Tag Archives: Pacific Black Duck

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.

azolla-bloom-and-warning-notice
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.

purple-swamphen
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.

Weekdays Outing to Pipemakers Park, Maribyrnong

11 July 2016
Leader: Pat Bingham

 

Pacific Black Duck - Marilyn Ellis
Pacific Black Duck. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

On a very cold morning, in a howling gale but bright sunshine, 15 members and three visitors from Asia met on the banks of the Maribyrnong River to go birdwatching. Quite mad in those weather conditions!

Before we left the car park, we had THE BIRD OF THE DAY – a lone Swift Parrot, heavily disguising itself in dense foliage but popping its unmistakeable red face out from time to time and, turning upside down, showing us it’s pinky vent and long tail.

Swift Parrot - Danika Sanderson.JPG
Swift Parrot. Photo by Danika Sanderson

It was a new bird for many of the group and we had some difficulty in persuading our visitors what a rare sighting it was. It was hard to turn our backs on the rarity, watch the Whistling Kite flying upriver and, then ourselves, go downstream into the wind.

We followed the Maribyrnong Trail past Frogs Hollow Wetland (well named – there were many Common Froglets calling) and found Red-browed Finches on the fence and Superb Fairy-wrens on the grass.  Jack’s Canal yielded Dusky Moorhens and Purple Swamphens, Australasian Grebe and we heard, above the gale, the plaintiff call of the Little Grassbird from the reed bed.

Australasian Grebe - Marilyn Ellis
Australasian Grebe. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

The waves were pretty choppy on the lake in Burndap Park but we had good views of both Grey and Chestnut Teal, and Hoary-headed Grebe.

Chestnut Teal - Danika Sanderson
Chestnut Teal. Photo by Danika Sanderson

In the most sheltered corner of the lake we found White-faced Heron, Great Egret and Pacific Black Duck roosting.

White-faced Heron - Marilyn Ellis.jpg
White-faced Heron. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

On a floating platform on the adjacent river we were able to distinguish the characteristics differentiating Little Black from Little Pied Cormorants and from a young Darter sharing the same platform.  We had Wood Ducks and Eurasian Coots grazing on the grass of the riverbank and Crested Pigeons & Red-rumped Parrots picking up seeds from the path.

Immature Australasian Darter - Danika Sanderson
Immature Australasian Darter. Photo by Danika Sanderson

We went back to the car park for lunch where a Black-shouldered Kite hunted overhead, 30 Galahs flew by and Yellow-rumped Thornbills tinkled from the adjacent grassland.  After lunch we crossed the river and explored the city side parkland.

Great Egret - Marilyn Ellis
Great Egret. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

In flowering Ironbarks on the golf course we had good views of Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets and were able to compare their markings and calls.  We found a pair of Long-billed Corellas exploring a tree hollow and saw an old Mudlark nest.  Heading further east towards the Walter Street Reserve we recorded Eastern Rosellas and both White-plumed and New Holland Honeyeaters.  A newly-planted wetland area adjacent to a housing development had already been discovered by ducks and a cormorant but the only new species for the day that we found there were House Sparrows and Common Starlings. Revisiting that area in the future, when the plantings were better established would probably prove more fruitful.  Buff-banded Rail has been recorded in the past from the creek that drains the area (sadly now only a concrete drain).

the group - Marilyn Ellis.jpg
The group. Photo by Marilyn Ellis

At Bird Call, we listed 48 species which, given the persistent cold wind, increasingly dull day and exposed site was a good total and all participants agreed they had enjoyed themselves in an area few had visited before.

Weekdays Outing to Karkarook, Heatherton

2 December 2015
Contributor: Diane Tweeddale; photographs by Marilyn Ellis

The weather was breezy, fine and clear as we met in the car park. A crowd of 28 took up the challenge to list more than the 40 species seen on a recent recce. Noisy Miners and Australian Magpies dominated the car park area and the latter were clearly used to picnics as at least 30 Magpies, mostly immature, warbled and squabbled around us at lunchtime. We set off around the main lake where the high water level precluded any sightings of rails or crakes with Eurasian Coots (including young) the most numerous species. At the eastern end of the lake a small flock of Silver Gulls rested, a more pleasing sight than the rafts of thousands which had been present, dominating the avifauna, a few years ago. Australian Reed-Warblers were vocal but mostly stayed unseen within the reed beds while Superb Fairy-wrens called and flew near us frequently.

Superb Fairy-wren male - Marilyn Ellis
Superb Fairy-wren, male

Little Grassbirds called plaintively and one was even glimpsed briefly by a couple of walkers. Not far from the bird hide a couple of Red-browed Finches fed on dock seeds. The hide had been senselessly vandalised with glass cracked in one of the display cases. A cormorant on a buoy caused much debate with ‘stained Little Pied’ finally giving way to ‘immature Great Cormorant’. The only other cormorant was one Little Black Cormorant on one of the minor western ponds. Another debate was occasioned by some teal with the final resolution: two Grey Teal with a female Chestnut Teal beside them. Back to the shelter for lunch with lists of over 30 species. The only raptor seen had been a passing Swamp Harrier while cockatoos were absent though Eastern Rosellas plus Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets were recorded. Honeyeaters were White-plumed Honeyeaters and Noisy Miners plus Little and Red Wattlebirds. One Little Raven flew over, making surprisingly good progress despite a complete absence of tail feathers – and thereby hangs a tale?

Pacific Black Duch - Marilyn Elllis
Pacific Black Duck

A few needed to depart after lunch but most stayed to walk around the western chain of ponds beside Warrigal Road. Here the list of waterbirds increased and highlights were Freckled Duck, male and female Australasian Shoveler and then Hoary-headed Grebe (with young) after we had begun to think the day would be ‘grebeless’. Several glimpsed a flushed Latham’s Snipe and everyone admired the solitary Great Egret.

Great Egret - Marilyn Ellis
Great Egret

Two more species not present on the recce but seen today on the mud of these ponds were Black-fronted and Red-kneed Dotterel. A couple of Black-winged Stilts also foraged in the shallows. Here litter traps clean the gross pollution from the incoming storm water and then reed beds remove chemicals and oils to purify the water before it’s sent on to the bay. Not bad for an area that started as swamp, was converted to sand mines and then made into a park (revegetated twice due to losing the initial plants to fire) with paths and facilities. The bird list of 50 species is a tribute to the character of this small area bounded by busy major roads on the north and west and overflown by aircraft from Moorabbin airport to the south-east.

Diane Tweeddale, leader