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.
The group numbered 16 when we assembled by the information centre on Tuesday at 13.00 in calm sunny weather, perfect for birdwatching.
Our leaders were Sally and Derek Whitehead, keen birders who live on the island. They were very familiar with the Cape Barren Goose population but those visiting from the Melbourne branch were very interested to see the recovery of this once-threatened species. Almost to plague proportions according to some disgruntled land owners.
The geese were quiet but that cannot be said of the numerous Masked Lapwings. These noisy neighbours appreciate the mowed grasses and clearly you were not an islander if your block didn’t boast a pair, preferably breeding. Meanwhile the sky was filled with skeins and small groups of Ibis, mainly Straw-necked though there were a few Australian White.
Our first location was the Newhaven jetty where both Silver Gulls and Pacific Gulls were observed, the latter mostly immatures in their mottled brown plumage and looking somewhat scruffy.
The area also hosted Black Swans and Australian Pelicans while cormorants included Little Pied, Pied and Little Black.
Out to sea an Australian Gannet was briefly viewed and then confirmed as it plunged after fish. Around the houses ringing the jetty area we also noted Welcome Swallows, Galahs, Australian Magpies and Wattlebirds, Red and Little.
Then it was across to Fisher’s Wetlands, Newhaven, where there were ducks, Chestnut Teal, Australian Wood Ducks, Australasian Shovelers and Australian Shelducks.
Both Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes were present while Black-winged Stilts foraged on the far side of the water.
A Royal Spoonbill shared a roosting islet with swans and pelicans and a Whiskered Tern fluttered and dipped near them. From the bush we could hear a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo calling while a Swamp Harrier and then a Brown Falcon started our raptor count for the visit.
The birding is usually excellent at Fisher’s Wetland and today was no exception. The bush was home to Yellow-rumped and Brown Thornbills plus White-eared Honeyeaters and Grey Fantails.
On checking Rhyll inlet from the cliff top (scopes are recommended for this location) we were able to include several new species. The sand spit hosted Bar-tailed Godwits and Australian Pied Oystercatchers and a Caspian Tern flew past while the highlight here was Whimbrels on the rocks at the cliff base.
We were kept so busy observing and recording that we decided to drive over to the Shearwater estate and complete the day with a bird call there rather than visit the Rhyll yacht club as originally planned.
The yacht club might have similar results to the Newhaven jetty area while the estate contains central wetlands for water management and is well worth a visit. Yes, there were Little Grassbirds calling and many watchers managed to see an Australian Reed-Warbler as it foraged along the reed base. Highlights here were Fairy Martins collecting mud for nests under a culvert and a pair of Superb Fairy-wrens glowing brilliantly in the late afternoon light as they perched on the reeds.
We called the list and were gratified to number 68 species for the afternoon. Thanks to Sally and Derek.
Next morning we assembled at 08.30 without two of our number who were only available for the Tuesday. The first stop was the Oswin Roberts Reserve on Harbison Rd, Rhyll, another excellent birding location.
We didn’t need to leave the car park to record Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets, Laughing Kookaburra, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Eastern Rosella and Fairy Martin.
Walking around the short circuit by the car park we had the good fortune to locate and then actually see a calling Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, to watch brilliantly coloured Striated Pardalotes and to encounter a couple of feeding Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos.
Fan-tailed Cuckoo proved challenging to locate but most of us were finally able to view the birds. A fortunate group actually observed not one but three Fantail Cuckoos in the same binocular view.
Along the track we encountered a couple of Swamp Wallabies while checking the understorey. Then it was time to drive to the Nobbies for seabirds. Here the raptor count increased as we recorded Peregrine Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel and Whistling Kite.
Many smiles resulted from the glimpses of Little Penguins in their nesting boxes on the side of the hillside as we traversed the board walk. Crowds of tourists and families were taking advantage of the school holidays and beautiful weather. The calm settled conditions for the previous couple of days were not likely to have driven any albatrosses inshore so we were not surprised when none were seen.
It was not a far drive to Swan Lake from the Nobbies and most of us were soon smiling as pairs of Black Swans led their fluffy grey cygnets and a pair of Chestnut Teal boasted seven ducklings.
There were raptors, Swamp Harriers and Whistling Kites, as we walked the board walk and some of us wondered how many cygnets, ducklings and goslings would make it to adulthood. We decided to have the bird call here and made ourselves comfortable but the usual “bird call calls” rang out with White-browed Scrubwren and Silvereye joining the list at the last minute. The morning’s list totalled 66 species and the cumulative total for the two days was 90 species. It goes almost without saying that we thanked both Sally and Derek whole-heartedly for all their preparation which had gone into such a successful session.