Category Archives: Weekdays outing

Weekdays outing to Brimbank Park, Keilor East

6 March 2017
All photographs by Danika Sanderson

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. 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. 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.

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Red-browed Finch and Australian Reed-Warbler

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

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. 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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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