Tag Archives: Grey Fantail

Weekdays Outing to Rigby’s Wetland

20 September 2017
All photographs by BirdLife Melbourne member, Graeme Dean
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White-faced Heron

A fine breezy day with blue sky changed to cloudy and the wind became cold, causing everyone to don windproof overclothing. There were 22 rugged up participants with Graeme Hosken leading the group. Haversham Avenue, where the cars were parked, is suburbia on one side with the reserve facing it and so initial birds were simply a few flyovers and such garden birds as Red Wattlebird and Common Starling. We started walking to the south and started listing birds as we entered the reserve. Waterbirds flying over included Australian White Ibis, White-faced Heron, Australasian Darter and Pacific Black Duck.

Australian White Ibis - Graeme Dean
Australian White Ibis

Later the ponds yielded Royal Spoonbill in breeding plumage, Black Swan, Australian Pelican, both Chestnut and Grey Teal and initially a lone Eurasian Coot which became at least 20 on the adjacent water.

Australian Pelican - Graeme Dean
Australian Pelican

Purple Swamphens foraged singly and Dusky Moorhen and both Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes were represented by solitary sightings. Cormorants were present – Little Pied, Little Black and Great – flying over, fishing and perched plumply while digestion proceeded. Water levels were high after recent rains and the absence of exposed mud meant neither crakes nor rails was detected.

Little Pied Cormorant -Graeme Dean
Little Pied Cormorant digesting its catch

A Swamp Harrier flying over was announced by alarm calls and we later watched it quartering the reed beds. It, plus Brown Goshawk and Nankeen Kestrel made up the raptor sightings for the walk. Several areas had been planted and protected with extensive netting which in one area made the sighting of a Great Egret through the netting challenging. Welcome Swallows swooped and in some places were joined by Fairy Martins whose mud bottle nests were detected below the bridging of one of the outlets.

Fairy Martin - Graeme Dean
Fairy Martin collecting mud for nest

No one saw a Little Grassbird but the population must have been considerable to judge by the amount of calling heard. Glimpses were obtained of Golden-headed Cisticola and Australian Reed-Warbler among the grass and reeds. Eastern Common Froglets were the most frequently heard frogs. A Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo really needed scoping as it perched distantly but those with powerful bins considered it identified.

Superb Fairy-wren - Graeme Dean
Superb Fairy-wren

A welcome lunch break was taken at the eastern East Link service area (coffee, toilets and hot food) much appreciated on a carry-lunch walk. Bush birds were encountered once we left the edge of the water and Grey Shrike-thrush, Golden Whistler and both Spotted and Striated Pardalotes joined the list. Honeyeaters included New Holland and Yellow-faced as well as Eastern Spinebill and Noisy Miner. White-browed Scrubwrens were glimpsed in the undergrowth while Superb Fairy-wrens were common throughout the walk. Grey Butcherbird and Grey Currawong called, Grey Fantails were common and only a couple of Willie Wagtails were detected. A female Flame Robin was seen by many and Red-browed Finches often foraged beside the path.

Red-browed Finches - Graeme Dean
Red-browed Finches by path

Introduced birds were “the usual”, Common Myna, Starling and Blackbird plus Spotted Dove and Feral Pigeon/Rock Dove.

Grey Fantail - Graeme Dean
Grey Fantail

In all 59 species were detected and there were smiles all round as people planned to add the area to their walking lists. We thanked Graeme heartily for sharing the knowledge he had gained during the Melbourne Water surveys.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Long Forest Reserve

5 September 2017
Photographs by Bevan Hood, member BirdLife Melbourne

 

 

 

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Grey Fantail

The weather forecast could best be described as dire, with rain, hail and wind among the expected attractions. Still, there were nine slightly apprehensive birdwatchers gathered by the reserve entrance. Graeme Hosken was leader and his experience from several years of surveys allowed him to take an optimistic stance. The reserve is in a rain shadow which results in mixed flora, including Mallee due to the dry conditions. The creeks have cut through the sedimentary rocks and the resulting valleys were sheltered from the strongest of the wind gusts. Still there were few birds around the entrance and we walked some distance before the occasional calls of Superb Fairy-wren and Spotted Pardalote gave way to glimpses of Brown-headed Honeyeaters and Grey Fantails. An Australian Raven called in the distance and the closer calls of a White-eared Honeyeater were not the usual “chock” but more complex so both of these caused some discussion. Recent rain had fallen, if the greening of moss in patches was any evidence and Echidnas’ broad scratches showed in many of the ant mounds we passed. The ‘Steep Track’ lived up to its name and required careful planning and placement of feet. However the creek at the bottom was actually flowing and bird twitters were frequent though sightings were mostly of fairy-wrens and fantails. A lone Australian Wood Duck was the closest to a water bird for the walk. Our walk was cut short, however, when we arrived at the ford to find it well covered with water – gum boots might have crossed but no one was wearing them – so we turned back and eventually lunched by the entrance. Here the birding had improved compared to the morning and small flocks of honeyeaters flew past us while we sat.

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Laughing Kookaburra

After lunch we drove the few kilometres to Lake Merrimu where the wind was whipping up white caps on the water surface and scopes would have been made useless by excessive wind judder. Initially few birds were seen but then flocks of cockatoos, Little Corellas and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, flew over calling. Then we started adding more – Common Starlings on a wooden gate, Magpie-larks in the paddock, a flock of Little Ravens against a stormy sky. Welcome Swallows demonstrated their aerial ability as they swooped near and through a wire fence. Then we watched carefully as two White-plumed Honeyeaters harassed a Red Wattlebird. Were they defending a nesting site? A Willie Wagtail foraged near a grazing cow. The western sky looked threatening and so we called it a day.

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Grey Fantail

The bird count was 30 species in total – 22 for Long Forest and 11 for Lake Merrimu – and we thanked Graeme for sharing his knowledge of this unique area. By the way, it didn’t rain on people till they had left the reserve well behind.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Beginner’s Outing to Point Cook Coastal Reserve

28 January 2017

Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers
Species count: 50
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Grey Fantail. Photo by Merrilyn Serong

Twenty-nine members met in perfect weather conditions at the Beach Carpark where numerous Superb Fairy-wrens were seen at ground level and lots of other small birds, including Grey Fantails, Yellow Thornbills and Silvereyes were in the trees.

Silvereye, Point Cook
Silvereye. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The group drove in convoy towards Cheetham Wetlands Carpark, pausing en-route at a wetland, beside one of the new housing estates, where Dusky Moorhens paraded a chick and Golden-headed Cisticolas perched proudly on top of a bush. A Whistling Kite and a Brown Goshawk were seen in the distance and, soon afterwards, a Black Kite flew leisurely overhead. These three raptors were seen several more times throughout the morning.

Whistling Kite, Point Cook
Whistling Kite. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
Black Kite, Point Cook
Black Kite. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The first walk was towards the shore where a huge number of Silver Gulls rested on the sand and on the water. At the actual Point Cook, a number of different water birds were perched on rocks, including both Crested and Common Terns. A large flock of Red-necked Stints flew quickly past, being sadly, the only waders seen at the shore.

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Silver Gull. Photo by Merrilyn Serong
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Common Terns. Photo by Alan Veevers

The old Homestead Jetty, which used to be a roost for different Cormorant species, was barely standing and had been taken over by Common Starlings. An interesting sighting in the bush behind the shore was a flock of Tree Sparrows. Walking back towards the cars, lots of Yellow-rumped Thornbills were watched with interest and several more sightings of our three raptors were made.

Lunch was taken back at the Beach Picnic area, followed by a short walk to the shore and back through the heathland. Singing Honeyeater was the only addition to our species list, although Brown Quail were heard but not sighted in their usual location.

Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Point Cook
Yellow-rumped Thornbill. Photo by Eleanor Dilley
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Zebra Finches. Photo by Merrilyn Serong

A final walk was then taken around a newly reconstructed wetland close to the RAAF Lake Car Park. A pair of Black-fronted Dotterels foraged near the water’s edge and several White-faced Herons gracefully flew around when disturbed. Back near the cars a flock of Zebra Finches provided an exciting and colourful finale to the outing.

The final birdcall of 50 species was very gratifying; especially in an area where there has been an enormous amount of housing development close by.

View the full bird list: bm-jan-2017-bird-list-point-cook

Weekdays outing to Braeside Park, Braeside

18 May 2016
Wetland - D Tweeddale
Wetland. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

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.

Crossing wetland by boardwalk - D Tweeddale
Crossing the wetland by boardwalk. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

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.

Pond at Braeside - D Tweeddale
Pond at Braeside. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

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.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekday outing to Murrindindi Reserve

12 April 2016
Murrindindi River - Diane Tweeddale
Murrindindi River. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

The middle part of the drive up from the suburbs was challenging with heavy rain but the 19 who arrived were relieved to find it much drier over the ranges. Graeme Hosken was leader and we drove in convoy to the Suspension Bridge Day Area. The walk beside the Murrindindi River added White-eared Honeyeaters and Long-billed Corellas to the Little Corellas, Red Wattlebirds, Olive-backed Oriole and Crimson Rosellas among others at the meeting car park.

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Long-billed Corella (left). Grey Fantail (right). Photos by Berenice Pearcy

Calls, as always in forests, outnumbered bird sightings and Grey Butcherbird, White-throated Treecreeper and Grey Shrike-thrush were first heard and later glimpsed or, more fortunately, clearly seen. Walking was easy beside the river on well-made tracks and the provision of camp sites with associated toilet blocks made for very comfortable birdwatching. The trees have not yet attained great height and the 2009 dead skeletons still rise high where they are not losing branches or falling. The only downside of walking beside any swiftly flowing river, of course, is the river noise which makes listening for bird calls very challenging though visible Grey Fantails compensated. Thornbill identification continued to challenge but finally Brown and Buff-rumped were confidently added to the list after some debate.

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White-browed Scrubwren (left). White-eared Honeyeater (right). Photos by Berenice Pearcy

Honeyeaters were not plentiful with Red Wattlebirds, White-eared Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills dominating. Some apparent spinebill calls were reassessed as probably the Eastern Smooth Frog as they lasted much longer. The other honeyeater species were not recorded by many but some of the group were able to add Yellow-faced, New Holland and White-naped Honeyeaters to the list. Next stop was the SEC picnic area where Superb Fairy-wrens finally cast off their shyness and came into view at the clearing edges.

Superb Fairy-wren eclipse male- Berenice Pearcy
Superb Fairy-wren eclips male. Photo by Berenice Pearcy

Here also was seen White-throated Treecreeper which had been recorded mostly as calls. After lunch most of the group continued their walk to the top of Wilhemina Falls but this proved quite difficult with a steep and pebble-slippery track.

At the top of Wilhemina Falls - Graeme Hosken
At the top of Wilhemina Falls. Photo by Graeme Hosken

Birds were disappointingly few with no additional species and a couple who had walked the lower river track were able to add Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos to the list. Animal traces were scratchings in dry ground, which may have been by wallabies or lyrebirds plus scats – macropods (probably wallabies), wombats, rabbits and echidna (rather flattened). The several severed claws of crayfish along one section of the track were evidence of predation. When birdcall was taken just after 3 pm we were all delighted to realise the final group tally was 41 species.

Birders on the track - Diane Tweeddale
Birders on the track. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

We thanked Graeme enthusiastically for taking us through this post-fires regenerating area. Birds and animals are present after the 2009 extreme fires and following the area’s recovery will continue to be fascinating.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

You Yangs Birding and Boneseeding

5 March 2016
Report and photographs by Merrilyn Serong

 

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Grey Fantail

Despite a hot, high 30s temp the day before, our March You Yangs birding and boneseeding day was pleasantly cool and calm. The cloud cover persisted and made viewing colours of birds challenging and hampered photography. The park continues to be dry, so dry. There is little water in the dam near the entrance. The level is about as low as I’ve seen it; similar to that in June 2009.

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Magpie Geese

An amazing sight from the Park Office area during the morning was the regular lines of Magpie Geese that streamed overhead from approximately north to south. They were apparently on their way to Lake Connewarre, south-east of Geelong. Due largely to the poor light quality and the appearance of a totally unexpected species, we were initially confused and in some disagreement regarding their identity. Once this was established, we were surprised by the first few hundred, impressed when the numbers exceeded 1000 and stunned when they climbed to an estimated 5000.

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Magpie Geese

Other highlights in the area near the Park Office were several Purple-crowned Lorikeets, a pair of Crested Shrike-tits and a Wedge-tailed Eagle.

Another Wedge-tail was flying over the Gravel Pit Tor area in the middle of the day. We saw the usual Scarlet Robins there, but we found them at all our stops. A couple of goats were wandering on the hillside opposite the Tor, where we have seen them before.

Lunch by the Fawcett’s Gully picnic table and nearby dry dam was followed by a walk to the reedy upper dam. We were fortunate to see Varied Sittellas on the way there. The dam was quite dry and dotted with holes where animals had apparently tried to dig, unsuccessfully, for water. A rather emaciated and possibly thirsty Black (Swamp) Wallaby approached the dam while we were there.

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Black Wallaby

We spent more than an hour pulling out boneseed plants to the north of our site, bordering on the Eastern Flat (Seed Garden). Two of us had good views of two Speckled Warblers. They had been seen by some in our group in September 2014, but this is the first time I have seen them there. We looked for them again later when we walked to the Eastern Flat, but could not find them. However, we added Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Tree Martin and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike to our list.

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White-throated Treecreeper

The total of identified bird species for the day was 51. Some of us also saw a small raptor take off from a tree at our lunch stop, but weren’t sure if it was a Brown Goshawk or a Collared Sparrowhawk. A bird list for the day will be posted on the BirdLife Melbourne site http://www.birdlifemelbourne.org.au/outings/. Scroll down and click on the ‘You Yangs Regional Park’ link (outing number 512). I have included another report with photos on my website http://www.timeinthebush.com/you-yangs-2016.html

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Koala

Our next YY Birding and Boneseeding visit will be on Saturday 4 June. All members are welcome to attend.