Category Archives: Diane Tweeddale

Weekdays outing to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

12 February 2018
Photographs by Bevan Hood, member (unless otherwise indicated)
australian wood ducks male and female - bevan hood
Australian Wood Duck

The weather was kind to birdwatchers with a cloudy morning, mild temperature and little breeze. We were a group of eleven – members and visitors – with David Plant leading. Bell Miners dominated the area near the H gate entrance and a team of tree surgeons was noisily working there as well. We walked from the disturbance and surveyed the azolla-covered water. It looked stable enough to walk on, very misleading, and areas of bank were taped off to deter youngsters from falling in. Waterfowl paddled and upended among the floating fern, Pacific Black Duck and Chestnut Teal, Eurasian Coot, Dusky Moorhen and Purple (now Australian) Swamphen. Silver Gulls and Australian Wood Duck walked on the lawns, not far from Australian Magpies and Magpie-larks.

magpie-lark male - bevan hood

Occasionally Red Wattlebirds flew past and a couple of Eastern Spinebills were sighted along with one Little Wattlebird. With the Bell Miners these were the only honeyeaters detected. The only parrot species observed was a few Rainbow Lorikeets high in eucalypts. Flyovers of Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants and a solitary White-faced Heron added to the waterfowl list.

white-faced heron - bevan hood
White-faced Heron

No raptors were seen today and they seem to be no longer in the gardens after a presence of many years. The ͞big black birds͟ category contained Little Ravens and Pied Currawongs, flying and foraging. Down in the fern gully we were pleased to present David with sightings of White-browed Scrubwrens, a species which is becoming increasingly uncommon in the gardens, possibly from competition from miners plus modifications of the vegetation.

pied currawong - bevan hood
Pied Currawong

As all gardeners know, a garden is never a static place and change is continuous, especially now with climate change. David explained how the gardens were managing their water and power. Little tap water is used, for drinking and toilet flushing (a legal requirement) mostly. Street runoff is collected, litter trapped and the water then purified by plants, many in ͞garden beds that move͟.

floating islands in azolla - tweeddale
Floating island in azolla. Photograph by Diane Tweeddale

It was fascinating to watch the slow dance of the floating gardens, among the lake azolla or high in Guilfoyle’s volcano. Power is another aspect where savings are being made with 35% being generated by solar panels. The aim is to attain self-sufficiency in water and power.

purple (australian) swamphen foraging in azolla - bevan hood
Purple (Australian) Swamphen foraging in azolla

Lunch was taken near the tea room and was only slightly marred by the numerous Common Mynas (they are the most common bird in the gardens) pecking at uncleared lunch remains on the tables. The day was warming so we had a bird call at the tables and then headed back to our starting point, pausing to mourn the corpse of the much-vandalised Separation Tree. Mindless destruction seems much easier than caring for nature or manmade beauty. Before the old tree finally died seeds were collected and it was reassuring to admire the growth of the resulting offspring.

Soon we thanked David enthusiastically for sharing his garden with us and then went our ways, pleased that our list of 34 species did not continue an observed slide but was slightly above the previous year.
Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Bolin Bolin, Bulleen

4 December 2017
Leader: Elsmaree Baxter

The previous weekend’s deluge did not deter 23 people from assembling. An erroneous cancellation notice in the website may have worried others but we do NOT cancel except when a fire ban is declared in the area of the walk. It takes more than rain to stop birders.

Tawny Frogmouth - Marilyn Ellis
Tawny Frogmouth. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

The weather was reasonably fine with only some light drizzle and our stand-in leader, Elsmaree Baxter, had already checked that walking was feasible for a good distance along the main river trail, (and was prepared to access detours if any of the weekend flooding remained near the billabong). Birds were soon recorded and it was reassuring that the preceding weather had not diminished their activity. The car park area had flyovers of Silver Gull and both Australian White and Straw-necked Ibis. Bird numbers rose as the party reached the bush beside the water. Fan-tailed Cuckoo and Shining Bronze-Cuckoo were both heard as were Common Bronzewing and Spotted Pardalote. Water’s edge yielded White-faced Heron, Australasian Darter and both Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants. Two families of Tawny Frogmouths were spotted by sharp eyed members of the group.

Scarlet Honeyeater male - Tina Wong
Scarlet Honeyeater, male. Photo by Tina Wong (Toorourrong Reservoir on 8 November 2017)

Delight was universal when a group of Scarlet Honeyeaters was seen high in a tree beside the path. “Lifers” for some and still greatly appreciated by the rest. Fortunately the flooding near the billabong had cleared, but damp ground and flattened grass showed where the river had flowed across the path to fill the billabong. Pacific Black and Australian Wood Ducks were there, as were Grey and Chestnut Teal, undoubtedly avoiding the (still) turbulently flowing waters of the river.


By walk’s end there was a list of 50 species. See the bird list here: BirdLife Melbourne Outing Bolin Bolin 17

Unfortunately a low point was the observation of an Indian Ringneck in the company of some Galahs. It was possibly an aviary escape but they are a declared noxious pest, becoming very successful invasive hollow nesters wherever they have become established. They have displaced native birds in the UK and Turkey, among other places.

All agreed that the area had provided excellent birding and thanked Elsmaree for proceeding with the outing.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Bellarine Peninsula

20 November 2017
All photographs by Bevan Hood, member
Whiskered Tern - Bevan Hood.jpg
Whiskered Tern

Blues skies and a light breeze combined with heat. Leaders were Leonie Robbins and Diane Tweeddale and at Balyang initially there were 12 people which swelled to 13 at our second stop, Jerringot. The sanctuary deserves to be more widely known.

Rainbow Lorikeet - Bevan Hood.jpg
Rainbow Lorikeet

High water levels from recent rains meant no mud was visible around any ponds making seeing crakes and rails unlikely. Australasian Darters were rearing pairs of well-grown young in nests overhanging the Barwon River and Little Pied Cormorants were nesting in the trees around and in the large pond. Not bad for a constructed wetland. Australian Pelicans sat on the tops of duck nesting boxes.

Purple Swamphen - Bevan Hood
Purple Swamphen

Rainbow Lorikeets and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos investigated nesting holes while a few Red-rumped Parrots and a lone Long-billed Corella foraged on the grass. This was the only location of the outing where we recorded parrots and cockatoos.

Grey Teal - Bevan Hood
Grey Teal

The ducks showed plenty of cross-breeding but a couple seemed purebred enough to call Northern Mallard and Pacific Black Duck. Chestnut Teal swam aloof from the riffraff and a very few of Grey Teal were also observed.

Chestnut Teale male - Bevan Hood
Chestnut Teal

Welcome Swallows swooped near the bridge and House Sparrows favoured the picnic area. Far above a Brown Goshawk circled and soared. The sanctuary recorded 34 species.

White-faced Heron - Bevan Hood
White-faced Heron

Next was the Barwon Heads golf club with adjacent Jerringot. Little Grassbird and Australian Reed-Warbler were calling among the reeds. A couple of Crested Pigeons bobbed near our shady lunch spot but flushed when we began assembling.

Australasian Grebe - Bevan Hood
Australasian Grebe

A highlight was the presence of several White-necked Herons flying around with one obliging bird foraging, apparently unconcerned by us eating our lunches about 4 m away.

White-necked Heron - Bevan Hood
White-necked Heron

It foraged delicately but no prey appeared to be taken despite more than one frog species calling. There were two fluffy Purple Swamphen chicks in the company of two protective adults. Time spent here, including lunch, allowed us to record 23 species.

The Hospital Swamp drive features two left turns with minimum warning and the group straggled in to the meeting area but we all made it. Again, no visible mud for crakes, rails or waders. Whiskered Terns quartered the water while our sole sighting of a Great Egret was here, across the lake on the top of a nesting box. A Swamp Harrier gave good views.

Swamp Harrier - Bevan Hood
Swamp Harrier

Less obliging was a Double-fronted Dotterel which flew rapidly in from the lake, calling, and then as quickly flew out again. Time was passing so we left this area, recording 11 species during our brief visit.

Our last stop was Tait’s Point, high above Lake Connewarre where we’d hoped for Caspian Tern. Never go hoping, it doesn’t work. Scopes came in useful here and confirmed Australian Shelduck and Wedge-tailed Eagle far away. A distant “branch-lump” resolved into an Australian Magpie which was less exciting than we’d hoped. Cormorants perched on a jetty and Great, Little Pied, Little Black and Pied were noted.

Little Pied Cormorant - Little Black Cormorant - Great Cormorant - Bevan Hood
Little Pied Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, Great Cormorant

A New Holland Honeyeater lifted our “bag” of honeyeaters which had been only White-plumed Honeyeaters and numerous Red Wattlebirds till then. The sun was hot enough at 3pm to lead to a group decision to stop the outing here and tot up the list. Tait’s Pt yielded 22 species and the overall count was 54 species. Not bad considering the weather. The only birds recorded at all locations were Australian Magpie and Masked Lapwing which reflects the adaptability of these species.

Diane Tweeddale, co-leader and Co-ordinator Weekdays Outings

Weekdays outing to Toorourrong Reservoir

8 November 2017
Recently fledged Silvereye - Bevan Hood.jpg
Silvereye, recently fledged. Photo by Bevan Hood

The weather was ideal, calm and sunny, as 20 people assembled in the car park. Car park birding kept us focused before Graeme Hosken, our leader, led us downhill towards the dam wall.

Grey Fantail- Christina Law.JPG
Grey Fantail. Photo by Mundell Thomas

The early birds included Little and Long-billed Corellas which gave many a good chance to compare size and the distribution of pink plumage. Other parrots here included Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Galah and Crimson Rosella.

Crimson Rosella - Bevan Hood
Crimson Rosella. Photo by Bevan Hood

After a short walk 6 Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos joined the list. Welcome Swallows dipped over the dam and twittered over the outlet. A Little Raven pursued a Brown Goshawk till out of sight. Down in the swamp beyond the dam wall a Sacred Kingfisher perched obligingly, allowing many to obtain reasonable views.

Sacred Kingfisher - Christina Law
Sacred Kingfisher. Photo by Mundell Thomas

As we walked flitting honeyeaters foraged in the trees offering considerable challenges to identification as they disappeared behind foliage or branches. Yellow-faced, White-eared and White-naped Honeyeaters dominated but then sharp eyes saw red. Lots of red.

Scarlet honeyeater - Christina Law
Scarlet Honeyeater. Photo by Mundell Thomas

The rest of the group peered up and eventually there it was – a male Scarlet Honeyeater. In the end we had recorded both male and female of this species and several people had a “lifer” for the day. High in the trees nesting Striated Pardalotes were noted, calling and disappearing into small holes.

Striated Pardalotes juv - Cristina law
Striated Pardalotes, juvenile. Photo by Mundell Thomas

Walking continued toward the dam and a White-necked Heron was sighted in an adjacent paddock while a grebe was initially identified as Hoary-headed. Later this ID was queried and an Australasian was claimed. Hmm. A re-check found both Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes in the same section of lily pond. Reassurance all round and two more species for the list.

Lauging Kookaburra with prey - Tweeddale
Laughing Kookaburra with prey. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

The dam yielded the only duck sighting – a distant male Musk Duck. A single Purple Swamphen foraged at the lily pond’s edge. Here were the memorials for the local people killed in the 1990 bushfires. So many had been lost.

dam - Tweeddale
Toorourrong Reservoir and car park. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

A small flock of European Goldfinch flew over the dam wall but not many introduced species were observed – Common Myna and Common Blackbird were also reported. Birds in the canopies included Rufous Whistler and Pied Currawong while Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike appeared to favour high perches in bare dead trees.

female Rufous Whistler - Bevan Hood
Rufous Whistler, female. Photo by Bevan Hood

At walk’s end we paused for the bird call and the often-observed happened – the only Wedge-tailed Eagle of the walk flew past, harassed by Little Ravens and a Brown Goshawk.

