Category Archives: Birds

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

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

Cabbage-tree Palms, a nest and a monarch

Each December I try to spend a week in Mallacoota exploring the area’s National Parks and looking for birds and animals I dont usually see in my part of the world. Many of the Northern birds have their most southern range in and around the Mallacoota inlet and surrounding forests. On the way to the ‘Coota, a 6 hour drive from Melbourne, I stopped for a break and a bite to eat at the Cabbage Tree Creek Flora Reserve. On this occasion it was hot and dry and swarming with mozzies in the shade. I spent an hour walking the short tracks. I noticed that the Palms were fruiting (nutting?) but did not find any of the usual birds that feed on them other than some noisy flocks of Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo. The Palm is the only Fan-palm found in Victoria.

I did find a small green nest being built by a Yellow-faced Honeyeater. I watched as a pair brought back small fibres and wove them into the nest. At times one would hop into the bowl and flutter about seemly trying to shape it. Much of the material was live moss and lichen so it would remain green and well camouflaged.

Yellow-faced Honeyeater nest , Cabbage Tree Creek Flora Reserve, Vic

Yellow-faced Honeyeater nest, very well hidden.

Yellow-faced Honeyeater and nest , Cabbage Tree Creek Flora Reserve, Vic

Yellow-faced Honeyeater and nest , Cabbage Tree Creek Flora Reserve, Vic

Yellow-faced Honeyeater nest II, Cabbage Tree Creek Flora Reserve, Vic

Completed nest a week later when I passed through on the way home.

Cabbage Tree Palm , Cabbage Tree Creek Flora Reserve, Vic

Cabbage Tree Palm fruiting

Cabbage Tree Palm , Cabbage Tree Creek Flora Reserve, Vic

Cabbage Tree Palms

Cabbage Tree Palm , Cabbage Tree Creek Flora Reserve, Vic

A young Cabbage Tree Palm finding space in the crowed understory. 

Black-faced Monarch, Cabbage Tree Creek Flora Reserve, Vic

Black-faced Monarch, Cabbage Tree Creek Flora Reserve, Vic

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.