Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mixed Bag

Today’s mixed bag begins with a Lace Monitor that strolled slowly across in front of the ute on the Bunyip River Road inside the Bunyip State Park. With its tongue tasting the air every couple of steps, it didn’t seem too upset at getting snapped from a distance.

When I stepped a little nearer though, those excellent claws were put to good use when it scaled a tree for safety.

After saying farewell to Mr Monitor, I legged it for awhile under the power lines and came to a small remnant puddle that had some life.

Fairy Apron
Utricularia, (utriculus = Greek for little bladder), is a small family of carnivorous bladderworts and several were flowering strongly around the edge of the puddle. I’m not deadly certain they were U dichotoma, but Fairy Apron is pretty close.

Wandering Percher
I think this is a Wandering Percher, a fairly common and widespread dragonfly that likes to inhabit still or sluggish water including temporary puddles.

Always something to look at in the bush.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Rufous Fantail - Cuckoo Saga - Episode 2

Today I went back to check on the progress of the Rufous Fantail’s herculean task of raising a cuckoo. The cuckoo is still in on the nest and still being fed by the poor overworked fantails.

Apparently both Pallid and Brush Cuckoos like to use open cup-shaped nests of fantails, Willie Wagtails, etc, (whereas Fan-tailed Cuckoos and both ‘Bronze’ Cuckoos prefer the dome-shaped nests of thornbills, scrubwrens, fairy wrens and heathwrens).

According to the field guides, the juvenile Brush Cuckoo is heavily barred dark brown. At the moment it is looking like a baby Brush Cuckoo to me. More monitoring required, but!

Swamp Wallaby
Nearly each time I have visited this picnic ground, an old Swamp Wallaby has appeared and grazed away, not caring too much by my presence. He/she is a little grey on top and around the face, and is displaying a few battle scars. Some horse riders went by today and the horses were more flighty than the wallaby when they each caught sight of the other.

Brush Bronzewing
I took a little used bush track on the way home today and scattered several small groups of Brush Bronzewing pigeons. This fairly uncommon bird is smaller and more colourful than the Common Bronzewing. The last bird managed to not fly off immediately and let me get some pictures, albeit with the light not quite right for my camera, (or me), to capture those stunning colours on the wing coverts. (Gimp to the rescue!)

The only other incident to report is that after turning onto Black Snake Creek Rd and travelling 500m, I had to give way to a … Red-bellied Black Snake. It was camera shy and disappeared rapidly into the roadside vegetation

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Avian Duplicity

The Mortimer Picnic Ground is situated just within the Bunyip State Park near the western boundary. The picnic ground is reasonably well appointed with parking areas, tables, fireplaces and a drop toilet. There are several walking tracks, bridle paths and maintenance vehicle roads that head out from the reserve.

The park is close to the junction of the William Wallace and Diamond Creeks both of which are lined with a variety of ferns and other typical wet temperate forest species.

The Mountain Grey gums are the stand out tree species in the reserve.

Both creeks are lined with water ferns, tree ferns, swordgrass, Pomaderis, Prickly Currant Bush and similar species, (including some stinging nettles I discovered!).

Rufous Fantail plus …?
After exploring small sections of a couple of trails I put the billy on and scanned the creek line through the bins. I ticked quite a few different birds but the one that caught my eye was the Rufous Fantail. At least a pair of birds seemed to be flying in and out of one particular patch of scrub – worth a closer inspection.

I got close enough to see one bird had food in its beak. Keeping an eye on where exactly it disappeared to, I soon found the nest just over the water.

As is plainly visible, it is a VERY large Rufous Fantail nestling – I don’t think - has to be a cuckoo species. Obviously we have some brood parasitism going on here, (YouTube video link). I’m a little ambivalent about this. The fantails have naturally lost this round of young in their rearing cycle. Perhaps they had an early season rearing anyway? Maybe they’ll try again once the cuckoo has fledged?

The cuckoo parent on the other hand has been very clever and I’m just as delighted to see a cuckoo in the bins or the camera as I am seeing a fantail. So, I’m feeling a bit dismayed for the poor fantails but a bit excited to see which breed of cuckoo they will raise! If I can manage to keep an eye on things I’ll post the results here.