Tag Archives: BirdLife Australia

Weekday outing to Wilson Botanic Park, Berwick

14 July 2021

The location was a first for the Melbourne Branch on Weekday Outing.

The forecast wasn’t promising, cold and cloudy, with showers in the afternoon. It was cold, 13°C, but fortunately, no rain and the wind was only noticed on the afternoon walk along the ‘ridge’ track.

The park area was originally a stone quarry, when it reached its end-by-date, the owner Mr Wilson, donated the land with a considerable sum of money to the City of Casey to establish a botanic park. Extensive landscaping has taken place since the 1990s by the City of Casey with two large lakes filling in the original quarry and planting is still continuing and in some places, rare Australian plants and trees eg: Woolamai Pine, making a Botanical Park.

BirdLife and BOCA have provided volunteers to conduct surveys twice a year, Autumn and Spring. Since 1991, with 87 bird species recorded, including the following highlights: Satin Bowerbird, Striated Fieldwren, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Australasian Bittern, Common Koel, White-browed Woodswallow and Channel-billed Cuckoo.

On today’s outing we managed 30 bird species, a highlight being two Tawny Frogmouth, not previously recorded on a survey day taking the total to 88 species for the park. Cold conditions today reduced bird activity but a Spotted Gum in full flower was a favourite for Rainbow Lorikeets and Little and Red Wattlebirds. Further, in the sheltered northern area of the park a flock of Silvereyes were avoiding a sparring match between several Eastern Spinebills and a couple of New-Holland Honeyeaters. A couple Common Bronzewing were feeding under the trees.

Hoping for better weather the next time the Branch visits the park.

If you wish to visit the park, during the week is a good option as it is a very busy spot on the weekends since a Coffee Cafe was installed recently a short walk from the visitors Centre overlooking the Anniversary Lake.

Graeme Hosken, Leader for the day.

Beginners Outing to Woodlands Historic Park

26 June 2021

Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers

Species Count: 40

Fortunately, the Covid restrictions were relaxed just in time for the Beginners outing to Woodlands Historic Park. The Park is famous for many reasons, including ancient trees, Eastern Grey Kangaroos and, our main interest, red Robins. 

Eastern Grey Kangaroos. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Thirty-five members started the morning walk, following the creek that winds between the old and much-admired River Red Gums. Red-rumped Parrots, Crimson Rosellas and Rainbow Lorikeets were amongst those taking advantage of the numerous nesting hollows the ancient trees provided. 

Superb Fairy-wrens were seen in good numbers foraging at the side of the track while both Striated and Spotted Pardalotes, together with Weebills, were much higher up in the trees. Near the homestead a Brown Falcon, which was the only raptor recorded for the morning, was spotted flying overhead.

After lunch most of the group drove down Providence Road to the Cemetery carpark on a quest for Robins. This section of Woodlands is known to be an ideal area for seeing them, for those with patience, persistence, and a good deal of luck. To everyone’s delight some were sighted in the area between the road and the dam. First, both male and female Scarlet Robins were spotted low down amongst thickets of young trees. Whilst observing them, a pair of Flame Robins appeared in the same area.

The group stayed there for some time enjoying watching and photographing them. A Grey Shrike-thrush, a Grey Fantail and a Little Eagle were seen nearby. 

Everyone then continued towards the gate to the fenced Back Paddock which was due to be open for the first time in many months. Just outside the gate a male Red-capped Robin was perched in a young tree, as if awaiting our arrival, with his brilliant red plumage shining in the sun.  A walk, longer than planned, was undertaken inside the fence, hoping for more sightings.  Sadly, very few birds were seen, though some in the middle of the group saw a male Rufous Whistler and a Yellow Thornbill.

Back at the carpark some of the group stayed on for a while longer and were well rewarded when a flock of 30+ Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos flew low overhead, shortly followed by the brief appearance of a male Rose Robin!  This was a fantastic conclusion to a wonderful day with 4 different red Robin species recorded out of a grand total of 40 for the outing!

Thanks to Eleanor Dilley and Steve Hoptroff for contributing their splendid photographs.

Beginners Outing to Lillydale Lake and Spadonis Reserve

22 May 2021
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers
Species count: 52 for the day
Australasian Darter (female). Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Forty-four members gathered by the lake enjoying warm sunshine and little wind. A female Australasian Darter was perched drying her wings on a platform close to the boardwalk and appeared unfazed by our large group of admirers. Several other Darters were seen, including males, along with Little Black, Little Pied, and Great Cormorants, either swimming or resting on the islands.

Australasian Darter (male). Photo by Alan Veevers

A mixed flock of Purple Swamphens, Eurasian Coots and Dusky Moorhens stood on the grassy embankment close to the path giving everyone excellent views. Unfortunately, a large area of the wetland was fenced off with major works being undertaken which involved removing most of the vegetation and scraping out the ponds.

Purple Swamphen. Photo by Eleanor Dilley.

A few brave Chestnut Teal were looking most uncomfortable curled up on the newly placed rocks.

Chestnut Teal. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The members proceeded towards the Hull Road Wetlands and paused to see a female Golden Whistler and, later, a Grey Butcherbird.  A large flock of loft pigeons circling overhead caused some interest, but these were soon spooked by the arrival of a threatening Brown Goshawk. There were disappointingly few birds on these wetlands, with a pair of Coots being the only species seen on the water. Walking back down the road a pair of Australian King-Parrots provided a welcome highlight. 44 species were recorded for the morning.

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

After lunch most of the members drove to Spadonis Reserve for a second walk. A wombat grazing in a nearby paddock was an unusual sighting, but sadly it could be seen that it was suffering from mange. Walking along the track by the Yarra River, Bell Miners could be heard but dense vegetation prevented them from being seen. Not so a flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos that were feeding in wattle trees on the riverbank. Initially it was thought there were only a few birds, but as they flew away more than 20 were counted.

Golden Whistler (male). Photo by Eleanor Dilley

A male Golden Whistler was much admired as the sunshine brought out the brilliant colour of his breast. At the end of the track beside a farmer’s field a mob of kangaroos stood watching the members as a pair of Australian Pelicans flew overhead. Several other birds were also seen in this area including New Holland Honeyeaters, Grey Shrike Thrush and Red-browed Finch. 26 species were recorded for Spadonis Reserve. The total number of different species for the day was 52. Some good sightings, combined with a new afternoon location and perfect weather conditions, all contributed to a most enjoyable day.

Many thanks to Eleanor Dilley for providing her photographs.

Beginners Outing to Serendip Sanctuary

24 April 2021
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers
Species Count: 40
Photographer: Eleanor Dilley
Golden Whistler (m)

Serendip Sanctuary was a new venue for Birdlife Beginners and the 38 members who attended were anticipating seeing a range of wetland and waterbirds. Sadly, the whole area was very dry and there was no water at all in Lake Serendip and the North Arm. Despite this there were many interesting sightings throughout the day. On leaving the carpark area (which was dominated by New Holland Honeyeaters) other species were soon located. A few lucky members caught sight of a male Rose Robin and shortly afterwards a family of Golden Whistlers was seen.

Rose Robin (m).
This photo was taken in exactly the same place at Serendip in April 2019 by Alan Veevers. It is included to show those beginners who missed the current one exactly what the lucky ones saw.

A Restless Flycatcher perched in a tree was a “lifer” for many of the group.

Restless Flycatcher (m)

On entering the first of the open animal enclosures a raucous group of White-winged Choughs were busy foraging and several Red-rumped Parrots were seen – some feeding on the ground, others flying and one pair investigating a nest hollow.

Red-rumped Parrot (m)

Purple-crowned Lorikeets had been reported in the area and a couple of members were fortunate enough to see a pair fly from a nearby tree. A pair of Whistling Kites flew low overhead enabling a good view of their underwing pattern. A couple of Cape Barren Geese were feeding in this area along with several Magpie Geese and when all of them flew off over the fence it was agreed that they could be added to the tick list!

Cape Barren Goose

After walking past several dry ponds, the members entered an enclosed aviary which provided close up views of several less-common species such as Bush Stone Curlews and Buff-banded Rails. It was amusing to watch a flock of Red-browed Finch flying in and out through the netting to avail themselves of the food and water supply. 

Magpie Geese

One small pond had bore water being piped into it to enable children to do pond-dipping. As the members approached, a Black-fronted Dotterel flew away but a Little Pied Cormorant remained along with Dusky Moorhens, an Australasian Grebe, a Eurasian Coot and a few Teal and Pacific Black Ducks. Whilst walking back to the carpark a huge flock of Magpie Geese could be seen in the distance and two pairs of captive Australian Bustards were admired.

Australian Bustard (captive)

Bird call after lunch recorded 40 wild species and members agreed that it had been a very productive visit. 

Wedge-tailed Eagle (You Yangs Regional Park)Birds

It was decided to move the short distance to the You Yangs Regional Park for a second, brief, walk in the afternoon. This was regarded as an “off the record” addition for those interested. The highlight there was the sighting of a Wedge-tailed Eagle flying overhead and 4 additional species were seen: Silvereye, Rainbow Lorikeet and both Yellow-faced and White-naped Honeyeaters. 

Once again, many thanks to Eleanor Dilley for providing her photographs. 

View bird list for the day:

Weekday outing to Troups Creek Wetlands

21 April 2021
Photographer: Steve Hoptroff, Member
Golden-headed Cisticola

Heavy rain overnight did not deter 10 birders from meeting in the layby beside the busy Hallam South Road. John Bosworth was our leader and knows the area well, having participated in the regular surveys for Melbourne Water for many years (covid excepted). The start of the walk involved making our way past assorted works areas before continuing into the grassland. Birding initially was limited, a fat Little Pied Cormorant perched on a well-used wooden pole at a pond’s edge, there were the introduced Common Mynas and Starlings, a skein of Australian White Ibis overhead and there was the occasional flight of pairs of Rainbow Lorikeets.

The area is manmade and designed as a flood control zone by Melbourne Water so it is interesting to watch how the avifauna react. We had added Purple Swamphen and Common Greenfinch when we encountered Golden-headed Cisticolas calling and flitting among the reeds, to the delight of those in the group who hadn’t seen them before or those who hadn’t seen them since before the pandemic started.

Golden-headed Cisticola

A Little Grassbird was heard calling and overflights included a Royal Spoonbill and a few Straw-necked Ibis. Bush birds included Superb Fairy-wrens and a couple of Flame Robins, both a male (almost fluorescent) and female (healthily plump).

Flame Robin (m)
Flame Robin (f)
Flame Robin (f)

Honeyeaters were limited to New Holland and White-plumed.

(A very cute) White-plumed Honeyeater

But, as suited a flood-control wetland, waterbirds were varied and our list soon included a White-necked Heron, standing near a White-Faced Heron and allowing easy comparison of their respective sizes.

White-necked Heron

A female Australasian Darter stood close to the bank and allowed excellent views while a solitary Great Egret foraged among the reeds and Cattle Egrets used a small mob of sheep to stir up insects in an adjacent paddock. A couple of Black Swan paddled near, a lone Little Black Cormorant flew past and the ducks were those dependable Pacific Black and Australian Woods.

Australasian Darter (f)
Great Egret

Red-browed Finches in flocks of 30 flew across the track and a Willie Wagtail had been seen by most as we headed back to the cars and a lunch break.

Red-browed Finch
Red-browed Finch

Lunch was at River Gum Creek, a short drive along Coral Drive, but several people were unavailable in the afternoon due to prior engagements so our walking group became 6 people for the short distance. At the start we were disappointed to see a small group “feeding the birds”. This had attracted hundreds – Silver Gulls, Pacific Black Ducks, Eurasian Coots, Dusky Moorhens, Purple Swamphens and House Sparrows – and no wonder as when the people departed there were still huge piles of what appeared to be bakery output. Perhaps acquired unsold produce. It looked like rat heaven. We walked on and recorded the same species well away from that area.

Little Black Cormorant
Little Black Cormorant

Many of the species were, unsurprisingly, those we had already noted in the morning but it was good to observe another darter and to add birds of the land: Galah, Long-billed Corella and, convincingly glimpsed, a Scaly-breasted Lorikeet near a remnant mature gum known to hold nests in hollows in the past. At walks’ end we had listed 38 species at Troups and 30 at River Gum with a cumulative count of 45 species for the day. We were most appreciative of John’s preparation which reminded some of the pleasures of this area and introduced others who’d not visited before.

Diane Tweeddale, BirdLife Melbourne weekdays coordinator

Weekday outing to Wuchatsh and Stockyard Point

15 March 2021
Photographer: Danika Sanderson
Golden Whistler (f)

It’s quite a drive from Melbourne but the lifting of the covid-19 restrictions was a considerable spur and 18 people assembled in the small parking space near the start of the Wuchatsh reserve walk. We had been a long time since the previous outing. The weather was favourable, windless and overcast, and bird calls reached us from the bush.

Group starting into Wachatsh Reserve

Car park birding was mostly by ear but Australian Magpies were present in the adjacent paddocks and an immature Grey Butcher bird used the near fence for pounce hunting. The trail was almost entirely only for single file but this meant different parts of our party were able to study different species as we and the birds moved around. The tall eucalypts filled with the calls of a flock of Crimson Rosellas while the quieter twitters of smaller bush species provided challenges as we tried to locate sources. These included Brown Thornbill, White-throated Treecreeper and the louder Golden Whistler and Grey Shrike-thrush. Eastern Whipbirds challenged with their ventriloqual powers, but, as very often, none were sighted.

Dragonfly

With the time available our walk was simply out and return but when we did a bird call at lunch in Lang Lang we were pleased to realize the group had recorded 35 species.

Australian White Ibis

 We drove from lunch to Jam Jerrup and, again, parked near the start of the walk, which was this time along the beach and past the mangroves near the water’s edge. Several people had a great arrival when they recorded an adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle flying low past the car park. Not many birds initially in the beach walk although the coastal bush reserve included a calling Little Wattlebird. There were small twitters from the mangrove stands but no one could get useful sightings. Finally arrived at the point we worked on our ID skills to distinguish different tern species. Crested, Caspian and Common Gull-billed Terns were roosting on the tip of the spit and those with scopes were able to distinguish between the recently separated Asian and Australian subspecies of the Gull-billed – were they now separate species? Follow this Splitters vs. Lumpers debate. Curlew Sandpipers going into breeding plumage were a first sighting for most who had only seen them in their muted non-breeding colours. Also present were Red-necked Stints, a few Red-capped Plovers, 10 – 20 Australian Pied Oystercatchers as well as Silver and Pacific Gulls and a lone Great Egret. As time was passing we decided to have a bird call and the rallying cry went up. Timing is everything. In swept flocks of shorebirds, swirling, alighting and lifting again. ‘Bird call’ was renamed ‘Call in birds’ as everyone raised their binoculars and glowed with delight. Visitors were similarly entranced and we were so pleased to include Sean Dooley and his small party watching the spectacle.  

Shorebirds roosting on spit (and above)

When we could no longer delay we started the long walk back to the cars. The tide had risen and waves were now up to the fallen timber which had been well clear of the water on the way out. A careful scramble got everyone through and dry. One final pleasant surprise lay around the bend. A solo birdwatcher with a scope stood by the paddock fence and offered us great scope views of a Pectoral Sandpiper on a slight rise in the watery wetland. It foraged beside a couple of Masked Lapwing. On that note we headed back to the cars and the challenges of post-restriction traffic, buoyed by memories of a good day’s birding. The final species counts were Wuchatsh 35, Stockyard 28 and a cumulative count for the day of 59 species.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekday outings

Beginners Outing to Yan Yean Reservoir Park

27 February 2021
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers
Species count: 49
Grey Fantail. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Forty-five members were delighted to be out of lockdown and able to enjoy birding at Yan Yean Reservoir in mild weather conditions. From the edge of the reservoir two birds could be seen on the roof of a small tower.

White-faced Heron. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

They were a White-faced Heron and a female Australasian Darter. With the aid of two scopes a female Musk Duck and a Great Crested Grebe were identified in amongst several hundred Eurasian Coots.

Australasian Darter. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Members then drove a short distance to the wetland area car park. From there, a walk around the ponds commenced. Dusky Moorhens were plentiful, both adults and immatures. An Australasian Grebe was sitting on a nest amongst the reeds until it was startled by a White-faced Heron. 

Dusky Moorhen. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Australasian Grebe. Photo by Alan Veevers

There were very few small bushbirds, though one young Grey Fantail appeared happy to be photographed! In the ponds on the opposite side of the road there were many ducks, including Hardheads with Grey and Chestnut Teal.

Grey Teal. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Hardheads. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

A Black-fronted Dotterel and Australian Reed-Warblers were seen in the first pond, but the main target was to locate the Common Sandpiper which has frequented this area for several years.

Common Sandpiper. Photo by Alan Veevers

It was finally found as we reached the turning point of the walk. Most members had at least a glimpse of it as it moved from one pond to another. Meanwhile there were good views of Red-rumped Parrots, a Long-billed Corella and some Crested Pigeons.

Nankeen Night-Heron. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Lunch was eaten at the top of the hill, overlooking the Reservoir. It was good to see that the resident Nankeen Night-Herons were still in their pine tree near the Caretaker’s Cottage. After lunch, a short walk was taken down the fence line to the water’s edge where a close view of a Great Crested Grebe was available. A Whistling Kite circled overhead whilst demonstrating its call to the delighted listeners. Many of the Sugar Gums were flowering and these were attracting large flocks of Musk Lorikeets. On the Reservoir both Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants were perched on dead branches and in the distance a pair of Black Swans was seen.

Great Crested Grebe. Photo by Alan Veevers

The final birdcall for the day was 49 species which was well down on the 70 species seen two years previously. The dominance of Noisy miners throughout the reserve may have accounted for the decline in small bushbirds. However, everyone seemed to have enjoyed the outing, particularly in this attractive location. 

Many thanks go to Eleanor Dilley for contributing her photographs.

White-faced Storm-Petrel at the Eastern Treatment Plant on 20 February 2021

Author: Mike Carter

When Dawn Neylan, Alison Kuiter and Mike Carter checked in with the Controllers at the Eastern Treatment Plant (ETP) on the morning of 21 February in preparation to do a survey of birds there, they were greeted with an expression all birders dread. “You’re too late; you should have been here earlier!” We then learned that a wildlife carer had just collected a White-faced Storm-Petrel and had taken it into care.  

It transpired that sometime after about 11.00 pm the previous night, a Melbourne Water staffer at the Plant had found the bird at the bottom of a large roller shutter door at the entrance to the Power Station. This location is 5 km inland from the eastern shore of Port Phillip Bay. Storm-Petrels spend most of their lives at sea on the open ocean and are only ashore during the breeding season where they are active only at night. The relatively shallow, sheltered waters of Port Phillip Bay are not even suitable habitat for these creatures. They require deep, pelagic waters. So what was it doing there? At this time of year the young are ‘fledging, i.e. taking their first flight. Their parents have abandoned them so they must find their own food and make their own way in the world independently. Hopefully their parents have fed them well and left them with a good surfeit of fat to help them survive the transition to life on their own.  

The ETP White-faced Storm-Petrel in the hands of the staffer who found it

The nearest breeding sites of this species are in Port Phillip Bay on Fort Island (AKA South Channel Island) and Mud Islands. Presumably this bird was reared at one of those two sites. Why did it come to ground at the Plant?  Possibly because the Plant is well lit and the blaze of lights caused disorientation.

 When I visited this bird at Gillian Donath’s Wildlife Refuge at Langwarrin she also had another in care. Furthermore, Nicky Rushworth from AWARE, a wildlife rescue service, advises that refuges across the Mornington Peninsula have a total of at least eleven White-faced Storm-Petrels in care. They first started to be handed to cares on the weekend of 13/14 February. It is no coincidence that this is the time that the first of this year’s young White-faced Storm-Petrels should be fledging. Less advanced birds might continue to emerge for a few weeks. There were some strong and damaging winds in late January but nothing extreme since then so I doubt that adverse weather conditions are an influence in the current spate of strandings. 

This is the first record of this species at the Plant. 

Beginners Outing to Point Cook Coastal Reserve

23 January 2021

Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers
Species count: 52
Australian Pelican. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

After a break of 11 months, 33 members were delighted to be birding with the Beginners once more. Weather conditions were perfect – not too hot and little wind. At Beach Road Carpark several small bush-birds were foraging in the nearby Banksia and Casuarina trees, including Yellow Thornbills and New Holland Honeyeaters, along with numerous Superb Fairy-wrens and Willie Wagtails, and a lonesome Grey Fantail.

Yellow Thornbill. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Grey Fantail. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Down at the beach hundreds of Silver Gulls could be seen and sharp-eyed Geoff Deason found us a Great Crested Grebe far out on the water. Along the coastal track a small flock of Yellow-rumped Thornbills were much admired and then, on the heathland, Golden-headed Cisticolas were heard.

Yellow-rumped Thornbill. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

After a while, one of them finally broke cover and perched on a tall plant for all to see before treating us to its vertically up and down flying display. Returning along the fence line some of us saw an Australian Hobby flying over and flushing a large flock of Common Starlings.

Australian Reed Warbler. Photo by Alan Veevers

Members then drove to the small wetlands near the RAAF Lake Carpark. These relatively new ponds provided some good sightings of Australian Reed Warblers and Australasian Grebes.

Australasian Grebe. Photo by Alan Veevers

As everyone was watching these birds a flock of about 15 Zebra Finches flew in, landed on an adjacent bush and fluttered about giving, to everyone’s delight, great views of their colourful plumage.

Zebra Finches. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Most of the Beginners then set off towards the Homestead area, pausing briefly at the wetland by the housing estate. The highlight here was a Royal Spoonbill in one of the ponds, giving a close-up view of its feeding technique.

Royal Spoonbill. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Lunch was taken in the shade of the trees by the carpark and birdcall was interrupted by a Brown Goshawk which landed on a tree branch beside the main drive. Members then walked past the Homestead to the beach where it was lowish tide. A White-faced Heron was quietly feeding whilst several Chestnut Teal were resting on the rocks. 

White-faced Heron. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

On reaching Cook Point, lots of small waders were seen feeding near the sandbanks.  Most of them were Red-necked Stints and Curlew Sandpipers along with a few Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. Several Crested Terns, both adult and immature were resting on the rocks as well as both Pied and Little Pied Cormorants. It was nice just to sit on the sand and watch as several more flocks of waders flew in with impressive aerial precision. A final highlight was the slow flypast of a lone Australian Pelican, heralding the end of the walk.

Migratory waders (mixed). Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Everyone agreed that Point Cook had provided a terrific start to Beginners 2021 and the final birdcall of 52 species was most impressive.

Many thanks go to Eleanor Dilley and Alan Veevers who, between them, provided all 10 photographs in this Report.

A new bird call in Reservoir

Dear readers

Over the last week I have been hearing a novel sound; a new bird call for this neck of the woods. I am a novice birder and upon hearing it I grabbed my binoculars and went out to look for the source. My neighbours knew exactly what I was trying to do, because they too had been hearing this peculiar sound – definitely a bird call, but out of place where the standard bird fare is Magpies, Red Wattlebirds and Pigeons.

No luck on the first day, but on the second day I recorded it and sent it out to some people who would know the answer. Long time BirdLife member, Bill Ramsay, got back straight away with the answer – an Eastern Koel. Since then I have been learning all about this bird with the big sound, including how some people regard it as one of the most annoying bird calls, as this amusing article by Justin Huntsdale, Wollongong portrays.

However, this little bird call brings a smile to my face every time. Judge for yourself:

Adriana
BirdLife Melbourne Blog Editor