Tag Archives: Pacific Black Duck

Weekday outing to Coburg and Merri Creek

11 May 2022

All photographs by Bevan Hood

A dry day and a suburban location combined to attract 17 birdwatchers to the small car park. Someone had clearly been feeding the pigeons as there was a flock of at least 100 Rock Doves/Feral Pigeons beside the car park. They were accompanied by several Dusky Moorhens, including a couple of immatures without any marked colour.

Dusky Moorhen, adult
Dusky Moorhen, immature

Australian White Ibis passed overhead on their way to the islet in the creek and Silver Gulls perched on the top of the weir.

Australian White Ibises

A quartet of Black Swans paddled about and at intervals one would sit on a nest. Swans believe in recycling as it was clear that much human-derived litter was incorporated in the nest.

Black Swan on nest

Adding to our bird lists were smaller numbers of Common Mynas, Australian Wood Ducks, Chestnut Teal pairs and Little Ravens.

We noted occasional Australian Magpies and Magpie-larks as we set off under the guidance of Elsmaree Baxter, our leader, and kept alert for blossoming eucalypts. The lerps, nectar and blossoms certainly attracted the lorikeets and we recorded both Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets in considerable numbers. Today honeyeaters were limited to Red Wattlebirds and Noisy Miners, both aggressive and fairly large species.

Rainbow Lorikeet
Rainbow Lorikeet

The high point for many people occurred when the call “Tawny Frogmouth” went up. Yes, a sharp-sighted member had found it roosting against a eucalypt trunk. Pied Currawong was first heard and then seen by most while only a few of us heard a brief kookaburra call. Additional water birds were added later in the walk and their recognition was explained to newcomers to birding. Little Black Cormorants flew past and a brief overhead passage of a female Australasian Darter gave a good ID session. Australasian Grebes were finally sighted after a frustrating wait for the pair to surface after repeated dives. A Little Pied Cormorant flew past and then one was seen flying into a lakeside tree. Closer watching revealed an occupied nest, surprisingly difficult to see. Near the bank a couple of White-faced Herons stood watchfully while the only Eurasian Coot of the day occurred late in the walk.

Pacific Black Duck

Also late in the walk, Crested Pigeons joined the many Rock Doves and few Spotted Doves on our list. And at the far point of the walk came a second highlight – a Nankeen Night-Heron was perched beside the track. Not a full view but recognizable. No raptors were recorded but they would have been unexpected in heavily built-up suburbia.

At the finish we recorded 33 species and thanked Elsmaree for all her preparation which resulted in finding so many birds in suburbia.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekday outings

Beginners outing to Yan Yean Reservoir Park

26 February 2022
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers
Species count: 45
All photographs by Eleanor Dilley

Thirty members met near the entrance in pleasant sunny weather conditions.  Starting up at the dam wall several good sightings gave an excellent start to the morning:  a male Musk Duck just offshore; an immature male Australasian Darter on the roof of the small hut; a little Pied Cormorant and a White-faced Heron on the crane on the jetty and a pair of Red-rumped Parrots drinking by the slipway.   

Male Musk Duck
Australasian Darter

Members then drove to the third carpark and began the wetlands walk alongside the water. Dusky Moorhens, Australian Wood Ducks and Chestnut Teals were the predominant species, with Pacific Black Ducks, Australasian Grebes and Purple Swamphens in smaller numbers. 

Pacific Black Ducks
Purple Swamphen

Grey Fantails, Spotted Pardalotes and Brown Thornbills were seen in the taller trees, with Superb Fairy-wrens foraging at the water’s edge. After crossing the road to the fenced wetlands, several Parrot species were seen including Little and Long-billed Corellas, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Eastern Rosellas. A bird-scarer was sounding shots from a neighbouring property which no doubt disturbed them, and possibly reduced the number of ducks and waders on these wetlands. A flock of Australasian Grebe with young of various ages were the main waterbirds seen here.

