12 February 2018
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