Category Archives: Birds

Education activities June 2019

On Saturday 15 June 2019, the City of Boroondara Backyard Biodiversity Program held their final gathering with refreshments and an evaluation of the program. Janet Hand attended and considered this was a very positive program for plants, gardens and birds.  The residents involved in the program landscaped parts of their gardens with input from a landscape gardener and plants from an indigenous nursery after a nature walk by a plant expert.  A bird talk and bird walk by our members preceded this. A win for all.

On Friday, 21 Junet, 18 members of U3A Hawthorn and one American visitor visited East Kew and braved the cold air, the heavy showers and then enjoyed the fabulous rainbows in the sunny breaks in between. Walking down to Kew Billabong was soggy but there was, finally, not only water but even a Dusky Moorhen visiting the area that has been so dry for so long. They also walked along the newish Darebin Creek Trail finding Gang-Gang Cockatoos, hearing a King Parrot, and watching a pair of Wood Ducks exploring a big tree hollow while fighting off noisy Rainbow Lorikeets. Highlights for two members of the group were spotting two different Tawny Frogmouths high in two different gums in an area where Pat hasn’t seen frogmouths before, so hopefully, they will stay around and breed later in the year.  24 species were recorded in total in an area few members of the group had ever visited before and were keen to visit again. Thank you Pat Bingham for leading the walk.

On Friday 28 June, Sally Heeps and Bill Ramsay attended the Birds in Schools program with the Grade 5 at Wooranna Park Primary School in Dandenong North.  They are part of a program run by Alexandra Johnson from BirdLife Australia. She has provided the following information about the program and how you can become part of it too.  Thank you Sally and Bill for being part of this program.

Birds in Schools in Melbourne is well and truly underway! The program is designed to teach students to identify and survey birds, investigate their habitat requirements, and ultimately, take action to make their school more bird-friendly. It’s an enjoyable and rewarding program to be part of for the students, teachers and BirdLife staff and volunteers involved.

During Term 2 BirdLife staff and volunteers (including Bill Ramsay and Sally Heeps) supported teachers with the program, through delivering lessons to students from Grade 1-6 in three schools. At one participating school, eighty Grade 1/2 students have completed the program. They celebrated their learning with an action day planting of native species. The students were so engaged and excited, and are now very keen bird-watchers!

Term 3 is almost booked out with BirdLife and volunteers set to visit seven schools to assist teachers in delivering the program. Thank you to the volunteers that have signed up to help! We still have the following upcoming Birds in Schools lessons, which we require volunteers for:

  • July 17, Coburg Primary School
  • July 31, Coburg Primary School
  • Aug 30, Action Day Coburg Primary School
  • Aug 26, Oak Park Primary School
  • Aug 28, Oak Park Primary School
  • Aug 29, Oak Park Primary School
  • Sept 2, Oak Park Primary School

We will also have new dates to be confirmed for Term 4.

If you are interested in volunteering for Birds in Schools (on the above dates or Term 4 dates TBC), or if you are a teacher who is interested in participating in the program, please get in touch with Alex at:  alexandra.johnson@birdlife.org.au

Janet Hand, BirdLife Melbourne Education Coordinator (Phone: 9842 4177)

Beginners Outing to Banyule Flats

22 June 2019
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 48
Tawny Frogmouth pair - B Hood.jpg
Tawny Frogmouths (second pair sighted). Photo by Bevan Hood

There was a chaotic start to this excursion as the intended carpark was full of baseball players’ cars and the beginners had to find parking spaces in the surrounding streets.  However, this was soon forgotten when a pair of Tawny Frogmouths were located in one of their usual trees to the left of the carpark.  In overcast conditions the 29 members then walked to the lagoon which was full of water from the recent rains. Pairs of Long-billed Corellas and Red-rumped Parrots, along with numerous Silver Gulls, were perched in the old dead trees on the far side. Two Pink-eared Ducks were seen swimming across the lagoon and then resting on partially submerged logs.

ink-eared Ducks - Eleanor Dilley
Pink-eared Ducks. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Grey and Chestnut Teals, Pacific Black Ducks, a Eurasian Coot, a Dusky Moorhen and a Hoary-headed Grebe could be seen in the distance. After leaving the lagoon on a track towards the river, Pied Currawongs were noisy and plentiful.

Pied Currawong - Eleanor Dilley
Pied Currawong. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

A huge River Red Gum hosted a mixed flock of smaller birds, including a pair of Golden Whistlers, Grey Fantails, Spotted Pardalotes and Brown Thornbills.

Golden Whistler (F) - Eleanor Dilley
Golden Whistler (f). Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Near the river a male Common Bronzewing was perched high on a branch and several White-browed Scrubwrens were seen foraging in shrubs on the riverbank. Returning along the track from the windmill, a few Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were seen and this proved to be the only honeyeater species recorded for the day, apart from the ever present Noisy Miners. Near to the Main Yarra Trail a Gang-gang Cockatoo was heard giving its “creaky gate” call and was soon located and identified as an immature male.

Gang-gang Cockatoo - Eleanor Dilley
Gang-gang Cockatoo. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

A small flock of Silvereyes fluttered around nearby and more Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were seen in a profusely flowering eucalyptus tree. Magpie-larks could readily be seen and heard on the ground.

Magpie-lark (F) - Eleanor Dilley
Magpie-lark. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

On returning to the now empty carpark the members retrieved their vehicles from the surrounding streets and then had lunch beside the oval where they watched a mixed feeding flock of Galahs, Long-billed and Little Corellas. A short walk was then taken along the main trail towards the ‘grotty ponds’.

Tawny Frogmouths - B Hood
Tawny Frogmouths. Photo by Bevan Hood

The sun finally put in a brief appearance, shining onto a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets feeding in a flowering ironbark. Nearby a second pair of Tawny Frogmouths was located and then a pair of Crested Pigeons was seen giving a courtship display.

Crested Pigeons (F and M) - Eleanor Dilley
Crested Pigeons. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

From the raised level of the track an Australasian Grebe could be seen on the lagoon – an unusual sighting for Banyule Flats. The ‘grotty ponds’ had been cleared of vegetation, so disappointingly there was no sign of any crakes or rails. In a nearby flowering gum a mixed flock of Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets could be seen noisily feeding.

Rainbow Lorikeet - B Hood
Rainbow Lorikeet. Photo by Bevan Hood

At this point dark clouds were approaching, threatening very heavy rain, and so all the members hurried back to their cars.

Musk Lorikeet - Eleanor Dilley
Musk Lorikeet. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

A pleasing total of 48 species was recorded for the day which was a good result for mid-winter in mainly dull and overcast conditions.

View the complete bird list: BM Jun 2019 Bird List Banyule Flats

 

Weekdays outing to Pipemakers Park, Maribyrnong

10 June 2019
Photographer: Katmun Loh
Little Pied Cormorant
Little Pied Cormorant

The overnight weather was not reassuring as wind and rain had been widespread and our first arrivals needed to shelter during a brief fall. However the rain radar showed the band of showers passing and we drew reassurance from that, especially when the clouds occasionally broke and bright sunshine resulted. When all had assembled we numbered 17 with Pat Bingham leading the group. Some had visited Pipemakers in the past and some were quite new to birding so we were a happily mixed group.

The group - Katmun Loh
The group

The car park area was the domain of White-plumed Honeyeaters and Red Wattlebirds but there were also several Willie Wagtails, Australian Magpies and Common Blackbirds.

White-plumed Honeyeater - Katmun Loh
White-plumed Honeyeater

Little Ravens called overhead and the honeyeaters were augmented by New Holland Honeyeaters and those purveyors of ‘false news’, the frequently alarm-calling Noisy Miners. Not far from the car park a few House Sparrows interested those whose local birds had disappeared. This commensal species seems to be in worldwide decline without a single definitive cause.

New Holland Honeyeater - Katmun Loh
New Holland Honeyeater

Superb Fairy-wrens were common, flying low, foraging in the understory and dashing across the paths. Many were males in eclipse plumage. The well-grown lignin plantings provide such smaller birds with shelter. We set off toward the river which is vastly improved from its past as an industrial dump. Now fish have returned and Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants and Eurasian Coots plus an Australasian Darter were joined by Silver Gulls and a few humans with rods taking advantage of the piscine possibilities.

Superb Fairy-wren adult F - Katmun Loh
Superb Fairy-wren, adult female

The flock of gulls was an indicator of the weather along the coast today and this was confirmed by a Crested Tern using the river rather than the coast. Musk Lorikeets in a tree beside the path delighted us and at least one watcher was very happy to have clear, close and prolonged views showing the birds’ markings.

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Red-rumped Parrots foraging in the grass beside the path also gave good, close views but also challenged photographers to clearly record the differences between the brilliant male and the drabber female.

F and M Red-rumped Parrot
Female and male Red-rumped Parrots

 

Our path took us beside the golf course, where a magpie’s nest had been made with the usual sticks plus bright green plastic string (human refuse recycled in a good avian cause). Across to the Sanctuary Walk where the ponds supported Pacific Black Ducks (swimming in tandem as if mating season was starting) plus Dusky Moorhen and a lone Hardhead which was considered the best bird today.

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The riverbank Australasian Darter was a young female, perching inconspicuously on a ‘whitewashed’ rock not far away from a White-faced Heron. Fallen boughs must not be allowed to menace the public and the maintenance tractor drivers were working despite the holiday when we visited. They expressed interest in our sightings in their area.

Chestnut Teal M - Katmun Loh
Chestnut Teal, male

We lunched and after walked further along the riverside but added only a few species to the morning’s tally. By day’s end our bird list totalled 40 species and we thanked Pat wholeheartedly for her preparation which resulted in such a satisfactory day’s birding.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Education report – April and May 2019

The Blackburn Creeklands Survey was held on Saturday, 13 April. The regular Autumn Survey started from a new venue, Kalang Park Pavilion, at 0730 am and brought 29 people out on a rather cool, dull, morning to look for the local birds. Good start – Long-billed Corellas (two adults and a noisily-begging youngster), a small flock of Crested Pigeons, ubiquitous Noisy Miners and a couple of Welcome Swallows greeted the two parties as they set off, westwards led by Ian Moodie and eastwards by Pat Bingham.  A couple of hours later on returning for morning tea, they had a total of 29 species including good looks at Gang-gang Cockatoos, King Parrots, White-faced Heron and a new record for the Creeklands, an Australasian Darter. The unusualness of this species for this location was recognised by the numerous alarm calls and harassment it induced in the local Noisy Miner population, some fifteen members of which vigorously chased the bird away upstream (towards Blackburn Lake itself, some 2 kms away). As usual, several pairs of Tawny Frogmouths were spotted along the Creeklands and many people were amazed at their ubiquity – saying -“I walk along here every day/week/….. and haven’t ever seen them”!

Saturday, 4 May 2019 was the start of City of Boroondara Backyard Biodiversity Program in Ashburton. An introductory workshop was held by the Coordinator Amy Shaw and involved approximately 45 people spread over two sessions. Each session outlined the program for the next seven weeks before a Powerpoint was given on the birds found in 2018 and 2019 in Boroondara as per Birdata records. The second half of each session was all about entering Birdata and how you can search Birdata. Both these presentations were given by Janet Hand.

Picture1
Photo by Amy Shaw

Saturday 11 May 2019 was the second part of the City of Boroondara Backyard Biodiversity Program. This was a ramble and birdwalk held at the Willsmere Billabong in East Kew.  Week two saw Sally Heeps and Pat Bingham take the participants for a very successful bird walk on avery dull day which meant finding birds was quite difficult in the gloom. Some 40 lovely local people (7 – 80 years and a babe in a backpack), attended; half went off to look at plants and Sally and Pat split the rest into two groups and headed off in opposite directions around the billabong.  The groups swapped over after about 45 mins and repeated the activity. Some of the birds identified were Brown Thornbills, Superb Fairy Wrens, a Common Bronzewing, White-faced Heron, several Crested Pigeons, a Willie Wagtail, Magpie lark and many Rainbow Lorikeets. They also heard Common froglets after the rains on the Friday before the walk.  There were some excellent questions from young and old alike and though they probably only saw 20 species, everyone seemed to have enjoyed the session and are interested in planting habitat in their own gardens.

On Wednesday 15 May 2019 ten ladies and their carers from Mercy Place Boronia joined us at the Blackburn Lake Education Centre for a short Powerpoint about the 15 most common birds found around Boronia before doing a craft activity of making bookmarks using stickers and textas. Morning tea was enjoyed before some went for a short walk near the lake.  Janet Hand was assisted by Gay Gallagher, Jenny Frohlich and Peter Dempsey.

Picture2
Photo by Lisa Menahem

Picture3

The U3A Hawthorn Birdwalk, Friday 17 May was again led by Pat Bingham. Sixteen members of U3A Hawthorn gathered at Rickett’s Point, Beaumaris for a walk along the foreshore and through the adjacent bush. First highlight for the day were ‘Scaly-breasted’ Lorikeets at the Tea House.  They found a mixed pair (Rainbow & ‘Scaly-breasted’) jointly excavating a hole in a Coast Banksia and then a pair of ‘Scaly-breasted’, doing likewise less than 10 feet away. The ‘Scaly-breasteds’ were probably all, themselves, hybrids, as they had rather blue heads and are well-known to hybridise with Rainbows.  Second highlight was a sighting of over 300 Little Black Cormorants lining the shore on all the rocky outcrops exposed at low tide. There must have been some good breeding locally, and/or rich feeding for such a number to be roosting together. They saw 26 other species during the morning including close views of a Spotted Pardalote at eye-level, a small flock of Hoary-headed Grebe in the shallows off-shore and a Red Wattlebird at 3 feet stealing crumbs from an adjacent table as they coffeed at the Tea House after our walk.  Photographs by Jim Sharpe.

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Birds in Schools Program held a professional development session for teachers and volunteers on Wednesday 29 May.  The program was run by Alexandra Johnson from BirdLife and is to be implemented in some schools in the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne.  The training session was held at the Moreland City Council Offices in Hadfield. The plan is to teach children about birds and their habitat and finally plan and execute an improved habitat at their schools. Bill Ramsay attended this first session.

Thank you to all the above people who have helped and those who have supplied information and photographs.

Janet Hand, BirdLife Melbourne Education Coordinator (Phone: 9842 4177)

 

Beginners outing to The Briars

25 May 2019
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers
Photography: Eleanor Dilley
Species Count 34
Eastern Yellow Robin - Eleanor Dilley
Eastern Yellow Robin

Despite a forecast for wet weather, 22 members attended the Briars outing and were fortunate to enjoy fine and sunny conditions. Noisy Miners were the dominant species in the carpark, interrupted by several Rainbow Lorikeets and Eastern Rosellas flying overhead.

Eastern Rosella - Eleanor Dilley
Eastern Rosella

This set the tone for the day with all three species being seen many times during the walk.

Rainbow Lorikeets - Eleanor Dilley
Rainbow Lorikeets

The effect of the prolonged dry spell was immediately apparent as we entered the wetland area. There was very little water in the ponds; no ducks, swans or cormorants and very few small bush-birds. Purple Swamphens, a Grey Shrike-thrush and a Laughing Kookaburra were observed from the boardwalk.

Black-fronted Dotterel - Eleanor Dilley
Black-fronted Dotterel

Eurasian Coots could be seen from the Chechingurk Hide, as could two Black-fronted Dotterels foraging in the mud at the water’s edge.

Superb Fairy-wren - Eleanor Dilley
Superb Fairy-wren

A Willie Wagtail and some Superb Fairy-wrens were also seen from the hide. Taking the Kur-Bur- Rer track into the Eucalypt-dominated woodland area, it was disappointing that only two more honeyeater species were added to the ever present Noisy Miners, namely Red Wattlebirds and  White-eared Honeyeaters.

Laughing Kookaburra - Eleanor Dilley
Laughing Kookaburra

Later, Grey Butcherbirds were heard and seen and eventually a “hotspot” was reached where good views of a Grey Fantail, an Eastern Yellow Robin and a pair of Golden Whistlers were enjoyed. Turning eastwards near the fence line a Brown Goshawk flew overhead, but otherwise there was little bird activity.

Brown Goshawk - Eleanor Dilley
Brown Goshawk

When nearly back at the Visitor Centre another mixed feeding flock was seen, this time comprised of an Eastern Yellow Robin, a Grey Shrike-thrush, several Spotted Pardalotes and more Superb Fairy-wrens.

Spotted Pardalote - Eleanor Dilley
Spotted Pardalote

Lunch was eaten near the carpark overlooking the vineyard, above which a Black-shouldered Kite was seen hovering before it perched in a nearby dead tree. Several plump Crested Pigeons were feeding on the grass near the members and a pair of Masked Plovers were seen further uphill.

Crested Pigeon - Elenaor Dilley
Crested Pigeon

After lunch a short walk was taken towards the Homestead where a number of Eastern Rosellas were seen, some perched and others feeding on the ground.  Their plumage looked beautiful with the sun shining on it. Two ducks, one a Chestnut Teal and the other an Australian Wood Duck, surprised us by flying overhead before landing on a small pond near the Shire Nursery. The usual noisy throng of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, much reduced in number, was present near the Homestead. A flock of Welcome Swallows, the first and only sighting for the day, was seen in a valley some distance away.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos - Eleanor Dilley
Sulphur-crested Cockatoos

The total species recorded was a modest 34 which was well down on counts at this site in previous years. It was thought that the very dry weather had affected not only the wetland environment but had reduced the number of insects needed to sustain small birds. Despite this, most of the members felt they had enjoyed their time in this lovely park and vowed to return when there had been some good rains.

Many thanks to Eleanor Dilley who took all the photographs appearing in this month’s Report.

See full bird list for the day: BM May 2019 Bird List The Briars

Weekday outing to Westerfolds Park, Templestowe

15 May 2019

Photographs by Katmun Loh

Galah - Katmun Loh
Galah

Birding started very well when a flight of seven Gang-gang Cockatoos flew over the car park making their “creaky gate” call. At walk’s start we were 32 people including at least six new comers to birding.

Eastern Rosella - Katmun Loh
Eastern Rosella

We were led by John Bosworth, ably assisted by Margaret Bosworth. The weather was favourable, mild and cloudy, but against this were the lighting conditions which favoured silhouettes rather than clear views of markings. Soon we had tired of the dominant Noisy Miners and had noted the Australian Magpies and occasional Grey Butcherbird on the power lines. Long-billed Corellas perching on the overhead pylons and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos screeching as they flew across were registered. Australian King-Parrots were a much-appreciated addition to the early bird list which was dominated by Rainbow Lorikeets though Galahs, a few Eastern Rosellas and even fewer Musk Lorikeets challenged the watchers.

Australian King Parrot - Katmun Loh
Australian King Parrot

Common Mynas were an unwelcome addition to the growing list but alarm calls revealed a Brown Goshawk, the only raptor recorded today. Calls from a Spotted Pardalote were heard by several but no sightings happened today, in contrast to the Eastern Spinebill seen by a few. With the miners this was the only honeyeater beside Red Wattlebird. Down by the rapids we added Eurasian Coot and Pacific Black Duck but no other species, before returning via a bush track to the cars and lunch.

Common Bronzewing - Katmun Loh
Common Bronzewing

Common Bronzewing appeared on many people’s lists in this area and several at the rear of the walkers heard the mournful calls of a small flock of White-winged Choughs. Some of the group had to depart at lunchtime but 20 remained to walk beneath the road bridge and head through the bush section. Earlier we had noted Eastern Grey Kangaroos in the park, leaving lots of scat on the grassy areas, and there was occasional wombat scat and plenty from European Rabbits but the mammal highlight was a difficult-to-see Koala in a tall eucalypt. Most eventually saw some of the “fur blob”.

Koala - Katmun Loh
Koala

Out to the bridge in the afternoon we added Laughing Kookaburra, White-faced Heron and then Hoary-headed Grebe to the growing bird list. The last of these foraged and dived by the bridge giving rewarding views of its behaviour.

White-faced Heron - Katmun Loh
White-faced Heron

Then we went back to the cars to total the species recorded. Thirty-six species were listed amid many thanks to John for his preparation. We departed with smiles all round.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to 3 Chain Road

9 April 2019

Australian Owlet-nightjar 2 - Katmun Loh
Australian Owlet-nightjar. Photo by Katmun Loh

The participants numbered 18 with Graeme Hosken leading the group. The weather was clear and cool after the overnight showers and the first bird calls were the raucous ones of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. The dam at the start of the walk had only Dusky Moorhen and Pacific Black Duck and at the start of the walk only these and Little Raven, Australian Magpie and Red Wattlebird were recorded.

The country is dry in the continuing drought and the roadside forest was very open with little understorey. Further walking added numerous Grey Fantails, one Crimson Rosella and the calls of Spotted Pardalote.

Brown Thornbill? - Bevan Hood
Challenge no. 1: Brown Thornbill or … ? Photo by Bevan Hood

Flowering eucalypts hosted Varied Sitellas, thornbills and Weebills while Grey Shrike-thrush and New Holland Honeyeaters called.

Grey Shrike Thrush? - Katmun Loh
Challenge no. 2: Grey Shrike-thrush or … ? Photo by Katmun Loh

Here the highlight was an Australian Owlet-nightjar perched on a branch in the open.

Australian Owlet-nightjar 1 - Bevan Hood
Australian Owlet-nightjar. Photo by Bevan Hood

This was the first view for many of this cute nocturnal bird outside a tree hole. The walk proceeded by returning to the cars at intervals and then driving north to further locations. Three Chain Road owes its name to the government’s provision of sufficient space for turning traffic, for example bullock drays, in the nineteenth century. Only the central section was surfaced and the roadsides are here left unaltered giving habitat for the wildlife.

Australian Owlet-nightjar 2 - Bevan Hood
Australian Owlet-nightjar. Photo by Bevan Hood

Birds were the winners but the current subdivision of the larger farms into “hobby farms” may impact on birds in the future with less grass, more people and more traffic. The next walk added both Rufous and Golden Whistler males, glimpses of Laughing Kookaburra and the single note winter calls of Grey Shrike-thrush.

Golden Whistler male 2 - Katmun Loh
Golden Whistler, male. Photo by Katmun Loh

The highlight here was a pair of Scarlet Robins, male and female in brilliant plumage, foraging along the fence-line.

Scarlet Robin female - Katmun Loh
Scarlet Robin, female. Photo by Katmun Loh

Scopes were needed at the next stop as the dam was distant and the birds in silhouette. Persistence was rewarded with the addition of Black Swan, Hardhead, Australasian Shoveler, Chestnut Teal and Hoary-headed Grebe. Eurasian Coot and Little Pied, Little Black and Great Cormorant also joined the list while Welcome Swallows swooped through the scopes’ viewing fields.

Scarlet Robin male - Bevan Hood
Scarlet Robin, male. Photo by Bevan Hood

Only one wader, a Black-fronted Dotterel, was detected. The next stage was the turn of the raptors, first a Brown Goshawk caused a chorus of alarm calls then a Whistling Kite elicited some birdwatchers’ debate before its identification. Two Wedge-tailed Eagles soaring high above completed our day’s raptors. A large colony of White-winged Choughs, about 20 in number, occasionally called mournfully while foraging high and low through the forest.

White-winged Chough - Katmun Loh
White-winged Chough. Photo by Katmun Loh

Parrots were few today with only the cockatoos and both Crimson and Eastern Rosellas seen. However both White-throated and Brown Treecreepers were watched closely as they foraged.

Brown Treecreeper 1 Bevan Hoood
Brown Treecreeper. Photo by Bevan Hood

The latter is not seen in Melbourne so sightings were especially appreciated.

Brown Treecreeper 1 - Katmun Loh
Brown Treecreeper. Photo by Katmun Loh

By walk’s end all the “usual” thornbills had been listed – Yellow-rumped, Yellow, Striated, Brown and Buff-rumped. Jacky Winter joined Scarlet Robin in the robin list. The list of small birds’ predators detected also included Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Pied and Grey Currawongs and Australian Raven.

Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike - Katmun Loh
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike. Photo by Katmun Loh

By walk’s end we had a list of 55 species and we thanked Graeme most enthusiastically for his leadership.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to the Grantville area

19 March 2019
Foreshore with Black Swans, Silver Gulls, mangrove - D Tweeddale
Black Swans, Silver Gulls and mangrove. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

Pacific Gulls at various stages of development outnumbered the birdwatchers and were in turn outnumbered by the Silver Gulls at the Grantville foreshore while we assembled in the car park under a grey sky. We numbered 14 and Alan and Hazel Veevers, much appreciated organisers of the monthly beginners group, were our leaders. While everyone arrived we noted Red and Little Wattlebirds in the adjacent bush before carpooling to drive to the Candowie Reservoir.

the group at Candowie Reservoir - Katmun Loh
The group at Candowie Reservoir. Photo by Katmun Loh

The water level was very low because the dam was the water source for firefighting aircraft taking tanker loads to fight the recent fires in the area. The continuing drought has prevented any replenishment. A lone White-faced Heron patrolled the bank and a couple of Little Ravens foraged. The most numerous species was Eurasian Coots at water’s edge but other species were also over the mud – Australasian Shoveler and Chestnut Teal were closer than the Black Swans.

Australasian Shoveler - Katmun Loh
Australasian Shoveler. Photo by Katmun Loh

Two sightings of grebes sequentially added Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes while distant views using scopes added Blue-billed Duck and Hardhead after some discussion. Australian Wood Ducks were seen around the point after a short drive to move the cars. Sadly one of them appeared to be dead on an old tree stump. Turning our backs to the dam we were fascinated to observe a Black-shouldered Kite on a dead branch with its tailed prey, possibly a large mouse or a small rat, in its talons. Probably the viewing highlight of the outing.

Black-shouldered Kite with prey - Katmun Loh
Black-shouldered Kite with prey. Photo by Katmun Loh

Another hunter in this area was a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike using the fence as a perch. A pair of soaring Wedge-tailed Eagles was the third raptor of the day (the first had been a Whistling Kite sending up the Silver Gulls near the foreshore). The bush by the dam also held Grey Butcherbird, Grey Shrike-thrush and Magpie-lark while both Australian White and Straw-necked Ibis passed overhead.

