This month, four activities have been delivered, by four different people.
On Thursday 9 March, Janet Hand gave a Powerpoint presentation to the senior members of St Paul’s Lutheran Church in Box Hill. She spoke about how the bird species have changed in Box Hill since Tess Kloot’s book on the “Birds of Box Hill” was researched from 1988 to 1991. Crested Pigeons were not recorded in those surveys. This presentation followed a luncheon for the 25 people present.
Graeme Hosken spoke to 14 members of St Mark’s Uniting Church in Mount Waverley on Wednesday 15March. His presentation was titled “Catching up with the illegals” – the story of our migrating birds.
On Friday 17 March, Pat Bingham began her monthly bird walks with members of the Hawthorn U3A. That day they met at the Sinclair Avenue Wetlands adjacent to the U3As HQ in Glen Iris. They had 18 participants and recorded 17 species – best of these were a Nankeen Night-heron and about 30 Little Corellas.
Gay Gallagher addressed the Ivanhoe Garden Club in Ivanhoe on Tuesday 28 March. Her topic was “Birds of Metropolitan Melbourne”. Approximately 50 people were in attendance and they were very interested and asked lots of questions.
The morning was perfect for birding, calm, clear and mild, as our 19 assembled. Our number included Jennifer, a birder over from the USA for a month.
Hazel Veevers led the group once we could discipline ourselves to leave the car park where, as usual, the birding was rewarding and effortless. There were Red Wattlebirds, Crested Pigeons, Superb Fairy-wrens, Musk Lorikeets, New Holland Honeyeaters and House Sparrows in numbers with Rainbow Lorikeets, Little Ravens and Magpie-larks somewhat fewer.
The main lake had both Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes in considerable numbers. Welcome Swallows soared above the canopy and over the water.
Walking further we noted the amphitheatre was very popular with Superb Fairy-wrens and honeyeaters foraging in and under the trees. The only raptor of the day was recorded here – two Brown Goshawks interacted very briefly before disappearing behind the trees. Eurasian Coots and Purple Swamphens were present on all lakes but Dusky Moorhens were only present later at Jawbone. Spotted Pardalotes called and finally one allowed us to glimpse him among the foliage, delighting all and especially those who hadn’t seen one before. Flowering trees each attracted several species of bird and therefore also attracted the attention of birdwatchers.
Back for lunch which was interrupted with a quiet call of “Robin”. The “sparrow” on the path was actually a female Flame Robin which stayed around long enough for all to achieve good views. The lakes reserve had a bird count of 34 species.
We drove down to Jawbone where the bird count mounted quickly. Waterbirds were numerous though a scope was an asset when identifying those on the distant sand bar. A highlight here was an Arctic Jaeger unsuccessfully attacking a Silver Gull and being harassed in its turn.
Black Swans and Silver Gulls were numerous but there were other species in smaller numbers – Pied, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants, Royal Spoonbills, Australian Pied Oystercatchers, Australian White Ibis, White-faced Heron, Crested Terns, the list continued with both Grey and Chestnut Teal, Common Greenshanks and a small flock of Red-kneed Dotterels quite close to the hide.
We counted nine duck species as well as the ubiquitous grebes and numbers of swans on the pond near the houses. It was good to record Pink-eared, Bluebill, Australasian Shoveler and Musk Duck as well as the more familiar species.
A Great Egret by the far bank was clearly having success with its fishing and a small flotilla of grebes moved closer to it, possibly to join the hunt.
Time to call it a day and count the Jawbone species. Here we recorded 56 species and calculated the day’s total as 64 species. It had been a good day’s birding with good views of many species and we thanked Hazel for introducing some and reintroducing others to this area.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species Count: 50
All photographs by Alan Veevers
Many regulars were unable to come to the outing, thus reducing the attendance to 22 including five first-timers. These, however, were to enjoy an exceptionally good day! After viewing the resident Australasian Darters from the lakeside track, the group began the walk alongside the stream that delivers water to the lake from the upstream wetlands.
To everyone’s delight a pair of Azure Kingfishers was seen perched on a horizontal log, their brilliant iridescent colours shining in the low sun. The pair was observed for several minutes, slowly making their way along the channel, pausing now and then to preen or forage. This was a very hard act to follow! There were few waterbirds on the wetlands, mainly Dusky Moorhens and Eurasian Coots. Two Little Pied Cormorants perched high on a dead tree.
Heading further upstream towards the Hull Road Wetlands, Eastern and Crimson Rosellas together with Rainbow Lorikeets were high in the trees whilst Superb Fairy-wrens and Grey Fantails were lower down in the bushes.
Again there were few birds on the wetlands, but a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles flew overhead in a clear blue sky and an Eastern Yellow Robin and New Holland Honeyeaters were seen in the bush. On the return track to the carpark, a pair of Tawny Frogmouths was spotted, very well camouflaged in the high branches of a tree.
Eventually all the beginners managed to see them and some were awestruck by the apparent impossibility of ever finding any for themselves.
Lunch was taken back near the main lake and members were again entertained by the reappearance of the pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles. A short afternoon walk was taken in the region of the wetlands and unbelievably the two Azure Kingfishers were still in the same section of the little creek! Everyone was able to enjoy further views of them at very close quarters. From beside the wetlands there were better views of the Australian Darters that seemed unperturbed by the young Scouts who were paddling canoes near to their roosts. Others floated gracefully above, clearly showing their gliding profile.
Welcome Swallows perched on the lookout rails, Silvereyes flitted through the shrubs and a White-faced Heron stalked prey at the edge of the water.
A grand total of 50 species was recorded for the day, but the abiding memory for most members will be of a pair of beautiful shining blue birds fearlessly displaying at close quarters.
The day was very warm with clear skies and a light breeze when 20 of us gathered in the car park. Elsmaree Baxter led our group and, as frequently happens, the car park birding was extremely rewarding. Here we recorded quite a list including Little Raven, Red Wattlebird, Galah, Noisy Miner, Australian Magpie, Rainbow Lorikeet and Long-billed Corella as the more frequent birds, though early arrivals added at least a further six species. The highlight sighting was a Collared Sparrowhawk persistently quartering the trees hoping to flush small prey. Little wonder that some time elapsed before we left the area.
We headed initially to the nearer ford where the only waterbirds were Dusky Moorhen and Pacific Black Duck but wattlebirds and the occasional White-plumed Honeyeater were dipping to drink from the surface. The ducks amused by using the concrete fish ladder as a swim course or maze.
Piles of flow debris indicated the past river height after recent rain. At another ford there were slightly skittish Red-browed Finches and an unexpectedly late, silent, Australian Reed-Warbler.
Superb Fairy-wrens called mostly from shelter and Spotted Pardalotes were also vocal while Willie Wagtails chattered, warbled and generally took little notice of the large, slow insect stirrers, aka humans. White-browed Scrubwrens could be heard occasionally and some watchers eventually “nailed” sightings, Grey Fantails were considerably more obliging and Brown Thornbills were present in forested areas. Heading out of a treed section on our way back to lunch we were awed and delighted to view a Wedge-tailed Eagle being harassed by a much smaller Brown Goshawk.
These were our second raptors for the day and with the earlier sparrowhawk made great memories. We decided that the most successful breeding season award went to the Red Wattlebirds, with Silvereyes coming in second.
Some House Sparrows in small groups or singly were seen, though this species has declined or disappeared from former locations. After lunch we kept an eye out for a Tawny Frogmouth but a single sighting was not to be – first one, comparatively easy to see, then a second, pretending to be a dozing possum and initially looking furry, not feathery, then the most challenging of all. The third was truly bark-like and extremely well camouflaged and had eluded even experienced “froggie finders”. Well done to Pearl for penetrating its disguise.
The day was now quite warm and bird activity had understandably almost stopped so we decided to wrap up the day. The bird list for the group totalled 44 species and we thanked Elsmaree for all her careful planning which had produced such a satisfactory day. It was the first time we had returned to Brimbank in five years and memories of earlier walks had dimmed. What a way to refresh them.
The final 2016 Education Activity was on 21 December when Janet Hand addressed the ladies and gentlemen of The Probus Club of Donview Heights in Doncaster East. She spoke about the birds that are seen locally and particularly in the nearby Ruffey Lake Park. Forty-five people attended this meeting and many were surprised by how many species can be found locally.
