Category Archives: Weekdays outing

Weekdays outing to Phillip Island

1-2 October 2019
Black Swan cygnets - Bevan Hood
Black Swan cygnets. Photo by Bevan Hood

The group numbered 16 when we assembled by the information centre on Tuesday at 13.00 in calm sunny weather, perfect for birdwatching.

Group with Phillip Island bridge in background - Katmun Loh.JPG
Group with Phillip Island Bridge in the background. Photo by Katmun Loh

Our leaders were Sally and Derek Whitehead, keen birders who live on the island. They were very familiar with the Cape Barren Goose population but those visiting from the Melbourne branch were very interested to see the recovery of this once-threatened species. Almost to plague proportions according to some disgruntled land owners.

Cape Barren Goose Bevan Hood
Cape Barren Goose. Photo by Bevan Hood
Cape Barren Goose goslings- Bevan Hood
Cape Barren Goose goslings. Photo by Bevan Hood

The geese were quiet but that cannot be said of the numerous Masked Lapwings. These noisy neighbours appreciate the mowed grasses and clearly you were not an islander if your block didn’t boast a pair, preferably breeding. Meanwhile the sky was filled with skeins and small groups of Ibis, mainly Straw-necked though there were a few Australian White.

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

Our first location was the Newhaven jetty where both Silver Gulls and Pacific Gulls were observed, the latter mostly immatures in their mottled brown plumage and looking somewhat scruffy.

Silver Gull - Bevan Hood
Silver Gull. Photo by Bevan Hood
Pacific Gull immature - Bevan Hood
Pacific Gull, immature. Photo by Bevan Hood

The area also hosted Black Swans and Australian Pelicans while cormorants included Little Pied, Pied and Little Black.

Black Swan - AustnPelican - Royal Spoonbill - Bevan Hood
Black Swan, Australian Pelican and Royal Spoonbill. Photo by Bevan Hood

 

Out to sea an Australian Gannet was briefly viewed and then confirmed as it plunged after fish. Around the houses ringing the jetty area we also noted Welcome Swallows, Galahs, Australian Magpies and Wattlebirds, Red and Little.

Australian Pelican - Katmun Loh
Australian Pelican. Photo by Katmun Loh
Australian Pelican - Bevan Hood - 2
Australian Pelican. Photo by Bevan Hood
Australian Pelican - Bevan Hood
Australian Pelican. Photo by Bevan Hood

Then it was across to Fisher’s Wetlands, Newhaven, where there were ducks, Chestnut Teal, Australian Wood Ducks, Australasian Shovelers and Australian Shelducks.

Australasian Shoveler - Katmun Loh
Australasian Shoveler. Photo by Katmun Loh
Australian Shelduck f and m - Katmun Loh
Australian Shelduck, male and female. Photo by Katmun Loh

 

Both Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes were present while Black-winged Stilts foraged on the far side of the water.

Musk Duck female - Katmun Loh
Musk Duck, female. Photo by Katmun Loh

A Royal Spoonbill shared a roosting islet with swans and pelicans and a Whiskered Tern fluttered and dipped near them. From the bush we could hear a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo calling while a Swamp Harrier and then a Brown Falcon started our raptor count for the visit.

Brown Falcon - Katmun Loh
Brown Falcon. Photo by Katmun Loh
Black-shouldered Kite - Bevan Hood
Black-shouldered Kite. Photo by Bevan Hood

The birding is usually excellent at Fisher’s Wetland and today was no exception. The bush was home to Yellow-rumped and Brown Thornbills plus White-eared Honeyeaters and Grey Fantails.

White-eared Honeyeater - Katmun Loh
White-eared Honeyeater. Photo by Katmun Loh
White-eared Honeyeater - Bevan Hood
White-eared Honeyeater. Photo by Bevan Hood

On checking Rhyll inlet from the cliff top (scopes are recommended for this location) we were able to include several new species. The sand spit hosted Bar-tailed Godwits and Australian Pied Oystercatchers and a Caspian Tern flew past while the highlight here was Whimbrels on the rocks at the cliff base.

Australian Pied Oystercatcher - Katmun Loh
Australian Pied Oystercatcher. Photo by Katmun Loh

We were kept so busy observing and recording that we decided to drive over to the Shearwater estate and complete the day with a bird call there rather than visit the Rhyll yacht club as originally planned.

Galah - Bevan Hood
Galah. Photo by Bevan Hood

The yacht club might have similar results to the Newhaven jetty area while the estate contains central wetlands for water management and is well worth a visit. Yes, there were Little Grassbirds calling and many watchers managed to see an Australian Reed-Warbler as it foraged along the reed base. Highlights here were Fairy Martins collecting mud for nests under a culvert and a pair of Superb Fairy-wrens glowing brilliantly in the late afternoon light as they perched on the reeds.

Superb Fairy-wren male - Katmun Loh
Superb Fairy-wren, male. Photo by Katmun Loh

We called the list and were gratified to number 68 species for the afternoon. Thanks to Sally and Derek.

Next morning we assembled at 08.30 without two of our number who were only available for the Tuesday. The first stop was the Oswin Roberts Reserve on Harbison Rd, Rhyll, another excellent birding location.

Common Starling - Bevan Hood
Common Starling. Photo by Bevan Hood

We didn’t need to leave the car park to record Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets, Laughing Kookaburra, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Eastern Rosella and Fairy Martin.

Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike - Katmun Loh
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike. Photo by Katmun Loh
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike - Bevan Hood
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike. Photo by Bevan Hood
Eastern Rosella - Bevan Hood
Eastern Rosella. Photo by Bevan Hood

Walking around the short circuit by the car park we had the good fortune to locate and then actually see a calling Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, to watch brilliantly coloured Striated Pardalotes and to encounter a couple of feeding Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos.

Shining Bronze-Cuckoo - Katmun Loh
Shining Bronze-Cuckoo. Photo by Katmun Loh
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo - Katmun Loh
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo. Photo by Katmun Loh
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo - Bevan Hood
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo. Photo by Bevan Hood

Fan-tailed Cuckoo proved challenging to locate but most of us were finally able to view the birds. A fortunate group actually observed not one but three Fantail Cuckoos in the same binocular view.

Fan-tailed Cuckoo - Bevan Hood
Fan-tailed Cuckoo. Photo by Bevan Hood
Fan-tailed Cuckoo 2 - Katmun Loh
Fan-tailed Cuckoo. Photo by Katmun Loh
Fan-tailed Cuckoo 1 - Katmun Loh
Fan-tailed Cuckoo. Photo by Katmun Loh

Along the track we encountered a couple of Swamp Wallabies while checking the understorey. Then it was time to drive to the Nobbies for seabirds. Here the raptor count increased as we recorded Peregrine Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel and Whistling Kite.

Peregrine Falcon - Katmun Loh
Peregrine Falcon. Photo by Katmun Loh

Many smiles resulted from the glimpses of Little Penguins in their nesting boxes on the side of the hillside as we traversed the board walk. Crowds of tourists and families were taking advantage of the school holidays and beautiful weather. The calm settled conditions for the previous couple of days were not likely to have driven any albatrosses inshore so we were not surprised when none were seen.

It was not a far drive to Swan Lake from the Nobbies and most of us were soon smiling as pairs of Black Swans led their fluffy grey cygnets and a pair of Chestnut Teal boasted seven ducklings.

Black Swan - Bevan Hood
Black Swan. Photo by Bevan Hood
Chestnut Teal - Bevan Hood
Chestnut Teal. Photo by Bevan Hood

There were raptors, Swamp Harriers and Whistling Kites, as we walked the board walk and some of us wondered how many cygnets, ducklings and goslings would make it to adulthood. We decided to have the bird call here and made ourselves comfortable but the usual “bird call calls” rang out with White-browed Scrubwren and Silvereye joining the list at the last minute. The morning’s list totalled 66 species and the cumulative total for the two days was 90 species. It goes almost without saying that we thanked both Sally and Derek whole-heartedly for all their preparation which had gone into such a successful session.

Diane Tweeddale Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

 

Weekdays outing to Jells Park East, Wheelers Hill

16 September 2019
Photos by Johnny Wong, member
Gret Cormorant - Johnny Wong
Great Cormorant

Those arriving at the car park were clearly optimists as the heavy overnight rain would have deterred pessimists. Graeme Hosken led the group which numbered 27 at the outset. Soon we had recorded the inevitable Noisy Miners plus a few Australian Wood Ducks, Eastern Rosellas and a single immature Crimson Rosella. One miner nest hung over the car park, neat on its branch, attended by two adults. An opportunistic Laughing Kookaburra checked out the car park without visible reward while the mournful calls of White-winged Choughs sounded across the swollen creek. Few of us had ever seen the creek as high as it ran deep and fast after the rain and at day’s end we also noted that the water level had come up even while we walked.

Great Cormorant - Johnny Wong - 2
Great Cormorant showing the hooked bill of a fish predator

A few corellas were identified as Little Corellas as they flew over (no visible pink colouring) but screeching Sulphur-crested Cockatoos presented no ID challenges. Further into the walk we passed Magpie-larks, some collecting mud for their bowl nests. Bush birds were not prominent, perhaps since the rain or perhaps inhibited by the many miners. Australian White Ibises, however, were clearly not fazed and were flying continually overhead. They have, in fact, taken over a small island in the main lake as a breeding colony and are also spreading along the lake edges – apparently displacing other species. Ibis breeding has been successful, to judge by the young which were seen begging food from adults. A few Little Pied Cormorants still used the lake while smaller numbers of Australasian Grebe and Australasian Darter were joined by more numerous Eurasian Coots. A lone Royal Spoonbill challenged observers by hiding its head as it stood at lake’s edge and a Pink-eared Duck was initially thought to be solo until its mate appeared at the entrance to a nest box. A great sighting was a lone Freckled Duck which swam near a Black Swan beside the bank.

Cattle Egret - Johnny Wong
Cattle Egret

After an Australian Pelican obligingly glided overhead we searched the nearby bush for small birds. Mostly there were calls but few sightings. However we recorded Grey Fantail, Superb Fairy-wren, White-browed Scrubwren and Yellow-faced Honeyeater. Out from the edge of the scrub we added White-faced Heron and, less enthusiastically, Spotted Dove. The Crested Pigeons near the viewing platform were received more positively. It was now lunch break which all felt had been well-earned, even though a few needed to leave to attend to other commitments. The continuing group walked on, happily adding Chestnut and Grey Teal, Eastern Great and Cattle Egret and, thought by raptor enthusiasts the highlight of the afternoon, Australian Hobby. This like an earlier Brown Goshawk caused the smaller birds to raise the alarm vociferously against a predator.

Australian Hobby - Johnny Wong
Australian Hobby

Back to the car park and we checked the bird list for the day – 59 species had been recorded. Such a result caused smiles all round and we thanked Graeme enthusiastically for all his work which had resulted in such a successful day.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays Outing to Yarra Bend Park, Fairfield

12 August 2019
Photographs by Kat Mun Loh

The group numbered 20, of whom two were international visitors, from the UK and Canada, and another couple were visitors from the support group Regenerate. Elsmaree Baxter led and all were grateful that the weather, though very cold, was dry. The ground was still wet and muddy with plenty of large puddles after several days of rain so care was needed when walking. Early arrivals were treated to a flock of 20 Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos flying overhead and some later arrivals counted the last bird while it perched in a bare tree. Other car park species included the inevitable Noisy Miners plus a few Australian Wood Ducks, Eastern Rosellas, Red-rumped Parrots and Rainbow Lorikeets plus a pair of Magpie-larks. Overhead flew a Great Cormorant and then, to the alarm calls from many species, a slender-winged Australian Hobby.

Superb Fairy-wren - male - Kat Mun Loh
Superb Fairy-wren, male

We walked past the golf course, noting a White-faced Heron patrolling near a green, apparently unfazed by the driving practice going on at the far end of the range. The grass was covered with yellow golf balls which must presumably be collected mechanically. Turning back into the bush section we noted the calls of Pied Currawong and Little Raven and watched Corellas flying near exercising dogs, presumably Long-billed Corellas as only this species had been seen from the start.

the group - Kat Mun Loh
The group walking

We headed back towards the Yarra which was flowing strong and high. A highlight here was a female Australasian Darter perched on a snag near a couple of Pacific Black Ducks. Some in the front of the group saw a robin which was another highlight – it was a female Scarlet Robin. The visitors were smiling and listing more and more.

Australasian Darter -female - Kat Mun Loh
Australasian Darter

A Dusky Moorhen swam near but did not try to fight the very strong river current. An Eastern Spinebill called but was only seen by one or two while Red Wattlebirds were heard at intervals. Superb Fairy-wrens’ calls were identified to the visitors but sightings were few and a “little brown job” was initially misidentified as a thornbill but on closer inspection was a White-browed Scrubwren being unexpectedly obvious on a low bare branch. Another good sighting, though often brief, was a calling Spotted Pardalote, much admired. One observer’s wish was granted when a clear close view of a Laughing Kookaburra was obtained as up till then she had only heard or briefly glimpsed this iconic Australian.

Laughing Kookaburra - Kat Mun Loh
Laughing Kookaburra

We were heading toward the boathouse when a sharp pair of eyes penetrated the great camouflage of a pair of Tawny Frogmouths huddled closely together against the cold. A great sighting for everyone.

Tawny Frogmouths - Kat Mun Loh
First glimpse of a pair of Tawny Frogmouths
Tawny Frogmouth - Kat Mun Loh
Tawny Frogmouth

Back to the shelter near the car park for lunch where we were checked out by Noisy Miners which made the most of every slight food spill. Wood ducks were still foraging on the near grass and were joined peaceably by a lone Crested Pigeon. At intervals some heard a distant call of an Olive-backed Oriole which was then picked up by all during a quiet pause in our chatter. However no sighting was obtained despite careful peering upwards. Unfortunately Elsmaree had to terminate her walk at lunchtime so she joined those finishing then because of fatigue or prior engagement. We thanked her wholeheartedly for all her preparation and wished her well.

Pat Bingham led the smaller remaining group around the Macfarlane Burnet circuit where the only addition to the species list was an overhead V of Straw-necked Ibis which brought the total of species to 48. We thanked Pat for the additional walk with its terrain and information boards.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands Environmental Area

17 July 2019
Photographs by Diane Tweeddale
Black Swan - Tweeddale
Black Swan

Cold wind but no rain was the day’s weather. Fifteen assembled at the walk’s start and Rob Grosvenor, our leader, had contacted Margaret Hunter of the Friends of Edithvale Wetlands who very kindly opened the bird hide on a week day. The drought had almost emptied the lake and the recent rain had partially refilled it, producing a water depth of 0.4 m near the hide. Black Swans had arrived and were breeding. In the distance there were at least 6 occupied mounds where nesting was in progress or soon to be so. Feathers were ruffled and necks arched and it was fascinating to realise the time the pens needed to hold their breath while underwater during copulation. On or around the water there were also many Chestnut Teal and Purple Swamphens with fewer numbers of Pacific Black Ducks and a couple of Willie Wagtails.

Black Swan and Chestnut Teal - Tweeddale
Black Swans and Chestnut Teal

Strong reed growth (now dry) limited vision and we were very glad of the elevation provided by the bird hide. The reeds also provided habitat for Superb Fairy-wrens and at least two brilliantly coloured males were using the area beside the hide. Heading across Edithvale Road (by the safe convenience of the pedestrian crossing lights) we quickly added Crested Pigeons, Galahs and Red-rumped Parrots.

Walking off the path but keeping to the north side there were the (almost inevitable) Noisy Miners as well as Australian Magpies and Magpie-larks. Eastern Rosellas moved quickly through the open forest and a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets seemed to be checking out a hollow stump. The golf course hosted Eurasian Coot, Australian Wood Ducks, a Masked Lapwing and a lone Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. There was also the much-viewed Magpie Goose which seems to have spent some lonely time there. Nearer the pond it was easier to use the height of the observation deck to check out the bird population on or by the water – a White-faced Heron, a Little Pied Cormorant, a male Australasian Shoveler, two Musk Ducks (male and female) and at least one Hoary-headed Grebe. A Swamp Harrier slowly quartered the pond edges, causing alarm calls and some change of direction in a small flock of teal.

Heading back to the cars and lunch we recorded a rather unusual sighting for the area. The sharp eyes of Geoff Deason picked up a well-hidden Tawny Frogmouth in a eucalypt beside the path. Few had previously seen one in this area.

Tawny Frogmouth - Tweeddale - 2
Tawny Frogmouth

While doing a preliminary bird call after eating lunch we paused when a somewhat unfamiliar call came from the reeds. Confirmation of a White-browed Scrubwren came from call recordings. After lunch several had to depart but the rump of nine continued walking along the track beside the golf course. We didn’t expect to add much to the morning’s respectable species total of 43 or 44 but it wasn’t long before someone saw four Australian Pelicans. Later our second raptor, a Black-shouldered Kite, hovered and soared close to the track not far from a perched Grey Butcherbird (which had only been heard before). Little Wattlebirds were heard along the track and Red Wattlebirds had been recorded in the morning. Spotted Pardalotes called from the trees but none were seen.

Back to the cars we thanked Rob enthusiastically for his preparation and felt rather satisfied to realise the species list now totalled 50. It was an excellent result for a grey, cold and breezy day, so typical of Melbourne in July.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Pipemakers Park, Maribyrnong

10 June 2019
Photographer: Katmun Loh
Little Pied Cormorant
Little Pied Cormorant

The overnight weather was not reassuring as wind and rain had been widespread and our first arrivals needed to shelter during a brief fall. However the rain radar showed the band of showers passing and we drew reassurance from that, especially when the clouds occasionally broke and bright sunshine resulted. When all had assembled we numbered 17 with Pat Bingham leading the group. Some had visited Pipemakers in the past and some were quite new to birding so we were a happily mixed group.

The group - Katmun Loh
The group

The car park area was the domain of White-plumed Honeyeaters and Red Wattlebirds but there were also several Willie Wagtails, Australian Magpies and Common Blackbirds.

White-plumed Honeyeater - Katmun Loh
White-plumed Honeyeater

Little Ravens called overhead and the honeyeaters were augmented by New Holland Honeyeaters and those purveyors of ‘false news’, the frequently alarm-calling Noisy Miners. Not far from the car park a few House Sparrows interested those whose local birds had disappeared. This commensal species seems to be in worldwide decline without a single definitive cause.

New Holland Honeyeater - Katmun Loh
New Holland Honeyeater

Superb Fairy-wrens were common, flying low, foraging in the understory and dashing across the paths. Many were males in eclipse plumage. The well-grown lignin plantings provide such smaller birds with shelter. We set off toward the river which is vastly improved from its past as an industrial dump. Now fish have returned and Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants and Eurasian Coots plus an Australasian Darter were joined by Silver Gulls and a few humans with rods taking advantage of the piscine possibilities.

Superb Fairy-wren adult F - Katmun Loh
Superb Fairy-wren, adult female

The flock of gulls was an indicator of the weather along the coast today and this was confirmed by a Crested Tern using the river rather than the coast. Musk Lorikeets in a tree beside the path delighted us and at least one watcher was very happy to have clear, close and prolonged views showing the birds’ markings.

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Red-rumped Parrots foraging in the grass beside the path also gave good, close views but also challenged photographers to clearly record the differences between the brilliant male and the drabber female.

F and M Red-rumped Parrot
Female and male Red-rumped Parrots

 

Our path took us beside the golf course, where a magpie’s nest had been made with the usual sticks plus bright green plastic string (human refuse recycled in a good avian cause). Across to the Sanctuary Walk where the ponds supported Pacific Black Ducks (swimming in tandem as if mating season was starting) plus Dusky Moorhen and a lone Hardhead which was considered the best bird today.

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The riverbank Australasian Darter was a young female, perching inconspicuously on a ‘whitewashed’ rock not far away from a White-faced Heron. Fallen boughs must not be allowed to menace the public and the maintenance tractor drivers were working despite the holiday when we visited. They expressed interest in our sightings in their area.

Chestnut Teal M - Katmun Loh
Chestnut Teal, male

We lunched and after walked further along the riverside but added only a few species to the morning’s tally. By day’s end our bird list totalled 40 species and we thanked Pat wholeheartedly for her preparation which resulted in such a satisfactory day’s birding.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekday outing to Westerfolds Park, Templestowe

15 May 2019

Photographs by Katmun Loh

Galah - Katmun Loh
Galah

Birding started very well when a flight of seven Gang-gang Cockatoos flew over the car park making their “creaky gate” call. At walk’s start we were 32 people including at least six new comers to birding.

Eastern Rosella - Katmun Loh
Eastern Rosella

We were led by John Bosworth, ably assisted by Margaret Bosworth. The weather was favourable, mild and cloudy, but against this were the lighting conditions which favoured silhouettes rather than clear views of markings. Soon we had tired of the dominant Noisy Miners and had noted the Australian Magpies and occasional Grey Butcherbird on the power lines. Long-billed Corellas perching on the overhead pylons and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos screeching as they flew across were registered. Australian King-Parrots were a much-appreciated addition to the early bird list which was dominated by Rainbow Lorikeets though Galahs, a few Eastern Rosellas and even fewer Musk Lorikeets challenged the watchers.

Australian King Parrot - Katmun Loh
Australian King Parrot

Common Mynas were an unwelcome addition to the growing list but alarm calls revealed a Brown Goshawk, the only raptor recorded today. Calls from a Spotted Pardalote were heard by several but no sightings happened today, in contrast to the Eastern Spinebill seen by a few. With the miners this was the only honeyeater beside Red Wattlebird. Down by the rapids we added Eurasian Coot and Pacific Black Duck but no other species, before returning via a bush track to the cars and lunch.

Common Bronzewing - Katmun Loh
Common Bronzewing

Common Bronzewing appeared on many people’s lists in this area and several at the rear of the walkers heard the mournful calls of a small flock of White-winged Choughs. Some of the group had to depart at lunchtime but 20 remained to walk beneath the road bridge and head through the bush section. Earlier we had noted Eastern Grey Kangaroos in the park, leaving lots of scat on the grassy areas, and there was occasional wombat scat and plenty from European Rabbits but the mammal highlight was a difficult-to-see Koala in a tall eucalypt. Most eventually saw some of the “fur blob”.

Koala - Katmun Loh
Koala

Out to the bridge in the afternoon we added Laughing Kookaburra, White-faced Heron and then Hoary-headed Grebe to the growing bird list. The last of these foraged and dived by the bridge giving rewarding views of its behaviour.

White-faced Heron - Katmun Loh
White-faced Heron

Then we went back to the cars to total the species recorded. Thirty-six species were listed amid many thanks to John for his preparation. We departed with smiles all round.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to 3 Chain Road

9 April 2019

Australian Owlet-nightjar 2 - Katmun Loh
Australian Owlet-nightjar. Photo by Katmun Loh

The participants numbered 18 with Graeme Hosken leading the group. The weather was clear and cool after the overnight showers and the first bird calls were the raucous ones of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. The dam at the start of the walk had only Dusky Moorhen and Pacific Black Duck and at the start of the walk only these and Little Raven, Australian Magpie and Red Wattlebird were recorded.

The country is dry in the continuing drought and the roadside forest was very open with little understorey. Further walking added numerous Grey Fantails, one Crimson Rosella and the calls of Spotted Pardalote.

Brown Thornbill? - Bevan Hood
Challenge no. 1: Brown Thornbill or … ? Photo by Bevan Hood

Flowering eucalypts hosted Varied Sitellas, thornbills and Weebills while Grey Shrike-thrush and New Holland Honeyeaters called.

Grey Shrike Thrush? - Katmun Loh
Challenge no. 2: Grey Shrike-thrush or … ? Photo by Katmun Loh

Here the highlight was an Australian Owlet-nightjar perched on a branch in the open.

Australian Owlet-nightjar 1 - Bevan Hood
Australian Owlet-nightjar. Photo by Bevan Hood

This was the first view for many of this cute nocturnal bird outside a tree hole. The walk proceeded by returning to the cars at intervals and then driving north to further locations. Three Chain Road owes its name to the government’s provision of sufficient space for turning traffic, for example bullock drays, in the nineteenth century. Only the central section was surfaced and the roadsides are here left unaltered giving habitat for the wildlife.

Australian Owlet-nightjar 2 - Bevan Hood
Australian Owlet-nightjar. Photo by Bevan Hood

Birds were the winners but the current subdivision of the larger farms into “hobby farms” may impact on birds in the future with less grass, more people and more traffic. The next walk added both Rufous and Golden Whistler males, glimpses of Laughing Kookaburra and the single note winter calls of Grey Shrike-thrush.

Golden Whistler male 2 - Katmun Loh
Golden Whistler, male. Photo by Katmun Loh

The highlight here was a pair of Scarlet Robins, male and female in brilliant plumage, foraging along the fence-line.

Scarlet Robin female - Katmun Loh
Scarlet Robin, female. Photo by Katmun Loh

Scopes were needed at the next stop as the dam was distant and the birds in silhouette. Persistence was rewarded with the addition of Black Swan, Hardhead, Australasian Shoveler, Chestnut Teal and Hoary-headed Grebe. Eurasian Coot and Little Pied, Little Black and Great Cormorant also joined the list while Welcome Swallows swooped through the scopes’ viewing fields.

Scarlet Robin male - Bevan Hood
Scarlet Robin, male. Photo by Bevan Hood

Only one wader, a Black-fronted Dotterel, was detected. The next stage was the turn of the raptors, first a Brown Goshawk caused a chorus of alarm calls then a Whistling Kite elicited some birdwatchers’ debate before its identification. Two Wedge-tailed Eagles soaring high above completed our day’s raptors. A large colony of White-winged Choughs, about 20 in number, occasionally called mournfully while foraging high and low through the forest.

White-winged Chough - Katmun Loh
White-winged Chough. Photo by Katmun Loh

Parrots were few today with only the cockatoos and both Crimson and Eastern Rosellas seen. However both White-throated and Brown Treecreepers were watched closely as they foraged.

Brown Treecreeper 1 Bevan Hoood
Brown Treecreeper. Photo by Bevan Hood

The latter is not seen in Melbourne so sightings were especially appreciated.

Brown Treecreeper 1 - Katmun Loh
Brown Treecreeper. Photo by Katmun Loh

By walk’s end all the “usual” thornbills had been listed – Yellow-rumped, Yellow, Striated, Brown and Buff-rumped. Jacky Winter joined Scarlet Robin in the robin list. The list of small birds’ predators detected also included Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Pied and Grey Currawongs and Australian Raven.

Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike - Katmun Loh
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike. Photo by Katmun Loh

By walk’s end we had a list of 55 species and we thanked Graeme most enthusiastically for his leadership.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekday outing to Braeside Park, Braeside

6 March 2019

Forecast:  Strong wind from the SW.  Possible shower.  Temperature: 14 -16°C

Royal Spoonbills in breeding plumage - Katmun Loh.JPG
Royal Spoonbills in breeding plumage. Photo by Katmun Loh

The forecast was spot-on. Unfortunately, the wind through the trees for most of the morning prevented hearing birds calling. Two showers for the day.  One lasted a few minutes in the morning and a second, in the afternoon, caused a run for tree cover as hail joined the rain for five minutes with sunshine following.

Australian Pelicans - Katmun Loh
Australian Pelicans. Photo by Katmun Loh

Eighteen persons attended, a few, their first visit to Braeside.  Graeme Hosken led the outing as Geoff Russell was unavailable as his wife was not well.

Geoff completed a recce in February and suggested a route for today leaving the Cockatoo Car Park and heading west to the Howard Road Trail and then following the trail south along the western boundary of the park passing the Community Nursery and Indigenous Garden then the Wetland Circuit which skirts the southern boundary of the wetland and on to the Red Gum Picnic Area for lunch, then back to the Car Park via the Red Gum Trail.

Group setting out - Katmun Loh
Group setting out. Photo by Katmun Loh

Understory was very dry due to low rainfall during the past months.  Bird activity minimal in the bush along the boundary walk and the wind didn’t help as it buffeted the trees and bushes.  Once out of the wind, sightings improved, Superb Fairy-wrens joined by Yellow Thornbills and then Grey Fantails with a couple of their Rufous cousins, the latter the highlight for the day.  For several in the group, the Rufous Fantail was their first sighting.

Lake edge Black-fronted Dotterrel Grey Teal - Danika Sanderson
Lake edge – Black-fronted Dotterel and Grey Teal. Photo by Danika Sanderson

On reaching the wetland, the wind wasn’t as strong and the Sun was shining assisting with the identification of the many water birds.

Australasian Grebes - Danika Sanderson
Australasian Grebes. Photo by Danika Sanderson

Nine duck species, including Australasian Shoveler, Blue-billed Duck and at least 20 Freckled Duck.

Freckled Ducks - Katmun Loh
Freckled Ducks. Photo by Katmun Loh

Several Royal Spoonbill, Little and Great Egret, and on the mud flats, Black-fronted and Red-kneed Dotterel plus several Masked Lapwing.

Little Black Cormorants - Danika Sanderson
Little Black Cormorants. Photo by Danika Sanderson
Black-winged Stilt - Katmun Loh
Black-winged Stilt. Photo by Katmun Loh

Only one raptor for the day, a lone Black-shouldered Kite having a few problems hovering in the windy conditions.

Australian White Ibis - Danika Sanderson
Australian White Ibis. Photo by Danika Sanderson

At lunch, the count was 52 species which included two Straw-necked Ibis testing the hard ground in the Red Gum picnic area.  On returning to the cars, along the Red Gum Track via the Phar Lap Track, hundreds of Martins, Fairy outnumbering Tree, were feeding over the grassed area to the east.

Welcome Swallows - Danika Sanderson
Welcome Swallows. Photo by Danika Sanderson

Eastern Rosella, White-plumed Honeyeater and a lone Pied Currawong were a few of the several species added to the days observations which totalled 62 bird Species.  Mammals.  Several rabbits only, and no frogs calling.  The lack of honeyeater species could be due to eucalyptus not in flower.

Fan-tailed Cuckoo with prey - Katmun Loh
Fan-tailed Cuckoo with prey. Photo by Katmun Loh

An enjoyable day.

Graeme Hosken, BirdLife Melbourne

Weekdays outing to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

12 February 2019
D Tweeddale.JPG
Ornamental Lake. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

Skies were grey as we assembled but the weather started mild with a slight breeze. There were 14 of us with Diane Tweeddale leading in place of David Plant who was unable to attend on the day. Fine rain started to fall and the shelter of trees was welcome, especially when we could observe birds as we stood there.

A Willie Wagtail foraged and then was upstaged by an enthusiastic Little Wattlebird which gave close, excellent views as it probed flowers. The north corner of the Ornamental Lake added Pacific Black Duck and Eurasian Coot to our started list while Bell Miners called loudly and White-browed Scrubwrens chattered from the understory. Walking over to Long Island we noted the floating islands designed to remove pollutants which wash in from the storm water drains of the adjacent streets. Then we were up close and (almost) personal with an adult Bell Miner feeding a fluffy youngster. What a pity the intervening foliage prevented photography, particularly in the low light conditions. However there were fleeting very close views of Bell Miners giving several people their first actual sightings of these well-camouflaged honeyeaters. So close indeed that their calls were so loud as to be almost painful.

Waterbirds recorded were Pacific Black and Australian Wood Ducks, Chestnut and Grey Teal, Black Swan, the usual trio of Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen and Eurasian Coot with Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants and a flock of young Silver Gulls finishing the list. Eastern Spinebills were heard mostly but seen by some and a small flock of Silvereyes was viewed foraging among the fruit of a Kangaroo Apple near the corpse of the vandalised Separation Tree.

By now the rain, wind and cold were telling even with our cold weather gear in use and we retreated to the café in search of hot drinks. The gardens were not crowded with visitors today and drinks were quickly acquired, to be drunk while assessing the weather beyond the windows. It was not hopeful so the decision was made to do bird call and then people could head home or on to some other sheltered and rewarding occupation. The bird list totalled 25 species, not great by historical standards but very acceptable by today’s RBG birding. Next time the weather may allow longer walks, especially to Guilfoyle’s Volcano and through the Australian forest plantings.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Birrarung Park, Lower Templestowe

4 December 2018

The morning was cool and grey as 22 birdwatchers assembled in the car park. Our number included a couple of members from Western Australia on their way around a comprehensive tour of the eastern states. Lyn Easton led the walk and “initial suspects” in the car park included Noisy Miners, Australian Magpies, Rainbow Lorikeets and Spotted Doves.

Red Wattlebird - katmun loh
Red Wattlebird. Photo by Katmun Loh

We slowly walked the circuit track, passing the now-dry billabong which did not refill after the recent heavy rains so is now probably a dry dip in the ground for the foreseeable future.

Bell Miner - Danika Sanderson
Bell Miner. Photo by Danika Sanderson

‘Tis the season to – breed – and we recorded a Magpie Lark’s mud nest with 2 well-grown young begging, gape-mouthed, from an adult. An unoccupied Tawny Frogmouth nest looked rather Spartan while a male Rufous Whistler was on incubation or brooding duty on its nest.

Rufous Whistler, male on nest - katmun loh
Rufous Whistler (m), on nest. Photo by Katmun Loh

Late in the walk a pair of Noisy Miners was determinedly defending their territory from another bird which took some identification as it was unfamiliar to most of the small group of watchers. The ID was sorted out and several people were able to claim a “lifer” – a silent immature Olive-backed Oriole. These have been rarely reported as eating small birds’ nestlings so the miners may have been acting on the principle that no larger bird is to be tolerated.

the group listening to leader - katmun loh
The group, listening to the leader. Photo by Katmun Loh

Both Spotted and Striated Pardalotes were heard but not seen and the parrot list included a quickly flying Australian King-Parrot and a pair of Red-rumped Parrots obligingly perched visibly on a dead tree. The cockatoo list included Galahs and Little Corella.

Laughing Kookaburra - Danika Sanderson.jpg
Laughing Kookaburra. Photo by Danika Sanderson

A trip down to the river bank yielded a Sacred Kingfisher near what appeared to be a small tree hollow on the opposite bank. Platypus sightings were hoped for but didn’t eventuate and Laughing Kookaburra calls sounded derisively.

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike - katmun loh
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike. Photo by Katmun Loh

The only waterbirds recorded were an overflying Little Pied Cormorant, a calling Dusky Moorhen, a foraging Straw-necked Ibis and a Masked Lapwing, while no raptors were noted. The dense understory was alive with Superb Fairy-wrens and several White-browed Scrubwrens were also listed while higher in the trees both Brown and Yellow Thornbills were recorded. Mistletoe grew in several places and a darting Mistletoebird was seen by only a few. Another species seen by some was Red-browed Finch while Eastern Yellow Robin was heard as it gave alarm calls as well as the more familiar call.

Grey Shrike-Thrush - katmun loh
Grey Shrike-thrush. Photo by Katmun Loh

The introduced dove was joined by Common Blackbird calls and sighting s of Common Mynas. At lunch we were joined by a young Australian Magpie which didn’t achieve the quantity of food it may have been used to – birdwatchers feel that natural food is healthiest.

Common Bronzewing - Danika Sanderson
Common Bronzewing. Photo by Danika Sanderson

With the festive season just around the corner we decided to truncate the day and count our species.

Rainbow Lorikeet - katmun loh
Rainbow Lorikeet. Photo by Katmun Loh

 

Forty-one species were recorded by the group, a very satisfactory total considering the relatively small area we covered and we thanked Lyn for her preparation which allowed such a successful result.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings