23 May 2024


I must admit I'd never heard of an Antechinus . Whilst birding at the dam someone asked me if I'd seen the Antichinus. Assuming he meant a bird species that I'd not yet heard of I said no! It was only when I researched it later I discovered that Antechinus are a small carniverous marsupial rodent with a fascinating reproductive strategy

They exhibit semelparity or suicidal reproduction. This is more commonly found in plants and insects (think female preying mantis killing and eating the males or somme species of spider doing the same. The males die after reproducing during a one to three week orgy during which they mate with as many females as they can. This is because the stress hormone cortisol builds up during the mating season. High testosterone levels causes a failure in the physiological system that mops up excess cortisol. The gruesome result is systematic organ failure due to cortisol poisoning. Fascinating! 

Anyway, next time I visited I made sure to keep an eye out for this  cross between a shrew and a mouse. Sure enough one appeared from beneath the roots of a large tree and came down to drink on several occasions. 

From the photos I'm pretty certain this is a Yellow-footed Antechinus (also known as a Mardo). If its a male he's only got a few months to live! 

20 May 2024

Birding around my Australian 'local patch'

Most days whilst I'm here in Australia I take a circular walk from our daughters place to a local small bushland reserve alongside the local cemetery. Theres a dam, on private property, along the route but its visible from the road. The route takes about an hour to walk but much longer if I'm birding! 

Its only a small area but I've found some nice birds here and in the garden. This trip was no exception with Brown Quail, Yellow-tufted and New Holland Honeyeaters being garden 'firsts' within the first few days. There has been a small covey of Brown Quail visiting the garden on several occasions but they're incredibly shy - it doesn't help that I'm normally shadowed by two black labradors - Lucy and Max

New Holland Honeyeater
Brown Quail

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

Six hundred metres up the road I reach the bushland reserve which is bordered on one side by the cemetery. The dam is usually worth a look but this time there have hardly been any birds using it apart from the ubiquitous White-plumed and Yellow- tufted Honeyeaters. This trip I managed to add Restless Flycatcher to the list of birds seen in the reserve.

Little did I know that a couple of days later they'd be much closer feeding on flying ants in the cemetery and using the railings and gravestones as perches to hawk from.

The bird in the photos above is a male, identifiable by his cinnamon breast band. The cemetery seems to attract lots of smaller passerine as well as parrots that all appear to be either feeding on seeds or insects in the dry grass. These have included Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Diamond Firetail and Red-browed Firetail,

Above: Diamond Firetails
Below: Yellow-rumped Thornbill

Parrots are usually represented by Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Red-rumped or 'Grass' Parrots, Galahs, Little Lorikeets and Eastern Rosella's. This trip there have been many more Little Lorikeets than usual with up to thirty being seen. They've even made the garden list with small parties flying over to roost most nights.

Eastern Rosella

Red-rumped Parrots
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Its a great place to bird for a couple of hours and theres usually something to see. Blue-faced Honeyeaters and Noisy Miners seemed to be recent colonists as I haven't seen them locally before.
Noisy Miner
Blue-faced Honeyeater

The Miners seem to be universally disliked due to their habit of driving out smaller species and their aggression towards them. See here for more information as to why, in many areas, theyre considered a pest.

Little Friarbird

Common Bronzewing

By far the best find this trip though has to be the beautiful Black-shouldered Kite that was perched in the top of on of the ornamental trees in the garden early one morning! 

16 May 2024

In search of a Rose Robin

Australia has a beautiful variety of colourful robins. In the area our daughter lives in I've seen Hooded, Flame, Scarlet, Red-capped & Eastern Yellow. I've seen Pink Robin down near Melbourne but Rose Robin  has become a bit of a nemesis. I've seen one before but a long time ago and I didn't manage a photo. I can't even remember where it was exactly! Somewhere along the Yarra outside of Melbourne.