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike - D Tweeddale v2
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

We drove on to the Grantville cemetery and walked the adjacent Gurdies track listening and watching. An Australian Magpie and a Masked Lapwing seemed to be alone among the gravestones but along the track we recorded a Golden Whistler, heard several honeyeaters including White-eared and White-naped and glimpsed a White-browed Scrubwren in the understorey.

Wedge-tailed Eagle - Katmun Loh
Wedge-tailed Eagle. Photo by Katmun Loh

Both Crimson Rosella and Laughing Kookaburra were listed as we walked back. Back to the car park for lunch where the local Superb Fairy-wrens came out confidently once we were all seated quietly. A beach walk after lunch yielded no waders as the water level was against us and there was little mud. Mangroves seem to be growing well along the shore. By walk’s end there had been 30 species listed for the reservoir and 38 for the foreshore and the adjacent Gurdies Nature Conservation Reserve. The total for the day was 56 species which was a very pleasing result in the continuing drought and we thanked Hazel and Alan for all their preparation which yielded such a satisfactory result.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

 

Beginners outing to Lillydale Lake

23 March 2019
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 48
Australasian Darter - Eleanor Dilley
Australasian Darter. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Umbrellas and raincoats were the order of the day for the 33 members attending the Lillydale Lake outing. On the grass beside the carpark were Galahs, Long-billed Corellas and Australian White Ibis foraging on the ground which had been softened by the previous night’s storms.

Long-billed Corella - Eleanor Dilley
Long-billed Corella. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Galah - Alan Veevers
Galah. Photo by Alan Veevers

On the lake several Australasian Darters could be seen swimming and fishing, while on a nearby railing a lone Tree Martin was perched alongside a row of Welcome Swallows.

Welcome Swallows and Tree Martin - Eleanor Dilley
Welcome Swallows and Tree Martin. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

A Brown Goshawk was seen flying above the lake and this proved to be the only raptor for the day.

Australian White Ibis - Alan Veevers
Australian White Ibis. Photo by Alan Veevers

The members then set off towards the wetlands boardwalk where they encountered a large Eastern Water Dragon on the path. Unfortunately it took fright, dashing off on its rear legs and plunging into the water before the photographers had a chance to record this most unusual sighting. Few waterbirds could be seen from the boardwalk, though there were good views of an Australian Reed Warbler and Superb Fairy-wrens. Walking towards Hull Road Wetlands a Crimson Rosella and a Laughing Kookaburra provided good photo opportunities.

Lauhing Kookaburra - Eleanor Dilley
Laughing Kookaburra. Photo Eleanor Dilley

Beside the wetlands was a hot spot where there was a mixed feeding flock of White-eared and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Grey Fantails and Brown and Striated Thornbills.  There were not many birds on these wetlands until a large flock of Australian Wood Ducks flew in.  Walking back towards the lake Eastern Rosellas, Rainbow Lorikeets and a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike were seen.

Crimson Rosella, - Eleanor Dilley
Crimson Rosella. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Lunch was taken near the car park, by which time the rain had stopped and the sun had appeared. After this a short afternoon walk was taken across the wetland boardwalk again, then down to the lake track. There was a good view of a Little Pied Cormorant and back at the lake a number of the Darters were perched in an island tree.

Little Pied Cormorant, Eurasian Coot - Eleanor Dilley
Little Pied Cormorant and Eurasian Coot. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Nearly all were females with their light coloured breasts, but then back in a small gully a beautiful dark male was seen drying his wings. An adult Purple Swamphen was also seen ushering her offspring away from the walking track.

Australasian Swamphen and chick 2 Eleanor Dilley

Australasian Swamphen and chick 1 - Eleanor Dilley
Australasian (Purple) Swamphen and chick. Photos by Eleanor Dilley

Despite the less than optimal viewing conditions a total of 48 species was recorded for the day and members went home relieved to think that the long dry spell might finally be coming to an end.

View complete bird list: BM Mar 2019 Bird List Lillydale Lake

Weekdays outing to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

12 February 2019
D Tweeddale.JPG
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