Category Archives: Diane Tweeddale

Weekdays Outing to Lillydale Lake, Lilydale

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

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

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

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

Black Swans feeding
Black Swans feeding

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

resting Australian Wood Ducks
Resting Australian Wood Ducks

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

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Wonga Park/Heritage wetlands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Australasian Darter - female - Sanderson
Australasian Darter, female

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

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

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

Silvereye - Sanderson
Silvereye

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

Walkers - Sanderson
Walkers participating in the outing

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

Red-browed Firetail - Sanderson
Red-browed Firetail

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

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings.

Weekdays Outing to Troups Creek Wetlands

15 May 2017

“A misty, moisty morning in the merry month of May” did not really apply to a cold foggy start to the day but still 15 people met at the Troups Creek car park. John Bosworth led our group and the incessant traffic noise from the adjacent Hallam Road faded slightly as we walked out. Recently the grass had been mowed – so considerate – and we greatly appreciated the shorter grass which meant minimum water on trouser legs.

Early morning mist - Diane Tweeddale.JPG
Early morning mist. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

Both areas, Troups Creek and River Gums, are part of the flood mitigation planning by Melbourne Water and BirdLife Melbourne has succeeded BOCA in performing the monthly surveys of the birds living in and around the plantings and ponds. The nearer ponds were not crowded with birds but a few Purple Swamphens and Eurasian Coots foraged around the edges and Welcome Swallows and Rainbow Lorikeets flew over. A Spotted Pardalote was heard from the garden trees to the south. Heading north initially we heard, then saw, Superb Fairy-wrens in the reed beds while Masked Lapwings were unexpectedly common – at least eight adults were sharing one grassy area. Further on a “conference” of about 20 Australian Magpies took place on the short grass where grubs were accessible but the birds dispersed as we approached.

There have been extensive plantings to generate patches of bush in the zone and a recent one of these hosted numerous European Goldfinches. Some of the ponds carried Hoary-headed Grebes but it was not till after lunch that we encountered Australasian Grebes at the River Gum wetlands. The morning, in contrast, had Red-browed Finches flitting between the bushes beside the ditch by the surfaced path. Both the ditch and its sides showed the flood levels of the rain about three weeks previously when the flood mitigation design of the basin had been tested and passed with flying colours. Ducks were Pacific Black, Chestnut and Grey Teal and Australian Wood Duck plus a few Black Swans, including a nesting pair. Other waterbirds included Australian White and Straw-necked Ibis, a Great Egret and both White-faced and White-necked Herons. Both male and female Australasian Darters were present at Troups and a pair of Black-winged Stilts at River Gum was interesting as we could compare the adult plumage with that of the immature.

Australasian Bittern - Kathy Zonneville
Australasian Bittern. Photo by Kathy Zonneville

The highlight for many started with the call of “Bittern!” It really was an Australasian Bittern which flushed and then flew around us in circles giving everyone excellent opportunities to study its markings under differing light conditions. It was a “lifer” for at least four people (including one who’d given up and consigned the species to the mythical category). Happily walking back to the cars, we then moved to River Gum Creek and lunch. Our numbers were reduced in the afternoon as several had other afternoon activities scheduled.

Black-shouldered Kite - Kathy Zonneville
Black-shouldered Kite. Photo by Kathy Zonneville

Raptors had not been common as the early fog would not have produced useful thermals but several species flew in the sunnier afternoon – Black-shouldered Kite and Nankeen Kestrel were seen by most and Peregrine Falcon and Brown Goshawk by a couple then the “Bird Call bird” appeared – indubitably an Australian Hobby pair – as we totalled up the day. Quite a finish for a day as we counted 54 species for the group. We thanked John enthusiastically for sharing his knowledge of the zone.

Diane Tweeddale coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

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.

Crested Pigeon - D Tweeddale
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.

New Holland Honeyeater - Graeme Dean
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.

Welcome Swallow - Graeme Dean
‘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.

Crossing at Newport Lake 2 - D Tweeddale
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.

Red-kneed Dotterel - Graeme Dean
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.

Pacific Black Duck - Bevan Hood
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.

Red-browed Finch - Bevan Hood
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.

Reed Warbler Red browed Finch Danika Sanderson
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.

Wedge-tailed Eagle Brown Goshawk - Danika Sanderson
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.

Silvereye - Bevan Hood
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.

purple-swamphen
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.

eastern-water-dragon
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.

lotus-flower
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

sulphur-crested-cockatoo-dennis-hill
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.

long-billed-corellas-diane-tweeddale
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.

Bar-tailed Godwit - Derek Whitehead.JPG
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.

Whimbrel - Derek Whitehead.JPG
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.

musk-duck-male-derek-whitehead
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