12 April 2016
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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