Birds on the move

There have been reports from a few places around Castlemaine of unusual birds appearing recently. Species such as honeyeaters do tend to follow the blossoms as do lorikeets. Blue-faced Honeyeaters have been popping up in local gardens this week. Although not unknown in the area, it is interesting to see more of this species appear.

Blue-faced Honeyeater in a Castlemaine garden this week. It was in the company of a juvenile.

Out Campbell’s Creek way there have been reports of Black Honeyeater, another species of the dry country not often seen this far south. There have been reports as far south as Creswick, Ballarat and Colac in recent weeks – so keep an eye out for this bird as movement is obviously occurring, possibly due to dry conditions further north.

Black Honeyeater at Campbell’s Creek

Also at Campbell’s Creek this week a King parrot has been reported. Strangely, in the same area as the Black Honeyeater. These beautiful parrots are usually seen in wetter habitats, for example around Blackwood and Trentham. Unusual sighting for this area.

King Parrot (male) – a striking bird

Another unusual species that has been rare in the Castlemaine area is Grey Butcherbird. Common in a lot of different areas both north and south of here, it is an unusual sighting locally. However, there have been recent sightings at Mount Alexander and even in a Castlemaine Garden. Their beautiful carolling call in the mornings is quite an experience.

A young Grey Butcherbird on Mt Alexander recently

One of my favourites, the Barking Owl, has been reported on eBird again out Newstead way. Alas I didn’t mange to catch up with this pair as they seem to have moved on already.

A pair of Barking owls

And as an aside of ‘Seen Whilst Birding’ I had fun observing a family of young Yellow-footed Antechinus the other day. Great fun to watch.

Young Yellow-footed Antechinus

Owlet-nightjar

Not many people have seen the Owlet-nightjar in the wild, but in my experience this beautiful little bird is actually much more common than you think. And interestingly, it is also more active during the day than you might expect for a nocturnal bird. Next time you are in the bush, spend a bit of time looking at likely spots. In my experience these birds can be found in a variety of hollows in many different areas. I have seen them in a range of habitats: Castlemaine in Kalimna Park, Rise and Shine out past Newstead, Wyperfeld, Horsham and Terrick Terrick north of Bendigo, as well as in Melbourne suburbs. You have probably seen nest boxes around the bush, but next time look a bit closer. This cute fellow was a bit sleepy but still kept a careful eye on me. This was mid-afternoon on a sunny day in winter when this bird was soaking up a bit of warmth.

This nestbox was probably intended for Phascogales or Sugar Gliders, but instead was the home of an Owlet-nightjar

Owlet-nightjar at dusk in Wyperfeld National Park

Camping in Wyperfeld towards evening I heard a mob of honeyeaters making a racket so I went over, expecting to see a Goshawk or similar, but instead was surprised to see an Owlet-nightjar fending off some angry White-plumed honeyeaters.

Broad daylight – Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve, Clydesdale

Walking at the Rise and Shine Reserve near Newstead on a warm summer day I heard the sound of wing beats behind me and suddenly this little fellow landed on a branch right in front of me giving great views.

A typical spot in a horizontal branch – Terrick Terrick

Hollows of various types are a preferred roosting spot, often near a water source. I have seen these birds in diverse locations ranging from nest boxes to rotten fence posts as well as tree hollows. Next time you are wandering in the bush keep your eyes open – you never know what you might see. At night, have a listen for the call – usually just a single note repeated regularly. More than once this has alerted me to their presence in an area and I have later returned during the day to look for likely hollows. Spotlighting will not show them up, as unlike owls and possums, the eyes of the Owlet-nightjar do not reflect light.

Hard to spot from a distance – snoozing in the afternoon sun. Yarra River, Heidelberg. This hollow was next to a footbridge frequented by dozens of walkers, but this bird seemed unfazed by people walking by, all of whom had no idea what was there.