The weather forecast was not really reassuring, predicting late showers for Melbourne. This might mean wet weather in the mountains around Healesville but at least winds were not emphasized. Alan and Hazel Veevers led and had spent considerable time and analysis to prepare a well-received outing.
My main worry was the ford on the track into Donnelly’s. My car is a small sedan and I worried that its clearance might not be enough if I slowed or stopped in the water. As it was I was one of the few who gratefully accepted lifts from drivers with a higher wheel base and spare seats. Most drivers came through without a murmur. I am just a wimp at bottom.
There were 20 at the outing and even the car park yielded sightings of Eastern Yellow Robin, Crimson Rosella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo.
A Sacred Kingfisher proved very hard to locate and Australian King-Parrots moved through very quickly except for a calm male which remained perched near the track until most of our group had walked by.
Another bird coping with our party was a female White-throated Treecreeper which stayed stationary on its tree trunk for so long we initially wondered if it might be ill – until we passed “it’s” tree during our return walk and saw that it had departed.
Birds heard without being seen included Fan-tailed Cuckoo and Spotted Pardalote. Only a few actually saw the Superb Fairy-wrens and Striated Pardalotes were also present while a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles briefly soared very high overhead.
Other elusive small birds were the White-browed Scrubwrens by the well-flowing aqueduct and a flock of Silvereyes briefly sighted as they foraged among dense bushes. It wasn’t totally birds. Plants included flowering spyridium as well as a small colony of hyacinth orchids.
At morning’s end we drove around to the Maroondah Reservoir Park where we lunched in a rotunda even though rain hadn’t arrived yet. We were checked out by 3 Australian White Ibis, living up to their reputation.
Careful watchfulness meant that no one’s lunch was in jeopardy. A short walk around the base of the dam wall added Corellas, several Little and a single Long-billed Corella plus a few Australian Magpies.
Bird call revealed we’d noted 39 species which made a satisfactory total. Into the cars just as the long-expected rain started driving across the car park and feeling very grateful to both Veevers for all their planning.
Thirty-five members assembled at Newport Lakes, delighted to be able to meet again after many months being unable to do so, due to Covid restrictions. The weather conditions were fine but windy which caused some of the birds to seek shelter. The vegetation around the reserve was looking lush with many Eucalypts flowering profusely. Also, there was a lot of water in the lakes following the winter rains.
Two early sightings were of a Sacred Kingfisher and a female Rufous Whistler. Around the lakes dozens of Australian Reed-Warblers were very vocal, but extremely hard to see! There were few ducks or other waterbirds on the lakes and ponds. One Hardhead and a single Little Black Cormorant with a few Grebes, both Australasian and Hoary-headed.
In the sheltered area of the Amphitheatre, birds were easier to find. An immature Golden Whistler and a Willie Wagtail on a nest were of special interest. Then, suddenly, “bird of the morning” was spotted by a new member – a Nankeen Night-Heron perched low under foliage just above the creek.
A bird call at lunchtime recorded 33 species for Newport Lakes.
Members then drove down Maddox Road to the shore where there were fewer birds than expected. A single Pied Oystercatcher was on the breakwater along with a few Cormorants and Silver Gulls. Several Black Swans were on the bay. No small waders could be seen along the shoreline. A highlight was the sighting of an immature Black-shouldered Kite, perched behind a bush, sheltering from the wind. Walking beside the creek a Black-winged Stilt with an injured leg was busy feeding in the shallows.
Members followed the track through Jawbones Reserve where there were fewer ducks than on previous visits. However, there were several Great Crested Grebes, some Blue-billed Ducks, and more Little Black, Little Pied and Pied Cormorants. Little Grassbirds were calling from the reeds along with many more Australian Reed Warblers.
Dusky Moorhens and Purple Swamphens with tiny chicks also attracted some interest. On the return walk to the cars an Australian Hobby flew overhead, and a small group of Superb Fairy-wrens foraged beside the track.
A few Common Greenfinches were seen feeding in their regular place and a Singing Honeyeater seemed to pose for a photo just before we finished. Three Australian Pelicans flying overhead were a fitting finale to a most enjoyable excursion.
42 species were recorded for the Jawbones Reserve, with the total for the day being 56.
Fortunately, the Covid restrictions were relaxed just in time for the Beginners outing to Woodlands Historic Park. The Park is famous for many reasons, including ancient trees, Eastern Grey Kangaroos and, our main interest, red Robins.
Thirty-five members started the morning walk, following the creek that winds between the old and much-admired River Red Gums. Red-rumped Parrots, Crimson Rosellas and Rainbow Lorikeets were amongst those taking advantage of the numerous nesting hollows the ancient trees provided.
Superb Fairy-wrens were seen in good numbers foraging at the side of the track while both Striated and Spotted Pardalotes, together with Weebills, were much higher up in the trees. Near the homestead a Brown Falcon, which was the only raptor recorded for the morning, was spotted flying overhead.
After lunch most of the group drove down Providence Road to the Cemetery carpark on a quest for Robins. This section of Woodlands is known to be an ideal area for seeing them, for those with patience, persistence, and a good deal of luck. To everyone’s delight some were sighted in the area between the road and the dam. First, both male and female Scarlet Robins were spotted low down amongst thickets of young trees. Whilst observing them, a pair of Flame Robins appeared in the same area.
The group stayed there for some time enjoying watching and photographing them. A Grey Shrike-thrush, a Grey Fantail and a Little Eagle were seen nearby.
Everyone then continued towards the gate to the fenced Back Paddock which was due to be open for the first time in many months. Just outside the gate a male Red-capped Robin was perched in a young tree, as if awaiting our arrival, with his brilliant red plumage shining in the sun. A walk, longer than planned, was undertaken inside the fence, hoping for more sightings. Sadly, very few birds were seen, though some in the middle of the group saw a male Rufous Whistler and a Yellow Thornbill.
Back at the carpark some of the group stayed on for a while longer and were well rewarded when a flock of 30+ Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos flew low overhead, shortly followed by the brief appearance of a male Rose Robin! This was a fantastic conclusion to a wonderful day with 4 different red Robin species recorded out of a grand total of 40 for the outing!
Thanks to Eleanor Dilley and Steve Hoptroff for contributing their splendid photographs.
Leaders: Hazel and Alan Veevers; Species count: 53
All photographs by Eleanor Dilley
There was a challenging start to this excursion as members had to negotiate thousands (literally) of motorbikes assembling in Cranbourne for their annual cavalcade to the Grand Prix on Phillip Island. Furthermore, the weather conditions were far from ideal with very strong winds and heavy squally downpours throughout the day.
Setting out from the Stringybark Car Park a Golden Whistler could be heard calling but he was hard to see as he was very wisely tucked down in dense vegetation. Grey Fantails and Brown Thornbills were also sheltering in the thickets. A Pied Currawong on a nest and a Common Bronzewing in fine breeding plumage were seen early on. A highlight was seeing a Horsefield’s Bronze-Cuckoo and a male White-winged Triller on branches of the same dead tree.
There were several duck species on the wetlands including Chestnut Teal with ducklings, Grey Teal and Hardhead. A few Little Black Cormorants were swimming as were Hoary Headed Grebes, while both White-necked and White-faced Herons flew overhead.
On leaving the wetlands a Pallid Cuckoo was heard calling and was located in the distance on a dead branch low on a tree.
Several Swamp Wallabies were spotted keeping low profiles in the wet bracken. On returning to the cars another heavy downpour forced the members to use the information shelter for their picnic lunch. An Eastern Yellow Robin was singing lustily as we ate and was eventually located in the nearby undergrowth.
Most of the group then drove to the Australian Garden which was looking very colourful with spring blossoms. Nine additional species were found here including Dusky Woodswallow, Australasian Grebe, Little Pied Cormorant, Little Wattlebird and Silvereye.
A grand total of 53 species was recorded for the day, which was a very good result considering the weather conditions. ur thanks go to Eleanor Dilley, our faithful photographer, who still managed to produce the excellent images in this Report despite the gale force winds and patchy rain!
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.
