Tag Archives: You Yangs Regional Park

You Yangs Birding and Boneseeding

3 December 2016
Words and photos by Merrilyn Serong

What a beautiful day for birding and boneseeding; mostly calm with a warming sun and good company. Thanks to the participants for making it a very enjoyable day for my last time as organiser of the activity.

As usual, we began at the carpark near the Park Office, where there were both Grey and Pied Currawongs. Two chicks, which I believe were Grey Currawongs, had almost outgrown their nest, high in a nearby Eucalypt. Near the dam, we found two Willy Wagtail nests with a parent sitting on each one.

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Grey Currawong nest near the You Yangs office

 

Despite the good spring rains, the water level of the dam was still low, though a little higher than it was on our September visit. Turtles used to live in the dam; I wonder if they are still there. The trees in the area looked healthy with lots of new bright green leaves, but flowers, and therefore Lorikeets, were few. No Tawny frogmouths were to be found, either.

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Rufous Whistler, Gravel Pit Tor

Next stop Gravel Pit Tor, with more healthy new growth on the eucalypts. We found the reliable Mistletoebird, but no red robins. This is a good place to look for small bush birds, and we did find Silvereye, Brown Thornbill, Spotted Pardalote, White-throated Treecreeper, Yellow-faced Honeyeater and Rufous Whistler. The last two mentioned are prolific in the park at present. We also saw a goat, which is not unusual here.

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Eucalypt, Gravel Pit Tor

Hungry after spending so much time at our first two stops, we eventually arrived at Fawcett’s Gully for lunch. The upper dam had much water, the odd frog, numbers of dragonflies, and a very long Brown Snake.

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Black-headed Skimmer, Fawcetts Gully

Disappointingly, our official boneseeding site, which over the past several years has been virtually boneseed-free, was studded with small boneseed plants. It’s the rain, I suspect, and the fact that boneseed seed stay viable for ever in the soil.

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Boneseed in our You Yangs site

When I first became involved in the project, there were numerous large boneseed plants in our site and over the years we have cleared them out. Boneseed really can’t be eradicated, but it can be controlled, at least for a while. Our site does have a lot of native groundcover and small native shrubs that would not have grown if the boneseed had been left there. The new young boneseed plants have not flowered or fruited yet, and we managed to pull out large numbers of them. However, more work is needed.

While we boneseeded at our site, we were visited by numerous Weebills. The ever-present Rufous Whistlers sang. White-winged Choughs and other regulars were there and a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike appeared. Later we found an Eastern Yellow Robin.

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Eastern Flat

Our last walk for the day was in the Seed Garden / Eastern Flat area, as usual at this time of year when the sun sets so late. The water level in the dam had dropped to almost nothing from the reasonable amount that I saw there on Tuesday, only four days ago. Evidence of spring rains can be seen in the longish and now dry grass in open places.

Total bird species count for the day was 37. A quiet day.

Sincere thanks to all those wonderful people who have been part of the project while I have been co-ordinator and also to those who might not have made it to one of the days, but remain interested.

Best wishes to all for happy seasonal celebrations, a wonderful summer and excellent birding. Wherever you are, may your environment be healthy, rich and diverse.

A bird list for the day will soon be available at http://www.birdlifemelbourne.org.au/outings/site-lists/YouYangs%202016.html

I will include another report and photos on my website, http://www.timeinthebush.com/

Weekdays outing to the You Yangs

29 November 2016
Photographs by Merrilyn Serong
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Tau Emerald Dragonfly

The day was fine, if overcast, as 19 enthusiasts met in the main car park. A hundred school children had a bicycle day booked but fortunately their route did not overlap with ours. Merrilyn Serong led us and we were soon smiling as the clouds dissipated and a blue sky set in for the day. The car park had those frequently met species, Red Wattlebird and Superb Fairy-wren. Then a very dark Grey Currawong created a long discussion about its identity then definitely confirmed by showing us its nest. This was not the only nest seen. A Willie Wagtail on its diminutive low nest was admired while a Red Wattlebird watched over the rim of its large twiggy nest.

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White-winged Chough

An even more solid nest was the mud bowl of a White-winged Chough. Despite the recent rains the dam near the park entrance continues to be dry and waterbirds are no longer recorded. Plants had responded to the wet, however, and groundcovers included rock ferns, mosses and succulents while the trees and shrubs displayed new leaves and some flowers.

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Australian Painted Lady

Insects had responded to the plant growth and dragonflies and butterflies were frequently seen. The bush sounded to the calls of Grey Shrike-thrush, Olive-backed Oriole and Fan-tailed Cuckoo. Horsefield’s and Shining Bronze-Cuckoos were also present.

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Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Honeyeaters included White-plumed and Yellow-faced plus Black-chinned (the last seen and heard by some only). Cockatoos were represented by Galahs and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and parrots by Purple-crowned Lorikeets, Crimson and Eastern Rosellas and Red-rumped Parrots.

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Black-chinned Honeyeater

Not far from the nesting wagtail a pair of Jacky Winters foraged actively. The only other robin was an Eastern Yellow Robin. Both Spotted and Striated Pardalotes were vocal. The Laughing Kookaburra and the Sacred Kingfisher called and some heard the call of the Mistletoebird which only gave a very brief glimpse as it flew off.

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White-plumed Honeyeater

We had walked around the entrance area before driving on to Gravel Pit Tor and from there to our shaded lunch spot at the small picnic ground where the ephemeral dam was holding water well but only a few honeyeaters were drinking and bathing. We birded in the East Flat in the afternoon but the sun was still high and birds were few. Then it was time for birdcall and we were very pleased to record 47 species for the day.

We thanked Merrilyn heartily for all her preparation which had given us such a satisfactory day.

Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings

You Yangs Birding and Boneseeding

3 September 2016
Written by Merrilyn Serong
Photos by Arthur Carew

On this mostly mild and calm, partly-sunny morning, the 13 participants who assembled at the usual meeting place at 10am managed wonderfully in my absence. A huge thank you to Denise for responding at short notice and collecting signatures, keeping the day well organised, and making clear and complete bird lists at each location. Further thanks to Arthur for providing excellent photos taken on the day. Welcome to the three newcomers and to one who made a return visit after about 16 years. Thanks also to all the regulars who always make the day so successful.

Spring was certainly noticeable with such species as Horsfield’s and Shining Bronze-cuckoos being recorded in two places while Fan-tailed Cuckoos were at all places where the group stopped.

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Fan-tailed Cuckoo

Superb Fairy-wrens, Spotted Pardalotes, Red Wattlebirds, Grey Shrike-thrushes and Eastern Yellow Robins were also everywhere. Weebills, New Holland Honeyeaters and Brown-headed Honeyeaters were plentiful. Even Mistletoebirds were found in three places. In contrast, Purple-crowned Lorikeet was only recorded once, as were Kookaburra and Tree Martin. Surprising finds were Rainbow Bee-eater and Yellow-tufted Honeyeater. That was our first record of the latter. Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters occur in numbers at The Brisbane Ranges and would only have to fly 10 to 20 km to be in the You Yangs.

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Red Wattlebird

The You Yangs area sits in a rain-shadow, largely due to the Brisbane Ranges blocking rain-bearing winds from the west. Brisbane Ranges habitat tends, therefore, to be wetter than that at the You Yangs. However, at present the You Yangs area is unusually green. The dams have water in them and some are dotted with clumps of white frog spawn. Pobblebonks, Spotted Marsh Frogs and Eastern Common Froglets share the soundscape at the dam above Fawcett’s gullly. Their calls are all quite different from one another, so are easy to distinguish.

Another sign of spring is the flowers, including those of the boneseed itself, of course. In the afternoon of the visit, the group removed one and a half hours’ worth of these flowering plants from a dense growth to the south of our official site. The springtime yellow of the brightly blooming wattles remains. These include Golden, Gold Dust and Hedge Wattles. Elsewhere Dwarf Greenhoods are growing in places that are boneseed-free and usually quite dry.

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Willie Wagtail

The last BirdLife You Yangs birding and boneseeding visit for the year is planned for Saturday 3 December. That will be the last time I organise and lead the outings for at least a year. One participant has offered to organise next year’s outings and she and others are prepared to lead one or more, so the project will continue.

A bird list will be posted at http://www.birdlifemelbourne.org.au/outings/site-lists/YouYangs%202016.html

You Yangs Birding and Boneseeding

4 June 2016
Text and photos by Merrilyn Serong
View from Valley Picnic Ground YY 2016 06 04 0632 800x600 M Serong
View from Valley Picnic Ground

An unexpected weather event in eastern Australia turned what otherwise might have been a fine, but cloudy day into one of intermittent drizzle. It’s not often that we see the ground wet at the You Yangs or water in the gutters beside the Great Circle Drive. The level of the dam near the park entrance was lower than I can remember it, but there was some water in other dams that were quite dry on our last visit. We heard frogs in a few places. Mosses, lichens, fungi and rock ferns were looking marvellous. The wet was not enough to deter the keen cyclists who frequent the park and it did not hamper the six of us on our quest to find birds and pull out boneseed. In these conditions the number of bird species recorded was lower than usual at a mere 24, but the damp ground made it easier to remove the weeds. The day remained pleasantly calm, and with coats on, we were not too cold.

We spent some time, as usual, in the area near the entrance and Park Office. Still no sign of the Tawny Frogmouths, which used to be so reliable here. Weebills were calling and foraging in the eucalypt canopy. An Eastern Yellow Robin posed close by for a moment. Lorikeets were heard briefly, but not seen. I think they were Musk. There seem to be fewer White-plumed Honeyeaters in this area than there were in the past, but more New Hollands. The latter were particularly abundant around the profusely flowering Hakea laurina bushes to the east of the dam. These plants from the south-west of Australia thrive in this area of the You Yangs.

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Eastern Yellow Robin

Morning tea was at the Valley Picnic Ground where we hoped for Boobooks, which are said to be there at times, and Tawny Frogmouths. We saw neither, but we did see numbers of Brown-headed Honeyeaters at the flowering eucalypts. Weebills were plentiful. Some of us saw a koala run across the road and disappear.

Amongst the bird species at Gravel Pit Tor were Crimson Rosella, White-throated Treecreeper, Eastern Yellow Robin, and Yellow and Brown Thornbills. A female Scarlet Robin was seen. There were two pairs of Scarlet Robins near here a couple of weeks ago on a finer day.

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Scarlet Robin, Gravel Pit Tor

At lunch time we shared Fawcett’s Gully with a man who was using water colours to paint a scene of the area. The light rain was not helpful. Here there were also White-plumed and New Holland Honeyeaters, Crimson Rosellas, a White-throated Treecreeper and some frogs.

In mid to late afternoon we tackled a patch of medium-sized boneseed plants to the north of our official site. There were also several newly emerged boneseed plants still at the two-leaf stage. These were much easier to pull out. I found a bird’s leg-ring. It’s the type used on racing pigeons, so its wearer possibly provided a meal for a raptor.

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New Holland Honeyeater in Hakea laurina

Towards the end of the day, when the last of us were preparing to leave our boneseeding site, a small flock of Varied Sittellas appeared together with a few Silvereyes. Soon after, we saw a Buff-rumped Thornbill. These added another three species to the day’s total. It was too dark by then for photos, so we’ll just have to remember them. One of the last bird sounds for the day was the mournful cry of White-winged Choughs. This nicely complemented the approaching night and continuing drizzle.

Many thanks to all participants and others who maintain an interest in the project.

The bird list for the day will be available at http://www.birdlifemelbourne.org.au/outings/site-lists/YouYangs%202016.html

More photos are on my website: http://www.timeinthebush.com/you-yangs-2016.html

Thank you

A special thank you to David McCarthy for his dedicated work in our YY boneseeding project. He has made a fantastic contribution over many years. David is no longer able to continue his involvement in boneseed removal, but will keep track of our progress by continuing to add our bird sightings to the data base.

You Yangs Birding and Boneseeding

5 March 2016
Report and photographs by Merrilyn Serong

 

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Grey Fantail

Despite a hot, high 30s temp the day before, our March You Yangs birding and boneseeding day was pleasantly cool and calm. The cloud cover persisted and made viewing colours of birds challenging and hampered photography. The park continues to be dry, so dry. There is little water in the dam near the entrance. The level is about as low as I’ve seen it; similar to that in June 2009.

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Magpie Geese

An amazing sight from the Park Office area during the morning was the regular lines of Magpie Geese that streamed overhead from approximately north to south. They were apparently on their way to Lake Connewarre, south-east of Geelong. Due largely to the poor light quality and the appearance of a totally unexpected species, we were initially confused and in some disagreement regarding their identity. Once this was established, we were surprised by the first few hundred, impressed when the numbers exceeded 1000 and stunned when they climbed to an estimated 5000.

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Magpie Geese

Other highlights in the area near the Park Office were several Purple-crowned Lorikeets, a pair of Crested Shrike-tits and a Wedge-tailed Eagle.

Another Wedge-tail was flying over the Gravel Pit Tor area in the middle of the day. We saw the usual Scarlet Robins there, but we found them at all our stops. A couple of goats were wandering on the hillside opposite the Tor, where we have seen them before.

Lunch by the Fawcett’s Gully picnic table and nearby dry dam was followed by a walk to the reedy upper dam. We were fortunate to see Varied Sittellas on the way there. The dam was quite dry and dotted with holes where animals had apparently tried to dig, unsuccessfully, for water. A rather emaciated and possibly thirsty Black (Swamp) Wallaby approached the dam while we were there.

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Black Wallaby

We spent more than an hour pulling out boneseed plants to the north of our site, bordering on the Eastern Flat (Seed Garden). Two of us had good views of two Speckled Warblers. They had been seen by some in our group in September 2014, but this is the first time I have seen them there. We looked for them again later when we walked to the Eastern Flat, but could not find them. However, we added Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Tree Martin and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike to our list.

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White-throated Treecreeper

The total of identified bird species for the day was 51. Some of us also saw a small raptor take off from a tree at our lunch stop, but weren’t sure if it was a Brown Goshawk or a Collared Sparrowhawk. A bird list for the day will be posted on the BirdLife Melbourne site http://www.birdlifemelbourne.org.au/outings/. Scroll down and click on the ‘You Yangs Regional Park’ link (outing number 512). I have included another report with photos on my website http://www.timeinthebush.com/you-yangs-2016.html

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Koala

Our next YY Birding and Boneseeding visit will be on Saturday 4 June. All members are welcome to attend.

You Yangs birding and boneseeding

5 December 2015
Report by Merrilyn Serong
Photographs by Arthur Carew
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Echidna

On our last birding and boneseeding day for the year, the weather was warm, but not too hot for the seven participants. The cloud-cover remained for much of the day, providing us with shelter from the hot sun. The whole place is very, very dry. Some trees that had more or less recovered after the last drought are now clearly suffering again. In places eucalypts are flowering and attracting many butterflies, but we saw no lorikeets at all. It was eerily quiet without their shrieking calls.

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Galah

Notable birds that were present in reasonable numbers almost everywhere were Rufous Whistler, Grey Fantail, Weebill and Brown-headed Honeyeater. No surprise with the first two of these species, but the large numbers of the other two were unexpected. There was evidence of breeding in various species, either with active nests or young birds. Good to see, especially in the dry conditions.

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Weebill

We recorded a total of 40 bird species, without visiting the Eastern Flat / Seed garden, where we usually find a few more species. The best place for a wide variety of species is generally the area where we start, around the Park Office and dam near the entrance. Here we found 27 species. We made a brief stop at the Valley Picnic Ground to look for Tawny Frogmouths that had been seen there recently, but we did not find them. Our next stop was at the Sand Mine area beside the western section of the Great Circle Drive, where there is still a little water. We didn’t stay long. Further on at the Gravel Pit Tor we found the usually reliable robins and other species before driving on for lunch and a short walk at Fawcett’s Gully. Lastly we spent over an hour at and near our boneseeding site. Some of us concentrated on a number of large plants to the north of the site. They took some effort to remove, but we cleared quite an area. Our plan is to resume where we left off next time.

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White-winged Chough

Most of the boneseed plants have finished flowering now, though some blooms still persist. The fruits with their internal hard seeds are developing. It is interesting to note that Drooping Cassinia (Cassinia arcuata) plants are increasing rapidly in number in some areas of our site, particularly at the start of the main path and also along an old disused vehicle track. This native plant is known as a coloniser of disturbed areas and here it no longer has to compete with boneseed.

A list of the bird species recorded on the day will soon be on the BirdLife Melbourne website http://www.birdlifemelbourne.org.au/outings/site-lists/YouYangs%202015.html

There are reports of all the YY visits for the year on my website http://www.timeinthebush.com/you-yangs-2015.html

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Willie Wagtail

Our next YY visit will be on Sat 5 March 2016. All BirdLife members are welcome to join us for an enjoyable and useful day. If you would like your email address to be added to my contact list for reminders and lists of birds observed, please email me at Merrilyn@wirejunkie.com

 

 

Beginners Outing to You Yangs Regional Park

28 November, 2015
Species Count: 51
Rufous Whistler - Ron Garrett
Rufous Whistler. Photo by Ron Garrett

Geoff Deason once again led the Beginners Outing to the You Yangs, in ideal weather conditions. Due to the drought it was decided not to visit Hovell’s Creek but to take a circuit from the Ranger Station for the morning walk. Highlights included good views of Rufous Whistlers, Eastern Yellow Robins, Shining Bronze-cuckoos and a family of White-winged Choughs with a nest.

Near the dam a small female Koala was much admired by those at the front of the group.

Brown-headed Honeyeater - Kathy Zonnevylle
Brown-headed Honeyeater. Photo by Kathy Zonnevylle

The photographers, who arrived shortly afterwards, were fascinated to see a Brown-headed Honeyeater pecking at her back, possibly to collect fur as nesting material.

During lunch at the Valley Picnic Area there was much bird activity including Weebills building a nest which was very well camouflaged in a low branch of a gum tree. A pair of Scarlet Robins, nesting Striated Pardalotes and a family group of Tawny Frogmouths were other highlights.

Members then drove the circuit route to the Eastern Flats where a ‘hotspot’ revealed a female Mistletoebird, Varied Sitellas and more Brown-headed Honeyeaters and Rufous Whistlers. At the edge of the farmland, high up in a tree, three Little Lorikeets were spotted, and nearby, a large male Koala.

Weebill on nest - Kathy Zonnevylle
Weebill on nest. Photo by Kathy Zonnevylle

Despite the dry conditions a total of 51 species were recorded for the day and Geoff was thanked for his expert leadership.

Leaders: Geoff Deason, with Hazel Veevers.

View bird list from the outing: BM Nov 2015 Bird List You Yangs

 

A You Yangs surprise

Our Birdlife Melbourne BBQ was a great success, as you have probably already heard. Committe member, Millie Scicluna organised the event (with her parents doing the cooking), and salads provided by various other members. But the surprise you may not have seen was the Striated Pardalote at nest which Millie found in the carpark.

On the following Monday I visited the bird again and made this HD video of the bird singing away on his doorstep. That seemed to be a hazardous occupation, but he was obviously pleased with himself.

Adriana can now show us videos on our blog – so here is the Striated Pardalote: 

You will probably never forget his call!

Contributor: Ron Garrett

You Yangs birding and boneseeding

3 October 2015
Report and photographs by Merrilyn Serong

This was the third YY boneseeding visit for the year and all three have been on long weekends. It was not intentional, but I like to tell people that when the day falls on a long weekend, they still have two days left for other activities. This long weekend was due to the AFL grand final and we visited the YYs in October instead of September because I was not available a month ago. If I had thought of the football, I would have expected the grand final to be at the end of September.

New Holland Honeyeater
New Holland Honeyeater

Anyway, 13 of us attended, a good number for birding and boneseeding. The day was rather warm and windy, but we still encountered 51 bird species and pulled out heaps of brightly flowering boneseed plants as well as some large and sharp boxthorn.

Some of us visited an area new to us, between the Park Office and Gravel Pit Tor. This spot used to be a sand mine and had water with bathing birds, including Black-chinned and Brown-headed Honeyeaters. We will include the place on our future visits, I think. I suppose the water will evaporate soon if there is no rain. The You Yangs are dry at present, but we have seen the place much drier in the past.

Jacky Lizard
Jacky Lizard

Some eucalypts were in flower, but we did not notice any Purple-crowned Lorikeets. We didn’t record Jacky Winter either. However, the Jacky Lizard that posed for us on a fallen branch near the Park Office was great to see. We also saw Masked and White-browed Woodswallows flying above our boneseeding site. Just before the last of us left to go home a cloud of mainly Masked Woodswallows swept overhead in uncountable numbers. What a sight. The whole day was worth it just for that. Other notable birds that we recorded were Mistletoebirds, Varied Sittellas, a Diamond Firetail, a posing Scarlet Robin, majestic Wedge-tailed Eagles and families of White-winged Choughs.

Masked Woodswallow
Masked Woodswallow

A list of the species recorded will soon be on the BL Melbourne website: http://www.birdlifemelbourne.org.au/outings/site-lists/YouYangs%202015.html

There are words and photos on my website http://www.timeinthebush.com/you-yangs-2015.html

The next YY visit is in less than two months, on 5 December, and we have already noted which boneseed plants to remove on that day.

Any BirdLife members are welcome to join us for an enjoyable and useful day.

BirdLife Melbourne You Yangs Birding and Boneseeding

6 June 2015

After a cool and wet week, we were very fortunate to have a mild, sunny, blue-sky morning and some lingering sunshine later in the day for our June You Yangs visit. Seventeen people participated in the day.

With many eucalypts in flower, birds were abundant. I had visited one week earlier to check on conditions, and, of course, to look for the Tawny Frogmouths near the office. Not having seen them for some months, I was very glad to find three Tawnys in a likely-looking tree some distance away. Sadly, they were no longer there on the 6th.

Tawny Frogmouths. Photo by Merrilyn Serong
Tawny Frogmouths. Photo by Merrilyn Serong

However, we saw many other bird species, including Fuscous Honeyeater. This species was a first for our YY visits. We recorded nine honeyeater species in all. Surprisingly there were large numbers of White-naped and relatively few White-plumed. It is usually the other way around.

White-naped Honeyeater. Photo by Ken Haines
White-naped Honeyeater. Photo by Ken Haines

Other observations included ten species of cockatoo or parrot, four thornbill species, and five robins including Jacky Winter. We were disappointed not to see any Diamond Firetails, but we did see Red-browed Finches. Welcome Swallows afforded a spectacular sight late in the day as huge numbers of them flew low over grass in a paddock to the east of the park. The total species count of 55 for the day was rather good for this time of year. The full list will be accessible on the BirdLife Melbourne website via this page http://www.birdlifemelbourne.org.au/outings/.

Some mystery birds were not included in the total list. One distant bird looked to some people like an out-of-season Olive-backed Oriole, but to others it looked more like a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater. We might have been looking at different birds, but didn’t count either. Unidentified Corellas flew over the Office area. There was also a Brown Goshawk or Collared Sparrowhawk at Gravel Pit Tor, but we couldn’t decide between the two possibilities. However, a definite Sparrowhawk flew close overhead at the Eastern Flat / Seed Garden area.

Galah at You Yangs. Photo by Arthur Carew
Galah at You Yangs. Photo by Arthur Carew

During the day we followed the usual plan of starting near the Park Office, driving to Gravel Pit Tor then to our lunch spot at Fawcett’s Gully and to our boneseeding site. After pulling out lots of weeds near a dry creek bed at the border of our site, we spent some time birding in the nearby Eastern Flat / Seed Garden area. This is nothing like as open an area as it used to be, largely due to the numerous Golden Wattle Acacia pycnantha plants that are increasing there in both size and number.

Purple-crowned Lorikeet. Photo by Arthur Carew
Purple-crowned Lorikeet. Photo by Arthur Carew

Thanks to everyone who participated in the day for your convivial company, lots of interesting bird sightings and plenty of boneseeding. Our next visit is planned for Saturday 3 October. Please note that there will be no officially-planned YY birding and boneseeding visit in September this year. That being said, anyone is free to go there any time and watch birds and remove boneseed, of course.

I have included words and pictures from the day on my website, http://www.timeinthebush.com/you-yangs-2015.html, where there are also photos from earlier visits.

Contributor: Merrilyn Serong