18 May 2016
The traffic was heavy, the weather was fine and 25 birders met at Braeside. Geoff Russell led a 5 km walk around the northern portion of the park and we were soon rewarded by encountering a ‘purple patch’ in the bush beside the paddocks buffering the industrial zone. At least 10 species were recorded here. The mixed feeding flock included White-browed Scrubwrens, Brown Thornbills, Red-browed Finches and Spotted Pardalotes. Superb Fairy-wrens and Grey Fantails were listed plus Grey Shrike-thrush while male and female Golden Whistlers came close. The paddock added Straw-necked Ibis, Masked Lapwing and Silver Gull with Rock Dove (or Feral Pigeon) while Australian Pelicans flew overhead. Quite a patch! Ditches were damp from recent rain and several frog species were calling. The inevitable rabbits were also present – one flushed near the ‘purple patch’. A few Cattle Egrets left the grazing cows while others stayed among the herd as the farmer’s ute approached.
By one of the wetlands four trilling birds rose and descended repeatedly, puzzling many until they were identified as Australian Pipits. Many of us had not previously heard their calls. The park is noted for its varied environments so we walked quietly through a reed bed searching for bitterns (a fortunate few up front briefly saw two Australasian Bitterns while the rest at the rear were content with Golden-headed Cisticolas). At one pond a Great Egret posed on the roof of a hide. The raptor list was started by a Swamp Harrier but expanded to eventually include Wedge-tailed and Little Eagle, Whistling Kite, Brown Goshawk and Brown Falcon. Most soared high or flew low and fast. Dead trees served as perches for many including Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Long-billed Corellas, Rainbow Lorikeets and Red-rumped Parrots. We hoped for robins near fences which are used as a lookout for these pouncing birds, and eventually we were rewarded with male and female Flame Robins. Soon we came to a larger lake and the number of waterbirds increased, though not the number of species. Eurasian Coots dominated one area with Pacific Black Ducks coming second. A few Chestnut and Grey Teal were present and a solo Hardhead was recorded by a few watchers.
On a smaller pond Dusky Moorhen completed the triumvirate of coot, moorhen and swamphen while an active Willie Wagtail entertained us as it swooped across the water surface. Some stragglers eventually caught up with the main group near the bird hide which had been disappointingly short of birds and then it was back to a well-deserved late lunch and an interim bird call for those who needed to leave early. We’d notched up 58 species by then and so we set off on the short afternoon walk hoping to pass 60 for the day. In this afternoon walk we added Common Bronzewing, Dusky Moorhen and Scarlet Robin with an interesting sighting of a Cockatiel. This was judged an aviary escapee as its plumage included considerable white feathers and, though it appeared to be foraging for seeds, it allowed humans to approach rather too closely for its own safety.
By day’s end we had 62 species (63 unofficially including the Cockatiel) and we thanked Geoff enthusiastically for his work in presenting this rewarding area.
Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings