Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Mixed findings

Spring is rolling on and yesterday I saw a fledgling Horsefield's bronze cuckoo being fed by a pair of buff-rumped thornbills. And today I found a grey fantail incubating one egg.

Fantail nests are delicate eggcups of cobwebs balanced on a thin branch. They always have a tail hanging down which seems to break up their outline and reduces the risk of predators seeing them.

Meanwhile, predators seem to be finding the frogmouth nests. In the past few years, only a few nests have been predated, but this year eight have been lost so far. Currawongs or possums might have taken some eggs or young, but some nests have eggshells and young lying below them, so they hadn't been eaten by them. I have seen brown goshawks most days when I have out in the bush, and one pair which have abandoned their nest have a goshawk nest only 25m away. And I found the plucked remains of a chick on a branch not far from another nest which had been raided.

A dead frogmouth chick of less than a week old lies below its nest.

Friday, 24 September 2010

More signs of Spring

Today I flushed a hare from her form where she had two small young. They were lying in tall weedy patch directly below a white-winged chough nest, and about 250m from a wedge-tailed eagle eyrie. I wished them luck and moved on.

The leverets as they were concealed under the weeds.

I opened the cover briefly to take a photograph then replaced the herbage.

Farther on I came across a party of three Kookaburras lined up on a branch where they calling in chorus.

Warming up

The weather is warming up now and the wildlife are responding. I have seen a couple of shingleback lizards in the past few days and I came across this bearded dragon sun-basking on a log yesterday.

I have been doing the rounds of tawny frogmouth nest sites and after the cold but wet winter, they are at all stages of breeding. Some have hatched young, some are only laying now and others have failed. I suspect goshawks have taken one adult and a chick from one nest, and have either killed or frightened off another pair from a partially built nest. The goshawks built a new nest only fifty metres from the frogmouth nest last year and I think they ate the fledglings. The site is now empty of frogmouths.

Goshawks and sparrowhawks are very noticeable at the moment as they display over their nest sites and the males are hunting to provide the females with extra food. The male goshawk below was being mobbed by a group of noisy miners yesterday while it sat over a dam watching a group of wood ducks. Unfortunately he was about twenty-five metres from and in between a male frogmouth on a nest and his mate in a roost.

Near another goshawk nest site, I found a dead common bronzewing - killed by a gos? I couldn't tell, but I photographed the wing plumage as it showed the range of metallic colours which give the bird its name; orange, yellow, green and purple.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Bird-banding at Charcoal Tank, West Wyalong

Last weekend I was out at Charcoal Tank reserve mist-netting birds with a few other people in a group organised by Mark Clayton. Spring has arrived, there was water lying all around and running down the creek lines, the grass was tall and green and the birds were breeding. The birds above were a group of brown-headed honeyeaters, two adults and a juvenile, recently fledged.

There were also a few painted button-quail about, another sign of fresh growth and spring bird movements. This was a female which we caught.

We caught twenty-two different species. mostly locally breeding birds which were on their breeding territories. These are two spiny-cheeked honeyeaters, an adult on the left and an immature on the right.

The adult spiny-cheeked honeyeaters have white cheeks and the spiny plumes are obvious.

The immature spiny-cheeked honeyeater has yellow cheeks and its spiny plumes are less developed.

There was a pallid cuckoo calling all weekend but we never saw or caught it. We did however catch a fan-tailed cuckoo which we never heard calling.

This bird was surely a sign that bird were breeding well now that the drought has ended. I found further evidence in the form of red-capped robins with young in the nest and another pair with fledged young, a pair of jackie winters with eggs and inland thornbills with young in the nest.

The cuckoo really was a splendid bird and when it opened its bill it showed its typical cuckoo bright red gape.

Thursday, 9 September 2010


Last weekend there was a terrific storm and lots of trees were blown down. Several trees fell around the previously mentioned nest. I checked the birds anxiously during and after the worst weather and the male was sitting tight throughout. The eggs are due to hatch any day now and it would have a been a great loss if his efforts failed.

The neighbouring birds also sat tight through the storm and here the male sits hunched down as the rain runs over his back and the branches are soaked. Like all the other nests I know of, they survived, many with adjacent trees coming down. By selecting to nest away from the ends of branches, and on thick ones, Tawny Frogmouths seem to avoid the worst effect of the winds.