Roses are Red and We Love You

Looking back over the past decade or so of bird sightings at Woodlands Historic Park, one species (among many) that featured in the earlier accounts is the Rose Robin.

The record keepers seem to have quite a number of sightings over the years, and when I first started seriously following the birds as Woodlands, my mate, and mentor, Ray, was often asking about Rose Robin sightings.

However the past few years have seen little evidence of the bird in the area, and no real confirmed sightings that I am aware of.

The past couple of seasons have been highlighted by at least one female Pink Robin, but alas no Rose.

And now we fast forward to 2017, and it seems at least one pair, or small family have taken to making the park their winter residence and making the hearts of birdfollowers beat with an added intensity.

Continue reading “Roses are Red and We Love You”

Off to see Ambrose

This is one of those posts that’s a bit out of sequence.  Just had other things to post.

A couple of weeks back we had a morning free and decided to go and visit with our friend Ambrose, the Rose Robin.

He had decided to winter over in a small patch of scrub away from the highway, and near a used, but not well maintained track.  To get to it, we’d follow the track a bit, then move onto some well formed Kangaroo pads.  The ‘roo pads are easier to walk, and they don’t waste any uphill/downhill meandering.  Very energy conscious is your Eastern Grey, so they tend to take the easiest way along a creek line or over a ridge.  Their number one rule: “Don’t loose height, and avoid the thick scrub”  So its usually pretty flat, and always interesting walking.

When we got the stand of wattle that Ambrose had called home, I was pretty flabbergasted to find that some local “Landcare (?)” group had decided to clean up the undergrowth and pile all the logs, sticks and leaves into one great big heap at the end of the stand.  Of course this meant for the birds, all the normal perching, hunting and hiding places were now removed.   I could just imagine how this happened with a handful of ‘community’ minded folk ‘taking care of the scrub’ in their area.  No doubt with motorised “Bush Whackers” to clean up the offending leaves, grass and stubborn undergrowth.  And there would have been of course the good natured yelling and joking with one another as they scoured the tiny moss beds with the equipment, dragging of logs, and stomping with boots.  All to go home at night to their respective dwellings, having completely ruined the environment for the winter overing birds.  It would be like going to their house,  piling all at the furniture and belongings in one corner, and then emptying out the pantry too.!

Any wonder then as we stood there in the  Landcare (?) equivalent of a moon scape that the usual Thornbills, Wrens, Flame Robins, Whistlers, Honeyeaters and Fantails, were not only no where to be seen, but not even heard.  A pity as this little block of wattle had been a bit of a honeypot over winter.

After 20 minutes of sitting and listing, it was pretty obvious that the friendly character of Ambrose was also not going to make an appearance.  In protest, I redistributed a handful of the “Landcare (?)” pile of logs across the moss beds, and we decided to go elsewhere.

As we were swinging out of the wattle stand, across the open area I spied a flash of grey and magenta.   He was there.   I don’t do bird calls, either vocal or recorded (see the sidebar), but I feel confident enough with this bird to talk to him…   And he came over.
Now if Robins can do indignant he had every right I reckon, but he simply chirruped  (It’s a bit like a single note on a mouth organ), and began to hunt around the tops of the wattles.  Occasionally coming down to see if I was following.  For the next half an hour or so, this delightful little bird graced us with his presence, stopping to pose, and happy to turn his head when I spoke. I know I’ve quoted Jon Young before, but here he is again:

If we don’t barge in and kick up a big flock of frightened birds – if we replace collision with connection, learn to read the details, feel at home, relax, and are respectful- ultimately the birds will yield to us the first rite of passage: a close encounter with a bird otherwise wary of our presence.

So we sat and chatted, he hunted, entertained us with his chirrup, and ultimately sat on a stick a couple of metres away and preened.  He hunted so close at one stage that I said to him, “If you get any closer, mate,  you’ll be in my pocket and I’ll have to take you home!”

In the end we had to say goodbye and I could hear Jon Young again:

 To understand we must slowly but surely expand the sphere of awareness and shrink the sphere of disturbance by learning and practicing good etiquette. We begin to start seeing and hearing more birds.

Hello Ambrose, hope you’ll be polite enough to come back next season.

Oh, there you are. Will you accept visitors.
Oh, there you are. Will you accept visitors.
Relaxed and entertaining
Relaxed and entertaining
Shall I pose here, or would you like me on the other log?
Shall I pose here, or would you like me on the other log?
Any closer and you'll be coming home with me.
Any closer and you’ll be coming home with me.
Magenta on Green. What a great combo.
Magenta on Green. What a great combo.

One day, Six Robins

As opposed to 3 days and no robins.

Had to motor to the northern subs today for a doc appointment.   Well I got that out of the way, and EE and I decided to make use of the time and take a trip down to Woodlands Historic Park and see if the Flame Robins had learned how to fly over the off limits to humans, Backpaddock.

