Saturday, May 29, 2010

Another Grubby Poem

I am a Grey Butcherbird,
As I'm certain you can tell,
I have a most melodious call,
Most twitchers think it swell.

When Gouldy starts his chainsaw,
I'm never far away,
His woodpile is a wondrous source
For grubs all al dente.

My strong hooked bill will do the job,
As I swoop in for a meal,
Witchettys on the menu!
For me, no better deal.

And so this poem draws to a close,
To see me in my glory,
Just give the pics a click!

Friday, May 28, 2010


Years ago at school I remember having to read a novel containing a chapter in which the author tried to mention the word 'grey' as many times as possible. At least that seemed to be his aim, I couldn't see any other purpose for writing it. I didn't score well with my summation of that chapter!

I'm reminded of that, as we are having some grey days in Gouldiae land at present. This time I'm loving it, we are getting some easterly rain and some grey visitors have arrived in our Bushy Yate in the garden.

The Gang Gang Cockatoos come down from the hills this time each year. Despite being described basically as a grey bird, the female has beautiful tan coloured chest bars. The male of course has the striking fiery red head feathers.

Their 'rusty hinge' call alerted me to their presence high up in the tree. Discarded scraps of food dropped all around me as they made short work of the tough Bushy Yate fruit.

As I moved around trying for a suitable angle through the foliage for a picture, it didn't take long for one of the local 'bovver boys' to fly in and check things out. 

I'll take these grey visitors any time. The grey weather is welcome too, in small doses.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gluepot Report #7

G'day Readers,
Banrock Station is a wine producing property situated on a big bend in the Murray River at Kingston, between Waikerie and Barmera. Since 1994 the owners have been restoring some of the mallee, wetland, woodland and floodplain environments. Domestic stock have been removed, natural wetting and drying cycles have been restored, thousands of native trees and shrubs have been planted and feral animals are being eradicated.

I spent a couple of days between Gluepot photography courses in and and around Waikerie, and Banrock Station was on the list of places to visit.

Several walks of varying length are available. I opted to do the long walk, (8km), collected the compulsory emergency 2-way radio, paid a small fee, (this is private enterprise), and set off. The tracks, boardwalks, interpretive signs etc were extremely well done.

Interesting walks have been constructed through all the habitat zones. The wetland country however was very dry. I think there was just one lagoon with enough water for a few Cormorants, White-faced Herons, etc. They are having real problems with water flow in the lower reaches of the Murray.

I did manage several birds that we don't get at home ...

Singing Honeyeater

Pied Butcherbird

Peaceful Dove

Apologies to readers who find these common species in their regions. One persons trash is another persons treasure, etc..

Near the end of my walk, a monitor scurried across the track. I followed for a bit and got a picture or two.

Gould's Monitor

A couple of elderly tourists on the track asked me what I was photographing - they couldn't see it from their position. "A monitor", I said, "It's beautiful". They called back, "What's a monitor?" "A large lizard, probably 1 to 2 metres", I replied. I heard elderly tourist No1 say to No2, "Come on Edith, let's get away from here".

Gould's Monitor

They went back up the hill to the, (very expensive), restaurant and probably related their tale of a brush with some Aussie wildlife to the rest of the busload. I went to the carpark got out a bottle of water, a dry sandwich, a piece of fruit and had most enjoyable repast!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mixed Species

G'day All,
We had a great day out yesterday, when some EGBOCA's came down from the east and joined a few of the Heyfield mob for some bird watching on our patch - a mixed species day.

We met up at Maffra, and after introductions and putting some faces to some email names, we headed out to John and Marg's place at Coongulla.

There is a small patch of bush beside the house that winds around the edge of the lake and it seems to act as a magnet to the birds. J & M's bird list for this spot is impressive. As we got started we almost needed earplugs to drown out the noise coming from the Musk Lorikeets as they worked the blossom in the big eucalypts. Heaps of little birds of various persuasion were darting through too.

