Skies were blue but a strengthening wind promised challenges in detecting birds. Still the weather was warm as we assembled under the leadership of Rob Grosvenor. Once all had arrived there were 22 in the group and all were delighted by the Tree Martins circling overhead and plunging down among the trees where several were observed feeding young in nests located in tree holes. Spotted Pardalotes called occasionally while Striated Pardalotes were calling and plunging inside the tree hollows around the car park. We watched as they dived into diminutive spaces and then exited very swiftly. They had reason for caution as we observed a Little Raven removing a Noisy Miner nestling despite the adult birds’ attempts to divert it. Other ravens had clearly found a food source somewhere as numbers flew past carrying something bright yellow-orange in their bills. We wondered – loquats, takeaway chips, orange? None was close enough to identify.
An interesting brief sighting near the car park area was a Varied Sittella foraging down one of the tree trunks. Both Horsefield’s and Shining Bronze-Cuckoos were heard and the latter was seen though that took some effort. The other seen cuckoo was a rufous morph of the Pallid Cuckoo which was rather quieter. The wetland was dry and the creek was reduced to a couple of very small muddy puddles in this section so waterbirds were restricted to an overflying Pacific Black Duck and a solitary White-faced Heron. Parrots were numerous – screeching Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, quieter Little Corellas, and pairs of Rainbow Lorikeets, Crimson and Eastern Rosellas and Red-rumped Parrots flew past while Galahs were heard and over at the Homestead we found Long-billed Corellas perched in a tall pine tree. The glossy-coated retired racing legends were duly admired as we walked past their paddocks.
Cleared ground was favoured by Eastern Grey Kangaroos and we saw a couple of mobs with at least 20 individuals. House Sparrows occurred near the homestead buildings plus some in the picnic area by our cars. Raptors were restricted to a Peregrine Falcon in the afternoon and in the morning a Brown Falcon and a pair of Brown Goshawks which caused many alarm calls. The falcon appeared to successfully dominate the goshawks. No robins were observed this day; Red-browed Finches were seen a couple of times; as for whistlers, there was a vocal Rufous Whistler beside the trail in the morning and a Grey Shrike-thrush in the homestead garden. The introduced species were also there – Common Starlings seemed to be having a successful breeding season around the car park, feeding young in the nests in the hollows, removing faecal sacs and trying to evade ravens which were clearly checking out the nests. Common Mynas and Blackbirds were also recorded and by walk’s end the bird list totalled 44 species, two for each participant, and we thanked Rob for his careful preparation which had reminded some of us how good this location was and had introduced others to the area for the first time.
After a week of wild winter weather a fine sunny day greeted the 30 attendees gathered at Somerton Road Picnic Area where Red-rumped Parrots, Rainbow Lorikeets and Crimson Rosellas were perched in the magnificent River Red Gums.
Taking the creek-side track, two Australian Wood Ducks were seen perched near the top of a large dead tree with lots of hollows. This was of particular interest to those unaware of their nesting habits.
Weebills and Crested Shrike-tits were among the less common species seen foraging in nearby eucalypts, whereas Superb Fairy-wrens were evident in large numbers throughout the day.
Walking up the hill towards Woodlands Homestead a Brown Falcon flew overhead and a large flock of Red-browed Finches was seen on the grass inside the gated area.
An ancient Peppercorn Tree beside the house was eagerly searched as, earlier in the day, one of the members had seen and photographed a male Mistletoebird feeding on its berries. Sadly, the bird had moved on and we had to make do with seeing the excellent photographs. A female Scarlet Robin and lots of Eastern Grey Kangaroos were seen by everyone as we walked back towards the car park.
After lunch most of the group stayed for a second walk beginning a short drive away, at the Aboriginal Cemetery car park. Near to the dam beside the old hospital more Scarlet Robins were seen, along with another Crested Shrike-tit and a pair of Golden Whistlers. A Wedge-tailed Eagle and a Whistling Kite circled high overhead. A short walk was then taken inside the Wildlife Enclosure and, thanks to the local knowledge of David and Dorothy Jenkins, resident Red-capped Robins were tracked down and eagerly photographed by those suitably equipped. Nearby a Flame Robin and a Varied Sittella were also spotted. Returning down the main track towards the car park there were further sightings of Scarlet and Flame Robins.
46 species were recorded in total and it was very gratifying to have located three species of red robins, though sadly they were far less abundant than in previous years.
The traffic was heavy, the weather was fine and 25 birders met at Braeside. Geoff Russell led a 5 km walk around the northern portion of the park and we were soon rewarded by encountering a ‘purple patch’ in the bush beside the paddocks buffering the industrial zone. At least 10 species were recorded here. The mixed feeding flock included White-browed Scrubwrens, Brown Thornbills, Red-browed Finches and Spotted Pardalotes. Superb Fairy-wrens and Grey Fantails were listed plus Grey Shrike-thrush while male and female Golden Whistlers came close. The paddock added Straw-necked Ibis, Masked Lapwing and Silver Gull with Rock Dove (or Feral Pigeon) while Australian Pelicans flew overhead. Quite a patch! Ditches were damp from recent rain and several frog species were calling. The inevitable rabbits were also present – one flushed near the ‘purple patch’. A few Cattle Egrets left the grazing cows while others stayed among the herd as the farmer’s ute approached.
By one of the wetlands four trilling birds rose and descended repeatedly, puzzling many until they were identified as Australian Pipits. Many of us had not previously heard their calls. The park is noted for its varied environments so we walked quietly through a reed bed searching for bitterns (a fortunate few up front briefly saw two Australasian Bitterns while the rest at the rear were content with Golden-headed Cisticolas). At one pond a Great Egret posed on the roof of a hide. The raptor list was started by a Swamp Harrier but expanded to eventually include Wedge-tailed and Little Eagle, Whistling Kite, Brown Goshawk and Brown Falcon. Most soared high or flew low and fast. Dead trees served as perches for many including Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Long-billed Corellas, Rainbow Lorikeets and Red-rumped Parrots. We hoped for robins near fences which are used as a lookout for these pouncing birds, and eventually we were rewarded with male and female Flame Robins. Soon we came to a larger lake and the number of waterbirds increased, though not the number of species. Eurasian Coots dominated one area with Pacific Black Ducks coming second. A few Chestnut and Grey Teal were present and a solo Hardhead was recorded by a few watchers.
On a smaller pond Dusky Moorhen completed the triumvirate of coot, moorhen and swamphen while an active Willie Wagtail entertained us as it swooped across the water surface. Some stragglers eventually caught up with the main group near the bird hide which had been disappointingly short of birds and then it was back to a well-deserved late lunch and an interim bird call for those who needed to leave early. We’d notched up 58 species by then and so we set off on the short afternoon walk hoping to pass 60 for the day. In this afternoon walk we added Common Bronzewing, Dusky Moorhen and Scarlet Robin with an interesting sighting of a Cockatiel. This was judged an aviary escapee as its plumage included considerable white feathers and, though it appeared to be foraging for seeds, it allowed humans to approach rather too closely for its own safety.
By day’s end we had 62 species (63 unofficially including the Cockatiel) and we thanked Geoff enthusiastically for his work in presenting this rewarding area.