4 June 2016
Text and photos by Merrilyn Serong
An unexpected weather event in eastern Australia turned what otherwise might have been a fine, but cloudy day into one of intermittent drizzle. It’s not often that we see the ground wet at the You Yangs or water in the gutters beside the Great Circle Drive. The level of the dam near the park entrance was lower than I can remember it, but there was some water in other dams that were quite dry on our last visit. We heard frogs in a few places. Mosses, lichens, fungi and rock ferns were looking marvellous. The wet was not enough to deter the keen cyclists who frequent the park and it did not hamper the six of us on our quest to find birds and pull out boneseed. In these conditions the number of bird species recorded was lower than usual at a mere 24, but the damp ground made it easier to remove the weeds. The day remained pleasantly calm, and with coats on, we were not too cold.
We spent some time, as usual, in the area near the entrance and Park Office. Still no sign of the Tawny Frogmouths, which used to be so reliable here. Weebills were calling and foraging in the eucalypt canopy. An Eastern Yellow Robin posed close by for a moment. Lorikeets were heard briefly, but not seen. I think they were Musk. There seem to be fewer White-plumed Honeyeaters in this area than there were in the past, but more New Hollands. The latter were particularly abundant around the profusely flowering Hakea laurina bushes to the east of the dam. These plants from the south-west of Australia thrive in this area of the You Yangs.
Morning tea was at the Valley Picnic Ground where we hoped for Boobooks, which are said to be there at times, and Tawny Frogmouths. We saw neither, but we did see numbers of Brown-headed Honeyeaters at the flowering eucalypts. Weebills were plentiful. Some of us saw a koala run across the road and disappear.
Amongst the bird species at Gravel Pit Tor were Crimson Rosella, White-throated Treecreeper, Eastern Yellow Robin, and Yellow and Brown Thornbills. A female Scarlet Robin was seen. There were two pairs of Scarlet Robins near here a couple of weeks ago on a finer day.
At lunch time we shared Fawcett’s Gully with a man who was using water colours to paint a scene of the area. The light rain was not helpful. Here there were also White-plumed and New Holland Honeyeaters, Crimson Rosellas, a White-throated Treecreeper and some frogs.
In mid to late afternoon we tackled a patch of medium-sized boneseed plants to the north of our official site. There were also several newly emerged boneseed plants still at the two-leaf stage. These were much easier to pull out. I found a bird’s leg-ring. It’s the type used on racing pigeons, so its wearer possibly provided a meal for a raptor.
Towards the end of the day, when the last of us were preparing to leave our boneseeding site, a small flock of Varied Sittellas appeared together with a few Silvereyes. Soon after, we saw a Buff-rumped Thornbill. These added another three species to the day’s total. It was too dark by then for photos, so we’ll just have to remember them. One of the last bird sounds for the day was the mournful cry of White-winged Choughs. This nicely complemented the approaching night and continuing drizzle.
Many thanks to all participants and others who maintain an interest in the project.
The bird list for the day will be available at http://www.birdlifemelbourne.org.au/outings/site-lists/YouYangs%202016.html
More photos are on my website: http://www.timeinthebush.com/you-yangs-2016.html
A special thank you to David McCarthy for his dedicated work in our YY boneseeding project. He has made a fantastic contribution over many years. David is no longer able to continue his involvement in boneseed removal, but will keep track of our progress by continuing to add our bird sightings to the data base.