Saturday, 4 May 2013

Sittellas and Spoonbills

There has been some bird activity on NatureShare from RCL members, with a few new species being added to the 'Birds of Riddells Creek' collection. Two are particular note I think.

First, RCL member Bill Hall is always spotting some interesting visitors to his dam and last month spotted a Yellow-billed Spoonbill. He didn't manage to get a photo but this is a good example of a sighting that doesn't require a photo for NatureShare because they are so distinctive nobody could ever mistake them for anything else. Here is the NatureShare record:
... and here is a photo from NatureShare by Jason Caruso (the bill is often more yellow than seen here):

The spoonbill is a particularly good record because the species isn't listed on any Macedon Range bird lists either (eg. Cowley), so I added it to NatureShare's 'Birds of the Macedon Range' collection.

I haven't got a dam so I don't see many wading birds on my property. Has anyone else seen spoonbills in Riddells Creek or in the Macedon Range (answer via the 'comments' link below this article)?

The next 'good' record was a lucky find. I often drive down the Gap Road bitumen into Riddells Creek and I often see the stunning Eastern Rosellas in a 200m long section from about Plantation Road to Turners Paddock (the big Kangaroo Paddock well known to locals). Their colours are just stunning as the fly off - and here is a photo of them on the ground (by Thomas Nataprawira via NatureShare)

So I decided to stop the car last week to try and find and photograph the Eastern Rosellas. I didn't see a single rosella (so we still haven't got a great photo for the Birds of Riddells Creek collection on NatureShare!) but I did spot a family group of about 12 small birds foraging for insects in one of the indigenous Eucalypts on the roadside. I had no idea what they were and thought on the spot they might be some kind of thornbill, until I zoomed in and realised some had a black head:

It wasn't until I got home that I worked out they were listed in the books as 'Varied Sittella' (Daphoenositta chrysoptera). However, Simpson & Day's books show there are five races of the Varied Sittella and only one race had a black head. Further research shows this is at least informally called the Black-capped Sittella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera Race pileata or Daphoenositta chrysoptera pileata). The black head is only seen in females. Here is a pic of what I assume is a male (maybe a juvenile):
and again but in its more typical, upside-down foraging pose:

But there's more! This race is apparently rarely seen east of South Australia and the race normally observed around Melbourne and eastwards doesn't have a black head. On the Atlas of Living, for Victoria, there are only four records east of the Grampians, and only two east of Ballarat:

David Francis has informed me that he contacted a friend, a very keen birdo, after seeing my record on NatureShare and he replied saying that he has seen them at Treetops scout camp in Riddells Creek (Treetops adjoins Turners Paddock at the northern boundary).

Further to this story, Bill Hall also spotted some Sacred Ibis on his dam. Here is a photo from NatureShare (by Jason Caruso again):

I noticed that this species was also not listed on NatureShare's 'Birds of Riddells Creek' collection. I commonly see the Sacred Ibis in Riddells Creek so it got me thinking what else isn't listed on the collection. I soon realised that there is no formal list for Riddells Creek and the initial list added to the NatureShare collection were all from the remnant forested areas of Riddells Creek. My memory is that initial lists were supplied by RCL members including myself, Robert Blair, Ruary & Lynette Bucknall, Lachlan Milne (and I think one other - my apologies but I forget who). This is why the Yellow-rumped Thornbill that Bill saw a few months ago also wasn't on the Riddell Birds collection - plus I've also noticed that the Straw-necked Ibis (which I also see often in large numbers in Riddell paddocks) and Noisy Minor (which I see in the same 200m section of Gap Road as the Eastern Rosellas and Sittellas) also weren't on the Riddell list. This means there is a big gap in records that includes birds that frequent dams, paddocks, Riddell township, anywhere around and below where the bitumen road starts on Gap Road and Sandy Creek Road (and elsewhere on that line).

So, please, have a look around and let us know what birds you see in these areas of Riddells Creek - and better still, add your bird lists to the NatureShare collection here:
... and even better still, try to photograph your birds or create your own bird list and enter them as 'observations' to NatureShare as you see them.

The Birds of Riddells Creek collection is now at 74 species but I'm sure you know of many more that should be added?

And finally, my Tawny Frogmouths are back and enjoying flying into our windows after the emergence of the large autumn 'Rain Moths' (that are also heard banging into the windows).

 ... and our member James Booth made an unusual observation of a Tawny Frogmouth in deepest Melbourne:

1 comment:

  1. We occasionally get Spoonbills at the Upper Coliban reservoir, Kyneton. We have the Straw necked ibises and the white Ibis as well. We used to see Eastern Rosellas many years ago. I've seen a few in Gisborne recently.I'll try and take some photos if I can.