Sunday, August 17, 2014

All things Bassian Thrush, Dandenong Ranges

Bassian thrush, Zoothera lunulata
The explorer and navigator George Bass (1771-1803) lived for only 32 years but is well-remembered across Southern Victoria (and indeed northern Tasmania) through the naming of geographical features and modern infrastructure. It is my impression (from reading the book Australian Bird Names by Fraser & Gray) that the Bassian Thrush is named in honour of the man only indirectly in that the bird's range falls in a biogeographical region that attracts the "Bass-ian" name. When translated literally the scientific name for Bassian Thrush translates as "crescent animal-hunter". Lunulata is clearly a reference to those wonderful "dark half-moons" (Pizzy). I actually reckon the incantation Zoothera lunulata could do some damage at Hogwarts!

For me Bassian Thrush are an "occasional" bird. I have only identified them on four occasions and I can clearly remember each encounter. This year I have seen two - one in the Huon region of Tasmania and now this one in the Dandenongs.

I came across this fellow while exploring the forest between the Silvan Reservoir and Olinda the other day. When the low and feeble winter sun actually shines in Victoria the whole forest seems to breathe more happily!

I had wanted to explore the trails around the Eagle Nest Picnic Ground for some time but was always thwarted by closure of the vehicular tracks. Bizarrely the access track was again closed to cars the sign reading "Total Fire Ban". Anyway a check of the map suggested it was worthwhile parking the car at the blockade and walking 1-2km into the forest.

Eagle's Nest picnic area - perhaps with fresh landscaping. Maybe "current" works being the possible cause of road closures .... it's just easier without the public hooning around. 

I placed a coffee on the picnic table at the left of shot, turned around and behind me was this Bassian Thrush! Well we poked around for 20 minutes or so. It showed me how well it could camouflage itself ....

.... and showed off its bold scalloped stripes.

I can't even see it now, but it is my recollection that I took this iPhone shot with the bird in there somewhere!

The Canon EOS has a video setting but I'm not really set up for video (& there's a bit of a familial tremor sneaking in as the years go by)! On this occasion some of the frames are sharp so I was inclined to share it. The birds calling in the background are Sulphur-crested cockatoos....

Bird on!


  1. a very nice experience. :) And a great bird.

  2. They are a great bird to see, and I don't think as common as they used to be with drier conditions prevailing.

  3. I think there may be some chanting at Hogwarts. Seriously Pete, and you reckon I make stuff up! Lovely photo (and video) of a bird I am yet to get decent views of. Silvan Reservoir and Olinda huh, not looking for Crested Shrike-tits were we? or that other never to be found Honeyeater up that way? As usual, a very worthwhile read Pete, well done.

  4. How lucky were you? My sightings of this bird have always been brief, in or under dense understory, dark, gloomy, etc. Good stuff, great read.