Nature Notes | Tantalising glimpse of rare rainforest beauty

TRAVELLER: The scarlet honeyeater (male pictured) is a migrant to Victoria and is usually found in Gippsland rainforests. Picture: Shutterstock.com
TRAVELLER: The scarlet honeyeater (male pictured) is a migrant to Victoria and is usually found in Gippsland rainforests. Picture: Shutterstock.com

A recent surprise for local bird observers has been a scarlet honeyeater at Invermay.

This gorgeous little bird is normally an inhabitant of Gippsland rainforests.

It was never seen in the Ballarat district until 2013, when there were reports at Beaufort, Linton, Bungaree and a few other places. The unexpected expansion in range has continued this year.

The scarlet honeyeater is a small bird, noticeably smaller than a sparrow.

The male is a vivid scarlet on its head, breast and back. It has the typical honeyeater downcurved beak.

The female is much duller and browner.

The recent Invermay bird was a male, and it would not have been noticed but for its tinkling call. Something like the high-pitched call of a grey fantail, it also has similarities to calls of the silvereye and flame robin, but is slightly different from all three.

This unexpected visitor was present for at least four days in a well-planted garden on a rural property, spending its time in eucalypts and wattles, and calling much of the time.

Although it preferred certain parts of the property, it was not attracted to any particular flowering trees.

There have been numerous reports of these birds in unexpected places this spring, all since mid-September. The bird is a migrant, arriving in Victoria in September and remaining through until autumn.

Vagrants like the Invermay bird are not likely to stay for more than a few days before moving off to more suitable habitat where others of its kind are found.

One has been reported from Werribee Gorge, but most are from east or south of Melbourne. The Invermay one is the westernmost so far.

A few decades ago it was never seen west of the Gippsland Lakes.

It is fairly common in coastal forests along the eastern Australian coast, especially north of Sydney, where it is often found in flowering paperbarks and bottlebrushes.

SANDWICH MAKER

A raven at Mt Rowan seems to like making sandwiches. It has been observed gathering slices of bread (provided for birds) and collecting not just one or two, but up to three at a time.

The second slice is collected and taken back to the first, where it is placed squarely on top.

Then a third slice (if present) is collected, taken back to the first two, and placed neatly on top of them before all three are carried away in one go. This is a substantial beakfull, but it saves extra trips.

This is just one more example of the intelligence of crows.