Tag Archives: Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens

Weekdays outing to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

12 February 2019
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Ornamental Lake. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

Skies were grey as we assembled but the weather started mild with a slight breeze. There were 14 of us with Diane Tweeddale leading in place of David Plant who was unable to attend on the day. Fine rain started to fall and the shelter of trees was welcome, especially when we could observe birds as we stood there.

A Willie Wagtail foraged and then was upstaged by an enthusiastic Little Wattlebird which gave close, excellent views as it probed flowers. The north corner of the Ornamental Lake added Pacific Black Duck and Eurasian Coot to our started list while Bell Miners called loudly and White-browed Scrubwrens chattered from the understory. Walking over to Long Island we noted the floating islands designed to remove pollutants which wash in from the storm water drains of the adjacent streets. Then we were up close and (almost) personal with an adult Bell Miner feeding a fluffy youngster. What a pity the intervening foliage prevented photography, particularly in the low light conditions. However there were fleeting very close views of Bell Miners giving several people their first actual sightings of these well-camouflaged honeyeaters. So close indeed that their calls were so loud as to be almost painful.

Waterbirds recorded were Pacific Black and Australian Wood Ducks, Chestnut and Grey Teal, Black Swan, the usual trio of Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen and Eurasian Coot with Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants and a flock of young Silver Gulls finishing the list. Eastern Spinebills were heard mostly but seen by some and a small flock of Silvereyes was viewed foraging among the fruit of a Kangaroo Apple near the corpse of the vandalised Separation Tree.

By now the rain, wind and cold were telling even with our cold weather gear in use and we retreated to the café in search of hot drinks. The gardens were not crowded with visitors today and drinks were quickly acquired, to be drunk while assessing the weather beyond the windows. It was not hopeful so the decision was made to do bird call and then people could head home or on to some other sheltered and rewarding occupation. The bird list totalled 25 species, not great by historical standards but very acceptable by today’s RBG birding. Next time the weather may allow longer walks, especially to Guilfoyle’s Volcano and through the Australian forest plantings.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Weekdays outing to Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens

14 February 2017
Photographs by Diane Tweeddale

There were 19 of us when the final arrivals appeared. Our numbers included a few visitors including a lady in her 99th year who inspired us all with her fortitude. The day was cool, cloudy and slightly damp after overnight rain so birds were visible though making out their markings was often challenging. David Plant led the group and shared his knowledge of the gardens’ history and function as well as their birds. Unfortunately the Bell Miners which had been confined to one small area have expanded so much that there are only a few places where they are not detected. It’s challenging to detect and see your first miner but they do pall quite quickly afterwards, especially when you realise how they have displaced so many other species. At least we detected no Noisy Miners this day but they are reportedly increasing in numbers just outside the gardens.

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Azolla bloom and warning notice – children and pets may mistake the surface plants for a lawn and fall into the underlying water

Shortly after we started walking we came across a very tall flowering yucca beside the Temple of the Winds. It was certainly popular with the birds and we recorded Rainbow Lorikeets and Little and Red Wattlebirds all using it simultaneously. Government House grounds yielded our first Laughing Kookaburra which promptly flew over the fence and joined us in the main gardens. We didn’t spend much time by the main lake as an extensive azolla bloom was being reduced by a powered weeding vessel and the consequent noise was driving away almost all birds.

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Pacific Black Duck with young

Near a quieter lake area we encountered a Pacific Black Duck with eight tiny ducklings and watched interestedly as she led them a considerable distance to a further lake. One little fellow (we decided it was a difficult male) consistently lagged behind the brood and was last seen running determinedly to catch up before entering the target lake.

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Purple Swamphen – these will kill and eat any undefended ducklings

An Eastern Koel had been recently recorded in the gardens and its call had been heard that morning so we kept listening but unfortunately could not detect it unequivocally. The only parrots listed were the lorikeet, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and an immature Crimson Rosella and David pointed out the plantings of kangaroo grass which hopefully will attract Red-rumped Parrots into the gardens. No owls were seen but the finding of a Tawny Frogmouth feather indicated its recent presence.

Small birds are reducing in numbers as miners and Common Mynas increase – there are no further sightings of Superb Fairy-wrens and the numbers of Brown Thornbills seem down.

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Little Wattlebird and Common Myna – eating from the humans’ leftovers near the cafe

Silvereyes, on the other hand, were seen today in some areas and there were several Willie Wagtails plus a few Eastern Spinebills, the only other honeyeater seen today. At lunch break it was interesting to observe a Little Wattlebird feeding from the leftovers on the terrace. That’s an additional species utilising that area. At lunch we encountered the only non-avian sighting of the day, an Eastern Water Dragon which was quietly shedding its skin and warming on the dark asphalt path.

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Eastern Water Dragon

David chatted with his friend, one of the polers of the lake punts, who reported that, it being St. Valentine’s Day, he had overheard two proposals in his punt that morning.

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Lotus flower – ethereal beauty out of the mud

The gardens are important for many activities. During the afternoon walk there was considerable noise coming from the canopy of a tall tree and we made out a small flock of Bell Miners angrily mobbing a Pied Currawong. By walk’s end, with 32 species recorded on our first outing of 2017, we were each deciding to revisit the gardens as they have so much to offer. We heartily thanked David for his generosity and preparation.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings.