Autumn is the season of raptors - our birds of prey.
Although they are with us throughout the year, larger numbers are invariably seen from late summer and through autumn.
One of the resident local raptor species remaining here all year is the Australian hobby, but it is more often seen in the first four or five months of the year.
Smaller and slimmer than a magpie, with black face, white collar and a dark-streaked rusty-orange chest, the Australian hobby is a bird of both city and country.
It occurs throughout suburban Ballarat and the region, but it is never common.
It is the sort of bird that can rarely be reliably found at any one place, but it could turn up anywhere.
A pair of hobbies frequents Lake Wendouree, where they are mostly seen in the first few months of the year.
Their prey there seems to be mostly starlings, many of which fly in to roost on the islands every night.
A hobby is sometimes seen waiting for them as they come in.
Like many birds of prey, the hobby female is larger than the male. She seems to catch mostly starlings, while the male seeks sparrows.
Large insects such as grasshoppers are taken too, as well as native birds such as parrots, honeyeaters, thornbills and larks.
One observer reports "they seem to put everything into a surprise attack, coming from nowhere and diving in from behind at terrific speed".
The larger peregrine falcon is similarly coloured, although paler underneath.
For many years, the Australian hobby was known as the little falcon - quite an appropriate name due to its resemblance to a small peregrine falcon.
Perhaps the reason why more hobbies are seen in autumn is because there are more of them present at that time, with two or three youngsters often having recently fledged and flying, and probably now attempting to find their own territories.
Families in flight are often quite vocal in February and March.
After a busy spring and summer nesting on Lake Wendouree's islands, the white ibises have now departed.
For a short time, there is "ibis silence" on the western side of the lake, with no shouting, braying or honking of the adults, and no shrill, continuous begging cries of the chicks.
The location of the Lake Wendouree white ibises at this time of the year is not known.
We can guess that ibises hatched at Lake Wendouree will return to breed here in two or three years, but we do not know where they go between now and then.
Is this moth closely related to the golden sun moths?
M.P., Golden Point.
Your attractive moth is one of the carpet moths, with the common name of the vicissata moth.
It is not closely related to the rare golden sun moth, despite some similarities.
The carpet moth's name comes from the intricate pattern on its wings, resembling older-style woven carpet. There are many similar species in the carpet moth group, with complex transverse wing patterns on the front wings and yellow on the hind wings.
They are medium-sized moths with a wingspan of 25-35mm.
Caterpillars are the slender brown, slow-moving and well-camouflaged "looper" type. They feed on plants, including weeds such as plantain and dandelion.
- Questions and photos are welcome. Email to email@example.com, or send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353.