Tag Archives: Australia

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

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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