The weather forecast was not really reassuring, predicting late showers for Melbourne. This might mean wet weather in the mountains around Healesville but at least winds were not emphasized. Alan and Hazel Veevers led and had spent considerable time and analysis to prepare a well-received outing.
My main worry was the ford on the track into Donnelly’s. My car is a small sedan and I worried that its clearance might not be enough if I slowed or stopped in the water. As it was I was one of the few who gratefully accepted lifts from drivers with a higher wheel base and spare seats. Most drivers came through without a murmur. I am just a wimp at bottom.
There were 20 at the outing and even the car park yielded sightings of Eastern Yellow Robin, Crimson Rosella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo.
A Sacred Kingfisher proved very hard to locate and Australian King-Parrots moved through very quickly except for a calm male which remained perched near the track until most of our group had walked by.
Another bird coping with our party was a female White-throated Treecreeper which stayed stationary on its tree trunk for so long we initially wondered if it might be ill – until we passed “it’s” tree during our return walk and saw that it had departed.
Birds heard without being seen included Fan-tailed Cuckoo and Spotted Pardalote. Only a few actually saw the Superb Fairy-wrens and Striated Pardalotes were also present while a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles briefly soared very high overhead.
Other elusive small birds were the White-browed Scrubwrens by the well-flowing aqueduct and a flock of Silvereyes briefly sighted as they foraged among dense bushes. It wasn’t totally birds. Plants included flowering spyridium as well as a small colony of hyacinth orchids.
At morning’s end we drove around to the Maroondah Reservoir Park where we lunched in a rotunda even though rain hadn’t arrived yet. We were checked out by 3 Australian White Ibis, living up to their reputation.
Careful watchfulness meant that no one’s lunch was in jeopardy. A short walk around the base of the dam wall added Corellas, several Little and a single Long-billed Corella plus a few Australian Magpies.
Bird call revealed we’d noted 39 species which made a satisfactory total. Into the cars just as the long-expected rain started driving across the car park and feeling very grateful to both Veevers for all their planning.
Twenty-three people started walking in misty showers of rain. These soon eased and patches of blue started appearing. Around the car park and near the picnic shelter of the “dragonfly” structure the dominant birds were, unsurprisingly, Noisy Miners and Australian Magpies keeping their attention on the possibility of picnic scraps.
A brief walk along the dragonfly’s tail allowed those who had not visited the park before to appreciate its size and layout and to turn binoculars towards the various lakes. The reed-fringed inlet of the main lake seemed only to host a Eurasian Coot and a Dusky Moorhen but as we crossed the small bridge we heard Australian Reed-Warblers calling and a couple were glimpsed by fortunate watchers.
Birds flying over had added Rainbow Lorikeet, Silver Gull and Little Raven to a list which included Magpie-lark, Galah, Red Wattlebird and Welcome Swallow.
Walking toward the lake we passed by a pair of Australian Wood Duck with 4 “teenaged” young, all well habituated to humans walking near. The walk along the western side of the main lake did not yield many new species though Superb Fairy-wren and Red-browed Firetail were much admired, especially the former with an active blue male and brown female. The high mournful whistles of Little Grassbird proved challenging for many to hear as we passed close to another reed bed. The large untidy nest of a Little Wattlebird was noted in a tree fork in the north-west of the park.
Birds were fewer on the southern side of the park though House Sparrow was added near the horse paddock of the harness club. A relaxed lunch was enjoyed after we returned to the “dragonfly” before we headed off to the western lakes.
This is usually a rewarding area and today did not disappoint. Swans were not seen but Hardhead and Grey and Chestnut Teal were added here. One highlight was the Latham’s Snipe which flushed briefly. An Australian Pelican flew over, very high, while a Nankeen Kestrel hovered far below it.
A Hoary-headed Grebe seemed to be alone but the shape of the small lakes and the vegetation around the edges meant counting birds was challenging. Many considered the highlight of the day was the pair of Freckled Ducks roosting quietly at the reeds’ edge.
Back to the car park and bird call where the total was 46 species, a very creditable total for a small created suburban site with a history as a sand quarry and the practical function as a water purification zone.
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.
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: 48
Umbrellas and raincoats were the order of the day for the 33 members attending the Lillydale Lake outing. On the grass beside the carpark were Galahs, Long-billed Corellas and Australian White Ibis foraging on the ground which had been softened by the previous night’s storms.
On the lake several Australasian Darters could be seen swimming and fishing, while on a nearby railing a lone Tree Martin was perched alongside a row of Welcome Swallows.
A Brown Goshawk was seen flying above the lake and this proved to be the only raptor for the day.
The members then set off towards the wetlands boardwalk where they encountered a large Eastern Water Dragon on the path. Unfortunately it took fright, dashing off on its rear legs and plunging into the water before the photographers had a chance to record this most unusual sighting. Few waterbirds could be seen from the boardwalk, though there were good views of an Australian Reed Warbler and Superb Fairy-wrens. Walking towards Hull Road Wetlands a Crimson Rosella and a Laughing Kookaburra provided good photo opportunities.
Beside the wetlands was a hot spot where there was a mixed feeding flock of White-eared and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Grey Fantails and Brown and Striated Thornbills. There were not many birds on these wetlands until a large flock of Australian Wood Ducks flew in. Walking back towards the lake Eastern Rosellas, Rainbow Lorikeets and a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike were seen.
Lunch was taken near the car park, by which time the rain had stopped and the sun had appeared. After this a short afternoon walk was taken across the wetland boardwalk again, then down to the lake track. There was a good view of a Little Pied Cormorant and back at the lake a number of the Darters were perched in an island tree.
Nearly all were females with their light coloured breasts, but then back in a small gully a beautiful dark male was seen drying his wings. An adult Purple Swamphen was also seen ushering her offspring away from the walking track.
Despite the less than optimal viewing conditions a total of 48 species was recorded for the day and members went home relieved to think that the long dry spell might finally be coming to an end.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 64
Leafless deciduous trees around the carpark by Le Page homestead enabled the assembled 28 members to have very good views of Striated Pardalotes and Yellow Thornbills, which are normally much harder to see when hiding in thick foliage.
Setting off along the Wonga Walk in bright sunshine with little wind it was good to see that the ponds near the homestead had been filled with water after several years of being almost empty.
Consequently, several wetland species were present including Australasian Grebe and Hardhead.
Both Pallid and Fan-tailed Cuckoos could be heard calling in the distance but were not visible. Following the track by the Plenty River it was great to see a variety of small birds, including Eastern Yellow Robins, Brown-headed and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters along with numerous Grey Fantails.
Two of the birds spotted flying over were White-necked Heron and Australian Pelican.
In the distance a Wedge-tailed Eagle could be seen being mobbed by Little Ravens, while in the other direction a pair of Brown Goshawks were being harassed by a Peregrine Falcon.
Also, announcing their presence vocally were Pied Currawongs, one of which perched nearby allowing it to be easily viewed.
At the far end of the track by the Plenty river a White-eared Honeyeater obligingly posed on the top of a dead stump while nearby a small flock of Dusky Woodswallows perched in high dead branches. After that it was up the track skirting below the scout camp, then pausing at a parrot hot spot where Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets, Eastern and Crimson Rosellas, Galahs and Long-billed Corellas were all found.
Lunch was eaten back near the homestead after which most of the members drove round to the Morang Wetlands where a reception committee of Eastern Grey Kangaroos awaited. At the pond below the Ridge Track a mixed flock of Fairy Martins and Welcome Swallows circled overhead.
A number of species including (pointy-headed) Freckled Ducks, Dusky Moorhens and Chestnut Teal were seen on the water. On gaining the higher track another Pallid Cuckoo was heard, and this time it was eventually traced to its perch in a tall tree.
Soon afterwards a Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo was seen and heard and there was a brief sighting of a female White-winged Triller. The previously known Wedge-tailed Eagle’s nest could still be seen down in the river gorge but it did not appear to be active so far this season.
On returning to the cars everyone agreed it had been an excellent day’s birding in perfect weather conditions with some unusual sightings amongst the 64 species recorded.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 52
It was a sunny morning with little wind as 46 members set off to walk around Jells Park Lake. Almost immediately Nankeen Night-Herons were seen in dense vegetation near the water’s edge.
Initially two birds were located, but closer inspection revealed two more. Nearby, a pair of Grey Butcherbirds were busily building a nest of small twigs.
Soon afterwards a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo caused much amusement, screeching loudly and repeatedly flashing its crest.
Rainbow Lorikeets were also seen displaying their magnificent multi-coloured feathers.
Throughout the park Noisy Miners were dominant, which probably explained why few other honeyeaters were seen. Close to the track two sightings of Tawny Frogmouths caused much interest; first a single one and then a pair. All three birds were well camouflaged, with one in particular adopting the classic pose that looks just like a broken branch jutting out from a fork in the tree.
There was much activity at the far end of the lake with scores of noisy Australian White Ibis nesting in huge island rookeries. They seemed to have been successful in pushing out the Cormorants and Darters which used to nest alongside them.
However, four Australasian Darters were seen drying their wings and there were brief sightings of Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants.
Some of the less common duck species were present on the water, with excellent views of Blue-billed and Pink-eared Ducks. Freckled Ducks were also present, but harder to see.
There was a flock of Red-browed Finches feeding in Casuarina trees and several Superb Fairy-wrens and Brown Thornbills in the lakeside vegetation. On the track heading back towards the car park, a few Eastern Rosellas, Galahs and Crested Pigeons were seen.
Most of the group stayed for lunch, taken after moving the cars to the upper car park where some Ironbark trees were just coming into flower. Having been asked to look out for Swift Parrots the group assiduously scanned all possible trees but saw none. Rainbow Lorikeets and Noisy Miners were the only species seen feeding from the early blossoms on the trees.
A short circuit walk around the top of the hill finished the day’s agenda, but no further species were added to the morning total of 52. Somewhat surprisingly, no raptors were seen despite the perfect weather conditions. Nevertheless, everyone seemed to enjoy the day, relishing the late winter sunshine.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 43
All photographs by Eleanor Dilley
Lots of Australian Wood Ducks on the grass beside the main drive greeted the Beginners as they arrived at the Briars on a bright sunny morning. At the Visitor Centre car park, Noisy Miners were the dominant species, although a mixture of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Little Corellas also announced their presence very loudly. A Brown Goshawk flying overhead provided an early highlight. As the usual track to the wetlands was closed for repairs, the group had to enter the Wildlife Enclosure from the other entrance and it was immediately evident how dry the bushland was. Ponds which normally are home to ducks and Dusky Moorhens were bone dry, though fortunately there was still a little water in Balcombe Creek.
Taking the Woodland track it was pleasing to see Eastern Yellow Robins, the first of several pairs seen throughout the morning. Birds were in short supply along the higher part of the track apart from Eastern Rosellas, Rainbow Lorikeets and a pair of canoodling Galahs. From the lookout it could be seen that the water level was very low in the main lagoon and hence was not attracting many birds.
However, from the track towards the hide there were excellent views of a Swamp Harrier flying low overhead, followed by more distant views of a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles. Three species of honeyeater were seen from the boardwalk section; Yellow-faced, White-eared and New Holland. From the hide it was disappointing that the only birds seen were a Chestnut Teal and a White-faced Heron, no doubt a result of the low water levels.
On returning to the lookout a Nankeen Kestrel skimmed rapidly past and there were distant views of a pair of Black-fronted Dotterels. The group then returned via the Fire Track towards the Visitor Centre and near the creek saw a female Rufous Whistler which was a surprising sighting so late in the season. On leaving the Wildlife Enclosure most members chose to walk a short distance along the Balcombe Creek Track, hoping that the moist conditions would attract more small birds, but sadly this was not to be.
Lunch was taken in the picnic area where the Noisy Miners again made their presence felt and members had to keep tight hold of their sandwiches! A further walk was then taken up the hill towards the Homestead from which there were distant views of a pair of Nankeen Kestrels perched on fence posts. A pair of Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes flew low overhead while a White-faced Heron in a paddock allowed close views.
Walking back down the track to the car park two Whistling Kites were seen, bringing the raptor count to 5. A total of 43 species was recorded for the day which was very respectable given the dry conditions. Many of the members vowed to return when the wetlands are once again full of water.
Words by Robert Grosvenor; photographs by Eleanor Dilley
Despite the cold weather and the forecast rain, which fortunately did not eventuate, 39 enthusiastic birders met at Westerfolds Park for this outing.
There were at least five new members and a couple of visitors on their first outing.
Prior to starting Eastern Rosellas, Rainbow Lorikeets, Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, White Faced Herons and a lone Pied Currawong were all seen overhead.
Starting the walk a couple of Kookaburras were the first to sighted, followed by Rock doves under the bridge. Grey Butcherbirds were calling regularly and excellent views were had by all.
Together with Common Bronzewing and Noisy Miners they were probably the most common birds seen.
Near the bridge, a pair of Galahs was sitting in a tree.
On the way to the observation platform overlooking the river a Little Pied Cormorant and Australasian Grebe were spied on the river, together with Dusky Moorhen and a solitary Purple Swamphen on the bank.
A magnificent Wedge-tailed eagle overflew and although missed by some returned later in the walk to allow everybody to see it.
We were fortunate to find a single Musk Lorikeet which made a welcome change from all the raucous Rainbows. Both male and female Golden Whistlers were observed on the way back for lunch and a lucky few also saw a female Scarlet Robin. While enjoying our lunch break a King Parrot called and eventually showed itself to the joy of all present.
The morning walk produced a total of 41 species.
In the afternoon we went in the opposite direction to the rapids observation lookout.
Although the birding was initially quiet it was a very pleasant walk through some lovely bush. Fortunately we then hit on a small hot hot patch with Yellow faced Honeyeaters, Silver Eyes, Grey Shrike Thrush, Grey Fantail, Spotted Pardalote and a Black Faced Cuckoo-shrike, all seen well.
At the rapids a pair of Coots were seen, surprisingly the first for the day. Returning to the carpark provided a fleeting glimpse of a Brown Goshawk but a good look at a resting White Ibis.
Overall we spotted 46 species, far better than we expected considering the weather and the start of winter.