Category Archives: Bird Behaviour

Oops a bit too close…

I was watching a Bassian Thrush move along the path collecting worms for a return to the nest. It would occasionally drop all the worms, pick up an irresistible insect of some sort for a snack and then one by one pick up all the worms and move down the track. It had 6 bigs worms in its beak and after a few minutes ducked down a side wallaby track. I stood still and tried to see where it would go so I could find the nest. A meter or so from my face an Eastern yellow robin flew to a branch and hopped into a nest. I had no idea it was there but after standing still for so long it seemed to not see me as a threat. I slowly moved back to the other side of the track and took a few pics. After several minutes she flew off and I took few pics of the nest. Robins have amazing nests made with soft bark strips and then covered with spider web and live moss and lichen.

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, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Checking out the competition

Green’s Bush is exploding with activity at the moment with spring well under way and the weather finally warming up. A walk into the southern section and I found the little boss below tsking and telling me to move along. I had actually stopped to photograph some bracken in nice light when he popped into the scene and tried to pick a fight.

White-browed Scrubwren, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

White-browed Scrubwren, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Bracken, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Bracken, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic

Building a picture of territories

I have found several spots now at Greens Bush where I am sure that Bassians have set up feeding and nesting territories. Besides looking for the right sort of terrain and vegetation I am also on the lookout for fresh droppings. When watching the birds feed and pick up some good size morsels they seem to process the previously taken food and excrete a bright white splash. Based on the  amount of white droppings I am finding in an area I can be fairly certain that I have found another Bassian feeding area. The shots of the two birds below were taken in different parts of the forest walk that I have come to expect to see Bassians.

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

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

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Yet to learn fear

There are quite a few juveniles birds along the Greens Bush Baldry circuit. It has been a fairly good breeding season and I am seeing many young birds from a few locally common species….Grey Fantails, Red-browed Finches, Brown Thornbills, White-browed Scrubwrens and Bassian Thrush. The one pictured below was feeding on the track where I often find them. Being a young bird it has yet to learn what to fear and flew up to a nearby branch and tried to figure out what I was up to.

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

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

Shake your tail feathers…

A brightly coloured Crimson Rosella flew down to a low branch next to the track I was walking along at Green’s Bush recently and started to preen. It finished with a vigorous  shake of his tail feathers. It was all over in about 10 seconds and he flew off. I was lucky enough to get off a few quick action shots during the waggle.

Crimson Rosella, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vict

Crimson Rosella, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vict

Crimson Rosella, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vict

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Crimson Rosella, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vict

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Crimson Rosella, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vict

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A home of grass and spider webs…

Taking a long slow walk around the Baldry Circuit at Green’s Bush, I am still finding many birds hard at work building nests and feeding young. Some of the early starters like the Pardalotes, Rosellas and the Eastern Yellow Robins are just about done with many new juveniles now flitting amongst the branches waiting for a free feed from their parents. Another group are just starting their breeding duties. A pair of busy Grey Fantails were flying in and out of the lower branches of an Acacia. The material they were collecting was a mix of finely shredded dried grass and spider webs interwoven into a small goblet shape that the Fantail could barely sit in. A fantastic little structure fit for purpose for just a few months and then will disappear.

Grey Fantail, Greens Bush, Mornington Penninsula National Park, Vic

Grey Fantail building a nest, Greens Bush, Mornington Penninsula National Park, Vic

Grey Fantail, Greens Bush, Mornington Penninsula National Park, Vic

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Grey Fantail, Greens Bush, Mornington Penninsula National Park, Vic

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Grey Fantail, Greens Bush, Mornington Penninsula National Park, Vic

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Grey Fantail, Greens Bush, Mornington Penninsula National Park, Vic

Off for more spider-web

Further around the track I found another Eastern Yellow Robin’s nest that appeared to be done for the season. It was empty inside and I waited for a while nearby to see if any Robins visited but none appeared. It is also made up of finally stripped bark and spider webs as well as decorated with bits of moss and lichen – great camouflage. The nest was in plain sight (if you could recognise it) next to the the path in a low prickly bush.

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

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

Murder mystery at Moorooduc

Its not everyday that you stumble onto a fight to the death between birds. I have seen many squabbles between ducks, coots and honeyeaters and of course one sided battles between birds of prey and their victims. But I have not seen a fight to the death between small beautiful songbirds.

I often hear Spotted Pardalotes in the various forests that I explore.  I even get the occasional visitor in my inner city suburb. They have a distinctive call and I more often record them in my logs as heard rather than seen. During spring when they are building their nesting burrows and attending eggs and chicks they become much more visible at the lower levels of the forest. I have a good spot at Moorooduc Quarry  where I can find, observe and photograph the Pardalotes. On a recent visit I walked along my regular burrow track and found a two male pardalotes fighting on the ground. I couldn’t tell which one was the intruder or the burrow owner. The fight resulted in the death of one of them and the other continued to attack until I removed the pardalote when the victor had flown to a nearby branch. I wanted to check the dead bird for the injuries. There was no blood or obvious wounds except both eyes were missing. Once I removed the dead male pardalote and stood back I waited to see whether the other would return – I was still trying to figure who owned the burrow. Probably 5 min later the male returned to the area with a female closely behind. They moved around the area and finally the female ducked into the burrow. My guess is that the victor was the intruder and he brought his mate to inspect this prime position. I had no idea that this beautiful tiny bird had such ferocious fights to the death.

Spotted Pardalote, Moorooduc Quarry, Mt Eliza, Vic

Spotted Pardalote, Moorooduc Quarry, Mt Eliza, Vic

Spotted Pardalote, Moorooduc Quarry, Mt Eliza, Vic

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Spotted Pardalote, Moorooduc Quarry, Mt Eliza, Vic

Spotted Pardalote battle

Spotted Pardalote, Moorooduc Quarry, Mt Eliza, Vic

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Spotted Pardalote, Moorooduc Quarry, Mt Eliza, Vic

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Spotted Pardalote, Moorooduc Quarry, Mt Eliza, Vic

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Spotted Pardalote, Moorooduc Quarry, Mt Eliza, Vic

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Spotted Pardalote, Moorooduc Quarry, Mt Eliza, Vic

The victor looking at me like I was next on his hit list…

Pardalote nest, Moorooduc Quarry, Mt Eliza, Vic

Pardalote nest burrow

Pardalote nest track, Moorooduc Quarry, Mt Eliza, Vic

Pardalote nest track, Moorooduc Quarry Reserve, Mt Eliza, Vic

I got a lizard for lunch…

When visiting Ma and Pa Kettle at the family estate in Moorooduc,  I often stop by Moorooduc Quarry to check out a few of my favourite locals. At the moment the Eastern Yellow Robins, the Spotted Pardalotes and the Peregrine Falcons are nesting. On the way to the Pardalote spot where I like to watch the to’ing and fro’ing of the pair I found this Kookaburra softening up his lunch by giving it a few whacks on the branch. He was not concerned by me walking by and stopping to take a few shots. He just watched me for a bit and then continued to soften lunch.

Kookaburra, Moorooduc Quarry, Mt Eliza, Vic

Kookaburra, Moorooduc Quarry, Mt Eliza, Vic

Kookaburra, Moorooduc Quarry, Mt Eliza, Vic

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Flying visit along the coast

Over spring I have been working on a garden down the Mornington Peninsula, trying to rediscover and restore the original veggie and garden beds. On the way home I popped into a few new spots along the way –  Highfield in the National Park and the McClelland Sculpture Park in Langwarrin. The Superb Fairy-wren was displaying its near eclipse plumage (last of its breeding/summer plumage). As I parked my car at the Sculpture Garden, I heard a weird bird call that I did not recognise (of course I assumed I had discovered a new species or at least a lifer) and it turned out to be a begging young Butcherbird. I watched as a parent returned a few times with little morsels for the hungry beggar. Notice the deadly little bill hook that the Butcherbird will use as part of its bird hunting weaponry.

Superb Fairy-wren, Green's Bush (southern), Vict

Superb Fairy-wren, Mornington Peninsula National Park: Highfield, Vic

Juvenile Grey Butcherbird, McClelland Sculpture Park, Langwarrin, Vic

Juvenile Grey Butcherbird, McClelland Sculpture Park, Langwarrin, Vic

What ya doing Dad?

With the weather turning milder this week I thought a walk at the local Fitzroy Gardens might make a nice change to lurking in the Chinatown laneways looking for new street art. I did not expect much other than a nice walk and a short bird list. I did find the usual urban park birds and a few surprises, a kookaburra being an unexpected highlight and a pair of Pied Currawongs – adult and juvenile. Being around lunch time the adult Currawong was cleaning and preening itself along the small rainforest creek that runs down the centre of the park. I spent some time filming the Currawongs with my iPhone. The Currawong was using chunks of dirt and getting deep into its feathers for a good clean. It then would hop over to the creek and have a deep vigorous wash. After a drying preen on a nearby branch it would start again on a different area of its feathers. Meanwhile the young Currawong was making small calls and watching intensely trying to figure it all out. When the adult flew off it stayed and had a go at picking in the dirt but it seemed to think it was looking for food rather than good chunks to use for cleaning. I have seen birds washing, preening, sand bathing before but never selecting chunk of dirt to use as a scrub in those hard to reach places….

click image to watch video clip

Every nook and cranny

While walking around my usual Green’s Bush circuit I noticed many Crimson Rosellas exploring every tree hollow on the older growth Eucalypts. A few went right inside the various cavities after a cursory glance, and several flew off quickly when an occupant was discovered (most likely a brush tailed possum or sugar glider). I found a pair really giving this hollow a thorough inspection. One did all the inspecting while the other stood guard on a nearby branch – he spent the time watching me on the trail and shaking his tail feathers now and again and quietly squawking. I assumed the other took this as a signal to be alert but not alarmed.

Crimson Rosella, Green's Bush, Vict

Crimson Rosella guarding his mate while she explored a potential nest hollow, Green’s Bush, Vict

 

Crimson Rosella, Green's Bush, Vict

Crimson Rosella inspecting the hollow 

Potential nest hole, Green's Bush, Vict

Potential nest hole – looking well used but too small for a possum.

Crimson Rosella, Green's Bush, Vict

I found another Crimson Rosella looking for something in a dead tree. it was very focused and just ignored me as I walked under it. , Green’s Bush, Vict

A Crowded Corner of Greens’ Bush

After  a few weeks away from Green’s Bush I went back to see how the site of the 3 nests was going. The Golden Whistler nest had not developed but the Pardalote burrow was still fresh and active while the Striated Thornbill nest was being maintained and looked in good shape. I stood and watched the Pardalotes coming and going and noticed that there were two Eastern Yellow Robins hunting in the same area. I saw a Robin fly to a nearby branch and pick up an insect from its mate, wolf it down and then fly into a small Pittosporum  bush nearby. The binocs showed the adult sitting in a fresh nest beautifully camouflaged with living lichen. When the sitter flew off for another feed, I snuck through some tall bracken and found a clear angle to get a few shots.

Eastern Yellow Robin nest, Green's Bush, Vict

Eastern Yellow Robin nest, Green’s Bush, Victoria

Eastern Yellow Robin, Green's Bush, Vict

Eastern Yellow Robin

Eastern Yellow Robin, Green's Bush, Vict

Eastern Yellow Robin II

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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