful duck – one of my favourites. (post edited after a bit more research and ref checking – see comments below)

Pink-eared Duck, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, Williamstown

Pink-eared Duck, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, Williamstown

Pink-eared Duck, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, Williamstown

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The Lookout

On the way back to the campground at Hattah Kulkyne National Park, I came across a group of Apostlebirds – so called due to their typical family group numbers being around 12. There were actually 10 that I could see of this particular group. They are very similar socially to the White-winged Chough. They are also mud nest builders. When I pulled over and parked the car I was watched by a lookout. I tried to be careful and make sure the flock did not flush. Standing still I watched and photographed the lookout. He watched me and then  flew down and walked towards me. He walked right up to the back of my legs, around me and then onto the rest of the flock. Choughs will only let you approach after a time and will easily flush. Both species place lookouts to watch for predators or neighbouring tribes. This flock of Apostlebirds had a territory close to the camp grounds and I assume had become quite used to people.

Apostlebird, Hattah Kulkyne National Park, Vic

The lookout, Apostlebird, Hattah Kulkyne National Park, Vic

Apostlebird, Hattah Kulkyne National Park, Vic

Strutted straight up to me…

Apostlebird, Hattah Kulkyne National Park, Vic

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Apostlebird, Hattah Kulkyne National Park, Vic

Stood a few feet behind after walking right up me

Apostlebird, Hattah Kulkyne National Park, Vic

Back with the flock

Lifer 341: Mallee Emu-wren

For a birder, one of the main targets for a visit to Hattah Kulkyne National Park is the Mallee Emu-wren. It is a close cousin to the Southern Emu-wren that I have found a few times in different areas along the southern coast of Victoria. At Hattah I was up early and looking for this elusive little bird as the sun rose. I was probably a bit too early as they seemed to need the sun to warm up a bit and become active. Once up and about they were quite noisy (high pitched squeaks and trills), and reacted well to the phishing noises I made to get their attention. I saw three family groups along the track and managed to photograph several individuals as they came out to investigate my presence.

Mallee Emu-wren, Nowingi Track, Hattah Kulkyne National Park, Vic

Female Mallee Emu-wren, Nowingi Track, Hattah Kulkyne National Park, Vic

Mallee Emu-wren, Nowingi Track, Hattah Kulkyne National Park, Vic

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Mallee Emu-wren, Nowingi Track, Hattah Kulkyne National Park, Vic

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Mallee Emu-wren, Nowingi Track, Hattah Kulkyne National Park, Vic

The Emu-wren can quickly dive back into the spiky grass and disappear  – there is no way you could see them unless they were perched on top of the grass clump

Mallee Emu-wren, Nowingi Track, Hattah Kulkyne National Park, Vic

The male’s blue throat can give away their presence in the grass. 

Mallee Emu-wren, Nowingi Track, Hattah Kulkyne National Park, Vic

Hunting flies for breakfast.

Mallee Emu-wren, Nowingi Track, Hattah Kulkyne National Park, Vic

A typical pose when looking out for danger or watching for intruders from neighbouring tribes.

Mallee Emu-wren, Nowingi Track, Hattah Kulkyne National Park, Vic

In this position the tails hangs down, the muscles are probably needed just to keep that pose.

Emu, Nowingi Track, Hattah Kulkyne National Park, Vic

Emu walking down the Nowingi Track, the typical vegetation of the Mallee Emu-wren, more trees and other vegetation variety compared to the needs of the Southern Emu-wren.