U3A Hawthorn Birdwalk on Friday 15th November was at Wilson Reserve in Ivanhoe. Twenty one people attended, and 35 species were seen, on a lovely sunny morning with lots of water in the billabongs and yellow irises making a great display. Species showing themselves well for photography (by Jim Sharpe) were an Australian White Ibis with lots of neck plumes showing his/her breeding status and several Red-browed Finches feeding in the grass. Noisy Miner, Mudlark and Chestnut Teal all had nests and/or young, and the Bell Miner calls were deafening at close range. This group was again led by Pat Bingham and I thank Jim for his photographs.
On Tuesday 19 November 2019Sally Heeps gave a presentation to the Salvation Army Companion club at Waverley. There were about 30 people and she spoke about encouraging birds to their gardens and the species of the area. I am told they were a friendly group and happy to share their bird stories.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 70
Photographs by Eleanor Dilley
Light winds and mild temperatures provided perfect weather conditions for the 44 members attending the February excursion. With the aid of three scopes, large numbers of birds could be seen on the reservoir. Looking from the dam wall, these included Blue-billed Ducks, Great-crested Grebes, Eurasian Coots and three kinds of Cormorant: Great, Little Black and Little Pied.
The cars were then moved to be nearer to the wetlands where Yellow Thornbills, Red-browed Finch and Red-rumped Parrots were among the more colourful bush-birds seen. Ducks and Dusky Moorhens were plentiful on the water but a major highlight was the good sighting of a Spotless Crake on the mud beside a clump of reeds and then clambering up on top of it.
A Wedge-tailed Eagle soaring overhead added further excitement. On entering the fenced area the second pond provided good sightings including a Common Sandpiper, Black-fronted Dotterels plus a group of nine Freckled Ducks.
Returning to the cars around the back of the wetlands four lucky members had a brief view of a Latham’s Snipe before it shot off out of sight.
Soon afterwards a female Australasian Darter circled low overhead giving everyone a good look.
Lunch was taken at the top of the hill where it was pleasing to see that the Nankeen Night-herons were still roosting in their usual Corsican Pine, though sadly the vegetation on the tree was much sparser than in previous years.
A short afternoon walk was taken along the fence line down towards the reservoir where two flocks of White-winged Choughs were seen, one foraging in the leaf litter beyond the fence and the other flying through the picnic area. Using the scopes a Great Egret and an Australian Pelican were identified and then at the carpark a Little Eagle was seen, bringing the total number of species recorded to 70. This was an excellent total and 19 more than in the same month in 2018. Perhaps the water provided by the reservoir in this very dry summer was a major reason.
Many thanks to Eleanor Dilley for providing all the photographs.
All photographs by BirdLife Melbourne member, Graeme Dean
A fine breezy day with blue sky changed to cloudy and the wind became cold, causing everyone to don windproof overclothing. There were 22 rugged up participants with Graeme Hosken leading the group. Haversham Avenue, where the cars were parked, is suburbia on one side with the reserve facing it and so initial birds were simply a few flyovers and such garden birds as Red Wattlebird and Common Starling. We started walking to the south and started listing birds as we entered the reserve. Waterbirds flying over included Australian White Ibis, White-faced Heron, Australasian Darter and Pacific Black Duck.
Later the ponds yielded Royal Spoonbill in breeding plumage, Black Swan, Australian Pelican, both Chestnut and Grey Teal and initially a lone Eurasian Coot which became at least 20 on the adjacent water.
Purple Swamphens foraged singly and Dusky Moorhen and both Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes were represented by solitary sightings. Cormorants were present – Little Pied, Little Black and Great – flying over, fishing and perched plumply while digestion proceeded. Water levels were high after recent rains and the absence of exposed mud meant neither crakes nor rails was detected.
A Swamp Harrier flying over was announced by alarm calls and we later watched it quartering the reed beds. It, plus Brown Goshawk and Nankeen Kestrel made up the raptor sightings for the walk. Several areas had been planted and protected with extensive netting which in one area made the sighting of a Great Egret through the netting challenging. Welcome Swallows swooped and in some places were joined by Fairy Martins whose mud bottle nests were detected below the bridging of one of the outlets.
