Tag Archives: Purple Swamphen

Weekdays Outing to Lillydale Lake, Lilydale

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

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.

little-wattlebird-and-common-myna-2
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.

eastern-water-dragon
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.

lotus-flower
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