Since I've been here (and weeks before we arrived!) I'd been checking eBird sightings in local areas and there were two local sightings of Rose Robin. One was in the area of the dam that has been attracting all the parrots & honeyeaters and another at a site called "Honeyeater Picnic Area'. Both only a few minutes drive away.

I made an effort at the dam, after having my fill of Turquoise and Swift parrots,  and spent several hours in the area where they'd been seen but with no success. Seeing a report of one being seen the previous day at the picnic area I decided to give that ago. 

For the first hour I hardly saw anything but I did stumble across my first live Wombat. Two blundered out the long grass in front of me and went towards their burrow,. One disappeared but the other stayed long enough for me to climb inot a nearby tree to get a photo where the animal wasn't obscured by grass. I've seen lots of dead ones along various roads but this was the first live one! Someone likened hitting a Wombat in a car as like hitting a barrel full of cement. 

Next on the marsupial list was a Swamp Wallaby. A species I've seen regularly. Again I didn't spot it until it started crashing away from me through the undergrowth.

Circling the dam a couple of times I picked up a Turquoise Parrot high up in the canopy on call and there was a Little Pied Cormorant drying itself in a tree whilst an Australasian Grebe swam in the open water. All nice to see but not what I'd come for.

Returning to the car I pondered my next move and decided to follow a dry gully away from the dam that had quite a bit of vegetation around it. I'd been listening to calls of Rose Robin and suddenly heard one in the distance. I couldn't find it! I thought I'd found it when I saw a robin-like silhouette ahead of me but it turned out to be a female Scarlet Robin. Then the male appeared! 
Scarlet Robin male

Scarlet Robin female

What a stunning little bird and I couldn't resist spending the time I had left photographing them as they proved remarkable tame. I'd stumbled into a small area with quite a few species feeding. An unusual call had me looking up and finding a Varied Sitella  - a bit like a cross between a Nuthatch and the American Black and White Warbler.

A group of Buff-rumped Thornbills and Spotted Pardalote's were feeding around me and a female type Golden Whistler was feeding in some low shrubs. 

Buff-rumped Thornbill

A good couple of hours but still no Rose Robin! 

A couple of days later I got a message from one of the local birders that he and a mate were going back to the dam early afternoon and would I be free to join them. As it happened I was planning another trip anyway so we agreed to meet up. The dam was pretty quiet but probably because its fame had spread and there were lots of people there. Hearing that the Pink Robins had been seen nearby again recently we took a wander down the track. A few minutes of searching and there it was. A Rose Robin calling. John spotted it high in the canopy first before it flew towards us calling. Still staying high it gave good views through the binoculars and I even managed a couple of useable photos.

What a great little bird. They're known to be hard to catch up with as they do prefer sticking high up in trees. I was more than happy with the views we had and came away feeling rather smug that I was the only one that managed to get a photo. If it wasnt for John and Tony though I'd probably not have seen it.

13 May 2024

More action back at the dam.

With rain forecast at the weekend I decided to pay a return visit to the dam ostensibly to try and photograph the vagrant White-fronted Honeyeater (if it showed again) and a Rose Robin that had been seen nearby......I failed on both accounts but wasn't too disappointed as the range of birds on display was spectacular. Both the Swift and Turquoise Parrots put on a good display but this time they were joined by Crimson & Eastern Rosella's as well as Little Lorikeets.

Juvenile Crimson Rosella

Adult male Crimson Rosella

Little Lorikeet

Little Lorikeets & Swift Parrot

The Swift parrot numbers are dropping off from the record numbers of a few weeks ago but those birds remaining are putting on a good show!

Juvenile Swift Parrot

Adult male Swift Parrot

Not to be put in the shade the tiny Turquoise Parrots made up for their diminutive size with a dazzling display of colour.

A few different species were coming down to drink including Dusky Wood Swallows and Welcome Swallows and a White-browed Babbler

Dusky Wood Swallow

Welcome Swallow

Dusky Wood Swallow

White-browed Babbler