It was great to see that a few species were considering nesting too. This Galah was checking out a hole in a large Red Gum.

I'm not sure what actually goes on in this situation, but I reckon I've noticed on the golf course that the hollows and nest boxes are selected early by particular pairs and they seem to guard their favourite hole for quite some weeks before actually occupying it.

Chris was kept busy recording the sightings as we headed back to the house for a cuppa and as we passed under the resident Whistling Kite's nest tree, it was as though they were recording their sighting of us.

We headed in to Heyfield next to have a look at the wetlands. Always a nice spot to take visitors, because if the birds are a little scarce like yesterday, the nature of the project and the information centre itself can provide enough interest to occupy some time.

The usual few duck and waterhen species were about, and the tree plantations were well occupied with various Thornbills, Wrens, Fantails and Honeyeaters. The wetlands are right on the edge of town and I'm always impressed with the number of 'bush birds' that I see in this spot.

After a late lunch a small group of us headed back up the highway and I led them into a patch of bush at Swallow Lagoon, a spot where Duncan and I do some regular surveying. The light was terrible by now, the forecast rain-band was approaching so we didn't linger long. We were just inside the gate, more or less at our first survey point and the place was alive with little bush birds. Ken was recording here and I think he had a list well into the teens in perhaps half an hour.

A particular delight was to see the little Spotted Pardalote, the jewel of the bush, gleaning the foliage of the eucalypts for a meal. A delightful way to finish a delightful day. Thanks EGBOCA's for your very pleasant company.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gluepot Report #6

G'day Readers,
I got these two species nearly in the one spot, a week apart.

One of the activities in the photography course was a walk with the cameras in an area known for sightings of Splendid Wrens. The weather was not wonderful, nobody saw a Wren, so we cut the walk a bit short, and I returned to the spot - the old airstrip - the next morning.

After going well off the track in various places and trying to chase down a view of a Crested Bellbird that seemed to always be calling from just the next tree, I glimpsed some activity on the ground. Eventually I got close enough to spot a pair of White-browed Babblers dashing in and out of a low bush.

I didn't notice at first, but eventually saw they were carrying nesting material as they flew in. This bird of the dry woodland regions constructs a domed nest for breeding and another less complex nest for roosting. Provided I stood still within my covering shrub, they continued on with their construction while clicked away.

For some inexplicable reason I didn't bother to get a shot of the nest while the birds were briefly away on one of their forays for suitable material. Some days later I thought about returning to the same place and hopefully find the same bush and see how they got on with the job. I had no hope of finding the spot again.

Very nearby, (I think), I did manage to creep up on some Wrens. A family of 5 or 6 were sunning themselves early in the morning and mutually preening, an excellent chance to sneak in close enough for some great views. I must have stood and watched transfixed for nearly half an hour.

From time to time a few members of the family would interrupt their sun bathing to drop to the ground for a quick early insect meal. Mostly though, as the sun was only just up, they were content to sit quietly on the sunny side of the bush until they had warmed up.

I gather the male was just moulting into his eclipse plumage but I could see enough colour to notice how striking he must be when breeding. I'll just have to return!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Gluepot Report #5

G'day Bloggers,
Somehow I always get so much pleasure from the 'little-brown-jobs' of the bird world. One of my favourites around home is the Jacky Winter, and they were in good number at Gluepot.

Except for the very driest parts of the continent, they are a widespread species that occupy a good range of habitat. The Jacky Winter is an accomplished aerialist as it hawks for insects in flight. When it lands on a lookout branch it gives a characteristic tail flick that is often helpful for identification.

Gluepot JW's seemed to be identical to our Gippsland birds. Many other species found in both areas seemed to have some regional differences - Gluepot Willie Wagtails looked slimmer and longer to me, and the Red Wattlebirds appeared to have much brighter plumage, etc.

I was able to add another LBJ to the favourites list at Gluepot, the Chestnut-rumped Thornbill.

