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

Beginners Outing to Newport Lakes and Jawbone Reserve

26 November 2016
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers. Photographs by Eleanor Dilley

 

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White-plumed Honeyeater

A fine but overcast day provided good conditions for the 34 members attending the excursion beginning at Newport Lakes. A local birdwatcher, Mary Burbridge, joined in and advised us to take the ridge track to where she had earlier seen a Horsefield’s Bronze-Cuckoo.

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Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo

We heard it first, calling repeatedly, then located it and enjoyed the excellent views it gave to all the beginners. Nearby Whistlers were heard and a female Golden and a female Rufous were seen, but unfortunately their colourful mates did not put in an appearance. A Common Bronzewing was then sighted, which delighted Mary as, according to her records, the last report at Newport Lakes was in 2009.

Dusky Moorhen and chick, Newport Lakes
Dusky Moorhen

Superb Fairy-wrens, New Holland Honeyeaters and White-plumed Honeyeaters were plentiful throughout the walk, though there were very few Ducks and Cormorants on the lakes. A pair of Black Swans with cygnets, a Dusky Moorhen with chicks and Australasian Grebes were amongst the birds on the water.

Superb Fairy-wren (F), Jawbone Reserve
Superb Fairy-wren

A Willie Wagtail on a nest close to the track provided good opportunities for the photographers amongst us.

Willie Wagtail on nest, Newport Lakes
Willie Wagtail

Before returning to the car park a short walk was taken to the arboretum where Common Greenfinch and Masked Plover were added to the tally.

Common Greenfinch, Newport Lakes
Common Greenfinch

After lunch most of the members drove down Maddox Road to the Bay where it was high tide. Australian Pelicans, Pied Oystercatchers, Great, Pied and Little Black Cormorants, a Crested Tern and numerous Silver Gulls were perched on the breakwater.

Common Greenshanks, Jawbone Reserve
Common Greenshanks

A walk was then taken through Jawbone Reserve. Ten Common Greenshanks in a pond on the saltmarsh and a pair of Black-fronted Dotterels near the new housing development were highlights of this walk.

Black-fronted Dotterels, Jawbone Reserve
Black-fronted Dotterels

Again very few Ducks were seen and Spoonbills and Stilts were completely absent. A hovering Nankeen Kestrel was the only raptor seen for the day.

Despite the low numbers of water birds there were still some good sightings and a creditable 53 species was recorded for the day.

Thanks to Eleanor Dilley who provided all the photographs for this posting.

See the complete bird list for the day: bm-nov-2016-bird-list-newport-lakes-jawbone-reserve

November 2016 education report

The October weather pattern continued with a damp day for the walk through the Yarran Dheran Nature Reserve in the City of Whitehorse on Saturday 12 November. Geoff Russell led a group of 19 people where they viewed 27 species and heard two others. A feature of the morning was a nesting Eastern Yellow Robin. A good mixture of small bush birds were also present in the reserve.

I had organised two members to lead bird walks at The Pipemakers Park in Maribrynong on Sunday 13 November for an Environmental Day. Unfortunately the communication from the council failed to continue with the leaders and we did not attend on the day. Thank you Joab Wilson and Pat Bingham for offering to help.

On Thursday 17 November, Pat Bingham spoke at the Friends of Salt Creek and Associated Parklands AGM in Macleod. Her topic of “Australia – Land of Parrots” was well received and generated lots of questions. This group has a small membership so it was good that about 20 attended the AGM. They do regular bird surveys of the Macleod Parklands and enter their data in the BirdLife database. They missed out on Swift Parrots this winter but had their first record of Little Lorikeet instead.

On Friday 18 November, the Hawthorn U3A had their last monthly bird walk for this year in Wilson Park in Ivanhoe. As usual Pat Bingham led this walk. The best birds were several Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrikes, a nesting Magpie-lark, Red-browed Finches feeding in the grass with a nest not far away, a pair of Red-rumped Parrots about a metre away from them and Crested Shrike-tits calling but not seen. It is marvelous that this group is continuing in March 2017 due to popular request.

After being postponed last month, Sunday 20 November, saw us take part in the sixth bird survey on a Kinglake West property as part of the Discover Whittlesea’s Native Birds sponsored by the City of Whittlesea. This warm day saw Pat Bingham, Jane Moseley and Geoff Russell lead the walks. Unfortunately the warm weather must have frightened off some who booked as the leaders, council staff and the property owners outnumbered the locals. 32 species were recorded on the morning with five new species being added to the list. These were Gang-gang Cockatoo, Sacred Kingfisher, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Eastern Spinebill and a Nankeen Kestrel. This takes the property list to 61 species. A light luncheon and a cold drink were appreciated at the end of the walk.

Thank you to everyone who has assisted with our education activities this year. 23 different people have made my organisation so much easier. We covered 38 walks, talks and displays this year. As the bookings roll in for next year I hope I can count on everyone’s support again.

Season’s Greetings to everyone and a Happy New Year.

Janet Hand, BirdLife Melbourne Education Coordinator (9842 4177)

Vale Peggy Mitchell

Sadly Peggy Mitchell passed away on 3 October 2016 at age 94 years.

Peggy and her husband Hartley came to live in Mount Eliza in 1968 and immediately became involved with conservation of plants and wildlife on the Mornington Peninsula. She was a committed bird watcher, travelling the length and breadth of Australia in search of new birds for her list and her 600th tick was a Red-tailed Tropicbird at Esperance in Western Australia. This made her a member of ‘The 600 Club’, an exclusive club. She was a Life Member of BirdLife Australia/BOCA and was collater of the Unusual Sighting Reports, published in The Bird Observer, from 1984 until 2002, a mighty job.

peggy-mitchell

She was a member of the Peninsula Field Naturalists Club and coordinated their birding outings for many years. She and husband Hartley hosted the Field Naturalist committee meetings at their house and she was eventually made a Life Member of the Peninsula Field Naturalists Club.

Peggy and Hartley were instrumental (with others) in saving the Langwarren Military Reserve from development in the 1980’s so it is now a great nature reserve full of wildflowers and birds.

A wonderful character and we will miss her. We send our condolences to the family.

David Ap-Thomas
per BirdLife Mornington Peninsula December 2016 Newsletter

October education report

The unpredictable weather has had a negative effect on our October activities.

On Sunday, 9 October 2016 Graeme Hosken led a group of 11 people on a walk through Wilson Park in Berwick. The area was sheltered from the worst of the wind and an 8am start assisted too. Twenty eight species were found on their walk and this was followed by a lovely breakfast supplied by the Friends of Wilson Park.

On the same day Sonja Ross and Sally Heeps were to lead a walk through the Granite Hills in South Morang. This walk was cancelled due to the dangerous high winds forecast. It was organised by a staff member from the City of Whittlesea. Hopefully we can assist them at a later date.

On Saturday, 15 October 2016 Janet Hand set up an information table at the Mitchell Annual Spring Plant Expo and sales in Kilmore. It was the first lovely weekend for a while and many people decided to attend other outdoor activities in the district but many interesting conversations were had.

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Information stall at Kilmore Plant Expo

The sixth bird survey was scheduled on Sunday, 16 October on a Kinglake West property as part of the Discover Whittlesea’s Native Birds sponsored by the City of Whittlesea. Again the weather was responsible for this being postponed until Sunday, 20 November. Thank you Tazmin Duggan and Sally Heeps for volunteering for the 16th.

On Friday, 21 October 2016 Pat Bingham led 11 walkers from the Hawthorn U3A along the Blackburn Lake Creeklands. Pat reported the ‘weather was grey, no rain at the time but very wet underfoot.’ They found 20 species including three of those nesting (Noisy Miner, Pied Currawong and Tawny Frogmouth). They also saw a large melon-sized, very cold and bedraggled bee swarm hanging from an Acacia twig – probably took off on Thursday (very warm day) and got caught out by the change of weather.

On Saturday, 22 October 2016 Pat returned to the same venue to assist the Friends of Blackburn Lake Creeklands conduct their survey. On this occasion 20 people came and they found 24 species. It was another cold start (mufflers and gloves all round) so it was great that anyone turned up at all to join Ian Moodie (Pat’s co-leader) and Pat, and with all the local knowledge and extra pairs of eyes and ears they helped to make it a good morning in spite of the weather. The bee swarm was still on its twig, colder and wetter and less movement of bees around it than the day before. The group found five more Tawny Frogmouths but still only one nest; nesting Kookaburras and Grey Butcherbirds both feeding young; nesting Wood Ducks as well as Pacific Black Ducks with families of fluffy ducklings. The rain started after about an hour so the hot drinks and lovely breakfast after the walk, courtesy of the Friends’ Committee, was very much appreciated.

The same weather pattern continued onto Sunday, 23 October 2016 when we had our 18th Breakfast with the Birds at Banyule. With an occasional shower predicted, half of those who had booked chose to stay in bed. The ground was wet under foot from the 22ml of rain on the Saturday but the participants who did arrive and my leaders had dressed appropriately. It’s a pity that the 50 people who booked, and didn’t turn up, obviously don’t care about the effort and expense that goes into organising such a function. The Banyule City Council organised another wonderful sit-down breakfast spread with plenty of food left over. Thank you to Jim Mead and his six staff members from the Banyule City Council for all their help and preparation.

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Breakfast with the Birds at Banyule

I appreciate the distances that many of my leaders travelled on the day with most not being locals. Special thanks to my leaders Pat Bingham, Peter Dynes, Lyn Easton, Anthea Fleming, Carol Griffiths, Robert Grosvenor, Daphne Hards, Richard Loyn, Elva and Ian Muir, Shirley and Bill Ramsay, Sonja Ross and Scot Sharman.

Again the bird list didn’t disappoint. Daphne and Shirley’s group added the 123rd species to our BwtB list with two Rufous Fantails found down near the river. 61 species were found within Banyule Flats and 39 in the Warringal wetlands area. With five species being found in the Warringal area that weren’t found in Banyule, the total species for the day was 66 species. Ten species were noted breeding in Banyule Flat and only one in Warringal. With the wetlands full, all the waders have left and there was no raptors seen on the day. Shining Bronze-Cuckoos and Fan-tailed Cuckoos were observed as well as five species of Honeyeaters.

My thanks to all those who have been kind enough to help with our BirdLife Melbourne Education activities.

Janet Hand, BirdLife Melbourne Education Coordinator (9842 4177)

Weekdays outing to Cranbourne Royal Botanic Gardens

8  November 2016

Our group numbered 18 with Pat Bingham as leader. The weather was bird-watching perfect – fine, mild with blue skies and little wind, a welcome change from the previous blustery week. The car park, as they do, yielded numerous species, both calling and visible. Unfortunately one species was the introduced Common Myna but others included the Red Wattlebird (almost always seen or heard throughout the park) and the smaller Brown Thornbill. Lucky observers had brief views of the Southern Brown Bandicoot but most could simply hope for future success. Both Australian and Little Ravens called, and Spotted Dove was heard at the same time as Crested Pigeon. Other calls were White-eared Honeyeater (later sighted many times) and Shining Bronze-Cuckoo which confused with its unexpected variety of calls and was only seen briefly. Spotted Pardalotes called and then delighted many with brief glimpses while Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes announced their presence with calls and then lived up to their old name of ‘Shuffle-wing’ as they landed on a perch.

We headed off on the Wetlands Walk and Lake Track 2, adding Superb Fairy-wren among the bracken and Grey Fantail in the middle storey. A Swamp Harrier attempted to upstage our main interest in a pair of Pallid Cuckoos who appeared to briefly try to mate before separating. We walked beside grassland between housing and the park where we observed the Swamp Harrier using a thermal to gain altitude and where a Brown Goshawk later quartered the tree tops. Golden Whistlers had been vocal but it was during watching the Pallid Cuckoos that we added the first Rufous Whistler to our list.

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Rainbow Lorikeets. Photo by Dennis Hill

Reaching the first lake there was considerable discussion when teal were observed – was the first seen a Grey Teal with young? Certainly the second family contained a male, female and young Chestnut Teal. After consideration the consensus was we had observed two Chestnut Teal families. Waterbirds were not common but included a solitary Little Pied Cormorant on a dead branch and a Purple Swamphen with three fluffy black young – the numbers were probably down as the season’s rains had provided many alternative locations. Parrots were uncommon; there were only a couple each of Rainbow Lorikeets and Eastern Rosellas. Fan-tailed Cuckoos called but were seldom seen and Eastern Yellow Robins were heard only. We were pleased to record only one Noisy Miner on the periphery of the park. Where they invade, the species count always seems to plummet, especially White-plumed Honeyeaters. Black Wallabies delighted all who saw them and the sightings of a Copperhead and an Eastern Bearded Dragon were a bonus. Eastern Common Froglets produced a continual chorus beside any water, a contrast to the drought years, and a colony of onion orchids was reported. By day’s end we had recorded 52 species of birds and we thanked Pat for sharing her knowledge and experience with us.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Phillip Island

10-11 October 2016

Two youngsters joined 23 adults at the information centre on Phillip Island Road. The previous day’s storm winds had closed some areas but our leaders, Sally and Derek Whitehead, adjusted their itinerary to accommodate the changing weather. The cold wind and intermittent rain were challenging but all had dressed for the weather. The birds showed less enthusiasm for the wintry conditions and there were few species around the car park – Masked Lapwing, Welcome Swallow and Little Raven dominated though both a Shining Bronze-cuckoo and a Fan-tailed Cuckoo called. We drove to the Newhaven jetty and the bird list grew as Silver Gulls and Crested Terns sheltered near several immature Pacific Gulls, one of which was pecking determinedly at the long backbone (about 80 cm) and head of a rather large fish. Australian Pelicans and Little Pied Cormorants stood further out and in the distance a white dot resolved into a Royal Spoonbill which obligingly flew over us as we were leaving and was added to the Common Blackbird, New Holland Honeyeater and Willie Wagtail foraging in the park side bushes. It was only a short drive to Fishers wetland where the birding was very busy. Cape Barren Geese had clearly had a most successful couple of breeding seasons as they were present not only in the sanctuary but in most paddocks and also in housing estates where the vegetation was grassy. Black Swans with cygnets of varying ages swam at Fishers, to the delight of youngsters and adults. A highlight here was a lone Cattle Egret in breeding plumage. Scopes revealed more distant birds – Australasian Shoveler, White-fronted Chat and Chestnut Teal plus an unexpected Wood Sandpiper– while passing above our heads were Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike and Whistling Kite. We left the wetland with regret, pausing to admire a fluffy Dusky Moorhen chick among the reeds. A bush walk added Brown Thornbill, White-naped and White-plumed Honeyeaters as well as Grey Butcherbird.

Bar-tailed Godwit - Derek Whitehead.JPG
Bar-tailed Godwit. Photo by Derek Whitehead

The next stop was at the Shearwater estate where a well-vegetated water retention/purification pond hosted numerous calling Little Grassbirds. Some were lucky enough to glimpse one, including a fortunate birder who’d only ever heard them, infrequently. Over the water Fairy Martins twisted and flew and a happy spotting was a pair of Spotted Pardalotes which flew into a low street tree beside us. The small flock of foraging Red-browed Finches delighted those who saw them. When you consider the bird list (not given comprehensively here) for this housing estate you realise how much has been learnt recently about creating an area which controls water, provides recreation, looks attractive and provides a wildlife habitat. On to the cemetery next as clouds once more built up on the horizon. The day was darkening and fewer birds were detected though a Grey Currawong obligingly perched on a dead tree and posed against grey sky long enough for most to see. As a rainstorm approached it was decided to postpone the day’s birdcall till next morning and finish the day to give everyone a chance to reach their accommodation reasonably comfortably.

Whimbrel - Derek Whitehead.JPG
Whimbrel. Photo by Derek Whitehead

The next morning we reassembled by the info’ centre, did our best to recall what each had recorded the previous day and created the Monday bird list. A quick count indicated that the group had recorded 64 species for that afternoon. First drive was out to Kitty Miller wetlands, on private property with permission to visit. Birding from the road added Australasian Pipit as well as the usual PI suspects, geese, magpies, Common Starlings and Great Cormorant. Then we made our way through some very wet, sticky and slippery mud (who said birdwatching is for wimps?) up to the bank of a chain of ponds where young geese were shepherded by their adults and swans nested. The duck count mounted as Pink-eared, Musk and Australian Shelduck were added to Pacific Black and Australian Wood Duck.

musk-duck-male-derek-whitehead
Musk Duck, male. Photo by Derek Whitehead

All good things must end so it was off to the Oswin Roberts sanctuary which had been reopened after being shut Sunday and Monday due to the dangerous winds. Here were bushbirds – Eastern Rosella, Laughing Kookaburra and Grey Shrike-thrush joined Superb Fairy-wren and female Golden Whistler. The short walking track was chosen as once again we were pressed for time under darkening skies. The children especially were delighted to encounter Black (Swamp) Wallabies watching us from near the path. We then drove to the Rhyll observation point above Rhyll Inlet. There were Whimbrels and Bar-tailed Godwits on the edge of the sand and Crested and Caspian Terns joined cormorants and pelicans on the sandspit. A lone Little Egret walked animatedly in the shallows while a Pied Cormorant flew over. The last birds to be added were Red-necked Stints and Red-capped Plovers bringing the bird list for the two days to 89 species. We thanked Sally and Derek most enthusiastically for all their work and preparation which so successfully overcame the obstacles created by the extreme weather. Far from disappearing, some of us stayed for ‘just a little more’ birding with afternoon tea and others were heard planning return visits now that they knew of more locations than the well-publicised Nobbies and the penguin parade.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne Weekdays Outings