Tag Archives: Australasian Darter

Beginners Outing to Jells Park

25 August 2018
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 52
Australasian Darter - Bevan Hood
Australasian Darter. Photo by Bevan Hood

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.

Nankeen Night-Heron, Jells Park
Nankeen Night-Heron. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

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.

Grey Butcherbird, Jells Park
Grey Butcherbird. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Soon afterwards a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo caused much amusement, screeching loudly and repeatedly flashing its crest.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Jells Park
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Rainbow Lorikeets were also seen displaying their magnificent multi-coloured feathers.

Rainbow Lorikeets, Jells Park
Rainbow Lorikeets. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

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.

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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.

Australian White Ibis, Jells Park
Australian White-Ibis. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

However, four Australasian Darters were seen drying their wings and there were brief sightings of Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants.

Blue-billed Duck (M), Jells Park
Blue-billed Duck. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

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.

Pink-eared Duck, Jells Park
Pink-eared Duck. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

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.

Galah - Bevan Hood
Galah. Photo by Bevan Hood

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.

Crested Pigeon - Bevan Hood
Crested Pigeon. Photo by Bevan Hood

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.

View the complete bird list: BM Aug 2018 Bird List Jells Park

 

Beginners Outing to Lillydale Lake

28 July 2018
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species Count: 49
Little Pied Cormorant, Lillydale Lake
Little Pied Cormorant. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

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.

Pink-eared Duck, Lillydale Lake
Pink-eared Ducks. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

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.

Little Pied Cormorant with fish - Bevan Hood
Little Pied Cormorant with fish. Photo by Bevan Hood
Little Black Cormorant, Lillydale Lake
Little Black Cormorant. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

On some rocks alongside the lake, a young Darter was wrestling with a huge fish, desperately trying to manipulate it into a swallowing position.

Australasian Darter with fish, Lillydale Lake
Australasian Darter with fish. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Two Whistling Kites circling overhead provided close-up views for the beginners but were the only raptors seen all day.

Whistling Kite, Lillydale Lake
Whistling Kite. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

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.

Golden Whistler (F), Lillydale Lake
Golden Whistler (f). Photo by Eleanor Dilley

However, Golden Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, King Parrots, Rainbow Lorikeets, Eastern Spinebills, as well as White-plumed and New Holland Honeyeaters, were seen.

Rainbow Lorikeet, Lillydale Lake
Rainbow Lorikeet. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

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.

Grey Teal - Eleanor Dilley
Grey Teal. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

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.

White-faced Herons, Lillydale Lake
White-faced Herons. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

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.

Masked Lapwing - Bevan Hood
Masked Lapwing. Photo by Bevan Hood

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.

Grey Butcherbird - Bevan Hood
Grey Butcherbird. Photo by Bevan Hood

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.

View the complete bird list for the day: BM Jul 2018 Bird List Lillydale Lake

Beginners Outing to Braeside Park

24 March 2018
Photographs by Eleanor Dilley

The Beginners’ outing to Braeside Park coincided with the end of a two-month dry spell in the Melbourne area! The rain began in earnest soon after the start and it poured down relentlessly for the rest of the excursion!

Musk Lorikeet, Braeside
Musk Lorikeet

Setting off down Cypress Drive there were good views of Eastern Rosellas feeding in the grass, and of Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets feeding in eucalypts. Walking anticlockwise around the back of the wetlands two fluffy, cream-coloured, Australasian Darter chicks were seen on a nest in a tree on an island.

Australasian Darter chicks, Braeside
Australasian Darter chicks on nest

Eurasian Coots were plentiful, as were Grey and Chestnut Teal. Australian Pelicans, Black Swans, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants

Australian Pelican, Braeside
Australian Pelican

White-faced Herons, a lone Royal Spoonbill, Hardheads and Blue-billed Ducks could all be seen without the aid of binoculars, which by that time had steamed up. Harder to distinguish were Red-kneed and Black-fronted Dotterels on mud flats at the back of the ponds. Noisy Miners were present in huge numbers and did not seem deterred by the soggy conditions but other bushbirds were harder to find.

Black Swans, Braeside
Black Swan

The only raptors seen were Swamp Harrier and Whistling Kite. It was a very bedraggled group that returned to the car park with many deciding to head straight for home and hot showers. Others stayed for lunch in the welcome shelter of the visitor centre. After a short discussion it was unanimously agreed that the planned afternoon walk be cancelled.

It had been a commendable effort for all those involved, and especially for our photographer, Eleanor Dilley, whose battle with the elements produced the above photographs. A tally of 52 species was recorded, a creditable total given the conditions. Although very wet, everyone was really glad to see the rain falling on the parched bushland. The homeward journey for most was no doubt filled with thoughts and hopes that rain had also fallen on their own backyards!

View the full bird list: BM Mar 2018 Bird List Braeside Park

 

Weekdays outing to Wonga Park/Heritage wetlands

6 June 2017
All photographs by Danika Sanderson
Rainbow at start of the walk - Sanderson
Rainbow at the start of the walk

Despite the overnight rain and the showers on the drive to Wonga Park, 12 of us assembled in the car park as conditions started to ease. Some interest was expressed in a car and trailer in the car park which seemed to have been there overnight. Perhaps an illegal camper? Geoff Russell led our group and our first walk followed the short trail downstream where calls were heard from Superb Fairy-wrens, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Brown Thornbills.

Superb Fairy-wren male in breeding plumage - Sanderson
Superb Fairy-wren, male in breeding plumage

Both Little and Australian Ravens were heard as well as the single winter call of Grey Shrike-thrushes. An unexpected sighting was a single Silver Gull overhead while a brief glimpse of an Eastern Spinebill was much appreciated by the few who were looking in the right direction at the moment.

Superb Fairy-wren male - Sanderson
Superb Fairy-wren, male in eclipse plumage

Eastern Grey Kangaroos were numerous on both sides of the river and apparently used to humans on the path. We returned to the car park where a school kayaking session was about to start. We didn’t envy them as the river was flowing high and fast, even at this part of its course.

We went on upstream, bypassing the unused stile. The river edge gave us female Australasian Darters perched on snags, Dusky Moorhen swimming near the bank and an Australasian Grebe diving near one of the darters.

Australasian Darter - female - Sanderson
Australasian Darter, female

Further along the walk there were very good views of a trio of Common Bronzewings in a dead tree. Heading across the golf course by the public path we sighted Grey Butcherbird, a female Australian King-Parrot, Noisy Miners and Australian Wood Ducks while Magpie-larks and Masked Lapwing called.

Australian Wood Ducks - Sanderson
Australian Wood Ducks on golf course dam

A solitary Crested Pigeon preferred clear ground beyond the manicured gardens. Back on the river path we added New Holland Honeyeater, Silvereye, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike and Red-browed Firetail. Turning around with thoughts of lunch becoming more prominent, most were disappointed to miss the sole sighting of a platypus which dived before even the adjacent birder could see it. Never mind, lunch was next.

Silvereye - Sanderson
Silvereye

However, lunchtime proved considerably more entertaining than usual. Things started with a request for jumper leads by the guy from the “overnight” car. Then a police car arrived and there was much interviewing. When the car was restarted the police donned blue gloves for a car search and we speculated on the reason. Eventually both vehicles left with drivers smiling. As said above, it was different from our regular lunch breaks.

Walkers - Sanderson
Walkers participating in the outing

The eight people remaining after lunch then tackled the uphill walk which starts about 400 m before the car park. We hoped for views and we were not disappointed. The view up the valley is great, even when misty in the distance, with the mountains in silhouette. A bonus was the sighting of our only raptors for the day, a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles and another of Whistling Kites. Carrying on to the highest point we were able to add brief views of a wary female Flame Robin, thus doubling our robin count as there had been a sighting of a female Scarlet Robin earlier.

Red-browed Firetail - Sanderson
Red-browed Firetail

Now it was time to descend and make our way through a great mob of roos. The males tended to rear up and scratch their flanks, which we interpreted as a threat action, but they allowed us to carry on walking. Down at the cars again we were able to count up 49 species for the day and we thanked Geoff very much for extending our experiences of this varied area.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings.

Weekdays Outing to Pipemakers Park, Maribyrnong

11 July 2016
Leader: Pat Bingham

 

Pacific Black Duck - Marilyn Ellis
Pacific Black Duck. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

On a very cold morning, in a howling gale but bright sunshine, 15 members and three visitors from Asia met on the banks of the Maribyrnong River to go birdwatching. Quite mad in those weather conditions!

Before we left the car park, we had THE BIRD OF THE DAY – a lone Swift Parrot, heavily disguising itself in dense foliage but popping its unmistakeable red face out from time to time and, turning upside down, showing us it’s pinky vent and long tail.

Swift Parrot - Danika Sanderson.JPG
Swift Parrot. Photo by Danika Sanderson

It was a new bird for many of the group and we had some difficulty in persuading our visitors what a rare sighting it was. It was hard to turn our backs on the rarity, watch the Whistling Kite flying upriver and, then ourselves, go downstream into the wind.

We followed the Maribyrnong Trail past Frogs Hollow Wetland (well named – there were many Common Froglets calling) and found Red-browed Finches on the fence and Superb Fairy-wrens on the grass.  Jack’s Canal yielded Dusky Moorhens and Purple Swamphens, Australasian Grebe and we heard, above the gale, the plaintiff call of the Little Grassbird from the reed bed.

Australasian Grebe - Marilyn Ellis
Australasian Grebe. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

The waves were pretty choppy on the lake in Burndap Park but we had good views of both Grey and Chestnut Teal, and Hoary-headed Grebe.

Chestnut Teal - Danika Sanderson
Chestnut Teal. Photo by Danika Sanderson

In the most sheltered corner of the lake we found White-faced Heron, Great Egret and Pacific Black Duck roosting.

White-faced Heron - Marilyn Ellis.jpg
White-faced Heron. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

On a floating platform on the adjacent river we were able to distinguish the characteristics differentiating Little Black from Little Pied Cormorants and from a young Darter sharing the same platform.  We had Wood Ducks and Eurasian Coots grazing on the grass of the riverbank and Crested Pigeons & Red-rumped Parrots picking up seeds from the path.

Immature Australasian Darter - Danika Sanderson
Immature Australasian Darter. Photo by Danika Sanderson

We went back to the car park for lunch where a Black-shouldered Kite hunted overhead, 30 Galahs flew by and Yellow-rumped Thornbills tinkled from the adjacent grassland.  After lunch we crossed the river and explored the city side parkland.

Great Egret - Marilyn Ellis
Great Egret. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

In flowering Ironbarks on the golf course we had good views of Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets and were able to compare their markings and calls.  We found a pair of Long-billed Corellas exploring a tree hollow and saw an old Mudlark nest.  Heading further east towards the Walter Street Reserve we recorded Eastern Rosellas and both White-plumed and New Holland Honeyeaters.  A newly-planted wetland area adjacent to a housing development had already been discovered by ducks and a cormorant but the only new species for the day that we found there were House Sparrows and Common Starlings. Revisiting that area in the future, when the plantings were better established would probably prove more fruitful.  Buff-banded Rail has been recorded in the past from the creek that drains the area (sadly now only a concrete drain).

the group - Marilyn Ellis.jpg
The group. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

At Bird Call, we listed 48 species which, given the persistent cold wind, increasingly dull day and exposed site was a good total and all participants agreed they had enjoyed themselves in an area few had visited before.

Beginners Outing to Lillydale Lake

23 April 2016
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species Count: 50

The 24 members who gathered at Lillydale Lake in overcast conditions were greeted by almost as many Australasian Darters. Some swimming in the lake, others perched on the banks and in trees, as well as several circling overhead.

image1
Australasian Darters (male at left; female at right). Photos by Eleanor Dilley

On crossing the boardwalk over the wetlands a most unusual sighting was that of a Rakali (Water Rat) swimming through the reeds. Here we found ‘Bird of the Day’, an Azure Kingfisher, which perched for several minutes at the far side of the pond, enabling everyone to get a good view.

image2
Water Rat (left); Azure Kingfisher (right). Photos by Eleanor Dilley

Walking upstream along Olinda Creek, three Tawny Frogmouths were seen very well camouflaged in a dead wattle tree. At Hull Road Wetlands a very close Black Swan was unconcerned as the group walked slowly by. Soon afterwards we came upon a ‘hot spot’ of small bush birds, including Spotted Pardalote, Eastern Yellow Robin and Red-browed Finch. Highlights of the return walk included Australian King-Parrots, a huge flock of Little Corellas and a single Cattle Egret. A total of 47 species were recorded for the morning.

image3
Darter in almost ‘snake bird’ pose (left); Tawny Frogmouths (right). Photos by Eleanor Dilley

After lunch, back at Lillydale Lake, a short walk was taken around the nearby wetlands where Pink-eared Ducks and a Little Pied Cormorant were added to the tally. To everyone’s delight further great views of the Azure Kingfisher were enjoyed, as well as many more sightings of the Darters. A creditable 50 species were recorded on a very enjoyable outing.

See full outing bird list: BM Apr 2016 Bird List Lillydale Lake

Weekdays outing to Merri Creek

30 March 2016
Photographs by Marilyn Ellis (BirdLife Member)

Trucks and occasional drizzle challenged the drivers as 28 people assembled for the walk. The rain never really materialised as Elsmaree Baxter led us near the site of the former Pentridge prison (now a residential development). Initial expectations were low as a couple of hundred feral pigeons and a crowd of Silver Gulls filled the ground by the car park. Clearly people were ignoring the signs exhorting them not to feed birds. Things improved as we watched and recorded Pacific Black and Australian Wood Ducks, Chestnut Teal and a lone Hardhead. Other waterbirds included Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants.

Little Pied Cormorant - Marilyn Ellis
Little Pied Cormorant

Then on the weir we found a female Australasian Darter not far from a Black Swan on a nest which had incorporated lots of plastic litter.

Female Australasian Darter
Australasian Darter (female)

The swan was tagged and later we watched at least one untagged swan (the mate?) grazing on the clipped grass beside the creek.

Banded Black Swan (female) on nest of litter - Marilyn Ellis
Banded Black Swan (female) on nest of litter

The usual triumvirate of Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen and Eurasian Coot were common and at least one individual each of Australasian and Hoary–headed Grebe was diving near the banks.

Dusky Moorhen - Marilyn Ellis
Dusky Moorhen

Today registered no egrets but both Australian White and Straw-necked Ibis were present and at least one White-faced Heron kept a wary eye on our group.

Australian White Ibis - Marilyn Ellis
Australian White Ibis

Walking on added bush birds to the list of waterbirds. Red Wattlebirds were common and Welcome Swallows dipped over the lake surface and soared above the canopy. White-plumed Honeyeaters were the most common of the smaller honeyeaters but later sightings added Eastern Spinebill, New Holland Honeyeater and, unwantedly, Noisy Miner.

Musk Lorikeet - Marilyn Ellis
Musk Lorikeet

Parrots were dominated by Rainbow Lorikeets, with a few Little Corellas, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Musk Lorikeets and Red-rumped Parrots.

Male Red-rumped Parrot - Marilyn Ellis
Red-rumped Parrot (male)

Some flowering eucalypts lined the nearby streets and the parrots and miners foraged in them enthusiastically. Further along the track we encountered a “purple patch” where a mixed feeding flock of Silvereyes, Brown Thornbills, Grey Fantails and Spotted Pardalotes kept everyone on their toes. A single female Golden Whistler proved elusive for many.

Female Golden Whistler - Marilyn Ellis
Golden Whistler

Turning back for lunch was a relief as a seat looked like a very good idea. An interim birdcall brought the species total first to 48 and then to 50 with a couple of late additions. Hmm, what would we see in the post-lunch walk? Not many more as it turned out but it was quality, not quantity when three Tawny Frogmouths were detected in a eucalypt.

two Tawny Frogmouths - Marilyn Ellis
Two Tawny Frogmouths

The final bird list totalled 53 species. There were visitors among us and we hope that today will have whetted the appetites of those from Melbourne for bird watching. Certainly we all thanked Elsmaree whole-heartedly for introducing us to a part of Melbourne few of us suspected existed.

Tawny Frogmouth - Marilyn Ellis
Tawny Frogmouth

 

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne Weekdays Outings