The Eltham Plant Expo was held on 14 and 15 September at the Eltham Community Centre. Nearly 700 paying adults attended on the Saturday as well as helpers and children. The Committee was delighted. Sunday was quieter with approximately 200 – 300 attending. My thanks to Anthea Fleming, Daphne Hards and Scot Sharman who helped me on Saturday and Bernie Stock and Helen who helped Ron and I set up on Friday and returned on Sunday to help me pack up.
On Friday 20 September, 13 U3A Hawthorn members, led by Pat Bingham, enjoyed the sunshine, but not the wind, on a walk around Norton’s Park, Wantirna, and part of Gardiner’s Creek in Shepherd’s Bush. There were many Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Rainbow Lorikeets and even Eastern Rosellas noisily disputing nesting hollows in the big old Manna Gums along the Creek. A group of eight Cattle Egret flew over and a small flock of Striated Thornbills were busily feeding in the wattles. In all, 27 species were listed, some by sight, others by sound. Thank you Pat for leading the walk and Jim Sharpe for your photograph of an Eastern Rosella.
The Birds in Schools Program is progressing very well and has had some well-deserved publicity. Thanks Sally Heeps and Bill Ramsay for their assistance.
Breakfast with the Birds at Banyule is on Sunday 27 October. I have a list of people available on that day but I may need more. This year people are being charged $5 a head or $10 for a family of 4 to attend.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Birds in Schools continues to build momentum in Melbourne. Nine schools, and approximately 460 students, are now participating in the program, which is a joint effort by teachers and students from participating schools, BirdLife staff and volunteers, and local councils. The Birds in Schools program is designed to teach students to identify and survey birds, investigate their habitat requirements, and ultimately, take action to make their school more bird-friendly. The students and teachers involved have been engaged and excited, and are becoming very keen bird-watchers! Our BirdLife volunteers, Bill, Sally, Jacinta, Cody and Melissa have been invaluable on school visits with their birding expertise and enthusiasm.
Action days have now been held at two schools to make the school grounds more bird-friendly. Teachers and students at Spotswood Primary School and Coburg Primary School have put in an enormous effort to learn about birds and their habitats, and decided to have planting days to increase native vegetation to support bird populations. A huge thank you must go to Andrew from Hobsons Bay City Council and Vince from Moreland City Council, who have supported these school plantings through providing local native plants, tree guards and stakes, tools and their expert knowledge and assistance on the days. Thank you also to wonderful BirdLife volunteer, Jacinta, who assisted with the Coburg PS action day
Many schools are integrating Birds in Schools into other areas of the curriculum and the results are impressive! After learning about the lack of suitable habitat in urban areas, students from grades 5 and 6 from Coburg Primary School and Cornish College have been getting creative with their new knowledge.
Joshua from Coburg Primary School has written a beautiful and educational poem about the importance of native shrubs for our birdlife.
The Spikey Bush – By Joshua
Prickly and harsh but plentiful with flowers,
A sea of pink and green.
Sharp but uncontested for our soaring friends of wings.
Looks can be deceiving,
From nature to raw stone.
Stop and take a look,
For this is our home.
Dion from Cornish College has recorded the class’s observations of a big old eucalyptus tree at their school in a detailed illustration showing Red-rumped Parrots using tree hollows.
Lily from Cornish College has this to say about their participation in Birds in Schools so far:
Students from Coburg Primary School have been able to investigate birds that interest them. Evie researched and illustrated this Orange Bellied Parrot.
We welcome new schools and volunteers for the program. If you are interested in volunteering for Birds in Schools, or if you are a teacher who is interested in participating in the program, please get in touch with Alex by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
While waiting for all attendees to arrive Eastern Rosella, Noisy Miner and White Ibis were all seen overhead but what was most surprising was the sight of a large hare which took off down the path near the car park.
Eventually it was time to commence the walk by then we had 35 eager birders ready to go. It was a lovely sunny winter’s morning, only hampered by the strong, cold northerly wind. A Laughing Kookaburra waited for us at the start of our walk.
A Striated Pardalote was calling in a large gum tree but proved impossible to see due to the windy conditions. Shortly into the walk we deviated from our planned route to try and find a Tawny Frogmouth which had been seen in the area. Although unsuccessful, we did find a Grey Fantail and a female Golden Whistler. Some also had close views of a Grey Butcherbird.
Back on track, many were fortunate to see a Spotted Pardalote flying into and out of its nest in the side of the creek. This was quickly followed by a Grey Shrike Thrush, a Black Faced Cuckoo Shrike, Brown Thornbill and a male Golden Whistler looking resplendent in the bright sunshine.
Eventually we arrived at the bird hide by the lake where Pink Eared Duck, Grey Teal and a few Freckled Ducks were seen together with hundreds of White Ibis, a Darter, Little Pied Cormorant, Eurasian Coot and both Hoary Headed and Australasian Grebes.
Further down the track, a solitary Chestnut Teal was found as well as a pair of Pacific Black ducks, Purple Swamp hens and Dusky Moorhens.
A single Australian Pelican was seen flying above the lake, and was later seen on the water.
When we reached the lake again some eagle-eyed birders managed to find a single Royal Spoonbill amongst the many hundreds of White Ibis. A pair of Little Ravens watched us pass by on our way out of the sanctuary.
Following our walk around the lake, we picked up Wood Duck, Willy Wagtail and a White-faced Heron before we returned for lunch.
Over lunch Galahs, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Eastern Rosellas were seen.
After lunch with a slightly reduced number we crossed the bridge and headed north towards Nortons Park. Although the strong wind made birding difficult in this exposed area we managed an extra seven species for the day with Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Straw-necked Ibis, Silver Gull, Blackbird, Indian Myna and Starling all seen, giving a grand total for the day of 52 species.
A good total for the conditions and a good walk for the birders.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 39
Photographs by Eleanor Dilley
Perfect weather conditions awaited the members gathered at the Somerton Road Carpark for the Woodlands excursion. Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, Galahs and Rainbow Lorikeets were all busy checking out the numerous tree hollows in the fine old River Red Gums in this area.
Crossing the bridge and walking alongside the creek numerous Superb Fairy Wrens were seen foraging on the ground while Striated Pardalotes were constantly calling and one of these individuals obligingly perched in clear view for several minutes giving everyone a good look.
Further along the track a small flock of Red-browed Finches were seen feeding alongside the Fairy Wrens and Weebills were seen in the trees. Near the end of the path was a ‘hotspot’ containing Eastern and Crimson Rosellas, New Holland and White-plumed Honeyeaters, Yellow-rumped Thornbills and a Grey Shrike-thrush.
On turning the corner by the horse paddocks a row of Red-rumped Parrots were perched on the wire fence and Willie Wagtails and Australian Wood Ducks were feeding in the field. Dozens of Eastern Grey Kangaroos were seen throughout the grassy areas.
Tree Martins were circling overhead which caused some discussion as to whether they had not migrated north or whether they had returned early.
A raptor perched high in a tree was identified as a Brown Falcon and a soaring Little Eagle flew high in the sky. A circuit was taken around the old homestead and then back towards the carpark, highlights being a low flying Little Eagle and a pair of Laughing Kookaburras. It was disappointing that no robins of any kind were located, as in previous years red robins could always be seen at Woodlands during the winter months.
After lunch most of the members drove to the Old Cemetery Carpark and a short walk was taken to the old hospital lake. Sadly the water looked very murky and there were no birds on it, though Grey Fantails and a Yellow-faced Honeyeater were in nearby trees. Despite everyone’s best efforts still no red robins were seen. However everyone felt they had enjoyed the day with the unexpectedly good weather and superb old trees being major contributing factors. 39 species were recorded for the day.
Many thanks to Eleanor Dilley, who took all the photographs.
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.
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.
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.
On Saturday 15 June 2019, the City of Boroondara Backyard Biodiversity Program held their final gathering with refreshments and an evaluation of the program. Janet Hand attended and considered this was a very positive program for plants, gardens and birds. The residents involved in the program landscaped parts of their gardens with input from a landscape gardener and plants from an indigenous nursery after a nature walk by a plant expert. A bird talk and bird walk by our members preceded this. A win for all.
On Friday, 21 Junet, 18 members of U3A Hawthorn and one American visitor visited East Kew and braved the cold air, the heavy showers and then enjoyed the fabulous rainbows in the sunny breaks in between. Walking down to Kew Billabong was soggy but there was, finally, not only water but even a Dusky Moorhen visiting the area that has been so dry for so long. They also walked along the newish Darebin Creek Trail finding Gang-Gang Cockatoos, hearing a King Parrot, and watching a pair of Wood Ducks exploring a big tree hollow while fighting off noisy Rainbow Lorikeets. Highlights for two members of the group were spotting two different Tawny Frogmouths high in two different gums in an area where Pat hasn’t seen frogmouths before, so hopefully, they will stay around and breed later in the year. 24 species were recorded in total in an area few members of the group had ever visited before and were keen to visit again. Thank you Pat Bingham for leading the walk.
On Friday 28June, Sally Heeps and Bill Ramsay attended the Birds in Schools program with the Grade 5 at Wooranna Park Primary School in Dandenong North. They are part of a program run by Alexandra Johnson from BirdLife Australia. She has provided the following information about the program and how you can become part of it too. Thank you Sally and Bill for being part of this program.
Birds in Schools in Melbourne is well and truly underway! The program is designed to teach students to identify and survey birds, investigate their habitat requirements, and ultimately, take action to make their school more bird-friendly. It’s an enjoyable and rewarding program to be part of for the students, teachers and BirdLife staff and volunteers involved.
During Term 2 BirdLife staff and volunteers (including Bill Ramsay and Sally Heeps) supported teachers with the program, through delivering lessons to students from Grade 1-6 in three schools. At one participating school, eighty Grade 1/2 students have completed the program. They celebrated their learning with an action day planting of native species. The students were so engaged and excited, and are now very keen bird-watchers!
Term 3 is almost booked out with BirdLife and volunteers set to visit seven schools to assist teachers in delivering the program. Thank you to the volunteers that have signed up to help! We still have the following upcoming Birds in Schools lessons, which we require volunteers for:
July 17, Coburg Primary School
July 31, Coburg Primary School
Aug 30, Action Day Coburg Primary School
Aug 26, Oak Park Primary School
Aug 28, Oak Park Primary School
Aug 29, Oak Park Primary School
Sept 2, Oak Park Primary School
We will also have new dates to be confirmed for Term 4.
If you are interested in volunteering for Birds in Schools (on the above dates or Term 4 dates TBC), or if you are a teacher who is interested in participating in the program, please get in touch with Alex at: email@example.com
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 48
There was a chaotic start to this excursion as the intended carpark was full of baseball players’ cars and the beginners had to find parking spaces in the surrounding streets. However, this was soon forgotten when a pair of Tawny Frogmouths were located in one of their usual trees to the left of the carpark. In overcast conditions the 29 members then walked to the lagoon which was full of water from the recent rains. Pairs of Long-billed Corellas and Red-rumped Parrots, along with numerous Silver Gulls, were perched in the old dead trees on the far side. Two Pink-eared Ducks were seen swimming across the lagoon and then resting on partially submerged logs.
Grey and Chestnut Teals, Pacific Black Ducks, a Eurasian Coot, a Dusky Moorhen and a Hoary-headed Grebe could be seen in the distance. After leaving the lagoon on a track towards the river, Pied Currawongs were noisy and plentiful.
A huge River Red Gum hosted a mixed flock of smaller birds, including a pair of Golden Whistlers, Grey Fantails, Spotted Pardalotes and Brown Thornbills.
Near the river a male Common Bronzewing was perched high on a branch and several White-browed Scrubwrens were seen foraging in shrubs on the riverbank. Returning along the track from the windmill, a few Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were seen and this proved to be the only honeyeater species recorded for the day, apart from the ever present Noisy Miners. Near to the Main Yarra Trail a Gang-gang Cockatoo was heard giving its “creaky gate” call and was soon located and identified as an immature male.
A small flock of Silvereyes fluttered around nearby and more Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were seen in a profusely flowering eucalyptus tree. Magpie-larks could readily be seen and heard on the ground.
On returning to the now empty carpark the members retrieved their vehicles from the surrounding streets and then had lunch beside the oval where they watched a mixed feeding flock of Galahs, Long-billed and Little Corellas. A short walk was then taken along the main trail towards the ‘grotty ponds’.
The sun finally put in a brief appearance, shining onto a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets feeding in a flowering ironbark. Nearby a second pair of Tawny Frogmouths was located and then a pair of Crested Pigeons was seen giving a courtship display.
From the raised level of the track an Australasian Grebe could be seen on the lagoon – an unusual sighting for Banyule Flats. The ‘grotty ponds’ had been cleared of vegetation, so disappointingly there was no sign of any crakes or rails. In a nearby flowering gum a mixed flock of Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets could be seen noisily feeding.
At this point dark clouds were approaching, threatening very heavy rain, and so all the members hurried back to their cars.
A pleasing total of 48 species was recorded for the day which was a good result for mid-winter in mainly dull and overcast conditions.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.