Weekdays Outing to Badger Weir, Healesville

15 August 2016
Laughing Kookaburra - Stephen Garth
Laughing Kookaburra. Photo by Stephen Garth

Thirty-two people assembled in the car park, 27 members (including several new members) and five visitors. Rob Grosvenor was our leader and the morning was perfect for birding: mild, clear and calm.

Brown Thornbill - Stephen Garth
Brown Thornbill. Photo by Stephen Garth

Much better than the winds which had occurred earlier and which returned the following day. The winds had been strong enough to drop branches and trees, including some after the recce in the previous week.

Australian King-Parrot male - Stephen Garth
Australian King-Parrot, male. Photo by Stephen Garth

We observed these as we negotiated the fallen material in several places along the walking track. The day was good but where were the birds?

The picnic ground devotees – Crimson Rosellas, Laughing Kookaburras and Pied Currawongs – were present in force but others were the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos screeching loudly high in the trees.

Pied Currawong - Margaret Bosworth
Pied Currawong. Photo by Margaret Bosworth

Several times their massed alarm calls suggested the presence of a raptor/predator but we didn’t detect anything.

Superb Fairy-wren female - Stephen Garth
Superb Fairy-wren, female. Photo by Stephen Garth
Superb Fairy-wren male - Stephen Garth
Superb Fairy-wren, male. Photo by Stephen Garth

As we stood quietly for instructions other birds became more evident – Superb Fairy-wrens, Brown Thornbills and Australian King-Parrots appeared and as we started walking a male Common Bronzewing gave good views as it foraged near a picnic table.

Common Bronzewing male - Stephen Garth
Common Bronzewing. Photo by Stephen Garth

Some calls were heard as we walked Stringybark Track but sightings were rare in the forest. A call of a Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo was briefly heard and Spotted and Striated Pardalotes were calling.

Crimson Rosella - Stephen Garth
Crimson Rosella. Photo by Stephen Garth

Lewin’s Honeyeater first called frustratingly and then finally in the afternoon walk there was a clear view which was much appreciated by those for whom it was a “lifer”.

Eastern Yellow Robin - Margaret Bosworth
Eastern Yellow Robin. Photo by Margaret Bosworth

White-throated Treecreeper, Eastern Spinebill and Eastern Yellow Robin were all calling giving people a chance to compare the differing rates of their staccato calls. Other honeyeaters included Red Wattlebird, Crescent, Brown-headed and White-naped Honeyeaters. Sightings by some but not all people included Eastern Whipbird, White-browed and Large-billed Scrubwren, Tree Martin and Red-browed Finch. A lucky few detected a Bassian Thrush as it foraged, well camouflaged, among the ground litter.

Bassian Thrush - Margaret Bosworth
Bassian Thrush. Photo by Margaret Bosworth

The whistlers were well represented with Grey Shrike-thrush, Olive Whistler and a female Golden Whistler. Occasionally an Australian Raven called and flew over, giving all an opportunity to listen to the difference of the call from the more familiar Little Raven of the suburbs.

Laughing Kookaburra - Janet Hand
Laughing Kookaburra. Photo by Janet Hand

The final bird list totalled 31 species which nearly yielded a bird for each attendee and amid smiles we thanked Rob for showing us this under-appreciated gem.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne Weekdays Outings

May, June and July 2016 Education Report

During the past three months Pat Bingham has taken the members of the Hawthorn U3A for three bird walks. This group are enthusiasts for being out and about, walking in all weathers, with birds as a lovely extra.

On 20 May they visited Norton’s Park & Shepherd’s Bush. Eleven people attended and they saw 27 species including the pair of Scarlet Robins that had been reported on Birdline and a lovely male Golden Whistler who entertained them with his calls. It was a very windy day with plenty of sun.

On June 17th the same members visited Wattle Park. This day only 10 people attended and found 13 species including two pairs of Tawny Frogmouths and 17 Gang-Gangs (noisily squabbling over fruits of a Southern Mahogany). It was a very cold, wet, bleak day. Lots of Saffron Milk-caps (edible fungi) and Nodding Greenhoods (orchids) were interesting when the birding was so slow.

