10 February 2015
We watched the weather forecasts carefully and the latest maximum estimate of 32o promised to be comfortable under shade. It was, and a group of 18 met to the calls of many Bell Miners. David Plant led and his long association with the gardens gave us plenty of information about the changes over time. Bell Miners and Common Mynas dominate now but it was not always so and we regretted the disappearance of Superb Fairy-wrens and White-plumed Honeyeaters. No raptor species were seen today but recent sightings had been recorded.The gardeners maintain a lushly green park, kept that way by careful plant selection. For instance kikuyu is a native grass needing no water so lawns are green without irrigation. The return of Guilfoyle’s Volcano also saves water as it collects runoff and then purifies it for use on the gardens. The floating islands were fascinating as they slowly moved with the wind. The volcano itself is planted with colourful drought-resistant species.
The vandalised Separation Tree has died and is about to be cut back to a trunk to continue its use as a memorial to the modern state’s beginning.
Near it crowds of school children did not deter Silver Gulls, Eurasian Coots and Dusky Moorhens from the area around the kiosk. One member even noted a large dragon near the tea room.
The former House and Eurasian Tree Sparrow populations have, however, vanished. We saw no Nankeen Night-Herons this day. The punt rides were operating and gardeners were working on the edge of one lake so disturbance may have occurred. Ducks were Pacific Black, Australian Wood and Chestnut Teal while a Black Swan with white neck band L07 was part of the ongoing study of swan breeding patterns. The Bell Miners have probably reduced the population of small birds. We sighted one Eastern Spinebill and small groups of Silvereyes while White-browed Scrubwrens were occasionally visible in the low understorey.
Both Red and Little Wattlebirds were the only other honeyeaters. At least one Australian Reed-Warbler was sighted and water birds included the coots and moorhens plus a pair of Masked Lapwings seen by some.
This last species is most uncommon in the gardens, being only recorded about once a decade. Perhaps the lush garden beds and sloping lawns do not provide their preferred open surveillance areas. Only some of us heard a Laughing Kookaburra but a highlight for the day was good sightings for most people of an obliging Sacred Kingfisher. The final species count was 39 and we were all very grateful to David for sharing his expertise.
Drought tolerant plants. Photo by Diane Tweeddale
Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne Weekdays Outings