3rd November, 2008 - I was again hosting the Tongue Family and we explored the swamps, lagoons, ponds and seashore of the western side of Port Phillip Bay. Highlights included Australian Spotted Crake, Latham's Snipe and Purple-crowned Lorikeet around my local patches, while further south we had rip-snorters like Glossy Ibis, Lewin's Rail, Stubble Quail, Black-tailed (a tick for the Tongues) and Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Knot and Marsh Sandpiper. 82 species for the day.
4th November, 2008 - Went out birding for the morning with a mate Chris, to a few nice bushland patches south and east of Bacchus Marsh. We found some great birds, highlights being Black-eared Cuckoo, Red-capped Robin, Speckled warbler, Aus. Owlet-nightjar, Brown Treecreeper and Varied Sitella.
9-10th November, 2008 Victorian Twitchathon - Andrew Hurnard, Alex Farias and myself had formed a formidable team that launched headlong into this year's fray that was the Thon. The aim is to see as many species in a single 24 hr period starting at 4pm and finishing at 4pm the next day. An equally important aim is to gain sponsorship for your team which will pay a set amount, say one, two or ten dollars for every species seen. The proceeds go toward providing grants for bird conservation projects here in Oz.
Our route was finely tuned, our times and schedule were honed to the second, our mileage and cabin occupation vs time stopped and outside birding was a delicately balanced set of scales. Several crap cups of coffee, stale pizzas and the best part of two packs of smokes (Alex) later we had amassed 191 species in our quest, and had also managed to win somehow!! I hadn't envisaged in my wildest that we'd come even close with 191, but there you go. A great honour was bestowed upon my team mates and I, plus a burning desire to smash our record and win again next year...
Highlights here were many, but best were Wonga Pigeon, Shy Albatross, Black-faced Cormorant, Spotted Harrier, Brolga, Wood Sandpiper, Australian Ringneck, Rufous Bristlebird, Pilotbird, Brown Gerygone, Purple-gaped Honeyeater, Masked Woodswallow, Satin Flycatcher and Hooded Robin. It was great fun anyway and we can't wait to do it again and raise more funds for bird conservation.
28th November, 2008 - Saw a single adult Dollarbird at Newport Lakes Reserve today, a very rare visitor this far south. Later on whilst at Truganina Park in Altona Meadows I heard the highly distinctive calls of an Eastern (Australian) Koel some distance off, however could not locate the bird.
4th December, 2008 - On a quick scoot around Altona and Williamstown today I found Common Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Collared (Barbary) Dove and Singing Honeyeater.
6th December, 2008 - Flushed 17 Latham's Snipe whilst walking along a well vegetated creek line in Altona North, and saw a single Rufous Whistler in nearby trees. Both species are uncommon in the Hobsons Bay area.
8th December, 2008 - Paid a quick visit to Jacana wetlands in Moonee Ponds this morning, which was loaded with birds. Highlights being 2 Baillon's Crake, Spotless Crake heard, several Red-kneed Dotterel, a lone Latham's Snipe and a Great Egret in full breeding plumage.
11th December, 2008 - Wetlands adjacent to the new Pt Cook township today had A single Baillon's Crake, around 7 or 8 Latham's Snipe and an adult Australasian Grebe present. Pretty impressive since it's in the middle of a brand new housing estate.
4th January, 2009 - A cracking crack of dawn saw me on the road headed for the Brisbane Ranges to see what was about. Grasslands along the way near Exford at first light had Stubble Quail and Horsfields's Bushlark calling therein, a nice start to the day.
I was keen to look around the northern end of the Brisbane Ranges in some nice open woodland. Highlights for me were a nice White-necked Heron, Jacky Winters & Scarlet Robins, 50 or so Fairy Martins, Diamond Firetails along the fences, and best of all an Australian Owlet-nightjar perched at the entrance to its little hollow. Also found a Rough Wattle, Acacia aspera, a fairly uncommon plant in these parts and on the periphery of its distribution here.
On the way home stopped at a tiny ephemeral lignum swamp along Boundary Rd, Truganina that had received a shallow water flow, and found, amongst a few ducks and stuff, an Australian Spotted Crake fossicking around under the lignum. ASC's are truly mobile little birds.
Further along Boundary Rd, I pulled into Anderson Swamp in the Derrimutt Grasslands Reserve, which currently has heaps of water and birdlife. Saw a Little Egret, Swamp Harrier and stacks of both teal, Hardhead and Pacific Black Duck. Also many Eastern Common Froglets and Striped Marsh Frogs heard. When the water recedes it may create attractive habitat for Aus. Painted Snipe amongst the basalt rocks dotting the swamp edge.
