Weekday outing to Tirhatuan Park

9 March 2022
Laughing Kookaburra. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The weather was fine with a good breeze while we assembled at the car park. After the now-obligatory complaints about the state of the traffic and the freeway roadworks we numbered 17 including a few on their first birding walk.

Grey Butcherbird, adult. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The car park started the list with the reliable Noisy Miners and Rainbow Lorikeets but an Australian Pelican gliding past was less usual and the Eastern Rosellas and Grey Butcherbirds were welcome additions.

Magpie-lark, female. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Initially we headed to the nearest pond where Australian Wood Duck outnumbered the Pacific Black Ducks.

Australian Grebe (female and male). Photo by Steve Hoptroff

The pair of Australasian Grebes appeared fleetingly between dives and a solo Little Black Cormorant dived repeatedly before perching to dry and presumably, digest.

Royal Spoonbill, slightly grubby. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Royal Spoonbill foraging. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Royal Spoonbill in flight. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Royal Spoonbills foraged at the next water’s edge and one had presumably “bitten off more than it could chew” as it repeatedly shook its head and showed a distended gullet. Eventually avian greed was rewarded and the distension and shaking stopped.

Royal Spoonbill sleeping. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

We were now in bush and waterbirds gave way to bird calls from the scrub and trees. Spotted Pardalotes called but sightings were few and most of us recorded very active Grey Fantails plus somewhat fewer Yellow-faced Honeyeaters.

Little Wattlebird. Photo by Steve Hoptroff

The highlight for many people was the discovery of a roost of Tawny Frogmouths – two adults and a youngster (somewhat harder to see) – quite low (2-3 m from the ground) in a tree.  

Tawny Frogmouth. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Tawny Frogmouth. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Tawny Frogmouth. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Tawny Frogmouth. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Tawny Frogmouth, well camouflaged. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Tawny Frogmouth. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

A large nest box was also observed. About a meter long, it may have been intended for Powerful Owls but perhaps was not ideally long enough compared with some hollows, natural or artificial. A small nondescript brown bird puzzled everyone till sharp eyes spotted a red bill. It was a juvenile Mistletoebird.

Mistletoebird. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Mistletoebird. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Mistletoebird. Photo by Steve Hoptroff

This was a new sighting for everyone. Another puzzle was slightly less difficult when the definite breast spots of an Olive-backed Oriole were seen. This bird was also a juvenile and lacked colour.

Olive-backed Oriole. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Olive-backed Oriole. Photo by Steve Hoptroff

Back to the car park for lunch where all public seating was already occupied, demonstrating how popular this park is, including on weekdays. Some people needed to leave at this stage and a quick bird call gave 42 species recorded in the morning’s walk.

Silvereye. Photo by Steve Hoptroff

Post-lunch the few remaining drove a few kilometers to Tirhatuan Wetland. This is only a very short distance as the bird flies from our morning area so the bird species were mostly the same and the 10 of us only added 3 more species to the cumulative total, Chestnut Teal, Laughing Kookaburra and Australian Reed-Warbler.

White-faced Heron. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

However, we also saw 2 Tawny Frogmouth roosts and a couple of us were delighted to be accepted enough for a duck (Australian Wood Duck) to lead her ducklings to water within a meter of our feet.

Australian Wood Ducks, female. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Plus, the non-avian interest was provided by a paper wasp nest where the new adults seemed to be emerging from their cells. We recorded 20 species in this area and the cumulative total was 44. John received our enthusiastic thanks for his preparation which gave such good results for a small suburban area.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekday outings

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