The location was a first for the Melbourne Branch on Weekday Outing.
The forecast wasn’t promising, cold and cloudy, with showers in the afternoon. It was cold, 13°C, but fortunately, no rain and the wind was only noticed on the afternoon walk along the ‘ridge’ track.
The park area was originally a stone quarry, when it reached its end-by-date, the owner Mr Wilson, donated the land with a considerable sum of money to the City of Casey to establish a botanic park. Extensive landscaping has taken place since the 1990s by the City of Casey with two large lakes filling in the original quarry and planting is still continuing and in some places, rare Australian plants and trees eg: Woolamai Pine, making a Botanical Park.
BirdLife and BOCA have provided volunteers to conduct surveys twice a year, Autumn and Spring. Since 1991, with 87 bird species recorded, including the following highlights: Satin Bowerbird, Striated Fieldwren, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Australasian Bittern, Common Koel, White-browed Woodswallow and Channel-billed Cuckoo.
On today’s outing we managed 30 bird species, a highlight being two Tawny Frogmouth, not previously recorded on a survey day taking the total to 88 species for the park. Cold conditions today reduced bird activity but a Spotted Gum in full flower was a favourite for Rainbow Lorikeets and Little and Red Wattlebirds. Further, in the sheltered northern area of the park a flock of Silvereyes were avoiding a sparring match between several Eastern Spinebills and a couple of New-Holland Honeyeaters. A couple Common Bronzewing were feeding under the trees.
Hoping for better weather the next time the Branch visits the park.
If you wish to visit the park, during the week is a good option as it is a very busy spot on the weekends since a Coffee Cafe was installed recently a short walk from the visitors Centre overlooking the Anniversary Lake.
The early weather predictions sounded unfavourable but as the date approached the rain was to fall on either side of the 12thand this certainly encouraged birdwatchers to turn out, be they new to the challenges or long-experienced. Twenty-four gathered in the car park between the archery field and the aero club where other enthusiasts followed their choice. Elsmaree Baxter led our group and commented how the day was less flooded than she had once experienced it, though a small dog of the archery group had to be lifted out of a too-deep wet ditch. Not many birds on the open grounds – the ‘usual suspects’, Australian Magpies, several Magpie-larks and a couple of Crested Pigeons used the grassed areas with visits from Galahs and a solitary Masked Lapwing.
Little Ravens perched on a near tree while Rainbow Lorikeets flew over. We headed into the bush area where the party became a long skein of watchful birdos. Common Bronzewings were a welcome sight and the piercing calls of Grey Currawongs were new for several people and were compared with the Pied calls.
A few Noisy Miners were detected near the edge of the bush and the tinkling calls of Bell Miners sounded round the water’s edges. Tiny calls from tiny birds marked the location of small groups of Silvereyes and Grey Fantails foraging acrobatically high in the foliage. Waterbirds were mostly noted as fly-overs – a Silver Gull, a female Australasian Darter, Australian White and Straw-necked Ibises – while a small pond yielded our only Pacific Black Duck and White-faced Heron.
No raptors were seen though the bill of a Grey Butcherbird looked formidable. By walk’s end we had a bird list for the group totaling 49 species and we thanked Elsmaree for all her preparation which had given such a satisfactory result for a site so close to the city .
Heavy rain overnight did not deter 10 birders from meeting in the layby beside the busy Hallam South Road. John Bosworth was our leader and knows the area well, having participated in the regular surveys for Melbourne Water for many years (covid excepted). The start of the walk involved making our way past assorted works areas before continuing into the grassland. Birding initially was limited, a fat Little Pied Cormorant perched on a well-used wooden pole at a pond’s edge, there were the introduced Common Mynas and Starlings, a skein of Australian White Ibis overhead and there was the occasional flight of pairs of Rainbow Lorikeets.
The area is manmade and designed as a flood control zone by Melbourne Water so it is interesting to watch how the avifauna react. We had added Purple Swamphen and Common Greenfinch when we encountered Golden-headed Cisticolas calling and flitting among the reeds, to the delight of those in the group who hadn’t seen them before or those who hadn’t seen them since before the pandemic started.
A Little Grassbird was heard calling and overflights included a Royal Spoonbill and a few Straw-necked Ibis. Bush birds included Superb Fairy-wrens and a couple of Flame Robins, both a male (almost fluorescent) and female (healthily plump).
Honeyeaters were limited to New Holland and White-plumed.
But, as suited a flood-control wetland, waterbirds were varied and our list soon included a White-necked Heron, standing near a White-Faced Heron and allowing easy comparison of their respective sizes.
A female Australasian Darter stood close to the bank and allowed excellent views while a solitary Great Egret foraged among the reeds and Cattle Egrets used a small mob of sheep to stir up insects in an adjacent paddock. A couple of Black Swan paddled near, a lone Little Black Cormorant flew past and the ducks were those dependable Pacific Black and Australian Woods.
Red-browed Finches in flocks of 30 flew across the track and a Willie Wagtail had been seen by most as we headed back to the cars and a lunch break.
Lunch was at River Gum Creek, a short drive along Coral Drive, but several people were unavailable in the afternoon due to prior engagements so our walking group became 6 people for the short distance. At the start we were disappointed to see a small group “feeding the birds”. This had attracted hundreds – Silver Gulls, Pacific Black Ducks, Eurasian Coots, Dusky Moorhens, Purple Swamphens and House Sparrows – and no wonder as when the people departed there were still huge piles of what appeared to be bakery output. Perhaps acquired unsold produce. It looked like rat heaven. We walked on and recorded the same species well away from that area.
Many of the species were, unsurprisingly, those we had already noted in the morning but it was good to observe another darter and to add birds of the land: Galah, Long-billed Corella and, convincingly glimpsed, a Scaly-breasted Lorikeet near a remnant mature gum known to hold nests in hollows in the past. At walks’ end we had listed 38 species at Troups and 30 at River Gum with a cumulative count of 45 species for the day. We were most appreciative of John’s preparation which reminded some of the pleasures of this area and introduced others who’d not visited before.
It’s quite a drive from Melbourne but the lifting of the covid-19 restrictions was a considerable spur and 18 people assembled in the small parking space near the start of the Wuchatsh reserve walk. We had been a long time since the previous outing. The weather was favourable, windless and overcast, and bird calls reached us from the bush.
Car park birding was mostly by ear but Australian Magpies were present in the adjacent paddocks and an immature Grey Butcher bird used the near fence for pounce hunting. The trail was almost entirely only for single file but this meant different parts of our party were able to study different species as we and the birds moved around. The tall eucalypts filled with the calls of a flock of Crimson Rosellas while the quieter twitters of smaller bush species provided challenges as we tried to locate sources. These included Brown Thornbill, White-throated Treecreeper and the louder Golden Whistler and Grey Shrike-thrush. Eastern Whipbirds challenged with their ventriloqual powers, but, as very often, none were sighted.
With the time available our walk was simply out and return but when we did a bird call at lunch in Lang Lang we were pleased to realize the group had recorded 35 species.
We drove from lunch to Jam Jerrup and, again, parked near the start of the walk, which was this time along the beach and past the mangroves near the water’s edge. Several people had a great arrival when they recorded an adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle flying low past the car park. Not many birds initially in the beach walk although the coastal bush reserve included a calling Little Wattlebird. There were small twitters from the mangrove stands but no one could get useful sightings. Finally arrived at the point we worked on our ID skills to distinguish different tern species. Crested, Caspian and Common Gull-billed Terns were roosting on the tip of the spit and those with scopes were able to distinguish between the recently separated Asian and Australian subspecies of the Gull-billed – were they now separate species? Follow this Splitters vs. Lumpers debate. Curlew Sandpipers going into breeding plumage were a first sighting for most who had only seen them in their muted non-breeding colours. Also present were Red-necked Stints, a few Red-capped Plovers, 10 – 20 Australian Pied Oystercatchers as well as Silver and Pacific Gulls and a lone Great Egret. As time was passing we decided to have a bird call and the rallying cry went up. Timing is everything. In swept flocks of shorebirds, swirling, alighting and lifting again. ‘Bird call’ was renamed ‘Call in birds’ as everyone raised their binoculars and glowed with delight. Visitors were similarly entranced and we were so pleased to include Sean Dooley and his small party watching the spectacle.
When we could no longer delay we started the long walk back to the cars. The tide had risen and waves were now up to the fallen timber which had been well clear of the water on the way out. A careful scramble got everyone through and dry. One final pleasant surprise lay around the bend. A solo birdwatcher with a scope stood by the paddock fence and offered us great scope views of a Pectoral Sandpiper on a slight rise in the watery wetland. It foraged beside a couple of Masked Lapwing. On that note we headed back to the cars and the challenges of post-restriction traffic, buoyed by memories of a good day’s birding. The final species counts were Wuchatsh 35, Stockyard 28 and a cumulative count for the day of 59 species.
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.