Category Archives: Diane Tweeddale

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

Weekday outing to Wuchatsh and Stockyard Point

15 March 2021
Photographer: Danika Sanderson
Golden Whistler (f)

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.

Group starting into Wachatsh Reserve

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.

Dragonfly

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.

Australian White Ibis

 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.  

Shorebirds roosting on spit (and above)

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.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekday outings

Weekdays outing to Reef Island

4 March 2020
Photographs by John Cantwell, member

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.

Striated Fieldwren - John Cantwell
Striated Fieldwren

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.

Group at lunchbreak - John Cantwell
The group at lunch break

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.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Royal Park – Trin-Warren-Tam-Boore

10 February 2020

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.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings