Blue-faced Honeyeater family

Blue-faced Honeyeater
Blue-faced Honeyeater family portrait

Young Blue-faced Honeyeaters, Entomyzon cyanotis, aren’t “blue-faced” at all: their cheeks change from brownish to yellow-green, and then to blue at maturity.

These three were part of a group of four or five moving around my garden in mid March – very likely a family group, in which case we’re looking at children perched above a parent.

Blue-faced Honeyeater
Immature Blue-faced Honeyeater

Fairy Gerygone and Lewin’s Honeyeater

I’m still finding creatures I can’t identify and having to call on my Friendly Local Experts for help. They are very generous with their time,  and I thank them for their help but I don’t want to embarrass them by getting anything wrong so they will remain Anonymous FLE’s (unless, of course, they read this and choose to be named). My latest call for help related to these little birds:

fairy gerygone
What’s smaller than a Brown Honeyeater?
fairy gerygone
Is this the same or not?

They were attracted to the sprinkler at the bush block on Hervey’s Range I visit regularly. My first thought was that they were Lemon-bellied Flycatchers (aka Fly-robins) but I couldn’t account for the white streak under the eye in the second photo. They looked a bit too small, too, so I asked.

The reply was prompt: “… southern race of Fairy Gerygones: the first one is a female, the second with the white streaks is a male.”

They were new to me so I looked them up. Slaters’ Field Guide calls Gerygones “Australian Warblers” and their “Fairy Warbler, Gerygone palpebrosa,” is “10 – 11.5cm” – Sunbird size, not Brown Honeyeater size. Birdway, which is regularly updated with name changes in a way that books can’t be, includes them in “Australasian Thornbills, Scrubwrens, Gerygones & Allies (Acanthizidae).” The Fly-robin, for comparison, is here.

One of the area’s most common honeyeaters, the Lewin’s (Meliphaga lewinii), also came to enjoy the sprinkler:

Lewin's Honeyeater
Lewin’s Honeyeater

As usual, I came home with a collection of spider and insect photos. The most interesting are now on flickr, here and close to it, in my photostream.

Big ball of fluff – baby Blue-faced Honeyeater

Wandering around the garden a couple of days ago, I spotted a big ball of fluff high in the paperbark tree. I could see that it was bird with a lot of white on it, and it was big enough to make me wonder briefly whether a Torres Strait Pigeon had over-stayed its wet-season visit. The telephoto lens, however, revealed that it was a very young Blue-Faced Honeyeater, Entomyzon cyanotis. It still had its fluffy baby-feathers on its white belly, and it was looking awkward and unsettled in spite of the company of an older bird, perhaps a parent.
It was too high in the foliage for a good photo that time but I saw it (or a sibling?) again yesterday, low in the poplar gum:

Blue-faced Honeyeater
“Blue-faced” Honeyeater? Not when they are this young

The species is named for the patch of skin on its cheeks, which is bright blue in adults. Younger birds have green cheeks but this one is the first to make me notice that the green changes gradually as they grow up, from this yellow-olive green which nearly matches their feathers, to the leaf green I see more often, and then to the blue.

Blue-faced Honeyeater
Feeling a bit exposed?

Yellow Honeyeater in winter

yellow honeyeater
White-gaped (lower left) and Yellow Honeyeaters in poinciana foliage

I’m still occasionally seeing new species of birds in our garden, even with 50 already noted in my big list. This Yellow Honeyeater was one of many birds (Cuckoo-shrike, Drongo, Leaden Flycatcher and Peaceful Doves as well as Blue-faced, White-gaped and Brown honeyeaters) I saw yesterday. It’s not uncommon around the city’s parks so I wasn’t too surprised to see one here but still, this is another ‘first’ and they’re always pleasing.

I didn’t manage any particularly good photos but chose to post this one anyway, because it shows the Yellow in relation to the White-gaped, i.e. just a bit smaller. It is still significantly bigger than the Brown.

Incidentally, Winter has lost its scare quotes since my previous post. We’ve been down to 11C overnight and daytimes tops are in the low 20s rather than high 20s. Humidity has dropped, too.

A garden full of birds

grey-brown bird
White-gaped Honeyeater

The Dry season always brings more birds to our garden. We’re well into it now, with no rain at all in the last month, and yes, we have birds. This morning, in a total of perhaps an hour in the garden, I saw Helmeted Friarbirds, Blue-faced Honeyeaters, White-gaped Honeyeaters, Brown Honeyeaters, Peaceful Doves and a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, all of which are residents or frequent visitors (links take you to previous posts about them).

brown bird in tree
Probably a young Little Friarbird

There’s always something different, however, and today I saw not only a Figbird, an infrequent visitor, but what I think must have been a juvenile Little FriarbirdPhilemon citreogularis.

In some of the other photos I took it is clear that this bird, about the same size as the White-gaped Honeyeater above, has bare grey cheeks and a strong patch of yellow under the chin. Its back was a plain mid-brown. Friarbirds, of course, are members of the Honeyeater family, Melphagidae, so the resemblance to our other honeyeaters does point towards my ID. If that’s really what it was, and I think it is, it was my first sighting of the species in my garden.

I also saw a hawk and a White Ibis this morning but they were so high overhead that I can’t really claim them as “in” my garden. Still, seeing ten species this easily isn’t too bad, and adding to my running total of well over 50 is always pleasing.

Birds on the Town Common (and a few insects)

olive bird with white belly
White-throated Honeyeater

As promised, here is some of the wildlife I saw on the Town Common a few days ago, beginning with the birds.

  • White-throated Honeyeater, Melithreptus albogularis, above and (a more identifiable photo) on flickr.
  • Rainbow bee-eaters – lots, perching high in bare trees and swooping for their food.
  • White-breasted Woodswallow, Artamus leucorynchus, several competing with the Bee-eaters for good high perches.
  • Welcome Swallows, Hirundo neoxena, quite a large group feeding in mid-air above the lagoon at Payet’s Tower.
  • Peaceful Doves, several.
  • Bar-shouldered Dove, Geopelia humeralis, in two different locations.
  • A pair of Fairy-wrens, probably Red-backed but too far away for me to be sure.
  • Plovers (two)
  • Ibis (two)
The lagoon in front of Payet’s Tower, with its lone Egret

… and one each of …

… and not even one Magpie Goose or Cormorant!

The usual butterflies were reasonably abundant – Swamp, Plain and Blue Tigers, Crow, Glasswing, Grass Yellow, Migrant and Argus – but I didn’t come across any aggregations like this over-wintering group. On the other hand, I did see a small group of Oak Blues deep within a group of small trees in a gully on the Many Peaks path.

purple-blue butterfly
Shining Oak-blue inside the tree

Oak Blues (I think mine were Shining Oak-blues, Arhopala micale) are amongst the largest and brightest of a family of small butterflies, the Blues or Lycaenidae. I don’t see them very often, so this one is a bit special.

In spite of the common name of the family, nearly all Lycaenidae imitate dry leaves with their underside coloration and few are brightly coloured even on the upper surface of the wing (see them all here).

The most numerous insects on the Common that day were the grasshoppers and green-ants. I also saw a very handsome native cockroach (click here to see it, especially if you don’t believe cockroaches can ever be attractive) and a few dragonflies.

brown dragonfly perching
Common Glider

A sunbird takes a bath

Sunbirds (Nectarinia jugularis) are our prettiest small birds and we are always delighted to see them in our garden. They don’t seem to live here (I blame our cat for that!) but a couple living nearby visit fairly often. I have seen them foraging for food and collecting nesting material, and this morning the male came for a bath when I turned on the sprinkler in his favourite part of the garden.

small bird with yellow belly, blue bid and olive back
Olive-backed Sunbird
same bird
A chance to dry off and look around

He flew up to a higher branch after a while, to stretch and dry off, but soon returned. A Brown Honeyeater (Lichmera indistincta) thought a bath was a good idea, too, and joined the sunbird for a while.

grey and olive bird on twig
Brown Honeyeater
wet grey-green bird
Having a good shake

But the Sunbird stayed longer, still enjoying himself under the sprinkler after the Honeyeater left.