Monday, 15 December 2014

Interspecies interactions on The Plain

This morning I took the MTB for a ride to the Hoskinstown Plain, primarily to see what was going on in the Snow Gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora) remnant on Pollack Rd.  I also wanted to check an Acacia windbreak which has been visited in the past by Superb Parrots.

The Snow Gum remnant (and nearby E. mannifera) were very well endowed with birds.  The best sighting was a juvenile Pallid Cuckoo squeaking in the tree tops.  (I reported seeing a female Pallid Cuckoo in this area at the end of October: obviously she was checking out the territory at that time.)
The cuckoo's squeaking was successful, as a far smaller bird kept flying in to feed it.  I couldn't initially get a good look at the host due to foliage and then the cuckoo started flying from tree to tree, squeaking all the time.   Trynig to follow it was annoying as its route kept traversing a fence - fortunately neither barbed wire nor electrified.  Eventually the bird posed nicely again.
The Common Starling didn't feed it, but took its beakful of grub to its own brood in a nearby noisy nest hollow.  Then the Cuckoo's host appeared and fed its parasite.
After which the parent paused and revealed that it was a Brown-headed Honeyeater.   HANZAB reports that 13.8% of the hosts of Pallid Cuckoos were Melithreptus honeyeaters (which genus includes the Brown-headed Honeyeater).
My estimate is that the Cuckoo was shifting position every 2 or 3 minutes and flying up to 50 metres each time.  Its final position was over 100m from where I first saw it, bu the hosts seemed to be able to find it each time.  Parental instinct is an amazing driver for birds - I'd have watched this parasite fly  off and headed in the opposite direction!

Nearby a Laughing Kookaburra was attracting the attention of a Willie Wagtail.  It wasn't clear whether the Willie had a nest in the vicinity or was simply reacting on principle to the presence of a fledgling thief.
 When the Wille attacked it seemed to actually land on the Kookaburra's back, flapping its wings too fast for my camera to freeze.
This ended up with the Kookaburra flying away hotly pursued by the Willie.

When I first got down to the Plain I counted 130 Straw-necked Ibis (and a solitary Australian White Ibis) in a paddock.  On my return they had moved across Plains Road and I was able to get a shot of a proportion of the flock.
On the following day (16 December) the landholder reported 150+ Ibis in the paddock.

In the Snow Gums there were masses of Christmas Beetles.  I think they were providing sustenance for the Tree Martins flying through the area.  I thought it worth taking this snap of a Robber Fly, to show that they perch on thingss other than trees.
This close-up is included under the Mr Spiffy rule.
After scaling Pudding Hill I found an Eastern Long-necked Tortoise crossing the road.  I waited for it to stick it head out but it took too long  - and I was concerned that a motorist would look at me and splat the tortoise - so I picked it up and carried it across the road.

2 comments:

Denis Wilson said...

Nice work with the Cuckoo/Honeyeater< Martin.
Denis

Flabmeister said...

Thanks Denis.

It was surprisingly stressful chasing the blighter back and forth across the fence.

I seem to recall an old song "Oh for the wings of a dove". This morning I'd have settled for the wings of a cuckoo!

Martin