White-faced Storm-Petrel at the Eastern Treatment Plant on 20 February 2021

Author: Mike Carter

When Dawn Neylan, Alison Kuiter and Mike Carter checked in with the Controllers at the Eastern Treatment Plant (ETP) on the morning of 21 February in preparation to do a survey of birds there, they were greeted with an expression all birders dread. “You’re too late; you should have been here earlier!” We then learned that a wildlife carer had just collected a White-faced Storm-Petrel and had taken it into care.  

It transpired that sometime after about 11.00 pm the previous night, a Melbourne Water staffer at the Plant had found the bird at the bottom of a large roller shutter door at the entrance to the Power Station. This location is 5 km inland from the eastern shore of Port Phillip Bay. Storm-Petrels spend most of their lives at sea on the open ocean and are only ashore during the breeding season where they are active only at night. The relatively shallow, sheltered waters of Port Phillip Bay are not even suitable habitat for these creatures. They require deep, pelagic waters. So what was it doing there? At this time of year the young are ‘fledging, i.e. taking their first flight. Their parents have abandoned them so they must find their own food and make their own way in the world independently. Hopefully their parents have fed them well and left them with a good surfeit of fat to help them survive the transition to life on their own.  

The ETP White-faced Storm-Petrel in the hands of the staffer who found it

The nearest breeding sites of this species are in Port Phillip Bay on Fort Island (AKA South Channel Island) and Mud Islands. Presumably this bird was reared at one of those two sites. Why did it come to ground at the Plant?  Possibly because the Plant is well lit and the blaze of lights caused disorientation.

 When I visited this bird at Gillian Donath’s Wildlife Refuge at Langwarrin she also had another in care. Furthermore, Nicky Rushworth from AWARE, a wildlife rescue service, advises that refuges across the Mornington Peninsula have a total of at least eleven White-faced Storm-Petrels in care. They first started to be handed to cares on the weekend of 13/14 February. It is no coincidence that this is the time that the first of this year’s young White-faced Storm-Petrels should be fledging. Less advanced birds might continue to emerge for a few weeks. There were some strong and damaging winds in late January but nothing extreme since then so I doubt that adverse weather conditions are an influence in the current spate of strandings. 

This is the first record of this species at the Plant. 

Beginners Outing to Point Cook Coastal Reserve

23 January 2021

Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers
Species count: 52
Australian Pelican. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

After a break of 11 months, 33 members were delighted to be birding with the Beginners once more. Weather conditions were perfect – not too hot and little wind. At Beach Road Carpark several small bush-birds were foraging in the nearby Banksia and Casuarina trees, including Yellow Thornbills and New Holland Honeyeaters, along with numerous Superb Fairy-wrens and Willie Wagtails, and a lonesome Grey Fantail.

Yellow Thornbill. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Grey Fantail. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Down at the beach hundreds of Silver Gulls could be seen and sharp-eyed Geoff Deason found us a Great Crested Grebe far out on the water. Along the coastal track a small flock of Yellow-rumped Thornbills were much admired and then, on the heathland, Golden-headed Cisticolas were heard.

Yellow-rumped Thornbill. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

After a while, one of them finally broke cover and perched on a tall plant for all to see before treating us to its vertically up and down flying display. Returning along the fence line some of us saw an Australian Hobby flying over and flushing a large flock of Common Starlings.

Australian Reed Warbler. Photo by Alan Veevers

Members then drove to the small wetlands near the RAAF Lake Carpark. These relatively new ponds provided some good sightings of Australian Reed Warblers and Australasian Grebes.

Australasian Grebe. Photo by Alan Veevers

As everyone was watching these birds a flock of about 15 Zebra Finches flew in, landed on an adjacent bush and fluttered about giving, to everyone’s delight, great views of their colourful plumage.

Zebra Finches. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Most of the Beginners then set off towards the Homestead area, pausing briefly at the wetland by the housing estate. The highlight here was a Royal Spoonbill in one of the ponds, giving a close-up view of its feeding technique.

Royal Spoonbill. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Lunch was taken in the shade of the trees by the carpark and birdcall was interrupted by a Brown Goshawk which landed on a tree branch beside the main drive. Members then walked past the Homestead to the beach where it was lowish tide. A White-faced Heron was quietly feeding whilst several Chestnut Teal were resting on the rocks. 

