Tag Archives: Black Swan

Weekdays Outing to Lillydale Lake, Lilydale

12 July 2017
Photographs by Dianne Tweeddale
Reflections on a still morning.JPG
Reflections on a still morning

It was cold as we set off from our homes. Not as chilling as a week previously but still very low temperatures. Sixteen braved the still, cold but sunny morning and Jane Moseley led us. We checked out the Australian Wood Ducks, Magpie Larks, Purple Swamphens, Eurasian Coots and Dusky Moorhens on the grass beside the car park and also noted Australian Magpies, Red Wattlebirds, Rainbow Lorikeets and the inevitable Noisy Miners in the surrounding trees.

Purple Swamphen and Australian Wood Ducks
Purple Swamphen and Australian Wood Ducks

On the adjacent wetland there were a couple of Pacific Black Ducks and teal. It was some of the latter which occasioned close examination and discussion. The Chestnut Teal were readily counted but the two or three paler birds catching the sunlight, which teal were they? Careful attention to the plumage decided Grey Teal. It was that frequent “Which teal is that?” discussion. Our visitors and newcomers had been promised darters and Lillydale Lake did not disappoint. As we were moving out the first darter was pointed out and from then on we admired and compared male and female Australasian Darters both near and far. We kept our eyes out for Azure Kingfishers which had been seen a few days previously but the first location drew a blank. On the boardwalk we watched an Australasian Grebe warm its fluffy backside in the morning sun before we passed the structure which has been voted “world’s worst bird hide”. It consists of a fence with rectangular holes cut at different heights which look out onto an impenetrable stand of tall vegetation. Still, after we had dismissed it we rounded the corner and started to check the lake and the reed beds. The cry went up “Pink-eared Duck!” and there they were. Two pinkies which had not followed the rains inland. Voted bird of the day on the spot.

Black Swans feeding
Black Swans feeding

Then we wondered if we’d been a bit premature with the award when an Azure Kingfisher was sighted, not on its previously-favoured nest box but on a farther one and from which it flew to a low perch and afforded everyone good or brief views. Spotted Pardalotes called but it seemed that only a couple of watchers at a time were able to chalk up good views. Still, most people had seen them well by day’s end. Grey Shrike-thrushes gave their beautiful single winter calls and Grey Butcherbirds were finally seen as well as heard. The south-western wetlands are undergoing “rectification works” and new plantings are covered with nets so that no birds are currently using that area. Five years should see an improvement. The lake supports lots of fishers, the darters, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants and humans on the banks and occasionally in boats. It wasn’t all waterbirds. As well as the lorikeets mentioned above there were Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Little Corellas, Crimson (adult and immature) Rosellas, Eastern Rosellas and Australian King Parrots (male and female).

resting Australian Wood Ducks
Resting Australian Wood Ducks

After lunch we walked out to Bellbird Park where a pair of Black Swans paddled unconcerned by our presence while they cropped the pond plants. Walking back added Eastern Spinebill, then White-faced Herons and finally a Laughing Kookaburra to our list which numbered 45 species at the end of the walk. Very creditable birding for a cold mid-July day. We thanked Jane most enthusiastically for all her preparations and leading.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Merri Creek

30 March 2016
Photographs by Marilyn Ellis (BirdLife Member)

Trucks and occasional drizzle challenged the drivers as 28 people assembled for the walk. The rain never really materialised as Elsmaree Baxter led us near the site of the former Pentridge prison (now a residential development). Initial expectations were low as a couple of hundred feral pigeons and a crowd of Silver Gulls filled the ground by the car park. Clearly people were ignoring the signs exhorting them not to feed birds. Things improved as we watched and recorded Pacific Black and Australian Wood Ducks, Chestnut Teal and a lone Hardhead. Other waterbirds included Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants.

Little Pied Cormorant - Marilyn Ellis
Little Pied Cormorant

Then on the weir we found a female Australasian Darter not far from a Black Swan on a nest which had incorporated lots of plastic litter.

Female Australasian Darter
Australasian Darter (female)

The swan was tagged and later we watched at least one untagged swan (the mate?) grazing on the clipped grass beside the creek.

Banded Black Swan (female) on nest of litter - Marilyn Ellis
Banded Black Swan (female) on nest of litter

The usual triumvirate of Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen and Eurasian Coot were common and at least one individual each of Australasian and Hoary–headed Grebe was diving near the banks.

Dusky Moorhen - Marilyn Ellis
Dusky Moorhen

Today registered no egrets but both Australian White and Straw-necked Ibis were present and at least one White-faced Heron kept a wary eye on our group.

Australian White Ibis - Marilyn Ellis
Australian White Ibis

Walking on added bush birds to the list of waterbirds. Red Wattlebirds were common and Welcome Swallows dipped over the lake surface and soared above the canopy. White-plumed Honeyeaters were the most common of the smaller honeyeaters but later sightings added Eastern Spinebill, New Holland Honeyeater and, unwantedly, Noisy Miner.

