Through spring and summer I regularly hear Fan-tailed Cuckoos calling: described as a mournful descending trill. Along one of the paths to the Moorooduc quarry a pair flew down to lower branches and started calling.
In the background you can also hear a Striated Pardalote, a Grey Fantail and a Grey Shrikethrush.
I dont often get a chance to photograph these shy birds as they move through the upper and mid tree canopy looking for hairy caterpillars and other insects.
Walking along one of the tracks around the Moorooduc Quarry I heard the distinctive call of the Mistletoebird along with the alarm call of a Superb-fairy wren. Usually the fairy-wrens stay low, nearer the ground, but a female wren was calling quite loudly as a Mistletoebird helped itself to the fruit of a Cherry Ballart tree. The Mistletoebird as its name suggests has a strong relationship with various native mistletoes (Box, Drooping and Creeping) and helps spread the seed onto other trees via a very fast and sticky digestive process. I hadn’t seen one feeding in a Cherry Ballart before. The ballart is another form of parasitic plant that uses the roots of other trees to gain its nutrients rather than the branches.
Mistletoebird, Moorooduc Quarry, Mt Eliza, Vic
Mistletoebird has a snack while a Superb Fairy-wren frowns at the intrusion.
For the last few years in early spring, Moorooduc Quarry has hosted several Brush Bronzewing feeding along the grass and gravel paths. I will regularly see and hear the Common Bronzewing but the Brush is rarer and more often found further north into Central Victoria. They seem to be migrating and stopping off at Moorooduc Quarry for a few weeks for a feed and a rest. I don’t see them at other times of the year locally and I am not sure where they are headed. They may be just stopping by for a particular food source. It is something I will have to research. I found this young male Bronzewing feeding on the path. He only flew up to a nearby perch and watched as I fiddled with my camera settings. Usually the bronzewings will take off at a decent rate and fly well into the forest before stopping. I was lucky to get a bit of good light to pick up his reflecting iridescent feathers.
While photographing the Tawny Frogmouth at Moorooduc Quarry, a White-eared Honeyeater flew in to see what I was up to. The honeyeaters dont sit still for very long so I clucked and clicked my tongue a bit while I adjusted and focussed my camera. It seemed to work for a few moments.
On a walk up the track to the top of the Moorooduc Quarry I found a dozing Tawny Forgmouth on a low branch. He was quite relaxed until a group of walkers joined me and he stretched into his branch like pose and then eased back once they moved on.
Tawny Frogmouth, Moorooduc Quarry, Mount Eliza, Vic
I often drop into the Quarry Reserve in Moorooduc to check in on the Peregrine Falcons that make the flooded quarry their home. In the surrounding bushland are many bird species working hard through their breeding cycles. I watched a pair of Brown Thornbills searching for insects amongst the scrub and was surprised to see a Cuckoo seemingly working the branches with them. It even hopped to the ground and rummaged amongst the leaves. Occasionally it would stop and make the typical Shining Bronze Cuckoo calls. I am sure that the Thornbills had raised this cuckoo.
Shining Bronze Cuckoo, Moorooduc Quarry Flora and Fauna Reserve, Vic
On the way back down the hill from the quarry and watching the Falcons I walked along the Pardalote Path to look for any new nesting activity. On an overhanging branch above the path I found a Kookaburra staring intently into the nearby bushes. He ignored me as I walked up and under the branch and as I turned around to see what he was looking at he was dive bombed by a pair of Red Wattlebirds. Maybe the Kookaburra was a bit too close to their nest and they were trying to get him to move along. As they attacked, the Kookaburra would fluff up its feathers to appear larger and more fearsome. It didn’t really work with the Wattlebirds but did make for an interesting photo.
On my last visit to Moorooduc Quarry I watched as the Peregrines flew across the water and retrieved cached food. One of the falcons flew to a ledge where I suspected it had chicks. I returned to the quarry on Tuesday afternoon and immediately spotted two good size Falcons standing on the ledge watching me. At first I thought they were adults due to their size but on viewing with my binocs I saw the mottled colouring and realised that they were juvenile falcons. I spent some time watching them and then thought about where the parents might be. I turned around to look up at the quarry cliffs and the tall trees and behind me found an adult just staring at me. It soon lost interest as I was too far away to be a threat to it or its chicks. Looking further around the rim I found the other parent high up on a tall gum keeping guard. Four Peregrines in one site visit! – you can’t get much better than that…I am looking forward to dropping in again soon to watch their progress and early flights.
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.
After the Peregrine Falcon took off from the cliff I watched it circle the quarry a few times and then land at the top of the cliff, under a bush on another side of the quarry. It came out a few seconds later with the remains of a kill in its beak, flew halfway across the quarry and while flying transferred the kill to its talons. It then landed on a large tree branch for a late breakfast. This is the second time I have seen the falcons at this site retrieve cached food. The previous time the adult falcon used the cached food to entice a fledging to fly up to the branch for a feed.
With every visit to Moorooduc Quarry in Mt Eliza, I expect to find the pair of Peregrine Falcons that have been calling the quarry home for years. It may take a little bit of time to dig out the falcons from the cliff faces or the over hanging trees but I am rarely disappointed. I find my own roost spot and just wait and keeping watching the cliffs and trees. On this occasion I thought I would not have the time to wait but as I was turning to go I saw a bit of movement on one of the cliffs and found the Falcon (below) as it was about to launch itself into the quarry.
Peregrine Falcon, Moorooduc Quarry, Mt Eliza, Vic
The Peregrines colouring is very effective for blending into the blue stone cliffs.
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.
A drop in visit to the Moorooduc Quarry Flora and Fauna reserve after all the rain lately meant a slog through the mud and water along the paths to the Quarry. It was fairly quiet as the birds seemed to be in a bit of shell-shock only making a bit more noise and becoming more mobile when the sun made an appearance every now and again. I walked along a path where I regularly see Eastern Yellow Robins and while trying to photograph a pair hunting I noticed a young Kookaburra watching me with interest. He did not seem bothered at all by how close I was…
Kookaburra, Moorooduc Quarry, Victoria
One of the resident Peregrine Falcons at the Quarry, keeping warm by puffing up the feathers with trapped air.
I followed the sound of the Kookaburras hoping to get a clear shot of one. In the forests they don’t tend to let you get too close. I found this one enjoying some late afternoon sun. After a few moments he noticed something behind me and took off and flew straight at me, swerving at the last second and down onto the path 10 or so meters behind me, pouncing onto some prey and then flying back up into the trees.