A very windy and cool day greeted 12 members attending the November mid-week outing commencing at O’Donohue Picnic Ground off Sherbrooke Lodge Road in the Dandenong Ranges National Park.
Before setting off into the forest we had excellent views of a Rose Robin feeding on the verge of the forest, the first highlight for the day. Noise from the wind in the branches of the Mountain Ash trees drowned out birds calling at times but during the lulls, calls from Crimson Rosellas predominated, followed at times by Golden Whistlers at Grey Shrike-thrush. A White-throated Treecreeper, first heard, and then sighted on a tree led to male Lyrebird feeding below. One of two for the day.
On crossing the bridge over Sherbrooke Falls, a Rufous Fantail was calling and finally spotted. Our second highlight for the day. Distant calls from Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Grey Butcherbird and Little Raven, added to the days total 26 species recorded.
After lunch in the picnic ground, we walked to the end of Sherbrooke Lodge Road admiring the many large Rhododendron trees in private gardens, stopping at the Ray Littlejohn’s memorial which commemorates the work Ray did in the early study on the Lyrebirds in Sherbrooke Forest. Unfortunately, no additional species sighted.
Many thanks to Rhonda Miller who led the outing, for her local knowledge of the area and indicating that the 26 species recorded was above average for this type of habitat.
Graeme Hosken, for Diane Tweeddale who was not available to attend the outing.
A very cold and wet start for the walk through Sherbrooke Forest. Temperature range from 4°C to 8°C with misty rain for most of the morning.
Rhonda Miller was the outing leader and with her local knowledge of the forest we did a circuit from the car park in Sherbrooke Road via Sherbrooke Falls, return. Walking tracks very muddy and bird activity and their calls minimal. Eastern Yellow Robin and White-browed Scrubwren were first additions to the ‘list’. Crescent Honeyeaters were feeding and calling high in the Mountain Ash trees. A bit hard on the neck muscles trying to identify the species as the light was also poor. A group of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos were disturbed as we crossed the bridge near the falls. It was hard work detecting movement in the forest due to the poor light conditions although a couple of Swamp Wallabies observed our presence.
Recent scratching along the edge of the track indicated both Lyrebirds and Wombats had been active earlier in the morning. Only a feint call of a Lyrebird enabled a tick for this species.
Lunch back at the picnic area under a flowering Wattle as we were joined by several Crimson Rosellas at our feet looking for tit-bits, but they were unlucky. After lunch we decided to visit the Ray Littlejohn’s memorial a few hundred meters along Sherbrooke Road. The memorial, a seat facing the forest, was donated by the Bird Observers Club in the early 1960’s for the work Ray had done on the study of the Lyrebirds in Sherbrooke in the 1930-40’s. In his book, Lyrebirds Calling from Australia (1943), he quoted; the Lyrebird is the largest of the world’s songbirds, certainly the most efficient one of this country. Little did he know as recent discoveries have shown that the Lyrebird is the ‘top’ of all the worlds’ songbirds.
Walking back to the picnic area, Grey Shrike-thrush, Magpie and Eastern Spinebill took the ‘list’ total to seventeen for the outing.
Our thanks to Rhonda for leading the outing on such a cold and damp day.
Graeme Hosken for Diane Tweeddale who is holidaying overseas.
Note: Re Ray Littlejohn’s book, Lyrebirds Calling (1943). The Lyrebird’s song was first recorded in the early 1930’s with a direct broadcasts from Sherbrooke in 1932,1933 and 1934 to ABC studios in Melbourne.
In 1934, about 34 minutes of singing was recorded on ‘sound-film’.
Rhonda Miller schooled Diane Tweeddale in the preferred routes and so a last minute substitute ‘leader’ led a group of 21 along the tracks with instructions to ‘find the birds’. Fog blanketed lower parts of the eastern suburbs but the Dandenong Ranges were in calm sunshine with only occasional cloud. Crimson Rosellas surrounded the car park in the hope of food but were disappointed, even at lunchtime. A pair of Australian King-Parrots were less importunate and more admired. Two weathered pellets containing small bones indicated that an owl had been in the area. Past recent fallen branches and trees we walked to and then along Wattle Track in the hope of lyrebirds but it was not to be. As usual in forests birds were more heard than seen and the beginners in our group were kept alert by the different calls. Soon the list included Pied Currawong, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Grey Butcherbird and White-throated Treecreeper. Grey Fantails were seen in the higher shrubs and Eastern Yellow Robins delighted us by the track. Brown Thornbills were numerous enough for points in their identification to assist beginners. Calls included Crescent Honeyeater and Eastern Whipbird and we were all delighted to obtain clear, if fleeting, views of both species after initial frustration. Near the falls we notched up Superb Lyrebird – a nest or roost in the crown of a tree fern, scat on the ground, numerous scratchings and finally a female unconcernedly feeding beside the track. Later we listened to a male calling a challenging repertoire but, though he was close, we couldn’t see him from the track. After lunch we walked to O’Donohue picnic ground and then to the Littlejohns memorial. (Ray Littlejohns, naturalist, and writer, assisted the first successful record of lyrebird calls in 1931 and BOCA and RAOU erected a seat in his memory). The day’s final species list was 28; a creditable result for a day’s forest birding in winter.