Musk Lorikeet - Marilyn Ellis
Musk Lorikeet

Parrots were dominated by Rainbow Lorikeets, with a few Little Corellas, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Musk Lorikeets and Red-rumped Parrots.

Male Red-rumped Parrot - Marilyn Ellis
Red-rumped Parrot (male)

Some flowering eucalypts lined the nearby streets and the parrots and miners foraged in them enthusiastically. Further along the track we encountered a “purple patch” where a mixed feeding flock of Silvereyes, Brown Thornbills, Grey Fantails and Spotted Pardalotes kept everyone on their toes. A single female Golden Whistler proved elusive for many.

Female Golden Whistler - Marilyn Ellis
Golden Whistler

Turning back for lunch was a relief as a seat looked like a very good idea. An interim birdcall brought the species total first to 48 and then to 50 with a couple of late additions. Hmm, what would we see in the post-lunch walk? Not many more as it turned out but it was quality, not quantity when three Tawny Frogmouths were detected in a eucalypt.

two Tawny Frogmouths - Marilyn Ellis
Two Tawny Frogmouths

The final bird list totalled 53 species. There were visitors among us and we hope that today will have whetted the appetites of those from Melbourne for bird watching. Certainly we all thanked Elsmaree whole-heartedly for introducing us to a part of Melbourne few of us suspected existed.

Tawny Frogmouth - Marilyn Ellis
Tawny Frogmouth

 

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne Weekdays Outings

Weekdays outing to Reef Island

2 March 2016
Reef Island beyond the swans
Reef Island beyond the swans. Photograph by Diane Tweeddale

The forecast of a day of 30o did not deter 23 bird watchers from meeting. Our leader was Bill Ramsay whose timing ensured that a falling tide allowed us to walk out along the causeway to the island almost dry shod. The car park sounded with calls of wattlebird and raven while Black Swans paddled by in small groups, apparently unfazed by the early morning salt water exercising of horses from the near horse farms. The beach north of the car park was noteworthy for the crowd of about 100 Masked Lapwings which vastly outnumbered the few Silver Gulls.

The beach section of the walk to Reef Island
The beach section of the walk to Reef Island. Photograph by Margaret Bosworth

We concentrated on the beach but the adjacent heathy grassland sounded occasionally to calls of Superb Fairy-wren, Australian Raven and Striated Fieldwren. A young Black-shouldered Kite perched distantly on a dead tree and a male and female White-fronted Chat foraged at the upper end of the beach. Walking was variable and more challenging when we reached the rockier sections. The vegetation was interesting with sea grass draping the lower sections of the mangroves and salt bushes. Near the causeway Black Swans congregated, at least 100 of them in the shallows. Distant views of a pair of Australian Pied Oystercatchers and a solitary Eastern Curlew took some work.

Heading out along the causeway - Bosworth
Heading out along the causeway. Photograph by Margaret Bosworth

As we reached promising areas we added Little Pied, Little Black and Pied Cormorants with list highlights of Great Egret, Royal Spoonbill and Pacific Gull. Then we reached areas of shallow ponds and waders. Scopes up again! Double-banded Plover, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Red-necked Stint came first and then Red-capped Plover and Curlew Sandpiper were added later.

Pacific Gull
Pacific Gull. Photograph by Margaret Bosworth

Much discussion occurred over the identification of a godwit but eventually the bird changed position and a confident call of ‘Bar-tailed Godwit’ rang out. Out to the end where we were delighted by a flock of about 20 Pacific Golden Plovers (a few in traces of breeding plumage) and about 20 Ruddy Turnstones with a solitary Grey-tailed Tattler perched on a rock at water’s edge.

Lunchbreak
Lunchbreak. Photograph by Diane Tweeddale

Lunch seated on driftwood or seagrass drifts was a welcome relaxation and then the party divided into the northern ‘rockhoppers’ and the southern ‘gentle walkers’. The former did not add more species but the ‘gentlefolks’ succeeded in locating a previously elusive Red-capped Plover definitively. Not an addition to the group list but personally satisfying to those who’d missed it before. A welcome cool breeze rose about 1pm and fanned hot brows on the return walk. Back at the cars a few departed but most stayed on for bird call where a gratifying total of 45 species was recorded. Not only the total but the composition was much appreciated and we thanked Bill for his work and preparation which went into this successful day.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne Weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

16 February 2016
Azolla and floating island
Azolla and floating island

Sporadic rain did not deter 18 people assembling near Gate H. Newcomers joined long-term members being led by David Plant as Bell Miners called in the surrounding trees. Early arrivals were met by a young Willie Wagtail confidently foraging nearby. The water levels in all lakes had plummeted since the rains stopped over the previous six weeks or more. The gardens do not receive tap water but are wholly watered by purified road run-off. No run-off, no water. When the rain does fall, the surrounding gutters flow into a series of ponds where pollutants are removed or sequestered by vegetation, often on floating islands. Partially cleaned water is then pumped up to Guilfoyle’s ‘Volcano’ where the final purification proceeds (via more floating islands of vegetation) before it is gravity-fed down to the garden beds where it is distributed where needed by means of a computer-controlled system.

Floating islands on Guilfoyle's Floating islands on Guilfoyle's "Volcano"
Floating islands on Guilfoyle’s ‘Volcano’

Today the lack of recent rain meant that lake levels were about a meter below normal and birds were walking on mud rather than paddling on water. Another problem is the proliferation of Azolla, a water plant whose dense surface growth blocks all light from deeper-growing vegetation.

Floating island and Azolla
Floating island and Azolla

Still, the gardens hosted numerous Silver Gulls, Pacific Black Ducks, Eurasian Coots and Purple Swamphens. There were fewer Dusky Moorhens, which included several well-grown young, and one male Chestnut Teal foraged close to a stripy youngster. Each of the three Black Swans seen was banded on the neck for identification during the ongoing research on breeding patterns. David mentioned that a population of foxes lived among the rockery and had effectively eliminated cats from the gardens, resulting in much less overall predation on the garden wildlife. Several original trees were pointed out, among them a Melaleuca liniariifolia and a swamp gum or ‘kanuka’. Cushiony green lawns are planted with kikuyu which needs no water and resists the wear of heavy traffic.

Azolla
Azolla and a couple of Eurasian Coots and a Dusky Moorhen

Only a couple of other individual waterbirds were recorded – Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants, a Hardhead seen by only a few and a pair of Grey Teal seen by all. A highlight was at least one Nankeen Night-Heron initially in flight then later by a lake. Bush birds were not numerous. White-browed Scrubwrens and Brown Thornbills were heard, Red and Little Wattlebirds were occasionally seen and many had a fleeting glimpse of an Eastern Spinebill. Little Ravens and Australian Magpies called and a Magpie-lark was initially heard before being seen. A still slightly fuzzy young magpie beside an adult elicited ‘Aaww’ all round.

Some of the group
Some of the group

The final bird count was 33 species, continuing a trend of loss of the garden’s birds. David had shared with us his enthusiasm and encyclopaedic knowledge of the garden’s history and treasures and we thanked him wholeheartedly.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne Weekdays Outings; all photographs by Diane Tweeddale

Beginners Outing to Point Cook Coastal Reserve

23rd January 2016

Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers
Species Count: 46

Pleasantly cool conditions enhanced the enjoyment of the 49 participants on the January excursion to Point Cook. Whilst members were still arriving a dozen Brown Quail were seen foraging nearby, where they obligingly stayed until everyone had seen them. Many photos of these usually secretive birds were taken.

image1
Left: Brown Quail; photo by Merrilyn Serong. Right: Pacific Gull and Little Pied Cormorants; photo by Kathy Zonnevylle

The cars were then moved to the Cheetham Wetlands car park to facilitate access to the jetty and Point Cook. Sadly, the homestead area was closed and off limits. A Singing Honeyeater and a male Rufous Whistler were seen along the public track to the shore. Several Little Pied Cormorants and a lone Pied Cormorant were perched on the jetty and were later joined by a pair of Pacific Gulls. Numerous Black Swans, Chestnut and Grey Teal were on the water and two Common Greenshanks were discovered feeding in the shallows close to shore.

image2
Left: Black Swans; photo by Merrilyn Serong. Right: Common Greenshank; photo by Kathy Zonnevylle

The group then walked slowly along the beach towards Point Cook where three Common Terns and several Crested Terns were amongst the birds perched on rocks soon to be submerged by the incoming tide. Surprisingly, no small waders were seen.

image3
Left: Common Tern. Right: Crested Tern. Photos by Kathy Zonnevylle

The whole area was very dry with no water in Spectacle Lake and very little in the RAAF Lake, so the group stopped at the small wetlands by the new housing estate, which had been added to the itinerary for the first time last year. Purple Swamphens, Dusky Moorhens and Pacific Black Ducks were some of the species seen there.

Lunch was taken at the Beach Picnic Area and was followed by a short walk to the shore and around the heathland. A blue Budgerigar was found perched in a low bush near the beach – a colourful bird, though certainly an aviary escapee. There were good views of a Brown Falcon and Yellow-rumped Thornbills on the heath near the car park.

The RAAF Lake was the final location for the day and, on the way there, several members saw a young Wedge-tailed Eagle gliding low overhead. Sadly no birds were seen on the Lake or its shoreline. A total of 46 species were recorded for the day – a creditable total given the dry conditions.

See the bird list for the outing: BM Jan 2016 Bird List Point Cook