Tawny Frogmouth: from rescue to release

On the morning of 28 October 2021, I was driving down our court when I noticed a small fluff-ball on the footpath below a neighbour’s large Eucalyptus nicholii nature strip tree.  I stopped to check it out and found a very young Tawny Frogmouth which I assumed had fallen out of a nest.  A parent bird was in the tree, on the lowest branch about 4m up, looking down and keeping watch as there was a Pied Currawong showing a lot of interest.

Tawny Frogmouth chick fallen from a nest
Parent keeping watch

I rang my wife Shirley who was quickly on the scene.  We decided that Shirley would ring the Wildlife Emergency Response to seek instructions on what to do while I kept guard.  Shirley was advised that we should make a nest in a container, make some drainage holes, nail the container in a tree, and place the chick in the new nest.  The advice was that hopefully the parent would watch us transfer the chick and attend the nest to look after it.  If this didn’t happen after a few hours, we were to ring them back.  

I made the nest according to instructions, using an ice-cream container and drilled the drainage holes.  I placed broken twigs in the bottom, with a layer of native grasses cut to length as an upper layer.  I can modestly say that it was a more comfortable nest than the parents would have made.  The height of the lowest branch on the E nicholii was far too high for me, so as advised, I fixed it to a lower tree branch in our front garden.  I picked up the chick and transported it to its new home.  Unfortunately during the whole process, the parent bird was very aware of the Pied Currawong and tried to see it off.  Because of this it may not have seen the relocation.

By this stage Shirley had decided that the chick needed a name, and it was named Thursday, because that was the day we found it.

Thursday in new nest

By mid-afternoon, after several checks, there was no sign of the parent bird, so Shirley rang the Wildlife Emergency Response again.  We were asked to email a photo of the chick so that they had a good idea of the age of the rescued bird.  We were then advised to place the chick in its nest in a dark place, and they would arrange for a Wildlife Rescue Service Volunteer (WRSV) to collect the bird.

The WRSV arrived late afternoon to take Thursday into care. She told us that Thursday looked healthy and was probably a female. She expected to release her near the rescue site, in about 2 months, and she would keep us informed.  We felt quite confident that Thursday was in good hands.

Over the next 2 months we received texts from the WRSV, with attached photos showing Thursday’s development.

8 November 2021: Thursday in centre
23 November 2021: Thursday at end right
8 December 2021: Thursday on right
24 December 2021: Thursday

Thursday with friends in the enclosure
Photos by the Wildlife Rescue Service Volunteer

During care the rescued Tawny Frogmouths lived in meshed enclosure, of sufficient size for the birds to take short flights.  The enclosure had many guests, a normal season being a temporary home to a total of about 20 rescued Tawny Frogmouth chicks. They were fed chicken hearts, meal worms and mice.  The enclosure had lighting to attract moths to supplement their diet and introduce them to becoming self sufficient.  

In early Jan we received a text from the WRSV advising that Thursday, with a friend, would be released as soon as the weather was suitable.  The release site was to be the treed corridor along the creek that runs between Waverley Road & Crosby Drive, Glen Waverley, about 200m from the rescue site.  At dusk, on 10 Jan 2022, Thursday and friend were released, both with full stomachs.  Thursday took off and quickly flew to some low vegetation about 30m distant.  The friend flew higher and perched on a horizontal branch about 4m above the ground, 15m distant.  We watched and waited for a while but the birds seemed settled for the night.  The WRSV assured us that they would be OK, and she would check on them the next day.  Sexing the birds is difficult, but because of the greyer plumage, the WRSV thought Thursday was probably female, and because the friend was browner, she thought it was probably male.

On our walk home, Shirley and I wondered if they would be OK and if we would ever see them again.  We decided that the friend deserved a name, so he was named Novak, as the bird’s release date was on the same day as Novak Djokovic’s release from detention.

Next morning at 8:30 we checked out the release site but at first could not find either bird.  After a closer look in the immediate area where Thursday was last seen, Thursday and Novak were there, back from the track, in classic stick posture, with eyes narrowed to slits, on a near vertical fallen branch only about 1m above the ground.  I had concerns about their safety as they were so close to the ground.  Checking HANZAB, one study reported that of roosting birds flushed, 50% were flushed from the ground, so perhaps there was no need for my concern.

Morning of 11 January 2022: Thursday rear, Novak front
Afternoon of 11 January 2022: Thursday rear, Novak front

On a return visit to the site mid-afternoon, I found both birds at the same roosting site, but Novak was much more animated than for the morning visit.

On a visit to the site on the morning of 12 Jan, neither bird could be found, but encouragingly there was no heap of feathers on the ground at the previous day’s roosting site.  Another visit on the same afternoon, and again no bird could be found.  Further visits on the morning and afternoon of 13 Jan also produced no sightings.  The corridor is a well timbered stretch with many suitable roosting sites, both at low level and higher level.  The WRSV advised that released birds are rarely seen at the release site, so no sightings could be a good sign.

I chose to believe that they are hunkered down somewhere in the corridor.  I was resigned to the fact that maybe I would never see either of the birds again, but just maybe one day, on a walk along the creek I will discover one or both Tawny Frogmouths.

Afternoon of 18 January 2022: A third juvenile Tawny Frogmouth 50m from the release site

But there is a sequel to this story.  Late afternoon on 18 Jan I spotted a juvenile Tawny Frogmouth only about 50m from the release site.  I was very excited with my find and hoped it was Thursday or Novak, so I took several photos to try and confirm which one it was.  The bird appeared to be smaller than either of the two, and on close examination of the photos, the tail was shorter and markings on the back, wings and tail didn’t agree with those of either Thursday or Novak.  I can only conclude that it was a third juvenile bird in this small patch of bush.  Of course, I will keep looking.

Bill Ramsay, Jan 2022
All photos by Bill Ramsay unless noted otherwise

Weekdays outing to Donnelly’s Weir

8 December 2021
Photographs by Danika Sanderson
Sacred Kingfisher

The weather forecast was not really reassuring, predicting late showers for Melbourne. This might mean wet weather in the mountains around Healesville but at least winds were not emphasized. Alan and Hazel Veevers led and had spent considerable time and analysis to prepare a well-received outing.

The weir

My main worry was the ford on the track into Donnelly’s. My car is a small sedan and I worried that its clearance might not be enough if I slowed or stopped in the water. As it was I was one of the few who gratefully accepted lifts from drivers with a higher wheel base and spare seats. Most drivers came through without a murmur.  I am just a wimp at bottom.

The group

There were 20 at the outing and even the car park yielded sightings of Eastern Yellow Robin, Crimson Rosella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

A Sacred Kingfisher proved very hard to locate and Australian King-Parrots moved through very quickly except for a calm male which remained perched near the track until most of our group had walked by.

Sacred Kingfisher

Another bird coping with our party was a female White-throated Treecreeper which stayed stationary on its tree trunk for so long we initially wondered if it might be ill – until we passed “it’s” tree during our return walk and saw that it had departed.

White-throated Treecreeper (female)

Birds heard without being seen included Fan-tailed Cuckoo and Spotted Pardalote. Only a few actually saw the Superb Fairy-wrens and Striated Pardalotes were also present while a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles briefly soared very high overhead.

Superb Fairy-wren (male)

Other elusive small birds were the White-browed Scrubwrens by the well-flowing aqueduct and a flock of Silvereyes briefly sighted as they foraged among dense bushes. It wasn’t totally birds. Plants included flowering spyridium as well as a small colony of hyacinth orchids.

Waterlilies
Yellow-faced Honeyeater

At morning’s end we drove around to the Maroondah Reservoir Park where we lunched in a rotunda even though rain hadn’t arrived yet. We were checked out by 3 Australian White Ibis, living up to their reputation.

