Category Archives: Diane Tweeddale

Weekdays Outing to Newport Lakes and Jawbone Reserve

5 April 2017
mix of birds on an inlet - Graeme Dean
On an islet in Jawbone – Immature Little Pied Cormorant, Royal Spoonbill, (partly hidden) Chestnut Teal and a Little Pied Cormorant. Photo by Graeme Dean

The morning was perfect for birding, calm, clear and mild, as our 19 assembled. Our number included Jennifer, a birder over from the USA for a month.

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Crested Pigeon. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

Hazel Veevers led the group once we could discipline ourselves to leave the car park where, as usual, the birding was rewarding and effortless. There were Red Wattlebirds, Crested Pigeons, Superb Fairy-wrens, Musk Lorikeets, New Holland Honeyeaters and House Sparrows in numbers with Rainbow Lorikeets, Little Ravens and Magpie-larks somewhat fewer.

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New Holland Honeyeater. Photo by Graeme Dean

The main lake had both Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes in considerable numbers. Welcome Swallows soared above the canopy and over the water.

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‘Belligerent’ Welcome Swallow. Photo by Graeme Dean

Walking further we noted the amphitheatre was very popular with Superb Fairy-wrens and honeyeaters foraging in and under the trees. The only raptor of the day was recorded here – two Brown Goshawks interacted very briefly before disappearing behind the trees. Eurasian Coots and Purple Swamphens were present on all lakes but Dusky Moorhens were only present later at Jawbone. Spotted Pardalotes called and finally one allowed us to glimpse him among the foliage, delighting all and especially those who hadn’t seen one before. Flowering trees each attracted several species of bird and therefore also attracted the attention of birdwatchers.

Common Greenshank - Black-winged Stilt - Graeme Dean
Common Greenshank and Black-winged Stilt. Photo by Graeme Dean

Back for lunch which was interrupted with a quiet call of “Robin”. The “sparrow” on the path was actually a female Flame Robin which stayed around long enough for all to achieve good views. The lakes reserve had a bird count of 34 species.

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Crossing at Newport Lake. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

We drove down to Jawbone where the bird count mounted quickly. Waterbirds were numerous though a scope was an asset when identifying those on the distant sand bar. A highlight here was an Arctic Jaeger unsuccessfully attacking a Silver Gull and being harassed in its turn.

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Red-kneed Dotterel. Photo by Graeme Dean

Black Swans and Silver Gulls were numerous but there were other species in smaller numbers – Pied, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants, Royal Spoonbills, Australian Pied Oystercatchers, Australian White Ibis, White-faced Heron, Crested Terns, the list continued with both Grey and Chestnut Teal, Common Greenshanks and a small flock of Red-kneed Dotterels quite close to the hide.

Pond by housing at Jawbone
Pond by housing at Jawbone. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

We counted nine duck species as well as the ubiquitous grebes and numbers of swans on the pond near the houses. It was good to record Pink-eared, Bluebill, Australasian Shoveler and Musk Duck as well as the more familiar species.

Pink-eared Ducks - Graeme Dean
Pink-eared Ducks. Photo by Graeme Dean

A Great Egret by the far bank was clearly having success with its fishing and a small flotilla of grebes moved closer to it, possibly to join the hunt.

Great Egret - Graeme Dean
Great Egret. Photo by Graeme Dean.

Time to call it a day and count the Jawbone species. Here we recorded 56 species and calculated the day’s total as 64 species. It had been a good day’s birding with good views of many species and we thanked Hazel for introducing some and reintroducing others to this area.

Diane Tweeddale coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Brimbank Park, Keilor East

6 March 2017

The day was very warm with clear skies and a light breeze when 20 of us gathered in the car park. Elsmaree Baxter led our group and, as frequently happens, the car park birding was extremely rewarding. Here we recorded quite a list including Little Raven, Red Wattlebird, Galah, Noisy Miner, Australian Magpie, Rainbow Lorikeet and Long-billed Corella as the more frequent birds, though early arrivals added at least a further six species. The highlight sighting was a Collared Sparrowhawk persistently quartering the trees hoping to flush small prey. Little wonder that some time elapsed before we left the area.

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Pacific Black Duck. Photo by Bevan Hood

We headed initially to the nearer ford where the only waterbirds were Dusky Moorhen and Pacific Black Duck but wattlebirds and the occasional White-plumed Honeyeater were dipping to drink from the surface. The ducks amused by using the concrete fish ladder as a swim course or maze.

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Red-browed Finch. Photo by Bevan Hood

Piles of flow debris indicated the past river height after recent rain. At another ford there were slightly skittish Red-browed Finches and an unexpectedly late, silent, Australian Reed-Warbler.

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Red-browed Finch and Australian Reed-Warbler. Photo by Danika Sanderson.

Superb Fairy-wrens called mostly from shelter and Spotted Pardalotes were also vocal while Willie Wagtails chattered, warbled and generally took little notice of the large, slow insect stirrers, aka humans. White-browed Scrubwrens could be heard occasionally and some watchers eventually “nailed” sightings, Grey Fantails were considerably more obliging and Brown Thornbills were present in forested areas. Heading out of a treed section on our way back to lunch we were awed and delighted to view a Wedge-tailed Eagle being harassed by a much smaller Brown Goshawk.

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Wedge-tailed Eagle and Brown Goshawk. Photo by Danika Sanderson

These were our second raptors for the day and with the earlier sparrowhawk made great memories. We decided that the most successful breeding season award went to the Red Wattlebirds, with Silvereyes coming in second.

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Silvereye. Photo by Bevan Hood

Some House Sparrows in small groups or singly were seen, though this species has declined or disappeared from former locations. After lunch we kept an eye out for a Tawny Frogmouth but a single sighting was not to be – first one, comparatively easy to see, then a second, pretending to be a dozing possum and initially looking furry, not feathery, then the most challenging of all. The third was truly bark-like and extremely well camouflaged and had eluded even experienced “froggie finders”. Well done to Pearl for penetrating its disguise.

Tawny Frogmouth - Danika Sanderson
Tawny Frogmouth. Photo by Danika Sanderson

The day was now quite warm and bird activity had understandably almost stopped so we decided to wrap up the day. The bird list for the group totalled 44 species and we thanked Elsmaree for all her careful planning which had produced such a satisfactory day. It was the first time we had returned to Brimbank in five years and memories of earlier walks had dimmed. What a way to refresh them.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens

14 February 2017
Photographs by Diane Tweeddale

There were 19 of us when the final arrivals appeared. Our numbers included a few visitors including a lady in her 99th year who inspired us all with her fortitude. The day was cool, cloudy and slightly damp after overnight rain so birds were visible though making out their markings was often challenging. David Plant led the group and shared his knowledge of the gardens’ history and function as well as their birds. Unfortunately the Bell Miners which had been confined to one small area have expanded so much that there are only a few places where they are not detected. It’s challenging to detect and see your first miner but they do pall quite quickly afterwards, especially when you realise how they have displaced so many other species. At least we detected no Noisy Miners this day but they are reportedly increasing in numbers just outside the gardens.

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Azolla bloom and warning notice – children and pets may mistake the surface plants for a lawn and fall into the underlying water

Shortly after we started walking we came across a very tall flowering yucca beside the Temple of the Winds. It was certainly popular with the birds and we recorded Rainbow Lorikeets and Little and Red Wattlebirds all using it simultaneously. Government House grounds yielded our first Laughing Kookaburra which promptly flew over the fence and joined us in the main gardens. We didn’t spend much time by the main lake as an extensive azolla bloom was being reduced by a powered weeding vessel and the consequent noise was driving away almost all birds.

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Pacific Black Duck with young

Near a quieter lake area we encountered a Pacific Black Duck with eight tiny ducklings and watched interestedly as she led them a considerable distance to a further lake. One little fellow (we decided it was a difficult male) consistently lagged behind the brood and was last seen running determinedly to catch up before entering the target lake.

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Purple Swamphen – these will kill and eat any undefended ducklings

An Eastern Koel had been recently recorded in the gardens and its call had been heard that morning so we kept listening but unfortunately could not detect it unequivocally. The only parrots listed were the lorikeet, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and an immature Crimson Rosella and David pointed out the plantings of kangaroo grass which hopefully will attract Red-rumped Parrots into the gardens. No owls were seen but the finding of a Tawny Frogmouth feather indicated its recent presence.

Small birds are reducing in numbers as miners and Common Mynas increase – there are no further sightings of Superb Fairy-wrens and the numbers of Brown Thornbills seem down.

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Little Wattlebird and Common Myna – eating from the humans’ leftovers near the cafe

Silvereyes, on the other hand, were seen today in some areas and there were several Willie Wagtails plus a few Eastern Spinebills, the only other honeyeater seen today. At lunch break it was interesting to observe a Little Wattlebird feeding from the leftovers on the terrace. That’s an additional species utilising that area. At lunch we encountered the only non-avian sighting of the day, an Eastern Water Dragon which was quietly shedding its skin and warming on the dark asphalt path.

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Eastern Water Dragon

David chatted with his friend, one of the polers of the lake punts, who reported that, it being St. Valentine’s Day, he had overheard two proposals in his punt that morning.

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Lotus flower – ethereal beauty out of the mud

The gardens are important for many activities. During the afternoon walk there was considerable noise coming from the canopy of a tall tree and we made out a small flock of Bell Miners angrily mobbing a Pied Currawong. By walk’s end, with 32 species recorded on our first outing of 2017, we were each deciding to revisit the gardens as they have so much to offer. We heartily thanked David for his generosity and preparation.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings.

Weekday outing to Ruffey Lake Park, Doncaster

13 December, 2016

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Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. Photo by Dennis Hill

The weather forecast of 34o and strong winds failed to deter 28 enthusiasts from assembling. Two of our number came from USA, bravely wielding their binoculars while hoping to be reunited with their missing luggage soon. The area is challenging for birding as it is supplied with well-made paths frequented by walkers, joggers, prams and dogs (which have several off-leash areas and access to the lake). Fishing is prohibited but the visible small fish may tempt anglers. The car park area is mowed grass and spaced trees with picnic shelters and playgrounds. It was dominated by Noisy Miners but there was also a large flock of Long-billed Corellas plus a few Little Corellas, Galahs and the occasional Red Wattlebird.

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Long-billed Corellas. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

We initially headed off to the lake which had been created to irrigate early orchards. Here the creek contained Pacific Black and Australian Wood Ducks with a couple of Chestnut Teal. Successful breeding had occurred as most of these were quite young. Grey Butcherbirds called as we walked beside the bush fringing the creek. Revegetation is in progress in several areas along the creek and the fence seems to be quite successful in limiting access by dogs. The adjacent grasslands hosted Australian Magpies and the occasional Magpie-lark (one carrying prey) but little else. Waterbirds were limited to the ducks previously mentioned plus Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen and Eurasian Coot, all with begging young. Another good breeding season. A couple of ‘dinner ducks’ on the lake (not counted) had presumably been dumped as unwanted pets. Lorikeets sometimes flew through and both Rainbow and Musk were recorded. The only other parrots were a pair of Eastern Rosellas near the creek. A young Galah perching beside an adult gave us excellent views of the contrasting pink-crested juvenile plumage and that of the adult. Walking in the sun could be tiring but the cloud cover kept conditions acceptable for much of the time and from the bush came the calls of Spotted Pardalotes and one or two Brown Thornbills.

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Welcome Swallow. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

Most birds, as usual, showed more sense than humans on a hot, windy day and stayed quietly in the shelter of the vegetation. Juvenile Welcome Swallows, however, hadn’t learnt sense yet and crowded the railing near an inlet to the lake, occasionally begging food from an adult. The usual introduced birds were present and apparently doing well in the mixed habitat – Common Blackbird, Starling and Myna were recorded as well as Spotted Dove. An additional sighting was a Long-necked Turtle resting on a lakeside log.

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Superb Fairy-wren, male, with prey. Photo by Dennis Hill

By morning’s end we had recorded 28 species which was gratifying given the location and weather. Several people needed to leave so we finished early and headed off to pre-Christmas tasks which hopefully could be done in cooler, calmer conditions.

Diane Tweeddale, leader

Blog editor’s note: Photos by Dennis Hill not taken on the day.

 

 

Weekdays outing to the You Yangs

29 November 2016
Photographs by Merrilyn Serong
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Tau Emerald Dragonfly

The day was fine, if overcast, as 19 enthusiasts met in the main car park. A hundred school children had a bicycle day booked but fortunately their route did not overlap with ours. Merrilyn Serong led us and we were soon smiling as the clouds dissipated and a blue sky set in for the day. The car park had those frequently met species, Red Wattlebird and Superb Fairy-wren. Then a very dark Grey Currawong created a long discussion about its identity then definitely confirmed by showing us its nest. This was not the only nest seen. A Willie Wagtail on its diminutive low nest was admired while a Red Wattlebird watched over the rim of its large twiggy nest.

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White-winged Chough

An even more solid nest was the mud bowl of a White-winged Chough. Despite the recent rains the dam near the park entrance continues to be dry and waterbirds are no longer recorded. Plants had responded to the wet, however, and groundcovers included rock ferns, mosses and succulents while the trees and shrubs displayed new leaves and some flowers.

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Australian Painted Lady

Insects had responded to the plant growth and dragonflies and butterflies were frequently seen. The bush sounded to the calls of Grey Shrike-thrush, Olive-backed Oriole and Fan-tailed Cuckoo. Horsefield’s and Shining Bronze-Cuckoos were also present.

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Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Honeyeaters included White-plumed and Yellow-faced plus Black-chinned (the last seen and heard by some only). Cockatoos were represented by Galahs and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and parrots by Purple-crowned Lorikeets, Crimson and Eastern Rosellas and Red-rumped Parrots.

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Black-chinned Honeyeater

Not far from the nesting wagtail a pair of Jacky Winters foraged actively. The only other robin was an Eastern Yellow Robin. Both Spotted and Striated Pardalotes were vocal. The Laughing Kookaburra and the Sacred Kingfisher called and some heard the call of the Mistletoebird which only gave a very brief glimpse as it flew off.

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White-plumed Honeyeater

We had walked around the entrance area before driving on to Gravel Pit Tor and from there to our shaded lunch spot at the small picnic ground where the ephemeral dam was holding water well but only a few honeyeaters were drinking and bathing. We birded in the East Flat in the afternoon but the sun was still high and birds were few. Then it was time for birdcall and we were very pleased to record 47 species for the day.

We thanked Merrilyn heartily for all her preparation which had given us such a satisfactory day.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Cranbourne Royal Botanic Gardens

8  November 2016

Our group numbered 18 with Pat Bingham as leader. The weather was bird-watching perfect – fine, mild with blue skies and little wind, a welcome change from the previous blustery week. The car park, as they do, yielded numerous species, both calling and visible. Unfortunately one species was the introduced Common Myna but others included the Red Wattlebird (almost always seen or heard throughout the park) and the smaller Brown Thornbill. Lucky observers had brief views of the Southern Brown Bandicoot but most could simply hope for future success. Both Australian and Little Ravens called, and Spotted Dove was heard at the same time as Crested Pigeon. Other calls were White-eared Honeyeater (later sighted many times) and Shining Bronze-Cuckoo which confused with its unexpected variety of calls and was only seen briefly. Spotted Pardalotes called and then delighted many with brief glimpses while Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes announced their presence with calls and then lived up to their old name of ‘Shuffle-wing’ as they landed on a perch.

We headed off on the Wetlands Walk and Lake Track 2, adding Superb Fairy-wren among the bracken and Grey Fantail in the middle storey. A Swamp Harrier attempted to upstage our main interest in a pair of Pallid Cuckoos who appeared to briefly try to mate before separating. We walked beside grassland between housing and the park where we observed the Swamp Harrier using a thermal to gain altitude and where a Brown Goshawk later quartered the tree tops. Golden Whistlers had been vocal but it was during watching the Pallid Cuckoos that we added the first Rufous Whistler to our list.

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Rainbow Lorikeets. Photo by Dennis Hill

Reaching the first lake there was considerable discussion when teal were observed – was the first seen a Grey Teal with young? Certainly the second family contained a male, female and young Chestnut Teal. After consideration the consensus was we had observed two Chestnut Teal families. Waterbirds were not common but included a solitary Little Pied Cormorant on a dead branch and a Purple Swamphen with three fluffy black young – the numbers were probably down as the season’s rains had provided many alternative locations. Parrots were uncommon; there were only a couple each of Rainbow Lorikeets and Eastern Rosellas. Fan-tailed Cuckoos called but were seldom seen and Eastern Yellow Robins were heard only. We were pleased to record only one Noisy Miner on the periphery of the park. Where they invade, the species count always seems to plummet, especially White-plumed Honeyeaters. Black Wallabies delighted all who saw them and the sightings of a Copperhead and an Eastern Bearded Dragon were a bonus. Eastern Common Froglets produced a continual chorus beside any water, a contrast to the drought years, and a colony of onion orchids was reported. By day’s end we had recorded 52 species of birds and we thanked Pat for sharing her knowledge and experience with us.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Phillip Island

10-11 October 2016

Two youngsters joined 23 adults at the information centre on Phillip Island Road. The previous day’s storm winds had closed some areas but our leaders, Sally and Derek Whitehead, adjusted their itinerary to accommodate the changing weather. The cold wind and intermittent rain were challenging but all had dressed for the weather. The birds showed less enthusiasm for the wintry conditions and there were few species around the car park – Masked Lapwing, Welcome Swallow and Little Raven dominated though both a Shining Bronze-cuckoo and a Fan-tailed Cuckoo called. We drove to the Newhaven jetty and the bird list grew as Silver Gulls and Crested Terns sheltered near several immature Pacific Gulls, one of which was pecking determinedly at the long backbone (about 80 cm) and head of a rather large fish. Australian Pelicans and Little Pied Cormorants stood further out and in the distance a white dot resolved into a Royal Spoonbill which obligingly flew over us as we were leaving and was added to the Common Blackbird, New Holland Honeyeater and Willie Wagtail foraging in the park side bushes. It was only a short drive to Fishers wetland where the birding was very busy. Cape Barren Geese had clearly had a most successful couple of breeding seasons as they were present not only in the sanctuary but in most paddocks and also in housing estates where the vegetation was grassy. Black Swans with cygnets of varying ages swam at Fishers, to the delight of youngsters and adults. A highlight here was a lone Cattle Egret in breeding plumage. Scopes revealed more distant birds – Australasian Shoveler, White-fronted Chat and Chestnut Teal plus an unexpected Wood Sandpiper– while passing above our heads were Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike and Whistling Kite. We left the wetland with regret, pausing to admire a fluffy Dusky Moorhen chick among the reeds. A bush walk added Brown Thornbill, White-naped and White-plumed Honeyeaters as well as Grey Butcherbird.

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Bar-tailed Godwit. Photo by Derek Whitehead

The next stop was at the Shearwater estate where a well-vegetated water retention/purification pond hosted numerous calling Little Grassbirds. Some were lucky enough to glimpse one, including a fortunate birder who’d only ever heard them, infrequently. Over the water Fairy Martins twisted and flew and a happy spotting was a pair of Spotted Pardalotes which flew into a low street tree beside us. The small flock of foraging Red-browed Finches delighted those who saw them. When you consider the bird list (not given comprehensively here) for this housing estate you realise how much has been learnt recently about creating an area which controls water, provides recreation, looks attractive and provides a wildlife habitat. On to the cemetery next as clouds once more built up on the horizon. The day was darkening and fewer birds were detected though a Grey Currawong obligingly perched on a dead tree and posed against grey sky long enough for most to see. As a rainstorm approached it was decided to postpone the day’s birdcall till next morning and finish the day to give everyone a chance to reach their accommodation reasonably comfortably.

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Whimbrel. Photo by Derek Whitehead

The next morning we reassembled by the info’ centre, did our best to recall what each had recorded the previous day and created the Monday bird list. A quick count indicated that the group had recorded 64 species for that afternoon. First drive was out to Kitty Miller wetlands, on private property with permission to visit. Birding from the road added Australasian Pipit as well as the usual PI suspects, geese, magpies, Common Starlings and Great Cormorant. Then we made our way through some very wet, sticky and slippery mud (who said birdwatching is for wimps?) up to the bank of a chain of ponds where young geese were shepherded by their adults and swans nested. The duck count mounted as Pink-eared, Musk and Australian Shelduck were added to Pacific Black and Australian Wood Duck.

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Musk Duck, male. Photo by Derek Whitehead

All good things must end so it was off to the Oswin Roberts sanctuary which had been reopened after being shut Sunday and Monday due to the dangerous winds. Here were bushbirds – Eastern Rosella, Laughing Kookaburra and Grey Shrike-thrush joined Superb Fairy-wren and female Golden Whistler. The short walking track was chosen as once again we were pressed for time under darkening skies. The children especially were delighted to encounter Black (Swamp) Wallabies watching us from near the path. We then drove to the Rhyll observation point above Rhyll Inlet. There were Whimbrels and Bar-tailed Godwits on the edge of the sand and Crested and Caspian Terns joined cormorants and pelicans on the sandspit. A lone Little Egret walked animatedly in the shallows while a Pied Cormorant flew over. The last birds to be added were Red-necked Stints and Red-capped Plovers bringing the bird list for the two days to 89 species. We thanked Sally and Derek most enthusiastically for all their work and preparation which so successfully overcame the obstacles created by the extreme weather. Far from disappearing, some of us stayed for ‘just a little more’ birding with afternoon tea and others were heard planning return visits now that they knew of more locations than the well-publicised Nobbies and the penguin parade.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne Weekdays Outings

