Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Pardalotes put on a show at Muckleford Station

Posted on 19 September, 2017 by Tanya Loos

The local U3A birdwatching group visited Muckleford Train Station last week, and were entranced by a large flock of Striated Pardalotes displaying and carrying on in very close proximity. Local birdo and photographer Peter Turner captured a stunning series of images, and kindly sent them in so we could share them with you all!

One of the behaviours that intrigued Peter is a display which involves the pardalote bowing slightly, opening both wings and spreading its tail. Many of the pardalotes were displaying in this way, and Peter asked what the behaviour might mean.

Displaying on the train tracks

Here at the office, we have a copy of a large detailed book known as the Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds (HANZAB) The entry on Striated Pardalotes details this behaviour.

The Wing-and-tail Display is associated with nesting behaviour. As the Striated Pardalote sexes are very difficult to tell apart, it is not known whether the male or the female or both sexes are displaying. The display may involve quivering the wings, or fanning them by alternately opening and folding them.

 

Three pardalotes watch one pardalote’s display with much interest.

The Wing-and-tail Display is often part of a group display, where several pairs that are nesting in close proximity display to one another.

The Muckleford Station is a Striated Pardalote breeding hotspot – with many nest burrows  excavated in the clay soil near the platform.

Striated Pardalotes also take readily  to nestboxes, in fact previously on this blog, we featured a pardalote nestbox design by Ric Higgins; for details, click  here.

While Spotted Pardalotes are loved by many, these photographs remind us that the Striated Pardalotes are little stunners too. Thanks so much for the photos, Peter!

 

 

 

 

Ruby gives voice to sapphire – Scarlet Robins in Nature News August 4 2017

Posted on 13 September, 2017 by Tanya Loos

For this month’s Nature News, Connecting Country Landcare Facilitator, Asha Bannon shares her observations of Scarlet Robins in Campbells Creek.

“A flash of wing on a blue sky
A breast of delicate wildfire
The weight of day is carried away
As ruby gives voice to sapphire”

The opening words of Michael Kennedy’s song, “Scarlet Robin” beautifully sum up the joy of this bird. It’s a rare occasion that I’ll go out into the bush in spring without hearing the Scarlet Robin’s gentle “chee-dalee-dalee” call, a crucial part of a Box Ironbark soundscape. The male’s bright red breast can also give them away as they move through the bush, but you may need to look a little closer to spot his more camouflaged girlfriend.

Scarlet Robins are one of many woodland birds that depend on ground-level habitat to feed. Perching on a low branch or piece of fallen timber, they use this vantage point to spot insects on the ground below. They then swoop down to catch their prey, and return to the perch to gobble it up.

Observing these beautiful birds is a highlight of any walk in the bush for me. They are one of those birds that watches you as you watch it, creating a sense of mutual wonder. Both males and females are gorgeous in their own way. They will pair up for the year with their mate, never straying too far, seemingly connected by an invisible string as they move through the trees at eye-level.

I’ve seen Scarlet Robins twice at our place in Campbells Creek, which is just beside a tributary that leads into the creek itself. One was also seen at Connecting Country’s Campbells Creek monitoring site during a bird walk in July this year. This was only the third time a Scarlet Robin has been recorded at the site.

Scarlet Robins and other ground-feeding native birds are becoming more abundant in response to the maturing revegetation that the Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare have planted along the creek. They need good quality habitat to thrive, which is why they are one of Connecting Country’s newest indicator species of environmental health for this region. If you see a Scarlet Robin, you can send through your observation to tanya@connectingcountry.org.au and help build the picture of how this lovely species is doing in the region. For more information, visit http://connectingcountry.org.au/about/projects/securing-woodland-birds/bird-monitoring/

A male Scarlet Robin, by Geoff Park

 

Flora of Castlemaine and surrounds – the online guide is launched!

Posted on 9 August, 2017 by chris

On 1st August 2017, the online edition of the Wild Plants of the Castlemaine District was formally launched.  This comprehensive guide contains details on the identification, locations, preferred habitats and history of hundreds of native and introduced plant species found in Castlemaine and surrounding areas.  It can be viewed at the following stand-alone website location – https://www.castlemaineflora.org.au.

In November 2016, local natural historian – Ern Perkins – sadly passed away.  Ern’s passion for the understanding the intricacies of natural environment was matched by his passion for sharing his knowledge with others.  A few months before his passing, he first launched this compendium of local plant species as a freely available resource via USB memory sticks.  Ern had developed this guide based on information that he and others had collected and compiled over more than 40 years.  With the support of Ern’s family since his passing, the Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club has worked with a local IT graphics firm to make this guide available as an online resource, allowing it to reach a much wider audience.  Financial contributions and other support towards this important project has also been provided by the Friends of the Box Ironbark Forests (FOBIF) and Connecting Country.  Each of these organisations will have a link to this flora guide from their websites.  A permanent link to it has been established from the Connecting Country website here.

It is intended to be a dynamic website, with updates made over time in response to taxonomic changes, new photographs and new findings.  Landholders, Landcarers, students and many other people from the Mount Alexander Shire and beyond will appreciate this valuable and easy-to-use resource.