Eastern Spinebill

Careful watchfulness meant that no one’s lunch was in jeopardy. A short walk around the base of the dam wall added Corellas, several Little and a single Long-billed Corella plus a few Australian Magpies.

Galah

Bird call revealed we’d noted 39 species which made a satisfactory total. Into the cars just as the long-expected rain started driving across the car park and feeling very grateful to both Veevers for all their planning. 

Grey Fantail

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Beginners Outing to Newport Lakes and Jawbone Reserve

27 November 2021
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers
Species count: 56

Thirty-five members assembled at Newport Lakes, delighted to be able to meet again after many months being unable to do so, due to Covid restrictions. The weather conditions were fine but windy which caused some of the birds to seek shelter. The vegetation around the reserve was looking lush with many Eucalypts flowering profusely. Also, there was a lot of water in the lakes following the winter rains.

Two early sightings were of a Sacred Kingfisher and a female Rufous Whistler. Around the lakes dozens of Australian Reed-Warblers were very vocal, but extremely hard to see! There were few ducks or other waterbirds on the lakes and ponds. One Hardhead and a single Little Black Cormorant with a few Grebes, both Australasian and Hoary-headed. 

In the sheltered area of the Amphitheatre, birds were easier to find. An immature Golden Whistler and a Willie Wagtail on a nest were of special interest. Then, suddenly, “bird of the morning” was spotted by a new member – a Nankeen Night-Heron perched low under foliage just above the creek. 

A bird call at lunchtime recorded 33 species for Newport Lakes.

Members then drove down Maddox Road to the shore where there were fewer birds than expected. A single Pied Oystercatcher was on the breakwater along with a few Cormorants and Silver Gulls. Several Black Swans were on the bay. No small waders could be seen along the shoreline. A highlight was the sighting of an immature Black-shouldered Kite, perched behind a bush, sheltering from the wind. Walking beside the creek a Black-winged Stilt with an injured leg was busy feeding in the shallows. 

Members followed the track through Jawbones Reserve where there were fewer ducks than on previous visits. However, there were several Great Crested Grebes, some Blue-billed Ducks, and more Little Black, Little Pied and Pied Cormorants. Little Grassbirds were calling from the reeds along with many more Australian Reed Warblers. 

Dusky Moorhens and Purple Swamphens with tiny chicks also attracted some interest. On the return walk to the cars an Australian Hobby flew overhead, and a small group of Superb Fairy-wrens foraged beside the track. 

A few Common Greenfinches were seen feeding in their regular place and a Singing Honeyeater seemed to pose for a photo just before we finished. Three Australian Pelicans flying overhead were a fitting finale to a most enjoyable excursion.

42 species were recorded for the Jawbones Reserve, with the total for the day being 56.

View bird list for the day:

Weekdays outing to Banyule Flats Reserve

9 November 2021
Photographs by Danika Sanderson
The group assembling

A group of 22 assembled in calm, mild sunshine – a perfect day for birding. Our leader was Lyn Easton, bravely on crutches after hip surgery not improved by the pandemic lockdowns. This reserve is ‘her backyard’ and she has been watching the wildlife there for at least 20 years. This was our first weekdays outing since the last lockdown had finally ended and our expectation was palpable. Screeches of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos over the car park were everyday but the advice of ‘Tawny Frogmouth’ was an ‘eyes up’ directive. Soon everyone had found the adult in the tree fork. With a well grown youngster peering from beneath the parent and definitely looking like Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. Cute.

Tawny Frogmouth adult with nestling (spot the baby!)

The recent rains had filled the river and overflowed into the billabongs. Billabongs with water! Most of us couldn’t remember when we had last seen this, must have been at least 20 years. Against the delight of returned frog calls there was the counter of no muddy banks around the lake. So few or no waders e. g. plovers. However, there are reports of snipe at the grotty pond though today we concentrated on the river.

Sacred Kingfisher (male and female)

The recent windstorm had felled trees and a large eucalypt had come down along the path. All was not lost as movement caught our eyes and resolved into at least two Spotted Pardalotes investigating the muddy root ball. Nesting sites, anyone? They were concentrating on the roots and allowed us to stand quietly and delight in the tiny birds so close and well lit.

Spotted Pardalote
Spotted Pardalote

Much further along the walk we noted a Brown Thornbill carrying nesting material into a dense bush. The recent rains may have inspired a good breeding season. Standing quietly on the river bank we watched the water surface and were rewarded with short sightings of a Platypus swimming and diving. It was probably a female foraging during the day to avoid the unwanted attentions of males.

Red-rumped Parrots (male and female)

In addition to birds there were frogs calling, rabbits and their traces seen (bother) and a Long-necked Tortoise sunning. It was a great outing and deservedly described as “one out of the box”.

Red-rumped Parrot (female) ousting two Sacred Kingfishers from perch

Lyn received our heartfelt thanks and good wishes. Oh, by the way, we recorded 54 bird species.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekday outing to Wilson Botanic Park, Berwick

14 July 2021

The location was a first for the Melbourne Branch on Weekday Outing.

The forecast wasn’t promising, cold and cloudy, with showers in the afternoon. It was cold, 13°C, but fortunately, no rain and the wind was only noticed on the afternoon walk along the ‘ridge’ track.

The park area was originally a stone quarry, when it reached its end-by-date, the owner Mr Wilson, donated the land with a considerable sum of money to the City of Casey to establish a botanic park. Extensive landscaping has taken place since the 1990s by the City of Casey with two large lakes filling in the original quarry and planting is still continuing and in some places, rare Australian plants and trees eg: Woolamai Pine, making a Botanical Park.

BirdLife and BOCA have provided volunteers to conduct surveys twice a year, Autumn and Spring. Since 1991, with 87 bird species recorded, including the following highlights: Satin Bowerbird, Striated Fieldwren, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Australasian Bittern, Common Koel, White-browed Woodswallow and Channel-billed Cuckoo.

On today’s outing we managed 30 bird species, a highlight being two Tawny Frogmouth, not previously recorded on a survey day taking the total to 88 species for the park. Cold conditions today reduced bird activity but a Spotted Gum in full flower was a favourite for Rainbow Lorikeets and Little and Red Wattlebirds. Further, in the sheltered northern area of the park a flock of Silvereyes were avoiding a sparring match between several Eastern Spinebills and a couple of New-Holland Honeyeaters. A couple Common Bronzewing were feeding under the trees.

Hoping for better weather the next time the Branch visits the park.

If you wish to visit the park, during the week is a good option as it is a very busy spot on the weekends since a Coffee Cafe was installed recently a short walk from the visitors Centre overlooking the Anniversary Lake.

Graeme Hosken, Leader for the day.

Beginners Outing to Woodlands Historic Park

26 June 2021

Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers

Species Count: 40

Fortunately, the Covid restrictions were relaxed just in time for the Beginners outing to Woodlands Historic Park. The Park is famous for many reasons, including ancient trees, Eastern Grey Kangaroos and, our main interest, red Robins. 

Eastern Grey Kangaroos. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Thirty-five members started the morning walk, following the creek that winds between the old and much-admired River Red Gums. Red-rumped Parrots, Crimson Rosellas and Rainbow Lorikeets were amongst those taking advantage of the numerous nesting hollows the ancient trees provided. 

Superb Fairy-wrens were seen in good numbers foraging at the side of the track while both Striated and Spotted Pardalotes, together with Weebills, were much higher up in the trees. Near the homestead a Brown Falcon, which was the only raptor recorded for the morning, was spotted flying overhead.

After lunch most of the group drove down Providence Road to the Cemetery carpark on a quest for Robins. This section of Woodlands is known to be an ideal area for seeing them, for those with patience, persistence, and a good deal of luck. To everyone’s delight some were sighted in the area between the road and the dam. First, both male and female Scarlet Robins were spotted low down amongst thickets of young trees. Whilst observing them, a pair of Flame Robins appeared in the same area.

The group stayed there for some time enjoying watching and photographing them. A Grey Shrike-thrush, a Grey Fantail and a Little Eagle were seen nearby. 

Everyone then continued towards the gate to the fenced Back Paddock which was due to be open for the first time in many months. Just outside the gate a male Red-capped Robin was perched in a young tree, as if awaiting our arrival, with his brilliant red plumage shining in the sun.  A walk, longer than planned, was undertaken inside the fence, hoping for more sightings.  Sadly, very few birds were seen, though some in the middle of the group saw a male Rufous Whistler and a Yellow Thornbill.

Back at the carpark some of the group stayed on for a while longer and were well rewarded when a flock of 30+ Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos flew low overhead, shortly followed by the brief appearance of a male Rose Robin!  This was a fantastic conclusion to a wonderful day with 4 different red Robin species recorded out of a grand total of 40 for the outing!

Thanks to Eleanor Dilley and Steve Hoptroff for contributing their splendid photographs.

Beginners Outing to Lillydale Lake and Spadonis Reserve

22 May 2021
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers
Species count: 52 for the day
Australasian Darter (female). Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Forty-four members gathered by the lake enjoying warm sunshine and little wind. A female Australasian Darter was perched drying her wings on a platform close to the boardwalk and appeared unfazed by our large group of admirers. Several other Darters were seen, including males, along with Little Black, Little Pied, and Great Cormorants, either swimming or resting on the islands.

Australasian Darter (male). Photo by Alan Veevers

A mixed flock of Purple Swamphens, Eurasian Coots and Dusky Moorhens stood on the grassy embankment close to the path giving everyone excellent views. Unfortunately, a large area of the wetland was fenced off with major works being undertaken which involved removing most of the vegetation and scraping out the ponds.

Purple Swamphen. Photo by Eleanor Dilley.

A few brave Chestnut Teal were looking most uncomfortable curled up on the newly placed rocks.

Chestnut Teal. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The members proceeded towards the Hull Road Wetlands and paused to see a female Golden Whistler and, later, a Grey Butcherbird.  A large flock of loft pigeons circling overhead caused some interest, but these were soon spooked by the arrival of a threatening Brown Goshawk. There were disappointingly few birds on these wetlands, with a pair of Coots being the only species seen on the water. Walking back down the road a pair of Australian King-Parrots provided a welcome highlight. 44 species were recorded for the morning.

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

After lunch most of the members drove to Spadonis Reserve for a second walk. A wombat grazing in a nearby paddock was an unusual sighting, but sadly it could be seen that it was suffering from mange. Walking along the track by the Yarra River, Bell Miners could be heard but dense vegetation prevented them from being seen. Not so a flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos that were feeding in wattle trees on the riverbank. Initially it was thought there were only a few birds, but as they flew away more than 20 were counted.

Golden Whistler (male). Photo by Eleanor Dilley

A male Golden Whistler was much admired as the sunshine brought out the brilliant colour of his breast. At the end of the track beside a farmer’s field a mob of kangaroos stood watching the members as a pair of Australian Pelicans flew overhead. Several other birds were also seen in this area including New Holland Honeyeaters, Grey Shrike Thrush and Red-browed Finch. 26 species were recorded for Spadonis Reserve. The total number of different species for the day was 52. Some good sightings, combined with a new afternoon location and perfect weather conditions, all contributed to a most enjoyable day.

Many thanks to Eleanor Dilley for providing her photographs.

Weekdays outing to Bolin Bolin

12 May 2021
Photographs by Steve Hoptroff
Red Wattlebird

The early weather predictions sounded unfavourable but as the date approached the rain was to fall on either side of the 12thand this certainly encouraged birdwatchers to turn out, be they new to the challenges or long-experienced. Twenty-four gathered in the car park between the archery field and the aero club where other enthusiasts followed their choice. Elsmaree Baxter led our group and commented how the day was less flooded than she had once experienced it, though a small dog of the archery group had to be lifted out of a too-deep wet ditch. Not many birds on the open grounds – the ‘usual suspects’, Australian Magpies, several Magpie-larks and a couple of Crested Pigeons used the grassed areas with visits from Galahs and a solitary Masked Lapwing.

Rainbow Lorikeet
Little Raven

Little Ravens perched on a near tree while Rainbow Lorikeets flew over. We headed into the bush area where the party became a long skein of watchful birdos. Common Bronzewings were a welcome sight and the piercing calls of Grey Currawongs were new for several people and were compared with the Pied calls.

Common Bronzewing (f)
Grey Currawong

A few Noisy Miners were detected near the edge of the bush and the tinkling calls of Bell Miners sounded round the water’s edges. Tiny calls from tiny birds marked the location of small groups of Silvereyes and Grey Fantails foraging acrobatically high in the foliage. Waterbirds were mostly noted as fly-overs – a Silver Gull, a female Australasian Darter, Australian White and Straw-necked Ibises – while a small pond yielded our only Pacific Black Duck and White-faced Heron.

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Grey Fantail

No raptors were seen though the bill of a Grey Butcherbird looked formidable. By walk’s end we had a bird list for the group totaling 49 species and we thanked Elsmaree for all her preparation which had given such a satisfactory result for a site so close to the city .

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Beginners Outing to Serendip Sanctuary

24 April 2021
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers
Species Count: 40
Photographer: Eleanor Dilley
Golden Whistler (m)

Serendip Sanctuary was a new venue for Birdlife Beginners and the 38 members who attended were anticipating seeing a range of wetland and waterbirds. Sadly, the whole area was very dry and there was no water at all in Lake Serendip and the North Arm. Despite this there were many interesting sightings throughout the day. On leaving the carpark area (which was dominated by New Holland Honeyeaters) other species were soon located. A few lucky members caught sight of a male Rose Robin and shortly afterwards a family of Golden Whistlers was seen.

Rose Robin (m).
This photo was taken in exactly the same place at Serendip in April 2019 by Alan Veevers. It is included to show those beginners who missed the current one exactly what the lucky ones saw.

A Restless Flycatcher perched in a tree was a “lifer” for many of the group.

Restless Flycatcher (m)

On entering the first of the open animal enclosures a raucous group of White-winged Choughs were busy foraging and several Red-rumped Parrots were seen – some feeding on the ground, others flying and one pair investigating a nest hollow.

Red-rumped Parrot (m)

Purple-crowned Lorikeets had been reported in the area and a couple of members were fortunate enough to see a pair fly from a nearby tree. A pair of Whistling Kites flew low overhead enabling a good view of their underwing pattern. A couple of Cape Barren Geese were feeding in this area along with several Magpie Geese and when all of them flew off over the fence it was agreed that they could be added to the tick list!

Cape Barren Goose

After walking past several dry ponds, the members entered an enclosed aviary which provided close up views of several less-common species such as Bush Stone Curlews and Buff-banded Rails. It was amusing to watch a flock of Red-browed Finch flying in and out through the netting to avail themselves of the food and water supply. 

Magpie Geese

One small pond had bore water being piped into it to enable children to do pond-dipping. As the members approached, a Black-fronted Dotterel flew away but a Little Pied Cormorant remained along with Dusky Moorhens, an Australasian Grebe, a Eurasian Coot and a few Teal and Pacific Black Ducks. Whilst walking back to the carpark a huge flock of Magpie Geese could be seen in the distance and two pairs of captive Australian Bustards were admired.

Australian Bustard (captive)

Bird call after lunch recorded 40 wild species and members agreed that it had been a very productive visit. 

Wedge-tailed Eagle (You Yangs Regional Park)Birds

It was decided to move the short distance to the You Yangs Regional Park for a second, brief, walk in the afternoon. This was regarded as an “off the record” addition for those interested. The highlight there was the sighting of a Wedge-tailed Eagle flying overhead and 4 additional species were seen: Silvereye, Rainbow Lorikeet and both Yellow-faced and White-naped Honeyeaters. 

Once again, many thanks to Eleanor Dilley for providing her photographs. 

View bird list for the day:

Weekday outing to Troups Creek Wetlands

21 April 2021
Photographer: Steve Hoptroff, Member
Golden-headed Cisticola

Heavy rain overnight did not deter 10 birders from meeting in the layby beside the busy Hallam South Road. John Bosworth was our leader and knows the area well, having participated in the regular surveys for Melbourne Water for many years (covid excepted). The start of the walk involved making our way past assorted works areas before continuing into the grassland. Birding initially was limited, a fat Little Pied Cormorant perched on a well-used wooden pole at a pond’s edge, there were the introduced Common Mynas and Starlings, a skein of Australian White Ibis overhead and there was the occasional flight of pairs of Rainbow Lorikeets.

The area is manmade and designed as a flood control zone by Melbourne Water so it is interesting to watch how the avifauna react. We had added Purple Swamphen and Common Greenfinch when we encountered Golden-headed Cisticolas calling and flitting among the reeds, to the delight of those in the group who hadn’t seen them before or those who hadn’t seen them since before the pandemic started.

Golden-headed Cisticola

A Little Grassbird was heard calling and overflights included a Royal Spoonbill and a few Straw-necked Ibis. Bush birds included Superb Fairy-wrens and a couple of Flame Robins, both a male (almost fluorescent) and female (healthily plump).

Flame Robin (m)
Flame Robin (f)
Flame Robin (f)

Honeyeaters were limited to New Holland and White-plumed.

(A very cute) White-plumed Honeyeater

But, as suited a flood-control wetland, waterbirds were varied and our list soon included a White-necked Heron, standing near a White-Faced Heron and allowing easy comparison of their respective sizes.

White-necked Heron

A female Australasian Darter stood close to the bank and allowed excellent views while a solitary Great Egret foraged among the reeds and Cattle Egrets used a small mob of sheep to stir up insects in an adjacent paddock. A couple of Black Swan paddled near, a lone Little Black Cormorant flew past and the ducks were those dependable Pacific Black and Australian Woods.

Australasian Darter (f)
Great Egret

Red-browed Finches in flocks of 30 flew across the track and a Willie Wagtail had been seen by most as we headed back to the cars and a lunch break.

Red-browed Finch
Red-browed Finch

Lunch was at River Gum Creek, a short drive along Coral Drive, but several people were unavailable in the afternoon due to prior engagements so our walking group became 6 people for the short distance. At the start we were disappointed to see a small group “feeding the birds”. This had attracted hundreds – Silver Gulls, Pacific Black Ducks, Eurasian Coots, Dusky Moorhens, Purple Swamphens and House Sparrows – and no wonder as when the people departed there were still huge piles of what appeared to be bakery output. Perhaps acquired unsold produce. It looked like rat heaven. We walked on and recorded the same species well away from that area.

Little Black Cormorant
Little Black Cormorant

Many of the species were, unsurprisingly, those we had already noted in the morning but it was good to observe another darter and to add birds of the land: Galah, Long-billed Corella and, convincingly glimpsed, a Scaly-breasted Lorikeet near a remnant mature gum known to hold nests in hollows in the past. At walks’ end we had listed 38 species at Troups and 30 at River Gum with a cumulative count of 45 species for the day. We were most appreciative of John’s preparation which reminded some of the pleasures of this area and introduced others who’d not visited before.

Diane Tweeddale, BirdLife Melbourne weekdays coordinator