White-faced Heron. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

On reaching Cook Point, lots of small waders were seen feeding near the sandbanks.  Most of them were Red-necked Stints and Curlew Sandpipers along with a few Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. Several Crested Terns, both adult and immature were resting on the rocks as well as both Pied and Little Pied Cormorants. It was nice just to sit on the sand and watch as several more flocks of waders flew in with impressive aerial precision. A final highlight was the slow flypast of a lone Australian Pelican, heralding the end of the walk.

Migratory waders (mixed). Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Everyone agreed that Point Cook had provided a terrific start to Beginners 2021 and the final birdcall of 52 species was most impressive.

Many thanks go to Eleanor Dilley and Alan Veevers who, between them, provided all 10 photographs in this Report.

A new bird call in Reservoir

Dear readers

Over the last week I have been hearing a novel sound; a new bird call for this neck of the woods. I am a novice birder and upon hearing it I grabbed my binoculars and went out to look for the source. My neighbours knew exactly what I was trying to do, because they too had been hearing this peculiar sound – definitely a bird call, but out of place where the standard bird fare is Magpies, Red Wattlebirds and Pigeons.

No luck on the first day, but on the second day I recorded it and sent it out to some people who would know the answer. Long time BirdLife member, Bill Ramsay, got back straight away with the answer – an Eastern Koel. Since then I have been learning all about this bird with the big sound, including how some people regard it as one of the most annoying bird calls, as this amusing article by Justin Huntsdale, Wollongong portrays.

However, this little bird call brings a smile to my face every time. Judge for yourself:

Adriana
BirdLife Melbourne Blog Editor

Wednesday wanderings

Celia M Browne wrote an article in late 2007 summing up a series of walks that she led along the Yarra in the previous three years. These were repeated again in the following three years, off-set by six months so there were different seasons at each location. The reports were originally published in BOCA magazine.

The article is reproduced below with the author’s permission in the hope it will inspire others to repeat the walks or be aware of these locations are birding sites.

The 3-year program of bird walks entitled ‘Wednesday Wanderings – Warrandyte to Westgate, Exploring the Yarra’ came to a fitting end when we cruised down the river from Docklands on board the historic Nepean on a recent winter morning.  Commencing in June 2004 the walks aimed at exploring the numerous reserves and parks, creeks and billabongs along the Yarra River between Warrandyte and the Westgate Bridge.  The outings were voted a great success by Melbourne birders who were looking for bird walks within a 24km radius of the city.  The average size of the group was 25 members, proving that local, morning-only walks are popular.

An article in the April 2004 The Melbirdian predicted that, as well as observing many bird species along the meandering stretch of the river, we would also see kangaroos and koalas, platypus and possums, Common Wombats and Short-beaked Echidnas, lizards and snakes.  And indeed we did.

A walk led by Marlene Lyell at Parks Victoria’s Glynn Reserve in North Warrandyte produced a great bird list of 49 species as well as three snakes, several rabbits, three Eastern Grey Kangaroos and one Common Long-necked Tortoise.  An Australian Owlet-nightjar peeping from a nest box was the highlight of that walk.

Longridge Farm, Warrandyte was opened especially for us by Parks Victoria, and yielded another Koala, five Eastern Grey Kangaroos and a good list of birds.  The layout of this peaceful reserve is most impressive with its attractive riverine camping ground and excellent facilities which, unfortunately, caters for tents only.

Powerful Owl (Jumping Creek Reserve, 27 February 2008). Photo by Janet Hand

The walk at Tikalara Reserve, Templestowe on 2nd February 2005 will be long remembered for its torrential rain all morning. (This may have been the last time some of us can remember a really good downpour)  Despite the rain, ten members birded with umbrellas from Beasley’s Nursery to the confluence of the Mullum Mullum Creek and the Yarra, and managed to log 25 species including an Azure Kingfisher.  Staff at the nursery tearooms weren’t too happy when ten bedraggled birders sloshed in at lunchtime for hot soup.  In February!

At Sweeneys Flats Reserve, Eltham, a Peacock was added to the bird list of 37 species; we also saw a Buff-banded Rail, five ‘roos and a Koala at this little known and surprisingly pleasant reserve where we walked downstream to Griffiths Park.

In April 2005, 38 members walked from Westerfolds Park upstream towards Candlebark Park, crossed the river by the new footbridge and enjoyed some peaceful birding from the new observation platform at Lenister Farm on the north bank of the Yarra.  Forty-five bird species were listed on that occasion.

Tawny Frogmouths were observed on no less than 13 (out of 34) walks; usually spotted by Geoff Deason who has eagle eyes (or should that be ‘Frogmouth’ eyes?) for this bird.  Australian Wood Duck 32/34; Pacific Black Duck 33/34.

Stunning views of Azure Kingfishers were enjoyed on four walks.  Other birds of note were a Barn Owl at Banyule Flats, a female Rose Robin at Fairfield Park and a Pied Oystercatcher seen from the Nepean in June.

Two Australian King-Parrots were observed at Banksia Park, Bulleen in November 2005 – much further downstream than would have been expected.  The closer we got to the City, the shorter the bird lists and, naturally, more exotic birds were seen and fewer native species.  Sadly Eastern Yellow Robins weren’t sighted after Bellbird Picnic area in Kew and Grey Fantails weren’t observed after the Royal Botanic Gardens.  The reserve which yielded the most bird species was Bulleen Park which included Little Bolin and Bolin Bolin Billabongs.  Sixty-three species were observed here in February 2006 and the list included three Latham’s Snipe in Little Bolin Billabong.  Surprisingly, this park beat Banyule Flat’s score of 58 species.

Thirty-seven birders arrived at Como Landing in February this year for the ‘voyage’ across to Herring Island, opened especially for us by Parks Victoria.  We conducted a bird survey and the list was forwarded to Parks Victoria following the excursion.  Despite the very small area and the drought, the morning turned out to be far more successful than was predicted and the bird list of 35 species was pretty remarkable – almost one per member.  One member joked that two people weren’t really trying!  A highlight was good views of a Nankeen Night-Heron seen on our return journey across the river by punt.

Some of the 56 attendees, 27 February 2008.
Celia in centre front, at Jumping Creek Reserve at the start of the second series. Photo by Janet Hand.

The Royal Botanic Gardens were visited in March this year and, combined with a walk along the Yarra into the city afterwards, yielded 40 species which was a pretty good effort for a warm, blustery morning.  Sadly, no Superb Fairy-wrens were seen on this visit to the gardens.

Perhaps the highlight of the series was the cruise on board The Nepean from docklands down the Yarra past the Westgate Bridge and round the top of Port Phillip Bay on 6 June.  Thirty BOCA members thoroughly enjoyed the 3 hour boat trip during which 33 bird species were listed and we enjoyed lunch on board the vessel.  It was most pleasing to welcome three country members on this trip: Val and Peter Blake from Warrnambool and Marlene Lyell from Axedale.

I would like to thank all who attended the 34 walks for making them so successful and my special thanks to guest leaders who stepped in when I was away or indisposed:  Geoff Deason who led three walks, Anthea Fleming for two walks, Marlene Lyell, Lyn Easton and Andrew McCutcheon who led one each.  The total bird list for 34 walks is 123 species.

Due to popular demand the series of Wednesday Wanderings was repeated, commencing in February 2008.

Celia M Browne, Capel Sound

North Island New Zealand birding cut short

On 9 March 2020, my wife Shirley and I flew to Auckland to commence a 25 day self-drive tour of the North Island of New Zealand. It was to be basically a sightseeing tour with several birding sites included.

NZ does not have an extensive list of endemic birds. Excluding extinct and formerly present, the NZ list is about 369 species. Deducting all introduced, migratory, visitors, pelagic species, and species only found on NZ’s Sub-Antarctic Islands, this leaves about 52 endemics, some of which are only found on either the North or South Island. Not a big list, but if you want to see these endemics, you have to visit NZ.

All the photos were taken by me and when known I have included the Maori name of the bird in brackets in the captions and the text.

Our first birding site was Tiritiri Matangi Island, a 75 minute ferry trip from Auckland. In 1974 the island became a recreation reserve. Since then, 280,000 trees have been planted by volunteers known as the ‘spade brigade’, all mammalian predators have been removed, and a number of endangered bird and reptile species introduced. Twenty NZ bird endemics have been recorded on the island, 12 of these introduced and eight have found their own way. The island is managed by the Department of Conservation in conjunction with the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi Inc.

On arrival at the island, the visitors were sorted into groups of 10 to12 for a guided tour, led by a volunteer. The first bird we saw on the walk was a male Brown Teal, which was a bit of a surprise as they are described as timid, skulking and nocturnal, with a habitat of tidal creeks, lagoons, swamps and adjacent wet pasture.

Brown Teal – male (Pateke)

Walking along the track there were many smaller birds to be seen such as Silvereye (Tauhou), Grey Warbler (Riririro), Whitehead (Popokatea) and North Island Robin (Toutouwai). There were numerous nesting boxes for Blue (Little) Penguins (Korora), some with glass windows in the top so that the birds could be viewed.

North Island Robin – imm. male (Toutouwai)

We left the coastal track and started the ascent to higher ground through wet forest, using the extensive boardwalks provided. There were several NZ Pigeons (Kereru) to be seen. Being the only mainland native pigeon, this species has the unique and important role in the forest ecosystem of dispersing the fruits of native species.

NZ Pigeon (Kereru)

Further along the boardwalk we were able to observe a Red-crowned Parakeet (Kakariki) feeding in the leaf litter – they feed from the canopy down to ground level. They are now extinct in the wild on the mainland and rated ‘at risk’.

Red-crowned Parakeet (Kakariki)

There are three ‘honeyeaters’ found in NZ. All were present on the island. Feeders were provided. In the forest they were of a clever design with small openings so that the bigger Tuis could not access the food. Tuis had to feed from the flat bed feeders at the feeding station at the Visitors Centre. The two smaller honeyeaters, Stitchbird (Hihi), Bellbird (Korimako) and other smaller birds, were able to feed from the forest feeders.

Stitchbird – female (Hihi)
Stitchbird – female (Hihi)
Tui – male

At the top of the ascent, the vegetation opened up and we walked along a road with wide grass verges. We were excited to see several Takahe – Purple Swamphens on steroids. They are flightless and can weigh up to 3kg. This species was thought to be extinct for about 50 years until a small population was found in the south west of the South Island in 1948. They feed all day on fern rhizomes and leaf bases by pulling them out with their bill. They hold the extracted plant on their feet, macerate the base digesting only the plant juices, not the fibres, which remain as typical green thin sausage-shaped droppings of largely unaltered fibres. Takahes can produce up to 6m of droppings in a day.

Takahe

We were even more excited to look up a side track and see a North Island Kokako. The bird is shy and our guide was amazed when our bird was on the ground out in the open. There was a South Island Kokako, but that is now extinct. The bird we watched seemed quite content to let us photograph it for a short time, but when it decided to move, it took off and pronked like an antelope with quite high jumps. To see one on the ground was unusual, but to see it pronk, was a real treat.

North Island Kokako

We lunched at the island’s excellent Visitor Centre. No food was available, but there were numerous outdoor tables and benches, very comprehensive information boards for all the endemics, and flat top feeders that the Tuis had taken over.

On the walk down the hill back to the ferry we had good views of a North Island Saddleback (Tieke) feeding in one of the trees. I think the Kiwis are trying to get their species count up. There is a very similar South Island Saddleback, which is distinguished from the North Island Saddleback by the lack of the narrow faint yellow line on the back between the black and the chestnut.

North Island Saddleback (Tieke)

We left the island and returned to Auckland by ferry. Tiritiri Matangi Island is impressive for the birds and the management and should be No 1 on any birder’s visit to Auckland.

The next site on our list was the Firth of Thames, which is a Ramsar Site. It is a large coastal reserve, bounded by a peninsula and mountains, consisting of shallow marine water, mud, grass flats, mangrove swamp, saltmarsh and swampland. It includes a globally rare land formation of graded shell beach ridges which support grazing. It is an important site for roosting, wintering and staging wading birds. What more could a birder keen on waders want?

We moved to accommodation in Thames, and checked out the west coast of the firth on the first day, plus a brief tour of the Coromandel Peninsula.

We drove around a corner and there was a huge flock of South Island Pied Oystercatchers (SIPOs) with the Maori name of Torea. The flock in the photo extended just as far back to the left. Several cars stopped and many photographs were taken, but the SIPOs just stood there unconcerned. SIPOs breed on the estuaries of the braided rivers on the South Island and migrate to the estuaries of the North Island for the winter. These were early arrivals. My app notes that they occasionally get lost on migration. I looked very hard to see if any of the SIPOs had a red leg flag with 1N (the bird that we, and many others twitched at Jam Jerrup in 2018) but I couldn’t find one.

South Island Pied Oystercatchers (Torea)

The SIPO with aberrant plumage definitely stands out from the pack.

South Island Pied Oystercatcher with aberrant plumage

We stopped for a picnic lunch at a roadside park, overlooking a spit. There were numerous Red-billed (Silver) Gulls (Tarapunga) and White-fronted Terns (Tara) resting on the spit. The Maori name for this species is only the generic name for Tern. This might be because White-fronted Terns are the most common terns in New Zealand.

White-fronted Tern (Tara)

The No 1 target species for this trip was a Wrybill. On our visit to the South Island in 2013 we were too late and they had all moved north. People who know me won’t be surprised by the following. I had done my research, and the Miranda Shorebird Centre was an excellent chance. Previous March records indicated good numbers. Either side of high tide was best for viewing. This was not a problem as the trip itinerary had been planned around a mid-morning high tide at Miranda. To make sure of good viewing, a scope and tripod had been booked for hire from Miranda three months previously. On the morning the weather was perfect (not pre-planned), and after picking up the scope we went to a hide overlooking a pond that was covered in waders. There were hundreds of SIPOs, Bar-tailed Godwits (Kuaka), Pied Stilts (Poaka), and of course Wrybills (Ngutuparore) – 1,400 being the official count. There were also lesser numbers of Red Knot (Huahou) and Pacific Golden Plover.

SIPOs, Bar-tailed Godwits & Pied Stilts, Miranda Shorebird Centre

Wrybill is the only species in the world with a bill that is bent sideways, and it always bends to the right. A Wrybill is about the same size as a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. The Maori name is straightforward (pardon the pun) – ngutu means ‘bill’ and pare means ‘turned to the side’.

Wrybills (Ngutuparore) at rest, Miranda Shorebird Centre
Wrybills (Ngutuparore) in flight, Miranda Shorebird Centre

We left Miranda very happy and continued on our way, mainly sightseeing, but a bit of birding en route. But on the way to Napier, on Day No 10, we received a text from our elder daughter, quickly followed by a telephone call, advising that due to Covid-19 issues, DFAT was considering closing the border and we should return home. We booked a return flight, departing Auckland early morning Day No 12, and returned to 14 days of home quarantine. So our holiday and birding was cut well short. We loved what we saw and what we did, and hope one day to return and complete our holiday, perhaps including return visits to Tiritiri Matangi Island and Miranda Shorebird Centre.

Bill Ramsay

Weekdays outing to Reef Island

4 March 2020
Photographs by John Cantwell, member

We finally assembled after numbers of our group had encountered traffic jams at different stages of their drives. Bill Ramsay was leader and had carefully chosen the date to coincide with a low tide which allows people to walk across to the island on the stony causeway. Twenty-four started the day under cloudy and humid conditions. There was no wind and the light cloudy conditions were very good for seeing birds. Before we reached the causeway we noted numerous Black Swans and Silver Gulls. And then a Striated Fieldwren called from the coastal heath. Excellent views were achieved.

Striated Fieldwren - John Cantwell
Striated Fieldwren

A couple of Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes were also present nearby. At the start of the causeway we encountered a highlight of the walk – several Pacific Golden Plovers roosted and foraged at the water’s edge with the bonus of a couple of Ruddy Turnstones beside them. Other sightings included the more-expected Crested and Caspian Terns, Australian Pied Oystercatcher and Little Pied, Little Black and Pied Cormorants. At water’s edge we watched Red-necked Stints and Red-capped Plovers and quite a few people also added Sharp-tailed and Curlew Sandpipers. Both adult and immature Pacific Gulls were present, close to a few White-faced Herons and an occasional Great Egret. Ibises were only represented by Australian Whites and spoonbills by a few Royals. A group encountered Cape Barren Geese which then joined the list. A male White-fronted Chat flew over as we settled into lunch.

Group at lunchbreak - John Cantwell
The group at lunch break

The afternoon walk saw the party separate into smaller groups as people found their comfortable afternoon speed. The advance party recorded Grey-tailed Tattlers which was a first for many. If measured by “lifers” the day was well rated as several people were smiling broadly as they realised they had seen three, four or even five new species. By bird call we had 44 species and we thanked Bill enthusiastically for introducing many to the location.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Beginners Outing to Pound Bend

22 February 2020
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 39
Photographs by Eleanor Dilley

Australasian Darter, male - Eleanor Dilley
Australasian Darter (male)

Perfect weather conditions for birdwatching – sunny, little wind and temperatures in the low 20s – greatly added to the enjoyment for the 38 members who attended the outing to Pound Bend.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo - Eleanor Dilley
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

From the carpark several parrot species were heard calling loudly, at times drowning out the efforts of the leaders to explain things, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos were the major culprits!  Rainbow Lorikeets were also plentiful, with the bright sun showing up their brilliant colours.

Rainbow Lorikeets - Eleanor Dilley
Rainbow Lorikeets

Walking along the river track it was pleasing to see several Eastern Yellow Robins and a pair of White-throated Treecreepers as well as numerous Grey Fantails and Superb Fairy-wrens.

Eastern Yellow Robin - Eleanor Dilley
Eastern Yellow Robin

White-throated Treecreeper - Eleanor Dilley
White-throated Treecreeper

Several ducks were on the river, including a pair of Chestnut Teal which is a very unusual sighting in this location. There were also three Little Pied Cormorants, one perched and others feeding in the river.

Chestnut Teal (male and female)
Chestnut Teal (male and female)

Little Pied Cormorant - Eleanor Dilley
Little Pied Cormorant

A Tawny Frogmouth perched close to the track with its beak thrust in the air in camouflage pose was a delight to all, especially the photographers. There were fewer birds to be found after the track left the riverside, heading for the higher, drier ground. Laughing Kookaburra and Magpie Lark were amongst the few species seen there. As the return track approached the river the pleasing sound of small birds could again be heard and Grey Shrike-thrush was added to the list.

Tawny Frogmouth - Eleanor Dilley
Tawny Frogmouth

Lunch was eaten near the carpark and surprisingly no birds arrived to steal the sandwiches!  After birdcall about half the group walked along the river track towards the tunnel and they were delighted to see a magnificent Australasian Darter perched on a log in the river with its deep chestnut breast shining in the sun. Members also enjoyed watching numerous Welcome Swallows flying in and out of the tunnel.  A total of 39 species was recorded for the day which was a reasonable tally for this time of year.

Many thanks, once again, to Eleanor Dilley, who provided all the above photographs.

View complete bird list: BM Feb 2020 Bird List Pound Bend

 

Weekdays outing to Royal Park – Trin-Warren-Tam-Boore

10 February 2020

The car park birding kept people on their toes as our party assembled under the leadership of Elsmaree Baxter. Clouds dripped a little drizzly moisture but the day remained fine if muggy. The usual car park suspects were present – Common Mynas and Starlings, Red Wattlebirds and Superb Fairy-wrens used the trees and bushes while the occasional Australian White Ibis and Rainbow Lorikeet flew over. The nearby sports oval held at least ten Magpie-larks plus a couple of Australian Magpies and several Crested Pigeons, while a couple of very high-flying Welcome Swallows were only confirmed after considerable study. An unexpected sight was an adult Nankeen Night-Heron flying into a roost west of Oak Road across from the car park. Despite subsequent searching we were unable to locate its roost.

The western lake was designated “Grebe City” when almost every bird seen was an Australasian Grebe, though a couple were Hoary-headed. The usual discussion about the identity of brown teal ensued till the final decision was “Chestnut Teal, mostly juveniles or males in eclipse plumage”. A pair of young Eurasian Coot begged noisily from an uninterested adult. As we circled the lake we noted New Holland and White-plumed Honeyeaters in the trees. House Sparrows were present near the northern end of the walk and were welcomed by those who no longer had populations near their home area. Though a careful watch was kept, no Eurasian Tree Sparrows were seen, this species has been in steeper decline for several years.

The eastern lake showed only a couple of ducks as a large part of the lake was netted against birds to allow the weeds to establish well. The nets were clearly welcomed by Willie Wagtail and Superb Fairy-wren which were running after insects across the nets’ top. Back to the cars for a prompt lunch which enabled those with afternoon appointments to say goodbye. The walk along the section between the railway line and the industrial complex of CSL needs care and attention to the cyclists along the Capital City Trail section. In the past there was a population of small birds in the bush by the rail line but electricity maintenance has pruned away the bush to such an extent that there is no shelter and no birds. The only raptor sighting today was a Brown Goshawk glimpsed by a couple of people so the lack of the small birds for prey reduces the predator population too.

The afternoon walk yielded only one extra species, a Little Wattlebird near the gardens on the western side of the west lake. Bird call gave a total of 40 species. The result for a small manufactured water purification area was eye-opening and we thanked Elsmaree enthusiastically for introducing many and reacquainting the rest of us with this surprisingly well-populated urban area.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

 

Beginners Outing to Banyule Flats

25 January 2020
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 54
Photographs by Eleanor Dilley

Common Bronzewing - Eleanor Dilley
Common Bronzewing (f)

Parking at Banyule Flats was even more chaotic than usual as the whole carpark was sealed off for resurfacing so parking spaces had to be found in the surrounding streets. Whilst waiting for everyone to arrive, Musk Lorikeets were seen feeding in a callistemon tree and a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike flew overhead.

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike - Eleanor Dilley
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike

Once assembled, the group set off to the Lagoon where they were rewarded with many interesting sightings.

Red-rumped Parrots f and m - Eleanor Dilley
Red-rumped Parrots (f and m)

There were male and female Red-rumped Parrots; a pair of Sacred Kingfishers flying up and down from a tree on the opposite bank to snatch insects from the water; Pink-eared Ducks and Pacific Black Ducks, both with young; a Tree Martin perched amongst many Welcome Swallows on top of an old dead water-bound tree; four large Cygnets without any adult Black Swans to supervise them; and, finally, both Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes.

Pink-eared Duck with chicks - Eleanor Dilley
Pink-eared Duck with chicks

The day’s highlight occurred when a Nankeen Night-Heron suddenly flew, right to left, across the lagoon giving everyone a great view. Members then walked to the river track where there were several small bush birds including Red-browed Finch, Eastern Yellow Robin and White-browed Scrubwren. The only raptors for the day were two Brown Goshawks seen near the river.

Nankeen Night-Heron - Eleanor Dilley
Nankeen Night Heron

Close to the windmill a Sacred Kingfisher was calling loudly yet could not be seen, but a Male Mistletoebird kindly perched on a tall dead tree causing much excitement.  Members then headed back towards the carpark and watched a Grey Currawong being harassed by Australian Magpies.

Grey Currawong - Eleanor Dilley
Grey Currawong

The group then continued along the higher section of the Yarra Trail which gave good views over the Lagoon and a few more species were seen including both Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants perched on a dead log.

Little Black Little Pied Cormorants - Eleanor Dilley
Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants

About half the members then drove the short distance to Warringal Park for a well-earned lunch. A short stroll down Sills Track led to the Yarra River where two pairs of Australian Wood Ducks were very well camouflaged on a large tree branch high over the river.

Australian Wood Ducks - Eleanor Dilley
Australian Wood Ducks perched high over Yarra River

The nearby wetlands were visited next and found to be completely dry despite the recent rains. There were good views of a Common Bronzewing and a Grey Butcherbird beside the track. Sadly this area seemed to be overrun by Common Mynahs and Noisy Miners which were keeping all the smaller birds at bay.

Pacific Black Duckling - Eleanor Dilley
Pacific Black Duckling

A creditable total of 54 species was recorded for the day. It had been a most enjoyable outing in pleasant weather conditions. Many thanks, once again, to photographer Eleanor Dilley for providing all the above images.

View complete bird list: BM Jan 2020 Bird List Banyule Flats