Wedge-tailed Eagle - Christina Law
Wedge-tailed Eagle. Photo by Mundell Thomas

Another for the list (the goshawk and ravens had been recorded earlier). Non-birds included sightings of Echidna and Eastern Blue-tongue and calls of assorted frogs by the dam.

Eastern Blue-tongue - Tweeddale
Eastern Blue-tongue Lizard. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

By walk’s end we had 54 species on the list and we thanked Graeme enthusiastically for all his work which had reintroduced us to the area in its recovery from the fires.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekday outing to Woodlands Historic Park, Greenvale

17 October 2017

Skies were blue but a strengthening wind promised challenges in detecting birds. Still the weather was warm as we assembled under the leadership of Rob Grosvenor. Once all had arrived there were 22 in the group and all were delighted by the Tree Martins circling overhead and plunging down among the trees where several were observed feeding young in nests located in tree holes. Spotted Pardalotes called occasionally while Striated Pardalotes were calling and plunging inside the tree hollows around the car park. We watched as they dived into diminutive spaces and then exited very swiftly. They had reason for caution as we observed a Little Raven removing a Noisy Miner nestling despite the adult birds’ attempts to divert it. Other ravens had clearly found a food source somewhere as numbers flew past carrying something bright yellow-orange in their bills. We wondered – loquats, takeaway chips, orange? None was close enough to identify.

A ‘survivor’ eucalypt – found in the Park. Photograph by Diane Tweeddale

An interesting brief sighting near the car park area was a Varied Sittella foraging down one of the tree trunks. Both Horsefield’s and Shining Bronze-Cuckoos were heard and the latter was seen though that took some effort. The other seen cuckoo was a rufous morph of the Pallid Cuckoo which was rather quieter. The wetland was dry and the creek was reduced to a couple of very small muddy puddles in this section so waterbirds were restricted to an overflying Pacific Black Duck and a solitary White-faced Heron. Parrots were numerous – screeching Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, quieter Little Corellas, and pairs of Rainbow Lorikeets, Crimson and Eastern Rosellas and Red-rumped Parrots flew past while Galahs were heard and over at the Homestead we found Long-billed Corellas perched in a tall pine tree. The glossy-coated retired racing legends were duly admired as we walked past their paddocks.

Cleared ground was favoured by Eastern Grey Kangaroos and we saw a couple of mobs with at least 20 individuals. House Sparrows occurred near the homestead buildings plus some in the picnic area by our cars. Raptors were restricted to a Peregrine Falcon in the afternoon and in the morning a Brown Falcon and a pair of Brown Goshawks which caused many alarm calls. The falcon appeared to successfully dominate the goshawks. No robins were observed this day; Red-browed Finches were seen a couple of times; as for whistlers, there was a vocal Rufous Whistler beside the trail in the morning and a Grey Shrike-thrush in the homestead garden. The introduced species were also there – Common Starlings seemed to be having a successful breeding season around the car park, feeding young in the nests in the hollows, removing faecal sacs and trying to evade ravens which were clearly checking out the nests. Common Mynas and Blackbirds were also recorded and by walk’s end the bird list totalled 44 species, two for each participant, and we thanked Rob for his careful preparation which had reminded some of us how good this location was and had introduced others to the area for the first time.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Banyule Flats

2 October 2017

All photographs by Bevan Hood, BirdLife Melbourne member

Spotted Dove - Bevan Hood
Spotted Dove

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.

Tawny Frogmouth - Bevan Hood
Tawny Frogmouth

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.

Easterm Grey Kangaroos - Bevan Hood
Eastern Grey Kangaroos

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.

Australian King-Parrot female - Bevan Hood
Australian King-Parrot, female

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.

White-faced Heron on nest - Bevan Hood
White-faced Heron on nest

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

Weekdays Outing to Rigby’s Wetland

20 September 2017
All photographs by BirdLife Melbourne member, Graeme Dean
White-faced Heron - Graeme Dean.jpg
White-faced Heron

A fine breezy day with blue sky changed to cloudy and the wind became cold, causing everyone to don windproof overclothing. There were 22 rugged up participants with Graeme Hosken leading the group. Haversham Avenue, where the cars were parked, is suburbia on one side with the reserve facing it and so initial birds were simply a few flyovers and such garden birds as Red Wattlebird and Common Starling. We started walking to the south and started listing birds as we entered the reserve. Waterbirds flying over included Australian White Ibis, White-faced Heron, Australasian Darter and Pacific Black Duck.

Australian White Ibis - Graeme Dean
Australian White Ibis

Later the ponds yielded Royal Spoonbill in breeding plumage, Black Swan, Australian Pelican, both Chestnut and Grey Teal and initially a lone Eurasian Coot which became at least 20 on the adjacent water.

Australian Pelican - Graeme Dean
Australian Pelican

Purple Swamphens foraged singly and Dusky Moorhen and both Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes were represented by solitary sightings. Cormorants were present – Little Pied, Little Black and Great – flying over, fishing and perched plumply while digestion proceeded. Water levels were high after recent rains and the absence of exposed mud meant neither crakes nor rails was detected.

Little Pied Cormorant -Graeme Dean
Little Pied Cormorant digesting its catch

A Swamp Harrier flying over was announced by alarm calls and we later watched it quartering the reed beds. It, plus Brown Goshawk and Nankeen Kestrel made up the raptor sightings for the walk. Several areas had been planted and protected with extensive netting which in one area made the sighting of a Great Egret through the netting challenging. Welcome Swallows swooped and in some places were joined by Fairy Martins whose mud bottle nests were detected below the bridging of one of the outlets.

Fairy Martin - Graeme Dean
Fairy Martin collecting mud for nest

No one saw a Little Grassbird but the population must have been considerable to judge by the amount of calling heard. Glimpses were obtained of Golden-headed Cisticola and Australian Reed-Warbler among the grass and reeds. Eastern Common Froglets were the most frequently heard frogs. A Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo really needed scoping as it perched distantly but those with powerful bins considered it identified.

Superb Fairy-wren - Graeme Dean
Superb Fairy-wren

A welcome lunch break was taken at the eastern East Link service area (coffee, toilets and hot food) much appreciated on a carry-lunch walk. Bush birds were encountered once we left the edge of the water and Grey Shrike-thrush, Golden Whistler and both Spotted and Striated Pardalotes joined the list. Honeyeaters included New Holland and Yellow-faced as well as Eastern Spinebill and Noisy Miner. White-browed Scrubwrens were glimpsed in the undergrowth while Superb Fairy-wrens were common throughout the walk. Grey Butcherbird and Grey Currawong called, Grey Fantails were common and only a couple of Willie Wagtails were detected. A female Flame Robin was seen by many and Red-browed Finches often foraged beside the path.

Red-browed Finches - Graeme Dean
Red-browed Finches by path

Introduced birds were “the usual”, Common Myna, Starling and Blackbird plus Spotted Dove and Feral Pigeon/Rock Dove.

Grey Fantail - Graeme Dean
Grey Fantail

In all 59 species were detected and there were smiles all round as people planned to add the area to their walking lists. We thanked Graeme heartily for sharing the knowledge he had gained during the Melbourne Water surveys.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Long Forest Reserve

5 September 2017
Photographs by Bevan Hood, member BirdLife Melbourne




Grey Fantail

The weather forecast could best be described as dire, with rain, hail and wind among the expected attractions. Still, there were nine slightly apprehensive birdwatchers gathered by the reserve entrance. Graeme Hosken was leader and his experience from several years of surveys allowed him to take an optimistic stance. The reserve is in a rain shadow which results in mixed flora, including Mallee due to the dry conditions. The creeks have cut through the sedimentary rocks and the resulting valleys were sheltered from the strongest of the wind gusts. Still there were few birds around the entrance and we walked some distance before the occasional calls of Superb Fairy-wren and Spotted Pardalote gave way to glimpses of Brown-headed Honeyeaters and Grey Fantails. An Australian Raven called in the distance and the closer calls of a White-eared Honeyeater were not the usual “chock” but more complex so both of these caused some discussion. Recent rain had fallen, if the greening of moss in patches was any evidence and Echidnas’ broad scratches showed in many of the ant mounds we passed. The ‘Steep Track’ lived up to its name and required careful planning and placement of feet. However the creek at the bottom was actually flowing and bird twitters were frequent though sightings were mostly of fairy-wrens and fantails. A lone Australian Wood Duck was the closest to a water bird for the walk. Our walk was cut short, however, when we arrived at the ford to find it well covered with water – gum boots might have crossed but no one was wearing them – so we turned back and eventually lunched by the entrance. Here the birding had improved compared to the morning and small flocks of honeyeaters flew past us while we sat.

Laughing Kookaburra

After lunch we drove the few kilometres to Lake Merrimu where the wind was whipping up white caps on the water surface and scopes would have been made useless by excessive wind judder. Initially few birds were seen but then flocks of cockatoos, Little Corellas and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, flew over calling. Then we started adding more – Common Starlings on a wooden gate, Magpie-larks in the paddock, a flock of Little Ravens against a stormy sky. Welcome Swallows demonstrated their aerial ability as they swooped near and through a wire fence. Then we watched carefully as two White-plumed Honeyeaters harassed a Red Wattlebird. Were they defending a nesting site? A Willie Wagtail foraged near a grazing cow. The western sky looked threatening and so we called it a day.

Grey Fantail

The bird count was 30 species in total – 22 for Long Forest and 11 for Lake Merrimu – and we thanked Graeme for sharing his knowledge of this unique area. By the way, it didn’t rain on people till they had left the reserve well behind.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays Outing to Lillydale Lake, Lilydale

12 July 2017
Photographs by Dianne Tweeddale
Reflections on a still morning.JPG
Reflections on a still morning

It was cold as we set off from our homes. Not as chilling as a week previously but still very low temperatures. Sixteen braved the still, cold but sunny morning and Jane Moseley led us. We checked out the Australian Wood Ducks, Magpie Larks, Purple Swamphens, Eurasian Coots and Dusky Moorhens on the grass beside the car park and also noted Australian Magpies, Red Wattlebirds, Rainbow Lorikeets and the inevitable Noisy Miners in the surrounding trees.

Purple Swamphen and Australian Wood Ducks
Purple Swamphen and Australian Wood Ducks

On the adjacent wetland there were a couple of Pacific Black Ducks and teal. It was some of the latter which occasioned close examination and discussion. The Chestnut Teal were readily counted but the two or three paler birds catching the sunlight, which teal were they? Careful attention to the plumage decided Grey Teal. It was that frequent “Which teal is that?” discussion. Our visitors and newcomers had been promised darters and Lillydale Lake did not disappoint. As we were moving out the first darter was pointed out and from then on we admired and compared male and female Australasian Darters both near and far. We kept our eyes out for Azure Kingfishers which had been seen a few days previously but the first location drew a blank. On the boardwalk we watched an Australasian Grebe warm its fluffy backside in the morning sun before we passed the structure which has been voted “world’s worst bird hide”. It consists of a fence with rectangular holes cut at different heights which look out onto an impenetrable stand of tall vegetation. Still, after we had dismissed it we rounded the corner and started to check the lake and the reed beds. The cry went up “Pink-eared Duck!” and there they were. Two pinkies which had not followed the rains inland. Voted bird of the day on the spot.

Black Swans feeding
Black Swans feeding

Then we wondered if we’d been a bit premature with the award when an Azure Kingfisher was sighted, not on its previously-favoured nest box but on a farther one and from which it flew to a low perch and afforded everyone good or brief views. Spotted Pardalotes called but it seemed that only a couple of watchers at a time were able to chalk up good views. Still, most people had seen them well by day’s end. Grey Shrike-thrushes gave their beautiful single winter calls and Grey Butcherbirds were finally seen as well as heard. The south-western wetlands are undergoing “rectification works” and new plantings are covered with nets so that no birds are currently using that area. Five years should see an improvement. The lake supports lots of fishers, the darters, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants and humans on the banks and occasionally in boats. It wasn’t all waterbirds. As well as the lorikeets mentioned above there were Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Little Corellas, Crimson (adult and immature) Rosellas, Eastern Rosellas and Australian King Parrots (male and female).