The group numbered 20, of whom two were international visitors, from the UK and Canada, and another couple were visitors from the support group Regenerate. Elsmaree Baxter led and all were grateful that the weather, though very cold, was dry. The ground was still wet and muddy with plenty of large puddles after several days of rain so care was needed when walking. Early arrivals were treated to a flock of 20 Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos flying overhead and some later arrivals counted the last bird while it perched in a bare tree. Other car park species included the inevitable Noisy Miners plus a few Australian Wood Ducks, Eastern Rosellas, Red-rumped Parrots and Rainbow Lorikeets plus a pair of Magpie-larks. Overhead flew a Great Cormorant and then, to the alarm calls from many species, a slender-winged Australian Hobby.
We walked past the golf course, noting a White-faced Heron patrolling near a green, apparently unfazed by the driving practice going on at the far end of the range. The grass was covered with yellow golf balls which must presumably be collected mechanically. Turning back into the bush section we noted the calls of Pied Currawong and Little Raven and watched Corellas flying near exercising dogs, presumably Long-billed Corellas as only this species had been seen from the start.
We headed back towards the Yarra which was flowing strong and high. A highlight here was a female Australasian Darter perched on a snag near a couple of Pacific Black Ducks. Some in the front of the group saw a robin which was another highlight – it was a female Scarlet Robin. The visitors were smiling and listing more and more.
A Dusky Moorhen swam near but did not try to fight the very strong river current. An Eastern Spinebill called but was only seen by one or two while Red Wattlebirds were heard at intervals. Superb Fairy-wrens’ calls were identified to the visitors but sightings were few and a “little brown job” was initially misidentified as a thornbill but on closer inspection was a White-browed Scrubwren being unexpectedly obvious on a low bare branch. Another good sighting, though often brief, was a calling Spotted Pardalote, much admired. One observer’s wish was granted when a clear close view of a Laughing Kookaburra was obtained as up till then she had only heard or briefly glimpsed this iconic Australian.
We were heading toward the boathouse when a sharp pair of eyes penetrated the great camouflage of a pair of Tawny Frogmouths huddled closely together against the cold. A great sighting for everyone.
Back to the shelter near the car park for lunch where we were checked out by Noisy Miners which made the most of every slight food spill. Wood ducks were still foraging on the near grass and were joined peaceably by a lone Crested Pigeon. At intervals some heard a distant call of an Olive-backed Oriole which was then picked up by all during a quiet pause in our chatter. However no sighting was obtained despite careful peering upwards. Unfortunately Elsmaree had to terminate her walk at lunchtime so she joined those finishing then because of fatigue or prior engagement. We thanked her wholeheartedly for all her preparation and wished her well.
Pat Bingham led the smaller remaining group around the Macfarlane Burnet circuit where the only addition to the species list was an overhead V of Straw-necked Ibis which brought the total of species to 48. We thanked Pat for the additional walk with its terrain and information boards.
The overnight weather was not reassuring as wind and rain had been widespread and our first arrivals needed to shelter during a brief fall. However the rain radar showed the band of showers passing and we drew reassurance from that, especially when the clouds occasionally broke and bright sunshine resulted. When all had assembled we numbered 17 with Pat Bingham leading the group. Some had visited Pipemakers in the past and some were quite new to birding so we were a happily mixed group.
The car park area was the domain of White-plumed Honeyeaters and Red Wattlebirds but there were also several Willie Wagtails, Australian Magpies and Common Blackbirds.
Little Ravens called overhead and the honeyeaters were augmented by New Holland Honeyeaters and those purveyors of ‘false news’, the frequently alarm-calling Noisy Miners. Not far from the car park a few House Sparrows interested those whose local birds had disappeared. This commensal species seems to be in worldwide decline without a single definitive cause.
Superb Fairy-wrens were common, flying low, foraging in the understory and dashing across the paths. Many were males in eclipse plumage. The well-grown lignin plantings provide such smaller birds with shelter. We set off toward the river which is vastly improved from its past as an industrial dump. Now fish have returned and Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants and Eurasian Coots plus an Australasian Darter were joined by Silver Gulls and a few humans with rods taking advantage of the piscine possibilities.
The flock of gulls was an indicator of the weather along the coast today and this was confirmed by a Crested Tern using the river rather than the coast. Musk Lorikeets in a tree beside the path delighted us and at least one watcher was very happy to have clear, close and prolonged views showing the birds’ markings.
Red-rumped Parrots foraging in the grass beside the path also gave good, close views but also challenged photographers to clearly record the differences between the brilliant male and the drabber female.
Our path took us beside the golf course, where a magpie’s nest had been made with the usual sticks plus bright green plastic string (human refuse recycled in a good avian cause). Across to the Sanctuary Walk where the ponds supported Pacific Black Ducks (swimming in tandem as if mating season was starting) plus Dusky Moorhen and a lone Hardhead which was considered the best bird today.
The riverbank Australasian Darter was a young female, perching inconspicuously on a ‘whitewashed’ rock not far away from a White-faced Heron. Fallen boughs must not be allowed to menace the public and the maintenance tractor drivers were working despite the holiday when we visited. They expressed interest in our sightings in their area.
We lunched and after walked further along the riverside but added only a few species to the morning’s tally. By day’s end our bird list totalled 40 species and we thanked Pat wholeheartedly for her preparation which resulted in such a satisfactory day’s birding.
Despite a forecast for wet weather, 22 members attended the Briars outing and were fortunate to enjoy fine and sunny conditions. Noisy Miners were the dominant species in the carpark, interrupted by several Rainbow Lorikeets and Eastern Rosellas flying overhead.
This set the tone for the day with all three species being seen many times during the walk.
The effect of the prolonged dry spell was immediately apparent as we entered the wetland area. There was very little water in the ponds; no ducks, swans or cormorants and very few small bush-birds. Purple Swamphens, a Grey Shrike-thrush and a Laughing Kookaburra were observed from the boardwalk.
Eurasian Coots could be seen from the Chechingurk Hide, as could two Black-fronted Dotterels foraging in the mud at the water’s edge.
A Willie Wagtail and some Superb Fairy-wrens were also seen from the hide. Taking the Kur-Bur- Rer track into the Eucalypt-dominated woodland area, it was disappointing that only two more honeyeater species were added to the ever present Noisy Miners, namely Red Wattlebirds and White-eared Honeyeaters.
Later, Grey Butcherbirds were heard and seen and eventually a “hotspot” was reached where good views of a Grey Fantail, an Eastern Yellow Robin and a pair of Golden Whistlers were enjoyed. Turning eastwards near the fence line a Brown Goshawk flew overhead, but otherwise there was little bird activity.
When nearly back at the Visitor Centre another mixed feeding flock was seen, this time comprised of an Eastern Yellow Robin, a Grey Shrike-thrush, several Spotted Pardalotes and more Superb Fairy-wrens.
Lunch was eaten near the carpark overlooking the vineyard, above which a Black-shouldered Kite was seen hovering before it perched in a nearby dead tree. Several plump Crested Pigeons were feeding on the grass near the members and a pair of Masked Plovers were seen further uphill.
After lunch a short walk was taken towards the Homestead where a number of Eastern Rosellas were seen, some perched and others feeding on the ground. Their plumage looked beautiful with the sun shining on it. Two ducks, one a Chestnut Teal and the other an Australian Wood Duck, surprised us by flying overhead before landing on a small pond near the Shire Nursery. The usual noisy throng of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, much reduced in number, was present near the Homestead. A flock of Welcome Swallows, the first and only sighting for the day, was seen in a valley some distance away.
The total species recorded was a modest 34 which was well down on counts at this site in previous years. It was thought that the very dry weather had affected not only the wetland environment but had reduced the number of insects needed to sustain small birds. Despite this, most of the members felt they had enjoyed their time in this lovely park and vowed to return when there had been some good rains.
Many thanks to Eleanor Dilley who took all the photographs appearing in this month’s Report.
The weather was perfect for bird watching, clear blue sky, no morning wind and a mild temperature. Twenty-one enthusiasts met at the Launching Place (Don Valley) car park, those from Melbourne were joined by some visitors and some from the Yarra Valley branch. It was interesting that the very small car park did not have many birds. Presumably there was little to attract them out of the bush. Graeme Hosken led and our first walk was uphill beside the aqueduct.
The aqueduct has been decommissioned for at least five years and only pools of rain water are now present. The concrete walls are almost completely covered with plants where fallen plant debris has formed humus.
Tractor tracks beside the ditch and chain-sawn fallen timber marked where the maintenance crew had passed after wind storms. White-browed Scrub-wrens and Fan-tailed Cuckoos called but only the former were visible.
Grey Fantails fluttered high and fanned and Lewin’s Honeyeaters were almost common, calling and occasionally showing themselves which allowed observers to view their markings. Eastern Spinebills were mostly audible as were Crimson Rosellas, the latter occasionally seen in patches of sunshine. Laughing Kookaburras called and White-throated Treecreepers called and then challenged watchers as they foraged high on tree trunks in the canopy. Striated Pardalote was reported by several and Eastern Whipbird was heard by many.
Returning downhill we had added Eastern Yellow Robin sightings and heard Brown Thornbill, Little and Australian Ravens and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.
Most of the group headed across the road and walked near the pipeline while a flat tyre was exchanged. Then the majority drove in convoy to Millgrove for lunch though a few had to finish at morning’s end. The afternoon drive was to Dee Road, parking at the picnic spot with its panoramic view.
The birding was good though few species were added to those we had encountered in the morning’s walk. No raptors were recorded despite the wide sky of the panorama. A Rufous Whistler was heard, a Willie Wagtail was being harassed by an Australian Magpie and the best bird of the day was voted a Bassian Thrush seen by most as it foraged in a clearing below the track.
The bird list at day’s end was 32 species for the morning Launching Place section of the trail and 20 species for the Millgrove section in the afternoon. For the whole day there were 35 species recorded and we thanked Graeme enthusiastically for his preparation which led to such a good result for forest birding.
There had been hope that strong winds would result in albatrosses close to shore but the winds of the day far exceeded anything requested. We were a group of 11 and our leader, Pat Bingham, had prepared well for the walk. Gales bent the trees and drove rain squalls horizontally to our backs so the occasional dip in the path or thicker stand of scrub that broke the force was welcome.
Initially not a bird was seen and only a couple of squeaks were heard from the scrub. Despite a rainbow it did not look promising but, never say die, we kept alert, even though the car park “total” was two unidentified glimpses. Up to the lookout where we watched the spray on white-topped waves blow backwards. Few birds and then “gannet”! Determination was needed but most detected an Australasian Gannet, some saw a Silver Gull and shearwaters were present. A couple of Welcome Swallows appeared and hope was restored. Towards Bushrangers Bay Superb Fairy-wrens were mostly heard and other calls perplexed until they were identified as crickets.
An autumnal Red Wattlebird flock of about 20 included at least one Little Wattlebird. The track runs by the park boundary and Australian Magpies were in the adjacent paddocks with a Nankeen Kestrel and Silver Gulls overhead. Those in front saw a Grey Shrike-thrush as we neared our return point and the few who descended to the watercourse added Grey Fantails. Back at lunch we were soon checked out by the locals as the weather eased. A young Grey Shrike-thrush (recognisable by its markings) came first, and an adult approached afterwards.
Superb Fairy-wren and Brown Thornbill gave brief views. Little Ravens first flew and then called, confirming the species. Post lunch we set off in the opposite direction, west toward the lighthouse. Both Kelp and Pacific Gulls were observed from the cliff and optimism grew as the weather calmed, briefly. Better views of Shy Albatross, Short-tailed Shearwaters and Australasian Gannet were obtained. A demonstration of the intensification of the wind speed at the top of a cliff compared to a few steps behind the crest was instructive. Calls from Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater were followed but few sightings were obtained. The group recorded only three honeyeater species, two wattlebirds and the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, but two members who left later were able to photograph a Singing Honeyeater which had presumably ventured out in the sunnier conditions.
The bird list for the group added to 20 species and we thanked Pat for all her preparation which had resulted in successful birding under such challenging conditions.