Rigby’s Wetlands (along Dandenong Creek in Mulgrave) was visited on 15 July. Forty-one species were viewed by the 10 people attending. These included a Pelican and Great Egret, 15 Flame Robins and 50+ Red-browed Finches. The wetlands were very full and empty of most ducks and gallinules. The day was summed up as no waders, no sunshine but lots of wind blowing.

Pat then gave two lectures to groups at the Deepdene U3A and a second one at the Stonnington U3A. Thirty people attended on 23 May and another 45 people, a week later on 31 May. Her talk was entitled ‘Australia – Land of Parrots. Is this really so?’ Pat reports that the talk went well with lots of comments and questions and was much enjoyed by both groups. It covered the history of the reporting and mapping of parrots from Roman times to the early settlement of Australia: the types and relationships of Australasian parrots and a discussion of the latest evidence suggesting that parrots like their closest bird relatives (songbirds) may both have evolved and spread from Gondwana. Thus ‘Terra Australis – Land of Parrots’ is perhaps more accurate than singling out Australia alone.

On Saturday 16 July, 2016 Gay Gallagher gave a Powerpoint presentation to the Knox Home Garden Club. The venue was the U3A Knox in Ferntree Gully. Forty-five people attended to see and hear her presentation on ‘Attracting birds to your garden’. They were an interested group who asked lots of questions.

On Wednesday 20 July, 2016 Janet Hand visited the ladies of Kew Legacy. It was a cool day and 12 ladies attended to hear how to identify birds and saw photographs of the ones they may find in their area.

Janet Hand visited the Korana Community Centre in Kew on Thursday 28 July for a post lunch presentation. Twelve gentlemen enjoyed her presentation on local birds and how to identify them.

I thank Pat and Gay for running their education activities. Also a special thanks to Gay for keeping an eye on Education while I was on holidays. We look forward to a busy Spring after the current weather passes by.

Janet Hand, Birdlife Melbourne Education Coordinator (Phone 9842 4177)

Weekdays Outing to Pipemakers Park, Maribyrnong

11 July 2016
Leader: Pat Bingham

 

Pacific Black Duck - Marilyn Ellis
Pacific Black Duck. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

On a very cold morning, in a howling gale but bright sunshine, 15 members and three visitors from Asia met on the banks of the Maribyrnong River to go birdwatching. Quite mad in those weather conditions!

Before we left the car park, we had THE BIRD OF THE DAY – a lone Swift Parrot, heavily disguising itself in dense foliage but popping its unmistakeable red face out from time to time and, turning upside down, showing us it’s pinky vent and long tail.

Swift Parrot - Danika Sanderson.JPG
Swift Parrot. Photo by Danika Sanderson

It was a new bird for many of the group and we had some difficulty in persuading our visitors what a rare sighting it was. It was hard to turn our backs on the rarity, watch the Whistling Kite flying upriver and, then ourselves, go downstream into the wind.

We followed the Maribyrnong Trail past Frogs Hollow Wetland (well named – there were many Common Froglets calling) and found Red-browed Finches on the fence and Superb Fairy-wrens on the grass.  Jack’s Canal yielded Dusky Moorhens and Purple Swamphens, Australasian Grebe and we heard, above the gale, the plaintiff call of the Little Grassbird from the reed bed.

Australasian Grebe - Marilyn Ellis
Australasian Grebe. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

The waves were pretty choppy on the lake in Burndap Park but we had good views of both Grey and Chestnut Teal, and Hoary-headed Grebe.

Chestnut Teal - Danika Sanderson
Chestnut Teal. Photo by Danika Sanderson

In the most sheltered corner of the lake we found White-faced Heron, Great Egret and Pacific Black Duck roosting.

White-faced Heron - Marilyn Ellis.jpg
White-faced Heron. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

On a floating platform on the adjacent river we were able to distinguish the characteristics differentiating Little Black from Little Pied Cormorants and from a young Darter sharing the same platform.  We had Wood Ducks and Eurasian Coots grazing on the grass of the riverbank and Crested Pigeons & Red-rumped Parrots picking up seeds from the path.

Immature Australasian Darter - Danika Sanderson
Immature Australasian Darter. Photo by Danika Sanderson

We went back to the car park for lunch where a Black-shouldered Kite hunted overhead, 30 Galahs flew by and Yellow-rumped Thornbills tinkled from the adjacent grassland.  After lunch we crossed the river and explored the city side parkland.

Great Egret - Marilyn Ellis
Great Egret. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

In flowering Ironbarks on the golf course we had good views of Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets and were able to compare their markings and calls.  We found a pair of Long-billed Corellas exploring a tree hollow and saw an old Mudlark nest.  Heading further east towards the Walter Street Reserve we recorded Eastern Rosellas and both White-plumed and New Holland Honeyeaters.  A newly-planted wetland area adjacent to a housing development had already been discovered by ducks and a cormorant but the only new species for the day that we found there were House Sparrows and Common Starlings. Revisiting that area in the future, when the plantings were better established would probably prove more fruitful.  Buff-banded Rail has been recorded in the past from the creek that drains the area (sadly now only a concrete drain).

the group - Marilyn Ellis.jpg
The group. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

At Bird Call, we listed 48 species which, given the persistent cold wind, increasingly dull day and exposed site was a good total and all participants agreed they had enjoyed themselves in an area few had visited before.

Weekend outing to the Newstead area

23 July 2016
Species count: 66
eastern yellow robin
Eastern Yellow Robin

On a very brisk winter’s day, 30 participants braved the cold weather and converged on the Newstead area for our monthly birdlife outing. The start time of 9am wasn’t too shabby and after posting the location on the website with GPS cooordinates for Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve in Clydesdale, it was surprising that at 8.55am we had only two participants arrive. A phone call came through and everyone had stopped off at a different location along the road, so after a few minutes everyone turned up.

striated Thornbill
Striated Thornbill

By this time the small group of us that were at the right location had already seen Buff-rumped, Yellow and Striated Thornbill and Weebill; Flame Robin and Scarlet Robin, Yellow-tufted, White-naped, Fuscous, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Musk Lorikeet and a fly by from a Little Eagle.

scarlet robin
Scarlet Robin

Once everyone arrived and signed in, we took off. The same birds were still around but we were lucky to also flush an Australian Owlet-nightjar from its hollow which then proceeded to sit perched for all to see on an open branch, before taking flight and finding another hollow to sleep in.

Australian Owlet-nightjar
Australian Owlet-nightjar

 

We continued the walk around the little area, where we picked up Varied Sittella in a small feeding party.

varied sittella
Varied Sittella

Also here we saw Jacky Winter and heard a Mistletoebird.

Back to the car we headed around to the Zumpes Road section of Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve.

Brown Treecreeper
Brown Treecreeper

The activity here wasn’t as good, but we saw Common Bronzewing, Golden Whistler, Brown Treecreeper, Diamond Firetail and another Australian Owlet-nightjar which was flushed by one person.

Australian Owlet-nightjar tree
Australian Owlet-nightjar

 

From here we headed into Newstead for a toilet break, some lunch and hopefully a Powerful Owl. It took some searching but we finally located it in a Black Wattle along the Loddon River. We had great views of one bird which was a highlight for most.

powerful owl
Powerful Owl

At the same location we had at least two White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes flittering around in a wattle which gave great views to everyone.

White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike

Back to the cars and then we headed into Muckleford State Forest where we focussed our energy and fading afternoon light on Mia Mia Track. The area itself was rather quiet, very little bird calling around but most were lucky enough to see the Spotted Quail-thrush that was darting around the forest floor. One participant was luckiest of all as while he followed the Spotted Quail-thrush he stumbled upon a pair of Painted Button-Quail. As soon as he saw them they disappeared out of sight but not before he could get some awesome shots (let’s just say I had thoughts of letting his tyres down)!

painted button-quail
Painted Button-Quail

Overall it was a very productive winter’s day with 66 species seen and some awesome photos taken, a great day out over the Great Dividing Range and hopefully a place that many people on the outing will visit again. I will certainly be heading back up there in Spring for the birds and the wildflowers as there was so many orchids around.

Weekend outing Coordinator: Philip Peel

Beginners Outing to Braeside Park

23 July 2016
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species Count: 51

Twenty-four members braved a chilly morning and a dismal weather forecast to meet at Braeside Park, where they were greeted by very loud Noisy Miners which were by far the most dominant of the bushland species. Setting off from the Visitor Centre towards the Heathland Track, three Little Eagles circled overhead. It was clear that one of them was in the light morph and another in the dark morph.

Noisy Miner Braeside 2016 07 23 2926 800x1066 M Serong
Noisy Miner. Photo by Merrilyn Serong

Several Eastern Rosellas and Grey Butcherbirds were near the path and at the small wetlands both Chestnut and Grey Teals were seen. In the nearby bush was a ‘hotspot’ where both male and female Scarlet Robins were observed feeding, along with an Eastern Yellow Robin, a male Golden Whistler and a Spotted Pardalote.

Chestnut Teal Braeside 2016 07 23 2784 800x400 M Serong
Male Chestnut Teal. Photo by Merrilyn Serong

The members then walked down the main drive towards the Ranger Station unsuccessfully seeking a Tawny Frogmouth known to have previously been in that region. However, they did see a male Red-rumped Parrot, Cattle Egrets, Striated Pardalotes and Crested Pigeons. Returning via the Howard Road Track a flock of Red-browed Finches were observed for some time foraging in the mown grass alongside the path.

Crested Pigeon Braeside 2016 07 23 2871 800x400 M Serong
Crested Pigeon. Photo by Merrilyn Serong

Lunch by the Visitor Centre was nearly finished when the forecast rain began to fall. Despite this, half the group stayed on for the afternoon walk at the Woodland Road Environmental Wetlands, a short drive away. Several species were added there, including Black Swan, Australasian Grebe and Dusky Moorhen. A male Australian Darter was seen catching and eating a fish as the rain increased in intensity. Several members left at this point, but the six who continued were rewarded with great views of Hardheads, more Grebes, a Nankeen Kestrel, and even the sun.

A total of 51 species were recorded for the day – very good for a suburban park on a cold winter’s day.

See the full bird list: BM July 2016 Bird List Braeside Park

Beginners outing to Woodlands Historic Park

25 June 2016

Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers
Species count: 46

After a week of wild winter weather a fine sunny day greeted the 30 attendees gathered at Somerton Road Picnic Area where Red-rumped Parrots, Rainbow Lorikeets and Crimson Rosellas were perched in the magnificent River Red Gums.

Australian Wood Duck Woodlands 2016 06 25 1462 800x800 M Serong
Australian Wood Duck. Photo by Merrilyn Serong

Taking the creek-side track, two Australian Wood Ducks were seen perched near the top of a large dead tree with lots of hollows. This was of particular interest to those unaware of their nesting habits.

Shrike-tit Eleanor Woodlands 6_2016-002
Crested Shrike-tit. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Weebills and Crested Shrike-tits were among the less common species seen foraging in nearby eucalypts, whereas Superb Fairy-wrens were evident in large numbers throughout the day.

Female Supurb Fairy-wren 2 Eleanor Woodlands 6_2016

Male Superb Fairy-wren Eleanor Woodlands 6_2016-002
Female (top) and male Superb Fairy-wrens. Photos by Eleanor Dilley

Walking up the hill towards Woodlands Homestead a Brown Falcon flew overhead and a large flock of Red-browed Finches was seen on the grass inside the gated area.

Brown Falcon Eleanor Woodlands 6_2016-001
Brown Falcon. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

An ancient Peppercorn Tree beside the house was eagerly searched as, earlier in the day, one of the members had seen and photographed a male Mistletoebird feeding on its berries. Sadly, the bird had moved on and we had to make do with seeing the excellent photographs. A female Scarlet Robin and lots of Eastern Grey Kangaroos were seen by everyone as we walked back towards the car park.

Eastern Grey Kangaroos Woodlands 2016 06 25 1553 800x400 M Serong
Eastern Grey Kangaroos. Photo by Merrilyn Serong

After lunch most of the group stayed for a second walk beginning a short drive away, at the Aboriginal Cemetery car park. Near to the dam beside the old hospital more Scarlet Robins were seen, along with another Crested Shrike-tit and a pair of Golden Whistlers. A Wedge-tailed Eagle and a Whistling Kite circled high overhead. A short walk was then taken inside the Wildlife Enclosure and, thanks to the local knowledge of David and Dorothy Jenkins, resident Red-capped Robins were tracked down and eagerly photographed by those suitably equipped. Nearby a Flame Robin and a Varied Sittella were also spotted. Returning down the main track towards the car park there were further sightings of Scarlet and Flame Robins.

Red capped Robin-003
Red-capped Robin. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

46 species were recorded in total and it was very gratifying to have located three species of red robins, though sadly they were far less abundant than in previous years.

View the bird list for the outing: BM June 2016 Bird List Woodlands Historic Park

Weekend outing to Anglesea

Taking in Point Addis and Anglesea Heath

25 June 2016
Species count: 62
Eastern Yellow Robin
Eastern Yellow Robin

46 people attended the BirdLife Melbourne outing to Anglesea, commencing at 9am and a brisk but lovely winters day. The outing focussed on Anglesea Heath and Point Addis.

group - 2

Us early risers had started birding before the start time and a few species had already been seen on arriving at the meeting place, mainly the Rufous Bristlebirds that frequent the car park at Point Addis.

Rufous Bristlebird - 2
Rufous Bristlebird

Once everyone had turned up, which was a little difficult due to a marathon along Point Addis Road, we started with some sea watching which proved beneficial with both Shy and Black-browed Albatross cruising close to shore and a few distant Greater Crested Terns and Australasian Gannets. After at least 30 minutes we had a flyby by two Brown Skuas, only 200m off shore and gave great views for two or so minutes.

Rufous Bristlebird
Rufous Bristlebird

We left the carpark on a quick walk, but with nearly 2000 people around the area, the birds were scarce and the ambient noise was not conducive to good birding, so we decided too make a quick exit.

Southern Emu-wren
Southern Emu-wren

We headed to Ironbark Basin carpark, where we were greeted with New Holland and Crescent Honeyeaters, Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets and Red Wattlebirds. As we started on the loop track we picked up Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Golden Whistler, White-naped Honeyeater and both Striated and Brown Thornbills. The loop track provided us with some nice Fungi and ground covers and at the bottom of the loop we had two Bassian Thrushes and a beautiful Eastern Yellow Robin.

Southern Emu-wren 2
Southern Emu-wren

It was a good start, and as we continued to the next location in Purnell St in Anglesea we picked up Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Striated Fieldwren, Grey Butcherbird and a beautiful party of Southern Emu-wren.

Tawny-crowned Honeyeater
Tawny-crowned Honeyeater

We continued along the paths alongside the water treatment plant, where we found a small group of Red-browed Finch, Welcome Swallows and a lone Masked Lapwing.

Striated Fieldwren
Striated Fieldwren

As it was nearing lunch we headed to Anglesea where we had lunch at the Lions Park on the Anglesea Foreshore Reserve. We picked up a few birds while at lunch with two Pacific Gulls, a Little Pied Cormorant and a raft of Eurasian Coots plus a lone Australasian Grebe. After lunch we headed back to Inverlochy Road where we went in search of the Chestnut-rumped Heathwren. As we walked the slippery paths up into the heath we got Buff-rumped Thornbills and heard at least two Chestnut-rumped Heathwrens but as these were in the valley, and the goat track that run down into the valley was slippery, I decided that it would be too risky for 46 people to traverse so decided to check out the local orchids instead which were covering the edges of the paths. We had a female Pink and Scarlet Robin along this road as well as a Rufous Bristlebird which was elusive to see but called beautifully.

We headed back to the low heath where we found another small party of Southern Emu-wrens and a pair of Australian King Parrots.

group

Our next locale was the Anglesea tip. It is a great spot to pick up Forest Raven, and on arriving there was a Forest Raven which flew over into the tip. After another 10 minutes or so another bird arrived, giving better views. Also of note was the local orchids that were in flower on Powerline Track, some stunning orchids will be flowering in this area shortly and would recommend a visit if you like birds and wildflowers!

Next stop was on Coalmine Road where we went in search of the Grey Goshawk but alas, no luck on this. We did see some nice birds but nothing we had not seen before, the highlight being a Bassian Thrush out in the open on a grassy field.

A great number of attendees to this outing and hopefully in the near future I will have another weekend outing.

Philip Peel, Outing Leader

Weekday outing to Jells Park, Wheelers Hill

15 June 2016
Photographs by Margaret Bosworth

A perfect day for birding with sunshine from a clear blue sky and no wind. Twenty attendees assembled at the car park for Jells Park East, an area considerably less busy than the main car parks. Our leader John Bosworth had done his preparation thoroughly. He hadn’t prepared the ‘bee-eater on steroids’ in one of the trees – a tangled and very colourful kite – but the area did have the expected population of Noisy Miners and Australian Magpies while Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Little Ravens were calling. Rainbow Lorikeets were plentiful and Musk Lorikeets also gave good views to those less familiar with this species.

Female Freckled Duck - Margaret Bosworth
Female Freckled Duck

There were even glimpses of Australian King-Parrots and a few Crimson and Eastern Rosellas. Then we started walking beside the creek and added bushbirds – Brown Thornbills, Superb Fairy-wrens and Grey Fantails dominated and there were plenty of calls from Spotted Pardalotes. Frogs called from the wetlands but it was the ‘haul’ of duck species on the east end of the lake which surprised and delighted everyone. There were Chestnut and Grey Teal, Pacific Black, Freckled, Blue-billed, Pink-eared and Australian Wood Duck as well as Australasian Shoveler (male and female) and Hardhead. Eurasian Coots and Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes were repeatedly diving and Little Pied Cormorants dried their wings not far from a female Australasian Darter.

Male and female Australian Shelduck - Margaret Bosworth
Male and female Australian Shelduck

It’s not every walk where we record nine species of ducks in a small area and they were possibly escaping the duck hunting season in this refuge. We retraced our steps back to the cars as continuing the lake circuit entered the busy area where few birds had been observed during preliminary walks. Birds still joined the list – Red-browed Finch and Laughing Kookaburra, Eastern Spinebill, Red Wattlebird and White-plumed Honeyeater while Australian White and Straw-necked Ibis were now present at the lake and at least one Cattle Egret.

Cattle Egret among cattle - Margaret Bosworth
Cattle Egret (among cattle)

Back for a welcome lunch break followed by a walk northward with paddocks beside the park where the border of bush and grassland might have harboured robins. Alas, that hope did not materialise despite a female Scarlet Robin having been present two days previously.

Female Scarlet Robin - Margaret Bosworth
Female Scarlet Robin (photograph taken two days earlier)

There were plenty of Noisy Miners and several pairs of Magpie-larks. Those who completed the walk added Masked Lapwing and Common Bronzewing and at the final bird call the group had recorded 55 species. We voted it a great day’s birding and thanked John for his leadership.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne Weekdays Outings

You Yangs Birding and Boneseeding

4 June 2016
Text and photos by Merrilyn Serong
View from Valley Picnic Ground YY 2016 06 04 0632 800x600 M Serong
View from Valley Picnic Ground

An unexpected weather event in eastern Australia turned what otherwise might have been a fine, but cloudy day into one of intermittent drizzle. It’s not often that we see the ground wet at the You Yangs or water in the gutters beside the Great Circle Drive. The level of the dam near the park entrance was lower than I can remember it, but there was some water in other dams that were quite dry on our last visit. We heard frogs in a few places. Mosses, lichens, fungi and rock ferns were looking marvellous. The wet was not enough to deter the keen cyclists who frequent the park and it did not hamper the six of us on our quest to find birds and pull out boneseed. In these conditions the number of bird species recorded was lower than usual at a mere 24, but the damp ground made it easier to remove the weeds. The day remained pleasantly calm, and with coats on, we were not too cold.

We spent some time, as usual, in the area near the entrance and Park Office. Still no sign of the Tawny Frogmouths, which used to be so reliable here. Weebills were calling and foraging in the eucalypt canopy. An Eastern Yellow Robin posed close by for a moment. Lorikeets were heard briefly, but not seen. I think they were Musk. There seem to be fewer White-plumed Honeyeaters in this area than there were in the past, but more New Hollands. The latter were particularly abundant around the profusely flowering Hakea laurina bushes to the east of the dam. These plants from the south-west of Australia thrive in this area of the You Yangs.

Eastern Yellow Robin YY 2016 06 04 0599 800x600 M Serong
Eastern Yellow Robin

Morning tea was at the Valley Picnic Ground where we hoped for Boobooks, which are said to be there at times, and Tawny Frogmouths. We saw neither, but we did see numbers of Brown-headed Honeyeaters at the flowering eucalypts. Weebills were plentiful. Some of us saw a koala run across the road and disappear.

Amongst the bird species at Gravel Pit Tor were Crimson Rosella, White-throated Treecreeper, Eastern Yellow Robin, and Yellow and Brown Thornbills. A female Scarlet Robin was seen. There were two pairs of Scarlet Robins near here a couple of weeks ago on a finer day.

Scarlet Robin Gravel Pit Tor YY 2016 05 21 0083 800x800 M Serong
Scarlet Robin, Gravel Pit Tor

At lunch time we shared Fawcett’s Gully with a man who was using water colours to paint a scene of the area. The light rain was not helpful. Here there were also White-plumed and New Holland Honeyeaters, Crimson Rosellas, a White-throated Treecreeper and some frogs.

In mid to late afternoon we tackled a patch of medium-sized boneseed plants to the north of our official site. There were also several newly emerged boneseed plants still at the two-leaf stage. These were much easier to pull out. I found a bird’s leg-ring. It’s the type used on racing pigeons, so its wearer possibly provided a meal for a raptor.

New Holland Honeyeater in Hakea laurina YY 2016 06 04 0613 800x600 M Serong
New Holland Honeyeater in Hakea laurina

Towards the end of the day, when the last of us were preparing to leave our boneseeding site, a small flock of Varied Sittellas appeared together with a few Silvereyes. Soon after, we saw a Buff-rumped Thornbill. These added another three species to the day’s total. It was too dark by then for photos, so we’ll just have to remember them. One of the last bird sounds for the day was the mournful cry of White-winged Choughs. This nicely complemented the approaching night and continuing drizzle.

Many thanks to all participants and others who maintain an interest in the project.

The bird list for the day will be available at http://www.birdlifemelbourne.org.au/outings/site-lists/YouYangs%202016.html

More photos are on my website: http://www.timeinthebush.com/you-yangs-2016.html

Thank you

A special thank you to David McCarthy for his dedicated work in our YY boneseeding project. He has made a fantastic contribution over many years. David is no longer able to continue his involvement in boneseed removal, but will keep track of our progress by continuing to add our bird sightings to the data base.

A trip to South-East Arizona

With Giles Daubeney

Balwyn meeting report, 24 May 2016

This evening we were taken to an unfamiliar birding hotspot, the South-East corner of Arizona, USA. Giles Daubeney has been lucky to bird widely in Australia and also make overseas trips. Before going to North America to visit family, Giles did much research to find an area which would reward him with rich birdlife; and the result was South-East Arizona. He spent two weeks there with his son in July 2015, guided solely by two recommended guidebooks: Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona from the Tucson Audubon Society, and A Birders Guide to South Eastern Arizona by Richard Taylor.

Tucson, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona. Source: Wikipedia

The main city in the south-east is Tucson. Tucson is on the valley floor, hot and dry, and all around the city is scrubland dominated by Mesquite, a shrub. But in the distance are mountains, rising to 8-9,00ft, and once you climb up the temperature cools and the vegetation becomes more lush. In this corner of Arizona are about 40 bird species that occur nowhere else in the US, plus approximately 15 species of hummingbird.

In a hire car they headed south towards the Madera Canyon within the Santa Rita Mts. They stayed a few nights in a cabin at the Santa Rita Lodge, and were delighted by watching the hummingbird feeders. From here they visited Arivaca Wildlife Refuge with creek and pond, where Giles saw nine new birds in about 60 minutes; and the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge near the border with Mexico – watch out for patrol vehicles! At this scenic refuge were Antelope Jackrabbit, about the size of a hare but with bigger ears, and Pronghorn, a small antelope. In the air were birds including Anna’s Hummingbird, Horned Lark and Grey Hawk. Back in Tucson at the Arizona Desert Museum, they enjoyed the aviary and snake exhibits. The Saguaro Cacti were spectacular, attracting the Cactus Wren. And it was good lizard country.

Cactus Wren on a Saguaro Cactus
Cactus Wren on a Saguaro Cactus. Source: Wikipedia

They spent time birding in Madera Canyon, and were rewarded with Acorn Woodpecker, Western Wood Pewee, Rufous-winged Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Cooper’s Hawk, Painted Redstart and Costa’s Hummingbird. A rare spot with water in July was Rio Rico Ponds where they saw Black-bellied Whistling Duck; and at Sanoita Grassland Reserve they ticked House Finch and Grey Hawk.

A move east to the small city of Sierra Vista took them to Ash Canyon B&B, to be greeted by Broad-tailed Hummingbird. At the water-treatment plant they got Lesser Night Hawk. Nearby in Miller Canyon they found Mexican Spotted Owl. At the historic township of Tombstone they saw the site of the famous Gunfight at the OK Corral. Next day at Ramsey Canyon they were rewarded after a big hike with the rare (8th US record) Tufted Flycatcher, and also Cooper’s Hawk. There was good birding too, three new ticks, in neighbouring Carr Canyon.

The next stop was further east, the Chiricahua Mountains. They are a Mecca for bird watchers. On the way they saw a Roadrunner, and then a Great Horned Owl at Whitewater Draw. On this wetland were Cinnamon Teal, Ruddy Duck and White-faced Ibis. Giles put up at the Cave Creek Ranch in the small community of Portal, and found people very helpful – 50% of the locals are birders! One such took Giles and his son to see a rare Thick-billed Kingbird. The scenery was stunning. A walk after dark turned up a Pygmy Owl, a Black-tailed Rattlesnake and a scorpion. Daylight in Portal revealed a tarantula, a Hog-nosed Skunk, a Turkey Vulture, Pyrrhuloxia (a desert cardinal), a Canyon Towhee and Javelinas or wild pig. Within 2-3km of Portal is a property, Jasper’s, where bird feeders are maintained for a small price, and this site is the hotspot to see Crissal Thrasher in USA, known far and wide.

Elegant Trogan at South Fork Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains
Elegant Trojan at the  South Fork Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains. Photo by Giles Daubeney

Their next stop, still in the Chiricahua’s, was South Fork Canyon. Birders come here for Elegant Trogan, and this was the bird Giles most wanted to see. Just about to give up, he was tipped off which trail to take, and there it was, with a posse of onlookers. On their way to the mountain peak at 8,000ft they saw their second top tick, Montezuma Quail, the size of a Brown Quail but the male has striking facial markings.

Montezuma Quail
Montezuma Quail. Source: Wikipedia

On the last day they visited Chiricahua National Monument, the national park in this area. Known for its scenery as opposed to birds it did not disappoint. On the drive back to Tucson a black bear appeared on the road, and Giles was surprised to see one so far south. They stopped at Lake Cochise at Willcox and saw Marbled Godwit, American Avocet, Snowy Egret and Wilson’s Phalarope. Lastly, right beside the airport, they saw five Burrowing Owls. What a note to end on. We thanked Giles for taking us on a remarkable birding journey.

Contributor: Daphne Hards