We finally assembled after numbers of our group had encountered traffic jams at different stages of their drives. Bill Ramsay was leader and had carefully chosen the date to coincide with a low tide which allows people to walk across to the island on the stony causeway. Twenty-four started the day under cloudy and humid conditions. There was no wind and the light cloudy conditions were very good for seeing birds. Before we reached the causeway we noted numerous Black Swans and Silver Gulls. And then a Striated Fieldwren called from the coastal heath. Excellent views were achieved.
A couple of Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes were also present nearby. At the start of the causeway we encountered a highlight of the walk – several Pacific Golden Plovers roosted and foraged at the water’s edge with the bonus of a couple of Ruddy Turnstones beside them. Other sightings included the more-expected Crested and Caspian Terns, Australian Pied Oystercatcher and Little Pied, Little Black and Pied Cormorants. At water’s edge we watched Red-necked Stints and Red-capped Plovers and quite a few people also added Sharp-tailed and Curlew Sandpipers. Both adult and immature Pacific Gulls were present, close to a few White-faced Herons and an occasional Great Egret. Ibises were only represented by Australian Whites and spoonbills by a few Royals. A group encountered Cape Barren Geese which then joined the list. A male White-fronted Chat flew over as we settled into lunch.
The afternoon walk saw the party separate into smaller groups as people found their comfortable afternoon speed. The advance party recorded Grey-tailed Tattlers which was a first for many. If measured by “lifers” the day was well rated as several people were smiling broadly as they realised they had seen three, four or even five new species. By bird call we had 44 species and we thanked Bill enthusiastically for introducing many to the location.
The car park birding kept people on their toes as our party assembled under the leadership of Elsmaree Baxter. Clouds dripped a little drizzly moisture but the day remained fine if muggy. The usual car park suspects were present – Common Mynas and Starlings, Red Wattlebirds and Superb Fairy-wrens used the trees and bushes while the occasional Australian White Ibis and Rainbow Lorikeet flew over. The nearby sports oval held at least ten Magpie-larks plus a couple of Australian Magpies and several Crested Pigeons, while a couple of very high-flying Welcome Swallows were only confirmed after considerable study. An unexpected sight was an adult Nankeen Night-Heron flying into a roost west of Oak Road across from the car park. Despite subsequent searching we were unable to locate its roost.
The western lake was designated “Grebe City” when almost every bird seen was an Australasian Grebe, though a couple were Hoary-headed. The usual discussion about the identity of brown teal ensued till the final decision was “Chestnut Teal, mostly juveniles or males in eclipse plumage”. A pair of young Eurasian Coot begged noisily from an uninterested adult. As we circled the lake we noted New Holland and White-plumed Honeyeaters in the trees. House Sparrows were present near the northern end of the walk and were welcomed by those who no longer had populations near their home area. Though a careful watch was kept, no Eurasian Tree Sparrows were seen, this species has been in steeper decline for several years.
The eastern lake showed only a couple of ducks as a large part of the lake was netted against birds to allow the weeds to establish well. The nets were clearly welcomed by Willie Wagtail and Superb Fairy-wren which were running after insects across the nets’ top. Back to the cars for a prompt lunch which enabled those with afternoon appointments to say goodbye. The walk along the section between the railway line and the industrial complex of CSL needs care and attention to the cyclists along the Capital City Trail section. In the past there was a population of small birds in the bush by the rail line but electricity maintenance has pruned away the bush to such an extent that there is no shelter and no birds. The only raptor sighting today was a Brown Goshawk glimpsed by a couple of people so the lack of the small birds for prey reduces the predator population too.
The afternoon walk yielded only one extra species, a Little Wattlebird near the gardens on the western side of the west lake. Bird call gave a total of 40 species. The result for a small manufactured water purification area was eye-opening and we thanked Elsmaree enthusiastically for introducing many and reacquainting the rest of us with this surprisingly well-populated urban area.
Twenty-three people started walking in misty showers of rain. These soon eased and patches of blue started appearing. Around the car park and near the picnic shelter of the “dragonfly” structure the dominant birds were, unsurprisingly, Noisy Miners and Australian Magpies keeping their attention on the possibility of picnic scraps.
A brief walk along the dragonfly’s tail allowed those who had not visited the park before to appreciate its size and layout and to turn binoculars towards the various lakes. The reed-fringed inlet of the main lake seemed only to host a Eurasian Coot and a Dusky Moorhen but as we crossed the small bridge we heard Australian Reed-Warblers calling and a couple were glimpsed by fortunate watchers.
