Category Archives: Weekdays outing

Weekdays outing to Hawkestowe, Plenty Gorge Park and Mill Park Lakes

14 November 2018

Australian Pelican. Photo by Bevan Hood

Heavy overnight rain had been a concern but the weather system travelled east and we birded under grey skies with only occasional light drizzle to cause us to cover binoculars. Twelve commenced the walk, led by Diane, and initial car park birds included Striated and Spotted Pardalotes, numerous Australian Wood Ducks and a few Little Ravens. 

Australian Reed-Warbler in reeds. Photo by Bevan Hood
Australian Reed-Warbler in bush. Photo by Bevan Hood

The calls of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters followed us to the nearest pond where Australian Reed Warblers called loudly and perched on the reeds while Australasian Grebes in breeding plumage delighted with their well-grown fluffy young. 

Australasian Grebe. Photo by Bevan Hood

Superb Fairy-wrens also displayed, perched on the reeds. Leaving the ponds we walked along the gorge track beside the river. Here was “Rainbow Lorikeet Central” with pairs of birds investigating any crevice in tree trunks or branches for its potential as a nest hollow. 

Galahs. Photo by Bevan Hood

Other parrots included Australian King-parrot, Long-billed Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Crimson Rosella. Before we had exited the gorge sharp eyes had added White-browed Scrubwren, White-throated Treecreeper and Brown Thornbill to the sightings while Pied and Grey Currawongs, Laughing Kookaburra and Common Bronzewing were heard. 

Long-billed Corella. Photo by Bevan Hood

Back to the car park and lunch to check on the morning species count. A gratifying 44 was the total.

Crested Pigeon. Photo by Bevan Hood

Some people had to depart after lunch but ten remained to make their way to Mill Park Lakes, a drive that has become a little less familiar and more challenging since the extensive road and rail works in the area. Initial birds on the nearest lake were uninspiring as they were dominated by ‘Dinner Ducks’ and Eurasian Coots, clearly used to being fed by humans despite (or beside) the signs requesting “Do Not Feed the Birds” and giving reasons. 

Pacific Black Duck. Photo by Bevan Hood

We walked initially along the west bank which had little shelter or close vegetation so returned to the northern section where the native plantings were beside the water. Here we added New Holland and White-plumed Honeyeaters as well as Little Wattlebird. 

Dusky Moorhen. Photo by Bevan Hood

Waterbirds included the “usual suspects” of Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen and Eurasian Coot but there were also Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants, the latter distinctly stained on its white front.

Little Pied Cormorant. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

A lone Australian Pelican paddled about and a White-faced Heron roosted near the bridge. A tern caused considerable confusion as its plumage could be interpreted as Common or Whiskered so the rule of ‘if in doubt, consider the most common to be the most likely’ was applied and Whiskered Tern declared. The existence of a subspecies of Common Tern which is reminiscent of the Whiskered Tern is a complication. 

Whiskered Tern. Photo by Bevan Hood

As we finished our walk we smiled at a pair of Red-rumped Parrots in the grass near the exit.

Red-rumped Parrot. Photo by Bevan Hood

There is frequently a ‘mystery bird’ on walks and a distant bird could have been a finch obscured by vegetation.

Common Greenfinch. Photo by Loh Kat Mun

The identification of Common Greenfinch was finally achieved by examining a photograph with more detail than eyes and binoculars could achieve.

White-faced Heron. Photo by Bevan Hood
White-faced heron. Photo by Bevan Hood

A quick species count showed 32 species had been recorded at the lakes and a total of 58 species was recorded for the entire day.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Lysterfield Lake Park

22 October 2018

Twenty-one people assembled under light clouds in a mild breezy day. Our advertised leader, Elsmaree Baxter, was slightly incapacitated so she delegated active leadership to Pat Bingham and merely walked gently at the rear of the group. We had new members and visitors including Suzanne from Austin, Texas.

The day started well with Eastern Grey Kangaroos as well as Eurasian Coots and Silver Gulls present beside the launch area, to the delight of visitors who hadn’t been close to roos previously. Other birds on the water or the bank included Little Pied Cormorants, Pacific Black Ducks, Masked Lapwings and Little Ravens.  A female Musk Duck swam beside the short mooring post and beside her splashed a small duckling, charming the watchers. An unusual and unexpected sighting was a Purple Swamphen perched in a tree, 3-4 meters above the ground. In the bush the Noisy Miners dominated the more open areas, even diving at a Common Bronzewing as it foraged on the ground. We headed to the dam wall where the wind blew strongly across the lake and hats were clutched tightly. Among the coots near the wall we had good close views of Grebes, Hoary-headed, Australasian and, much-appreciated, Great Crested (not often seen in this area). The dam wall also provided close views of a young Echidna walking beside the fence until it found a comfortable space in the wire mesh and slid through.

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Echidna. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

Several Pacific Black Ducks were examined as closely as possible and all seemed to be pure bred, without a sign of the orange legs of hybridisation with the Northern Mallard. A white domestic “dinner duck” was not counted. Up into the bush where frog calls from damp areas included the Common Froglet. A female Rufous Whistler called and was then briefly observed while a couple of Red-browed Finches flitted near the track. Further along a male Tawny Frogmouth was on incubation duty on a simple nest in a tree fork high above the track. The only parrots and cockatoos seen were several Long-billed Corellas on the grass and an Eastern and two Crimson Rosellas plus a couple of Rainbow Lorikeets. Superb Fairy-wrens, both brown females and blue males, delighted all, especially visitors. The honeyeater list was not long, in addition to the many Noisy Miners there were calling Red Wattlebirds and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. Both an immature and an adult Grey Butcherbird were present and Australian Magpies and Pied Currawongs were present and calling.

After lunch the group reduced to 13 people and we walked briefly on the northern side of the car parks, adding only two extra species to the list, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike and Grey Fantail, and gaining improved sightings of several species. The species list now stood at 42 where it had been 40 at lunchtime. We thanked Pat and Elsmaree for all the careful preparation and teamwork which had resulted in a successful outing.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekday outings

Weekdays outing to Adams Creek and Jam Jerrup

9 October 2018

Birds at edge - D Tweeddale
Birds at water’s edge. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

Lowering grey skies and light drizzle greeted nine birders as they assembled. Our leader was John van Doorn. The car park birding was most rewarding, as is often the case, and highlights were a calling Pallid Cuckoo and close sightings of a well-coloured Spotted Pardalote. Other sightings were blue, red and yellow, otherwise listed as Superb Fairy-wren, Red-browed Finch and Yellow-rumped Thornbill.

Silvereye - Danika Sanderson
Silvereye. Photo by Danika Sanderson

Several horse floats were parked in the adjacent area and it was interesting that the birds seemed unfazed by the horses or riders. The busy truck traffic to and from the adjacent sand mines was impressive and brought home the necessity of observing the stop signs at the intersection with Hookers Road. The sand in this area is used for high quality glass, think optics (or even expensive wine glasses). Other car park bird observations included a Dusky Woodswallow, numerous New Holland Honeyeaters, a couple of sightings of Grey Fantail and a Little Raven. An Australian Raven was also heard and a White-faced Heron overflew.

Orchid - Danika Sanderson
Orchid. Photo by Danika Sanderson

Walking the track we passed brilliant green moss beds – much appreciated by those with drought-stricken Melbourne gardens – and further on there were beautiful displays of flowers, including peas, fan flowers, Banksia, Hibbertia, Tetratheca and Epacris with the occasional sun orchid.

Flowers - a pink tetratheca and a pea - Danika Sanderson
Flowers (Pink Tetratheca and a Pea). Photo by Danika Sanderson

A birding “hot spot” near the flowers would be better described as “incandescent” as there were so many birds active in a small area, among them Varied Sitellas foraging down branches and tree trunks, Grey Butcherbird and Grey Shrike-thrush calling and Brown Thornbills and White-browed Scrubwrens briefly sighted.

Brown Thornbill - Danika Sanderson

Brown Thornbill 2 - Danika Sanderson
Brown Thornbill. Photos by Danika Sanderson

Walking back to the cars (we had to be on time to catch the tide at Stockyard Point near Jam Jerrup) we came across “the bird of the morning” – a male Brush Bronzewing in beautiful plumage who stayed quietly and closely perched for long enough to allow each person at least a quick sighting. Lunch was eaten at Lang Lang where a picnic shelter in a small park provided seating out of the increasing rain. Most of us elected to continue to Stockyard Point near Jam Jerrup after lunch so we drove to the start of the track and then walked determinedly to catch the rising tide and any waders or shorebirds roosting at the point.

Mangrove 2 D Tweeddale
Mangroves. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

Mangroves grow close to the coast and twitters were heard from there but there was no time for identifications. After traversing an area of fallen dead trees beside the water we eventually reached the point and were greeted with waders flying in beautiful waves. When they settled there were some Silver Gulls and many Whiskered Terns but as our vision adjusted there were Red-necked Stints and Curlew Sandpipers also.

Mangrove 1 - D Tweeddale
Mangroves. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

A pair of Australian Pied Oystercatchers was carefully surveyed but that caused no change in their identity to SIPO’s. A few Gull-billed Terns flew along the wave line but the prize here was several Red Knots still in various degrees of breeding plumage. A few Crested Terns were noted and even fewer Caspians, diving for food. Red-capped Plovers appeared just above the wave line and an immature Pacific Gull flew past just as we were leaving. The rain and wind were becoming uncomfortable by then so we climbed over the fallen trees and returned to the car park at the start of the track for bird call. The results were 37 species for Adams Creek and 30 species for Jam Jerrup/Stockyard Point, giving an overall total of 58 species for the day. We thanked John appreciatively for showing us these two so different birding locations.

Diane Tweeddale Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Hallam Valley floodplain wetlands

24 September 2018
Photographer: Bevan Hood, member

Black Swan - B Hood
Black Swan

Eleven of us met and considered that the car park birding was so very good we really didn’t need to leave that area. Rob Grosvenor led the group and had good expectations. He is part of the team of volunteers who do the monthly surveys for Melbourne Water so is very familiar with the site.

Highlights as we waited to start included a flock of Fairy Martins. They were repeatedly landing on muddy banks to collect mud for their bottle nests, presumably located in a culvert nearby, although the nest locations were not visible when we peered briefly while walking past. Another good sighting by the car park was a Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo perched on the nearby power line and calling loudly.

Australian White Ibis - B Hood
Australian White Ibis

 

Frogs called from the ponds and creek-sides but we were here to bird. Numerous flocks of Silver Gulls and skeins of Australian White Ibis flew past. The fenceline produced Superb Fairy-wrens and a bird finally identified as an Australasian Pipit (after some discussion of the respective appearances and habits of it and the European Skylark). Not easy species to differentiate from a distance.

Eastern Great Egret - B Hood
Eastern Great Egret

The south wind was cold and we were all glad of our “appropriate clothing” when the clouds blew across. Initially few birds appeared on the lakes– only a Hoary-headed Grebe and a pair of Pacific Black Ducks were recorded. Later, when we had walked to the far side (near the go-kart circuit) the list grew to include Australian Wood Duck, Chestnut Teal and a pair of Black Swans.

Australasian Swamphen - B Hood
Australasian Swamphen

Australasian Swamphen, Eurasian Coot and Dusky Moorhen added to a list of waterbirds which finally included Little Pied, Little Black and Great Cormorants and White-faced Heron plus an overflying Australasian Darter.

Little Pied Cormorant - B Hood
Little Pied Cormorant

Clearly the wetlands appeal to the waterbirds. Introduced species were also recorded – Common Myna, Starling and Blackbird plus Spotted Dove and (slightly unexpectedly as their numbers have fallen) a House Sparrow. Other observed introductions were Common Greenfinch and European Goldfinch.

European Goldfinch - B Hood
European Goldfinch feeding on anthropoids in the cobweb, or collecting cobweb for nesting

The most common honeyeater sighted was the New Holland but there were also a few White-plumed Honeyeaters, Noisy Miners and Red and Little Wattlebirds. Parrots were limited today to a few Little Corellas and Rainbow Lorikeets plus one Eastern Rosella. No one saw the calling Spotted Pardalote and few sighted the Little Grassbird and Australian Reed-Warbler but the calls were unmistakable.

Crested Pigeon - B Hood
Crested Pigeon

While we lunched White-browed Scrubwrens appeared between the adjacent warehouse wall and the cyclone fence marking the edge of the reserve. Some seemed to be fluttering, perhaps trapped, but we soon realised they included young birds with very short tails which were probably exercising. Earlier some ‘scrubbies’ had been glimpsed around and in gorse bushes in front of that building but this later sighting was in excellent light and allowed everyone unusually good long views of their markings. Bird call gave a most satisfactory species count of 50 and we thanked Rob for sharing his knowledge of this man-made area.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail

5 September 2018

Male Superb Fairy-wren in eclipse plumage - Danika Sanderson
Superb Fairy-wren, male. Photo by Danika Sanderson

The weather was perfect for bird watching, clear blue sky, no morning wind and a mild temperature. Twenty-one enthusiasts met at the Launching Place (Don Valley) car park, those from Melbourne were joined by some visitors and some from the Yarra Valley branch. It was interesting that the very small car park did not have many birds. Presumably there was little to attract them out of the bush. Graeme Hosken led and our first walk was uphill beside the aqueduct.

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The aqueduct has been decommissioned for at least five years and only pools of rain water are now present. The concrete walls are almost completely covered with plants where fallen plant debris has formed humus.

sluice gate on aqueduct - D Tweeddale
Sluice gate on aqueduct. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

Tractor tracks beside the ditch and chain-sawn fallen timber marked where the maintenance crew had passed after wind storms. White-browed Scrub-wrens and Fan-tailed Cuckoos called but only the former were visible.

Superb Fairy-wren female - D Sanderson
Superb Fairy-wren, female. Photo by Danika Sanderson

Grey Fantails fluttered high and fanned and Lewin’s Honeyeaters were almost common, calling and occasionally showing themselves which allowed observers to view their markings. Eastern Spinebills were mostly audible as were Crimson Rosellas, the latter occasionally seen in patches of sunshine. Laughing Kookaburras called and White-throated Treecreepers called and then challenged watchers as they foraged high on tree trunks in the canopy. Striated Pardalote was reported by several and Eastern Whipbird was heard by many.

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Returning downhill we had added Eastern Yellow Robin sightings and heard Brown Thornbill, Little and Australian Ravens and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.

Eastern Yellow Robin - D Sanderson
Eastern Yellow Robin. Photo by Danika Sanderson

Most of the group headed across the road and walked near the pipeline while a flat tyre was exchanged. Then the majority drove in convoy to Millgrove for lunch though a few had to finish at morning’s end. The afternoon drive was to Dee Road, parking at the picnic spot with its panoramic view.

Panorama from picnic spot - D Tweeddale
Panorama from picnic spot. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

The birding was good though few species were added to those we had encountered in the morning’s walk. No raptors were recorded despite the wide sky of the panorama. A Rufous Whistler was heard, a Willie Wagtail was being harassed by an Australian Magpie and the best bird of the day was voted a Bassian Thrush seen by most as it foraged in a clearing below the track.

Grey Fantail - D Sanderson
Grey Fantail. Photo by Danika Sanderson

The bird list at day’s end was 32 species for the morning Launching Place section of the trail and 20 species for the Millgrove section in the afternoon. For the whole day there were 35 species recorded and we thanked Graeme enthusiastically for his preparation which led to such a good result for forest birding.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

 

Weekdays outing to Trin-Warren-Tam-Boore (Royal Park, Parkville)

8 August 2018
All photographs by Bevan Hood, member

White-plumed Honeyeater - Bevan Hood
White-plumed Honeyeater

The skies were grey and the wind cold as 17 assembled in the car park. But the rain wasn’t more than the lightest sprinkle and everyone was dressed for the weather. Jane Moseley, our leader, was recovering from a broken arm and was assisted by Pat Bingham. Never let a physical challenge stop a bird watcher. As often, the car park birding was very productive and Silver Gull (probably courtesy of the stormy weather), Crested Pigeon, Superb Fairy-wren and New Holland and White-plumed Honeyeaters were common.

Crested Pigeon - Bevan Hood
Crested Pigeon

The sports grounds yielded large flocks of Rock Doves and House Sparrows with a few Australian Magpies and Magpie-larks. Australian White Ibis flew overhead and then keen eyes noticed another species – a Black-shouldered Kite –flying near and hovering above. Across the road and into the western side where Little Wattlebirds foraged in flowering gardens and drank and bathed in a rain gutter.

Black-shouldered Kite - Bevan Hood
Black-shouldered Kite

A couple of Galahs called as they flew over and a female Golden Whistler challenged many to locate her in the thickness of a tree canopy. The lake showed Australian Grebe (diving as is their wont) plus Eurasian Coot with a few Pacific Black Ducks and rather more Hardheads. Little Grassbird called forlornly from the bank but only a couple witnessed a bird flying from shelter to shelter.

Hardhead male - Bevan Hood
Hardhead, male

Purple Swamphen contrasted with Dusky Moorhen in size and colouring while Grey and Chestnut Teal were compared for their detail. Musk Lorikeet flew past swiftly and we were left contrasting their calls, flight and appearance with those of the more numerous Rainbow Lorikeets. A noisy panic among the smaller birds accompanied the appearance on an Australian Hobby, which, however, did not stay for long. We moved toward the oval again, noting the swooping flight of Welcome Swallows in the calmer conditions and then trying to identify an unfamiliar bird.

Hardhead female - Bevan Hood
Hardhead, female

After several guesses field guides were consulted and an identification which was quite unexpected was noted – the unexpected was undoubtedly The Bird of the Day – a Black-eared Cuckoo. We surmised that the recent gales from the north had brought it down to Melbourne’s latitude. The tall masses of lignin growth would have provided shelter. The cuckoo was a most obliging vagrant, it returned twice further during lunch, coming closer each time and giving everyone excellent close-up views.

Black-eared Cuckoo - Bevan Hood
Black-eared Cuckoo

After that the presence of a Tree Martin over the oval in August was not quite the surprise it would otherwise have been. A few people needed to leave at lunchtime but the majority stayed to walk, adding a Black Swan and a Grey Butcherbird and improved views of Noisy Miner and Spotted Pardalote.

Red-rumped Parrots male and female - Bevan Hood
Red-rumped Parrots, male (upper), female (lower)

The mud nest of a Magpie-lark was spotted high in a tree near the ovals. Avoiding silent, speeding cyclists, we returned to the cars and did the final bird call, listing 47 species for the day. Our enthusiastic thanks went to Jane and her support team for the work which showed several of our number the potential for an area that many had not known about. We decided to finish the day under darkening clouds at 2 pm. This proved a very good decision as 15 minutes later the heaviest, most violent rain for the day arrived.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to The Briars Park, Mount Martha

17 July 2018

Weather forecasts gave high winds and possible storms so the park was closed for safety reasons. Early arrivals birded in the car park and Susan Clark and Pam Hearn, our leaders from BirdLife Mornington Peninsula, checked with the ranger who confirmed the gates were locked. A fall-back walk had been planned for just such a situation and so we continued car park birding till all the group had assembled. We were 11 people (5 from Mornington and 6 from Melbourne) and the car park bird list included Australian Wood Duck, Noisy Miner, Crested Pigeon, Eastern Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet, Masked Lapwing and Little Raven.

In clear weather we set off on the Balcombe Creek trail, partly boardwalk and partly track, heading towards Nepean Highway. Along the way we added Straw-necked and Australian White Ibis overhead and Australian Magpie in the open country. The path passes under the highway, reassuringly, and runs beside the creek where different water plants were growing in its bed and waving in a good flow of water. Off-leash areas for dogs were popular and the dogs and their owners were quite interested in us, too. Brown Thornbills and White- browed Scrubwrens were initially heard then quickly seen by some. Other watchers had to persevere for their sightings.

Human use of the area included water extraction and we passed numerous pipes. An old quarry seemed well overgrown. It had provided stone for Nepean Highway and then been taken over as an army rifle range in WWII. After the war army apprentices had used it till they were moved to Albury in 1982. It languished until the Balcombe Estuary Reserves Group (BERG) took over weeding it in 2011. This was enhanced by spraying for blackberries which allowed successful planting of indigenous vegetation. Wildlife habitat returned, especially for small birds which had previously been using the blackberries. The planting now appears quite natural and we wouldn’t have guessed the amount of work BERG (formerly the Balcombe Estuary Rehabilitation Group) had poured into the area.

We headed slowly toward the beach, turning off the main track to visit the Ferrero Reserve where the open area of the sports grounds yielded Galah, Straw-necked Ibis, Crested Pigeon, Australian Magpie and Noisy Miner. A pair of Grey Butcherbirds called melodiously from the top of the cricket nets. Now elapsed time indicated that lunchtime was quite a walk away so we started our return. The creek estuary broadens in the lower reaches and information boards indicated the fish which might be seen. Not today, unfortunately. Superb Fairy-wrens ran around in the low vegetation quite near the houses across the track. Further back toward the park there were areas of open small trees which “fair cried out” for some Eastern Yellow Robins and there the birds were seen. The boardwalk sections of the track are marked as “slippery when wet” but today they were dry and no challenge. Once everyone reunited at the information centre there was lunch and bird call. Twenty-five species had been seen: a very creditable result for a day of approaching storm. The wind was starting gust though the sky was still blue so we decided to stop there to give people a chance to drive home before any storm. We thanked Susan and Pam for their careful planning which had resulted in a good morning’s birding in the teeth of Victorian weather.

Susan Clark, BirdLife Mornington Peninsula, leader
Pam Hearn, BirdLife Mornington Peninsula, leader
Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings.

Weekdays Outing to Tirhatuan Park, Dandenong North

6 June 2018

Australian Wood Duck - Chestnut Teal - Bevan Hood
Australian Wood Duck and Chestnut Teal. Photo by Bevan Hood

For early arrivals birding started promptly as there was a large flock of ducks, Australian Woods plus a few Pacific Blacks, beside the entrance road. Not fazed by vehicles they waddled suicidally in front of cars and drivers were required to stop and wait for “the bird problem” to resolve itself.

Group assembling-Danika Sanderson.JPG
Group assembling in the car park. Photo by Danika Sanderson

The birding continued in the car park where the early arrivals listed cockatoos and parrots as dominant.

Straw-necked Ibis - Bevan Hood.jpg
Straw-necked Ibis. Photo by Bevan Hood

A large mob of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos plus some Little Corellas arrived then a lone Long-billed Corella foraged near a Straw-necked Ibis across from the playground while flying around were Galahs, Rainbow Lorikeets, Eastern and Crimson Rosellas and Australian King-Parrots.

Eastern Rosella - Danika Sanderson
Eastern Rosella. Photo by Danika Sanderson

Spotted Pardalotes called and our first Common Bronzewings were sighted here. Australian Magpies seemed to be aggressively “sorting out” their young and Noisy Miners, as always, attempted to drive off other species.

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike - Danika Sanderson
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike. Photo by Danika Sanderson

John Bosworth led the walk and the attendance of 25 people included members from other branches and visitors. We set off to the first pond south-east of the car park where our waterbird list grew with the addition of Chestnut and Grey Teal as well as Eurasian Coot, that cosmopolitan species.

Grey Butcherbird - Bevan Hood
Grey Butcherbird. Photo by Bevan Hood

Continuing on our circular course past the larger pond, where most saw Golden-headed Cisticola, we walked under Stud Road via the pedestrian underpass. The hope here was to proceed to the area where adjacent paddocks come close to the reserve and scan the fence line for robins. No robins were observed but a low-flying Australian Pelican was noted.

Australian Pelican - Danika Sanderson
Australian Pelican. Photo by Danika Sanderson

We returned along the western edge of the park, again checking out the potential of the larger lake’s edges. Lunch was starting to look very good as we headed back to the cars and the morning’s bird call numbered 48 species at first count, a very pleasing result.

Common Bronzewing - Bevan Hood
Common Bronzewing. Photo by Bevan Hood

Only two raptors had been recorded – a Little Eagle and a Brown Goshawk – both soaring above the tree tops. Some had to depart after lunch but 16 drove to the bush at the Police Paddocks Reserve, which was only a very short distance as the raven flies from our morning walk but took some time to reach by road.

Brown Thornbill - Danika Sanderson
Brown Thornbill. Photo by Danika Sanderson

Here the habitat differed from the morning and among the denser trees we added a female Golden Whistler, White-eared Honeyeater and good sightings of Brown Thornbill, Grey Shrike-thrush and Eastern Spinebill.

White-plumed Honeyeater - bevan hood
White-plumed Honeyeater. Photo by Bevan Hood

At walk’s end the species list totalled 53, and all voted it a great day’s birding as we thanked John for his care and preparation.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing in the Wonthaggi area

16 May 2018

The meeting point car park filled with cars as 24 assembled under cloudy skies in Wonthaggi. Rain storms had fallen the previous day so we were grateful for a cold but dry day. Nola Thorpe led the walk and warned us that her recent recce had yielded very few birds in the heathland. However we were a hopeful mix of Melbourne and Wonthaggi birders as we drove off in convoy – you never know with birding.

Eastern Spinebill - Bevan Hood
Eastern Spinebill in the heathlands. Photo by Bevan Hood

The heathlands car park was already occupied by a pair of horse riders, regulars, who wished us good birding as they set off. Initially Nola’s dire prediction looked accurate for we saw and heard little. Then there were Grey Shrike-thrush calls and glimpses of New Holland Honeyeaters. In more timbered country there were Spotted Pardalote, Grey Fantail and Grey Butcherbird. Near a small dam, five Australasian Shelducks flew overhead.

Walking the heathland track - Tweeddale
Walking the track. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

The dam, which birds frequent in summer, was uninhabited as recent rains had provided plenty of surface water elsewhere. A small flock of Red-browed Finches foraged on the ground and White-eared Honeyeaters called and perched on emergent boughs, seeming to take on the roles of Singing Honeyeaters elsewhere. A cool burn had been done about a month previously and it was interesting to see the growth of grass blades and of the Xanthorrhoea bases below the burn line.

The heathlands are a mosaic of different burnt zones which will hopefully provide habitat for many species. We searched unsuccessfully for the elusive Southern Emu-wren and the Striated Fieldwren before returning to the cars to drive to the desalination plant. The car park was under surveillance as we assembled – several Eastern Grey Kangaroos watched quietly from a bracken patch.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo - Bevan Hood
Eastern Grey Kangaroos watching the car park. Photo by Bevan Hood

We lunched at the picnic area of the desal plant before walking on the trails and checking the ponds. Here waterbirds predominated with large flocks of Pacific Black Ducks and Grey Teal. A few Eurasian Coots and fewer Chestnut Teal and Australasian Grebes were also present.

Pacific Black Duck - Grey Teal - Chestnut Teal - Bevan Hood
Pacific Black Ducks and Grey and Chestnut Teal on the desalination plant pond. Photo by Bevan Hood

Both White-faced and White-necked Herons used the ponds and Straw-necked Ibis flew over. Raptors here were Black-shouldered Kite, Nankeen Kestrel, Swamp Harrier and Peregrine Falcon while Welcome Swallows swooped across the ponds. As always, Superb Fairy-wrens were among the reed beds. Back to bird call and the group’s lists were 36 species in the heathlands, 39 species at the desalination plant and a gratifying total of 59 species for the day.

Heathland flowers - Tweeddale
Heathland flowers. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

We thanked Nola for all her preparation which had produced such a great result for this cold season of the year.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings.

Weekday outing to Cape Schanck, Mornington Peninsula National Park

16 April 2018
All photographs by Katmun Loh, member

There had been hope that strong winds would result in albatrosses close to shore but the winds of the day far exceeded anything requested. We were a group of 11 and our leader, Pat Bingham, had prepared well for the walk. Gales bent the trees and drove rain squalls horizontally to our backs so the occasional dip in the path or thicker stand of scrub that broke the force was welcome.

Group huddling by thte cars - Katmun Loh
The group huddling by the cars

Initially not a bird was seen and only a couple of squeaks were heard from the scrub. Despite a rainbow it did not look promising but, never say die, we kept alert, even though the car park “total” was two unidentified glimpses. Up to the lookout where we watched the spray on white-topped waves blow backwards. Few birds and then “gannet”! Determination was needed but most detected an Australasian Gannet, some saw a Silver Gull and shearwaters were present. A couple of Welcome Swallows appeared and hope was restored. Towards Bushrangers Bay Superb Fairy-wrens were mostly heard and other calls perplexed until they were identified as crickets.

Superb Fairy-wren, male in eclipse plumage - Katmun Loh
Superb Fairy-wren, male in eclipse plumage

An autumnal Red Wattlebird flock of about 20 included at least one Little Wattlebird. The track runs by the park boundary and Australian Magpies were in the adjacent paddocks with a Nankeen Kestrel and Silver Gulls overhead. Those in front saw a Grey Shrike-thrush as we neared our return point and the few who descended to the watercourse added Grey Fantails. Back at lunch we were soon checked out by the locals as the weather eased. A young Grey Shrike-thrush (recognisable by its markings) came first, and an adult approached afterwards.

Grey Shrike-thrush - Katmun Loh
Grey Shrike-thrush

Superb Fairy-wren and Brown Thornbill gave brief views. Little Ravens first flew and then called, confirming the species. Post lunch we set off in the opposite direction, west toward the lighthouse. Both Kelp and Pacific Gulls were observed from the cliff and optimism grew as the weather calmed, briefly. Better views of Shy Albatross, Short-tailed Shearwaters and Australasian Gannet were obtained. A demonstration of the intensification of the wind speed at the top of a cliff compared to a few steps behind the crest was instructive. Calls from Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater were followed but few sightings were obtained. The group recorded only three honeyeater species, two wattlebirds and the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, but two members who left later were able to photograph a Singing Honeyeater which had presumably ventured out in the sunnier conditions.

Singingh Honeyeater - Katmun Loh
Singing Honeyeater

The bird list for the group added to 20 species and we thanked Pat for all her preparation which had resulted in successful birding under such challenging conditions.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator Melbourne BirdLife weekdays outings