17 July 2018
Weather forecasts gave high winds and possible storms so the park was closed for safety reasons. Early arrivals birded in the car park and Susan Clark and Pam Hearn, our leaders from BirdLife Mornington Peninsula, checked with the ranger who confirmed the gates were locked. A fall-back walk had been planned for just such a situation and so we continued car park birding till all the group had assembled. We were 11 people (5 from Mornington and 6 from Melbourne) and the car park bird list included Australian Wood Duck, Noisy Miner, Crested Pigeon, Eastern Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet, Masked Lapwing and Little Raven.
In clear weather we set off on the Balcombe Creek trail, partly boardwalk and partly track, heading towards Nepean Highway. Along the way we added Straw-necked and Australian White Ibis overhead and Australian Magpie in the open country. The path passes under the highway, reassuringly, and runs beside the creek where different water plants were growing in its bed and waving in a good flow of water. Off-leash areas for dogs were popular and the dogs and their owners were quite interested in us, too. Brown Thornbills and White- browed Scrubwrens were initially heard then quickly seen by some. Other watchers had to persevere for their sightings.
Human use of the area included water extraction and we passed numerous pipes. An old quarry seemed well overgrown. It had provided stone for Nepean Highway and then been taken over as an army rifle range in WWII. After the war army apprentices had used it till they were moved to Albury in 1982. It languished until the Balcombe Estuary Reserves Group (BERG) took over weeding it in 2011. This was enhanced by spraying for blackberries which allowed successful planting of indigenous vegetation. Wildlife habitat returned, especially for small birds which had previously been using the blackberries. The planting now appears quite natural and we wouldn’t have guessed the amount of work BERG (formerly the Balcombe Estuary Rehabilitation Group) had poured into the area.
We headed slowly toward the beach, turning off the main track to visit the Ferrero Reserve where the open area of the sports grounds yielded Galah, Straw-necked Ibis, Crested Pigeon, Australian Magpie and Noisy Miner. A pair of Grey Butcherbirds called melodiously from the top of the cricket nets. Now elapsed time indicated that lunchtime was quite a walk away so we started our return. The creek estuary broadens in the lower reaches and information boards indicated the fish which might be seen. Not today, unfortunately. Superb Fairy-wrens ran around in the low vegetation quite near the houses across the track. Further back toward the park there were areas of open small trees which “fair cried out” for some Eastern Yellow Robins and there the birds were seen. The boardwalk sections of the track are marked as “slippery when wet” but today they were dry and no challenge. Once everyone reunited at the information centre there was lunch and bird call. Twenty-five species had been seen: a very creditable result for a day of approaching storm. The wind was starting gust though the sky was still blue so we decided to stop there to give people a chance to drive home before any storm. We thanked Susan and Pam for their careful planning which had resulted in a good morning’s birding in the teeth of Victorian weather.
Susan Clark, BirdLife Mornington Peninsula, leader
Pam Hearn, BirdLife Mornington Peninsula, leader
Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings.