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.