After a break of 11 months, 33 members were delighted to be birding with the Beginners once more. Weather conditions were perfect – not too hot and little wind. At Beach Road Carpark several small bush-birds were foraging in the nearby Banksia and Casuarina trees, including Yellow Thornbills and New Holland Honeyeaters, along with numerous Superb Fairy-wrens and Willie Wagtails, and a lonesome Grey Fantail.
Down at the beach hundreds of Silver Gulls could be seen and sharp-eyed Geoff Deason found us a Great Crested Grebe far out on the water. Along the coastal track a small flock of Yellow-rumped Thornbills were much admired and then, on the heathland, Golden-headed Cisticolas were heard.
After a while, one of them finally broke cover and perched on a tall plant for all to see before treating us to its vertically up and down flying display. Returning along the fence line some of us saw an Australian Hobby flying over and flushing a large flock of Common Starlings.
Members then drove to the small wetlands near the RAAF Lake Carpark. These relatively new ponds provided some good sightings of Australian Reed Warblers and Australasian Grebes.
As everyone was watching these birds a flock of about 15 Zebra Finches flew in, landed on an adjacent bush and fluttered about giving, to everyone’s delight, great views of their colourful plumage.
Most of the Beginners then set off towards the Homestead area, pausing briefly at the wetland by the housing estate. The highlight here was a Royal Spoonbill in one of the ponds, giving a close-up view of its feeding technique.
Lunch was taken in the shade of the trees by the carpark and birdcall was interrupted by a Brown Goshawk which landed on a tree branch beside the main drive. Members then walked past the Homestead to the beach where it was lowish tide. A White-faced Heron was quietly feeding whilst several Chestnut Teal were resting on the rocks.
On reaching Cook Point, lots of small waders were seen feeding near the sandbanks. Most of them were Red-necked Stints and Curlew Sandpipers along with a few Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. Several Crested Terns, both adult and immature were resting on the rocks as well as both Pied and Little Pied Cormorants. It was nice just to sit on the sand and watch as several more flocks of waders flew in with impressive aerial precision. A final highlight was the slow flypast of a lone Australian Pelican, heralding the end of the walk.
Everyone agreed that Point Cook had provided a terrific start to Beginners 2021 and the final birdcall of 52 species was most impressive.
Many thanks go to Eleanor Dilley and Alan Veevers who, between them, provided all 10 photographs in this Report.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 62
Photographs by Eleanor Dilley
Moderate temperatures and light winds provided excellent conditions for the 37 members attending this outing. The Newport Lakes Reserve was looking very good with lots of eucalypts flowering and plenty of water in the ponds. Soon after leaving the carpark a small water hole on the left had attracted a male Rufous Whistler which moved around in a small bush alongside it.
Red Wattlebirds, New Holland Honeyeaters and a few White-plumed Honeyeaters were dominant in the tree canopy.
From the amphitheatre several Dusky Moorhens were seen, some shepherding very small chicks away from the admiring crowd. Australian Reed-Warblers were singing lustily around the edge of the lakes and could occasionally be seen.
Near the bridge a pair of Spotted Pardalotes had a nest between some rocks and members enjoyed excellent views of them. On crossing the stepping stones a pair of Black Swans had four young cygnets learning to feed themselves. On the dead trees further up the lake a male Australasian Darter was drying his wings along with a Great and a Little Black Cormorant.
Several Superb Fairy-wrens were seen foraging in the undergrowth beside the lake. On heading towards the arboretum ‘bird of the day’ was spotted – a Rufous Fantail! This was a most unusual sighting for a suburban park in November. The bird stayed around for 10 to 15 minutes, enabling everyone to have a good look at its beautiful plumage.
During lunch a bird call for the morning produced 38 species. Some members voiced their delight at the large total number of individual birds actually seen. Most of the group then drove down Maddox Road to the shore, where it was high tide. Unfortunately a serious pollution event had contaminated the Paisley-Challis Wetlands with an oily chemical, seriously degrading the habitat.
With the aid of booms the pollutant had been prevented from entering the bay, so the birds there seemed unaffected. Pied and Little Pied Cormorants were resting on partially submerged tyres whilst lots of Silver Gulls along with a few Black-winged Stilts and a lone White-faced Heron were on the shore.
A Red-kneed Dotterel and a Common Greenshank were also located amongst rocks on shore. Members then took the track through the wetlands to Jawbones Reserve and were rewarded with some great sightings. These included several Blue-billed Ducks, Pink-eared Ducks, Grey and Chestnut Teal, Royal Spoonbills and Hoary-headed Grebes.
A few Whiskered Terns showed off their flying skills, swooping down to the water’s surface to grab whatever morsel was on the surface. Little Grassbirds were calling lustily from the reeds, but were very hard to see.
At the turning point of the walk a large number of Pied Cormorants were displaying their very white breasts in contrast to the Little Pied Cormorants, some of which looked decidedly grubby.
A Great Crested Grebe was spotted nearby, raising excitement levels as we retraced our steps to the car park. A final look was taken on the shore where the tide was lower than it had been when we set out. Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints could now be seen foraging in the mud close to the bird hide.
Forty-four species were recorded for the afternoon session, which produced a combined total of 62 for the day. Once again, many thanks go to Eleanor Dilley for taking all the splendid photographs in the Report.
The group numbered 16 when we assembled by the information centre on Tuesday at 13.00 in calm sunny weather, perfect for birdwatching.
Our leaders were Sally and Derek Whitehead, keen birders who live on the island. They were very familiar with the Cape Barren Goose population but those visiting from the Melbourne branch were very interested to see the recovery of this once-threatened species. Almost to plague proportions according to some disgruntled land owners.
The geese were quiet but that cannot be said of the numerous Masked Lapwings. These noisy neighbours appreciate the mowed grasses and clearly you were not an islander if your block didn’t boast a pair, preferably breeding. Meanwhile the sky was filled with skeins and small groups of Ibis, mainly Straw-necked though there were a few Australian White.
Our first location was the Newhaven jetty where both Silver Gulls and Pacific Gulls were observed, the latter mostly immatures in their mottled brown plumage and looking somewhat scruffy.
The area also hosted Black Swans and Australian Pelicans while cormorants included Little Pied, Pied and Little Black.
Out to sea an Australian Gannet was briefly viewed and then confirmed as it plunged after fish. Around the houses ringing the jetty area we also noted Welcome Swallows, Galahs, Australian Magpies and Wattlebirds, Red and Little.
Then it was across to Fisher’s Wetlands, Newhaven, where there were ducks, Chestnut Teal, Australian Wood Ducks, Australasian Shovelers and Australian Shelducks.
Both Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes were present while Black-winged Stilts foraged on the far side of the water.
A Royal Spoonbill shared a roosting islet with swans and pelicans and a Whiskered Tern fluttered and dipped near them. From the bush we could hear a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo calling while a Swamp Harrier and then a Brown Falcon started our raptor count for the visit.
The birding is usually excellent at Fisher’s Wetland and today was no exception. The bush was home to Yellow-rumped and Brown Thornbills plus White-eared Honeyeaters and Grey Fantails.
On checking Rhyll inlet from the cliff top (scopes are recommended for this location) we were able to include several new species. The sand spit hosted Bar-tailed Godwits and Australian Pied Oystercatchers and a Caspian Tern flew past while the highlight here was Whimbrels on the rocks at the cliff base.
We were kept so busy observing and recording that we decided to drive over to the Shearwater estate and complete the day with a bird call there rather than visit the Rhyll yacht club as originally planned.
The yacht club might have similar results to the Newhaven jetty area while the estate contains central wetlands for water management and is well worth a visit. Yes, there were Little Grassbirds calling and many watchers managed to see an Australian Reed-Warbler as it foraged along the reed base. Highlights here were Fairy Martins collecting mud for nests under a culvert and a pair of Superb Fairy-wrens glowing brilliantly in the late afternoon light as they perched on the reeds.
We called the list and were gratified to number 68 species for the afternoon. Thanks to Sally and Derek.
Next morning we assembled at 08.30 without two of our number who were only available for the Tuesday. The first stop was the Oswin Roberts Reserve on Harbison Rd, Rhyll, another excellent birding location.
We didn’t need to leave the car park to record Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets, Laughing Kookaburra, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Eastern Rosella and Fairy Martin.
Walking around the short circuit by the car park we had the good fortune to locate and then actually see a calling Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, to watch brilliantly coloured Striated Pardalotes and to encounter a couple of feeding Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos.
Fan-tailed Cuckoo proved challenging to locate but most of us were finally able to view the birds. A fortunate group actually observed not one but three Fantail Cuckoos in the same binocular view.
Along the track we encountered a couple of Swamp Wallabies while checking the understorey. Then it was time to drive to the Nobbies for seabirds. Here the raptor count increased as we recorded Peregrine Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel and Whistling Kite.
Many smiles resulted from the glimpses of Little Penguins in their nesting boxes on the side of the hillside as we traversed the board walk. Crowds of tourists and families were taking advantage of the school holidays and beautiful weather. The calm settled conditions for the previous couple of days were not likely to have driven any albatrosses inshore so we were not surprised when none were seen.
It was not a far drive to Swan Lake from the Nobbies and most of us were soon smiling as pairs of Black Swans led their fluffy grey cygnets and a pair of Chestnut Teal boasted seven ducklings.
There were raptors, Swamp Harriers and Whistling Kites, as we walked the board walk and some of us wondered how many cygnets, ducklings and goslings would make it to adulthood. We decided to have the bird call here and made ourselves comfortable but the usual “bird call calls” rang out with White-browed Scrubwren and Silvereye joining the list at the last minute. The morning’s list totalled 66 species and the cumulative total for the two days was 90 species. It goes almost without saying that we thanked both Sally and Derek whole-heartedly for all their preparation which had gone into such a successful session.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species Count: 55
Thirty-two members met at the Southern Carpark in chilly overcast weather conditions. Amongst the first birds seen was a pair of Red-rumped Parrots feeding on a very dry parched area of grass whilst a pair of Crested Pigeons watched us from a branch in a nearby tree. Setting off towards the wetlands a Black- shouldered Kite was perched on top of a dead tree where it remained as we passed, allowing everyone to admire its beautiful markings.
The group then walked clockwise around the wetlands and were rewarded with many excellent sightings. We saw Freckled and Pink-eared Ducks; Australasian Shovelers; White-necked and White-faced Herons; Great and Little Egrets; Red-kneed and Black-fronted Dotterels; Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes plus many more common species.
On reaching the paddocks some bullocks grazing had attracted a few Cattle Egrets, while just over the fence a small flock of Flame Robins fed on the grass with the bright red breasts of the males being much admired by the Beginners.
There was plenty to see from the Bird Hide including a Royal Spoonbill, a female Australasian Darter and a Little Pied Cormorant drying its wings.
Soon afterwards we came across a mixed feeding flock of small bushbirds, including Spotted Pardalotes, Brown Thornbills, Grey Fantails, a juvenile Golden Whistler and a female Scarlet Robin.
From the last viewing platform on our circuit there were further good sightings, including a male Blue-billed Duck. Shortly before returning to the carpark there was a flyover by five Australian Pelicans.
Bird call was held after lunch with a total of 55 species being recorded. The cars were then driven to the Northern end of the park and a short walk was taken along the Heathland Trail.
In previous years this had been quite productive but this time no further species were found, no doubt due to the very dry conditions and lack of undergrowth. Despite this, everyone agreed that it had been a most successful day with great sightings on and around the wetlands.
Forecast: Strong wind from the SW. Possible shower. Temperature: 14 -16°C
The forecast was spot-on. Unfortunately, the wind through the trees for most of the morning prevented hearing birds calling. Two showers for the day. One lasted a few minutes in the morning and a second, in the afternoon, caused a run for tree cover as hail joined the rain for five minutes with sunshine following.
Eighteen persons attended, a few, their first visit to Braeside. Graeme Hosken led the outing as Geoff Russell was unavailable as his wife was not well.
Geoff completed a recce in February and suggested a route for today leaving the Cockatoo Car Park and heading west to the Howard Road Trail and then following the trail south along the western boundary of the park passing the Community Nursery and Indigenous Garden then the Wetland Circuit which skirts the southern boundary of the wetland and on to the Red Gum Picnic Area for lunch, then back to the Car Park via the Red Gum Trail.
Understory was very dry due to low rainfall during the past months. Bird activity minimal in the bush along the boundary walk and the wind didn’t help as it buffeted the trees and bushes. Once out of the wind, sightings improved, Superb Fairy-wrens joined by Yellow Thornbills and then Grey Fantails with a couple of their Rufous cousins, the latter the highlight for the day. For several in the group, the Rufous Fantail was their first sighting.
On reaching the wetland, the wind wasn’t as strong and the Sun was shining assisting with the identification of the many water birds.
Nine duck species, including Australasian Shoveler, Blue-billed Duck and at least 20 Freckled Duck.
Several Royal Spoonbill, Little and Great Egret, and on the mud flats, Black-fronted and Red-kneed Dotterel plus several Masked Lapwing.
Only one raptor for the day, a lone Black-shouldered Kite having a few problems hovering in the windy conditions.
At lunch, the count was 52 species which included two Straw-necked Ibis testing the hard ground in the Red Gum picnic area. On returning to the cars, along the Red Gum Track via the Phar Lap Track, hundreds of Martins, Fairy outnumbering Tree, were feeding over the grassed area to the east.
Eastern Rosella, White-plumed Honeyeater and a lone Pied Currawong were a few of the several species added to the days observations which totalled 62 bird Species. Mammals. Several rabbits only, and no frogs calling. The lack of honeyeater species could be due to eucalyptus not in flower.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 60
Despite the forecast for a hot and humid day, 37 members attended the January Beginners excursion. Many small birds were seen in the car park area, including surprisingly high numbers of Superb Fairy-wrens and Willie Wagtails. Soon after the walk started, a Royal Spoonbill was spotted circling high overhead. Whilst watching it, a Brown Goshawk appeared on the scene apparently inspecting the larger bird.
There was great excitement when a Dollarbird (seen two weeks earlier on the recce.) was spotted perched on the top of a tall dead tree-trunk rising from the water. It stayed in place for many minutes, enabling everyone to have a really good look.
A Little Black Cormorant and several Little Pied Cormorants were resting lower down in the same group of dead trees. One Little Pied Cormorant went fishing and caught and ate a decent sized one!
Continuing down-hill to the water level track enabled good views to be had of Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes, as well as young Eurasian Coots begging for food from their parents.
There were very few ducks on the lake which may be attributed to the presence of some large carp which are known to nibble on the feet of ducks.
A welcome lunch was enjoyed in a convenient shaded picnic shelter near the car park. A bird call tallied 34 species for the morning at the lakes.
About 20 members stayed on to drive down Maddox Road to the shore for the afternoon session. The tide was rather high and no small waders were initially seen. However, several Common Greenshanks were observed as they foraged at the edge of the shore. A large group of Black Swans and Australian Pelicans were disturbed into flight by a very low-flying microlight aircraft.
Nothing much was seen from the track across the salt marsh but walking around the first lake in Jawbone Reserve revealed a remarkable number of species. Included were Great-crested Grebe, Blue-billed Duck, Hardhead, Australasian Shoveler and Musk Duck.
Several Royal Spoonbills on a small island still had their breeding head plumes on display.
They were accompanied by both Chestnut and Grey Teal, mostly resting with their heads tucked under a wing.
Further into the reserve, many different birds were seen resting at the edge of an island in one of the lakes.
These included Black-winged Stilts, Pink-eared Ducks and several Pied Cormorants along with their smaller relatives.
Whilst watching the roosting birds, a White-faced Heron flew gracefully overhead as if to remind us it was time to turn for home.
Returning towards Maddox Road a flock of Yellow-rumped Thornbills were seen in low bushes. Surprisingly these were the only thornbills seen on the excursion.
Back at the shore the tide had receded, leaving more mud banks available for the waders. Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers were on the distant sand-banks, and a small flock of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers with a lone Red-kneed Dotterel were in the drainage channel.
46 species were recorded for the afternoon, with a combined total of 60 for the day. Although it had been hot and humid, everyone felt they had enjoyed some excellent sightings, with ‘Bird of the Day’ clearly awarded to the Dollarbird.
The morning was perfect for birding, calm, clear and mild, as our 19 assembled. Our number included Jennifer, a birder over from the USA for a month.
Hazel Veevers led the group once we could discipline ourselves to leave the car park where, as usual, the birding was rewarding and effortless. There were Red Wattlebirds, Crested Pigeons, Superb Fairy-wrens, Musk Lorikeets, New Holland Honeyeaters and House Sparrows in numbers with Rainbow Lorikeets, Little Ravens and Magpie-larks somewhat fewer.
The main lake had both Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes in considerable numbers. Welcome Swallows soared above the canopy and over the water.
Walking further we noted the amphitheatre was very popular with Superb Fairy-wrens and honeyeaters foraging in and under the trees. The only raptor of the day was recorded here – two Brown Goshawks interacted very briefly before disappearing behind the trees. Eurasian Coots and Purple Swamphens were present on all lakes but Dusky Moorhens were only present later at Jawbone. Spotted Pardalotes called and finally one allowed us to glimpse him among the foliage, delighting all and especially those who hadn’t seen one before. Flowering trees each attracted several species of bird and therefore also attracted the attention of birdwatchers.
Back for lunch which was interrupted with a quiet call of “Robin”. The “sparrow” on the path was actually a female Flame Robin which stayed around long enough for all to achieve good views. The lakes reserve had a bird count of 34 species.
We drove down to Jawbone where the bird count mounted quickly. Waterbirds were numerous though a scope was an asset when identifying those on the distant sand bar. A highlight here was an Arctic Jaeger unsuccessfully attacking a Silver Gull and being harassed in its turn.
Black Swans and Silver Gulls were numerous but there were other species in smaller numbers – Pied, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants, Royal Spoonbills, Australian Pied Oystercatchers, Australian White Ibis, White-faced Heron, Crested Terns, the list continued with both Grey and Chestnut Teal, Common Greenshanks and a small flock of Red-kneed Dotterels quite close to the hide.
We counted nine duck species as well as the ubiquitous grebes and numbers of swans on the pond near the houses. It was good to record Pink-eared, Bluebill, Australasian Shoveler and Musk Duck as well as the more familiar species.
A Great Egret by the far bank was clearly having success with its fishing and a small flotilla of grebes moved closer to it, possibly to join the hunt.
Time to call it a day and count the Jawbone species. Here we recorded 56 species and calculated the day’s total as 64 species. It had been a good day’s birding with good views of many species and we thanked Hazel for introducing some and reintroducing others to this area.