Australasian Grebes with chicks under wings
Wedge-tailed Eagle

A pair of Wedge -tailed Eagles flying overhead caused a lot of interest, as did a lone Red-rumped Parrot well hidden in a tree. On returning to the first wetlands a White-faced Heron was perched on the opposite bank and later a Falcon flew overhead. It was initially thought to be a Peregrine Falcon, but later examination of Eleanor’s photo revealed it to be an Australian Hobby.

Red-rumped Parrot
Nankeen Night-Heron

Lunch was eaten at the top of the hill near the old caretaker’s cottage. There were only 2 Nankeen Night-herons in the nearby Corsican Pine, which was well down on the numbers seen there in previous years. After bird call members drove back to the other end of the park to the Lookout.  Two spotting scopes were set up near the fence, but it was hard to see between the trees.  After some perseverance a Great Crested Grebe was identified as well as a pair of Blue-billed Ducks.

This concluded a satisfying day with 45 species recorded, including 9 Parrot species.

Many thanks to Eleanor Dilley, who provided all the photographs.

Beginners Outing to Banyule Flats

25 January 2020
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 54
Photographs by Eleanor Dilley

Common Bronzewing - Eleanor Dilley
Common Bronzewing (f)

Parking at Banyule Flats was even more chaotic than usual as the whole carpark was sealed off for resurfacing so parking spaces had to be found in the surrounding streets. Whilst waiting for everyone to arrive, Musk Lorikeets were seen feeding in a callistemon tree and a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike flew overhead.

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike - Eleanor Dilley
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike

Once assembled, the group set off to the Lagoon where they were rewarded with many interesting sightings.

Red-rumped Parrots f and m - Eleanor Dilley
Red-rumped Parrots (f and m)

There were male and female Red-rumped Parrots; a pair of Sacred Kingfishers flying up and down from a tree on the opposite bank to snatch insects from the water; Pink-eared Ducks and Pacific Black Ducks, both with young; a Tree Martin perched amongst many Welcome Swallows on top of an old dead water-bound tree; four large Cygnets without any adult Black Swans to supervise them; and, finally, both Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes.

Pink-eared Duck with chicks - Eleanor Dilley
Pink-eared Duck with chicks

The day’s highlight occurred when a Nankeen Night-Heron suddenly flew, right to left, across the lagoon giving everyone a great view. Members then walked to the river track where there were several small bush birds including Red-browed Finch, Eastern Yellow Robin and White-browed Scrubwren. The only raptors for the day were two Brown Goshawks seen near the river.

Nankeen Night-Heron - Eleanor Dilley
Nankeen Night Heron

Close to the windmill a Sacred Kingfisher was calling loudly yet could not be seen, but a Male Mistletoebird kindly perched on a tall dead tree causing much excitement.  Members then headed back towards the carpark and watched a Grey Currawong being harassed by Australian Magpies.

Grey Currawong - Eleanor Dilley
Grey Currawong

The group then continued along the higher section of the Yarra Trail which gave good views over the Lagoon and a few more species were seen including both Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants perched on a dead log.

Little Black Little Pied Cormorants - Eleanor Dilley
Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants

About half the members then drove the short distance to Warringal Park for a well-earned lunch. A short stroll down Sills Track led to the Yarra River where two pairs of Australian Wood Ducks were very well camouflaged on a large tree branch high over the river.

Australian Wood Ducks - Eleanor Dilley
Australian Wood Ducks perched high over Yarra River

The nearby wetlands were visited next and found to be completely dry despite the recent rains. There were good views of a Common Bronzewing and a Grey Butcherbird beside the track. Sadly this area seemed to be overrun by Common Mynahs and Noisy Miners which were keeping all the smaller birds at bay.

Pacific Black Duckling - Eleanor Dilley
Pacific Black Duckling

A creditable total of 54 species was recorded for the day. It had been a most enjoyable outing in pleasant weather conditions. Many thanks, once again, to photographer Eleanor Dilley for providing all the above images.

