Many thanks to Pat Bingham for running our two walks this month.
She firstly ran a short birdwalk for 15 members of U3A Deepdene in Wattle Park on Wednesday, 15 August. Not many birds were seen although they had good views of Eastern Rosella, Pied Currawong and a pair of Tawny Frogmouths (at their camouflaged best!). They made up for the shortage of birds with seven species of wattle in flower and agreed the park was well-named.
The U3A Hawthorn Birdwalk on Friday, 17 August was at Dandenong Creek Wetlands on a cool, breezy morning with lots of sunshine. Eighteen participants enjoyed 35 species. The southern-most pondage was almost dry with mud exposed and adjacent shallow water. Lovely close views of both Red-necked Avocet and Black-winged Stilt feeding, each with its own method: Avocets side-swiping and Stilts poking vertically. Nearby were Red-kneed Dotterel standing in shallow water and Black-fronted Dotterel running around, like clockwork mice, on the mud. Other highlights included Red-browed Finches, pairs of Australasian Shoveler, and listening to the mournful calls of Little Grassbirds, but never actually seeing one!
Sue Wilson was back from her travels and has provided the photographs below to illustrate the morning’s walk. Thanks Sue.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 52
It was a sunny morning with little wind as 46 members set off to walk around Jells Park Lake. Almost immediately Nankeen Night-Herons were seen in dense vegetation near the water’s edge.
Initially two birds were located, but closer inspection revealed two more. Nearby, a pair of Grey Butcherbirds were busily building a nest of small twigs.
Soon afterwards a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo caused much amusement, screeching loudly and repeatedly flashing its crest.
Rainbow Lorikeets were also seen displaying their magnificent multi-coloured feathers.
Throughout the park Noisy Miners were dominant, which probably explained why few other honeyeaters were seen. Close to the track two sightings of Tawny Frogmouths caused much interest; first a single one and then a pair. All three birds were well camouflaged, with one in particular adopting the classic pose that looks just like a broken branch jutting out from a fork in the tree.
There was much activity at the far end of the lake with scores of noisy Australian White Ibis nesting in huge island rookeries. They seemed to have been successful in pushing out the Cormorants and Darters which used to nest alongside them.
However, four Australasian Darters were seen drying their wings and there were brief sightings of Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants.
Some of the less common duck species were present on the water, with excellent views of Blue-billed and Pink-eared Ducks. Freckled Ducks were also present, but harder to see.
There was a flock of Red-browed Finches feeding in Casuarina trees and several Superb Fairy-wrens and Brown Thornbills in the lakeside vegetation. On the track heading back towards the car park, a few Eastern Rosellas, Galahs and Crested Pigeons were seen.
Most of the group stayed for lunch, taken after moving the cars to the upper car park where some Ironbark trees were just coming into flower. Having been asked to look out for Swift Parrots the group assiduously scanned all possible trees but saw none. Rainbow Lorikeets and Noisy Miners were the only species seen feeding from the early blossoms on the trees.
A short circuit walk around the top of the hill finished the day’s agenda, but no further species were added to the morning total of 52. Somewhat surprisingly, no raptors were seen despite the perfect weather conditions. Nevertheless, everyone seemed to enjoy the day, relishing the late winter sunshine.
BirdLife Melbourne members who are looking forward to the 22 September Beginners Outing should take note that there has been a change in the meeting point.
Due to the closure of Red Gums Picnic Area car park at Hawkstowe Park, members will now meet at 10.00am in the lower car park at Hawkstowe Picnic Area off Gordons Road. Mel 183 J7. Contact, Hazel 03 9876 3712 if you have any queries.
The skies were grey and the wind cold as 17 assembled in the car park. But the rain wasn’t more than the lightest sprinkle and everyone was dressed for the weather. Jane Moseley, our leader, was recovering from a broken arm and was assisted by Pat Bingham. Never let a physical challenge stop a bird watcher. As often, the car park birding was very productive and Silver Gull (probably courtesy of the stormy weather), Crested Pigeon, Superb Fairy-wren and New Holland and White-plumed Honeyeaters were common.
The sports grounds yielded large flocks of Rock Doves and House Sparrows with a few Australian Magpies and Magpie-larks. Australian White Ibis flew overhead and then keen eyes noticed another species – a Black-shouldered Kite –flying near and hovering above. Across the road and into the western side where Little Wattlebirds foraged in flowering gardens and drank and bathed in a rain gutter.
A couple of Galahs called as they flew over and a female Golden Whistler challenged many to locate her in the thickness of a tree canopy. The lake showed Australian Grebe (diving as is their wont) plus Eurasian Coot with a few Pacific Black Ducks and rather more Hardheads. Little Grassbird called forlornly from the bank but only a couple witnessed a bird flying from shelter to shelter.
Purple Swamphen contrasted with Dusky Moorhen in size and colouring while Grey and Chestnut Teal were compared for their detail. Musk Lorikeet flew past swiftly and we were left contrasting their calls, flight and appearance with those of the more numerous Rainbow Lorikeets. A noisy panic among the smaller birds accompanied the appearance on an Australian Hobby, which, however, did not stay for long. We moved toward the oval again, noting the swooping flight of Welcome Swallows in the calmer conditions and then trying to identify an unfamiliar bird.
After several guesses field guides were consulted and an identification which was quite unexpected was noted – the unexpected was undoubtedly The Bird of the Day – a Black-eared Cuckoo. We surmised that the recent gales from the north had brought it down to Melbourne’s latitude. The tall masses of lignin growth would have provided shelter. The cuckoo was a most obliging vagrant, it returned twice further during lunch, coming closer each time and giving everyone excellent close-up views.
After that the presence of a Tree Martin over the oval in August was not quite the surprise it would otherwise have been. A few people needed to leave at lunchtime but the majority stayed to walk, adding a Black Swan and a Grey Butcherbird and improved views of Noisy Miner and Spotted Pardalote.
The mud nest of a Magpie-lark was spotted high in a tree near the ovals. Avoiding silent, speeding cyclists, we returned to the cars and did the final bird call, listing 47 species for the day. Our enthusiastic thanks went to Jane and her support team for the work which showed several of our number the potential for an area that many had not known about. We decided to finish the day under darkening clouds at 2 pm. This proved a very good decision as 15 minutes later the heaviest, most violent rain for the day arrived.
This month there have been three education activities.
On Tuesday 10 July, Gay Gallagher addressed approximately 20 ladies at the Mooroolbark YWCA. Gay’s presentation was ‘Attracting birds to your garden naturally’. The ladies found the topic interesting and asked plenty of questions.
Friday, 20 July found 19 U3A Hawthorn Bird walkers at the Glen Iris Wetlands. Again, a cold, very windy morning after heavy rain. Birds were few and far between but several Spinebills put on a good show feeding in Correa bushes. Dusky Moorhen and Coot emerged from reedbeds in one of the pondages, probably hoping to be fed, joining Pacific Black Ducks, Chestnut Teal and Wood Duck that milled around on the shore. A couple of the ‘Black Ducks’ were definitely Mallard hybrids with heavy orange-yellow legs and big, yellowish bills. 21 species in total were seen/heard over the course of the morning. Thank you to Pat Bingham for leading the walk and reporting on it.
Bill Ramsay gave a presentation to about 30 people at a Glencare meeting at the Glen Waverley Community Centre on the morning of 31 July. The presentation was titled ‘Attracting birds to your garden and what you can hope to see’. Several questions, on a range of issues, were asked by the attendees. Some time was spent in explaining that those large black birds that are frequently seen in Melbourne gardens are Little Ravens and not Crows, and this seemed to be a surprise to most. The BirdLife Australia ‘Backyard Birds of Victoria’ flyer was distributed and hopefully some of the attendees will use it to try and identify birds in their garden.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species Count: 49
Thirty-one members gathered by the lake in perfect weather for bird-watching – sunshine and very little wind. Water birds were plentiful with many Eurasian Coots, Purple Swamphens, Dusky Moorhens, and lots of Australasian Darters.
Unfortunately the wetlands boardwalk was closed for repair, but from the track around the outside of it there were good views of Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants as well as a pair of Pink-eared Ducks.
On some rocks alongside the lake, a young Darter was wrestling with a huge fish, desperately trying to manipulate it into a swallowing position.
Two Whistling Kites circling overhead provided close-up views for the beginners but were the only raptors seen all day.
It was pleasing to see family groups of Superb Fairy-wrens in many different locations on the route away from the lake towards Hull Road wetlands. Despite everyone’s best efforts, none of the expected Tawny Frogmouths could be found in that area.
However, Golden Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, King Parrots, Rainbow Lorikeets, Eastern Spinebills, as well as White-plumed and New Holland Honeyeaters, were seen.
The Hull Road Wetlands contained plenty of water but very few birds, though an Eastern Yellow Robin and Crimson Rosellas were spotted in the surrounding trees.
Both Grey and Chestnut Teal were also found but only two and four, respectively, of each species. Returning to the carpark, two White-faced Herons were feeding in a small pond.
After lunch a short walk was taken beside the lake. A lone Masked Lapwing stood on the beach, seemingly minding its own business as we walked by.
Members stood for a while on a look-out platform enjoying the sight of an Australasian Darter swimming and diving for fish, clearly demonstrating how it got the nickname “snake bird”. A Grey Butcherbird, perched obligingly close to the group, gave the photographers an ideal opportunity for a photo.
Heading back over the hill members paused to admire the distant view towards the Dandenong Ranges before returning to the car park. A very pleasant outing ended with a tally of 49 species.
Weather forecasts gave high winds and possible storms so the park was closed for safety reasons. Early arrivals birded in the car park and Susan Clark and Pam Hearn, our leaders from BirdLife Mornington Peninsula, checked with the ranger who confirmed the gates were locked. A fall-back walk had been planned for just such a situation and so we continued car park birding till all the group had assembled. We were 11 people (5 from Mornington and 6 from Melbourne) and the car park bird list included Australian Wood Duck, Noisy Miner, Crested Pigeon, Eastern Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet, Masked Lapwing and Little Raven.
In clear weather we set off on the Balcombe Creek trail, partly boardwalk and partly track, heading towards Nepean Highway. Along the way we added Straw-necked and Australian White Ibis overhead and Australian Magpie in the open country. The path passes under the highway, reassuringly, and runs beside the creek where different water plants were growing in its bed and waving in a good flow of water. Off-leash areas for dogs were popular and the dogs and their owners were quite interested in us, too. Brown Thornbills and White- browed Scrubwrens were initially heard then quickly seen by some. Other watchers had to persevere for their sightings.
Human use of the area included water extraction and we passed numerous pipes. An old quarry seemed well overgrown. It had provided stone for Nepean Highway and then been taken over as an army rifle range in WWII. After the war army apprentices had used it till they were moved to Albury in 1982. It languished until the Balcombe Estuary Reserves Group (BERG) took over weeding it in 2011. This was enhanced by spraying for blackberries which allowed successful planting of indigenous vegetation. Wildlife habitat returned, especially for small birds which had previously been using the blackberries. The planting now appears quite natural and we wouldn’t have guessed the amount of work BERG (formerly the Balcombe Estuary Rehabilitation Group) had poured into the area.
We headed slowly toward the beach, turning off the main track to visit the Ferrero Reserve where the open area of the sports grounds yielded Galah, Straw-necked Ibis, Crested Pigeon, Australian Magpie and Noisy Miner. A pair of Grey Butcherbirds called melodiously from the top of the cricket nets. Now elapsed time indicated that lunchtime was quite a walk away so we started our return. The creek estuary broadens in the lower reaches and information boards indicated the fish which might be seen. Not today, unfortunately. Superb Fairy-wrens ran around in the low vegetation quite near the houses across the track. Further back toward the park there were areas of open small trees which “fair cried out” for some Eastern Yellow Robins and there the birds were seen. The boardwalk sections of the track are marked as “slippery when wet” but today they were dry and no challenge. Once everyone reunited at the information centre there was lunch and bird call. Twenty-five species had been seen: a very creditable result for a day of approaching storm. The wind was starting gust though the sky was still blue so we decided to stop there to give people a chance to drive home before any storm. We thanked Susan and Pam for their careful planning which had resulted in a good morning’s birding in the teeth of Victorian weather.
U3A Hawthorn Birdwalk on 15 June was at Rickett’s Point with Pat Bingham – a very windy day that had all small bushbirds and walkers heading for cover. Thank heavens most shorebirds tend to be big, so it was easier to put binoculars away than try to keep them steady in the buffeting blast. Pelicans, all four common cormorants, and over a hundred Crested Terns were on the exposed rocks when the group arrived.
Hoary-headed Grebes swam offshore, almost lost in the waves. 20 species in total were seen by the 20 participants in the walk. The two big highlights of the day were an Australian Hobby cruising the cliff side and a party of over 20 Australasian Gannets diving within a hundred feet of the shore, presumably for fish brought in with the tide.
On Monday 18 June, Janet Hand addressed a small group at the new Arcare Retirement Centre in Surrey Hills. She was their first Guest Speaker. Her topic was Birds of Surrey Hills. This was the first part of the resident’s education program on the Surrey Hills district.
On 26 June, Pat Bingham contributed to a series of talks under the umbrella title ‘Pick a Sound – its magic and mystery’, for 30 members of U3A Stonnington. Previous talks had covered the basic physics of sound and the working of the human ear, importance of sound to a blind person, history of the development of the orchestra, and man-made musical instruments like the MOOG synthesiser and the theremin. Pat’s talk was on ‘Birdcalls and Birdsongs’, liberally illustrated with tracks from the old BOCA 10 CD set of ‘ A Field Guide to Australian Birdsong. The talk was based on a quote from Ken Simpson and Zoe Wilson’s book ‘Birdwatching in Australia and New Zealand’ that stated “Birdwatching is something of a misnomer since identification and appreciation of birds is based as much on sound as it is on sight.” The talk was much enjoyed and triggered lots of questions as had the other presentations.
A cold, grey morning greeted the 29 birders (including a number of first timers) at the beginners outing at Shepherds Bush in Glen Waverley. Although there was a very light shower just prior to the start, the forecast rain fortunately did not eventuate and it remained dry for both the morning and afternoon walks.
There was some activity in the car park prior to starting, with Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets, Pied Currawongs, Noisy Miners, and a solitary Common Bronzewing also flew overhead.
Shortly after the morning start we all had excellent views of both male and female King Parrots as we headed towards High Street Road.
Further along a Little Pied Cormorant was spied before Wood Ducks, a Kookaburra, Eastern Rosella, Galahs and a pair of White Faced Herons were all seen near the baseball diamond.
Continuing on, a female Golden Whistler, Spotted Pardalote, Brown and Striated Thornbills were all seen before a couple of Little Corellas flew overhead. In the paddocks Welcome Swallows chased a feed and White and Straw-necked Ibis were plentiful. There was also a single Cattle Egret but unfortunately no Robins.
A Dusky Moorhen was spotted browsing on the steep bank of the creek.
Just prior to returning for lunch we detoured off the main road to check one of a number of possible roosting sites of a Powerful Owl. Luckily it was present and we all had good views; a first for many of the beginners.
After lunch it was on to the Paperbark trail where good views were had of a Laughing Kookaburra, a Yellow Robin, a White-browed Scrub-wren, both male and female Golden Whistlers, White Eared and White-plumed Honeyeaters.
The noisy squawks of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos accompanied us throughout both morning and afternoon walks, and towards the end of the walk, another Spotted Pardalote sat for quite some time high up on a thin branch, giving us good, if distant, views.
Back at the car park a final count revealed that we had seen 47 species which, considering the weather, day and time of year was a good result.
For early arrivals birding started promptly as there was a large flock of ducks, Australian Woods plus a few Pacific Blacks, beside the entrance road. Not fazed by vehicles they waddled suicidally in front of cars and drivers were required to stop and wait for “the bird problem” to resolve itself.
The birding continued in the car park where the early arrivals listed cockatoos and parrots as dominant.
A large mob of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos plus some Little Corellas arrived then a lone Long-billed Corella foraged near a Straw-necked Ibis across from the playground while flying around were Galahs, Rainbow Lorikeets, Eastern and Crimson Rosellas and Australian King-Parrots.
Spotted Pardalotes called and our first Common Bronzewings were sighted here. Australian Magpies seemed to be aggressively “sorting out” their young and Noisy Miners, as always, attempted to drive off other species.
John Bosworth led the walk and the attendance of 25 people included members from other branches and visitors. We set off to the first pond south-east of the car park where our waterbird list grew with the addition of Chestnut and Grey Teal as well as Eurasian Coot, that cosmopolitan species.
Continuing on our circular course past the larger pond, where most saw Golden-headed Cisticola, we walked under Stud Road via the pedestrian underpass. The hope here was to proceed to the area where adjacent paddocks come close to the reserve and scan the fence line for robins. No robins were observed but a low-flying Australian Pelican was noted.
We returned along the western edge of the park, again checking out the potential of the larger lake’s edges. Lunch was starting to look very good as we headed back to the cars and the morning’s bird call numbered 48 species at first count, a very pleasing result.
Only two raptors had been recorded – a Little Eagle and a Brown Goshawk – both soaring above the tree tops. Some had to depart after lunch but 16 drove to the bush at the Police Paddocks Reserve, which was only a very short distance as the raven flies from our morning walk but took some time to reach by road.
Here the habitat differed from the morning and among the denser trees we added a female Golden Whistler, White-eared Honeyeater and good sightings of Brown Thornbill, Grey Shrike-thrush and Eastern Spinebill.
At walk’s end the species list totalled 53, and all voted it a great day’s birding as we thanked John for his care and preparation.