The alarm clock went off to the sound of heavy rain on the roof and that meant the weather bureau was right and birdwatching might not be the best occupation for the day. Unsurprisingly the drive from Melbourne needed your whole attention and it was probably this combination which kept attendance down to four people. Sue Brabender led us and most ably as she frequently birds The Briars and had worked there for some years.
The weather sent a large mixed flock of Australian Wood Ducks, Pacific Black Ducks and Purple Swamphens onto the grass near the car park entrance. The bird list had started early.
These species were joined by Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Noisy Miners, Eastern Rosellas, Australian Magpies and Crested Pigeons in and around the car park. The highlight here was a Buff-banded Rail in the grounds of the café. Skittish but briefly visible.
Also appreciated was a break in approaching dark clouds and accompanying rain. We set off to the Boonoorong bird hide, pausing on the way to find and admire two Tawny Frogmouths cuddled together in a tree fork.
At the hide we added Australasian Grebe, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants.
Superb Fairy-wrens were noted in the closer reed bed but there were few small birds, probably because a Swamp Harrier was quartering the area. A Grey Teal was noted at our stop at the Chechingurk hide and then we concentrated on woodland birds as we followed the Woodland Walk track.
Cute companions throughout the walk were many Black (Swamp) Wallabies and a few Eastern Grey Kangaroos. Several Grey Shrike-thrushes were noted though there was little calling. Contrast in the greyness meant mostly flying silhouettes were seen and this made the distinction between Spotted and Striated Pardalotes difficult in the absence of calls.
This also applied to a couple of thornbills foraging silently low in a medium tree so there was neither Brown nor Striated Thornbill on our final list though subsequent photo development showed Brown Thornbill was more likely. As the weather had been favourable for the whole time we decided to finish with bird call.
The final list numbered 32 species which was very pleasing in the conditions and we warmly thanked Sue for sharing with us her considerable knowledge of the area.
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.
The Eltham Plant Expo was held on 14 and 15 September at the Eltham Community Centre. Nearly 700 paying adults attended on the Saturday as well as helpers and children. The Committee was delighted. Sunday was quieter with approximately 200 – 300 attending. My thanks to Anthea Fleming, Daphne Hards and Scot Sharman who helped me on Saturday and Bernie Stock and Helen who helped Ron and I set up on Friday and returned on Sunday to help me pack up.
On Friday 20 September, 13 U3A Hawthorn members, led by Pat Bingham, enjoyed the sunshine, but not the wind, on a walk around Norton’s Park, Wantirna, and part of Gardiner’s Creek in Shepherd’s Bush. There were many Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Rainbow Lorikeets and even Eastern Rosellas noisily disputing nesting hollows in the big old Manna Gums along the Creek. A group of eight Cattle Egret flew over and a small flock of Striated Thornbills were busily feeding in the wattles. In all, 27 species were listed, some by sight, others by sound. Thank you Pat for leading the walk and Jim Sharpe for your photograph of an Eastern Rosella.
The Birds in Schools Program is progressing very well and has had some well-deserved publicity. Thanks Sally Heeps and Bill Ramsay for their assistance.
Breakfast with the Birds at Banyule is on Sunday 27 October. I have a list of people available on that day but I may need more. This year people are being charged $5 a head or $10 for a family of 4 to attend.
Despite a forecast for wet weather, 22 members attended the Briars outing and were fortunate to enjoy fine and sunny conditions. Noisy Miners were the dominant species in the carpark, interrupted by several Rainbow Lorikeets and Eastern Rosellas flying overhead.
This set the tone for the day with all three species being seen many times during the walk.
The effect of the prolonged dry spell was immediately apparent as we entered the wetland area. There was very little water in the ponds; no ducks, swans or cormorants and very few small bush-birds. Purple Swamphens, a Grey Shrike-thrush and a Laughing Kookaburra were observed from the boardwalk.
Eurasian Coots could be seen from the Chechingurk Hide, as could two Black-fronted Dotterels foraging in the mud at the water’s edge.
A Willie Wagtail and some Superb Fairy-wrens were also seen from the hide. Taking the Kur-Bur- Rer track into the Eucalypt-dominated woodland area, it was disappointing that only two more honeyeater species were added to the ever present Noisy Miners, namely Red Wattlebirds and White-eared Honeyeaters.
Later, Grey Butcherbirds were heard and seen and eventually a “hotspot” was reached where good views of a Grey Fantail, an Eastern Yellow Robin and a pair of Golden Whistlers were enjoyed. Turning eastwards near the fence line a Brown Goshawk flew overhead, but otherwise there was little bird activity.
When nearly back at the Visitor Centre another mixed feeding flock was seen, this time comprised of an Eastern Yellow Robin, a Grey Shrike-thrush, several Spotted Pardalotes and more Superb Fairy-wrens.
Lunch was eaten near the carpark overlooking the vineyard, above which a Black-shouldered Kite was seen hovering before it perched in a nearby dead tree. Several plump Crested Pigeons were feeding on the grass near the members and a pair of Masked Plovers were seen further uphill.
After lunch a short walk was taken towards the Homestead where a number of Eastern Rosellas were seen, some perched and others feeding on the ground. Their plumage looked beautiful with the sun shining on it. Two ducks, one a Chestnut Teal and the other an Australian Wood Duck, surprised us by flying overhead before landing on a small pond near the Shire Nursery. The usual noisy throng of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, much reduced in number, was present near the Homestead. A flock of Welcome Swallows, the first and only sighting for the day, was seen in a valley some distance away.
The total species recorded was a modest 34 which was well down on counts at this site in previous years. It was thought that the very dry weather had affected not only the wetland environment but had reduced the number of insects needed to sustain small birds. Despite this, most of the members felt they had enjoyed their time in this lovely park and vowed to return when there had been some good rains.
Many thanks to Eleanor Dilley who took all the photographs appearing in this month’s Report.
Birding started very well when a flight of seven Gang-gang Cockatoos flew over the car park making their “creaky gate” call. At walk’s start we were 32 people including at least six new comers to birding.
We were led by John Bosworth, ably assisted by Margaret Bosworth. The weather was favourable, mild and cloudy, but against this were the lighting conditions which favoured silhouettes rather than clear views of markings. Soon we had tired of the dominant Noisy Miners and had noted the Australian Magpies and occasional Grey Butcherbird on the power lines. Long-billed Corellas perching on the overhead pylons and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos screeching as they flew across were registered. Australian King-Parrots were a much-appreciated addition to the early bird list which was dominated by Rainbow Lorikeets though Galahs, a few Eastern Rosellas and even fewer Musk Lorikeets challenged the watchers.
Common Mynas were an unwelcome addition to the growing list but alarm calls revealed a Brown Goshawk, the only raptor recorded today. Calls from a Spotted Pardalote were heard by several but no sightings happened today, in contrast to the Eastern Spinebill seen by a few. With the miners this was the only honeyeater beside Red Wattlebird. Down by the rapids we added Eurasian Coot and Pacific Black Duck but no other species, before returning via a bush track to the cars and lunch.
Common Bronzewing appeared on many people’s lists in this area and several at the rear of the walkers heard the mournful calls of a small flock of White-winged Choughs. Some of the group had to depart at lunchtime but 20 remained to walk beneath the road bridge and head through the bush section. Earlier we had noted Eastern Grey Kangaroos in the park, leaving lots of scat on the grassy areas, and there was occasional wombat scat and plenty from European Rabbits but the mammal highlight was a difficult-to-see Koala in a tall eucalypt. Most eventually saw some of the “fur blob”.
Out to the bridge in the afternoon we added Laughing Kookaburra, White-faced Heron and then Hoary-headed Grebe to the growing bird list. The last of these foraged and dived by the bridge giving rewarding views of its behaviour.
Then we went back to the cars to total the species recorded. Thirty-six species were listed amid many thanks to John for his preparation. We departed with smiles all round.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 47
Eighteen members gathered in damp overcast conditions at Pound bend carpark where a noisy gathering of Rainbow Lorikeets and Sulphur Crested Cockatoos were proclaiming their presence.
Walking upstream along the river track a pair of Sacred Kingfishers perched in dead trees on the opposite bank, while several small bushbirds, including Eastern Yellow Robins and White-browed Scrubwrens, were foraging beside the track.
The poor light, due to the drizzly weather, made it challenging to identify small birds high up in the canopy.
A few waterbirds were seen on the river including Pacific Black Duck and Dusky Moorhen while a juvenile White-faced Heron was seen perched in the usual nesting tree.
A large mob of Eastern Grey Kangaroos were relaxing on the paddock at the far end of the track and as the members started to walk up the hill a family group of four Tawny Frogmouths was spotted in a nearby tree (see photo above).
A sad sight was that of a young, only partially fledged, Eastern Rosella on the muddy track. A person from the Wildlife Rescue who was telephoned assured us this was normal behaviour as rosellas leave the nest before they can fly and have to teach themselves. Sadly this one looked very frail and his chance of survival did not look good.
At the top of the hill an Olive-backed Oriole called lustily from a nearby tree while a Common Bronzewing and a group of White-winged Choughs were feeding on a grassy paddock.
Making our way back to the river track, a pair of Spotted Pardalotes was soon seen repeatedly flying in and out of a hole in the bank beneath a foot bridge. They were so immersed in their activity that they ignored the observers and close up (rear) views of these beautiful little birds were obtained.
The weather improved around lunchtime and members had to closely guard their sandwiches from some very enterprising Australian Magpies! A short walk was then taken to look at the famous tunnel which was in full spate after the recent rains. A total of 42 species were recorded for Pound Bend.
Eight members then opted to drive to the 100 Acres Reserve in Park Orchards for a second short walk and were well rewarded. Near the Green Dam an adult Tawny Frogmouth was on a nest with two very small fluffy chicks and nearby a young Grey Butcherbird was seen near its nesting tree.
Down near the Tadpole Dam there was much bird activity. No doubt the sunshine had brought out some insects for them to eat. A Satin Flycatcher was heard and this was located near the Low Track and soon afterwards a group of Varied Sitellas were seen feeding on the bark of a tree. Both of these species were ‘lifers’ for most of the beginners. A family group of Eastern Spinebills and a close up view of an Eastern Yellow Robin concluded an excellent session with 27 species recorded in less than an hour, 5 of these being different to those at Pound Bend, giving a combined total of 47 for the day.
For early arrivals birding started promptly as there was a large flock of ducks, Australian Woods plus a few Pacific Blacks, beside the entrance road. Not fazed by vehicles they waddled suicidally in front of cars and drivers were required to stop and wait for “the bird problem” to resolve itself.
The birding continued in the car park where the early arrivals listed cockatoos and parrots as dominant.
A large mob of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos plus some Little Corellas arrived then a lone Long-billed Corella foraged near a Straw-necked Ibis across from the playground while flying around were Galahs, Rainbow Lorikeets, Eastern and Crimson Rosellas and Australian King-Parrots.
Spotted Pardalotes called and our first Common Bronzewings were sighted here. Australian Magpies seemed to be aggressively “sorting out” their young and Noisy Miners, as always, attempted to drive off other species.
John Bosworth led the walk and the attendance of 25 people included members from other branches and visitors. We set off to the first pond south-east of the car park where our waterbird list grew with the addition of Chestnut and Grey Teal as well as Eurasian Coot, that cosmopolitan species.
Continuing on our circular course past the larger pond, where most saw Golden-headed Cisticola, we walked under Stud Road via the pedestrian underpass. The hope here was to proceed to the area where adjacent paddocks come close to the reserve and scan the fence line for robins. No robins were observed but a low-flying Australian Pelican was noted.
We returned along the western edge of the park, again checking out the potential of the larger lake’s edges. Lunch was starting to look very good as we headed back to the cars and the morning’s bird call numbered 48 species at first count, a very pleasing result.
Only two raptors had been recorded – a Little Eagle and a Brown Goshawk – both soaring above the tree tops. Some had to depart after lunch but 16 drove to the bush at the Police Paddocks Reserve, which was only a very short distance as the raven flies from our morning walk but took some time to reach by road.
Here the habitat differed from the morning and among the denser trees we added a female Golden Whistler, White-eared Honeyeater and good sightings of Brown Thornbill, Grey Shrike-thrush and Eastern Spinebill.
At walk’s end the species list totalled 53, and all voted it a great day’s birding as we thanked John for his care and preparation.
It was a fine but cool morning as 42 members set off to walk around Jells Park Lake. A lone Nankeen Night-Heron was sighted through the bushes and on closer investigation this proved to be a group of four adults and one juvenile. An early distant view of a single Tawny Frogmouth was later followed by two more separate views of pairs of them, making a total of five individuals for the day.
There was a great deal of activity around the lake with dozens of Australian White Ibis nesting on the islands and on the edges of reed beds, often on communal rafts which they had constructed from dead twigs. Australasian Darters, Great and Little Pied Cormorants were also nesting, but in much smaller numbers. Interestingly, their nests were constructed from live twigs, complete with leaves.
Freckled, Blue-billed and Pink-eared Ducks were amongst the less common species on the lake.
A Great Egret was spotted on a small pond to the left of the track, fishing amongst dense red weed, apparently oblivious to the activities of the nearby Purple Swamphens.
Parrot species were plentiful, with Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Rainbow Lorikeets and Eastern Rosellas being the most noticeable as they jostled for nest hollows.
After completing the lake circuit a short walk was taken along the track towards Norton Park. Two Cattle Egrets could be seen among livestock in the distance and a Nankeen Kestrel was seen hovering and diving, then perched in a far-off dead tree.
This was the only raptor seen during the day. Noisy Miners were dominant amongst the smaller bush birds and it was a challenge to find other species. A friendly Grey Butcherbird was an exception.
After lunch the members drove to Carpark 4 where profusely flowering Ironbarks were attracting birds, most surprisingly including a pair of Princess Parrots (presumably aviary escapees).
A final short circuit walk was taken where good views of Australian King-Parrots and Musk Lorikeets were the highlights.
A total of 64 species was recorded for the day – an excellent result for a suburban park in August.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 50
Musk Lorikeets and Noisy Miners were plentiful near the car park as 38 members arrived in perfect weather conditions at Yan Yean Reservoir. From the top of the dam wall a scope was useful in identifying a pair of Australasian Darters perched on a log, in typical wing-drying pose, on a distant shore. Hardheads and Eurasian Coots were numerous, but were also on the opposite side of the reservoir!
The group then drove in convoy to the car park adjacent to the main wetland area. Bird life was plentiful, with Little Grassbirds watched for several minutes whilst an adult fed its chick in the shadows at the water’s edge. Superb Fairy-wrens and White-browed Scrubwrens were also foraging in the dense undergrowth. On entering the fenced area across the road, Eastern Rosellas and Red-rumped Parrots were perched in trees, and on the first pond there were several immature Australasian Grebes, still showing some baby streaks in their heads.
On the second pond were several Black-winged Stilts, both adult and juvenile. On the third pond the highlight was a Common Sandpiper seen feeding at the water’s edge and bobbing its tail in its typical manner.
Leaving the fenced area and crossing back over the road, a pair of Australasian Shovelers and several other species were observed. Suddenly, a flock of Nankeen Night-Herons, mainly juveniles, flew up from a hidden roost and circled, for some time, high above us.
Lunch was eaten up near the old keeper’s cottage where members enjoyed the beautiful view across the reservoir to the distant hills. A very old Canary Island Pine was the roost for another flock of Nankeen Night-Herons, mostly adults, and these were closely observed by members.
Walking down the hill to the boundary fence revealed two Great Crested Grebes and a male Musk Duck, repeatedly diving and staying submerged for several minutes, which provided a challenge for beginners to try to find them again.
A final short walk was taken at the opposite end of the park, but no additional species were seen. The day’s total remained at 50, recorded at the previous locations. It was a very successful day, with some unusual sightings in a most attractive setting, in ideal weather conditions.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 50
All photographs by Eleanor Dilley
Forty-six members set off from the Eastern Carpark in fine weather conditions to begin the walk around the lake. After entering the wildlife enclosure a few small birds were seen including Striated Pardalotes and Superb Fairy-wrens.
Grey Butcherbirds and Laughing Kookaburras were plentiful but Noisy Miners were very much the most numerous species.
At the lake there were only a few ducks but these included a Freckled Duck, an Australasian Shoveler and Chestnut and Grey Teals.
Of great interest were the birds nesting on a small treed island where there was much activity. Many Australian White Ibis were nesting at ground level, while higher up in the bare trees several pairs of Little Pied Cormorants, Great Cormorants and Australian Darters tended their nests. Sticks were still being brought in to build some nests, but many birds were clearly incubating eggs.
An Eastern Great Egret looked dazzling in its beautiful white breeding plumage contrasting with a few dirty-looking Ibis perched on the same log. On completing the lake circuit a short return walk was taken along the track towards Norton Park and a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike and White-faced Heron were added to the morning tally.
Lunch was taken near the carpark, after which about half the group drove to the top of the hill where a second shorter walk was taken.
Highlights of this included a well camouflaged Tawny Frogmouth and great views of Musk Lorikeets in the flowering Ironbark trees.
Those at the rear of the group were fortunate to witness a Peregrine Falcon flying rapidly overhead – the only raptor spotted during the day. Eight Parrot species added a wonderful range of colours to the sightings, making up for the near zero contribution from the few Honeyeaters that were around.
A total of 50 species were recorded on a most interesting and enjoyable excursion.