An increase in daylight has resulted in an increase in bird song, and one of the prominent songsters is the blackbird. Its rich warbling melodies have recently become a common feature at dawn and dusk.
Almost every garden in the Ballarat district has a blackbird or two. They can be nuisances in the garden, but their song is welcomed by many.
"Long, beautifully-shaped phrases, well-defined in time and tone", is one British description of the blackbird's song, which continues, "the effect is mellow, flute-like and musical".
Despite this, the blackbird has been judged only third in one survey of British songbirds, after the nightingale and the blackcap. Another list rates it second, after the woodlark.
At this time of the year - at the start of his singing season - the song of the male blackbird is rather hesitant and subdued, but certainly welcome after many months of silence.
His full-throated rich melody may not be heard until September or October, when he is unrivalled.
Blackbirds are not native birds - they were introduced here from Europe, along with other songbirds such as the goldfinch and skylark.
Blackbirds have spread throughout this district and beyond, but they have not adapted well to drier regions.
They are much more at home with introduced trees, shrubs, and lawns.
We have our own native songsters, of course.
Is any bird better than a magpie on a calm autumn morning?
Magpies and butcherbirds have been singing all year, and the magpies are now warbling occasionally at night.
A close native relative of the blackbird is the Bassian thrush, which has similarly-rich notes, but with short gaps between phrases, rather than the sustained melody of the blackbird.
The grey shrike-thrush is just one other popular native songster. There are many more.
Birds are already investigating potential nesting sites, with species such as wood ducks, sulphur-crested cockatoos and rainbow lorikeets all busy looking. "Looking" doesn't necessarily mean "nesting", but the birds are clearly getting prepared.
At Lake Wendouree, one cockatoo seems to be on its own near a tree with a hollow - perhaps with his mate already sitting on a clutch of eggs inside the safety of the tree hole.
In Bacchus Marsh, a spotted pardalote has been seen collecting bark for its nest. In this case, the tiny bird makes its own hole by burrowing into the ground or perhaps into a heap of soil.
NATURE QUERIES ANSWERED
I found this snake under some sheet metal and at first thought, it was a whip snake, but it seemed too fat. Is it a juvenile brown snake?
This looks like a little whip snake, despite its bulk. It may have built up reserves of fat over autumn, in preparation for winter hibernation. Or it may be flattening itself in defensive posture after being disturbed.
The head pattern matches the little whip snake, although the nose area is difficult to see in the photo. The tip of a little whip snake's nose is black, then there is a brown strip in front of the eyes across the top of the head, and then the black cap or hood.
Most young brown snakes have a slightly different head pattern, often with the black cap divided in two by a brown line well behind the eyes.