Weekdays outing in the Wonthaggi area

16 May 2018

The meeting point car park filled with cars as 24 assembled under cloudy skies in Wonthaggi. Rain storms had fallen the previous day so we were grateful for a cold but dry day. Nola Thorpe led the walk and warned us that her recent recce had yielded very few birds in the heathland. However we were a hopeful mix of Melbourne and Wonthaggi birders as we drove off in convoy – you never know with birding.

Eastern Spinebill - Bevan Hood
Eastern Spinebill in the heathlands. Photo by Bevan Hood

The heathlands car park was already occupied by a pair of horse riders, regulars, who wished us good birding as they set off. Initially Nola’s dire prediction looked accurate for we saw and heard little. Then there were Grey Shrike-thrush calls and glimpses of New Holland Honeyeaters. In more timbered country there were Spotted Pardalote, Grey Fantail and Grey Butcherbird. Near a small dam, five Australasian Shelducks flew overhead.

Walking the heathland track - Tweeddale
Walking the track. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

The dam, which birds frequent in summer, was uninhabited as recent rains had provided plenty of surface water elsewhere. A small flock of Red-browed Finches foraged on the ground and White-eared Honeyeaters called and perched on emergent boughs, seeming to take on the roles of Singing Honeyeaters elsewhere. A cool burn had been done about a month previously and it was interesting to see the growth of grass blades and of the Xanthorrhoea bases below the burn line.

The heathlands are a mosaic of different burnt zones which will hopefully provide habitat for many species. We searched unsuccessfully for the elusive Southern Emu-wren and the Striated Fieldwren before returning to the cars to drive to the desalination plant. The car park was under surveillance as we assembled – several Eastern Grey Kangaroos watched quietly from a bracken patch.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo - Bevan Hood
Eastern Grey Kangaroos watching the car park. Photo by Bevan Hood

We lunched at the picnic area of the desal plant before walking on the trails and checking the ponds. Here waterbirds predominated with large flocks of Pacific Black Ducks and Grey Teal. A few Eurasian Coots and fewer Chestnut Teal and Australasian Grebes were also present.

Pacific Black Duck - Grey Teal - Chestnut Teal - Bevan Hood
Pacific Black Ducks and Grey and Chestnut Teal on the desalination plant pond. Photo by Bevan Hood

Both White-faced and White-necked Herons used the ponds and Straw-necked Ibis flew over. Raptors here were Black-shouldered Kite, Nankeen Kestrel, Swamp Harrier and Peregrine Falcon while Welcome Swallows swooped across the ponds. As always, Superb Fairy-wrens were among the reed beds. Back to bird call and the group’s lists were 36 species in the heathlands, 39 species at the desalination plant and a gratifying total of 59 species for the day.

Heathland flowers - Tweeddale
Heathland flowers. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

We thanked Nola for all her preparation which had produced such a great result for this cold season of the year.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings.

April Education Report

The Autumn Survey at Blackburn Creeklands was held on Saturday 14 April, which was very windy and dull, but the 27 participants, including visitors from South Australia, Holland and China, enjoyed the 27 species they found. Everyone had superb views of Gang-gang Cockatoos, feeding on gumn uts, squabbling over perches and trying to get away from a very persistent youngster who wanted to be fed. Other Autumn visitors like King Parrots and Grey Fantails were good to see but the resident Tawny Frogmouths, Brown Thornbills and White-browed Scrubwrens were rather hard to find. 27 species is a low number for the survey (now in its 7thyear) but the dry conditions and the wind on the day may have contributed to this rather poor result.

This survey was led by Pat Bingham and Ian Moodie. Pat also led the Karkarook walk (below).

The U3A Hawthorn outing was on Friday 20 April. There were 14 attendees including six newcomers to this programme. There was bright sunshine in Melbourne but they hit a bank of fog just as they got to Karkarook Park in Heatherton, so that the birds seemed quiet and the wetlands ‘disappeared’. Luckily, a few Noisy Miners continued to chase a Brush-tailed Possum through the gums (did the possum think it was still night-time?) and Pied Currawongs called eerily from the gloom – so they at least had something to peer for! Eventually the mistiness cleared and they found six species of duck, a busy flock of Red-browed Finches acrobatically collecting grass-seed, a party of Superb Fairy-wrens including young males in their sombre winter colours and blue tails, and a Little Wattlebird (uncommon at Karkarook). The wren’s winter plumage change and the differentiation of Little and Red Wattlebirds made good talking-points for beginning birders, and the total of 33 species for the morning sent them home with lots of ‘homework’ to do. The following photographs were taken by Sue Wilson – a member of this group. I thank Pat and Sue for their contributions.

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Janet Hand, BirdLife Melbourne Education Coordinator (Phone: 9842 4177)

Beginners Outing to The Briars

28 April 2018
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 43

All photographs by Eleanor Dilley

Eastern Yellow Robin, The Briars
Eastern Yellow Robin

Lots of Australian Wood Ducks on the grass beside the main drive greeted the Beginners as they arrived at the Briars on a bright sunny morning.  At the Visitor Centre car park, Noisy Miners were the dominant species, although a mixture of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Little Corellas also announced their presence very loudly. A Brown Goshawk flying overhead provided an early highlight.  As the usual track to the wetlands was closed for repairs, the group had to enter the Wildlife Enclosure from the other entrance and it was immediately evident how dry the bushland was. Ponds which normally are home to ducks and Dusky Moorhens were bone dry, though fortunately there was still a little water in Balcombe Creek.

Rainbow Lorikeet, The Briars
Rainbow Lorikeet

Taking the Woodland track it was pleasing to see Eastern Yellow Robins, the first of several pairs seen throughout the morning. Birds were in short supply along the higher part of the track apart from Eastern Rosellas, Rainbow Lorikeets and a pair of canoodling Galahs. From the lookout it could be seen that the water level was very low in the main lagoon and hence was not attracting many birds.

Galahs, The Briars
Galahs

However, from the track towards the hide there were excellent views of a Swamp Harrier flying low overhead, followed by more distant views of a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles. Three species of honeyeater were seen from the boardwalk section; Yellow-faced, White-eared and New Holland. From the hide it was disappointing that the only birds seen were a Chestnut Teal and a White-faced Heron, no doubt a result of the low water levels.

Swamp Harrier, The Briars
Swamp Harrier

On returning to the lookout a Nankeen Kestrel skimmed rapidly past and there were distant views of a pair of Black-fronted Dotterels. The group then returned via the Fire Track towards the Visitor Centre and near the creek saw a female Rufous Whistler which was a surprising sighting so late in the season. On leaving the Wildlife Enclosure most members chose to walk a short distance along the Balcombe Creek Track, hoping that the moist conditions would attract more small birds, but sadly this was not to be.

Rufous Whistler (F), The Briars
Rufous Whistler, female

Lunch was taken in the picnic area where the Noisy Miners again made their presence felt and members had to keep tight hold of their sandwiches!  A further walk was then taken up the hill towards the Homestead from which there were distant views of a pair of Nankeen Kestrels perched on fence posts. A pair of Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes flew low overhead while a White-faced Heron in a paddock allowed close views.

White-faced Heron, The Briars
White-faced Heron

Walking back down the track to the car park two Whistling Kites were seen, bringing the raptor count to 5. A total of 43 species was recorded for the day which was very respectable given the dry conditions. Many of the members vowed to return when the wetlands are once again full of water.

View the bird list: BM APR Bird List The Briars

Weekday outing to Cape Schanck, Mornington Peninsula National Park

16 April 2018
All photographs by Katmun Loh, member

There had been hope that strong winds would result in albatrosses close to shore but the winds of the day far exceeded anything requested. We were a group of 11 and our leader, Pat Bingham, had prepared well for the walk. Gales bent the trees and drove rain squalls horizontally to our backs so the occasional dip in the path or thicker stand of scrub that broke the force was welcome.

Group huddling by thte cars - Katmun Loh
The group huddling by the cars

Initially not a bird was seen and only a couple of squeaks were heard from the scrub. Despite a rainbow it did not look promising but, never say die, we kept alert, even though the car park “total” was two unidentified glimpses. Up to the lookout where we watched the spray on white-topped waves blow backwards. Few birds and then “gannet”! Determination was needed but most detected an Australasian Gannet, some saw a Silver Gull and shearwaters were present. A couple of Welcome Swallows appeared and hope was restored. Towards Bushrangers Bay Superb Fairy-wrens were mostly heard and other calls perplexed until they were identified as crickets.

Superb Fairy-wren, male in eclipse plumage - Katmun Loh
Superb Fairy-wren, male in eclipse plumage

An autumnal Red Wattlebird flock of about 20 included at least one Little Wattlebird. The track runs by the park boundary and Australian Magpies were in the adjacent paddocks with a Nankeen Kestrel and Silver Gulls overhead. Those in front saw a Grey Shrike-thrush as we neared our return point and the few who descended to the watercourse added Grey Fantails. Back at lunch we were soon checked out by the locals as the weather eased. A young Grey Shrike-thrush (recognisable by its markings) came first, and an adult approached afterwards.

Grey Shrike-thrush - Katmun Loh
Grey Shrike-thrush

Superb Fairy-wren and Brown Thornbill gave brief views. Little Ravens first flew and then called, confirming the species. Post lunch we set off in the opposite direction, west toward the lighthouse. Both Kelp and Pacific Gulls were observed from the cliff and optimism grew as the weather calmed, briefly. Better views of Shy Albatross, Short-tailed Shearwaters and Australasian Gannet were obtained. A demonstration of the intensification of the wind speed at the top of a cliff compared to a few steps behind the crest was instructive. Calls from Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater were followed but few sightings were obtained. The group recorded only three honeyeater species, two wattlebirds and the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, but two members who left later were able to photograph a Singing Honeyeater which had presumably ventured out in the sunnier conditions.

Singingh Honeyeater - Katmun Loh
Singing Honeyeater

The bird list for the group added to 20 species and we thanked Pat for all her preparation which had resulted in successful birding under such challenging conditions.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator Melbourne BirdLife weekdays outings

 

Weekday outing to Warrandyte State Park

26 March 2018

Overcast skies and a cool wind greeted 16 birdwatchers at the Jumping Creek car park. Our leader was Geoff Russell and he advised us of his plans for the walk and reassured everyone that the steep, narrow trails with roots and stones would be avoided, to considerable relief all round as the previous two days had been very wet. The river was running fast and deep and few birds were using it. Single Pacific Black and Australian Wood Ducks swam and a Little Pied Cormorant and a female Australasian Darter flew over the water while two immature Dusky Moorhens swam the river and at least two adults foraged by the banks. Superb Fairy-wrens were the most common bush bird but Grey Fantails were also numerous and amused with their foraging antics.

After a short walk we reached Blue Tongue Bend and birded quietly for some time. A highlight here was brief sightings of a female Golden Whistler which had only been heard previously. A Grey Shrike-thrush was also in the vicinity. Brown Thornbills were heard and Striated Thornbills fluttered in the high canopy. Silvereyes had been added to the list just before the bend. Cockatoos were more heard than seen and the list included Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Galah. Corellas were often heard but were not included officially as both Little and Long-billed were possible but neither were confirmed. Honeyeaters included flights of Red Wattlebirds high above, calls of Eastern Spinebills and Noisy Miners and sightings of White-eared and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. The agitated calls of Crimson Rosellas signalled the presence of a Pied Currawong. Two walkers advised us that they had seen a robin in the valley below the road to Stane Brae. Those at the rear of our group investigated and were pleased to observe a male Scarlet Robin among many wrens. Catching up with the rest of the group later enabled all to share the pleasure as the bird had obligingly moved in the same direction. A female robin was also present but did not present good views. We checked the Stane Brae outbuildings but nothing appeared to be roosting there.

The siren call of lunch took us back to the car park and under the roof of the picnic shelter. Optimistic Laughing Kookaburras patrolled the area but were disappointed, as were the local Common Mynas. Some people had to leave at this stage so we recorded a bird list. As we finished rain arrived, heavily. It was decided to forgo an afternoon walk as conditions were deteriorating and the species total stood at 40. Attempting a higher count seemed greedy so we thanked Geoff for all his careful preparation which had resulted in such a pleasant morning.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne

Beginners Outing to Braeside Park

24 March 2018
Photographs by Eleanor Dilley

The Beginners’ outing to Braeside Park coincided with the end of a two-month dry spell in the Melbourne area! The rain began in earnest soon after the start and it poured down relentlessly for the rest of the excursion!

Musk Lorikeet, Braeside
Musk Lorikeet

Setting off down Cypress Drive there were good views of Eastern Rosellas feeding in the grass, and of Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets feeding in eucalypts. Walking anticlockwise around the back of the wetlands two fluffy, cream-coloured, Australasian Darter chicks were seen on a nest in a tree on an island.

Australasian Darter chicks, Braeside
Australasian Darter chicks on nest

Eurasian Coots were plentiful, as were Grey and Chestnut Teal. Australian Pelicans, Black Swans, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants

Australian Pelican, Braeside
Australian Pelican

White-faced Herons, a lone Royal Spoonbill, Hardheads and Blue-billed Ducks could all be seen without the aid of binoculars, which by that time had steamed up. Harder to distinguish were Red-kneed and Black-fronted Dotterels on mud flats at the back of the ponds. Noisy Miners were present in huge numbers and did not seem deterred by the soggy conditions but other bushbirds were harder to find.

Black Swans, Braeside
Black Swan

The only raptors seen were Swamp Harrier and Whistling Kite. It was a very bedraggled group that returned to the car park with many deciding to head straight for home and hot showers. Others stayed for lunch in the welcome shelter of the visitor centre. After a short discussion it was unanimously agreed that the planned afternoon walk be cancelled.

It had been a commendable effort for all those involved, and especially for our photographer, Eleanor Dilley, whose battle with the elements produced the above photographs. A tally of 52 species was recorded, a creditable total given the conditions. Although very wet, everyone was really glad to see the rain falling on the parched bushland. The homeward journey for most was no doubt filled with thoughts and hopes that rain had also fallen on their own backyards!

View the full bird list: BM Mar 2018 Bird List Braeside Park

 

Education report – January to March 2018

The BirdLife Melbourne Education Group has started off the year with early activities.

On Wednesday, 10 January Janet Hand addressed approximately 40 members of the Hawthorn U3A Summer School in Glen Iris. There were two parts to her presentation. First there was a PowerPoint on the work of BirdLife titled “BirdLife – preserving the future of birds.” That presentation was followed by another PowerPoint with tips on identifying birds and showing those birds found around the Hawthorn/Glen Iris area.

On Tuesday 20 February, Gay Gallagher visited the Walmsley Village Garden Club, Kilsyth. Approximately 35 people attended to see her PowerPoint on “Attracting birds to our gardens.” She said the audience was very interested and she fielded many interesting questions.

On Monday 26 February, Susan Bailey was the lunchtime speaker at a meeting of the Ferntree Gully VIEW Club who met at the Knox Club in Wantirna. Approximately 75 members were present on the day. Susan also spoke on how to attract birds into their gardens.

On Saturday 10 March Graeme Hosken led an early morning walk at Jells Park, Waverley for the Friends of Diamond Valley Parklands. Twelve members of the FODVP attended an early morning bird walk from the Information Centre and clockwise round the lake and returning to the Information Centre. A perfect morning weather-wise but groups of runners and bike riders kept them on the lookout to prevent an accident. Late nesting by a Darter was a highlight with four young in a nest.  One member asked what is a small bird with red breast? A further sighting produced a male Mistletoebird with its mate close at hand.  A rewarding sight for all the members. At the end of the three hour bird walk, 37 species were recorded.

Tuesday 13 March saw Graeme Hosken speak to members of the Australian Plant Society, Wilson Botanic Park, Berwick on the subject “Catching up with the Illegal’s”  Shorebird Migration – Australian/Asian Flyway. Thirty-two APS members attended.

On Thursday 15 March Janet Hand was a last minute replacement Guest Speaker at the Community of Ringwood Indigenous Species Plant (CRISP) Nursery AGM in Ringwood. She spoke about “Attracting birds to your garden naturally” 30 members were present and appreciative of the effort that Janet had made to attend with only 24 hours notice.

