Springtime means nest-building time. Many birds are already nesting, using a wide variety of materials.
Some householders are noticing extra birds flitting around the house collecting cobwebs from under eaves and around windows.
These cobwebs are very suitable for holding a nest together, being sticky, stretchy and strong. A brood of boisterous chicks puts a strain on a nest, and the cobwebs give it the needed strength and expansion.
Users of cobwebs include honeyeaters, grey fantail, willie wagtail, robins, flycatchers, thornbills and silvereyes. The cuckoo-shrikes - much larger birds than the others - use them too.
Bark is another important nest-building component, used by many species. These include honeyeaters, robins, thornbills, orioles, grey shrike-thrush, scrub-wrens, pardalotes and more. Ravens use bark and wool as a lining in their stick nests.
Dry grasses are used by many birds in their nest-building, but in most cases they are not as obvious as the bark or fine twigs that are the foundational materials.
Red-browed finches, however, make their large bulky nests almost entirely from grasses, with stiff neatly-woven pieces making up the bulk, and fine pieces and a few feathers providing the lining inside.
Feathers, fur and wool are common additions inside, while bark, lichen, and spiders' egg-cases are frequent "decorations" or camouflage items added outside.
One country resident reports almost immediate collection of wool provided for birds. Perhaps supplies of stringybark and feathers could be offered too.
Today's photo shows a striated thornbill gathering stringybark. This species makes a cosy domed nest with a covered entrance hole near the top. Stringybark is the main component, with a lesser amount of grass, bound together with spider webbing. Outside it is sometimes decorated with moss, while fur and small feathers make it cosy inside.
The nest is attached at the top to a thin twig and suspended in the thick foliage of a tree, usually a eucalypt sapling. Three small eggs are laid within.
One of many native plants growing in Ballarat's Victoria Park is the Australian buttercup - a typical buttercup flower with five rounded, glossy, rich golden-yellow petals.
There are several species of buttercups in the Ballarat district. The Australian buttercup's flower - 25 mm across - is wider than most. The leaves are divided into three, then often divided further. The plant is around 100 mm tall.
Australian buttercup, or common buttercup (Ranunculus lappaceus) is just one of many remnant native plants in Victoria Park. It and many others are just coming into flower, prompting spring and summer visits by locals interested in the Park's wildflowers.
Yellow tones of hop wattle
NATURE QUERIES ANSWERED
What is this wattle flowering in Woowookarung Regional Park at Canadian?
A.G., Mt Pleasant.
This is the hop wattle, Acacia stricta. It is a common plant in forests close to Ballarat, including Canadian, Enfield, Wombat and Creswick.
Its main identification features are its one-veined leaves (phyllodes), short-stalked flowers close to the stem, and angled stems at the tips of the branches.
The hop wattle shrub is open and upright, with local specimens usually about two metres tall. Plants often have a slight yellowish tone. Sometimes they sucker, colonising hillsides and roadsides.
September is its main flowering time. Flowers are mid-yellow, rather than bright golden-yellow. While not unattractive, it is not particularly ornamental, but can be useful as an open, fast-growing screening plant.
The origin of the name "hop wattle" is unclear. The plant bears little resemblance to the cultivated hop plant used in brewing.
- Questions and photos are welcome. Send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353, or email to email@example.com