View complete bird list: BM Jan 2020 Bird List Banyule Flats

Beginners Outing to Hawkstowe Park

28 September 2019

Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 54

All photographs by Eleanor Dilley

Striated Pardalotes - E Dilley
Striated Pardalotes

There was a chaotic start to the excursion as members struggled to find a way to drive through the very poorly signed diversion off Plenty Road into the park. However, once in the carpark they were immediately rewarded with some good sightings. Vociferous Striated Pardalotes were checking out nest hollows in the old deciduous trees and lots of other species, including King Parrots, were easily seen.

King Parrot - E Dilley
King Parrot

There was a chaotic start to the excursion as members struggled to find a way to drive through the very poorly signed diversion off Plenty Road into the park. However, once in the carpark they were immediately rewarded with some good sightings. Vociferous Striated Pardalotes were checking out nest hollows in the old deciduous trees and lots of other species, including King Parrots, were easily seen.

Wood Duck - E Dilley
Wood Duck

Following the Wonga Walk track beside the Plenty River many small birds were seen, including Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Grey Fantails and an Eastern Yellow Robin.  A Fan-tailed Cuckoo could be heard calling and a Brown Goshawk flew overhead.  Many Sulphur-crested Cockatoos were flying around and a single Long-billed Corella was spotted perched in a tall tree. Returning via the homestead ponds, a turtle was seen swimming and bobbing its head out of the water. In the reeds, Australian Reed-warblers were singing lustily but were hard to locate.

Wood Duck and chicks - E Dilley
Wood Duck and chicks

After lunch most of the members drove to the northern end of the park to visit the wetland areas. Water was plentiful in the ponds but there were not as many ducks to be seen as in previous years.

Pacific Black Duck - E Dilley
Pacific Black Duck

A pair of Black-fronted Dotterels was spotted as well as Grey and Chestnut Teal.  A beautiful Olive-backed Oriole was sighted perched in a tree by the lake and everyone got good views of it.

Australasian Grebe - E Dilley
Australasian Grebe

The highlight of the day occurred when a pair of White-winged Trillers was located perched on a dead tree amongst small wattles. The pair stayed around feeding in the bushes allowing everyone a good look. For many of the Beginners this was a new species while for everyone else it was a thrill to see this uncommon bird in shining breeding plumage.

White-winged Triller - E Dilley
White-winged Triller

This was followed by seeing a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles majestically soaring overhead.

Wedge-tailed Eagle - E Dilley
Wedge-tailed Eagle

A magical end to a great day’s birding at Hawkstowe, with 54 species recorded for the day. Our thanks go to John McKenzie for sharing his local knowledge and locating both the Oriole and the Trillers for us. Also, many thanks go to Eleanor Dilley who once again provided her splendid photographs for the report.

View complete bird list: BM Sep 2019 Bird List Hawkstowe Park

 

Beginners outing to Pound Bend and 100 Acres

24 November 2018

Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 47

Family Tawny Frogmouth - Bevan Hood
Family of four Tawny Frogmouths. Photo by Bevan Hood

Eighteen members gathered in damp overcast conditions at Pound bend carpark where a noisy gathering of Rainbow Lorikeets and Sulphur Crested Cockatoos were proclaiming their presence.

Sacred Kingfisher - Eleanor Dilley
Sacred Kingfisher. Photo by Bevan Hood

Walking upstream along the river track a pair of Sacred Kingfishers perched in dead trees on the opposite bank, while several small bushbirds, including Eastern Yellow Robins and White-browed Scrubwrens, were foraging beside the track.

Sacred Kingfisher Pound Bend
Sacred Kingfisher. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The poor light, due to the drizzly weather, made it challenging to identify small birds high up in the canopy.

Pacific Black Duck Pound Bend
Pacific Black Duck. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

A few waterbirds were seen on the river including Pacific Black Duck and Dusky Moorhen while a juvenile White-faced Heron was seen perched in the usual nesting tree.

White-faced Heron Pound Bend
White-faced Heron in nest tree. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

A large mob of Eastern Grey Kangaroos were relaxing on the paddock at the far end of the track and as the members started to walk up the hill a family group of four Tawny Frogmouths was spotted in a nearby tree (see photo above).

A sad sight was that of a young, only partially fledged, Eastern Rosella on the muddy track. A person from the Wildlife Rescue who was telephoned assured us this was normal behaviour as rosellas leave the nest before they can fly and have to teach themselves. Sadly this one looked very frail and his chance of survival did not look good.

Eastern Rosella (juvenile) Pound Bend
Young Eastern Rosella hoping for food. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

At the top of the hill an Olive-backed Oriole called lustily from a nearby tree while a Common Bronzewing and a group of White-winged Choughs were feeding on a grassy paddock.

Common Bronzewing - Bevan Hood
Common Bronzewing. Photo by Bevan Hood

Making our way back to the river track, a pair of Spotted Pardalotes was soon seen repeatedly flying in and out of a hole in the bank beneath a foot bridge.  They were so immersed in their activity that they ignored the observers and close up (rear) views of these beautiful little birds were obtained.

Spotted Pardalote (M) Pound Bend
Spotted Pardalote. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The weather improved around lunchtime and members had to closely guard their sandwiches from some very enterprising Australian Magpies!  A short walk was then taken to look at the famous tunnel which was in full spate after the recent rains.  A total of 42 species were recorded for Pound Bend.

Tawny Frogmouth - Alan Veevers

Tawny Frogmouth - Alan Veevers - 2
Front (above) and rear views of a Tawny Frogmouth with two youngsters. Photos by Alan Veevers

Eight members then opted to drive to the 100 Acres Reserve in Park Orchards for a second short walk and were well rewarded.  Near the Green Dam an adult Tawny Frogmouth was on a nest with two very small fluffy chicks and nearby a young Grey Butcherbird was seen near its nesting tree.

Down near the Tadpole Dam there was much bird activity.  No doubt the sunshine had brought out some insects for them to eat.  A Satin Flycatcher was heard and this was located near the Low Track and soon afterwards a group of Varied Sitellas were seen feeding on the bark of a tree.  Both of these species were ‘lifers’ for most of the beginners.  A family group of Eastern Spinebills and a close up view of an Eastern Yellow Robin concluded an excellent session with 27 species recorded in less than an hour, 5 of these being different to those at Pound Bend, giving a combined total of 47 for the day.

View the complete bird list: BM Nov 2018 Bird List Pound Bend and 100 Acres

Weekdays outing to Hawkestowe, Plenty Gorge Park and Mill Park Lakes

14 November 2018

Australian Pelican. Photo by Bevan Hood

Heavy overnight rain had been a concern but the weather system travelled east and we birded under grey skies with only occasional light drizzle to cause us to cover binoculars. Twelve commenced the walk, led by Diane, and initial car park birds included Striated and Spotted Pardalotes, numerous Australian Wood Ducks and a few Little Ravens. 

Australian Reed-Warbler in reeds. Photo by Bevan Hood
Australian Reed-Warbler in bush. Photo by Bevan Hood

The calls of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters followed us to the nearest pond where Australian Reed Warblers called loudly and perched on the reeds while Australasian Grebes in breeding plumage delighted with their well-grown fluffy young. 

Australasian Grebe. Photo by Bevan Hood

Superb Fairy-wrens also displayed, perched on the reeds. Leaving the ponds we walked along the gorge track beside the river. Here was “Rainbow Lorikeet Central” with pairs of birds investigating any crevice in tree trunks or branches for its potential as a nest hollow. 

Galahs. Photo by Bevan Hood

Other parrots included Australian King-parrot, Long-billed Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Crimson Rosella. Before we had exited the gorge sharp eyes had added White-browed Scrubwren, White-throated Treecreeper and Brown Thornbill to the sightings while Pied and Grey Currawongs, Laughing Kookaburra and Common Bronzewing were heard. 

Long-billed Corella. Photo by Bevan Hood

Back to the car park and lunch to check on the morning species count. A gratifying 44 was the total.

Crested Pigeon. Photo by Bevan Hood

Some people had to depart after lunch but ten remained to make their way to Mill Park Lakes, a drive that has become a little less familiar and more challenging since the extensive road and rail works in the area. Initial birds on the nearest lake were uninspiring as they were dominated by ‘Dinner Ducks’ and Eurasian Coots, clearly used to being fed by humans despite (or beside) the signs requesting “Do Not Feed the Birds” and giving reasons. 

Pacific Black Duck. Photo by Bevan Hood

We walked initially along the west bank which had little shelter or close vegetation so returned to the northern section where the native plantings were beside the water. Here we added New Holland and White-plumed Honeyeaters as well as Little Wattlebird. 

Dusky Moorhen. Photo by Bevan Hood

Waterbirds included the “usual suspects” of Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen and Eurasian Coot but there were also Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants, the latter distinctly stained on its white front.

Little Pied Cormorant. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

A lone Australian Pelican paddled about and a White-faced Heron roosted near the bridge. A tern caused considerable confusion as its plumage could be interpreted as Common or Whiskered so the rule of ‘if in doubt, consider the most common to be the most likely’ was applied and Whiskered Tern declared. The existence of a subspecies of Common Tern which is reminiscent of the Whiskered Tern is a complication. 

Whiskered Tern. Photo by Bevan Hood

As we finished our walk we smiled at a pair of Red-rumped Parrots in the grass near the exit.

Red-rumped Parrot. Photo by Bevan Hood

There is frequently a ‘mystery bird’ on walks and a distant bird could have been a finch obscured by vegetation.

Common Greenfinch. Photo by Loh Kat Mun

The identification of Common Greenfinch was finally achieved by examining a photograph with more detail than eyes and binoculars could achieve.

White-faced Heron. Photo by Bevan Hood
White-faced heron. Photo by Bevan Hood

A quick species count showed 32 species had been recorded at the lakes and a total of 58 species was recorded for the entire day.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

Beginners outing to Banyule Flats

27 October 2018
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 56

Pacific Black Duck and chicks - Eleanor Dilley
Pacific Black Ducks and chicks. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

In fine weather conditions 51 participants gathered at the Somerset Drive carpark and were well entertained by a nearby family of Tawny Frogmouths.

Tawny Frogmouth - Alan Veevers
Tawny Frogmouth. Photo by Alan Veevers

One stood guard in an adjacent tree as its mate endeavoured to conceal two fluffy chicks which kept popping out from under its protective feathers. This was to be the first of six pairs found during the day.

Tawny Frogmouth and chick - Eleanor Dilley
Tawny Frogmouth and chick. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The group walked first to the main lagoon in which the water level was rather high with no surrounding mud, hence the lack of any of the often present waders. However, there was plenty to be seen on the water including a pair of Pink-eared ducks with young and a pair of Pacific Black Ducks with nine very small ducklings.

Pink-eared Duck - Eleanor Dilley
Pink-eared Duck. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

A few Hoary-headed Grebes as well as several other duck species were identified. An Australian Spotted Crake was briefly seen by a few lucky observers.

Hoary-headed Grebes - Eleanor Dilley
Hoary-headed Grebes. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

The dead stags in the middle of the lagoon provided perches for many birds, including Red-rumped Parrots as well as both Little and Long-billed Corellas.

Red-rumped Parrot - Alan Veevers
Red-rumped Parrot. Photo by Alan Veevers

The beginners then set off towards the river and saw Eastern Rosellas, Galahs and more Red-rumped Parrots feeding in the grass beside the track. Noisy Miners and Red-wattlebirds were dominant in the trees and very few other honeyeaters were seen.

Noisy Miner - Graeme Dean
Noisy Miner. Photo by Graeme Dean

Along the riverside track Grey Fantails were plentiful and a Grey Shrike Thrush was gathering nesting material.

Grey Fantail - Graeme Dean
Grey Fantail. Photo by Graeme Dean

A Fan-tailed Cuckoo could be heard making its trilling call on the opposite side of the river but was not seen.

Mistletoebird - Graeme Dean
Mistletoebird (m). Photo by Graeme Dean

On the track leading away from the river another pair of Tawny Frogmouths was seen, but this was eclipsed by wonderful sightings of a pair of Mistletoebirds.

Mistletoebird - f - Bevan Hood
Mistletoebird (f). Photo by Bevan Hood

These birds remained in the dead trees and nearby mistletoe for several minutes enabling everyone to have a good look. For many of the beginners this was a ‘lifer’. Walking back towards the cars the only raptor of the day, a Brown Goshawk, was seen flying overhead being harassed by a little Raven. Lunch was eaten at the edge of the oval during which a pair of Australian King Parrots flew past and landed in the grass.

King Parrot - Bevan Hood
King Parrot. Photo by Bevan Hood

After this a second shorter walk was taken up to the “Grotty Ponds”. A pair of Purple Swamphen was seen there, though sadly no crakes.

Purple Swamphen - Eleanor Dilley
Purple Swamphen. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Four further pairs of Tawny Frogmouths were located, giving a total of six pairs for the day.  Banyule Flats certainly lived up to its reputation of being the Tawny Frogmouth capital of Melbourne!

On returning to the cars a final birdcall recorded 56 species for the day – an excellent result for a suburban park.

See complete bird list for the day: BM Oct 2018 Bird List Banyule Flats

 

Weekdays outing in the Wonthaggi area

16 May 2018

The meeting point car park filled with cars as 24 assembled under cloudy skies in Wonthaggi. Rain storms had fallen the previous day so we were grateful for a cold but dry day. Nola Thorpe led the walk and warned us that her recent recce had yielded very few birds in the heathland. However we were a hopeful mix of Melbourne and Wonthaggi birders as we drove off in convoy – you never know with birding.

Eastern Spinebill - Bevan Hood
Eastern Spinebill in the heathlands. Photo by Bevan Hood

The heathlands car park was already occupied by a pair of horse riders, regulars, who wished us good birding as they set off. Initially Nola’s dire prediction looked accurate for we saw and heard little. Then there were Grey Shrike-thrush calls and glimpses of New Holland Honeyeaters. In more timbered country there were Spotted Pardalote, Grey Fantail and Grey Butcherbird. Near a small dam, five Australasian Shelducks flew overhead.

Walking the heathland track - Tweeddale
Walking the track. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

The dam, which birds frequent in summer, was uninhabited as recent rains had provided plenty of surface water elsewhere. A small flock of Red-browed Finches foraged on the ground and White-eared Honeyeaters called and perched on emergent boughs, seeming to take on the roles of Singing Honeyeaters elsewhere. A cool burn had been done about a month previously and it was interesting to see the growth of grass blades and of the Xanthorrhoea bases below the burn line.

The heathlands are a mosaic of different burnt zones which will hopefully provide habitat for many species. We searched unsuccessfully for the elusive Southern Emu-wren and the Striated Fieldwren before returning to the cars to drive to the desalination plant. The car park was under surveillance as we assembled – several Eastern Grey Kangaroos watched quietly from a bracken patch.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo - Bevan Hood
Eastern Grey Kangaroos watching the car park. Photo by Bevan Hood

We lunched at the picnic area of the desal plant before walking on the trails and checking the ponds. Here waterbirds predominated with large flocks of Pacific Black Ducks and Grey Teal. A few Eurasian Coots and fewer Chestnut Teal and Australasian Grebes were also present.

Pacific Black Duck - Grey Teal - Chestnut Teal - Bevan Hood
Pacific Black Ducks and Grey and Chestnut Teal on the desalination plant pond. Photo by Bevan Hood

Both White-faced and White-necked Herons used the ponds and Straw-necked Ibis flew over. Raptors here were Black-shouldered Kite, Nankeen Kestrel, Swamp Harrier and Peregrine Falcon while Welcome Swallows swooped across the ponds. As always, Superb Fairy-wrens were among the reed beds. Back to bird call and the group’s lists were 36 species in the heathlands, 39 species at the desalination plant and a gratifying total of 59 species for the day.

Heathland flowers - Tweeddale
Heathland flowers. Photo by Diane Tweeddale

We thanked Nola for all her preparation which had produced such a great result for this cold season of the year.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings.

Weekdays outing to Brimbank Park, Keilor East

6 March 2017

The day was very warm with clear skies and a light breeze when 20 of us gathered in the car park. Elsmaree Baxter led our group and, as frequently happens, the car park birding was extremely rewarding. Here we recorded quite a list including Little Raven, Red Wattlebird, Galah, Noisy Miner, Australian Magpie, Rainbow Lorikeet and Long-billed Corella as the more frequent birds, though early arrivals added at least a further six species. The highlight sighting was a Collared Sparrowhawk persistently quartering the trees hoping to flush small prey. Little wonder that some time elapsed before we left the area.

Pacific Black Duck - Bevan Hood
Pacific Black Duck. Photo by Bevan Hood

We headed initially to the nearer ford where the only waterbirds were Dusky Moorhen and Pacific Black Duck but wattlebirds and the occasional White-plumed Honeyeater were dipping to drink from the surface. The ducks amused by using the concrete fish ladder as a swim course or maze.

Red-browed Finch - Bevan Hood
Red-browed Finch. Photo by Bevan Hood

Piles of flow debris indicated the past river height after recent rain. At another ford there were slightly skittish Red-browed Finches and an unexpectedly late, silent, Australian Reed-Warbler.

Reed Warbler Red browed Finch Danika Sanderson
Red-browed Finch and Australian Reed-Warbler. Photo by Danika Sanderson.

Superb Fairy-wrens called mostly from shelter and Spotted Pardalotes were also vocal while Willie Wagtails chattered, warbled and generally took little notice of the large, slow insect stirrers, aka humans. White-browed Scrubwrens could be heard occasionally and some watchers eventually “nailed” sightings, Grey Fantails were considerably more obliging and Brown Thornbills were present in forested areas. Heading out of a treed section on our way back to lunch we were awed and delighted to view a Wedge-tailed Eagle being harassed by a much smaller Brown Goshawk.

Wedge-tailed Eagle Brown Goshawk - Danika Sanderson
Wedge-tailed Eagle and Brown Goshawk. Photo by Danika Sanderson

These were our second raptors for the day and with the earlier sparrowhawk made great memories. We decided that the most successful breeding season award went to the Red Wattlebirds, with Silvereyes coming in second.

Silvereye - Bevan Hood
Silvereye. Photo by Bevan Hood

Some House Sparrows in small groups or singly were seen, though this species has declined or disappeared from former locations. After lunch we kept an eye out for a Tawny Frogmouth but a single sighting was not to be – first one, comparatively easy to see, then a second, pretending to be a dozing possum and initially looking furry, not feathery, then the most challenging of all. The third was truly bark-like and extremely well camouflaged and had eluded even experienced “froggie finders”. Well done to Pearl for penetrating its disguise.

Tawny Frogmouth - Danika Sanderson
Tawny Frogmouth. Photo by Danika Sanderson

The day was now quite warm and bird activity had understandably almost stopped so we decided to wrap up the day. The bird list for the group totalled 44 species and we thanked Elsmaree for all her careful planning which had produced such a satisfactory day. It was the first time we had returned to Brimbank in five years and memories of earlier walks had dimmed. What a way to refresh them.

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.

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.

pacific-black-duck-with-young-2
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.