Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Winter bird survey highlights

Posted on 1 September, 2016 by Tanya Loos

Tanya has just completed our 2016 winter bird surveys - a grand total of 100 individual surveys - with some interesting results.

Tanya has just completed our 2016 winter bird surveys – a grand total of 100 individual 20-minute surveys – with some interesting results.

After our very dry Spring in 2015 we have had a very wet winter in 2016 – what a relief! Bird activity this winter has seemed to mirror the strange weather patterns – with large numbers of some species, unusual breeding behaviour, and increased numbers of ‘out-of-towner’ visitors!

For the Winter bird survey, I visit our fifty sites in both morning and afternoon which we have been monitoring since 2010. These sites are a mix of paddock sites, restoration sites and intact sites in bushland areas. For more on this monitoring program, follow this link HERE. The sites are located on both public and private land, however I have also included some observations of species seen whilst traveling around from site to site.

The numbers and distribution of our ‘Feathered Five’ seem to be unchanged this winter, with our Hooded Robins of Muckleford and Blue Hills remaining steady, Diamond Firetails in small numbers around Yapeen, Newstead and Clydesdale, and not a single Painted Button-quail observed during surveys! One of these elusive button-quails was  recorded and photographed by a local birdwatcher – great shot David Adam and thanks for permission to use the pic.  Happily, Brown Treecreepers were recorded in the southerly farmland areas of Metcalfe for the first time – a thrilling result as there are no database records for them in the Metcalfe or Taradale Conservation Reserves. With new areas of private land being enhanced for conservation, we may see more of these birds on this eastern side of Castlemaine.

david adam PBQ

A Painted Button-quail on Mia Mia Track, 23/07/2016, by Victorian Birders Group member David Adam.

Silvereyes have been around this winter in big numbers – I have seen flocks of thirty birds!  There are two populations of these lovely little birds – our locals with silvery buff and light rufous underparts, and some winter visitors from Tasmania with a deeper richer version of this lovely reddish colour on their flanks. Geoff’s blog Natural Newstead has more on these attractive birds (CLICK HERE).

I noted large flocks of the brightly coloured European Goldfinch in the Harcourt area, and flocks of about thirty Common Mynas (also known as Indian Mynas) just west of Newstead. Happily, I also noticed a LOT of small native birds, with large numbers of Spotted Pardalotes, Striated Pardalotes and Weebills busily feeding on the flowering Yellow Box.

The Little Corella, a smaller cousin of the Long-billed Corella with a little more blue and less pink around the face, is moving southwards with sightings in Sutton Grange and Baringhup. Pied Currawongs are in greater numbers this year, and not only in town. For the first time since surveys began, Pied Currawongs have been recorded in bushland during surveys. Another bird that is increasing  locally is the Grey Butcherbird, with a few sightings in Castlemaine and also in Walmer. A large  honeyeater may also be increasing locally – the Blue-faced Honeyeater, with sightings around town (including the Castlemaine Botanic Gardens) and in Maldon. Again, check out Geoff’s blog here for more on this species.

I observed Noisy Miners mating in Maldon in May which is quite late in Autumn to commence breeding! But after a poor spring in 2015, perhaps it seemed like a good idea. These aggressive native birds do not seem to be at the high numbers that they are elsewhere such as Bendigo and outer Melbourne, but their local populations are definitely worth keeping an eye on if we are to keep all our abundant bush birds.

I was surprised to see a pair of Scarlet Robins busily building a nest in Barkers Creek in late July, as it was still a very fresh 5 degrees celcius at 10:44am! Getting in early for a good Spring, I suspect. I would have to say though that the highlight of the Winter Bird Surveys was a most unusual visitor – a very confiding and lovely Olive Whistler. The Whistler was recorded by myself and volunteer Jane Rusden on the first survey of Winter at the magnificently regenerating Forest Creek in Golden Point. He or she hopped along the transect for nearly the whole twenty minutes, affording us excellent views.

A special winter visitor: an Olive Whistler. Pic by Francesco Veronesi from Italy (Olive Whistler - Victoria_S4E5352) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

A special winter visitor: an Olive Whistler. Pic by Francesco Veronesi (Olive Whistler – Victoria_S4E5352) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

 We have Rufous and Golden Whistlers in the region, but the last record of an Olive Whistler to this region was reported in the Castlemaine Field Naturalists News in the 90’s – and they are usually in the Otways or the dense forests east of Melbourne!

If you have noticed unusually high numbers of certain species, or new species visiting your area – we would love to hear from you!

Email or call me at the office 5472 1594

Our Woodland Bird Monitoring program is supported by Connecting Country’s Connecting Landscapes program, through funding from the Australian Government.

By Tanya Loos, Woodland Birds Coordinator.

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