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:
We finally assembled after numbers of our group had encountered traffic jams at different stages of their drives. Bill Ramsay was leader and had carefully chosen the date to coincide with a low tide which allows people to walk across to the island on the stony causeway. Twenty-four started the day under cloudy and humid conditions. There was no wind and the light cloudy conditions were very good for seeing birds. Before we reached the causeway we noted numerous Black Swans and Silver Gulls. And then a Striated Fieldwren called from the coastal heath. Excellent views were achieved.
A couple of Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes were also present nearby. At the start of the causeway we encountered a highlight of the walk – several Pacific Golden Plovers roosted and foraged at the water’s edge with the bonus of a couple of Ruddy Turnstones beside them. Other sightings included the more-expected Crested and Caspian Terns, Australian Pied Oystercatcher and Little Pied, Little Black and Pied Cormorants. At water’s edge we watched Red-necked Stints and Red-capped Plovers and quite a few people also added Sharp-tailed and Curlew Sandpipers. Both adult and immature Pacific Gulls were present, close to a few White-faced Herons and an occasional Great Egret. Ibises were only represented by Australian Whites and spoonbills by a few Royals. A group encountered Cape Barren Geese which then joined the list. A male White-fronted Chat flew over as we settled into lunch.
The afternoon walk saw the party separate into smaller groups as people found their comfortable afternoon speed. The advance party recorded Grey-tailed Tattlers which was a first for many. If measured by “lifers” the day was well rated as several people were smiling broadly as they realised they had seen three, four or even five new species. By bird call we had 44 species and we thanked Bill enthusiastically for introducing many to the location.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 39
Photographs by Eleanor Dilley
Perfect weather conditions for birdwatching – sunny, little wind and temperatures in the low 20s – greatly added to the enjoyment for the 38 members who attended the outing to Pound Bend.
From the carpark several parrot species were heard calling loudly, at times drowning out the efforts of the leaders to explain things, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos were the major culprits! Rainbow Lorikeets were also plentiful, with the bright sun showing up their brilliant colours.
Walking along the river track it was pleasing to see several Eastern Yellow Robins and a pair of White-throated Treecreepers as well as numerous Grey Fantails and Superb Fairy-wrens.
Several ducks were on the river, including a pair of Chestnut Teal which is a very unusual sighting in this location. There were also three Little Pied Cormorants, one perched and others feeding in the river.
A Tawny Frogmouth perched close to the track with its beak thrust in the air in camouflage pose was a delight to all, especially the photographers. There were fewer birds to be found after the track left the riverside, heading for the higher, drier ground. Laughing Kookaburra and Magpie Lark were amongst the few species seen there. As the return track approached the river the pleasing sound of small birds could again be heard and Grey Shrike-thrush was added to the list.
Lunch was eaten near the carpark and surprisingly no birds arrived to steal the sandwiches! After birdcall about half the group walked along the river track towards the tunnel and they were delighted to see a magnificent Australasian Darter perched on a log in the river with its deep chestnut breast shining in the sun. Members also enjoyed watching numerous Welcome Swallows flying in and out of the tunnel. A total of 39 species was recorded for the day which was a reasonable tally for this time of year.
Many thanks, once again, to Eleanor Dilley, who provided all the above photographs.
The car park birding kept people on their toes as our party assembled under the leadership of Elsmaree Baxter. Clouds dripped a little drizzly moisture but the day remained fine if muggy. The usual car park suspects were present – Common Mynas and Starlings, Red Wattlebirds and Superb Fairy-wrens used the trees and bushes while the occasional Australian White Ibis and Rainbow Lorikeet flew over. The nearby sports oval held at least ten Magpie-larks plus a couple of Australian Magpies and several Crested Pigeons, while a couple of very high-flying Welcome Swallows were only confirmed after considerable study. An unexpected sight was an adult Nankeen Night-Heron flying into a roost west of Oak Road across from the car park. Despite subsequent searching we were unable to locate its roost.
The western lake was designated “Grebe City” when almost every bird seen was an Australasian Grebe, though a couple were Hoary-headed. The usual discussion about the identity of brown teal ensued till the final decision was “Chestnut Teal, mostly juveniles or males in eclipse plumage”. A pair of young Eurasian Coot begged noisily from an uninterested adult. As we circled the lake we noted New Holland and White-plumed Honeyeaters in the trees. House Sparrows were present near the northern end of the walk and were welcomed by those who no longer had populations near their home area. Though a careful watch was kept, no Eurasian Tree Sparrows were seen, this species has been in steeper decline for several years.
The eastern lake showed only a couple of ducks as a large part of the lake was netted against birds to allow the weeds to establish well. The nets were clearly welcomed by Willie Wagtail and Superb Fairy-wren which were running after insects across the nets’ top. Back to the cars for a prompt lunch which enabled those with afternoon appointments to say goodbye. The walk along the section between the railway line and the industrial complex of CSL needs care and attention to the cyclists along the Capital City Trail section. In the past there was a population of small birds in the bush by the rail line but electricity maintenance has pruned away the bush to such an extent that there is no shelter and no birds. The only raptor sighting today was a Brown Goshawk glimpsed by a couple of people so the lack of the small birds for prey reduces the predator population too.
The afternoon walk yielded only one extra species, a Little Wattlebird near the gardens on the western side of the west lake. Bird call gave a total of 40 species. The result for a small manufactured water purification area was eye-opening and we thanked Elsmaree enthusiastically for introducing many and reacquainting the rest of us with this surprisingly well-populated urban area.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 54
Photographs by Eleanor Dilley
Parking at Banyule Flats was even more chaotic than usual as the whole carpark was sealed off for resurfacing so parking spaces had to be found in the surrounding streets. Whilst waiting for everyone to arrive, Musk Lorikeets were seen feeding in a callistemon tree and a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike flew overhead.
Once assembled, the group set off to the Lagoon where they were rewarded with many interesting sightings.
There were male and female Red-rumped Parrots; a pair of Sacred Kingfishers flying up and down from a tree on the opposite bank to snatch insects from the water; Pink-eared Ducks and Pacific Black Ducks, both with young; a Tree Martin perched amongst many Welcome Swallows on top of an old dead water-bound tree; four large Cygnets without any adult Black Swans to supervise them; and, finally, both Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes.
The day’s highlight occurred when a Nankeen Night-Heron suddenly flew, right to left, across the lagoon giving everyone a great view. Members then walked to the river track where there were several small bush birds including Red-browed Finch, Eastern Yellow Robin and White-browed Scrubwren. The only raptors for the day were two Brown Goshawks seen near the river.
Close to the windmill a Sacred Kingfisher was calling loudly yet could not be seen, but a Male Mistletoebird kindly perched on a tall dead tree causing much excitement. Members then headed back towards the carpark and watched a Grey Currawong being harassed by Australian Magpies.
The group then continued along the higher section of the Yarra Trail which gave good views over the Lagoon and a few more species were seen including both Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants perched on a dead log.
About half the members then drove the short distance to Warringal Park for a well-earned lunch. A short stroll down Sills Track led to the Yarra River where two pairs of Australian Wood Ducks were very well camouflaged on a large tree branch high over the river.
The nearby wetlands were visited next and found to be completely dry despite the recent rains. There were good views of a Common Bronzewing and a Grey Butcherbird beside the track. Sadly this area seemed to be overrun by Common Mynahs and Noisy Miners which were keeping all the smaller birds at bay.
A creditable total of 54 species was recorded for the day. It had been a most enjoyable outing in pleasant weather conditions. Many thanks, once again, to photographer Eleanor Dilley for providing all the above images.
Twenty-three people started walking in misty showers of rain. These soon eased and patches of blue started appearing. Around the car park and near the picnic shelter of the “dragonfly” structure the dominant birds were, unsurprisingly, Noisy Miners and Australian Magpies keeping their attention on the possibility of picnic scraps.
A brief walk along the dragonfly’s tail allowed those who had not visited the park before to appreciate its size and layout and to turn binoculars towards the various lakes. The reed-fringed inlet of the main lake seemed only to host a Eurasian Coot and a Dusky Moorhen but as we crossed the small bridge we heard Australian Reed-Warblers calling and a couple were glimpsed by fortunate watchers.
Birds flying over had added Rainbow Lorikeet, Silver Gull and Little Raven to a list which included Magpie-lark, Galah, Red Wattlebird and Welcome Swallow.
Walking toward the lake we passed by a pair of Australian Wood Duck with 4 “teenaged” young, all well habituated to humans walking near. The walk along the western side of the main lake did not yield many new species though Superb Fairy-wren and Red-browed Firetail were much admired, especially the former with an active blue male and brown female. The high mournful whistles of Little Grassbird proved challenging for many to hear as we passed close to another reed bed. The large untidy nest of a Little Wattlebird was noted in a tree fork in the north-west of the park.
Birds were fewer on the southern side of the park though House Sparrow was added near the horse paddock of the harness club. A relaxed lunch was enjoyed after we returned to the “dragonfly” before we headed off to the western lakes.
This is usually a rewarding area and today did not disappoint. Swans were not seen but Hardhead and Grey and Chestnut Teal were added here. One highlight was the Latham’s Snipe which flushed briefly. An Australian Pelican flew over, very high, while a Nankeen Kestrel hovered far below it.
A Hoary-headed Grebe seemed to be alone but the shape of the small lakes and the vegetation around the edges meant counting birds was challenging. Many considered the highlight of the day was the pair of Freckled Ducks roosting quietly at the reeds’ edge.
Back to the car park and bird call where the total was 46 species, a very creditable total for a small created suburban site with a history as a sand quarry and the practical function as a water purification zone.
U3A Hawthorn Birdwalk on Friday 15th November was at Wilson Reserve in Ivanhoe. Twenty one people attended, and 35 species were seen, on a lovely sunny morning with lots of water in the billabongs and yellow irises making a great display. Species showing themselves well for photography (by Jim Sharpe) were an Australian White Ibis with lots of neck plumes showing his/her breeding status and several Red-browed Finches feeding in the grass. Noisy Miner, Mudlark and Chestnut Teal all had nests and/or young, and the Bell Miner calls were deafening at close range. This group was again led by Pat Bingham and I thank Jim for his photographs.
On Tuesday 19 November 2019Sally Heeps gave a presentation to the Salvation Army Companion club at Waverley. There were about 30 people and she spoke about encouraging birds to their gardens and the species of the area. I am told they were a friendly group and happy to share their bird stories.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 62
Photographs by Eleanor Dilley
Moderate temperatures and light winds provided excellent conditions for the 37 members attending this outing. The Newport Lakes Reserve was looking very good with lots of eucalypts flowering and plenty of water in the ponds. Soon after leaving the carpark a small water hole on the left had attracted a male Rufous Whistler which moved around in a small bush alongside it.
Red Wattlebirds, New Holland Honeyeaters and a few White-plumed Honeyeaters were dominant in the tree canopy.
From the amphitheatre several Dusky Moorhens were seen, some shepherding very small chicks away from the admiring crowd. Australian Reed-Warblers were singing lustily around the edge of the lakes and could occasionally be seen.
Near the bridge a pair of Spotted Pardalotes had a nest between some rocks and members enjoyed excellent views of them. On crossing the stepping stones a pair of Black Swans had four young cygnets learning to feed themselves. On the dead trees further up the lake a male Australasian Darter was drying his wings along with a Great and a Little Black Cormorant.
Several Superb Fairy-wrens were seen foraging in the undergrowth beside the lake. On heading towards the arboretum ‘bird of the day’ was spotted – a Rufous Fantail! This was a most unusual sighting for a suburban park in November. The bird stayed around for 10 to 15 minutes, enabling everyone to have a good look at its beautiful plumage.
During lunch a bird call for the morning produced 38 species. Some members voiced their delight at the large total number of individual birds actually seen. Most of the group then drove down Maddox Road to the shore, where it was high tide. Unfortunately a serious pollution event had contaminated the Paisley-Challis Wetlands with an oily chemical, seriously degrading the habitat.
With the aid of booms the pollutant had been prevented from entering the bay, so the birds there seemed unaffected. Pied and Little Pied Cormorants were resting on partially submerged tyres whilst lots of Silver Gulls along with a few Black-winged Stilts and a lone White-faced Heron were on the shore.
A Red-kneed Dotterel and a Common Greenshank were also located amongst rocks on shore. Members then took the track through the wetlands to Jawbones Reserve and were rewarded with some great sightings. These included several Blue-billed Ducks, Pink-eared Ducks, Grey and Chestnut Teal, Royal Spoonbills and Hoary-headed Grebes.
A few Whiskered Terns showed off their flying skills, swooping down to the water’s surface to grab whatever morsel was on the surface. Little Grassbirds were calling lustily from the reeds, but were very hard to see.
At the turning point of the walk a large number of Pied Cormorants were displaying their very white breasts in contrast to the Little Pied Cormorants, some of which looked decidedly grubby.
A Great Crested Grebe was spotted nearby, raising excitement levels as we retraced our steps to the car park. A final look was taken on the shore where the tide was lower than it had been when we set out. Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints could now be seen foraging in the mud close to the bird hide.
Forty-four species were recorded for the afternoon session, which produced a combined total of 62 for the day. Once again, many thanks go to Eleanor Dilley for taking all the splendid photographs in the Report.
The venue was unfamiliar to most of our members and we were extremely grateful that Jodi Jackson was available to lead us when circumstances prevented Bridget, our advertised leader, from attending.
The weather was favourable, light clouds and breezes, so sunscreen rather than raincoats was advisable. Our group numbered twelve and car park birding was dominated by those introduced evils, the Common Starling and Common Myna. However Crested Pigeons and New Holland and White-plumed Honeyeaters were sighted with Red Wattlebirds calling and an occasional Willie Wagtail making an appearance.
Walking the track toward the ‘rusty’ pedestrian bridge we encountered brief sightings and then heard the trills of a somewhat unexpected White-winged Triller. First at least two males were seen and then at least one female flew between trees. Quite a good start to the walk. Could it get better? We doubted it.
Approaching the bridge we found the traffic noise overwhelmed any bird calls present so it was eyes only. City views can be available from the bridge but today there was insufficient wind so smog cheated photographers of clear views.
Male and female Superb Fairy Wrens fluttered around each other near the low scrub and the call of a Eurasian Skylark was audible to many as we walked away from the bridge and freeway.
A viewing platform located by the Merri Creek adjoined the reedbed containing calling Australian Reed-Warblers and Little Grassbird (seen by a fortunate few). To maintain the grasslands requires intervention and we passed a small team spraying invading broad-leaved weeds.
The track passed a short distance from a wetland where the intrepid observers who braved potential snakes (none detected) were rewarded with Hardheads, Hoary-headed Grebe, Purple Swamphen and Dusky Moorhen.
A highlight here was a Nankeen Night-Heron which flushed briefly and allowed everyone to see it.
Continuing we often encountered Golden-headed Cisticolas rising from the grass and, on one much-appreciated occasion, perching on the grass stalk for a minute. Our only raptor, a Nankeen Kestrel, hovered characteristically over the grass.
Our track rose toward an escarpment. Here was the creek and denser bush and here we added Red-browed Finches and a couple of Grey Fantails.
By now the thought of lunch was attractive and the potential rock crossing at the end of the track seemed a very good place to turn back. On the return we encountered our only Spotted Pardalote calling and glimpsed Brown and Yellow-rumped Thornbills.
We would have covered at least 4 km and sitting for lunch was very pleasant, even more so when we did the bird call to find we had a list of 45 species. We thanked Jodi whole-heartedly for sharing her knowledge with us.
A very windy and cool day greeted 12 members attending the November mid-week outing commencing at O’Donohue Picnic Ground off Sherbrooke Lodge Road in the Dandenong Ranges National Park.
Before setting off into the forest we had excellent views of a Rose Robin feeding on the verge of the forest, the first highlight for the day. Noise from the wind in the branches of the Mountain Ash trees drowned out birds calling at times but during the lulls, calls from Crimson Rosellas predominated, followed at times by Golden Whistlers at Grey Shrike-thrush. A White-throated Treecreeper, first heard, and then sighted on a tree led to male Lyrebird feeding below. One of two for the day.
On crossing the bridge over Sherbrooke Falls, a Rufous Fantail was calling and finally spotted. Our second highlight for the day. Distant calls from Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Grey Butcherbird and Little Raven, added to the days total 26 species recorded.
After lunch in the picnic ground, we walked to the end of Sherbrooke Lodge Road admiring the many large Rhododendron trees in private gardens, stopping at the Ray Littlejohn’s memorial which commemorates the work Ray did in the early study on the Lyrebirds in Sherbrooke Forest. Unfortunately, no additional species sighted.
Many thanks to Rhonda Miller who led the outing, for her local knowledge of the area and indicating that the 26 species recorded was above average for this type of habitat.
Graeme Hosken, for Diane Tweeddale who was not available to attend the outing.