I was ticking this gorgeous little bird all over the place. Often they were quite inquisitive of my presence. Sometimes I seemed able to will them to sit, (just for a brief moment mind you), on that branch there for a photo.

The Chestnut-rumped Thornbill is a very communal species and I always seemed to find them in small foraging parties bouncing through the foliage. And they did bounce ...

Thought I'd keep that shot, it describes their behaviour exactly.

The various Gippsland Thornbills can sometimes be identified by their location - Striateds in the crown, Browns in the shrubbery, etc. The Chestnut-rumps were interesting in that they were foraging at all levels, even on the ground at times.

A great little bird.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A 'Convention' of Currawongs

G'day All,
We have a dead Red Gum in the yard, (a long way from the house), that I often look at with the thought of, "There's a few months firewood in that tree", but I'm a bit loathe to knock it down. This evening, when I walked in from mowing or watering or whatever on the course, I was greeted with a chorus of Pied Currawong calls. This time of year they often noisily flock up before communally roosting for the night. Periodically the curras would glide up into the old Red Gum for a short sunbathe in the declining light.

They would sit and preen for a little before flying off to the nearby roadside trees for the night.

Marvelous birds except perhaps for their habit of sometimes taking other nestlings. Cop that 'robust' bill.

Every now and then they were joined by other species, but generally not for long. I think the Currawong's fearsome reputation might have had an effect on how long the others would stay.

I'm not sure what the collective noun might be for a gathering of Currawongs, so I've just invented one - a convention of Currawongs - for the 20 or so birds that visited the old dead Red Gum tonight.

In this last image, the bird in the top left corner is showing the white base to the tail. Pied Currawongs are the only ones to have this feature, useful for quick identification in flight.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gluepot Report #4

My modus operandi while at Gluepot was to rise early, before sun-up, have a cuppa and head out to a chosen locality and be 'in place' as the sun came up. As we all know, 'the early twitcher gets the bird' seems to be a pretty faithful guideline to follow in this game.

Sunrise at Picnic Dam - a favourite spot

I stuck to the designated walking tracks for the first few days. Frequently however, on my way I would see other country that would look appealing. There are many vegetation zones within the reserve - claypan, sand dune, Spinifex, Mallee, Native Pine, etc. I began building a mental list of localities that I felt were going to be worth checking and that's when I started 'going bush'. Even around home here, I find some of the best bird viewing spots are in areas where vegetation zones change or merge.

Posted walking track through some Spinifex - wouldn't be hard to get disoriented without those blue triangles!

Fertile ground - for seeing birds.

In general I tried locating birds by moving very slowly through the scrub, sometimes following a call or the glimpse of a bird. I tended to move from shrub to shrub or to a shady tree etc, anything to help blur my outline. Sometimes, when standing very still while immersed in say a Saltbush shrub, the birds would approach me for a closer look at the intruder.

It was using this method that I mostly saw the Babblers etc on the ground, and the Treecreepers, Robins, Thornbills, Whistlers and the like in the trees and shrubs. The bird hides tended to be best for the Honeyeaters and Parrots.

On one occasion, while standing still inside a bush I heard the very high-pitched 'seeep' contact call of the Chestnut Quail-thrush. It was hard to pin exactly where the call was emanating from. As I waited, the birds gradually worked their way toward me and came into view. The female in particular just strolled right by.

"That Saltbush shrub looks a little odd".

Such a delight.
(More pictures and info at Tabblo - links top right margin of blog)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Heyfield Birdwatchers - May, 2010

G'day Birdwatchers,
Yesterday we met in Sale and headed south to the Giffard Flora Reserve, a favourite piece of bush, (of mine - one of the perks of being the organiser!).

We turned in off the highway, after a U-turn, and started getting little bush birds down the fence line right away, White-fronted Chats, Scarlet Robins, etc. At the first stop we headed down a short track for a bit and part of our group became engrossed in trying to identify several birds in the canopy. You can see the concentration on their faces ...

... well, from the other side you could.

Various Thornbills, Whistlers and Honeyeaters was the score here. Oh, and the first orchid for the season, a Mosquito.

We moved on and had a cuppa, and got more or less the same birds before heading further south toward Jack Smith Lake. We turned on to the McGauran's Beach Rd and drove slowly down toward the beach, checking the fenceline in particular for more Robins. There were sheep in the paddocks, some with the odd lamb in attendance and consequently a few Wedge-tailed Eagles were perched atop some of the old dry trees.

John G had organised for us to enter a piece of private property along here, and the back paddocks went down toward the boundary of the Jack Smith Lake Reserve. The fence lines were loaded with White-fronted Chats and several pairs of the beautiful Flame Robin.

This little Robin is variously described as sedentary, dispersive and migratory, so take your pick. Some birds are thought to cross Bass Strait from Tasmania each season and considering our location, it seems reasonable to suspect we might have been seeing some Tassie migrants.

Like all Robins, the Flames gather their meals of insects and larvae by the perch-and-pounce technique, so we frequently encountered them 'posing' on a stump or on top of a thistle, etc, but they do tend to find the fence wires make excellent viewing platforms.

Lunch stop was the 'car park' at the end of the track inside the reserve, where we found a beaut spot out of the wind between the dunes and the Banksias.

Jack Smith Lake is a reserve jointly managed by the Field and Game mob, Parks Victoria, and probably others, so in season ducks can be shot! Some people like to complain about unethical birdwatchers - luring birds with playback birdcall tapes, etc - so you can imagine how most of us felt when we came across some cut-out duck shapes in the shallows ...

and directly opposite, just a few metres away tucked into the rush beds ...

Now, I reckon that is a bit one sided, but I'm probably biased. After picking up the rubbish, including a few cartridge cases, we headed back to the cars.

Many of the Banksias were attracting Wattlebirds and a few other Honeyeaters, including the ever present New Holland.

I talked the group into looking in at another small reserve on the way home. After eventually finding the gate in, we had a short wander around and saw enough to warrant further detailed inspection of the Darriman Bushland Reserve in the near future.

After saying our goodbyes and being invited to Peach Flat for next month's event, (thanks Michelle and Rod), we wended our various ways homeward.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bug Blitz

G'day All,
You may recall a few earlier mentions in my by blog of the Bug Blitz program. I'd helped out at a couple of local events and was very encouraged by the concept. Many of the schools in this area have taken it up with considerable enthusiasm.

Bug Blitz now has its own website,

The teachers and the students can log on and see the rewards for their efforts, news of upcoming events, detailed notes of species, etc.

Building some nest boxes - November '09

Congratulations Martin and John, it looks great. Congratulations also to all the students and teachers so far involved. Full steam ahead!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Gluepot Report #3

G'day Bloggers,
After leaving Waikerie I crossed the Murray by ferry and headed north toward Gluepot Reserve.

Waikerie was established in 1894 and has had a ferry crossing from around that time. Until 1964 there were only two bridges across the Murray in the Riverland district and another 15 crossings were serviced by ferries. The Waikerie ferry is a free 24hour service.

Just after turning on to the track to Gluepot, the vineyards and citrus groves soon gave way to mallee eucalypts, saltbush and spinifex.

I was to spend the best part of the next 11 days in the area but I will spare you a daily diary, (although I do have one), and just pick a few of the experiences that took place.

The first bird to greet me at the Gluepot gate - no key needed these days - was the White-browed Woodswallow.

In a good season we will get a visit in Gippsland from a few small family groups of these birds. This group at the gate was upwards of 100!

I registered my arrival at the visitor information centre and headed for my campsite, the remotest one, 12 - 15km north-east from the centre. A bit of pre-visit reading had explained that currently the healthiest vegetation was in the eastern block.

After pitching the tent and making a cuppa, I got a visit from a pair of Red-capped Robins.

I had arrived!