8 August 2018
All photographs by Bevan Hood, member
The skies were grey and the wind cold as 17 assembled in the car park. But the rain wasn’t more than the lightest sprinkle and everyone was dressed for the weather. Jane Moseley, our leader, was recovering from a broken arm and was assisted by Pat Bingham. Never let a physical challenge stop a bird watcher. As often, the car park birding was very productive and Silver Gull (probably courtesy of the stormy weather), Crested Pigeon, Superb Fairy-wren and New Holland and White-plumed Honeyeaters were common.
The sports grounds yielded large flocks of Rock Doves and House Sparrows with a few Australian Magpies and Magpie-larks. Australian White Ibis flew overhead and then keen eyes noticed another species – a Black-shouldered Kite –flying near and hovering above. Across the road and into the western side where Little Wattlebirds foraged in flowering gardens and drank and bathed in a rain gutter.
A couple of Galahs called as they flew over and a female Golden Whistler challenged many to locate her in the thickness of a tree canopy. The lake showed Australian Grebe (diving as is their wont) plus Eurasian Coot with a few Pacific Black Ducks and rather more Hardheads. Little Grassbird called forlornly from the bank but only a couple witnessed a bird flying from shelter to shelter.
Purple Swamphen contrasted with Dusky Moorhen in size and colouring while Grey and Chestnut Teal were compared for their detail. Musk Lorikeet flew past swiftly and we were left contrasting their calls, flight and appearance with those of the more numerous Rainbow Lorikeets. A noisy panic among the smaller birds accompanied the appearance on an Australian Hobby, which, however, did not stay for long. We moved toward the oval again, noting the swooping flight of Welcome Swallows in the calmer conditions and then trying to identify an unfamiliar bird.
After several guesses field guides were consulted and an identification which was quite unexpected was noted – the unexpected was undoubtedly The Bird of the Day – a Black-eared Cuckoo. We surmised that the recent gales from the north had brought it down to Melbourne’s latitude. The tall masses of lignin growth would have provided shelter. The cuckoo was a most obliging vagrant, it returned twice further during lunch, coming closer each time and giving everyone excellent close-up views.
After that the presence of a Tree Martin over the oval in August was not quite the surprise it would otherwise have been. A few people needed to leave at lunchtime but the majority stayed to walk, adding a Black Swan and a Grey Butcherbird and improved views of Noisy Miner and Spotted Pardalote.
The mud nest of a Magpie-lark was spotted high in a tree near the ovals. Avoiding silent, speeding cyclists, we returned to the cars and did the final bird call, listing 47 species for the day. Our enthusiastic thanks went to Jane and her support team for the work which showed several of our number the potential for an area that many had not known about. We decided to finish the day under darkening clouds at 2 pm. This proved a very good decision as 15 minutes later the heaviest, most violent rain for the day arrived.
Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings