Tag Archives: Purple Swamphen

Weekdays outing to Bellarine Peninsula

20 November 2017
All photographs by Bevan Hood, member
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Whiskered Tern

Blues skies and a light breeze combined with heat. Leaders were Leonie Robbins and Diane Tweeddale and at Balyang initially there were 12 people which swelled to 13 at our second stop, Jerringot. The sanctuary deserves to be more widely known.

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Rainbow Lorikeet

High water levels from recent rains meant no mud was visible around any ponds making seeing crakes and rails unlikely. Australasian Darters were rearing pairs of well-grown young in nests overhanging the Barwon River and Little Pied Cormorants were nesting in the trees around and in the large pond. Not bad for a constructed wetland. Australian Pelicans sat on the tops of duck nesting boxes.

Purple Swamphen - Bevan Hood
Purple Swamphen

Rainbow Lorikeets and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos investigated nesting holes while a few Red-rumped Parrots and a lone Long-billed Corella foraged on the grass. This was the only location of the outing where we recorded parrots and cockatoos.

Grey Teal - Bevan Hood
Grey Teal

The ducks showed plenty of cross-breeding but a couple seemed purebred enough to call Northern Mallard and Pacific Black Duck. Chestnut Teal swam aloof from the riffraff and a very few of Grey Teal were also observed.

Chestnut Teale male - Bevan Hood
Chestnut Teal

Welcome Swallows swooped near the bridge and House Sparrows favoured the picnic area. Far above a Brown Goshawk circled and soared. The sanctuary recorded 34 species.

White-faced Heron - Bevan Hood
White-faced Heron

Next was the Barwon Heads golf club with adjacent Jerringot. Little Grassbird and Australian Reed-Warbler were calling among the reeds. A couple of Crested Pigeons bobbed near our shady lunch spot but flushed when we began assembling.

Australasian Grebe - Bevan Hood
Australasian Grebe

A highlight was the presence of several White-necked Herons flying around with one obliging bird foraging, apparently unconcerned by us eating our lunches about 4 m away.

White-necked Heron - Bevan Hood
White-necked Heron

It foraged delicately but no prey appeared to be taken despite more than one frog species calling. There were two fluffy Purple Swamphen chicks in the company of two protective adults. Time spent here, including lunch, allowed us to record 23 species.

The Hospital Swamp drive features two left turns with minimum warning and the group straggled in to the meeting area but we all made it. Again, no visible mud for crakes, rails or waders. Whiskered Terns quartered the water while our sole sighting of a Great Egret was here, across the lake on the top of a nesting box. A Swamp Harrier gave good views.

Swamp Harrier - Bevan Hood
Swamp Harrier

Less obliging was a Double-fronted Dotterel which flew rapidly in from the lake, calling, and then as quickly flew out again. Time was passing so we left this area, recording 11 species during our brief visit.

Our last stop was Tait’s Point, high above Lake Connewarre where we’d hoped for Caspian Tern. Never go hoping, it doesn’t work. Scopes came in useful here and confirmed Australian Shelduck and Wedge-tailed Eagle far away. A distant “branch-lump” resolved into an Australian Magpie which was less exciting than we’d hoped. Cormorants perched on a jetty and Great, Little Pied, Little Black and Pied were noted.

Little Pied Cormorant - Little Black Cormorant - Great Cormorant - Bevan Hood
Little Pied Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, Great Cormorant

A New Holland Honeyeater lifted our “bag” of honeyeaters which had been only White-plumed Honeyeaters and numerous Red Wattlebirds till then. The sun was hot enough at 3pm to lead to a group decision to stop the outing here and tot up the list. Tait’s Pt yielded 22 species and the overall count was 54 species. Not bad considering the weather. The only birds recorded at all locations were Australian Magpie and Masked Lapwing which reflects the adaptability of these species.

Diane Tweeddale, co-leader and Co-ordinator Weekdays Outings

Beginners outing to Jells Park

26 August 2017

Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers
Species count: 64
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Grey Butcherbird. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

It was a fine but cool morning as 42 members set off to walk around Jells Park Lake. A lone Nankeen Night-Heron was sighted through the bushes and on closer investigation this proved to be a group of four adults and one juvenile. An early distant view of a single Tawny Frogmouth was later followed by two more separate views of pairs of them, making a total of five individuals for the day.

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Tawny Frogmouth. Photo by Alan Veevers

There was a great deal of activity around the lake with dozens of Australian White Ibis nesting on the islands and on the edges of reed beds, often on communal rafts which they had constructed from dead twigs. Australasian Darters, Great and Little Pied Cormorants were also nesting, but in much smaller numbers. Interestingly, their nests were constructed from live twigs, complete with leaves.

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Australian White Ibis. Photo by Alan Veevers

Freckled, Blue-billed and Pink-eared Ducks were amongst the less common species on the lake.

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Pink-eared Duck. Photo by Alan Veevers

A Great Egret was spotted on a small pond to the left of the track, fishing amongst dense red weed, apparently oblivious to the activities of the nearby Purple Swamphens.

Freckled Duck, Jells Park
Freckled Duck. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

Parrot species were plentiful, with Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Rainbow Lorikeets and Eastern Rosellas being the most noticeable as they jostled for nest hollows.

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Purple Swamphens. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

After completing the lake circuit a short walk was taken along the track towards Norton Park. Two Cattle Egrets could be seen among livestock in the distance and a Nankeen Kestrel was seen hovering and diving, then perched in a far-off dead tree.

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Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

This was the only raptor seen during the day. Noisy Miners were dominant amongst the smaller bush birds and it was a challenge to find other species. A friendly Grey Butcherbird was an exception.

Great Egret, Jells Park
Great Egret. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

After lunch the members drove to Carpark 4 where profusely flowering Ironbarks were attracting birds, most surprisingly including a pair of Princess Parrots (presumably aviary escapees).

Eastern Rosella, Jells Park
Eastern Rosella. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

A final short circuit walk was taken where good views of Australian King-Parrots and Musk Lorikeets were the highlights.

King Parrot(M), Jells Park
Australian King Parrot. Photo by Eleanor Dilley

A total of 64 species was recorded for the day – an excellent result for a suburban park in August.

See the full bird list here: BM Aug 2017 Bird List Jells Park

Weekdays Outing to Lillydale Lake, Lilydale

12 July 2017
Photographs by Dianne Tweeddale
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Reflections on a still morning

It was cold as we set off from our homes. Not as chilling as a week previously but still very low temperatures. Sixteen braved the still, cold but sunny morning and Jane Moseley led us. We checked out the Australian Wood Ducks, Magpie Larks, Purple Swamphens, Eurasian Coots and Dusky Moorhens on the grass beside the car park and also noted Australian Magpies, Red Wattlebirds, Rainbow Lorikeets and the inevitable Noisy Miners in the surrounding trees.

Purple Swamphen and Australian Wood Ducks
Purple Swamphen and Australian Wood Ducks

On the adjacent wetland there were a couple of Pacific Black Ducks and teal. It was some of the latter which occasioned close examination and discussion. The Chestnut Teal were readily counted but the two or three paler birds catching the sunlight, which teal were they? Careful attention to the plumage decided Grey Teal. It was that frequent “Which teal is that?” discussion. Our visitors and newcomers had been promised darters and Lillydale Lake did not disappoint. As we were moving out the first darter was pointed out and from then on we admired and compared male and female Australasian Darters both near and far. We kept our eyes out for Azure Kingfishers which had been seen a few days previously but the first location drew a blank. On the boardwalk we watched an Australasian Grebe warm its fluffy backside in the morning sun before we passed the structure which has been voted “world’s worst bird hide”. It consists of a fence with rectangular holes cut at different heights which look out onto an impenetrable stand of tall vegetation. Still, after we had dismissed it we rounded the corner and started to check the lake and the reed beds. The cry went up “Pink-eared Duck!” and there they were. Two pinkies which had not followed the rains inland. Voted bird of the day on the spot.

Black Swans feeding
Black Swans feeding

Then we wondered if we’d been a bit premature with the award when an Azure Kingfisher was sighted, not on its previously-favoured nest box but on a farther one and from which it flew to a low perch and afforded everyone good or brief views. Spotted Pardalotes called but it seemed that only a couple of watchers at a time were able to chalk up good views. Still, most people had seen them well by day’s end. Grey Shrike-thrushes gave their beautiful single winter calls and Grey Butcherbirds were finally seen as well as heard. The south-western wetlands are undergoing “rectification works” and new plantings are covered with nets so that no birds are currently using that area. Five years should see an improvement. The lake supports lots of fishers, the darters, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants and humans on the banks and occasionally in boats. It wasn’t all waterbirds. As well as the lorikeets mentioned above there were Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Little Corellas, Crimson (adult and immature) Rosellas, Eastern Rosellas and Australian King Parrots (male and female).

resting Australian Wood Ducks
Resting Australian Wood Ducks

After lunch we walked out to Bellbird Park where a pair of Black Swans paddled unconcerned by our presence while they cropped the pond plants. Walking back added Eastern Spinebill, then White-faced Herons and finally a Laughing Kookaburra to our list which numbered 45 species at the end of the walk. Very creditable birding for a cold mid-July day. We thanked Jane most enthusiastically for all her preparations and leading.

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.

Beginners Outing to Jells Park

27 August 2016

Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 50
All photographs by Eleanor Dilley

Forty-six members set off from the Eastern Carpark in fine weather conditions to begin the walk around the lake. After entering the wildlife enclosure a few small birds were seen including Striated Pardalotes and Superb Fairy-wrens.

Jells Park 2016 Butcherbird
Immature Grey Butcherbird

Grey Butcherbirds and Laughing Kookaburras were plentiful but Noisy Miners were very much the most numerous species.

Jells Park 2016 Kookaburra
Laughing Kookaburra

At the lake there were only a few ducks but these included a Freckled Duck, an Australasian Shoveler and Chestnut and Grey Teals.

Jells Park 2016 Chestnut Teal
Male (left) and female (right) Chestnut Teal

Of great interest were the birds nesting on a small treed island where there was much activity. Many Australian White Ibis were nesting at ground level, while higher up in the bare trees several pairs of Little Pied Cormorants, Great Cormorants and Australian Darters tended their nests. Sticks were still being brought in to build some nests, but many birds were clearly incubating eggs.

Jells Park 2016 Australian White  Ibis
Australian White Ibis

An Eastern Great Egret looked dazzling in its beautiful white breeding plumage contrasting with a few dirty-looking Ibis perched on the same log. On completing the lake circuit a short return walk was taken along the track towards Norton Park and a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike and White-faced Heron were added to the morning tally.

Jells Park 2016 Great Egret
Great Egret

Lunch was taken near the carpark, after which about half the group drove to the top of the hill where a second shorter walk was taken.

Jells Park 2016 Purple Swamphen
Purple Swamphen

Highlights of this included a well camouflaged Tawny Frogmouth and great views of Musk Lorikeets in the flowering Ironbark trees.

Jells Park 2016 Tawny Frogmouth
Tawny Frogmouth
Jells Park 2016 Musk Lorikeet
Musk Lorikeet

Those at the rear of the group were fortunate to witness a Peregrine Falcon flying rapidly overhead – the only raptor spotted during the day. Eight Parrot species added a wonderful range of colours to the sightings, making up for the near zero contribution from the few Honeyeaters that were around.

Jells Park 2016 Galah
Galah
Jells Park 2016 Eastern Rosella
Eastern Rosella

A total of 50 species were recorded on a most interesting and enjoyable excursion.

See the bird list for the outing: BM Aug 2016 Bird List Jells Park