Weekdays outing to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

12 February 2019
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Ornamental Lake. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

Skies were grey as we assembled but the weather started mild with a slight breeze. There were 14 of us with Diane Tweeddale leading in place of David Plant who was unable to attend on the day. Fine rain started to fall and the shelter of trees was welcome, especially when we could observe birds as we stood there.

A Willie Wagtail foraged and then was upstaged by an enthusiastic Little Wattlebird which gave close, excellent views as it probed flowers. The north corner of the Ornamental Lake added Pacific Black Duck and Eurasian Coot to our started list while Bell Miners called loudly and White-browed Scrubwrens chattered from the understory. Walking over to Long Island we noted the floating islands designed to remove pollutants which wash in from the storm water drains of the adjacent streets. Then we were up close and (almost) personal with an adult Bell Miner feeding a fluffy youngster. What a pity the intervening foliage prevented photography, particularly in the low light conditions. However there were fleeting very close views of Bell Miners giving several people their first actual sightings of these well-camouflaged honeyeaters. So close indeed that their calls were so loud as to be almost painful.

Waterbirds recorded were Pacific Black and Australian Wood Ducks, Chestnut and Grey Teal, Black Swan, the usual trio of Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen and Eurasian Coot with Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants and a flock of young Silver Gulls finishing the list. Eastern Spinebills were heard mostly but seen by some and a small flock of Silvereyes was viewed foraging among the fruit of a Kangaroo Apple near the corpse of the vandalised Separation Tree.

By now the rain, wind and cold were telling even with our cold weather gear in use and we retreated to the café in search of hot drinks. The gardens were not crowded with visitors today and drinks were quickly acquired, to be drunk while assessing the weather beyond the windows. It was not hopeful so the decision was made to do bird call and then people could head home or on to some other sheltered and rewarding occupation. The bird list totalled 25 species, not great by historical standards but very acceptable by today’s RBG birding. Next time the weather may allow longer walks, especially to Guilfoyle’s Volcano and through the Australian forest plantings.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

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