2 October 2017
All photographs by Bevan Hood, BirdLife Melbourne member
A crowd of 23 assembled in the car park under grey skies. There may have been clouds but there was no wind, even hot air balloons were being safely launched. Lyn Easton led our walk and explained the white foam on the sports ground to the early arrivals. It was fertilizer which became absorbed over the next hour. Car park birds included Red Wattlebirds, Rainbow Lorikeets, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Australian Magpies but the best sightings here were the pair of Tawny Frogmouths on and near their nest.
By the morning’s end it was a bit “Another frogmouth! How many does that make?” Lyn knew her birds and we ticked nine frogmouth sightings with five active nests. Quite a haul, but the detection of this cryptic species remained challenging. The calls of Fan-tailed Cuckoo initially caused discussion but a solitary sighting helped the unsure watchers and from then on the many calls were readily identified. Horsefield’s and Shining Bronze-Cuckoos were less cooperative and did not show themselves despite much looking in the direction of the calls. Bush birds were listed first and Yellow and Brown Thornbills joined White-browed Scrubwren and Superb Fairy-wren. Red-browed Finches took longer for all to see but were worth the wait. Flocks of Silvereyes moved through the area, flying high and foraging actively. Moving along the river bank we were delighted to find an Azure Kingfisher perched just above the water. No Platypus was seen today but the river was running high and had been considerably higher.
Looking uphill we recorded a mob of Eastern Grey Kangaroos that was spooked by some cyclists allowing us to admire their speed and to count more than 20 in the mob. The only other non-avian sighting was a long-necked turtle but rabbit scratchings and wombat and fox scats were often seen beside the track. Higher up the hillside black cattle grazed, apparently indifferent to the Cattle Egrets foraging beside them. Past the golf course, over the bridges over the Plenty River and a lesser tributary we walked, under the powerlines (which yielded a Laughing Kookaburra but little else). Retracing our steps some encountered a pair of Australian King-Parrots as well as Eastern Rosellas.
A nesting White-faced Heron was difficult to see but that, after all, was the preferred situation if you’re incubating eggs or brooding nestlings. Raptors were few, a Brown Goshawk soared high against the late morning grey cloud but no other bird of prey was recorded. The cloud broke at lunch time and we finished the day in mild sunshine.
Down to the wetlands where the count rose again. Grey and Chestnut Teal and Hardhead joined Pacific Black and Australian Wood Duck. Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes dived as did Eurasian Coot. No swamphens were seen as they were probably brooding young but Australasian Darter and Little Pied Cormorant dried their wings after fishing. The dead trees in the water added Red-rumped Parrots in nesting hollows while Welcome Swallows dipped over the water surface.
The final parrot and cockatoo count was quite impressive – Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Little and Long-billed Corella, Australian King-Parrot, Eastern Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot and Musk and Rainbow Lorikeet were all seen. The day’s end saw people with tired feet and large smiles as they contemplated a total of 70 species for the day. We thanked Lyn most enthusiastically for sharing her “home patch” with us so successfully.
Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings