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 building and moulding its nest
Off for more material
Back to continue shaping
Well hidden Eastern Yellow Robin nest
Invisible to the casual eye, even though chest high and on the trail.
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
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
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.
Young Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic,
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
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.
The tracks around Green’s Bush are full of nests, juveniles and adults frantically feeding their nestlings. The Eastern Yellow Robins are all along the circuit walk hunting within their territories and alerting their mates when an intruder walks along. The Robin has a number of alert calls and this one was making a piping call and keeping an eye on me as I walked underneath. I must have been near the nest as it did not fly to a lookout a bit further away as they usually would when I try to photograph them.
Eastern Yellow Robin, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park
Over the last two years I have seen an increase in the numbers of Varied Sittellas moving in small family flocks. They may have been around much longer but they travel and feed fairly high in the tree canopy and sound very much like Striated Thornbills. It wasn’t until I stood still long enough to watch a mixed feeding flock that I discovered them. Now I see them quite often in a number of spots around the Greens Bush circuit. I read up about them recently and learned that they are quite vocal in their feeding groups (and do sound different to Striated and Red-browed Finches, all of which are high pitched chirps) and that people often mistake them for treecreepers due to their feeding habit. I watch them working the trees with treecreepers and can see that they are a fair bit smaller, more stubby. What I have not noticed is that they spiral down branches and trunks while the treecreepers spiral upwards. I can’t believe I never noticed it and it probably means I am spending too much time ticking off birds for listings rather than observing. I also read that the males have longer bills and tend to feed lower in the trees while females stay higher. Time to get more observant.
Varied Sittella, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic
I recently clocked up 90 visits to one of my favourite sites to survey for birds and other native wildlife. I like to track the birds I find and record my sightings and locations on the ebird app, part of a worldwide database based at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the US. Going over my sightings looking for more data on the Bassian Thrush, I found that I had clocked up 90 visits to the one site: Greens Bush in the Mornington Peninsula National Park. On the last two visits I saw a total of 8 Bassians across several locations on the circuit , a good healthy and permanent population.
Bassian Thrush, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic
Some friends who live on a lovely property that backs onto the National Park that I visit most weekends gave me a tip that there was a family of Boobook Owls roosting in a dense stand of Blackwoods near their property. I found the owls and spent some time trying to find an angle through the branches and up into the canopy. It was very tricky shooting with the high sun and bright sky. The juveniles were quite curious about my antics and watched me as a I watched them.
Southern Boobook, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic
On recent walks around Greens Bush I have noticed quite a few juveniles learning the ropes from their parents. I found several Crimson Rosellas feeding in this flowering bush. The parents flew off but two juveniles stayed and kept feeding not overly concerned by me at all. This species in the wild is usually quite timid. It is a good time of year for getting closer to the forest birds and taking photos.
Juvenile Crimson Rosella, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic,