Tag Archives: Australia

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

Gippsland Water-dragon

There is a beautiful drive along the famous Snowy River from Orbost to Marlo. It is part of my pilgrimage route from Melbourne to the far east Victorian wilderness areas. Along the way I stop at various points to see the differences from previous year’s trek. I stopped at a picnic/viewing spot along the river and happened to find this Water-dragon sunning itself in the morning sun. on a fishing pier. While I often find these large lizards when I go to the far east there is some concern by the locals that they are becoming rarer due to pollution, loss of habitat and poaching. The trapping of the lizards is especially bad around the Mallacoota area. I was glad I found one so early in my trip.

Gippsland Water-dragon, Snowy River, Marlo Rd, Vic

Gippsland Water-dragon, Snowy River, Marlo Rd, Vic

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