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!
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.
Eurasian Coots were plentiful, as were Grey and Chestnut Teal. Australian Pelicans, Black Swans, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants
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.
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!
Overcast and mild weather greeted 21 birdwatchers from many areas of Victoria as we assembled in the Beach Picnic area car park. Alan and Hazel Veevers were our leaders and the car park soon added Superb Fairy-wren, New Holland Honeyeater and Red Wattlebird to the Common Starlings, Australian Magpies and Willie Wagtails most had noted on their drive in.
Time and tide wait for no bird watcher so we immediately drove to the homestead car park and walked through the pine trees to the beach. Highlights here were Zebra Finches near the fence line and an obligingly perched Brown Falcon which gave photographers very good views.
Galahs, Little Ravens and Crested Pigeons were also noted here and the squeals from a windmill were initially confusing till the machinery was noted among some trees. No birds really make that noise.
Crested Tern. Photo by Graeme Dean
Crested Tern, immature. Photo by Graeme Dean
Low tide at the beach saw a flock of Chestnut Teal, many Silver Gulls and Crested Terns and the occasional Pacific Black Duck and Pacific Gull perched on the exposed rocks.
Pacific Gull. Photo by Graeme Dean
Australian Pelican. Photo by Graeme Dean
Farther along we encountered Pied and Little Pied Cormorants which enabled people to compare the sizes and markings for future identification.
Heading back to the cars prior to lunch Black-shouldered Kite and Nankeen Kestrel were added to our growing raptor list which also had couples of Whistling Kites and Black Kites seen earlier.
A brief stop at the water control area of a housing estate added Dusky Moorhen and Purple Swamphen. One of the swamphens caused some excitement when it appeared to be eating a yabby but closer inspection showed ‘lunch’ to be the rhizome of one of the water plants, complete with apparent ‘legs’.
Our lunch was accompanied by several optimistic magpies and enlivened by fairy-wrens in great numbers foraging low around us. The magpies moved out and an enormous racket drew our attention to their mobbing of a raptor. It was only slightly larger than the magpies but they had the numbers and the raptor departed. Much discussion about its identity followed but no one had managed a clear view. The ID came later after photos had been closely examined – the wings and tail were those of a Brown Goshawk. Cameras now freeze action much better than human vision.
After lunch we walked beside the beach. Initially there were only a few fairy-wrens foraging among the seaweed but carefully continuing south we encountered more gulls, teal and terns roosting on the exposed rocks close to shore. Scanning yielded two Musk Ducks swimming beyond the crowd and then a rather unexpected sighting – an immature Australasian Gannet resting on one of the rocks.
White-faced Heron and Australian White Ibis were also present in small numbers and a few Grey Teal were swimming together in one area. Back through the scrub where Grey Fantails dominated sightings and then on to a new wetland near the RAAF Lake car park. Expectations may have been low as we approached it but soon “grebes” were called.
Both Australasian and Hoary-Headed were present and diving out of sight as grebes are wont to do. The omnipresent Chestnut Teal were noted, plus a couple of Pacific Black Ducks and then there were the dotterels on the further, smaller lake.
Both Black-fronted and Red-kneed Dotterel were there and a pair of the latter were engaging in a bobbing display to each other. The edges of the reed beds housed Australian Reed-Warblers (silent at this time of the year) and Golden-headed Cisticolas perching on seed heads and making their buzzing call.
Leaving this area with regret we gathered for bird call. Total species count was 56, very creditable for an area which is being surrounded more and more closely by housing. We thanked Hazel and Alan enthusiastically for all their preparation and care which had given us such a good day’s birding.
All photographs by BirdLife Melbourne member, Graeme Dean
A fine breezy day with blue sky changed to cloudy and the wind became cold, causing everyone to don windproof overclothing. There were 22 rugged up participants with Graeme Hosken leading the group. Haversham Avenue, where the cars were parked, is suburbia on one side with the reserve facing it and so initial birds were simply a few flyovers and such garden birds as Red Wattlebird and Common Starling. We started walking to the south and started listing birds as we entered the reserve. Waterbirds flying over included Australian White Ibis, White-faced Heron, Australasian Darter and Pacific Black Duck.
Later the ponds yielded Royal Spoonbill in breeding plumage, Black Swan, Australian Pelican, both Chestnut and Grey Teal and initially a lone Eurasian Coot which became at least 20 on the adjacent water.
Purple Swamphens foraged singly and Dusky Moorhen and both Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes were represented by solitary sightings. Cormorants were present – Little Pied, Little Black and Great – flying over, fishing and perched plumply while digestion proceeded. Water levels were high after recent rains and the absence of exposed mud meant neither crakes nor rails was detected.
A Swamp Harrier flying over was announced by alarm calls and we later watched it quartering the reed beds. It, plus Brown Goshawk and Nankeen Kestrel made up the raptor sightings for the walk. Several areas had been planted and protected with extensive netting which in one area made the sighting of a Great Egret through the netting challenging. Welcome Swallows swooped and in some places were joined by Fairy Martins whose mud bottle nests were detected below the bridging of one of the outlets.
No one saw a Little Grassbird but the population must have been considerable to judge by the amount of calling heard. Glimpses were obtained of Golden-headed Cisticola and Australian Reed-Warbler among the grass and reeds. Eastern Common Froglets were the most frequently heard frogs. A Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo really needed scoping as it perched distantly but those with powerful bins considered it identified.
A welcome lunch break was taken at the eastern East Link service area (coffee, toilets and hot food) much appreciated on a carry-lunch walk. Bush birds were encountered once we left the edge of the water and Grey Shrike-thrush, Golden Whistler and both Spotted and Striated Pardalotes joined the list. Honeyeaters included New Holland and Yellow-faced as well as Eastern Spinebill and Noisy Miner. White-browed Scrubwrens were glimpsed in the undergrowth while Superb Fairy-wrens were common throughout the walk. Grey Butcherbird and Grey Currawong called, Grey Fantails were common and only a couple of Willie Wagtails were detected. A female Flame Robin was seen by many and Red-browed Finches often foraged beside the path.
Introduced birds were “the usual”, Common Myna, Starling and Blackbird plus Spotted Dove and Feral Pigeon/Rock Dove.
In all 59 species were detected and there were smiles all round as people planned to add the area to their walking lists. We thanked Graeme heartily for sharing the knowledge he had gained during the Melbourne Water surveys.