Category Archives: Weekdays outing

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

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 Tirhatuan Park

9 March 2022
Laughing Kookaburra. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The weather was fine with a good breeze while we assembled at the car park. After the now-obligatory complaints about the state of the traffic and the freeway roadworks we numbered 17 including a few on their first birding walk.

Grey Butcherbird, adult. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The car park started the list with the reliable Noisy Miners and Rainbow Lorikeets but an Australian Pelican gliding past was less usual and the Eastern Rosellas and Grey Butcherbirds were welcome additions.

Magpie-lark, female. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Initially we headed to the nearest pond where Australian Wood Duck outnumbered the Pacific Black Ducks.

Australian Grebe (female and male). Photo by Steve Hoptroff

The pair of Australasian Grebes appeared fleetingly between dives and a solo Little Black Cormorant dived repeatedly before perching to dry and presumably, digest.

Royal Spoonbill, slightly grubby. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Royal Spoonbill foraging. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Royal Spoonbill in flight. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Royal Spoonbills foraged at the next water’s edge and one had presumably “bitten off more than it could chew” as it repeatedly shook its head and showed a distended gullet. Eventually avian greed was rewarded and the distension and shaking stopped.

Royal Spoonbill sleeping. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

We were now in bush and waterbirds gave way to bird calls from the scrub and trees. Spotted Pardalotes called but sightings were few and most of us recorded very active Grey Fantails plus somewhat fewer Yellow-faced Honeyeaters.

Little Wattlebird. Photo by Steve Hoptroff

The highlight for many people was the discovery of a roost of Tawny Frogmouths – two adults and a youngster (somewhat harder to see) – quite low (2-3 m from the ground) in a tree.  

Tawny Frogmouth. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Tawny Frogmouth. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Tawny Frogmouth. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Tawny Frogmouth. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Tawny Frogmouth, well camouflaged. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Tawny Frogmouth. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

A large nest box was also observed. About a meter long, it may have been intended for Powerful Owls but perhaps was not ideally long enough compared with some hollows, natural or artificial. A small nondescript brown bird puzzled everyone till sharp eyes spotted a red bill. It was a juvenile Mistletoebird.

Mistletoebird. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Mistletoebird. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Mistletoebird. Photo by Steve Hoptroff

This was a new sighting for everyone. Another puzzle was slightly less difficult when the definite breast spots of an Olive-backed Oriole were seen. This bird was also a juvenile and lacked colour.

Olive-backed Oriole. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Olive-backed Oriole. Photo by Steve Hoptroff

Back to the car park for lunch where all public seating was already occupied, demonstrating how popular this park is, including on weekdays. Some people needed to leave at this stage and a quick bird call gave 42 species recorded in the morning’s walk.

Silvereye. Photo by Steve Hoptroff

Post-lunch the few remaining drove a few kilometers to Tirhatuan Wetland. This is only a very short distance as the bird flies from our morning area so the bird species were mostly the same and the 10 of us only added 3 more species to the cumulative total, Chestnut Teal, Laughing Kookaburra and Australian Reed-Warbler.

White-faced Heron. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

However, we also saw 2 Tawny Frogmouth roosts and a couple of us were delighted to be accepted enough for a duck (Australian Wood Duck) to lead her ducklings to water within a meter of our feet.

Australian Wood Ducks, female. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Plus, the non-avian interest was provided by a paper wasp nest where the new adults seemed to be emerging from their cells. We recorded 20 species in this area and the cumulative total was 44. John received our enthusiastic thanks for his preparation which gave such good results for a small suburban area.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekday outings

Weekdays Outing to Pound Bend

8 February 2022
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers
Species count: 36

Thirty members gathered at Pound Bend on a hot sunny morning, admiring the many Parrots and Kookaburras in the picnic area. Walking the river track, upstream from the carpark, a Little Pied Cormorant fishing in the river was an early point of interest. 

Laughing Kookaburra. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Galahs. Photo by Kathie Thomas

As the vegetation became denser many small birds could be heard and, although hard to see, Silvereyes, Grey Fantails, Yellow-faced and White-naped Honeyeaters were soon identified.

Little Pied Cormorant. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Black Ducks and Dusky Moorhens were seen on the river along with a large-tailed Water Dragon which was sunning itself on a rock by the opposite bank.

White-naped Honeyeaters. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Two ladies bathing in the river further along seemed unaware of a Tiger Snake swimming beside them!

Tiger Snake. Photo by Kathie Thomas

Water Dragon. Photo by Alan Veevers

An Eastern Yellow Robin, a pair of White-eared Honeyeaters, several Spotted Pardalotes and an immature Golden Whistler were observed beside the track.

Eastern Yellow Robin. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Eastern Yellow Robin. Photo by Kathie Thomas
Spotted Pardalote. Photo by Steve Hoptroff

Unfortunately, one of the ladies at the rear of the group became unwell and subsequently fainted. Fortunately, Alan was nearby and provided first aid. As she was recovering three other members kindly volunteered their assistance, and all four helped to get her back to the carpark.  After resting, she and her car were taken home, by two of our volunteers, to be met by an awaiting friend.

Further along the track the vegetation thinned out and Noisy Miners began to dominate. After reaching the grassed area at the end of the track members retraced their steps along by the river, enjoying several more good sightings, including Crimson Rosella, Superb Fairy-wrens and Welcome Swallows. In the picnic area Black-faced Cuckoo Shrikes were heard but not seen.

Sacred Kingfisher. Photo by Steve Hoptroff
Australasian Darter. Photo by Steve Hoptroff

After lunch a short walk was taken towards the tunnel where many visitors were sunbathing and cooling-off in the water. Not surprisingly, no further bird species were seen there!  At this point the bird count was 34 species. Two of the members who had assisted Alan, thereby missing out on part of the morning walk, decided to stay behind after the formal closure and re-walk the river track. They photographed 2 extra birds; a Sacred Kingfisher and a female Australasian Darter (included above) – a just reward for the kindness they had shown earlier in the day! Thus, the group recorded a total of 36 species for the day.

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 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