Thursday, November 7, 2019

Brown Gerygone

(Click images for a larger view)
The Brown Gerygone, pronounced ‘jer-ig-on-nee’, is a small grey-brown bird that inhabits wet gullies in the foothills of the eastern seaboard of Australia. Often, they are first detected by their insect-like and incessant ‘which-is-it, which-is-it…’ call.

Credit: Atlas of Living Australia
Older field guides have this bird shown as being present just in the far east of Victoria but there has been a recent westward expansion. Several years ago, they were recorded in Morwell National Park, then Uralla at Trafalgar and Nangara at Jindivick and some sightings have been made in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne.
Brown Gerygones are usually present in small family groups as they flit through the foliage of the canopy and mid-storey, taking insects largely on the wing.

They fall into the ‘LBB’ or ‘Little Brown Bird’ category and are easily confused with Brown Thornbills and perhaps White-browed Scrubwrens.
The Brown Gerygone builds a dome-shaped nest of grasses, fine roots and bark, cob web, moss and lichen, suspended from a branch under some dense foliage.

The Crested Shrike-tit

(Click images for a larger view)
Despite their bright colours and striking hair style, the Crested Shrike-tit is more often first noticed by its sad descending whistle.

This bird can be mistaken for a male Golden Whistler at first glance. The large powerful bill is used for tearing at the bark to extract insects, spiders and larvae.

 Crested Shrike-tits inhabit eucalypt forest and woodland and although listed as secure in Victoria, habitat loss due to urban development, forestry products and agriculture are thought to be placing pressure on some local populations.
Credit: Atlas of Living Australia
 The species is endemic to Australia with three known sub-species. Crested Shrike-tits in our area are probably sedentary but nomadic within a large territory.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Grass Trees and fire

The Grass Tree, which is neither a grass or a tree, is a unique Australian bush plant.

 In February 2019, a bush fire burnt a large part of the Grantville Nature Conservation Reserve on the eastern side of Westernport Bay. 

 About one month after the fire, the eucalypts still hadn't developed epicormic shoots and the Grass Trees had lost their ‘skirts’ but had green crowns.

 A visit to the same location about seven months later has seen a transformation.

 Whilst Grass Trees are not dependent on fire for flowering, many species are strongly stimulated to produce a flower stem after a fire. The flowers on the stalks are nectar-rich and attract an array of invertebrates, birds and mammals.

Grass Trees are slow-growing long-lived plants that grow well in free-draining nutrient-poor soil. They have a symbiotic relationship with a mycorrhiza in the soil.

 Threats to this ancient iconic Australian plant include Cinnamon Fungus and land clearing for agriculture, quarrying and urban development.