2017 has started with us receiving many bookings, spread right through until the end of October.
On Wednesday 22 February, Janet visited the residents of Rylands of Hawthorn. 21 people attended this morning presentation on ‘Discovering birdlife in the backyards of Melbourne.’ After viewing the PowerPoint they were interested in seeing eight skins from our BirdLife Skins Collection. These included the tiny Spotted Pardalote and the large Tawny Frogmouth.
‘The associations between birds and plants’ was presented to the Field Naturalists of Victoria Day Group at Blackburn on Tuesday 28 February. Twenty-eight people attended this morning, some of whom were visitors to the meeting. Janet also did this presentation and noted how many people were surprised by the different types of foods that are needed to cater for our wide range of birds.
Note from Janet Hand
The Education Speakers Group has eight people who are happy to address Community groups within our area. Unfortunately all these people live in the Eastern or South-eastern suburbs. Is there anyone interesting in joining our group from other areas of Melbourne? As most of this group are retired or semi-retired we know there will be periods when several people are unavailable because of their holidays and travels. This is why I need a larger group than may be needed at any one time.
Although I am doing the first three bookings this year you will notice new names appearing in our Education Activities Calendar (on our website soon) and my monthly Blogs as the load is shared around.
We are always looking for bookings so we can share the joy of bird watching. We do ask the organisations for a donation to speak to their groups and use this as a fundraiser (or as a speaker’s expense venue if they request it).
Janet Hand BirdLife Melbourne Education Coordinator 9842 4177
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 50
Musk Lorikeets and Noisy Miners were plentiful near the car park as 38 members arrived in perfect weather conditions at Yan Yean Reservoir. From the top of the dam wall a scope was useful in identifying a pair of Australasian Darters perched on a log, in typical wing-drying pose, on a distant shore. Hardheads and Eurasian Coots were numerous, but were also on the opposite side of the reservoir!
The group then drove in convoy to the car park adjacent to the main wetland area. Bird life was plentiful, with Little Grassbirds watched for several minutes whilst an adult fed its chick in the shadows at the water’s edge. Superb Fairy-wrens and White-browed Scrubwrens were also foraging in the dense undergrowth. On entering the fenced area across the road, Eastern Rosellas and Red-rumped Parrots were perched in trees, and on the first pond there were several immature Australasian Grebes, still showing some baby streaks in their heads.
On the second pond were several Black-winged Stilts, both adult and juvenile. On the third pond the highlight was a Common Sandpiper seen feeding at the water’s edge and bobbing its tail in its typical manner.
Leaving the fenced area and crossing back over the road, a pair of Australasian Shovelers and several other species were observed. Suddenly, a flock of Nankeen Night-Herons, mainly juveniles, flew up from a hidden roost and circled, for some time, high above us.
Lunch was eaten up near the old keeper’s cottage where members enjoyed the beautiful view across the reservoir to the distant hills. A very old Canary Island Pine was the roost for another flock of Nankeen Night-Herons, mostly adults, and these were closely observed by members.
Walking down the hill to the boundary fence revealed two Great Crested Grebes and a male Musk Duck, repeatedly diving and staying submerged for several minutes, which provided a challenge for beginners to try to find them again.
A final short walk was taken at the opposite end of the park, but no additional species were seen. The day’s total remained at 50, recorded at the previous locations. It was a very successful day, with some unusual sightings in a most attractive setting, in ideal weather conditions.
A huge success this month with the Birdlife Melbourne Shorebird study and field trip taken by John Barkla. We headed to the Western Treatment Plant (WTP) on Saturday 11 February after an extensive and comprehensive beginner talk given by John on Thursday night in front of 50 odd participants.
At the WTP we had 49 attendees. Luckily we had the help of Dez Hughes, the ‘Wader Whisperer’. Together John and Dez ran a very successful field trip with most of the common/uncommon waders present on the day and with a few rare waders too.
We started at 9 am where we headed to the T-section ponds and we found two Black-tailed Godwits, two Double-banded Plovers, 10+ Common Greenshanks and a few Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints. From here we went and checked out the Western lagoons where we found Marsh Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpiper and some Red-kneed Dotterel.
Our next stop was the Beach Road Rocks, here we stayed for the remainder of the day, with great views of the Red-necked Phalarope, Red Knot, one Terek Sandpiper that showed really well where we could get some nice shots, one Broad-billed Sandpiper that was tough to get on to, but most people were able too see it. Also, we had Common, Whiskered, White-winged, Crested, Little and Fairy Terns on the rocks.
A 17 car convoy cruised around the plant which was the largest I have seen, but was excellently controlled by John, and a huge thanks must go to John, Allison and Dez for putting in a huge effort today and finding all these birds for nearly everyone that attended. It’s tough and hard enough to point out to the person standing next you where to look for a specific bird but with almost 50 people all vying for prime position, this becomes increasingly hard and they did an extremely great job!
Since I have been involved with Birdlife Mlebourne this has been the most rewarding, productive and exciting outing I have attended; watching everyone learn new things, watching people’s excitement at seeing a rare wader and the sheer delight of gratitude that was showed to John at the end was very welcoming!
There were 19 of us when the final arrivals appeared. Our numbers included a few visitors including a lady in her 99th year who inspired us all with her fortitude. The day was cool, cloudy and slightly damp after overnight rain so birds were visible though making out their markings was often challenging. David Plant led the group and shared his knowledge of the gardens’ history and function as well as their birds. Unfortunately the Bell Miners which had been confined to one small area have expanded so much that there are only a few places where they are not detected. It’s challenging to detect and see your first miner but they do pall quite quickly afterwards, especially when you realise how they have displaced so many other species. At least we detected no Noisy Miners this day but they are reportedly increasing in numbers just outside the gardens.
Shortly after we started walking we came across a very tall flowering yucca beside the Temple of the Winds. It was certainly popular with the birds and we recorded Rainbow Lorikeets and Little and Red Wattlebirds all using it simultaneously. Government House grounds yielded our first Laughing Kookaburra which promptly flew over the fence and joined us in the main gardens. We didn’t spend much time by the main lake as an extensive azolla bloom was being reduced by a powered weeding vessel and the consequent noise was driving away almost all birds.
Near a quieter lake area we encountered a Pacific Black Duck with eight tiny ducklings and watched interestedly as she led them a considerable distance to a further lake. One little fellow (we decided it was a difficult male) consistently lagged behind the brood and was last seen running determinedly to catch up before entering the target lake.
An Eastern Koel had been recently recorded in the gardens and its call had been heard that morning so we kept listening but unfortunately could not detect it unequivocally. The only parrots listed were the lorikeet, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and an immature Crimson Rosella and David pointed out the plantings of kangaroo grass which hopefully will attract Red-rumped Parrots into the gardens. No owls were seen but the finding of a Tawny Frogmouth feather indicated its recent presence.
Small birds are reducing in numbers as miners and Common Mynas increase – there are no further sightings of Superb Fairy-wrens and the numbers of Brown Thornbills seem down.
Silvereyes, on the other hand, were seen today in some areas and there were several Willie Wagtails plus a few Eastern Spinebills, the only other honeyeater seen today. At lunch break it was interesting to observe a Little Wattlebird feeding from the leftovers on the terrace. That’s an additional species utilising that area. At lunch we encountered the only non-avian sighting of the day, an Eastern Water Dragon which was quietly shedding its skin and warming on the dark asphalt path.
David chatted with his friend, one of the polers of the lake punts, who reported that, it being St. Valentine’s Day, he had overheard two proposals in his punt that morning.
The gardens are important for many activities. During the afternoon walk there was considerable noise coming from the canopy of a tall tree and we made out a small flock of Bell Miners angrily mobbing a Pied Currawong. By walk’s end, with 32 species recorded on our first outing of 2017, we were each deciding to revisit the gardens as they have so much to offer. We heartily thanked David for his generosity and preparation.
Twenty-nine members met in perfect weather conditions at the Beach Carpark where numerous Superb Fairy-wrens were seen at ground level and lots of other small birds, including Grey Fantails, Yellow Thornbills and Silvereyes were in the trees.
The group drove in convoy towards Cheetham Wetlands Carpark, pausing en-route at a wetland, beside one of the new housing estates, where Dusky Moorhens paraded a chick and Golden-headed Cisticolas perched proudly on top of a bush. A Whistling Kite and a Brown Goshawk were seen in the distance and, soon afterwards, a Black Kite flew leisurely overhead. These three raptors were seen several more times throughout the morning.
The first walk was towards the shore where a huge number of Silver Gulls rested on the sand and on the water. At the actual Point Cook, a number of different water birds were perched on rocks, including both Crested and Common Terns. A large flock of Red-necked Stints flew quickly past, being sadly, the only waders seen at the shore.
The old Homestead Jetty, which used to be a roost for different Cormorant species, was barely standing and had been taken over by Common Starlings. An interesting sighting in the bush behind the shore was a flock of Tree Sparrows. Walking back towards the cars, lots of Yellow-rumped Thornbills were watched with interest and several more sightings of our three raptors were made.
Lunch was taken back at the Beach Picnic area, followed by a short walk to the shore and back through the heathland. Singing Honeyeater was the only addition to our species list, although Brown Quail were heard but not sighted in their usual location.
A final walk was then taken around a newly reconstructed wetland close to the RAAF Lake Car Park. A pair of Black-fronted Dotterels foraged near the water’s edge and several White-faced Herons gracefully flew around when disturbed. Back near the cars a flock of Zebra Finches provided an exciting and colourful finale to the outing.
The final birdcall of 50 species was very gratifying; especially in an area where there has been an enormous amount of housing development close by.
The weather forecast of 34o and strong winds failed to deter 28 enthusiasts from assembling. Two of our number came from USA, bravely wielding their binoculars while hoping to be reunited with their missing luggage soon. The area is challenging for birding as it is supplied with well-made paths frequented by walkers, joggers, prams and dogs (which have several off-leash areas and access to the lake). Fishing is prohibited but the visible small fish may tempt anglers. The car park area is mowed grass and spaced trees with picnic shelters and playgrounds. It was dominated by Noisy Miners but there was also a large flock of Long-billed Corellas plus a few Little Corellas, Galahs and the occasional Red Wattlebird.
We initially headed off to the lake which had been created to irrigate early orchards. Here the creek contained Pacific Black and Australian Wood Ducks with a couple of Chestnut Teal. Successful breeding had occurred as most of these were quite young. Grey Butcherbirds called as we walked beside the bush fringing the creek. Revegetation is in progress in several areas along the creek and the fence seems to be quite successful in limiting access by dogs. The adjacent grasslands hosted Australian Magpies and the occasional Magpie-lark (one carrying prey) but little else. Waterbirds were limited to the ducks previously mentioned plus Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen and Eurasian Coot, all with begging young. Another good breeding season. A couple of ‘dinner ducks’ on the lake (not counted) had presumably been dumped as unwanted pets. Lorikeets sometimes flew through and both Rainbow and Musk were recorded. The only other parrots were a pair of Eastern Rosellas near the creek. A young Galah perching beside an adult gave us excellent views of the contrasting pink-crested juvenile plumage and that of the adult. Walking in the sun could be tiring but the cloud cover kept conditions acceptable for much of the time and from the bush came the calls of Spotted Pardalotes and one or two Brown Thornbills.
Most birds, as usual, showed more sense than humans on a hot, windy day and stayed quietly in the shelter of the vegetation. Juvenile Welcome Swallows, however, hadn’t learnt sense yet and crowded the railing near an inlet to the lake, occasionally begging food from an adult. The usual introduced birds were present and apparently doing well in the mixed habitat – Common Blackbird, Starling and Myna were recorded as well as Spotted Dove. An additional sighting was a Long-necked Turtle resting on a lakeside log.
By morning’s end we had recorded 28 species which was gratifying given the location and weather. Several people needed to leave so we finished early and headed off to pre-Christmas tasks which hopefully could be done in cooler, calmer conditions.
Diane Tweeddale, leader
Blog editor’s note: Photos by Dennis Hill not taken on the day.