resting Australian Wood Ducks
Resting Australian Wood Ducks

After lunch we walked out to Bellbird Park where a pair of Black Swans paddled unconcerned by our presence while they cropped the pond plants. Walking back added Eastern Spinebill, then White-faced Herons and finally a Laughing Kookaburra to our list which numbered 45 species at the end of the walk. Very creditable birding for a cold mid-July day. We thanked Jane most enthusiastically for all her preparations and leading.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Wonga Park/Heritage wetlands

6 June 2017
All photographs by Danika Sanderson
Rainbow at start of the walk - Sanderson
Rainbow at the start of the walk

Despite the overnight rain and the showers on the drive to Wonga Park, 12 of us assembled in the car park as conditions started to ease. Some interest was expressed in a car and trailer in the car park which seemed to have been there overnight. Perhaps an illegal camper? Geoff Russell led our group and our first walk followed the short trail downstream where calls were heard from Superb Fairy-wrens, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Brown Thornbills.

Superb Fairy-wren male in breeding plumage - Sanderson
Superb Fairy-wren, male in breeding plumage

Both Little and Australian Ravens were heard as well as the single winter call of Grey Shrike-thrushes. An unexpected sighting was a single Silver Gull overhead while a brief glimpse of an Eastern Spinebill was much appreciated by the few who were looking in the right direction at the moment.

Superb Fairy-wren male - Sanderson
Superb Fairy-wren, male in eclipse plumage

Eastern Grey Kangaroos were numerous on both sides of the river and apparently used to humans on the path. We returned to the car park where a school kayaking session was about to start. We didn’t envy them as the river was flowing high and fast, even at this part of its course.

We went on upstream, bypassing the unused stile. The river edge gave us female Australasian Darters perched on snags, Dusky Moorhen swimming near the bank and an Australasian Grebe diving near one of the darters.

Australasian Darter - female - Sanderson
Australasian Darter, female

Further along the walk there were very good views of a trio of Common Bronzewings in a dead tree. Heading across the golf course by the public path we sighted Grey Butcherbird, a female Australian King-Parrot, Noisy Miners and Australian Wood Ducks while Magpie-larks and Masked Lapwing called.

Australian Wood Ducks - Sanderson
Australian Wood Ducks on golf course dam

A solitary Crested Pigeon preferred clear ground beyond the manicured gardens. Back on the river path we added New Holland Honeyeater, Silvereye, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike and Red-browed Firetail. Turning around with thoughts of lunch becoming more prominent, most were disappointed to miss the sole sighting of a platypus which dived before even the adjacent birder could see it. Never mind, lunch was next.

Silvereye - Sanderson

However, lunchtime proved considerably more entertaining than usual. Things started with a request for jumper leads by the guy from the “overnight” car. Then a police car arrived and there was much interviewing. When the car was restarted the police donned blue gloves for a car search and we speculated on the reason. Eventually both vehicles left with drivers smiling. As said above, it was different from our regular lunch breaks.

Walkers - Sanderson
Walkers participating in the outing

The eight people remaining after lunch then tackled the uphill walk which starts about 400 m before the car park. We hoped for views and we were not disappointed. The view up the valley is great, even when misty in the distance, with the mountains in silhouette. A bonus was the sighting of our only raptors for the day, a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles and another of Whistling Kites. Carrying on to the highest point we were able to add brief views of a wary female Flame Robin, thus doubling our robin count as there had been a sighting of a female Scarlet Robin earlier.

Red-browed Firetail - Sanderson
Red-browed Firetail

Now it was time to descend and make our way through a great mob of roos. The males tended to rear up and scratch their flanks, which we interpreted as a threat action, but they allowed us to carry on walking. Down at the cars again we were able to count up 49 species for the day and we thanked Geoff very much for extending our experiences of this varied area.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings.