A magpie lark (mudlark) in Ballarat's North Gardens Wetlands has taken up fishing. It has been observed more than once this month, catching small fish near the top pond.
At least once the bird has had trouble with the fish for a while, holding it to the ground with its foot while tugging at it with its beak.
Photographer Jeffrey Crawley reports: "I observed it attempting to swallow the fish a number of times, only to disgorge it again. Eventually it managed to keep it down."
Magpie larks catching fish seem to be unknown. While catching a similar-sized skink might be more usual magpie lark behaviour, catching a fish has not been reported before. However, there is at least one published report of a magpie lark pecking at a freshly dead fish and apparently feeding from it.
The magpie lark pictured is a male, readily identified by his white eyebrow. Black forehead and throat are other male features. The female has a white forehead and throat, and no brow.
The usual food of the magpie lark is insects, although small vertebrates such as skinks and frogs are sometimes eaten.
To a magpie lark, a fish may not be much different from a skink, but it would be more difficult to catch.
The North Gardens magpie lark has apparently mastered the art, having been observed fishing on at least two different days.
The name mudlark might be more commonly used for this bird than the official name of magpie lark. Peewee is another commonly used name for this familiar bird.
The dry summer has taken its toll on various plants, including our most common wattle, the blackwood.
Young blackwoods in many places have been turning yellow for a couple of months, apparently as a result of dryness.
Some have died, but others have not quite reached that stage, although the green colour is going from their leaves.
It remains to be seen whether or not the recent rain will be able to rejuvenate them, or whether they are too far gone.
Most of the affected young trees appear to be less than 10 years old. Older greener blackwoods have produced few buds so far. The buds would normally be clearly visible by now.
It's too late for more buds to form, so we can expect a reduced flowering of blackwoods this spring. This follows a poor year for blackwood flowers last year.
Silver banksias - never common anywhere these days - have suffered from dryness too, with dead specimens prominent in the relatively few places where banksias grow naturally.