No one saw a Little Grassbird but the population must have been considerable to judge by the amount of calling heard. Glimpses were obtained of Golden-headed Cisticola and Australian Reed-Warbler among the grass and reeds. Eastern Common Froglets were the most frequently heard frogs. A Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo really needed scoping as it perched distantly but those with powerful bins considered it identified.
A welcome lunch break was taken at the eastern East Link service area (coffee, toilets and hot food) much appreciated on a carry-lunch walk. Bush birds were encountered once we left the edge of the water and Grey Shrike-thrush, Golden Whistler and both Spotted and Striated Pardalotes joined the list. Honeyeaters included New Holland and Yellow-faced as well as Eastern Spinebill and Noisy Miner. White-browed Scrubwrens were glimpsed in the undergrowth while Superb Fairy-wrens were common throughout the walk. Grey Butcherbird and Grey Currawong called, Grey Fantails were common and only a couple of Willie Wagtails were detected. A female Flame Robin was seen by many and Red-browed Finches often foraged beside the path.
Introduced birds were “the usual”, Common Myna, Starling and Blackbird plus Spotted Dove and Feral Pigeon/Rock Dove.
In all 59 species were detected and there were smiles all round as people planned to add the area to their walking lists. We thanked Graeme heartily for sharing the knowledge he had gained during the Melbourne Water surveys.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 46
The 42 members who attended the Woodlands excursion were lucky to see more water in the creek than had been seen for some time. Also, the vegetation looked healthier than in past years, presumably due to the recent rains.
This no doubt contributed to the large number of small bush birds seen, especially Superb Fairy-wrens and Red-browed Finches.
An early highlight of the morning walk was the sighting of both male and female Flame and Scarlet Robins in the same area close to the track.
Throughout the walk parrots were plentiful, especially Red-rumped Parrots apparently investigating the numerous nesting hollows available in the wonderful old River Red Gums.
A few Long-billed Corellas were spotted resting high in a tree, amongst many Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, with Galahs feeding in the grass below.
Whistling Kites and a Brown Goshawk were the only two raptor species seen. Up near the homestead several more Flame Robins were seen along the fence lines with Yellow-rumped Thornbills close by.
On the return track to the car park another hotspot was found with a Fan-tailed Cuckoo, more Flame Robins and a male Mistletoebird, which was seen by the lucky few.
After lunch most of the group drove to the section of the Park near the old Aboriginal Cemetery for a second walk. Heading towards the Sanatorium Lake a few extra species were recorded, including Grey Currawong and Crimson Rosella.
The only waterbirds seen on the lake were a pair of Australasian Grebes.
Inside the feral-proofed Back Paddock, Dave and Dorothy Jenkins kindly helped to track down a pair of Red-capped Robins, providing members with the highlight of the day.
A few Scarlet and Flame Robins were also seen in this area.
We had achieved our objective of finding three of the red Robin species, with the Red-capped Robin once again being a feature of the Woodlands visit. A total of 46 species was recorded on a most enjoyable and rewarding day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The weather was perfect, mild, sunny and calm as 28 people gathered in the farthest car park. Seven of these were young people from the Green Army planning to acquire bird ID skills and we were happy to assist with loaned binoculars, field guides and advice.
The immediate area near the car park was well populated with Crested Pigeons, magpies, Superb Fairy-wrens, Galahs and Red Wattlebirds while a few Red-browed Finches were less easy to find though one was sighted carrying a long grass stalk as nesting material.
There were Willie Wagtails and Grey Fantails with Little Ravens calling and flying overhead. Introduced birds were also present – flocks of Common Starlings, some Spotted Doves, fewer Common Mynas with occasional Common Blackbird calling. Small birds among the denser foliage included Spotted Pardalotes and Silvereyes.
The drainage channel and catchment ponds initially looked empty but persistence revealed Chestnut Teal and Pacific Black Duck and a further bankside walk added White-faced Heron, croaking as they flew near, and Eurasian Coot and Dusky Moorhen.
Little Grassbirds called plaintively just after we had identified a Horsefield’s Bronze-Cuckoo by its call. Much searching by many failed to repeat the brief sighting of a Spotless Crake. The Laverton Creek mouth area added Australian Pelican, Little Pied Cormorant and, initially, an extremely distant Great Egret. Then, closer to the group a second egret provided much better views.
The Bird of the Day arrived here – an immature White-bellied Sea-Eagle which flew toward us and then turned direction over our heads, giving great views to all those present. Another bird which proved most cooperative was a Singing Honeyeater which showed great loyalty to the bare dead tree on which it perched, returning there after many short flights and allowing excellent views.
It joined Red Wattlebird and White-plumed and New Holland Honeyeaters on our list. The party divided on its way back to lunch and the car park but neither group added any species to an already impressive list.
After lunch those who stayed on headed north, adding a Brown Falcon and a challenging Australasian Pipit while delighting in the White-fronted Chats on the low bushes. One photographer was recording a chat when another bird flew into the camera’s field. After taking many photos in the brief time available these were compared with field guides and finally we concluded that the intruding bird was a Jacky Winter. Definitely serendipity.
By the walk’s end we counted 60 species for the day and we thanked Gina Hopkins, our leader, for her preparation and enthusiasm which gave such a great result.
The traffic was heavy, the weather was fine and 25 birders met at Braeside. Geoff Russell led a 5 km walk around the northern portion of the park and we were soon rewarded by encountering a ‘purple patch’ in the bush beside the paddocks buffering the industrial zone. At least 10 species were recorded here. The mixed feeding flock included White-browed Scrubwrens, Brown Thornbills, Red-browed Finches and Spotted Pardalotes. Superb Fairy-wrens and Grey Fantails were listed plus Grey Shrike-thrush while male and female Golden Whistlers came close. The paddock added Straw-necked Ibis, Masked Lapwing and Silver Gull with Rock Dove (or Feral Pigeon) while Australian Pelicans flew overhead. Quite a patch! Ditches were damp from recent rain and several frog species were calling. The inevitable rabbits were also present – one flushed near the ‘purple patch’. A few Cattle Egrets left the grazing cows while others stayed among the herd as the farmer’s ute approached.
By one of the wetlands four trilling birds rose and descended repeatedly, puzzling many until they were identified as Australian Pipits. Many of us had not previously heard their calls. The park is noted for its varied environments so we walked quietly through a reed bed searching for bitterns (a fortunate few up front briefly saw two Australasian Bitterns while the rest at the rear were content with Golden-headed Cisticolas). At one pond a Great Egret posed on the roof of a hide. The raptor list was started by a Swamp Harrier but expanded to eventually include Wedge-tailed and Little Eagle, Whistling Kite, Brown Goshawk and Brown Falcon. Most soared high or flew low and fast. Dead trees served as perches for many including Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Long-billed Corellas, Rainbow Lorikeets and Red-rumped Parrots. We hoped for robins near fences which are used as a lookout for these pouncing birds, and eventually we were rewarded with male and female Flame Robins. Soon we came to a larger lake and the number of waterbirds increased, though not the number of species. Eurasian Coots dominated one area with Pacific Black Ducks coming second. A few Chestnut and Grey Teal were present and a solo Hardhead was recorded by a few watchers.
On a smaller pond Dusky Moorhen completed the triumvirate of coot, moorhen and swamphen while an active Willie Wagtail entertained us as it swooped across the water surface. Some stragglers eventually caught up with the main group near the bird hide which had been disappointingly short of birds and then it was back to a well-deserved late lunch and an interim bird call for those who needed to leave early. We’d notched up 58 species by then and so we set off on the short afternoon walk hoping to pass 60 for the day. In this afternoon walk we added Common Bronzewing, Dusky Moorhen and Scarlet Robin with an interesting sighting of a Cockatiel. This was judged an aviary escapee as its plumage included considerable white feathers and, though it appeared to be foraging for seeds, it allowed humans to approach rather too closely for its own safety.
By day’s end we had 62 species (63 unofficially including the Cockatiel) and we thanked Geoff enthusiastically for his work in presenting this rewarding area.