The first U3A Hawthorn monthly Birdwatching Group walk for the year was at the Sinclair Wetlands, Glen Iris on Friday 16 March. 19 attenders including several newcomers; 20 species recorded. Best birds were a young-ish Nankeen Night-heron patiently waiting for prey adjacent to the opening of a stormwater drain while a very healthy-looking Brown Rat played about on the rocks above.  Bird and rat ignored each other.  Also much amusement was caused by a Kookaburra, in a very noisy dispute with two attacking Little Ravens, just over their heads.  The observers thought they might, too, get dive bombed!  The group also had good looks at Musk Lorikeets and a pair of Red-rumped Parrots. Thank you Pat Bingham for leading this group.

Breakfast with the Birds was held on Sunday 18 March, at Wilson Botanic Park, Berwick from 7 – 9.30am. Breakfast with the Bird walks at Wilson Botanic Park commenced in 2004 with two walks, one in Spring and the other in Autumn. Unfortunately weather conditions for the day’s walk were not pleasant with a strong north wind and the possibility for rain. Luckily the rain and a cool change came after the walk concluded. The recent dry conditions have had an effect on many plant species in the park and the ‘bush’ birds are not in their usual haunts.  Missing were Superb Fairy-wren and White-browed Scrubwren.  A Hoary-headed Grebe with young was the highlight for the morning.  No new species were added on Sunday for the WBP Bird list which stands at 87. This list contains highlights being: Satin Bowerbird, Australasian Bittern and Channel-billed Cuckoo. Thanks to Graeme Hosken for leading the Wilson Botanic Park walks.

Janet Hand BirdLife Melbourne Education Coordinator (Phone: 9842 4177)

Weekday outing to Point Cook Coastal Park

14 March 2018
Cormorants and Gull - Bevan Hood
Little Pied Cormorant, Pied Cormorant, Silver Gull. Photo by Bevan Hood

Overcast and mild weather greeted 21 birdwatchers from many areas of Victoria as we assembled in the Beach Picnic area car park. Alan and Hazel Veevers were our leaders and the car park soon added Superb Fairy-wren, New Holland Honeyeater and Red Wattlebird to the Common Starlings, Australian Magpies and Willie Wagtails most had noted on their drive in.

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Time and tide wait for no bird watcher so we immediately drove to the homestead car park and walked through the pine trees to the beach. Highlights here were Zebra Finches near the fence line and an obligingly perched Brown Falcon which gave photographers very good views.

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Galahs, Little Ravens and Crested Pigeons were also noted here and the squeals from a windmill were initially confusing till the machinery was noted among some trees. No birds really make that noise.

Low tide at the beach saw a flock of Chestnut Teal, many Silver Gulls and Crested Terns and the occasional Pacific Black Duck and Pacific Gull perched on the exposed rocks.

Farther along we encountered Pied and Little Pied Cormorants which enabled people to compare the sizes and markings for future identification.

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Heading back to the cars prior to lunch Black-shouldered Kite and Nankeen Kestrel were added to our growing raptor list which also had couples of Whistling Kites and Black Kites seen earlier.

Black Kite - Bevan Hood
Black Kite. Photo by Bevan Hood

A brief stop at the water control area of a housing estate added Dusky Moorhen and Purple Swamphen. One of the swamphens caused some excitement when it appeared to be eating a yabby but closer inspection showed ‘lunch’ to be the rhizome of one of the water plants, complete with apparent ‘legs’.

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Our lunch was accompanied by several optimistic magpies and enlivened by fairy-wrens in great numbers foraging low around us. The magpies moved out and an enormous racket drew our attention to their mobbing of a raptor. It was only slightly larger than the magpies but they had the numbers and the raptor departed. Much discussion about its identity followed but no one had managed a clear view. The ID came later after photos had been closely examined – the wings and tail were those of a Brown Goshawk. Cameras now freeze action much better than human vision.

Brown Goshawk - Danika Sanderson
Brown Goshawk

After lunch we walked beside the beach. Initially there were only a few fairy-wrens foraging among the seaweed but carefully continuing south we encountered more gulls, teal and terns roosting on the exposed rocks close to shore. Scanning yielded two Musk Ducks swimming beyond the crowd and then a rather unexpected sighting – an immature Australasian Gannet resting on one of the rocks.

Gannet - Gull - Tern - Bevan Hood
Australasian Gannet, Silver Gull, Crested Tern. Photo by Bevan Hood

White-faced Heron and Australian White Ibis were also present in small numbers and a few Grey Teal were swimming together in one area. Back through the scrub where Grey Fantails dominated sightings and then on to a new wetland near the RAAF Lake car park. Expectations may have been low as we approached it but soon “grebes” were called.

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Both Australasian and Hoary-Headed were present and diving out of sight as grebes are wont to do. The omnipresent Chestnut Teal were noted, plus a couple of Pacific Black Ducks and then there were the dotterels on the further, smaller lake.

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Both Black-fronted and Red-kneed Dotterel were there and a pair of the latter were engaging in a bobbing display to each other. The edges of the reed beds housed Australian Reed-Warblers (silent at this time of the year) and Golden-headed Cisticolas perching on seed heads and making their buzzing call.

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Leaving this area with regret we gathered for bird call. Total species count was 56, very creditable for an area which is being surrounded more and more closely by housing. We thanked Hazel and Alan enthusiastically for all their preparation and care which had given us such a good day’s birding.

 

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outing

Beginners Outing to Yan Yean Reservoir Park

24 February 2018
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 51
Black-fronted Dotterel AV
Black-fronted Dotterel. Photograph by Alan Veevers

A large flock of Long-billed Corellas foraged in a paddock by the entrance gate, as if greeting the 22 members who arrived at Yan Yean Reservoir on a windy, hot and humid morning. Those arriving early were taken to look over the reservoir from the dam wall near the entrance.

Long-billed Corella AV
Long-billed Corella. Photograph by Alan Veevers

A few Great Crested Grebes and several Musk Ducks could be seen amongst the plentiful Eurasian Coots in the choppy water.

Great Crested Grebe AV
Great Crested Grebe. Photograph by Alan Veevers

When all were assembled, the group drove to the car park at the far end of the wetlands from where the main walk of the day was to begin. Noisy Miners were dominant and only a few small bush-birds were seen. There were a lot of waterbirds in the wetland, mainly Dusky Moorhens and Chestnut Teals.

Latham's Snipe - Graeme Dean
Latham’s Snipe. Photograph by Graeme Dean

There was great excitement when a Latham’s Snipe was sighted on the opposite bank, though it soon walked off to hide in the undergrowth.

Red-rumped Parrot (m) AV
Red-rumped Parrot, male. Photograph by Alan Veevers

Very good views were had of Red-rumped Parrots on the ground and resting in small trees near the water’s edge.

Red-rumped Parrot - Graeme Dean
Red-rumped Parrot. Photograph by Graeme Dean

The walk continued across the track into the fenced area containing three large ponds. Several Australasian Grebes and more Ducks, including Hardheads, were spotted.

Australasian Grebe AV
Australasian Grebe. Photograph by Alan Veevers

Good views were had of a Black-fronted Dotterel feeding at the water’s edge and soon afterwards, to the delight of all, a Common Sandpiper was sighted, also feeding in the mud. Both of these birds stayed around long enough for everyone to have a good look.

Common Sandpiper AV
Common Sandpiper. Photograph by Alan Veevers

A Purple Swamphen with two very small chicks provided a lot of amusement as the little ones dashed along trying to keep up with mum.

Purple Swamphen and chick - Graeme Dean
Purple Swamphen and chick. Photograph by Graeme Dean

Just as the group was leaving the area two Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos flew slowly by. On returning to the main wetlands several raptors could be seen soaring above the reservoir. They were identified as three Wedge-tailed Eagles (perhaps a breeding pair with a juvenile) and two Whistling Kites.

Common Bronzewing AV
Common Bronzewing. Photograph by Alan Veevers

Walking around the back of the wetland, where it was more sheltered, several Common Bronzewings were feeding on the ground. Nearby, a few lucky participants had a brief sighting of a Spotless Crake trudging through mud at the edge of a small island. The group then drove up to the top of the hill and walked to the Corsican Pine near the Caretaker’s Cottage and were rewarded with the sight of several Nankeen Night Herons roosting in the canopy.

Juvenile Nankeen Night Heron AV
Juvenile Nankeen Night Heron. Photograph by Alan Veevers
Nankeen Night Heron AV
Nankeen Night Heron. Photograph by Alan Veevers

Lunch was eaten in the rotunda and then a brief walk was taken down to the fence alongside the reservoir. A White-bellied Sea-Eagle’s nest was pointed out by a local member but the bird was not seen in the short time available. On the water were large numbers of Blue-billed Ducks and Hardheads as well as two Little Pied Cormorants perched on an overhanging dead branch.

Blue-billed Duck AV
Blue-billed Duck, male. Photograph by Alan Veevers

Rain had been forecast and storm clouds were threatening so it was agreed to have an early finish to this very rewarding outing. The bird call revealed a total of 51 species for the day.

View the bird list for the day: BM Feb 2018 Bird List Yan Yean Reservoir Park

 

Weekdays outing to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

12 February 2018
Photographs by Bevan Hood, member (unless otherwise indicated)
australian wood ducks male and female - bevan hood
Australian Wood Duck

The weather was kind to birdwatchers with a cloudy morning, mild temperature and little breeze. We were a group of eleven – members and visitors – with David Plant leading. Bell Miners dominated the area near the H gate entrance and a team of tree surgeons was noisily working there as well. We walked from the disturbance and surveyed the azolla-covered water. It looked stable enough to walk on, very misleading, and areas of bank were taped off to deter youngsters from falling in. Waterfowl paddled and upended among the floating fern, Pacific Black Duck and Chestnut Teal, Eurasian Coot, Dusky Moorhen and Purple (now Australian) Swamphen. Silver Gulls and Australian Wood Duck walked on the lawns, not far from Australian Magpies and Magpie-larks.

magpie-lark male - bevan hood
Magpie-lark

Occasionally Red Wattlebirds flew past and a couple of Eastern Spinebills were sighted along with one Little Wattlebird. With the Bell Miners these were the only honeyeaters detected. The only parrot species observed was a few Rainbow Lorikeets high in eucalypts. Flyovers of Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants and a solitary White-faced Heron added to the waterfowl list.

white-faced heron - bevan hood
White-faced Heron

No raptors were seen today and they seem to be no longer in the gardens after a presence of many years. The ͞big black birds͟ category contained Little Ravens and Pied Currawongs, flying and foraging. Down in the fern gully we were pleased to present David with sightings of White-browed Scrubwrens, a species which is becoming increasingly uncommon in the gardens, possibly from competition from miners plus modifications of the vegetation.

pied currawong - bevan hood
Pied Currawong

As all gardeners know, a garden is never a static place and change is continuous, especially now with climate change. David explained how the gardens were managing their water and power. Little tap water is used, for drinking and toilet flushing (a legal requirement) mostly. Street runoff is collected, litter trapped and the water then purified by plants, many in ͞garden beds that move͟.

floating islands in azolla - tweeddale
Floating island in azolla. Photograph by Diane Tweeddale

It was fascinating to watch the slow dance of the floating gardens, among the lake azolla or high in Guilfoyle’s volcano. Power is another aspect where savings are being made with 35% being generated by solar panels. The aim is to attain self-sufficiency in water and power.

purple (australian) swamphen foraging in azolla - bevan hood
Purple (Australian) Swamphen foraging in azolla

Lunch was taken near the tea room and was only slightly marred by the numerous Common Mynas (they are the most common bird in the gardens) pecking at uncleared lunch remains on the tables. The day was warming so we had a bird call at the tables and then headed back to our starting point, pausing to mourn the corpse of the much-vandalised Separation Tree. Mindless destruction seems much easier than caring for nature or manmade beauty. Before the old tree finally died seeds were collected and it was reassuring to admire the growth of the resulting offspring.

Soon we thanked David enthusiastically for sharing his garden with us and then went our ways, pleased that our list of 34 species did not continue an observed slide but was slightly above the previous year.
Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings