Education Activities – December 2016 to February 2017

The final 2016 Education Activity was on 21 December when Janet Hand addressed the ladies and gentlemen of The Probus Club of Donview Heights in Doncaster East. She spoke about the birds that are seen locally and particularly in the nearby Ruffey Lake Park. Forty-five people attended this meeting and many were surprised by how many species can be found locally.

2017 has started with us receiving many bookings, spread right through until the end of October.

On Wednesday 22 February, Janet visited the residents of Rylands of Hawthorn. 21 people attended this morning presentation on ‘Discovering birdlife in the backyards of Melbourne.’ After viewing the PowerPoint they were interested in seeing eight skins from our BirdLife Skins Collection. These included the tiny Spotted Pardalote and the large Tawny Frogmouth.

‘The associations between birds and plants’ was presented to the Field Naturalists of Victoria Day Group at Blackburn on Tuesday 28 February. Twenty-eight people attended this morning, some of whom were visitors to the meeting. Janet also did this presentation and noted how many people were surprised by the different types of foods that are needed to cater for our wide range of birds.

Note from Janet Hand

The Education Speakers Group has eight people who are happy to address Community groups within our area. Unfortunately all these people live in the Eastern or South-eastern suburbs. Is there anyone interesting in joining our group from other areas of Melbourne? As most of this group are retired or semi-retired we know there will be periods when several people are unavailable because of their holidays and travels. This is why I need a larger group than may be needed at any one time.

Although I am doing the first three bookings this year you will notice new names appearing in our Education Activities Calendar (on our website soon) and my monthly Blogs as the load is shared around.

We are always looking for bookings so we can share the joy of bird watching. We do ask the organisations for a donation to speak to their groups and use this as a fundraiser (or as a speaker’s expense venue if they request it).

Janet Hand
BirdLife Melbourne Education Coordinator
9842 4177

Beginners Outing to Yan Yean Reservoir Park

25 February 2017
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 50

Musk Lorikeets and Noisy Miners were plentiful near the car park as 38 members arrived in perfect weather conditions at Yan Yean Reservoir. From the top of the dam wall a scope was useful in identifying a pair of Australasian Darters perched on a log, in typical wing-drying pose, on a distant shore. Hardheads and Eurasian Coots were numerous, but were also on the opposite side of the reservoir!

Eastern Rosella (F), Yan Yean
Eastern Rosella. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The group then drove in convoy to the car park adjacent to the main wetland area. Bird life was plentiful, with Little Grassbirds watched for several minutes whilst an adult fed its chick in the shadows at the water’s edge. Superb Fairy-wrens and White-browed Scrubwrens were also foraging in the dense undergrowth. On entering the fenced area across the road, Eastern Rosellas and Red-rumped Parrots were perched in trees, and on the first pond there were several immature Australasian Grebes, still showing some baby streaks in their heads.

 

 

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Immature Australasian Grebes. Photo by Alan Veevers

On the second pond were several Black-winged Stilts, both adult and juvenile. On the third pond the highlight was a Common Sandpiper seen feeding at the water’s edge and bobbing its tail in its typical manner.

Black-winged Stilt (juvenile), Yan Yean
Juvenile Black-winged Stilt. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
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Common Sandpiper. Photo by Alan Veevers

Leaving the fenced area and crossing back over the road, a pair of Australasian Shovelers and several other species were observed. Suddenly, a flock of Nankeen Night-Herons, mainly juveniles, flew up from a hidden roost and circled, for some time, high above us.

Australasian Shovelers, Yan Yean
Australasian Shovelers. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Nankeen Night Heron (juvenile), Yan Yean
Juvenile Nankeen Night-Heron. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Lunch was eaten up near the old keeper’s cottage where members enjoyed the beautiful view across the reservoir to the distant hills. A very old Canary Island Pine was the roost for another flock of Nankeen Night-Herons, mostly adults, and these were closely observed by members.

Nankeen Night Heron (juvenile), Yan Yean
Juvenile Nankeen Night-Heron. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
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Roosting Nankeen Night-Heron. Photo by Alan Veevers

Walking down the hill to the boundary fence revealed two Great Crested Grebes and a male Musk Duck, repeatedly diving and staying submerged for several minutes, which provided a challenge for beginners to try to find them again.

Great Crested Grebe, Yan Yean
Great Crested Grebe. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Great Crested Grebe, Yan Yean
Great Crested Grebe. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

A final short walk was taken at the opposite end of the park, but no additional species were seen. The day’s total remained at 50, recorded at the previous locations. It was a very successful day, with some unusual sightings in a most attractive setting, in ideal weather conditions.

See bird list for the day: bm-feb-2017-bird-list-yan-yean-reservoir-park

Shorebird study and identification field trip

9 and 11 February 2017
By Philip Peel
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Photo by Pettigrew Photography
A huge success this month with the Birdlife Melbourne Shorebird study and field trip taken by John Barkla.  We headed to the Western Treatment Plant (WTP) on Saturday 11 February after an extensive and comprehensive beginner talk given by John on Thursday night in front of 50 odd participants.
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Photo by Pettigrew Photography
At the WTP we had 49 attendees. Luckily we had the help of Dez Hughes, the ‘Wader Whisperer’. Together John and Dez ran a very successful field trip with most of the common/uncommon waders present on the day and with a few rare waders too.
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Photo by Philip Peel
We started at 9 am where we headed to the T-section ponds and we found two Black-tailed Godwits, two Double-banded Plovers, 10+ Common Greenshanks and a few Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints. From here we went and checked out the Western lagoons where we found Marsh Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpiper and some Red-kneed Dotterel.
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Terek Sandpiper (back); Red-necked Stints (front). Photo by Philip Peel

Our next stop was the Beach Road Rocks, here we stayed for the remainder of the day, with great views of the Red-necked Phalarope, Red Knot, one Terek Sandpiper that showed really well where we could get some nice shots, one Broad-billed Sandpiper that was tough to get on to, but most people were able too see it. Also, we had Common, Whiskered, White-winged, Crested, Little and Fairy Terns on the rocks.
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Photo by Pettigrew Photography

A 17 car convoy cruised around the plant  which was the largest I have seen, but was excellently controlled by John, and a huge thanks must go to John, Allison and Dez for putting in a huge effort today and finding all these birds for nearly everyone that attended. It’s tough and hard enough to point out to the person standing next you where to look for a specific bird but with almost 50 people all vying for prime position, this becomes increasingly hard and they did an extremely great job!
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Photo by Philip Peel

Since I have been involved with Birdlife Mlebourne this has been the most rewarding, productive and exciting outing I have attended; watching everyone learn new things, watching people’s excitement at seeing a rare wader and the sheer delight of gratitude that was showed to John at the end was very welcoming!

Here is my list from the day; thanks to Graeme for the lift there and to Karen for the drive home! 85 species seen was very cool! http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34289331

Weekdays outing to Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens

14 February 2017
Photographs by Diane Tweeddale

There were 19 of us when the final arrivals appeared. Our numbers included a few visitors including a lady in her 99th year who inspired us all with her fortitude. The day was cool, cloudy and slightly damp after overnight rain so birds were visible though making out their markings was often challenging. David Plant led the group and shared his knowledge of the gardens’ history and function as well as their birds. Unfortunately the Bell Miners which had been confined to one small area have expanded so much that there are only a few places where they are not detected. It’s challenging to detect and see your first miner but they do pall quite quickly afterwards, especially when you realise how they have displaced so many other species. At least we detected no Noisy Miners this day but they are reportedly increasing in numbers just outside the gardens.

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Azolla bloom and warning notice – children and pets may mistake the surface plants for a lawn and fall into the underlying water

Shortly after we started walking we came across a very tall flowering yucca beside the Temple of the Winds. It was certainly popular with the birds and we recorded Rainbow Lorikeets and Little and Red Wattlebirds all using it simultaneously. Government House grounds yielded our first Laughing Kookaburra which promptly flew over the fence and joined us in the main gardens. We didn’t spend much time by the main lake as an extensive azolla bloom was being reduced by a powered weeding vessel and the consequent noise was driving away almost all birds.

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Pacific Black Duck with young

Near a quieter lake area we encountered a Pacific Black Duck with eight tiny ducklings and watched interestedly as she led them a considerable distance to a further lake. One little fellow (we decided it was a difficult male) consistently lagged behind the brood and was last seen running determinedly to catch up before entering the target lake.

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Purple Swamphen – these will kill and eat any undefended ducklings

An Eastern Koel had been recently recorded in the gardens and its call had been heard that morning so we kept listening but unfortunately could not detect it unequivocally. The only parrots listed were the lorikeet, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and an immature Crimson Rosella and David pointed out the plantings of kangaroo grass which hopefully will attract Red-rumped Parrots into the gardens. No owls were seen but the finding of a Tawny Frogmouth feather indicated its recent presence.

Small birds are reducing in numbers as miners and Common Mynas increase – there are no further sightings of Superb Fairy-wrens and the numbers of Brown Thornbills seem down.

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Little Wattlebird and Common Myna – eating from the humans’ leftovers near the cafe

Silvereyes, on the other hand, were seen today in some areas and there were several Willie Wagtails plus a few Eastern Spinebills, the only other honeyeater seen today. At lunch break it was interesting to observe a Little Wattlebird feeding from the leftovers on the terrace. That’s an additional species utilising that area. At lunch we encountered the only non-avian sighting of the day, an Eastern Water Dragon which was quietly shedding its skin and warming on the dark asphalt path.

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Eastern Water Dragon

David chatted with his friend, one of the polers of the lake punts, who reported that, it being St. Valentine’s Day, he had overheard two proposals in his punt that morning.

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Lotus flower – ethereal beauty out of the mud

The gardens are important for many activities. During the afternoon walk there was considerable noise coming from the canopy of a tall tree and we made out a small flock of Bell Miners angrily mobbing a Pied Currawong. By walk’s end, with 32 species recorded on our first outing of 2017, we were each deciding to revisit the gardens as they have so much to offer. We heartily thanked David for his generosity and preparation.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings.

Beginner’s Outing to Point Cook Coastal Reserve

28 January 2017

Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers
Species count: 50
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Grey Fantail. Photo by Merrilyn Serong

Twenty-nine members met in perfect weather conditions at the Beach Carpark where numerous Superb Fairy-wrens were seen at ground level and lots of other small birds, including Grey Fantails, Yellow Thornbills and Silvereyes were in the trees.

Silvereye, Point Cook
Silvereye. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The group drove in convoy towards Cheetham Wetlands Carpark, pausing en-route at a wetland, beside one of the new housing estates, where Dusky Moorhens paraded a chick and Golden-headed Cisticolas perched proudly on top of a bush. A Whistling Kite and a Brown Goshawk were seen in the distance and, soon afterwards, a Black Kite flew leisurely overhead. These three raptors were seen several more times throughout the morning.

Whistling Kite, Point Cook
Whistling Kite. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Black Kite, Point Cook
Black Kite. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The first walk was towards the shore where a huge number of Silver Gulls rested on the sand and on the water. At the actual Point Cook, a number of different water birds were perched on rocks, including both Crested and Common Terns. A large flock of Red-necked Stints flew quickly past, being sadly, the only waders seen at the shore.

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Silver Gull. Photo by Merrilyn Serong
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Common Terns. Photo by Alan Veevers

The old Homestead Jetty, which used to be a roost for different Cormorant species, was barely standing and had been taken over by Common Starlings. An interesting sighting in the bush behind the shore was a flock of Tree Sparrows. Walking back towards the cars, lots of Yellow-rumped Thornbills were watched with interest and several more sightings of our three raptors were made.

Lunch was taken back at the Beach Picnic area, followed by a short walk to the shore and back through the heathland. Singing Honeyeater was the only addition to our species list, although Brown Quail were heard but not sighted in their usual location.

Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Point Cook
Yellow-rumped Thornbill. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
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Zebra Finches. Photo by Merrilyn Serong

A final walk was then taken around a newly reconstructed wetland close to the RAAF Lake Car Park. A pair of Black-fronted Dotterels foraged near the water’s edge and several White-faced Herons gracefully flew around when disturbed. Back near the cars a flock of Zebra Finches provided an exciting and colourful finale to the outing.

The final birdcall of 50 species was very gratifying; especially in an area where there has been an enormous amount of housing development close by.

View the full bird list: bm-jan-2017-bird-list-point-cook

Weekday outing to Ruffey Lake Park, Doncaster

13 December, 2016

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Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. Photo by Dennis Hill

The weather forecast of 34o and strong winds failed to deter 28 enthusiasts from assembling. Two of our number came from USA, bravely wielding their binoculars while hoping to be reunited with their missing luggage soon. The area is challenging for birding as it is supplied with well-made paths frequented by walkers, joggers, prams and dogs (which have several off-leash areas and access to the lake). Fishing is prohibited but the visible small fish may tempt anglers. The car park area is mowed grass and spaced trees with picnic shelters and playgrounds. It was dominated by Noisy Miners but there was also a large flock of Long-billed Corellas plus a few Little Corellas, Galahs and the occasional Red Wattlebird.

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Long-billed Corellas. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

We initially headed off to the lake which had been created to irrigate early orchards. Here the creek contained Pacific Black and Australian Wood Ducks with a couple of Chestnut Teal. Successful breeding had occurred as most of these were quite young. Grey Butcherbirds called as we walked beside the bush fringing the creek. Revegetation is in progress in several areas along the creek and the fence seems to be quite successful in limiting access by dogs. The adjacent grasslands hosted Australian Magpies and the occasional Magpie-lark (one carrying prey) but little else. Waterbirds were limited to the ducks previously mentioned plus Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen and Eurasian Coot, all with begging young. Another good breeding season. A couple of ‘dinner ducks’ on the lake (not counted) had presumably been dumped as unwanted pets. Lorikeets sometimes flew through and both Rainbow and Musk were recorded. The only other parrots were a pair of Eastern Rosellas near the creek. A young Galah perching beside an adult gave us excellent views of the contrasting pink-crested juvenile plumage and that of the adult. Walking in the sun could be tiring but the cloud cover kept conditions acceptable for much of the time and from the bush came the calls of Spotted Pardalotes and one or two Brown Thornbills.

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Welcome Swallow. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

Most birds, as usual, showed more sense than humans on a hot, windy day and stayed quietly in the shelter of the vegetation. Juvenile Welcome Swallows, however, hadn’t learnt sense yet and crowded the railing near an inlet to the lake, occasionally begging food from an adult. The usual introduced birds were present and apparently doing well in the mixed habitat – Common Blackbird, Starling and Myna were recorded as well as Spotted Dove. An additional sighting was a Long-necked Turtle resting on a lakeside log.

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Superb Fairy-wren, male, with prey. Photo by Dennis Hill

By morning’s end we had recorded 28 species which was gratifying given the location and weather. Several people needed to leave so we finished early and headed off to pre-Christmas tasks which hopefully could be done in cooler, calmer conditions.

Diane Tweeddale, leader

Blog editor’s note: Photos by Dennis Hill not taken on the day.

 

 

Tess Kloot – A Tribute

Tess Kloot died on the 10th November 2016, just one day short of her 93rd birthday. In earlier days she was an active member of all three bird organisations centred in Melbourne – the RAOU/BA, BOC/BOCA and VORG. She was archivist for the RAOU in the 1970’s and then a library volunteer for BOCA and a member of its Publication Committee. In 2005 she received the BOCA Distinguished Service Award.

Tess threw herself into all things ornithological, including the usual birdwatching activities. She contributed to bird surveys, e.g. The Atlas of Australian Birds conducted by the RAOU from 1977 – 1981, and she herself organised the VORG 1988 – 1991 survey on the birds of Box Hill.

As part of her varied ornithological activities, Tess delved deeply into birds, books, biographies, bibliographies and history, reading and writing prolifically. Many of her articles appeared in The Bird Observer and VORG Notes. She was author or co-author of books and reports such as Birds of Australian Gardens (publ. Rigby 1980), Birds of Cranbourne Botanic Gardens (publ. BOCA 1993), Birds of Box Hill (publ. VORG 2000) and was both the compiler and author of a large bio-bibliographical supplement (publ. BOCA 1995) to Whittell’s The Literature of Australian Birds, 1618 – 1950.

Perhaps the greatest single task that Tess undertook was to collect first-hand information on the lives of all ornithologists connected with Australian birds. For these she used questionnaires, conducted personal interviews and corresponded widely. She gathered together 567 biographical files, 164 newspaper cuttings, c. 145 people photographs, and additional material on Tom Iredale and his wife Lillian Medland. In 2003 all this was accepted by the State Library of Victoria where it is stored as The Tess Kloot Collection (ref. no. PA 03/107) and may be consulted by those seeking relevant information.

Helen I. Aston

Twelve journeys across the Nullarbor 2008-2015

Balwyn meeting report, 22 November 2016
Photographs by John Barkla

John Barkla has many years of birding behind him having started as a boy. He has been a member of Birdlife Australia and it’s antecedents for 40 years. He has held several operational positions and remains Vice-President and Chair of the Finance and Audit Committee. He has been on Melbourne Water’s Biodiversity Conservation Advisory Committee at the Melbourne Treatment Plant, Werribee since 1986, and lately it’s Chair. In recent years he has traversed the continent with his partner, Alison Street, a dozen times and came to relate to us a composite of those journeys, Twelve Journeys across the Nullarbor 2008-2015. The audience had gathered to hear his favourite birding spots and to see John’s magnificent bird photography.

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Mallee Emu-wren at Murray Sunset National Park

Leaving Melbourne on day one their destination is often Hattah-Kulkyne NP. Birding is always good here and a visit to Lake Mournpall may score Apostlebirds, which rarely can be seen in South Australia. Mallee Emu-wrens have declined 90% in Victoria due to habitat reduction and fires. John recommends a drive along the Nowinji Track which runs on the east and west of the highway, listening carefully for their faint call –“virtually impossible to locate by sight”.

The next stop is Birdlife Australia’s Gluepot Reserve, reached by crossing the Murray River at Waikerie SA. This marvellous area of Mallee and Triodia (spinifex) is not only great for birds but is home to 52 species of reptiles and over 150 species of ants! The habitat is perfect for Striated Grasswren, and again John winds down the windows to pick up their soft contact call. He also finds that Red-lored Whistler is best located by their distinctive call – and not to be confused with Gilbert’s Whistler. The critically endangered Black-eared Miner are tricky as they hybridise with the Yellow-throated. The hybrids retain the yellow throat feathers but lack black head marking over the ear. Other great birds to see at Gluepot are Shy Heathwren, Scarlet-chested Parrot (recently breeding at Gluepot), Regent and Mulga Parrot, the barnardi race of the Australian Ringneck, Chestnut Quail Thrush, Black Honeyeater and Spotted Nightjar.

At Port Augusta John and Alison always call at the Arid Gardens, did you say for lunch? White-winged Fairy-wren can often be seen beside the road in, and Chirruping Wedgebill are common in the garden.

120 km to the west is Lake Gilles Conservation Park where it is possible to see the newly separated Copper-backed Quail Thrush.

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Black-eared Cuckoo, Belvedere Station near Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary, NSW

Gawler Ranges NP is a short detour from the highway. Spectacular scenery can be highlighted further with Crested Bellbird, Black-eared Cuckoo, Southern Scrub-robin, Spiney-cheeked and White-fronted Honeyeaters; and at good times they see Dusky, Black-faced, Masked and White-browed Woodswallows.°°

On one scorching day in January the temperature had risen to 47°C on three consecutive days. John and Alison pulled up at Yantanabie on the Eyre Highway and witnessed several bird species suffering heat stress in the shade of the local hall. They put out water in a bowl and watched; birds drank including 30-40 pipits, while three Ground Cuckoo-shrikes clustered around the sub-floor ducts emitting cool air.

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Ground Cuckoo-shrike, Yantanabie School, South Australia

Reaching the Nullarbor Roadhouse, John and Alison invariably head north. The Nullarbor Plain is bordered by the Trans Australian Railway 100km to the north and the Australian Bight to the south, “so you can’t get lost”! The plain is crisscrossed by numerous tracks, but heading north and a tad west you eventually reach Cook. On the way, amongst the low scrub, one should see the Nullarbor Quail- thrush; from this area John also showed Australian Pipit, Inland Dotterel, Australian Bustard, Australian Pratincole, Orange Chat, Rufous Fieldwren and Southern Whiteface.

Having safely reached Cook you might be able to chalk up Little Crow and Black-faced Woodswallow. Next stop, via the Old Eyre Highway, is the beautiful Eyre Bird Observatory south of Cocklebiddy. John was there in 2012 during a mouse plague when the overnight mice catch was offered to grateful Australian Ravens. One could see the gouldii race of Silvereye, also Blue-breasted Fairy-wren, Brush Bronzewing, Brown-headed and Purple-gaped Honeyeaters; but a highlight of a visit to Eyre are the Major Mitchell Cockatoos which daily visit the birdbaths.

From Cocklebiddy John and Alison have taken the track north across Arubiddy Station to Haig and then Rawlinna. One has to phone the station owners to get permission to cross their property. From here the Connie Sue Hwy takes you 400km to Neale Junction where you might be extremely lucky to see Princess Parrot. Alas, not John and Alison. Scarlet-chested Parrots are much more likely plus Grey-fronted Honeyeater, the newly split Sandhill Grasswren; and Redthroat are common.

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Banded Whiteface, Bollard’s Lagoon Station

They head west to the coast, Carnarvon being the southern limit of many northern birds. The Wildflowers en route can be spectacular, such as Wreath Leschenaultia. Near Cue is the monolithic Walga Rock, where you might see Banded Whiteface and Western Quail-thrush. At Monkey Mia the carpark can offer the newly split Western Grasswren; and on the hill behind the carpark one may find the assimilis race of Variegated Fairy-wren. Francois Peron NP is a good site for Pied Honeyeaters.

Having reached Perth the birding does not stop. 200km southwest is the town of Narrogin and nearby, the Dryandra Woodland nature conservation area. John had photographs of Bush Stone-curlew, Western Rosella, Gilbert’s Honeyeater (western species of White-naped Honeyeater), Brown and Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters. All these were taken near Magpie Cottage (accommodation) or at the wardens’ birdbath. The dryandra habitat also supports Rufous Treecreeper and Elegant Parrot.

Whilst in Perth John recommends to always check the rarities sightings. At Cervantes north of Perth they have seen Franklin’s Gull. Then they head to King’s Park and other suburban hotspots to pick up the common western birds, which nonetheless may include western races such as the maculatus race of the White-browed Scrubwren, and the semitorquatus race of Australian Ringneck. Around Perth one can also see Baudin’s Black-Cockatoo and the very similar Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo. At Wungong Dam one can pick up White-breasted Robin and Red-eared Firetail. John recommends visiting all the suburban lakes in Perth (e.g. Bibra, Munger, Herdsman, North and Thomsons). You might see the West Australian bellus form of the Australian Swamphen (no longer Purple Swamphen); or Western Corella, not to be confused with the similar Long-billed Corella.

One of their favourite spots is Lake McLarty, 100km south near Mandurah. Here, when the conditions are right, there are huge numbers of shorebirds. But being ephemeral, the lake’s birds fluctuate. John had great shots of Long-toed Stint, Pectoral, Wood and Broad-billed Sandpiper, Ruff and Osprey, all taken there.

We finished the journey at Rottnest Island, always worth a visit. Here they have seen Common Pheasant, Banded Lapwing, Banded Stilt, Fairy Tern, Ruddy Turnstone, Red-capped and Hooded Plover and Sanderling. Rock Parrots are known to occur on Rottnest but John and Alison have never been successful. A Roseate Tern perched on the rocks might be an alternate reward.

John explained at the beginning that this talk was a composite of 12 trips. He highly recommends a trip across the Nullarbor and he is happy to give anyone advice. We thanked him warmly for a fascinating evening.

Daphne Hards

You Yangs Birding and Boneseeding

3 December 2016
Words and photos by Merrilyn Serong

What a beautiful day for birding and boneseeding; mostly calm with a warming sun and good company. Thanks to the participants for making it a very enjoyable day for my last time as organiser of the activity.

As usual, we began at the carpark near the Park Office, where there were both Grey and Pied Currawongs. Two chicks, which I believe were Grey Currawongs, had almost outgrown their nest, high in a nearby Eucalypt. Near the dam, we found two Willy Wagtail nests with a parent sitting on each one.

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Grey Currawong nest near the You Yangs office

 

Despite the good spring rains, the water level of the dam was still low, though a little higher than it was on our September visit. Turtles used to live in the dam; I wonder if they are still there. The trees in the area looked healthy with lots of new bright green leaves, but flowers, and therefore Lorikeets, were few. No Tawny frogmouths were to be found, either.

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Rufous Whistler, Gravel Pit Tor

Next stop Gravel Pit Tor, with more healthy new growth on the eucalypts. We found the reliable Mistletoebird, but no red robins. This is a good place to look for small bush birds, and we did find Silvereye, Brown Thornbill, Spotted Pardalote, White-throated Treecreeper, Yellow-faced Honeyeater and Rufous Whistler. The last two mentioned are prolific in the park at present. We also saw a goat, which is not unusual here.

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Eucalypt, Gravel Pit Tor

Hungry after spending so much time at our first two stops, we eventually arrived at Fawcett’s Gully for lunch. The upper dam had much water, the odd frog, numbers of dragonflies, and a very long Brown Snake.

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Black-headed Skimmer, Fawcetts Gully

Disappointingly, our official boneseeding site, which over the past several years has been virtually boneseed-free, was studded with small boneseed plants. It’s the rain, I suspect, and the fact that boneseed seed stay viable for ever in the soil.

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Boneseed in our You Yangs site

When I first became involved in the project, there were numerous large boneseed plants in our site and over the years we have cleared them out. Boneseed really can’t be eradicated, but it can be controlled, at least for a while. Our site does have a lot of native groundcover and small native shrubs that would not have grown if the boneseed had been left there. The new young boneseed plants have not flowered or fruited yet, and we managed to pull out large numbers of them. However, more work is needed.

While we boneseeded at our site, we were visited by numerous Weebills. The ever-present Rufous Whistlers sang. White-winged Choughs and other regulars were there and a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike appeared. Later we found an Eastern Yellow Robin.

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Eastern Flat

Our last walk for the day was in the Seed Garden / Eastern Flat area, as usual at this time of year when the sun sets so late. The water level in the dam had dropped to almost nothing from the reasonable amount that I saw there on Tuesday, only four days ago. Evidence of spring rains can be seen in the longish and now dry grass in open places.

Total bird species count for the day was 37. A quiet day.

Sincere thanks to all those wonderful people who have been part of the project while I have been co-ordinator and also to those who might not have made it to one of the days, but remain interested.

Best wishes to all for happy seasonal celebrations, a wonderful summer and excellent birding. Wherever you are, may your environment be healthy, rich and diverse.

A bird list for the day will soon be available at http://www.birdlifemelbourne.org.au/outings/site-lists/YouYangs%202016.html

I will include another report and photos on my website, http://www.timeinthebush.com/

Weekdays outing to the You Yangs

29 November 2016
Photographs by Merrilyn Serong
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Tau Emerald Dragonfly

The day was fine, if overcast, as 19 enthusiasts met in the main car park. A hundred school children had a bicycle day booked but fortunately their route did not overlap with ours. Merrilyn Serong led us and we were soon smiling as the clouds dissipated and a blue sky set in for the day. The car park had those frequently met species, Red Wattlebird and Superb Fairy-wren. Then a very dark Grey Currawong created a long discussion about its identity then definitely confirmed by showing us its nest. This was not the only nest seen. A Willie Wagtail on its diminutive low nest was admired while a Red Wattlebird watched over the rim of its large twiggy nest.

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White-winged Chough

An even more solid nest was the mud bowl of a White-winged Chough. Despite the recent rains the dam near the park entrance continues to be dry and waterbirds are no longer recorded. Plants had responded to the wet, however, and groundcovers included rock ferns, mosses and succulents while the trees and shrubs displayed new leaves and some flowers.

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Australian Painted Lady

Insects had responded to the plant growth and dragonflies and butterflies were frequently seen. The bush sounded to the calls of Grey Shrike-thrush, Olive-backed Oriole and Fan-tailed Cuckoo. Horsefield’s and Shining Bronze-Cuckoos were also present.

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Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Honeyeaters included White-plumed and Yellow-faced plus Black-chinned (the last seen and heard by some only). Cockatoos were represented by Galahs and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and parrots by Purple-crowned Lorikeets, Crimson and Eastern Rosellas and Red-rumped Parrots.

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Black-chinned Honeyeater

Not far from the nesting wagtail a pair of Jacky Winters foraged actively. The only other robin was an Eastern Yellow Robin. Both Spotted and Striated Pardalotes were vocal. The Laughing Kookaburra and the Sacred Kingfisher called and some heard the call of the Mistletoebird which only gave a very brief glimpse as it flew off.

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White-plumed Honeyeater

We had walked around the entrance area before driving on to Gravel Pit Tor and from there to our shaded lunch spot at the small picnic ground where the ephemeral dam was holding water well but only a few honeyeaters were drinking and bathing. We birded in the East Flat in the afternoon but the sun was still high and birds were few. Then it was time for birdcall and we were very pleased to record 47 species for the day.

We thanked Merrilyn heartily for all her preparation which had given us such a satisfactory day.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings