This month, four activities have been delivered, by four different people.
On Thursday 9 March, Janet Hand gave a Powerpoint presentation to the senior members of St Paul’s Lutheran Church in Box Hill. She spoke about how the bird species have changed in Box Hill since Tess Kloot’s book on the “Birds of Box Hill” was researched from 1988 to 1991. Crested Pigeons were not recorded in those surveys. This presentation followed a luncheon for the 25 people present.
Graeme Hosken spoke to 14 members of St Mark’s Uniting Church in Mount Waverley on Wednesday 15March. His presentation was titled “Catching up with the illegals” – the story of our migrating birds.
On Friday 17 March, Pat Bingham began her monthly bird walks with members of the Hawthorn U3A. That day they met at the Sinclair Avenue Wetlands adjacent to the U3As HQ in Glen Iris. They had 18 participants and recorded 17 species – best of these were a Nankeen Night-heron and about 30 Little Corellas.
Gay Gallagher addressed the Ivanhoe Garden Club in Ivanhoe on Tuesday 28 March. Her topic was “Birds of Metropolitan Melbourne”. Approximately 50 people were in attendance and they were very interested and asked lots of questions.
There were 19 of us when the final arrivals appeared. Our numbers included a few visitors including a lady in her 99th year who inspired us all with her fortitude. The day was cool, cloudy and slightly damp after overnight rain so birds were visible though making out their markings was often challenging. David Plant led the group and shared his knowledge of the gardens’ history and function as well as their birds. Unfortunately the Bell Miners which had been confined to one small area have expanded so much that there are only a few places where they are not detected. It’s challenging to detect and see your first miner but they do pall quite quickly afterwards, especially when you realise how they have displaced so many other species. At least we detected no Noisy Miners this day but they are reportedly increasing in numbers just outside the gardens.
Shortly after we started walking we came across a very tall flowering yucca beside the Temple of the Winds. It was certainly popular with the birds and we recorded Rainbow Lorikeets and Little and Red Wattlebirds all using it simultaneously. Government House grounds yielded our first Laughing Kookaburra which promptly flew over the fence and joined us in the main gardens. We didn’t spend much time by the main lake as an extensive azolla bloom was being reduced by a powered weeding vessel and the consequent noise was driving away almost all birds.
Near a quieter lake area we encountered a Pacific Black Duck with eight tiny ducklings and watched interestedly as she led them a considerable distance to a further lake. One little fellow (we decided it was a difficult male) consistently lagged behind the brood and was last seen running determinedly to catch up before entering the target lake.
An Eastern Koel had been recently recorded in the gardens and its call had been heard that morning so we kept listening but unfortunately could not detect it unequivocally. The only parrots listed were the lorikeet, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and an immature Crimson Rosella and David pointed out the plantings of kangaroo grass which hopefully will attract Red-rumped Parrots into the gardens. No owls were seen but the finding of a Tawny Frogmouth feather indicated its recent presence.
Small birds are reducing in numbers as miners and Common Mynas increase – there are no further sightings of Superb Fairy-wrens and the numbers of Brown Thornbills seem down.
Silvereyes, on the other hand, were seen today in some areas and there were several Willie Wagtails plus a few Eastern Spinebills, the only other honeyeater seen today. At lunch break it was interesting to observe a Little Wattlebird feeding from the leftovers on the terrace. That’s an additional species utilising that area. At lunch we encountered the only non-avian sighting of the day, an Eastern Water Dragon which was quietly shedding its skin and warming on the dark asphalt path.
David chatted with his friend, one of the polers of the lake punts, who reported that, it being St. Valentine’s Day, he had overheard two proposals in his punt that morning.
The gardens are important for many activities. During the afternoon walk there was considerable noise coming from the canopy of a tall tree and we made out a small flock of Bell Miners angrily mobbing a Pied Currawong. By walk’s end, with 32 species recorded on our first outing of 2017, we were each deciding to revisit the gardens as they have so much to offer. We heartily thanked David for his generosity and preparation.
On Wednesday 6 April, Janet Hand spoke to 25 members of the Doncaster & Templestowe Historical Society about the different species of birds that can be found in Manningham. The open fire was welcome on this wet evening.
On Saturday 9th April Geoff Deason and Jenny Frohlich assisted with the bird survey of the Blackburn Lake Sanctuary. Twenty-nine species were seen within the sanctuary.
On Wednesday 13th April twelve ladies from the Mercy Boronia Hostel met our members at the recently refurnished Blackburn Lake Education Centre.
They were given a brief history of the area by Peter Dempsey (Blackburn Lake Committee) and then a PowerPoint presentation on the different style of nests that birds build. It was then their turn to construct a birds nest with coconut fibre and line it with cotton wool. The ladies were then given morning tea and a short walk in the Sanctuary before leaving by bus at midday. Thank you to the helpers on the day – Peter Dempsey, Gay Gallagher, Jenny Frohlich and Janet Hand.
The following day Janet Hand visited the Heidelberg Pre-school and spoke to the 4year old group about backyard birds. They were given a short PowerPoint and shown some birds from our skins collection. As they have a treed area, they already had a good knowledge of the local species that rest and nest nearby.
Pat Bingham led a group from the Hawthorn U3A on a walk on Friday 15 April. They visited the Karkarook Park in Heatherton. Seventeen people attended, including an American birdo, and they saw 27 species. These included a female Blue-billed Duck, Red-browed Finches, 60 Long-billed Corellas and a Black-fronted Dotterel. A Pacific Gull was seen here – an unusual visitor to inland waters, as well as a very active Copperhead snake. Perhaps the warm weather brought out this late sighting.
On Saturday 23 April, the Friends of Blackburn Lake Creeklands conducted their biannual survey. This survey was led by Pat Bingham and Ian Moodie and produced 29 species. The most interesting being ‘lots of’ (more than six) Australian King-Parrots, Musk Lorikeets and Tawny Frogmouths. Four Cattle Egret and three Gang-gang Cockatoos flew overhead. The usual female Golden Whistler was found in the same tree as on other Autumn surveys. For the first time in four years an Australian Wood Duck was added to the list. Twenty five people attended this survey and were divided into two groups. Thanks Pat and Ian.