Weekday outing to Plenty Gorge Park

23 March 2015

Grey skies and a strong wind did not prevent 23 determined birders from assembling. Hazel and Alan Veevers were our experienced leaders and we headed north from the Hawkestowe picnic area toward the Morang wetlands.

Flooded quarry. Photographer: Diane Tweeddale
Flooded quarry. Photographer: Diane Tweeddale

Eastern Grey Kangaroos watched us carefully but didn’t depart in panic. The car park in open ground was dominated by Galahs, Australian Magpies and Noisy Miners and the initial walk did not add many species. This changed when we arrived at the flooded quarry where water birds included Hardhead, Australasian Shoveler, Chestnut Teal, a lone Black Swan and both Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes. The usual suspects of Dusky Moorhen, Eurasian Coot and Masked Lapwing were present and a Black-fronted Dotterel was difficult to pick up at the distance.

Black-fronted Dotterel. Photographer: Marilyn Ellis
Black-fronted Dotterel. Photographer: Marilyn Ellis

The area had little water and the concentration of birds at the old quarry reflected that scarcity. Heading out we added Red-rumped Parrot to the Eastern and Crimson Rosellas and Rainbow Lorikeets on our list.

Rainbow Lorikeet. Photographer: Marilyn Ellis
Rainbow Lorikeet. Photographer: Marilyn Ellis

Sharp eyes spotted a Brown Falcon perched within the canopy of a eucalypt – definitely a contender for bird of the day. Introduced birds included Common Starlings and Common Mynas but we preferred the flock of European Goldfinches which perched near a colony of thistles.

Near them were a few New Holland Honeyeaters, one of several species of honeyeaters to join the list along with Noisy and Bell Miners and Red Wattlebirds. A shallow pond had numbers of Black-fronted Dotterels along the edge while a pair of Black-winged Stilts and a flight of Great Cormorants joined our list here.

Birdwatchers. Photograph: Marilyn Ellis
Birdwatchers. Photograph: Marilyn Ellis
Dried ponds. Photographer: Diane Tweeddale
Dried ponds. Photographer: Diane Tweeddale

Back to the cars for lunch then a short drive to the Le Page historic farmhouse. Water levels were low here but as well as Superb Fairy-wrens on the banks there were Australian Wood Ducks and a pair of Grey Teal. A walk along the recently reopened river bank track yielded bush birds with highlights Scarlet Robin, Golden Whistler and a pair of Satin Flycatchers. Definitely an area to be re-investigated.

Satin Flycatcher, female. Photographer: Marilyn Ellis
Satin Flycatcher, female. Photographer: Marilyn Ellis

By the day’s end there were 66 species on the bird list and we thanked Hazel and Alan for their preparation which had allowed several birders to tick one or more ‘lifers’.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne Weekdays Outings

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