It was cold as we set off from our homes. Not as chilling as a week previously but still very low temperatures. Sixteen braved the still, cold but sunny morning and Jane Moseley led us. We checked out the Australian Wood Ducks, Magpie Larks, Purple Swamphens, Eurasian Coots and Dusky Moorhens on the grass beside the car park and also noted Australian Magpies, Red Wattlebirds, Rainbow Lorikeets and the inevitable Noisy Miners in the surrounding trees.
On the adjacent wetland there were a couple of Pacific Black Ducks and teal. It was some of the latter which occasioned close examination and discussion. The Chestnut Teal were readily counted but the two or three paler birds catching the sunlight, which teal were they? Careful attention to the plumage decided Grey Teal. It was that frequent “Which teal is that?” discussion. Our visitors and newcomers had been promised darters and Lillydale Lake did not disappoint. As we were moving out the first darter was pointed out and from then on we admired and compared male and female Australasian Darters both near and far. We kept our eyes out for Azure Kingfishers which had been seen a few days previously but the first location drew a blank. On the boardwalk we watched an Australasian Grebe warm its fluffy backside in the morning sun before we passed the structure which has been voted “world’s worst bird hide”. It consists of a fence with rectangular holes cut at different heights which look out onto an impenetrable stand of tall vegetation. Still, after we had dismissed it we rounded the corner and started to check the lake and the reed beds. The cry went up “Pink-eared Duck!” and there they were. Two pinkies which had not followed the rains inland. Voted bird of the day on the spot.
Then we wondered if we’d been a bit premature with the award when an Azure Kingfisher was sighted, not on its previously-favoured nest box but on a farther one and from which it flew to a low perch and afforded everyone good or brief views. Spotted Pardalotes called but it seemed that only a couple of watchers at a time were able to chalk up good views. Still, most people had seen them well by day’s end. Grey Shrike-thrushes gave their beautiful single winter calls and Grey Butcherbirds were finally seen as well as heard. The south-western wetlands are undergoing “rectification works” and new plantings are covered with nets so that no birds are currently using that area. Five years should see an improvement. The lake supports lots of fishers, the darters, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants and humans on the banks and occasionally in boats. It wasn’t all waterbirds. As well as the lorikeets mentioned above there were Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Little Corellas, Crimson (adult and immature) Rosellas, Eastern Rosellas and Australian King Parrots (male and female).
After lunch we walked out to Bellbird Park where a pair of Black Swans paddled unconcerned by our presence while they cropped the pond plants. Walking back added Eastern Spinebill, then White-faced Herons and finally a Laughing Kookaburra to our list which numbered 45 species at the end of the walk. Very creditable birding for a cold mid-July day. We thanked Jane most enthusiastically for all her preparations and leading.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species Count: 50
The 24 members who gathered at Lillydale Lake in overcast conditions were greeted by almost as many Australasian Darters. Some swimming in the lake, others perched on the banks and in trees, as well as several circling overhead.
On crossing the boardwalk over the wetlands a most unusual sighting was that of a Rakali (Water Rat) swimming through the reeds. Here we found ‘Bird of the Day’, an Azure Kingfisher, which perched for several minutes at the far side of the pond, enabling everyone to get a good view.
Walking upstream along Olinda Creek, three Tawny Frogmouths were seen very well camouflaged in a dead wattle tree. At Hull Road Wetlands a very close Black Swan was unconcerned as the group walked slowly by. Soon afterwards we came upon a ‘hot spot’ of small bush birds, including Spotted Pardalote, Eastern Yellow Robin and Red-browed Finch. Highlights of the return walk included Australian King-Parrots, a huge flock of Little Corellas and a single Cattle Egret. A total of 47 species were recorded for the morning.
After lunch, back at Lillydale Lake, a short walk was taken around the nearby wetlands where Pink-eared Ducks and a Little Pied Cormorant were added to the tally. To everyone’s delight further great views of the Azure Kingfisher were enjoyed, as well as many more sightings of the Darters. A creditable 50 species were recorded on a very enjoyable outing.
Twenty-eight members met at the lake on a lovely sunny day. Several Australasian Darters were seen on the central island and a pair of Chestnut Teal guarded eight recently hatched ducklings on a nearby small pond.
Magpie-larks were observed building their mud nest at mid-height in a gum tree as we headed for the wetlands. Two Pink-eared Ducks resting on a partly submerged log and brief sightings of two Spotless Crakes were highlights at the boardwalk pond. Continuing towards Hull Road wetlands produced several of the common bush birds but the wetlands themselves had, disappointingly, only a few species in residence. An obliging Dusky Moorhen gave the photographers an opportunity to test their skills.
Finally, a female Golden Whistler, a Spotted Pardalote and several Brown Thornbills, feeding in profusely-flowering Silver Wattles, held our attention before we headed back towards the lake.
On route we had a good view of Cattle Egrets attending a small herd of cows and, soon
after, a Wedge-tailed Eagle passed overhead then soared high towards the horizon.
After lunch a short walk along the track between the lake and adjoining wetlands enabled close-up views of both male and female Australasian Darters. An entertaining sight on the lake was provided by about 20 Little Black Cormorants seemingly engaged in synchronised swimming and diving as they popped up and down making brisk headway in search of food. A single Australian Pelican treated us to a low flypast, as if to bid us farewell, as we returned to the car park after an enjoyable day.
Thirty-three members met at the lake on the warmest day for several months. Setting-off upstream towards the boardwalk, a Buff-banded Rail emerged from the reeds to join the many other waterbirds nearby. A lot of small bush birds such as Superb Fairy-wrens and White-browed Scrubwrens were busy foraging in the sunshine.
Walking towards the Hull Road Wetlands, spring was definitely in the air as several birds were observed attending nests, including Australian Magpie, Brown Thornbill, Little Raven and Tawny Frogmouth. It was interesting for the beginners to compare their different building techniques. Some had good views of a pair of Peregrine Falcons soaring above, and later, a Brown Goshawk flew close by whilst a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles were clearly seen in the distance. A group of about 30 Cattle Egrets were in a paddock across the creek, far outnumbering the available cows around which they jostled for space.
Close-up views of Australian Darters were had as the group returned to the car park for lunch. Afterwards, the Buff-banded Rail obligingly gave an encore, ensuring that everyone had a good view.
Most of the group then drove to the far end of the lake to a pond behind the model car track. Australian Wood Ducks already had a brood of ducklings whilst Purple Swamphens were busy gathering nesting material. A nearby tree contained a colourful mixed flock of Silvereyes and Spotted Pardalotes. Walking to the wetlands near the site of the former Swinbourne Campus it was disappointing to see that recent drainage work had destroyed what was once a great bird habitat. Two pairs of Australian King-parrots and several Crimson Rosellas were feeding in adjacent flowering wattles. In lake-side trees a snoozing Ring-tailed Possum was oblivious to a large flock of Little Corellas, most roosting with a few feeding on the grass below.
A total of 54 species was recorded on a day that suggested the cold winter months could, at last, be left behind.
Our company numbered 11 and the weather was calm and good for birding. Geoff Russell, our leader, gave a brief history of the reserve and later we noted the remains of the watermill on the creek. Birding started with very good views for everyone of an unexpectedly close Australian Reed-Warbler foraging on the jetty. Australasian Darter were clearly finding the area suitable, at least 11 were seen. Eurasian Coot were numerous and a ‘dinner duck’ accompanied a Northern Mallard and a Pacific Black Duck which was clearly keeping bad company. After the recent rain every pond was full so no mud was visible and consequently, no crakes or rails, but plenty of frogs heard. An Australian Pelican looked rather precarious on a duck nesting box but clearly felt secure as it remained there throughout our visit. Little Corella were numerous and calling. One flock of corellas flew with at least eight Cattle Egret which then perched near a Great Cormorant, giving good contrast. Wedge-tailed Eagle soared overhead for some minutes. A walk away from the main lake yielded Australian King-Parrot, several Grey Fantail, Laughing Kookaburra, numerous Superb Fairy-wren and Brown Thornbill calling and a small flock of Red-browed Finch as well as female and male Golden Whistler. The morning walk had 46 species in total.
After lunch a short walk in Spadoni’s Nature Reserve yielded 31 species despite numerous dogs (not always on the required lead). The slight surprise here was the Yarra running a banker, necessitating care where shallow water was covering a short stretch of the path. We debated on ‘intrepid’ or ‘stupid’ but decided on the former as there had been no rain for at least two days and the river was unlikely to suddenly rise. A pity none of us had a camera to record the sight as it flowed brown, fast and deep. The wild weather earlier had downed quite a few tree tops and the area would not have been safe then. Again frogs were vocal in the reed beds and numerous wrens and thornbills were calling. A small flock of Striated Thornbill came low and helpfully foraged in a bare shrub affording excellent views of a species usually in the high canopy. We added Black-shouldered Kite and Collared Sparrowhawk plus a defensive Straw-necked Ibis, which buzzed a Peregrine Falcon which then flew further from a small ibis flock. Bush birds were similar to those at Lillydale Lake and the total species count for both locations was a satisfying 56; not bad for winter birding.