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.
I often stroll along the Elster Creek and up into the old golf course. I have started to take photos of the transition from a 9 hole public golf course to a wetlands. So far it is still much the same with a few trees removed and the grass growing longer. I will post up some images once things start to happen. New layout designs should be issued in March.
The evening is a great time for good light and finding fairly relaxed birds preening and having a last feed.
A flock of Gang-gang Cockatoos have been seen throughout the local suburbs, visiting parks and looking for food. They are usually found around inland mountain forests not along bayside beach suburbs. While walking my dog, I found four in a tall gum tree along the creek behind my house. They were squabbling with the local Magpies and Currawongs. I rushed home to get my camera gear to see if I could get a few shots of my first local sighting and only my third sighting in the last 10 years. The flock had moved on but I did find a lone female Gang-gang feeding on green seed pods in the lower branch of a large tree at the other side of the old golf course. I watched for a while as she ate green seeds and then napped briefly, roused and ate more. After 30 mins or so the other members of her flock flew along the creek calling, she joined them and they headed further down the coast. I have not seen them since.
Gang-gang Cockatoo, Elster Creek, Elsternwick, Vic
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
With the slow wilding of the local ex-golf course into an extensive wetlands and woodlands, more birds are spending time in the existing Elster Creek lagoons. One of the semi-regular visitors is the Great Egret below. The egret hunts along the creek during the day and in the evening flies to the larger lagoon for a quick bath and a preen.
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,
While walking with a friend in Greens Bush recently I found two new Grey Fantail nests, the first empty but the second was occupied by two tiny Fantails. The small goblet shaped nest made of strips of bark, grass and spiderweb has an opening only 4cm wide and 3.5cm deep. (I measured an empty nest). While we watched the nest for a while one of the parents would come back every few minutes with a snack for one of the chicks.
I returned the following week hoping the light would be better but found an empty nest. Standing there looking for any signs I eventually found the chicks above me in the dense foliage. As a parent came near the pair would make high pitched begging chirps but would quickly go quiet when the parent left. It took a while to track the pair back to the chirps through the leaves and branches.
Grey fantail chicks in nest, Greens Bush, Mornington Peninsula National Park, Vic
With the closing of the Elsternwick golf course and planned conversion to a wetlands and open parkland, the unmaintained grass of the old fairways is growing long and seeding. This is already bringing more bird species to the area to enjoy the seeds, including a small flock of Long-billed Corellas.
Long billed Corella, Elster Park North, Elternwick, Vic