Category Archives: Geoff Russell

Weekday outing to Dandenong Valley Wetland, Wheelers Hill

5 April 2022

Photographs by Steve Hoptroff

We met at Haversham Avenue near Cronia Court on a cool, fine and mainly cloudy day. Grey Butcher bird and Magpie were calling and a pair of White-faced Herons were sitting on a nearby house.

Grey Butcherbird

Dandenong Valley Wetland was opened in July 2010 by Melbourne Water, it is 48 hectares in size and divided into 4 large cells which can be individually filled and emptied. Water is diverted from nearby Dandenong Creek and stored in the cells for 3 days and then released back into the creek. Birdlife Melbourne has been doing monthly surveys here for Melbourne Water since 2010 and recorded over 130 species within the first 2 years.

Red-browed Finch
Superb Fairy-wren, breeding male
Superb Fairy-wren, male in eclipse plumage

We entered the wetland via the bridge over Dandenong Creek and saw Grey Fantail, Spotted Pardalote, Red-browed Finch, Superb Fairy-wren, Brown Thornbill, Golden Whistler, Red Wattle Bird New Holland Honeyeater Gold Finch and Noisy Miner.

New Holland Honeyeater

As we approached the outlet of Cell 3 we were entertained by a White-faced Heron which had just caught a small fish, it dropped it on the ground and picked it up again many times before finally deciding to swallow it. 

Looking into Cell 3 we saw Black Duck, Musk Duck, Dusky Moorhen and Australasian Grebe, White Ibis and Welcome Swallows flew overhead.

On our way to the outlet of Cell 2 we saw a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike while a huge flock of Little Corellas flew over, in the cell we found a Little Pied and Little Black Cormorant. 

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike

Little Black Cormorant, with Australasian Grebe in background

At the outlet of Cell 1 we saw a lone Australasian Darter and heard Pied Currawongs calling from the creek. 

Australasian Darter, female

We then headed east, towards the inlet end of the cells via a track between Cell 1 and Cell 2, didn’t see much along here until near the end where there was plenty of water around, we then came across Reed Warbler, Eurasian Coot, Purple Swamphen and Black Swan.

Black Swan

Heading south along the top of the Cells, we had the distribution channel on our left and the top of the Cells on our right. A White-browed Scrubwren was seen beside the track, we were now coming under the power lines and decided to look for raptors, soon a White-bellied Sea-Eagle was spotted, soaring high above, then a pair of Nankeen Kestrels on a pylon and a Dusky Woodswallow on the power lines. 

White-bellied Sea-Eagle

Further along the track we checked out a clear section of the distribution channel and found a Spotless Crake foraging along the muddy edge.

Spotless Crake

The inlet to Cell 4 had a small amount of water in it with a pair of Black-fronted Dotterels resting on the edge while a Royal Spoonbill was busy swishing its bill in the water. 

Black-fronted Dotterel
Royal Spoonbill

We now started the long walk west to the outlet of Cell 4, no birds were seen until we reached a small pond at the outlet. There were 11 Black-fronted Dotterels and 10 Chestnut Teal here and we heard the calls of many Bell Miners coming from the Creek. As we headed back towards the bridge we heard Grey Shrike Thrush calls several times and when crossing the bridge saw a small flock of Silvereyes foraging in the blackberries and a Yellow-faced Honeyeater resting in a dead Wattle Tree.

It took just under 3 hours to do this walk and we recorded 48 species 

Geoff Russell, Leader

Weekday outing to Warrandyte State Park

26 March 2018

Overcast skies and a cool wind greeted 16 birdwatchers at the Jumping Creek car park. Our leader was Geoff Russell and he advised us of his plans for the walk and reassured everyone that the steep, narrow trails with roots and stones would be avoided, to considerable relief all round as the previous two days had been very wet. The river was running fast and deep and few birds were using it. Single Pacific Black and Australian Wood Ducks swam and a Little Pied Cormorant and a female Australasian Darter flew over the water while two immature Dusky Moorhens swam the river and at least two adults foraged by the banks. Superb Fairy-wrens were the most common bush bird but Grey Fantails were also numerous and amused with their foraging antics.

After a short walk we reached Blue Tongue Bend and birded quietly for some time. A highlight here was brief sightings of a female Golden Whistler which had only been heard previously. A Grey Shrike-thrush was also in the vicinity. Brown Thornbills were heard and Striated Thornbills fluttered in the high canopy. Silvereyes had been added to the list just before the bend. Cockatoos were more heard than seen and the list included Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Galah. Corellas were often heard but were not included officially as both Little and Long-billed were possible but neither were confirmed. Honeyeaters included flights of Red Wattlebirds high above, calls of Eastern Spinebills and Noisy Miners and sightings of White-eared and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. The agitated calls of Crimson Rosellas signalled the presence of a Pied Currawong. Two walkers advised us that they had seen a robin in the valley below the road to Stane Brae. Those at the rear of our group investigated and were pleased to observe a male Scarlet Robin among many wrens. Catching up with the rest of the group later enabled all to share the pleasure as the bird had obligingly moved in the same direction. A female robin was also present but did not present good views. We checked the Stane Brae outbuildings but nothing appeared to be roosting there.

The siren call of lunch took us back to the car park and under the roof of the picnic shelter. Optimistic Laughing Kookaburras patrolled the area but were disappointed, as were the local Common Mynas. Some people had to leave at this stage so we recorded a bird list. As we finished rain arrived, heavily. It was decided to forgo an afternoon walk as conditions were deteriorating and the species total stood at 40. Attempting a higher count seemed greedy so we thanked Geoff for all his careful preparation which had resulted in such a pleasant morning.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne

Weekdays Outing to Yarra Bend Park, Fairfield

6 July 2015

When I left home at 9.20am to go to this outing it was overcast, cold and raining lightly. By the time I got to the Eastern Freeway the rain became heavier and the speed of the car windscreen wiper blades had to be increased to continuous. About three kilometres further on, the rain started bucketing down and the wiper blades were switched to fast. Coming off the Freeway at Chandler Hwy the rain began to ease and as I approached the meeting place at Yarra Bend Park it was only raining very lightly. When I arrived at the car park at 9.40am, our leader Elsmarie Baxter, was there with seven others all sheltering under their umbrellas. By 10am the rain had stopped and there were now thirteen birders present, so we set out on the walk.

We walked towards the boat sheds on the Yarra River and while crossing an oval we saw Red-rumped parrots, Crested Pigeons and Masked Lapwings on the grass. On the river there was a variety of ducks, several Coots and a lone Silver Gull. We then walked along the riverbank trail under the footbridge and found Grey Fantail, New-Holland Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, Grey Shrike-thrush and Brown Thornbill. Further along we found Laughing Kookaburra, King Parrots and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike. When we reached the golf club area we veered right and to return to the car park via roads and ovals. On the way back we saw Eastern Rosella, Grey Butcherbird, and Musk Lorikeet.

Lunch was a short drive further into the Park past the golf club where we had a sheltered picnic area with seats and tables. While having lunch we were visited by a Grey Butcherbird, Whistling Kite, Welcome Swallow and Grey Currawong. After lunch we walked along another river track which went under the Eastern Freeway to Dights Falls. Along here we had excellent views of King Parrots in full sunshine and two Tawny Frogmouths. Bell Miners were heard and we had a brief glimpse of a Hobby speeding across the river. There was also a Brush-tailed Possum and a Koala along this section of the walk. At Dights falls we saw Australian Grebe in the river and in the newly planted revegetation area there were Superb Fairy-wren, White-plumed Honeyeater, White-browed Scrubwren and Eastern Spinebill. We then returned back to the cars for birdcall.

I have not mentioned Rainbow Lorikeet and Noisy Miner at the various places because they were noisily calling everywhere we went. Total number of bird species for the day was forty-five. We did not have any rain at all during the five hours between 10am and 3pm. Many thanks to Elsmarie for a very productive winter outing and her remarkable control of the weather.

Contributor: Geoff Russell