Thirty one birders arrived at Lysterfield Park for the Beginners’ outing on a sunny, calm day, perfect for birding. While in the carpark, we were assailed by numerous Rainbow Lorikeets and Little Ravens, and then the familiar call of Gang Gangs announced their presence. This was followed by fleeting views of Crimson and Eastern Rosellas.
At the start of the walk around the lake it was very quiet with nothing flying or calling apart from a lone Red Wattlebird. Fortunately things improved further along the track and while stopped to see an Eastern Rosella, we added Superb Fairy Wrens, a small flock of Red-browed Finches, a Brown Thornbill and a lovely Eastern Spinebill which came in very close giving good views. Just a short distance ahead we luckily found a pair of well camouflaged Tawny Frogmouths, one of which was in the classical Tawny pose.
A diversion off the established track led us to a jetty on the lake where we saw Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants. Both male and female Musk Ducks were also seen here together with a flotilla of Eurasian Coots.
The lack of flowering trees and shrubs contributed to the dearth of Honeyeaters but we managed to obtain good looks at a White-eared Honeyeater. Another diversion down to the water’s edge added Silver Gulls and very good views of a Spotted Pardalote.
This was followed by one of the highlights of the walk – seeing a Brush Bronzewing drinking from a puddle in the middle of the track. With the sun behind them it gave all the photographers an excellent shot. Despite the bush looking in fine condition birds were still scarce and apart from a couple of Eastern Spinebills and a Grey Fantail there was little to see.
Reaching the dam wall we saw Welcome Swallows over the water, more Musk Ducks and Cormorants, Masked Lapwings, Magpie Larks, Wood Ducks on the grassland and a Common Bronzewing.
This was followed by another highlight when a Little Eagle was spotted being harassed by two Magpies. This pale morph Little Eagle provided us all with excellent views sit circled overhead, continuously chased by the Magpies. Walking along the lake’s edge saw us pick up a pair of Pacific Black Ducks, Purple Swamphens, more Cormorants and Silver Gulls.
After lunch, a short walk along Logans Track resulted in a Crested Pigeon and at least three Eastern Yellow Robins being added to the list. Returning to the carpark we found another pair of Tawny Frogmouths in a tree very close to where we had lunch.
A total of forty species for the day was a fair result considering the time of year and because it was such a lovely day there were large numbers of bike riders and walkers all along the track, ensuring the birds were staying further into the bush, making birding that much more difficult.
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: 64
Leafless deciduous trees around the carpark by Le Page homestead enabled the assembled 28 members to have very good views of Striated Pardalotes and Yellow Thornbills, which are normally much harder to see when hiding in thick foliage.
Setting off along the Wonga Walk in bright sunshine with little wind it was good to see that the ponds near the homestead had been filled with water after several years of being almost empty.
Consequently, several wetland species were present including Australasian Grebe and Hardhead.
Both Pallid and Fan-tailed Cuckoos could be heard calling in the distance but were not visible. Following the track by the Plenty River it was great to see a variety of small birds, including Eastern Yellow Robins, Brown-headed and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters along with numerous Grey Fantails.
Two of the birds spotted flying over were White-necked Heron and Australian Pelican.
In the distance a Wedge-tailed Eagle could be seen being mobbed by Little Ravens, while in the other direction a pair of Brown Goshawks were being harassed by a Peregrine Falcon.
Also, announcing their presence vocally were Pied Currawongs, one of which perched nearby allowing it to be easily viewed.
At the far end of the track by the Plenty river a White-eared Honeyeater obligingly posed on the top of a dead stump while nearby a small flock of Dusky Woodswallows perched in high dead branches. After that it was up the track skirting below the scout camp, then pausing at a parrot hot spot where Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets, Eastern and Crimson Rosellas, Galahs and Long-billed Corellas were all found.
Lunch was eaten back near the homestead after which most of the members drove round to the Morang Wetlands where a reception committee of Eastern Grey Kangaroos awaited. At the pond below the Ridge Track a mixed flock of Fairy Martins and Welcome Swallows circled overhead.
A number of species including (pointy-headed) Freckled Ducks, Dusky Moorhens and Chestnut Teal were seen on the water. On gaining the higher track another Pallid Cuckoo was heard, and this time it was eventually traced to its perch in a tall tree.
Soon afterwards a Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo was seen and heard and there was a brief sighting of a female White-winged Triller. The previously known Wedge-tailed Eagle’s nest could still be seen down in the river gorge but it did not appear to be active so far this season.
On returning to the cars everyone agreed it had been an excellent day’s birding in perfect weather conditions with some unusual sightings amongst the 64 species recorded.
The middle part of the drive up from the suburbs was challenging with heavy rain but the 19 who arrived were relieved to find it much drier over the ranges. Graeme Hosken was leader and we drove in convoy to the Suspension Bridge Day Area. The walk beside the Murrindindi River added White-eared Honeyeaters and Long-billed Corellas to the Little Corellas, Red Wattlebirds, Olive-backed Oriole and Crimson Rosellas among others at the meeting car park.
Calls, as always in forests, outnumbered bird sightings and Grey Butcherbird, White-throated Treecreeper and Grey Shrike-thrush were first heard and later glimpsed or, more fortunately, clearly seen. Walking was easy beside the river on well-made tracks and the provision of camp sites with associated toilet blocks made for very comfortable birdwatching. The trees have not yet attained great height and the 2009 dead skeletons still rise high where they are not losing branches or falling. The only downside of walking beside any swiftly flowing river, of course, is the river noise which makes listening for bird calls very challenging though visible Grey Fantails compensated. Thornbill identification continued to challenge but finally Brown and Buff-rumped were confidently added to the list after some debate.
Honeyeaters were not plentiful with Red Wattlebirds, White-eared Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills dominating. Some apparent spinebill calls were reassessed as probably the Eastern Smooth Frog as they lasted much longer. The other honeyeater species were not recorded by many but some of the group were able to add Yellow-faced, New Holland and White-naped Honeyeaters to the list. Next stop was the SEC picnic area where Superb Fairy-wrens finally cast off their shyness and came into view at the clearing edges.
Here also was seen White-throated Treecreeper which had been recorded mostly as calls. After lunch most of the group continued their walk to the top of Wilhemina Falls but this proved quite difficult with a steep and pebble-slippery track.
Birds were disappointingly few with no additional species and a couple who had walked the lower river track were able to add Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos to the list. Animal traces were scratchings in dry ground, which may have been by wallabies or lyrebirds plus scats – macropods (probably wallabies), wombats, rabbits and echidna (rather flattened). The several severed claws of crayfish along one section of the track were evidence of predation. When birdcall was taken just after 3 pm we were all delighted to realise the final group tally was 41 species.
We thanked Graeme enthusiastically for taking us through this post-fires regenerating area. Birds and animals are present after the 2009 extreme fires and following the area’s recovery will continue to be fascinating.