Birds flying over had added Rainbow Lorikeet, Silver Gull and Little Raven to a list which included Magpie-lark, Galah, Red Wattlebird and Welcome Swallow.
Walking toward the lake we passed by a pair of Australian Wood Duck with 4 “teenaged” young, all well habituated to humans walking near. The walk along the western side of the main lake did not yield many new species though Superb Fairy-wren and Red-browed Firetail were much admired, especially the former with an active blue male and brown female. The high mournful whistles of Little Grassbird proved challenging for many to hear as we passed close to another reed bed. The large untidy nest of a Little Wattlebird was noted in a tree fork in the north-west of the park.
Birds were fewer on the southern side of the park though House Sparrow was added near the horse paddock of the harness club. A relaxed lunch was enjoyed after we returned to the “dragonfly” before we headed off to the western lakes.
This is usually a rewarding area and today did not disappoint. Swans were not seen but Hardhead and Grey and Chestnut Teal were added here. One highlight was the Latham’s Snipe which flushed briefly. An Australian Pelican flew over, very high, while a Nankeen Kestrel hovered far below it.
A Hoary-headed Grebe seemed to be alone but the shape of the small lakes and the vegetation around the edges meant counting birds was challenging. Many considered the highlight of the day was the pair of Freckled Ducks roosting quietly at the reeds’ edge.
Back to the car park and bird call where the total was 46 species, a very creditable total for a small created suburban site with a history as a sand quarry and the practical function as a water purification zone.
The venue was unfamiliar to most of our members and we were extremely grateful that Jodi Jackson was available to lead us when circumstances prevented Bridget, our advertised leader, from attending.
The weather was favourable, light clouds and breezes, so sunscreen rather than raincoats was advisable. Our group numbered twelve and car park birding was dominated by those introduced evils, the Common Starling and Common Myna. However Crested Pigeons and New Holland and White-plumed Honeyeaters were sighted with Red Wattlebirds calling and an occasional Willie Wagtail making an appearance.
Walking the track toward the ‘rusty’ pedestrian bridge we encountered brief sightings and then heard the trills of a somewhat unexpected White-winged Triller. First at least two males were seen and then at least one female flew between trees. Quite a good start to the walk. Could it get better? We doubted it.
Approaching the bridge we found the traffic noise overwhelmed any bird calls present so it was eyes only. City views can be available from the bridge but today there was insufficient wind so smog cheated photographers of clear views.
Male and female Superb Fairy Wrens fluttered around each other near the low scrub and the call of a Eurasian Skylark was audible to many as we walked away from the bridge and freeway.
A viewing platform located by the Merri Creek adjoined the reedbed containing calling Australian Reed-Warblers and Little Grassbird (seen by a fortunate few). To maintain the grasslands requires intervention and we passed a small team spraying invading broad-leaved weeds.
The track passed a short distance from a wetland where the intrepid observers who braved potential snakes (none detected) were rewarded with Hardheads, Hoary-headed Grebe, Purple Swamphen and Dusky Moorhen.
A highlight here was a Nankeen Night-Heron which flushed briefly and allowed everyone to see it.
Continuing we often encountered Golden-headed Cisticolas rising from the grass and, on one much-appreciated occasion, perching on the grass stalk for a minute. Our only raptor, a Nankeen Kestrel, hovered characteristically over the grass.
Our track rose toward an escarpment. Here was the creek and denser bush and here we added Red-browed Finches and a couple of Grey Fantails.
By now the thought of lunch was attractive and the potential rock crossing at the end of the track seemed a very good place to turn back. On the return we encountered our only Spotted Pardalote calling and glimpsed Brown and Yellow-rumped Thornbills.
We would have covered at least 4 km and sitting for lunch was very pleasant, even more so when we did the bird call to find we had a list of 45 species. We thanked Jodi whole-heartedly for sharing her knowledge with us.
A very windy and cool day greeted 12 members attending the November mid-week outing commencing at O’Donohue Picnic Ground off Sherbrooke Lodge Road in the Dandenong Ranges National Park.
Before setting off into the forest we had excellent views of a Rose Robin feeding on the verge of the forest, the first highlight for the day. Noise from the wind in the branches of the Mountain Ash trees drowned out birds calling at times but during the lulls, calls from Crimson Rosellas predominated, followed at times by Golden Whistlers at Grey Shrike-thrush. A White-throated Treecreeper, first heard, and then sighted on a tree led to male Lyrebird feeding below. One of two for the day.
On crossing the bridge over Sherbrooke Falls, a Rufous Fantail was calling and finally spotted. Our second highlight for the day. Distant calls from Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Grey Butcherbird and Little Raven, added to the days total 26 species recorded.
