In 2014, a rare butcherbird was spotted near Clunes.
This was the pied butcherbird, larger and blacker than the grey butcherbird that is found in and around Ballarat.
Now, three of these birds have been found at the same spot. One is immature and two are adults. A pair apparently bred there last year.
The 2014 sighting was a first for the Ballarat region.
Normally the bird is found in the Murray Valley of far northern Victoria, so the first Clunes bird had moved a long way south.
With the current sighting of a well-grown immature bird and two adults, it seems that the first bird has found a mate and produced at least one chick.
There were no special searches made for the first butcherbird after its initial sighting. So, we do not know whether it remained there for six years or whether it moved away and returned.
The fact that the current immature bird is not this year's youngster seems to indicate that the family has been unnoticed at Clunes for 12 months or more.
The pied butcherbird is clearly larger than the grey butcherbird.
Another feature is its black "hood", with the black extending well down its throat.
The throat of the grey butcherbird is pale.
The wing pattern of the adults is very "pied" (black-and-white), and very different from all other local birds of that size. Like our grey butcherbird, the pied species is a fine songster, with a variety of measured rich flute-like notes, reputed to be among the purest in the bird world.
The Clunes birds have been in trees around the edge of a dry swamp.
This probably matches much of their habitat in far northern Victoria and inland Australia.
They can occur in very dry places, but they need trees.
In eastern Australia, however, they have adapted to cities and towns on the eastern seaboard.
Frogs, lizards and snakes are becoming more active as spring progresses. The first snakes of the season have been reported on milder days, and small skinks are again active when the sun appears.
Frogs are calling in wetlands, with the common froglet being one of the noisier species this month.
It has a single clicking note, frequently repeated, and can be quite noisy when many are calling at the same time.
The season's first banjo frogs (pobblebonks) have been heard again in the evenings.
These large frogs will continue calling for a couple of months, especially at dusk.
Each calling frog is a male, advertising his territory to attract a female.
NATURE QUERIES ANSWERED
When I went for my walk this morning, there were hundreds and hundreds of earthworms on the asphalt road. Many still were alive. I have noticed this phenomenon before. Do you know why this would be?
This would be due to the large amount of rain the previous day.
The ground would be saturated, so worms came up to the surface overnight, and were still out and about on the road when daylight came.
Earthworms seem to be weakened in those conditions - perhaps "half-drowned".
Worms avoid water if given a choice.
A less-satisfying explanation is that the worms take advantage of the moist conditions to migrate.
This is unlikely, I think, because many of the worms appear pale and weak when they are found in this situation.
- Questions and photos are welcome. Send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org