15 May 2017
“A misty, moisty morning in the merry month of May” did not really apply to a cold foggy start to the day but still 15 people met at the Troups Creek car park. John Bosworth led our group and the incessant traffic noise from the adjacent Hallam Road faded slightly as we walked out. Recently the grass had been mowed – so considerate – and we greatly appreciated the shorter grass which meant minimum water on trouser legs.
Both areas, Troups Creek and River Gums, are part of the flood mitigation planning by Melbourne Water and BirdLife Melbourne has succeeded BOCA in performing the monthly surveys of the birds living in and around the plantings and ponds. The nearer ponds were not crowded with birds but a few Purple Swamphens and Eurasian Coots foraged around the edges and Welcome Swallows and Rainbow Lorikeets flew over. A Spotted Pardalote was heard from the garden trees to the south. Heading north initially we heard, then saw, Superb Fairy-wrens in the reed beds while Masked Lapwings were unexpectedly common – at least eight adults were sharing one grassy area. Further on a “conference” of about 20 Australian Magpies took place on the short grass where grubs were accessible but the birds dispersed as we approached.
There have been extensive plantings to generate patches of bush in the zone and a recent one of these hosted numerous European Goldfinches. Some of the ponds carried Hoary-headed Grebes but it was not till after lunch that we encountered Australasian Grebes at the River Gum wetlands. The morning, in contrast, had Red-browed Finches flitting between the bushes beside the ditch by the surfaced path. Both the ditch and its sides showed the flood levels of the rain about three weeks previously when the flood mitigation design of the basin had been tested and passed with flying colours. Ducks were Pacific Black, Chestnut and Grey Teal and Australian Wood Duck plus a few Black Swans, including a nesting pair. Other waterbirds included Australian White and Straw-necked Ibis, a Great Egret and both White-faced and White-necked Herons. Both male and female Australasian Darters were present at Troups and a pair of Black-winged Stilts at River Gum was interesting as we could compare the adult plumage with that of the immature.
The highlight for many started with the call of “Bittern!” It really was an Australasian Bittern which flushed and then flew around us in circles giving everyone excellent opportunities to study its markings under differing light conditions. It was a “lifer” for at least four people (including one who’d given up and consigned the species to the mythical category). Happily walking back to the cars, we then moved to River Gum Creek and lunch. Our numbers were reduced in the afternoon as several had other afternoon activities scheduled.
Raptors had not been common as the early fog would not have produced useful thermals but several species flew in the sunnier afternoon – Black-shouldered Kite and Nankeen Kestrel were seen by most and Peregrine Falcon and Brown Goshawk by a couple then the “Bird Call bird” appeared – indubitably an Australian Hobby pair – as we totalled up the day. Quite a finish for a day as we counted 54 species for the group. We thanked John enthusiastically for sharing his knowledge of the zone.
Diane Tweeddale coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings