A very windy and cool day greeted 12 members attending the November mid-week outing commencing at O’Donohue Picnic Ground off Sherbrooke Lodge Road in the Dandenong Ranges National Park.
Before setting off into the forest we had excellent views of a Rose Robin feeding on the verge of the forest, the first highlight for the day. Noise from the wind in the branches of the Mountain Ash trees drowned out birds calling at times but during the lulls, calls from Crimson Rosellas predominated, followed at times by Golden Whistlers at Grey Shrike-thrush. A White-throated Treecreeper, first heard, and then sighted on a tree led to male Lyrebird feeding below. One of two for the day.
On crossing the bridge over Sherbrooke Falls, a Rufous Fantail was calling and finally spotted. Our second highlight for the day. Distant calls from Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Grey Butcherbird and Little Raven, added to the days total 26 species recorded.
After lunch in the picnic ground, we walked to the end of Sherbrooke Lodge Road admiring the many large Rhododendron trees in private gardens, stopping at the Ray Littlejohn’s memorial which commemorates the work Ray did in the early study on the Lyrebirds in Sherbrooke Forest. Unfortunately, no additional species sighted.
Many thanks to Rhonda Miller who led the outing, for her local knowledge of the area and indicating that the 26 species recorded was above average for this type of habitat.
Graeme Hosken, for Diane Tweeddale who was not available to attend the outing.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 48
There was a chaotic start to this excursion as the intended carpark was full of baseball players’ cars and the beginners had to find parking spaces in the surrounding streets. However, this was soon forgotten when a pair of Tawny Frogmouths were located in one of their usual trees to the left of the carpark. In overcast conditions the 29 members then walked to the lagoon which was full of water from the recent rains. Pairs of Long-billed Corellas and Red-rumped Parrots, along with numerous Silver Gulls, were perched in the old dead trees on the far side. Two Pink-eared Ducks were seen swimming across the lagoon and then resting on partially submerged logs.
Grey and Chestnut Teals, Pacific Black Ducks, a Eurasian Coot, a Dusky Moorhen and a Hoary-headed Grebe could be seen in the distance. After leaving the lagoon on a track towards the river, Pied Currawongs were noisy and plentiful.
A huge River Red Gum hosted a mixed flock of smaller birds, including a pair of Golden Whistlers, Grey Fantails, Spotted Pardalotes and Brown Thornbills.
Near the river a male Common Bronzewing was perched high on a branch and several White-browed Scrubwrens were seen foraging in shrubs on the riverbank. Returning along the track from the windmill, a few Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were seen and this proved to be the only honeyeater species recorded for the day, apart from the ever present Noisy Miners. Near to the Main Yarra Trail a Gang-gang Cockatoo was heard giving its “creaky gate” call and was soon located and identified as an immature male.
A small flock of Silvereyes fluttered around nearby and more Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were seen in a profusely flowering eucalyptus tree. Magpie-larks could readily be seen and heard on the ground.
On returning to the now empty carpark the members retrieved their vehicles from the surrounding streets and then had lunch beside the oval where they watched a mixed feeding flock of Galahs, Long-billed and Little Corellas. A short walk was then taken along the main trail towards the ‘grotty ponds’.
The sun finally put in a brief appearance, shining onto a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets feeding in a flowering ironbark. Nearby a second pair of Tawny Frogmouths was located and then a pair of Crested Pigeons was seen giving a courtship display.
From the raised level of the track an Australasian Grebe could be seen on the lagoon – an unusual sighting for Banyule Flats. The ‘grotty ponds’ had been cleared of vegetation, so disappointingly there was no sign of any crakes or rails. In a nearby flowering gum a mixed flock of Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets could be seen noisily feeding.
At this point dark clouds were approaching, threatening very heavy rain, and so all the members hurried back to their cars.
A pleasing total of 48 species was recorded for the day which was a good result for mid-winter in mainly dull and overcast conditions.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 64
Leafless deciduous trees around the carpark by Le Page homestead enabled the assembled 28 members to have very good views of Striated Pardalotes and Yellow Thornbills, which are normally much harder to see when hiding in thick foliage.
Setting off along the Wonga Walk in bright sunshine with little wind it was good to see that the ponds near the homestead had been filled with water after several years of being almost empty.
Consequently, several wetland species were present including Australasian Grebe and Hardhead.
Both Pallid and Fan-tailed Cuckoos could be heard calling in the distance but were not visible. Following the track by the Plenty River it was great to see a variety of small birds, including Eastern Yellow Robins, Brown-headed and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters along with numerous Grey Fantails.
Two of the birds spotted flying over were White-necked Heron and Australian Pelican.
In the distance a Wedge-tailed Eagle could be seen being mobbed by Little Ravens, while in the other direction a pair of Brown Goshawks were being harassed by a Peregrine Falcon.
Also, announcing their presence vocally were Pied Currawongs, one of which perched nearby allowing it to be easily viewed.
At the far end of the track by the Plenty river a White-eared Honeyeater obligingly posed on the top of a dead stump while nearby a small flock of Dusky Woodswallows perched in high dead branches. After that it was up the track skirting below the scout camp, then pausing at a parrot hot spot where Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets, Eastern and Crimson Rosellas, Galahs and Long-billed Corellas were all found.
Lunch was eaten back near the homestead after which most of the members drove round to the Morang Wetlands where a reception committee of Eastern Grey Kangaroos awaited. At the pond below the Ridge Track a mixed flock of Fairy Martins and Welcome Swallows circled overhead.
A number of species including (pointy-headed) Freckled Ducks, Dusky Moorhens and Chestnut Teal were seen on the water. On gaining the higher track another Pallid Cuckoo was heard, and this time it was eventually traced to its perch in a tall tree.
Soon afterwards a Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo was seen and heard and there was a brief sighting of a female White-winged Triller. The previously known Wedge-tailed Eagle’s nest could still be seen down in the river gorge but it did not appear to be active so far this season.
On returning to the cars everyone agreed it had been an excellent day’s birding in perfect weather conditions with some unusual sightings amongst the 64 species recorded.
Photographs by Bevan Hood, member (unless otherwise indicated)
The weather was kind to birdwatchers with a cloudy morning, mild temperature and little breeze. We were a group of eleven – members and visitors – with David Plant leading. Bell Miners dominated the area near the H gate entrance and a team of tree surgeons was noisily working there as well. We walked from the disturbance and surveyed the azolla-covered water. It looked stable enough to walk on, very misleading, and areas of bank were taped off to deter youngsters from falling in. Waterfowl paddled and upended among the floating fern, Pacific Black Duck and Chestnut Teal, Eurasian Coot, Dusky Moorhen and Purple (now Australian) Swamphen. Silver Gulls and Australian Wood Duck walked on the lawns, not far from Australian Magpies and Magpie-larks.
Occasionally Red Wattlebirds flew past and a couple of Eastern Spinebills were sighted along with one Little Wattlebird. With the Bell Miners these were the only honeyeaters detected. The only parrot species observed was a few Rainbow Lorikeets high in eucalypts. Flyovers of Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants and a solitary White-faced Heron added to the waterfowl list.
No raptors were seen today and they seem to be no longer in the gardens after a presence of many years. The ͞big black birds͟ category contained Little Ravens and Pied Currawongs, flying and foraging. Down in the fern gully we were pleased to present David with sightings of White-browed Scrubwrens, a species which is becoming increasingly uncommon in the gardens, possibly from competition from miners plus modifications of the vegetation.
As all gardeners know, a garden is never a static place and change is continuous, especially now with climate change. David explained how the gardens were managing their water and power. Little tap water is used, for drinking and toilet flushing (a legal requirement) mostly. Street runoff is collected, litter trapped and the water then purified by plants, many in ͞garden beds that move͟.
It was fascinating to watch the slow dance of the floating gardens, among the lake azolla or high in Guilfoyle’s volcano. Power is another aspect where savings are being made with 35% being generated by solar panels. The aim is to attain self-sufficiency in water and power.
Lunch was taken near the tea room and was only slightly marred by the numerous Common Mynas (they are the most common bird in the gardens) pecking at uncleared lunch remains on the tables. The day was warming so we had a bird call at the tables and then headed back to our starting point, pausing to mourn the corpse of the much-vandalised Separation Tree. Mindless destruction seems much easier than caring for nature or manmade beauty. Before the old tree finally died seeds were collected and it was reassuring to admire the growth of the resulting offspring.
Soon we thanked David enthusiastically for sharing his garden with us and then went our ways, pleased that our list of 34 species did not continue an observed slide but was slightly above the previous year. Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings
Thirty-two people assembled in the car park, 27 members (including several new members) and five visitors. Rob Grosvenor was our leader and the morning was perfect for birding: mild, clear and calm.
Much better than the winds which had occurred earlier and which returned the following day. The winds had been strong enough to drop branches and trees, including some after the recce in the previous week.
We observed these as we negotiated the fallen material in several places along the walking track. The day was good but where were the birds?
The picnic ground devotees – Crimson Rosellas, Laughing Kookaburras and Pied Currawongs – were present in force but others were the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos screeching loudly high in the trees.
Several times their massed alarm calls suggested the presence of a raptor/predator but we didn’t detect anything.
As we stood quietly for instructions other birds became more evident – Superb Fairy-wrens, Brown Thornbills and Australian King-Parrots appeared and as we started walking a male Common Bronzewing gave good views as it foraged near a picnic table.
Some calls were heard as we walked Stringybark Track but sightings were rare in the forest. A call of a Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo was briefly heard and Spotted and Striated Pardalotes were calling.
Lewin’s Honeyeater first called frustratingly and then finally in the afternoon walk there was a clear view which was much appreciated by those for whom it was a “lifer”.
White-throated Treecreeper, Eastern Spinebill and Eastern Yellow Robin were all calling giving people a chance to compare the differing rates of their staccato calls. Other honeyeaters included Red Wattlebird, Crescent, Brown-headed and White-naped Honeyeaters. Sightings by some but not all people included Eastern Whipbird, White-browed and Large-billed Scrubwren, Tree Martin and Red-browed Finch. A lucky few detected a Bassian Thrush as it foraged, well camouflaged, among the ground litter.
The whistlers were well represented with Grey Shrike-thrush, Olive Whistler and a female Golden Whistler. Occasionally an Australian Raven called and flew over, giving all an opportunity to listen to the difference of the call from the more familiar Little Raven of the suburbs.
The final bird list totalled 31 species which nearly yielded a bird for each attendee and amid smiles we thanked Rob for showing us this under-appreciated gem.