Thursday, April 23, 2015

April 2015

In case you wondered how pine trees spread!  Check the left claw!
Although Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos are recorded every month, they seem to have been more obvious - noisier and in larger groups - in April.

The most exciting sighting was the appearance of 4 Cattle Egrets on the Plain.  This is the third record in the area, and the first since May 2012.  The bids seem to be wandering from their breeding grounds at this time of year.  Other more interesting sightings have included:

  • An Eastern Barn Owl seen several times on the Plain (including fluttering at a window apparently attempting to assail a child's stuffed rabbit toy);
  • Pink-eared duck at several dams on the Plain;
  • Black-fronted Dotterel on the Plain; and
  • Golden Whistlers and Flame Robins descending from the higher country.

In total 91 species were recorded in the month.  While this shows the expected drop from March 2015 it is well above the average for the last 6 years (but I am not sure why).
Out-migration continued in the early parts of the month, and I compiled a note on an unusual behaviour of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters.  On one day the migrating honeyeaters included a large flock of White-naped Honeyeaters: this is quite typical for out house.

Thanks to observers in Widgiewa Rd, Hoskinstown (Plain and village); Knox Close, Pony Place and Wanna Wanna Rd.  Please pass on interesting sightings to me by email to

2 Birds of Prey:  Collared Sparrowhawk;Wedge-tailed Eagle; Little Eagle;Nankeen KestrelBrown Falcon

4 Kingfishers and other non-songbirds: Stubble Quail; Common Bronzewing; Crested Pigeon; Tawny Frogmouth;  Southern Boobook; Eastern Barn Owl; Laughing Kookaburra;  Dollarbird

5 Honeyeaters: Eastern Spinebill; Yellow-faced HoneyeaterWhite-eared Honeyeater; Noisy MinerRed Wattlebird; New Holland Honeyeater; White-naped Honeyeater; Noisy Friarbird

6 Flycatchers and similar speciesGolden Whistler;Rufous WhistlerGrey Shrike-thrushGrey FantailWillieWagtailMagpie-lark; Scarlet RobinFlame Robin;  Eastern Yellow Robin;Welcome SwallowFairy Martin; 

7 Thornbills, Finches and similar species:  Superb Fairy-wrenWhite-browed Scrubwren; Weebill; Striated Thornbill; Yellow‑rumped Thornbill; Buff‑rumped Thornbill; Brown Thornbill; Spotted Pardalote; Striated Pardalote; Silvereye;  Red‑browed Finch; Diamond Firetail; House Sparrow; European Goldfinch

8 Other, smaller birds:  White-throated Treecreeper; Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike; Dusky Woodswallow; Skylark;  Common Blackbird; Common Myna; Common Starling; Mistletoebird; Australasian  Pipit;

9  Other, larger birds: Satin Bowerbird; Grey Butcherbird; Australian MagpiePied Currawong;Grey Currawong; Australian Raven; Little Raven; White-winged Chough

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How Corvids pass on.

This is probably equally relevant to Australia!  Especially for Little Ravens!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Unusual Feeding behaviour of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters

The following is an article I have submitted to Canberra Bird Notes.

On 8 April 2015, at about 11am I observed from my car a flock of at least 20 Yellow-faced Honeyeaters (Lichenostomus chrysops) feeding on the ground.  The most obvious group were feeding on the surface of our clay/rock drive.  Others were foraging in fallen pine needles.  From time to time the birds flew up into the Pinus radiata fringing the drive. 

Approximately 12 Grey Fantails (Rhipidura albiscapa) were behaving in a broadly similar manner.
Looking through binoculars I could not identify what was being consumed.  I returned on foot approximately 30 minutes later and a similar scene was evident.  I searched the bare ground where they had been feeding but could not identify any obvious insects, other than a few small ants of unknown species.  A large number of Silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis) were calling from, and moving through the canopy but not coming to the ground

My wife drove through the area at approximately 12:30pm and observed the feeding still occurring.  I went by at approximately 3pm and there was no sign of the birds.

HANZAB (Higgins et al 2001) comments that it is unusual for the honeyeaters to feed from the ground.  In the description of foodstuffs one report mentions Formidicae as a minor element.
There have been two examples of unusual insects located in this area in the past 3 months.  Giant Willow Aphids (Tuberolachnus salignus) have infested some willow trees (Salix sp.) on Whiskers Creek about 70m from the feeding site.  However they have not been sighted in the pines.  Some of the pines have been the focus of swarms of small flies, but the swarms had not been evident in the recent wet conditions and the flies – neither living nor dead  - were not evident on the ground.  Thus I discount both of those as prey items.

The date of observation is in the period when Yellow-faced Honeyeaters migrate out of the mountains to the West of Canberra.  Our property is not on a major migration route but groups of up to 20 of the species had been seen nearby “moving with purpose” earlier on 8 April.  It is thus possible that a migrating flock had rested in the pines and noted a food source not visible to this observer.  They then seized the opportunity to feed before moving on.

Following my report of this observation to the COG Chatline other observers reported sighting Yellow-faced Honeyeaters feeding in/on Urn Heath Melicrus urceolatus.  While these shrubs are low, this does not, in my view constitute feeding on the ground.  However on 23 April I observed 3 Yellow-faced Honeyeaters foraging on our lawn in the company of a family of Superb Blue Wrens (Malurus cyaneus).


Higgins P J, J M Peter and W K Steele (eds)2001 Handbook of Australian New Zealand and Antractic Birds. Volume 5 Tyant Flycatchers to Chats.   Oxford University Press, Melbourne