Weekday outing to Pound Bend, Warrandyte

20 September 2016
Photos by Alan Veevers
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Rainbow Lorikeet

A sunny mild day saw 26 enthusiasts assemble in the car park. Our number included some new to birding and among these were two young primary students with their parents. Their enthusiasm was infectious and both birds and flowers were pointed out to them by other walkers. The car park and adjacent picnic grounds were raucous with Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Rainbow Lorikeets with Noisy Miners filling in any quiet spells.

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Long-billed Corella

They didn’t monopolise the place, though. There were Australian Wood Ducks, Australian Magpies and both Little and Long-billed Corellas. The last two gave good views which enabled all to compare and contrast their colouring and bill shape. Lorikeets and cockatoos were determinedly examining potential nest holes in the tree trunks and branches and if the breeding season is favourable return birdwatching visits may find many young birds. We followed the riverside track, heading northeast under the leadership of Alan and Hazel Veevers. Small bush birds were conspicuously absent from the open picnic area but were now encountered more frequently and we enjoyed sightings of Grey Fantail and White-browed Scrubwren while Fan-tailed Cuckoo and Grey Shrike-thrush called. Striated and Brown Thornbills were seen and Golden Whistlers, male and female, were also present. Honeyeaters appeared and we recorded Yellow-faced, White-eared and White-naped Honeyeaters as well as Red Wattlebirds. Spotted and Striated Pardalotes called loudly but were more challenging to locate among the foliage as the breeze strengthened.

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Little Corella

The river was flowing very fast and deep and there were few waterbirds noted. However their absence was more than compensated for by excellent sightings of a platypus swimming against the current and “holding station” once it had reached its preferred position. Further along a loud chorus of Banjo Frogs also indicated that the recent rains were very welcome. A brief detour to show the beginners Eastern Grey Kangaroos also added an Olive-backed Oriole to the list and several times one or two Common Bronzewings flew from us. Not all observed them but an unexpected list of raptors was achieved – Peregrine Falcon and Collared Sparrowhawk were seen as well as a Wedge-tailed Eagle which was being harassed by a Little Raven.

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Sulphur-crested Cockatoos

Back to the cars for a welcome lunch break after which some had to leave but 16 remained to drive to Longridge Camp where we had permission to enter as there were no current campers. It was interesting to see the old farm buildings and speculate on when and for what they were last used. There were few birds and we only added those unpopular introductions, Common Myna and Common Starling, but the views from the ridge were breathtaking. At walk’s end the bird list totalled 44 species and we thanked Alan and Hazel for all their preparations which had resulted in a great day’s birding.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekday outing to Altona area

6 September 2016
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Spotted Pardalote, male. Photo by Kathy Zonneville

The weather was perfect, mild, sunny and calm as 28 people gathered in the farthest car park. Seven of these were young people from the Green Army planning to acquire bird ID skills and we were happy to assist with loaned binoculars, field guides and advice.

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Superb Fairy-wren, male. Photo by Kathy Zonneville

The immediate area near the car park was well populated with Crested Pigeons, magpies, Superb Fairy-wrens, Galahs and Red Wattlebirds while a few Red-browed Finches were less easy to find though one was sighted carrying a long grass stalk as nesting material.

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Red-browed Finch. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

There were Willie Wagtails and Grey Fantails with Little Ravens calling and flying overhead. Introduced birds were also present – flocks of Common Starlings, some Spotted Doves, fewer Common Mynas with occasional Common Blackbird calling. Small birds among the denser foliage included Spotted Pardalotes and Silvereyes.

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Silvereye. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

The drainage channel and catchment ponds initially looked empty but persistence revealed Chestnut Teal and Pacific Black Duck and a further bankside walk added White-faced Heron, croaking as they flew near, and Eurasian Coot and Dusky Moorhen.

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White-faced Heron. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

Little Grassbirds called plaintively just after we had identified a Horsefield’s Bronze-Cuckoo by its call. Much searching by many failed to repeat the brief sighting of a Spotless Crake. The Laverton Creek mouth area added Australian Pelican, Little Pied Cormorant and, initially, an extremely distant Great Egret. Then, closer to the group a second egret provided much better views.

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Little Pied Cormorant. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

The Bird of the Day arrived here – an immature White-bellied Sea-Eagle which flew toward us and then turned direction over our heads, giving great views to all those present. Another bird which proved most cooperative was a Singing Honeyeater which showed great loyalty to the bare dead tree on which it perched, returning there after many short flights and allowing excellent views.

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White-plumed Honeyeater. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

It joined Red Wattlebird and White-plumed and New Holland Honeyeaters on our list. The party divided on its way back to lunch and the car park but neither group added any species to an already impressive list.

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New Holland Honeyeater. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

After lunch those who stayed on headed north, adding a Brown Falcon and a challenging Australasian Pipit while delighting in the White-fronted Chats on the low bushes. One photographer was recording a chat when another bird flew into the camera’s field. After taking many photos in the brief time available these were compared with field guides and finally we concluded that the intruding bird was a Jacky Winter. Definitely serendipity.

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Spotted Pardalote, female. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

By the walk’s end we counted 60 species for the day and we thanked Gina Hopkins, our leader, for her preparation and enthusiasm which gave such a great result.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne Weekdays Outings

Weekdays Outing to Badger Weir, Healesville

15 August 2016
Laughing Kookaburra - Stephen Garth
Laughing Kookaburra. Photo by Stephen Garth

Thirty-two people assembled in the car park, 27 members (including several new members) and five visitors. Rob Grosvenor was our leader and the morning was perfect for birding: mild, clear and calm.

Brown Thornbill - Stephen Garth
Brown Thornbill. Photo by Stephen Garth

Much better than the winds which had occurred earlier and which returned the following day. The winds had been strong enough to drop branches and trees, including some after the recce in the previous week.

Australian King-Parrot male - Stephen Garth
Australian King-Parrot, male. Photo by Stephen Garth

We observed these as we negotiated the fallen material in several places along the walking track. The day was good but where were the birds?

The picnic ground devotees – Crimson Rosellas, Laughing Kookaburras and Pied Currawongs – were present in force but others were the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos screeching loudly high in the trees.

Pied Currawong - Margaret Bosworth
Pied Currawong. Photo by Margaret Bosworth

Several times their massed alarm calls suggested the presence of a raptor/predator but we didn’t detect anything.

Superb Fairy-wren female - Stephen Garth
Superb Fairy-wren, female. Photo by Stephen Garth
Superb Fairy-wren male - Stephen Garth
Superb Fairy-wren, male. Photo by Stephen Garth

As we stood quietly for instructions other birds became more evident – Superb Fairy-wrens, Brown Thornbills and Australian King-Parrots appeared and as we started walking a male Common Bronzewing gave good views as it foraged near a picnic table.

Common Bronzewing male - Stephen Garth
Common Bronzewing. Photo by Stephen Garth

Some calls were heard as we walked Stringybark Track but sightings were rare in the forest. A call of a Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo was briefly heard and Spotted and Striated Pardalotes were calling.

Crimson Rosella - Stephen Garth
Crimson Rosella. Photo by Stephen Garth

Lewin’s Honeyeater first called frustratingly and then finally in the afternoon walk there was a clear view which was much appreciated by those for whom it was a “lifer”.

Eastern Yellow Robin - Margaret Bosworth
Eastern Yellow Robin. Photo by Margaret Bosworth

White-throated Treecreeper, Eastern Spinebill and Eastern Yellow Robin were all calling giving people a chance to compare the differing rates of their staccato calls. Other honeyeaters included Red Wattlebird, Crescent, Brown-headed and White-naped Honeyeaters. Sightings by some but not all people included Eastern Whipbird, White-browed and Large-billed Scrubwren, Tree Martin and Red-browed Finch. A lucky few detected a Bassian Thrush as it foraged, well camouflaged, among the ground litter.

Bassian Thrush - Margaret Bosworth
Bassian Thrush. Photo by Margaret Bosworth

The whistlers were well represented with Grey Shrike-thrush, Olive Whistler and a female Golden Whistler. Occasionally an Australian Raven called and flew over, giving all an opportunity to listen to the difference of the call from the more familiar Little Raven of the suburbs.

Laughing Kookaburra - Janet Hand
Laughing Kookaburra. Photo by Janet Hand

The final bird list totalled 31 species which nearly yielded a bird for each attendee and amid smiles we thanked Rob for showing us this under-appreciated gem.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne Weekdays Outings