Night Walk, Night Heron

Nearly 14 consecutive days of frost, some down to -4 degrees, limits the activities of humans and other creatures in this region. But don’t be fooled, while we are huddled around the open fire, something very important is taking place out there. Some bird activity is increasing. The robins; Scarlet, Flame and Eastern Yellow have all arrived to skip along fence lines and dart to the ground from low perches to quickly snatch an insect. The Scarlet Robin arrived on our farm as early as the last week of March this year.
Flocking behaviour has been quite noticeable the last month, particularly of Starlings, Indian mynah’s, Pied currawongs, Crimson Rosellas, magpies, crows and the Red Wattlebird. Why do they exhibit this flocking behaviour coming into the heart of winter? Maybe you would like to share your ideas and observations. For me I think that gathering as a flock enables the different species to survive harsh times and locate food more efficiently and provides safety in numbers for the species as a whole when predators such as Falcons are also looking for fresh food to take them through the cold period.
Gathering as a flock at this time may also facilitate courtship with many species already paired and looking for, or returning to, nesting hollows or actively collecting nesting materials.
At last in the King Parrot Creek Catchment we are seeing some winter rain which brings out another food source –  frogs species that are critical to the survival of some bird species at this time. After rain, Kookaburras can be seen standing sentry one after another on the powerlines between Strath Creek and Flowerdale, picking off frogs. Various Herons such as the White Necked and White Faced also get in on the act. A heron not often seen is the Nankeen Night Heron, currently working the rain swollen King Parrot Creek in the Coonan’s Reserve at the end of Spring Valley Road. This heron is listed as vulnerable in Victoria. It becomes active towards dusk which is when this photo was taken. All three heron species are currently exhibiting breeding plumage.IMG_5457-001
Down at the Flowerdale Men’s Shed in Spring Valley Road, Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and Little Corellas are fighting over the nesting hollows in an ancient River Red Gum, having already lost one prime spot to a swarm of European Honey Bees the previous spring.
In three or four weeks we will see the first jelly blobs of frog spawn on farm dams which only last week were sheeted in ice. A warm day today, over 15 degrees, saw the honey bees collecting pollen from early wattles and the flower buds of Claret Ash. Two weeks should see the local Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) begin to flower and then we will be certain that the gloomy winter days are fast falling behind us.
Last month saw a small but excited group gather at the Flowerdale Community House for a few sausages before moving off on a spotlight walk along the King Parrot Creek. The sharp eyes of one adult quickly picked out the glowing eyes of two Brush- tailed Possums, high in the Manna Gums. Boys being boys, they were drawn to the slugs and slimy creatures that were to be found under fallen timber. A cold night and light drizzle ended the night at around 7.30 p.m.IMG_5426


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