Category Archives: Diane Tweeddale

Weekday outing to Braeside Park

5 October 2022

Pink-eared Ducks. Photo by Steve Hoptroff

The day promised fine weather, calm and clear for birdwatching, and it didn’t disappoint. Seventeen started the walk under the leadership of Rosemaree Mclean and Malcolm Brown of The Friends of Braeside Park. 

Eastern Rosella. Photo by Steve Hoptroff

Our interest was high as the morning’s walk was to be through the heathland area which is as yet not publicly accessible. The heathland has formed on low-nutrient sands and our track passed along white sand where tiny insectivorous sundews grew. At the start, Rosemaree’s favourite Tawny Frogmouth, was beautifully cooperative as it sat patiently and photogenically on its tree fork nest. 

Tawny Frogmouth on nest. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

After the aggressive Noisy Miners in the car park a Tawny was a great sighting. Trees are more spaced and fewer on the heaths so birds are restricted, though we still noted Little Raven and Rainbow Lorikeet while the calls of Grey Butcherbird, Red Wattlebird and Spotted Pardalote reached us as we walked. 

Grey Butcherbird. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Rainbow Lorikeet. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Spotted Pardalote. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

A skein of Straw-necked Ibis flew over and a couple of birders were briefly able to glimpse a Brown Goshawk pass above.

The call of a Fan-tailed Cuckoo reached us and a small pond contained a Chestnut Teal – birds took advantage of any resource.

Swamp Harrier. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Swamp Harrier. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

After lunch back at the cars we farewelled Rosemaree and Malcolm with many thanks. A couple of people with afternoon appointments also departed and the remainder arranged to visit the wetlands and bush, walking in 3 groups according to walking ability. This covered a variety of habitats and so the afternoon species list added a range of species. 

Red-rumped Parrot, male and female. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Black Swan with cygnets. Photo by Steve Hoptroff

Waterbirds were present in numbers – Black Swans with fluffy cygnets, male and female Musk Ducks, Pink-eared Ducks in a tree, both Chestnut and Hoary-headed Grebes and Great, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants while Cattle Egrets foraged around the small herd of cattle in the adjacent paddock. 

Musk Duck, male. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Musk Duck, female. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Pink-eared Duck. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Australasian Grebe. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Australasian Grebe. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Cattle Egret. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Blue-billed Duck, male. Photo by Steve Hoptroff

A Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike was first heard then finally seen as it exited the tree canopy. 

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike with prey. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The walk finished with the separate groups comparing lists and noting the variation with habitat. We recorded 34 species in the heathland and 27 in the bush and wetlands later in the day. 

Little PIed Cormorant, breeding adult. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The cumulative total was 50 species, a very pleasing result.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekday outings

Weekdays outing to Murrindindi Scenic Reserve

2 August 2022

The Murrindindi Reserve is about 70 km north of Melbourne, east of the Melba Hwy and just south of the Yea River. The reserve covers the lower reaches of the Murrindindi River which flows through Mountain Ash Forest. Unfortunately, the 2009 wild fires destroyed a large part of the reserve but the area visited on the day was spared destruction and minor damage, now replaced with regrowth creating a different habitat for fauna and flora.

The day was cold, with sunshine at times, but no wind that was forecast. With over 80 bird species listed for the reserve. A challenge awaited.

At our meeting point near Devlins Bridge, two species of Mistletoe were in flower, attracting an Eastern Spinebill and several Silvereyes. A Pied Currawong was eyeing off the small birds. Proceeding to the reserve we passed a hay distributing trunk which attracted both Little and Long-billed Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Galah. Didn’t seem to worry the sheep also feeding on the hay.

Our next stop was a parking area near the suspension bridge. Toilets and picnic tables available. Leaving the vehicles and walking across the bridge, we took the track heading upstream along the eastern side of the river. Grey-shrike Thrush and Superb Lyrebird calling. A Swamp Wallaby was startled while feeding along the track and hastily left our view. A few parties of Brown Thornbill were feeding in the regrowth. A brief sighting of a Bassian Thrush as it flew across the track caused some discussion as its identity. Small flocks of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo passed overhead. Those in our party that had cameras tried to obtain opportunities for photographing an up-turned cockatoo ripping the bark from a eucalypt. On returning across the river and along the road to the vehicles for lunch, both White-throated Treecreeper and Eastern Yellow Robin were calling.

Lunch in the Sun and a “Bird Call” resulted in 25 species listed. After lunch we drove to the Wilhelmina Falls car park, and crossing the river headed towards the falls viewing area. Unfortunately, the regrowth after the fires obscured the view. Although away from the noise of the river, no calls could be heard. The only sighting was a Blackbird taking the total for the day to 26 bird species. Even with the small number seen, all attended enjoyed and for some it was a new area for them.

Graeme Hosken, Leader.

Weekdays Outing to Lysterfield Lake Park

4 July 2022

Photographs by Steve Hoptroff

Grey Butcherbird

Skies were blue and the air was calm so conditions for birding looked very favourable as 13 people met in the car park near the start of the Lake Circuit Track. Our leader was Rob Grosvenor who had visited the area many times over the past years. He could advise on likely locations for the different species.

White-eared Honeyeater
Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Initial walking was northerly in the bush. It was cold – see the weather conditions – and birds
were not overactive though Grey Fantails maneuvered acrobatically for insects near the tree
canopies. Spotted Pardalotes called unseen and the honeyeaters observed were the White-eared, Eastern Spinebill, Red Wattlebird and that so-familiar Noisy Miner. No blossom was seen.

Grey Shrike-thrush

Superb Fairy-wrens were active at the edges of the track and Red-browed Finches seemed to accompany Brown Thornbills foraging while Silvereyes moved about in small flocks. Good sightings of Golden Whistlers brought smiles to the observers. Around the lake waterbirds predominated. Musk Duck males were making the splashing display which seems to be visible over quite a distance.

Musk Duck, male

The females/ immature males were taking no apparent notice but formed small groups or couples at a distance. Eurasian Coots were the most numerous but were travelling to different spots around the lake so not always obvious.

Masked Lapwing

On the shore there were Masked Lapwing, Australian Wood Duck and Purple Swamphen with Dusky Moorhen and Pacific Black Duck dividing their time between shore and water. Grebes were mostly the Hoary-headed species in flocks and Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants rested on the marker buoys.

Hoary-headed Grebe

The only raptor observed was a Swamp Harrier and the only parrots were Rainbow Lorikeets, Crimson Rosellas and brief views of an Eastern Rosella. No cockatoos were detected.

Swamp Harrier
Crimson Rosella

The highlight for many of us was the observation of Common Bronzewing near the park entrance and the subsequent sighting of a male Brush Bronzewing as we descended
the hill towards the cars.

Common Bronzewing, male

By walk’s end we recorded 42 species (later adjusted to 43 with the addition of a pair of Black Swans). Our heartfelt thanks to Rob for sharing his knowledge of the area.
Diane Tweeddale coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekday outings

Weekday outing to The Briars, Mt Martha

7 June 2022

All photographs by Steve Hoptroff

Laughing Kookaburra

The alarm clock went off to the sound of heavy rain on the roof and that meant the weather bureau was right and birdwatching might not be the best occupation for the day. Unsurprisingly the drive from Melbourne needed your whole attention and it was probably this combination which kept attendance down to four people. Sue Brabender led us and most ably as she frequently birds The Briars and had worked there for some years. 

Eastern Yellow Robin

The weather sent a large mixed flock of Australian Wood Ducks, Pacific Black Ducks and Purple Swamphens onto the grass near the car park entrance. The bird list had started early. 

Dusky Moorhen

These species were joined by Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Noisy Miners, Eastern Rosellas, Australian Magpies and Crested Pigeons in and around the car park. The highlight here was a Buff-banded Rail in the grounds of the café. Skittish but briefly visible. 

Eastern Rosella

Also appreciated was a break in approaching dark clouds and accompanying rain. We set off to the Boonoorong bird hide, pausing on the way to find and admire two Tawny Frogmouths cuddled together in a tree fork. 

Tawny Frogmouth

At the hide we added Australasian Grebe, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants. 

Australasian Grebe
Little Black Cormorant

Superb Fairy-wrens were noted in the closer reed bed but there were few small birds, probably because a Swamp Harrier was quartering the area. A Grey Teal was noted at our stop at the Chechingurk hide and then we concentrated on woodland birds as we followed the Woodland Walk track. 

Swamp Harrier (taken through tinted window at the bird hide)
Grey Teal

Cute companions throughout the walk were many Black (Swamp) Wallabies and a few Eastern Grey Kangaroos. Several Grey Shrike-thrushes were noted though there was little calling. Contrast in the greyness meant mostly flying silhouettes were seen and this made the distinction between Spotted and Striated Pardalotes difficult in the absence of calls. 

Grey Shrike-thrush with prey

This also applied to a couple of thornbills foraging silently low in a medium tree so there was neither Brown nor Striated Thornbill on our final list though subsequent photo development showed Brown Thornbill was more likely. As the weather had been favourable for the whole time we decided to finish with bird call. 

Grey Butcherbird

The final list numbered 32 species which was very pleasing in the conditions and we warmly thanked Sue for sharing with us her considerable knowledge of the area.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator Melbourne BirdLife weekday outings

Weekday outing to Coburg and Merri Creek

11 May 2022

All photographs by Bevan Hood

A dry day and a suburban location combined to attract 17 birdwatchers to the small car park. Someone had clearly been feeding the pigeons as there was a flock of at least 100 Rock Doves/Feral Pigeons beside the car park. They were accompanied by several Dusky Moorhens, including a couple of immatures without any marked colour.

Dusky Moorhen, adult
Dusky Moorhen, immature

Australian White Ibis passed overhead on their way to the islet in the creek and Silver Gulls perched on the top of the weir.

Australian White Ibises

A quartet of Black Swans paddled about and at intervals one would sit on a nest. Swans believe in recycling as it was clear that much human-derived litter was incorporated in the nest.

Black Swan on nest

Adding to our bird lists were smaller numbers of Common Mynas, Australian Wood Ducks, Chestnut Teal pairs and Little Ravens.

We noted occasional Australian Magpies and Magpie-larks as we set off under the guidance of Elsmaree Baxter, our leader, and kept alert for blossoming eucalypts. The lerps, nectar and blossoms certainly attracted the lorikeets and we recorded both Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets in considerable numbers. Today honeyeaters were limited to Red Wattlebirds and Noisy Miners, both aggressive and fairly large species.

Rainbow Lorikeet
Rainbow Lorikeet

The high point for many people occurred when the call “Tawny Frogmouth” went up. Yes, a sharp-sighted member had found it roosting against a eucalypt trunk. Pied Currawong was first heard and then seen by most while only a few of us heard a brief kookaburra call. Additional water birds were added later in the walk and their recognition was explained to newcomers to birding. Little Black Cormorants flew past and a brief overhead passage of a female Australasian Darter gave a good ID session. Australasian Grebes were finally sighted after a frustrating wait for the pair to surface after repeated dives. A Little Pied Cormorant flew past and then one was seen flying into a lakeside tree. Closer watching revealed an occupied nest, surprisingly difficult to see. Near the bank a couple of White-faced Herons stood watchfully while the only Eurasian Coot of the day occurred late in the walk.

Pacific Black Duck

Also late in the walk, Crested Pigeons joined the many Rock Doves and few Spotted Doves on our list. And at the far point of the walk came a second highlight – a Nankeen Night-Heron was perched beside the track. Not a full view but recognizable. No raptors were recorded but they would have been unexpected in heavily built-up suburbia.

At the finish we recorded 33 species and thanked Elsmaree for all her preparation which resulted in finding so many birds in suburbia.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekday outings

Weekdays outing to Donnelly’s Weir

8 December 2021
Photographs by Danika Sanderson
Sacred Kingfisher

The weather forecast was not really reassuring, predicting late showers for Melbourne. This might mean wet weather in the mountains around Healesville but at least winds were not emphasized. Alan and Hazel Veevers led and had spent considerable time and analysis to prepare a well-received outing.

The weir

My main worry was the ford on the track into Donnelly’s. My car is a small sedan and I worried that its clearance might not be enough if I slowed or stopped in the water. As it was I was one of the few who gratefully accepted lifts from drivers with a higher wheel base and spare seats. Most drivers came through without a murmur.  I am just a wimp at bottom.

The group

There were 20 at the outing and even the car park yielded sightings of Eastern Yellow Robin, Crimson Rosella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

A Sacred Kingfisher proved very hard to locate and Australian King-Parrots moved through very quickly except for a calm male which remained perched near the track until most of our group had walked by.

Sacred Kingfisher

Another bird coping with our party was a female White-throated Treecreeper which stayed stationary on its tree trunk for so long we initially wondered if it might be ill – until we passed “it’s” tree during our return walk and saw that it had departed.

White-throated Treecreeper (female)

Birds heard without being seen included Fan-tailed Cuckoo and Spotted Pardalote. Only a few actually saw the Superb Fairy-wrens and Striated Pardalotes were also present while a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles briefly soared very high overhead.

Superb Fairy-wren (male)

Other elusive small birds were the White-browed Scrubwrens by the well-flowing aqueduct and a flock of Silvereyes briefly sighted as they foraged among dense bushes. It wasn’t totally birds. Plants included flowering spyridium as well as a small colony of hyacinth orchids.

Waterlilies
Yellow-faced Honeyeater

At morning’s end we drove around to the Maroondah Reservoir Park where we lunched in a rotunda even though rain hadn’t arrived yet. We were checked out by 3 Australian White Ibis, living up to their reputation.

Eastern Spinebill

Careful watchfulness meant that no one’s lunch was in jeopardy. A short walk around the base of the dam wall added Corellas, several Little and a single Long-billed Corella plus a few Australian Magpies.

Galah

Bird call revealed we’d noted 39 species which made a satisfactory total. Into the cars just as the long-expected rain started driving across the car park and feeling very grateful to both Veevers for all their planning. 

Grey Fantail

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Banyule Flats Reserve

9 November 2021
Photographs by Danika Sanderson
The group assembling

A group of 22 assembled in calm, mild sunshine – a perfect day for birding. Our leader was Lyn Easton, bravely on crutches after hip surgery not improved by the pandemic lockdowns. This reserve is ‘her backyard’ and she has been watching the wildlife there for at least 20 years. This was our first weekdays outing since the last lockdown had finally ended and our expectation was palpable. Screeches of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos over the car park were everyday but the advice of ‘Tawny Frogmouth’ was an ‘eyes up’ directive. Soon everyone had found the adult in the tree fork. With a well grown youngster peering from beneath the parent and definitely looking like Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. Cute.

Tawny Frogmouth adult with nestling (spot the baby!)

The recent rains had filled the river and overflowed into the billabongs. Billabongs with water! Most of us couldn’t remember when we had last seen this, must have been at least 20 years. Against the delight of returned frog calls there was the counter of no muddy banks around the lake. So few or no waders e. g. plovers. However, there are reports of snipe at the grotty pond though today we concentrated on the river.

Sacred Kingfisher (male and female)

The recent windstorm had felled trees and a large eucalypt had come down along the path. All was not lost as movement caught our eyes and resolved into at least two Spotted Pardalotes investigating the muddy root ball. Nesting sites, anyone? They were concentrating on the roots and allowed us to stand quietly and delight in the tiny birds so close and well lit.

Spotted Pardalote
Spotted Pardalote

Much further along the walk we noted a Brown Thornbill carrying nesting material into a dense bush. The recent rains may have inspired a good breeding season. Standing quietly on the river bank we watched the water surface and were rewarded with short sightings of a Platypus swimming and diving. It was probably a female foraging during the day to avoid the unwanted attentions of males.

Red-rumped Parrots (male and female)

In addition to birds there were frogs calling, rabbits and their traces seen (bother) and a Long-necked Tortoise sunning. It was a great outing and deservedly described as “one out of the box”.

Red-rumped Parrot (female) ousting two Sacred Kingfishers from perch

Lyn received our heartfelt thanks and good wishes. Oh, by the way, we recorded 54 bird species.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekday outing to Wilson Botanic Park, Berwick

14 July 2021

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.

Graeme Hosken, Leader for the day.

Weekdays outing to Bolin Bolin

12 May 2021
Photographs by Steve Hoptroff
Red Wattlebird

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.

Rainbow Lorikeet
Little Raven

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.

Common Bronzewing (f)
Grey Currawong

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.

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Grey Fantail

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 .

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekday outing to Troups Creek Wetlands

21 April 2021
Photographer: Steve Hoptroff, Member
Golden-headed Cisticola

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.

Golden-headed Cisticola

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).

Flame Robin (m)
Flame Robin (f)
Flame Robin (f)

Honeyeaters were limited to New Holland and White-plumed.

(A very cute) White-plumed Honeyeater

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.

White-necked Heron

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.

Australasian Darter (f)
Great Egret

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.

Red-browed Finch
Red-browed Finch

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.

Little Black Cormorant
Little Black Cormorant

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.

Diane Tweeddale, BirdLife Melbourne weekdays coordinator