Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The value of old trees

As the reports of Superb Parrots had stepped up in Canberra on 28 October my friend Garry and I visited the site on the Hoskinstown Plain where they have been seen in the past to check on developments.  We didn't find any Superbs but were rewarded with a lot of other 'stuff'.  As my images from that trip were worse than usual I dropped back for a further foray on the 29th to redress the situation.  What follows is  composite of both visits.

The striking feature as we approached was heavy blossom on some Eucalypts.

Closer examination of the leaves showed these to be Eucalyptus pauciflora which in my circles is referred to as 'snow gum'.    In some references I have seen the vernacular name of this species given as White Sallee, and snow gum used for E. debeuzvillei and E. nitophilia.  That's why plant people end to stick to the Latin!
 The E. pauciflora were the first trees (other than plantings) encountered when moving up from the frost hollow grasslands. They were very gnarly trees, obviously of a venerable age.

 A little higher up the slope the blossom disappeared and I realised that we had moved into E. mannifera (Brittle Gum).
True to its vernacular name there were many snapped off branches leading to the formation of hollows of many shapes and sizes.
This large hollow was now a bee-hive, and the occupants were extremely busy downslope on the blossom.
The first birding excitement was a large nest.  We were trying to work out what it was when we suddenly realised it was occupied by two large chicks.
 This image makes it a bit easier to see one of the chicks!
Obviously the birds are on a high nitrogen diet.  As Erma Bombeck might say "The Grass is always Greener under the heron's nest."  Some of the whitewash is visible on the emerald green grass,
There were many other birds undertaking various steps in the procreative process.  Certain users of the hollows were Tree Martins and Common Starlings.  We suspected that both Crimson Rosellas and Eastern Rosellas ...
... were also nesting but didn't actually see them exit a hollow.    Dusky Woodswallows were perching on hollow stags, in which they construct their nest but again we didn't see them in flagrante.  This pair were defiintely making nice ...
.. but I left them with some privacy.

This Buff-rumped Thornbill was having some trouble getting to grips with a feather, but both eventually vanished presumably to decorate a nest in a tree hollow nearby.
That is not the type of location in which Diamond Firetails nest: they go for dense bushes such as hawthorns of which there were none in the immediate vicinity.  On the 29th we saw several of Firetails foraging on the ground but on the 30th I followed the 'peeet, peet' calls and found two of them appearing to graze up in one of the snow gums.  Some other calls more reminiscent of a begging chick were also evident but I didn't see anything I could recognise as a breeding display.
Other breeding activity seen, but not photographed on the 28th, included a male White-winged Triller nest building and display dances by both Rufous Whistlers and Red-browed Finches.

No reptiles were seen, but on the 29th I did find this shed snake-skin.  Comparing its length with my height I estimated it as about 1.45m.  We thought it was most likely a Brown Snake so left that area fairly briskly in case the owner was (a) still around and (b) not happy.
All in all a brilliant little patch of woodland.  If only the ACT Government would leave some old trees rather than allowing their anal-retentive lawyers to generate fear of a branch falling on someone.


Duncan McCaskill said...

Martin, that thornbill with the yellowish rump looks remarkably like a Buff-rumped Thornbill. Probably decorating a nest in a nearby tree hollow.

Flabmeister said...


Thanks. You are
(a) spot on; and
(b) the second to point that out.

I don't why I typed YRBT as i spent some time yesterday showing my mate why it was a buffy not an YRTB,

Has been fixed.