The paddock is a secure area of about that is part of the Eastern Bandicoot Re-establishment programme. Currently locked because a fox has managed to get into the area and threaten the bandicoots.  One bandicoot making not much more than a take-away snack for a hungry fox.   Fox,by the way, was let into the area, by some banana-boat who propped the secure gates open. The team from the Conservation Volunteers and Park staff have been working since the incursion in early April 2014 to nail the little critter. Apparently at this stage without success.

Grew up in the country, (The Mallee), we had a Fox-terrier Blue-heeler Cross.   She was able to smell a fox spore from out the back of a ute.  Took about half an hour to find said fox.  And little more than a few seconds to despatch it. Quick, clean, neat, and cost effective.    Now, “Dog” (that was her official name.  Said so on the council paper) is of course no longer with us.   But given her efficiency, many a scalp hung on the fence line.  Dog would explode off the back of the ute and be on the job in about a millisecond.  So I’m personally a bit non-plussed that in this day and age, its taken from April to now (early June) to find, locate, and despatch a fox that is within a fenced off area.

I can’t imagine someone is standing in the middle of the park calling ‘Foxy, Foxy” or expecting said criminal to come out with its paws up.    No doubt the foxes of the 21st century have GPS and close contact radar warning and other technical stuff to improve their efficiency.

But, I digress.

Public Disclaimer:  The team working on the Bandicoot programme have done some fantastic work, in spite of some complex issues and I sincerely wish them all the best  of success.  My poor bird photography doesn’t come anywhere in the scheme of things.  Good on ya Travis. 

We went instead to visit Jack of Eastern Yellow Robin fame.  And about as fast as “Dog”, Jack came bounding out to see us.  It was more like him visiting us, than the other way around. Took great delight in sharing a bath in some water EE had tracked in, and then spent time preening before speeding off.  And so did we.  Not much else happening in that area, Except, funnily enough, as  we were walked back to the car,  just down toward the rangers work area, we spotted two Foxes.

Pretty easy to pick. Brown looking things, with long tails and sharp teeth.  We watched them go about their respective businesses and smiled that poor old “Dog” would not have been allowed in the park to deal with them.

Back at the car we travelled further out and were able to find our new friend “Ambrose” and he looked resplendent in his lovely rose red dress.   Then to our surprise he had a friend,   A female  Pink Robin.   She was a little less enthusiastic for the camera, but it was a good find.   Think we also have Ambrose’s lady,  “Rosy” in there somewhere too, but couldn’t make the connection. On to the further east toward Sunbury and we found several Flame Robins, and the figured it was lunch time, so moved on again.

After lunch it was time for home, and EE suggested why not go back past Woodlands, call into Providence Road and have a look for the Red-caps we’d seen  on a previous trip.  Suits me. On the way down to the dam area, we came across a family of White-winged Choughs. Very intent about their business, and we were soon surrounded by about 30 birds.  Lots of choughness going on.  And even mutual preening.

And then, “Peter” the male  Red-capped Robin turned up, and his lovely little lady. She is without doubt the smallest Red-capped Robin I’ve ever seen. Minute, not petite. To top if off a pair of Scarlet Robins came down the roadway, and we’d the chance to write up 6 different Robins for the day. Not a bad effort considering.

Dog would have been pleased with our hunting experience.

Jack, the Eastern Yellow Robin,  The cocked tail is not for my benefit, he's connecting with Jill a little further in the scrub.
Jack, the Eastern Yellow Robin, The cocked tail is not for my benefit, he’s connecting with Jill a little further in the scrub.
Ambrose.
Ambrose.
Pink Robin. Female.  Nice to see.
Pink Robin. Female. Nice to see.
Contemplative Flame Robin.  Perhaps he's wondering why we aren't working with his family in the back paddock.
Contemplative Flame Robin. Perhaps he’s wondering why we aren’t working with his family in the back paddock.
Female Flame Robin.
Female Flame Robin.
Two Flame Robin blokes, have a bit of a discussion about photography.  Not often to see them in the same tree, but they were chatting away.
Two Flame Robin blokes, have a bit of a discussion about photography. Not often to see them in the same tree, but they were chatting away.
Scarlet Robin, male, not the best I've done, but nice to see him.
Scarlet Robin, male, not the best I’ve done, but nice to see him.
Hiding, but I found her.  Scarlet female.
Hiding, but I found her. Scarlet female.
All Choughed up and now where to go.  A sentry took time out for a bit of choughcleaning.
All Choughed up and no where to go. A sentry took time out for a bit of choughcleaning.
Peter, the Red-capped Robin.  Almost working with me now.
Peter, the Red-capped Robin. Almost working with me now.
Such a tiny female Red-capped Robin.
Such a tiny female Red-capped Robin.