In search of the owlet nightjar

White-browed babblers, Newstead

There’s been some glorious sunny autumn weather lately.

I ventured to the Ocean Grove Nature Reserve and when the fog lifted the conditions were just perfect for bird watching. I noticed that the ponds on the north and west tracks were getting a bit low in regards to water level, so some late autumn rain would not go astray.

Before finishing my long service leave and going back to work, I drove twice to Newstead, near Castlemaine, to try and see the owlet nightjar that lives in a hollow in the nature reserve at Newstead. Of course I did not see it and I think I might give up on trying.

I did see some lovely birds, including white-browed babblers that were hanging around a nest, a pair of jacky winters, yellow-tufted honeyeaters and white-winged choughs.

It was lovely to be able to drive to this area again after the social distancing laws were slightly relaxed and it’s always beautiful to drive through Daylesford.

On the way home from Newstead I called into the Stony Creek Picnic area near Anakie, which is a lovely spot, and I saw scarlet robins, white-naped honeyeaters and striated thornbills.

Close to home, at the Ocean Grove Park there’s been a small flock of swift parrots feeding in the outer canopy of flowering eucalypts. The swift parrots were reported in this location by Denis Sleep on Birdline Victoria on 11 May.

I saw eight of these beautiful birds a week later, just near the playground. They were being hassled mercilessly by noisy miners, which are plentiful in the park.

Noisy miners are well known for defending their ‘patch’ of trees from other birds, especially other species of honeyeaters which may be seen as competitors for the food.

Because of this aggressive behaviour, areas inhabited by noisy miners often support few other birds. There must be very lovely nectar in the gum flowers in the park and despite the noisy miners the swift parrots were managing to feed in a few trees.

Swift parrots breed only in Tasmania and then fly across Bass Strait during the colder months to feed on the flowering eucalypts in the forests of the Australian mainland.

While on the mainland, they are nomadic and move around to locate suitable food sources. Swift parrots are critically endangered federally, so it was great to see them in our local area.

I received a lovely email from Carole, who spotted a magnificent shy albatross in Port Phillip Bay. On days when there are strong southerly winds, albatrosses can be seen in the bay or around the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse.


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