After lunch in the picnic ground, we walked to the end of Sherbrooke Lodge Road admiring the many large Rhododendron trees in private gardens, stopping at the Ray Littlejohn’s memorial which commemorates the work Ray did in the early study on the Lyrebirds in Sherbrooke Forest. Unfortunately, no additional species sighted.
Many thanks to Rhonda Miller who led the outing, for her local knowledge of the area and indicating that the 26 species recorded was above average for this type of habitat.
Graeme Hosken, for Diane Tweeddale who was not available to attend the outing.
The group numbered 16 when we assembled by the information centre on Tuesday at 13.00 in calm sunny weather, perfect for birdwatching.
Our leaders were Sally and Derek Whitehead, keen birders who live on the island. They were very familiar with the Cape Barren Goose population but those visiting from the Melbourne branch were very interested to see the recovery of this once-threatened species. Almost to plague proportions according to some disgruntled land owners.
The geese were quiet but that cannot be said of the numerous Masked Lapwings. These noisy neighbours appreciate the mowed grasses and clearly you were not an islander if your block didn’t boast a pair, preferably breeding. Meanwhile the sky was filled with skeins and small groups of Ibis, mainly Straw-necked though there were a few Australian White.
Our first location was the Newhaven jetty where both Silver Gulls and Pacific Gulls were observed, the latter mostly immatures in their mottled brown plumage and looking somewhat scruffy.
The area also hosted Black Swans and Australian Pelicans while cormorants included Little Pied, Pied and Little Black.
Out to sea an Australian Gannet was briefly viewed and then confirmed as it plunged after fish. Around the houses ringing the jetty area we also noted Welcome Swallows, Galahs, Australian Magpies and Wattlebirds, Red and Little.
Then it was across to Fisher’s Wetlands, Newhaven, where there were ducks, Chestnut Teal, Australian Wood Ducks, Australasian Shovelers and Australian Shelducks.
Both Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes were present while Black-winged Stilts foraged on the far side of the water.
A Royal Spoonbill shared a roosting islet with swans and pelicans and a Whiskered Tern fluttered and dipped near them. From the bush we could hear a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo calling while a Swamp Harrier and then a Brown Falcon started our raptor count for the visit.
The birding is usually excellent at Fisher’s Wetland and today was no exception. The bush was home to Yellow-rumped and Brown Thornbills plus White-eared Honeyeaters and Grey Fantails.
On checking Rhyll inlet from the cliff top (scopes are recommended for this location) we were able to include several new species. The sand spit hosted Bar-tailed Godwits and Australian Pied Oystercatchers and a Caspian Tern flew past while the highlight here was Whimbrels on the rocks at the cliff base.
We were kept so busy observing and recording that we decided to drive over to the Shearwater estate and complete the day with a bird call there rather than visit the Rhyll yacht club as originally planned.
The yacht club might have similar results to the Newhaven jetty area while the estate contains central wetlands for water management and is well worth a visit. Yes, there were Little Grassbirds calling and many watchers managed to see an Australian Reed-Warbler as it foraged along the reed base. Highlights here were Fairy Martins collecting mud for nests under a culvert and a pair of Superb Fairy-wrens glowing brilliantly in the late afternoon light as they perched on the reeds.
We called the list and were gratified to number 68 species for the afternoon. Thanks to Sally and Derek.
Next morning we assembled at 08.30 without two of our number who were only available for the Tuesday. The first stop was the Oswin Roberts Reserve on Harbison Rd, Rhyll, another excellent birding location.
We didn’t need to leave the car park to record Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets, Laughing Kookaburra, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Eastern Rosella and Fairy Martin.
Walking around the short circuit by the car park we had the good fortune to locate and then actually see a calling Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, to watch brilliantly coloured Striated Pardalotes and to encounter a couple of feeding Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos.
Fan-tailed Cuckoo proved challenging to locate but most of us were finally able to view the birds. A fortunate group actually observed not one but three Fantail Cuckoos in the same binocular view.
Along the track we encountered a couple of Swamp Wallabies while checking the understorey. Then it was time to drive to the Nobbies for seabirds. Here the raptor count increased as we recorded Peregrine Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel and Whistling Kite.
Many smiles resulted from the glimpses of Little Penguins in their nesting boxes on the side of the hillside as we traversed the board walk. Crowds of tourists and families were taking advantage of the school holidays and beautiful weather. The calm settled conditions for the previous couple of days were not likely to have driven any albatrosses inshore so we were not surprised when none were seen.
It was not a far drive to Swan Lake from the Nobbies and most of us were soon smiling as pairs of Black Swans led their fluffy grey cygnets and a pair of Chestnut Teal boasted seven ducklings.
There were raptors, Swamp Harriers and Whistling Kites, as we walked the board walk and some of us wondered how many cygnets, ducklings and goslings would make it to adulthood. We decided to have the bird call here and made ourselves comfortable but the usual “bird call calls” rang out with White-browed Scrubwren and Silvereye joining the list at the last minute. The morning’s list totalled 66 species and the cumulative total for the two days was 90 species. It goes almost without saying that we thanked both Sally and Derek whole-heartedly for all their preparation which had gone into such a successful session.
Those arriving at the car park were clearly optimists as the heavy overnight rain would have deterred pessimists. Graeme Hosken led the group which numbered 27 at the outset. Soon we had recorded the inevitable Noisy Miners plus a few Australian Wood Ducks, Eastern Rosellas and a single immature Crimson Rosella. One miner nest hung over the car park, neat on its branch, attended by two adults. An opportunistic Laughing Kookaburra checked out the car park without visible reward while the mournful calls of White-winged Choughs sounded across the swollen creek. Few of us had ever seen the creek as high as it ran deep and fast after the rain and at day’s end we also noted that the water level had come up even while we walked.
A few corellas were identified as Little Corellas as they flew over (no visible pink colouring) but screeching Sulphur-crested Cockatoos presented no ID challenges. Further into the walk we passed Magpie-larks, some collecting mud for their bowl nests. Bush birds were not prominent, perhaps since the rain or perhaps inhibited by the many miners. Australian White Ibises, however, were clearly not fazed and were flying continually overhead. They have, in fact, taken over a small island in the main lake as a breeding colony and are also spreading along the lake edges – apparently displacing other species. Ibis breeding has been successful, to judge by the young which were seen begging food from adults. A few Little Pied Cormorants still used the lake while smaller numbers of Australasian Grebe and Australasian Darter were joined by more numerous Eurasian Coots. A lone Royal Spoonbill challenged observers by hiding its head as it stood at lake’s edge and a Pink-eared Duck was initially thought to be solo until its mate appeared at the entrance to a nest box. A great sighting was a lone Freckled Duck which swam near a Black Swan beside the bank.
After an Australian Pelican obligingly glided overhead we searched the nearby bush for small birds. Mostly there were calls but few sightings. However we recorded Grey Fantail, Superb Fairy-wren, White-browed Scrubwren and Yellow-faced Honeyeater. Out from the edge of the scrub we added White-faced Heron and, less enthusiastically, Spotted Dove. The Crested Pigeons near the viewing platform were received more positively. It was now lunch break which all felt had been well-earned, even though a few needed to leave to attend to other commitments. The continuing group walked on, happily adding Chestnut and Grey Teal, Eastern Great and Cattle Egret and, thought by raptor enthusiasts the highlight of the afternoon, Australian Hobby. This like an earlier Brown Goshawk caused the smaller birds to raise the alarm vociferously against a predator.
Back to the car park and we checked the bird list for the day – 59 species had been recorded. Such a result caused smiles all round and we thanked Graeme enthusiastically for all his work which had resulted in such a successful day.
The group numbered 20, of whom two were international visitors, from the UK and Canada, and another couple were visitors from the support group Regenerate. Elsmaree Baxter led and all were grateful that the weather, though very cold, was dry. The ground was still wet and muddy with plenty of large puddles after several days of rain so care was needed when walking. Early arrivals were treated to a flock of 20 Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos flying overhead and some later arrivals counted the last bird while it perched in a bare tree. Other car park species included the inevitable Noisy Miners plus a few Australian Wood Ducks, Eastern Rosellas, Red-rumped Parrots and Rainbow Lorikeets plus a pair of Magpie-larks. Overhead flew a Great Cormorant and then, to the alarm calls from many species, a slender-winged Australian Hobby.
We walked past the golf course, noting a White-faced Heron patrolling near a green, apparently unfazed by the driving practice going on at the far end of the range. The grass was covered with yellow golf balls which must presumably be collected mechanically. Turning back into the bush section we noted the calls of Pied Currawong and Little Raven and watched Corellas flying near exercising dogs, presumably Long-billed Corellas as only this species had been seen from the start.
We headed back towards the Yarra which was flowing strong and high. A highlight here was a female Australasian Darter perched on a snag near a couple of Pacific Black Ducks. Some in the front of the group saw a robin which was another highlight – it was a female Scarlet Robin. The visitors were smiling and listing more and more.
A Dusky Moorhen swam near but did not try to fight the very strong river current. An Eastern Spinebill called but was only seen by one or two while Red Wattlebirds were heard at intervals. Superb Fairy-wrens’ calls were identified to the visitors but sightings were few and a “little brown job” was initially misidentified as a thornbill but on closer inspection was a White-browed Scrubwren being unexpectedly obvious on a low bare branch. Another good sighting, though often brief, was a calling Spotted Pardalote, much admired. One observer’s wish was granted when a clear close view of a Laughing Kookaburra was obtained as up till then she had only heard or briefly glimpsed this iconic Australian.
We were heading toward the boathouse when a sharp pair of eyes penetrated the great camouflage of a pair of Tawny Frogmouths huddled closely together against the cold. A great sighting for everyone.
Back to the shelter near the car park for lunch where we were checked out by Noisy Miners which made the most of every slight food spill. Wood ducks were still foraging on the near grass and were joined peaceably by a lone Crested Pigeon. At intervals some heard a distant call of an Olive-backed Oriole which was then picked up by all during a quiet pause in our chatter. However no sighting was obtained despite careful peering upwards. Unfortunately Elsmaree had to terminate her walk at lunchtime so she joined those finishing then because of fatigue or prior engagement. We thanked her wholeheartedly for all her preparation and wished her well.
Pat Bingham led the smaller remaining group around the Macfarlane Burnet circuit where the only addition to the species list was an overhead V of Straw-necked Ibis which brought the total of species to 48. We thanked Pat for the additional walk with its terrain and information boards.
Cold wind but no rain was the day’s weather. Fifteen assembled at the walk’s start and Rob Grosvenor, our leader, had contacted Margaret Hunter of the Friends of Edithvale Wetlands who very kindly opened the bird hide on a week day. The drought had almost emptied the lake and the recent rain had partially refilled it, producing a water depth of 0.4 m near the hide. Black Swans had arrived and were breeding. In the distance there were at least 6 occupied mounds where nesting was in progress or soon to be so. Feathers were ruffled and necks arched and it was fascinating to realise the time the pens needed to hold their breath while underwater during copulation. On or around the water there were also many Chestnut Teal and Purple Swamphens with fewer numbers of Pacific Black Ducks and a couple of Willie Wagtails.
Strong reed growth (now dry) limited vision and we were very glad of the elevation provided by the bird hide. The reeds also provided habitat for Superb Fairy-wrens and at least two brilliantly coloured males were using the area beside the hide. Heading across Edithvale Road (by the safe convenience of the pedestrian crossing lights) we quickly added Crested Pigeons, Galahs and Red-rumped Parrots.
Walking off the path but keeping to the north side there were the (almost inevitable) Noisy Miners as well as Australian Magpies and Magpie-larks. Eastern Rosellas moved quickly through the open forest and a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets seemed to be checking out a hollow stump. The golf course hosted Eurasian Coot, Australian Wood Ducks, a Masked Lapwing and a lone Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. There was also the much-viewed Magpie Goose which seems to have spent some lonely time there. Nearer the pond it was easier to use the height of the observation deck to check out the bird population on or by the water – a White-faced Heron, a Little Pied Cormorant, a male Australasian Shoveler, two Musk Ducks (male and female) and at least one Hoary-headed Grebe. A Swamp Harrier slowly quartered the pond edges, causing alarm calls and some change of direction in a small flock of teal.
Heading back to the cars and lunch we recorded a rather unusual sighting for the area. The sharp eyes of Geoff Deason picked up a well-hidden Tawny Frogmouth in a eucalypt beside the path. Few had previously seen one in this area.
While doing a preliminary bird call after eating lunch we paused when a somewhat unfamiliar call came from the reeds. Confirmation of a White-browed Scrubwren came from call recordings. After lunch several had to depart but the rump of nine continued walking along the track beside the golf course. We didn’t expect to add much to the morning’s respectable species total of 43 or 44 but it wasn’t long before someone saw four Australian Pelicans. Later our second raptor, a Black-shouldered Kite, hovered and soared close to the track not far from a perched Grey Butcherbird (which had only been heard before). Little Wattlebirds were heard along the track and Red Wattlebirds had been recorded in the morning. Spotted Pardalotes called from the trees but none were seen.
Back to the cars we thanked Rob enthusiastically for his preparation and felt rather satisfied to realise the species list now totalled 50. It was an excellent result for a grey, cold and breezy day, so typical of Melbourne in July.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.