7th January 2009 - 6.30pm and I was headed for the hills, determined to find some locations for birds not normally seen in the daytime. Accompanying me was good mate and fellow birder Andrew, and he too was in the hunt for a particular bird - White-throated Nightjar, the sighting of which would boost his ever-growing life-list. Reaching our destination a little early enabled us to pick up a few diurnal birds as they carried out their last activities before nightfall. We saw a Bassian Thrush cross the track in one spot, a Brush Bronzewing on the track in another, and heard a Rufous Fantail's silvery song emanating from a gully along some other track just as the last rays of light left the increasingly gloomy mountains.
Game on and it wasn't long before several Southern Boobooks started up their chorus in various locations around the hills and valleys. The main target was a little more reticent, however after thirty or so minutes we heard peals of maniacal gobbling nearby and were soon happy to announce that at least half a dozen White-throated Nightjars were in the house. Tracking the satanic beasts was a little more difficult but, and we had little more than a few glimpses of devilish red eyes reflecting off the spotlight here and there. We decided to play a call or two on the mp3, and before you could say 666 there were two ghoulish winged fiends circling above our heads. We felt sure they were wont to pick our eyes out. This was a great moment though and we were rapt.
The night was not over yet and we heard a few Australian Owlet-nightjars in a couple of spots, and managed to find two separate locations where Sooty Owls were calling, in densely forested gullies with towering old hollow-bearing eucalypts. These birds decided not to make themselves known to us however; even so it was great to listen to the weird and creepy repertoire of calls.
There were plenty of Yellow-bellied calling throughout the forest, and the soft yapping of a Sugar Glider was heard . We saw a beautiful smoky grey Greater Glider as well as Common Wombats, Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Swamp Wallabies also.
On the way out a huge doe Sambar crossed the track in front of the car, a pretty rare sight. It was a great outing and one of those rare times where just about everything clicks into place.
14th January, 2009 - Today was meant to be a scorcher of about 39 degrees Celsius, and when I drove out to pick up my employer for the day Iain at 6am, it was already in the high twenties and a northerly wind had started. Not that Iain knew any of this. His alarm(s) hadn't worked and when I arrived he was still asleep and answered the door in his jocks. However to his credit he was ready in about 3.28 minutes and we took off. Iain was keen to see as big a variety of species as possible in the day, and I had thus planned a fairly rigorous itinerary. First stop was a series of wet forest locations east of Melbourne, and we soon had Beautiful Firetail, Pilotbird, Superb Lyrebird, Satin Flycatcher, Blue-winged Parrot, White-throated Needletail and Rose Robin under the belt. The forest was a lot cooler and it was a beautiful morning in there sheltered for the most part from the wind.
The beauty of Melbourne's road system is apparent when, if you time it to avoid peak traffic times, you can get across town really quick. This we did and got to our next destination seemingly in no time. Here we found stacks of waterbirds and shorebirds, and also found that the forecast cool change had arrived early. The highlights included Cape Barren Goose, Musk, Pink-eared and Blue-billed Ducks, Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, Australian Spotted Crake, Black-tailed Native-hen, Red-kneed Dotterel, Red-necked Avocet, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, and a major rarity in the form of a Hudsonian Godwit that had been found a few weeks prior. Also at this location we saw Black Falcon, Australian Reed-warbler, Little Grassbird, Striated Fieldwren and Zebra Finch.
From here we headed out to the You Yang Range briefly, and then spent some time in the northern Brisbane Ranges. Birding highlights were Collared Sparrowhawk, Wedge-tailed and Little Eagle, Red-rumped Parrot, Dusky Woodswallow, Restless Flycatcher, Mistletoebird, Weebill (our smallest bird), Yellow Thornbill, Brown Treecreeper, Red-browed Finch and Diamond Firetail.
We ended up with 138 species for the day, five of which were heard only. Thanks Iain for a great day and brilliant company.
17th January, 2009 - Today I hooked up with Iain again and this time he brought along his Mum, Linda. We were to head out for some spotlighting in a location to the east of Melbourne where I had recently seen White-throated Nightjar, and heard Sooty Owls in two separate spots. Iain and Linda were happy to see anything in the way of nocturnal birds but were particularly keen to see White-throated Nightjar.
On the way in we saw some distant King Parrots and then close up views of a flock of Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos which was well impressive. It was dark before we knew it so we had to hasten our movements in order to get to the desired location for kick-off. Not long after we did the first nightjar started calling, and it was while I was preparing a cuppa that Linda spotted the only White-throated Nightjar for the night as it flew over the car. For the remainder of the night we also had little luck coaxing Southern Boobooks and Australian Owlet-nightjar in, and furthermore did not even hear a Sooty Owl. It was slightly disappointing for the trio, especially since I'd had such good fortune in the same areas ten days ago. One thing that might explain the lack of nightbird activity on the 17th was possibly the fact that it was a lot cooler this night than it had been on the 7th, thus keeping the birds' activity to a minimum. Maybe...
Anyway, it was a fun night with great company in a beautiful location.
21st January, 2009 - Went out birding again with Chris today to the Toolangi area, an absolutely beautiful day and with some top birds to boot. Highlights were Gang-gang Cockatoo, Brush Bronzewing, Brush Cuckoo, Rose & Pink Robins, Satin Flycatcher, Olive Whistler, Pilotbird and Red-browed Treecreeper. Lewin's Honeyeater and Rufous Fantail were especially inquisitive, and Superb Lyrebirds were heard seemingly everywhere.
22nd January, 2009 - A really hot today with a howling northerly wind so I thought I'd make a brief visit today to Battery Point in Williamstown to see what was about. Eventually got onto 5 White-throated Needletails way out over the sea flying up the bay into the wind. They didn't seem to be making much headway, but when they finally did cross the coast I could see that they were actually traveling pretty fast! Amazingly aerodynamic birds. Also found a dozen or so Common Terns sheltering amongst the rocks on the shoreline, and 3-4 Tree Martins getting blown about.
25th January, 2009 - With a forecast of splendid summer weather for the day I was joined by Jon and Alison from Perth, and Alison's Mum, Lyn from the inland slopes of NSW (sorry Lyn can’t recall the name of your home town!) The trio had come to see a variety of different species in the greater Melbourne area, so we set off to the hills in search of some wet forest specialties. These in turn obliged us with fantastic viewings of Superb Lyrebird (voted avian delight of the day), Pilotbird, Beautiful Firetail (including a pair in dense wet sclerophyll forest), Gang-gang Cockatoo, Satin Flycatcher, Blue-winged Parrot, Red-browed Treecreeper, Eastern Whipbird, Rufous Fantail, Crescent Honeyeater and Rose Robin. Could have stayed there all day, it was sublimely peaceful in the forest, however we had to scarper and so made our way to various wetlands on the western side of Port Phillip Bay, where we were soon looking at various waders, waterfowl and terns such as Red-necked Avocet, Red-kneed Dotterel, Black-tailed Godwit, Marsh Sandpiper, Cape Barren Goose, Blue-billed Duck, Great Crested Grebe and Fairy, White-winged Black & Common Terns. After lunch we drove westward to some drier bushland habitats, and picked up more variety in the shape of a motley-looking immature Pallid Cuckoo, White-browed Woodswallow, Diamond Firetail, White-eared Honeyeater, Scarlet Robin, Brown Treecreeper, Restless Flycatcher, and a covey of Painted Button-quail. Driving through nearby farmland and open woodland remnants yielded Little and Long-billed Corella, Purple-crowned and Musk Lorikeet, Wedge-tailed Eagle, a rather abashed-looking Collared Sparrowhawk at being caught out in the open, Banded Lapwing and Red-browed Finch.
We ended the day with a visit to the northern section of the Brisbane Ranges National Park, where there was considerable activity from White-throated Treecreepers that appeared to be everywhere, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Common Bronzewing and a very brief fly-by from a White-throated Nightjar just before dusk. We all had a terrific day out and about, tallying 137 species with seven of those heard only. Thanks Jon, Alison and Lyn for great birding and some lively discussion.
29th January, 2009 - Made a short trip to Toolangi State Forest to see what was getting about, plus to escape the heat a bit. Plenty of birds about in the somewhat cooler, sheltered conditions, and I had good views of a pair of Flame Robin with young, and another singing male, Olive Whistlers in 3 locations, a trio of magniloquent Large-billed Scrub-wrens, Gang-gang Cockatoos and Red-browed Treecreepers. A Pilotbird was heard also.
31st January, 2009 - An early morning visit to Western Treatment Plant with birding cohort Andrew, where we picked up a handful of birds not regularly seen there. A Black-faced Cormorant was seen flying over land not far from the coast, also an Australasian Darter nearby at the Conservation Ponds, and 2 Glossy Ibis at Walsh's Lagoon. A rufous-plumaged harrier was seen with a dark-hooded appearance and it appeared to possibly be a juvenile Spotted Harrier, however the bird was backlit and flying steadily in the wrong direction so we couldn't clinch the id. There were some nice waders about with the Hudsonian Godwit still in residence accompanying half a dozen Black-tailed Godwit, a Wood Sandpiper at the T-section Lagoons, Lathm's Snipe, 2 early arrival Double-banded Plovers from NZ, and several endemic waders such as Red-necked Avocet, Red-kneed Dotterel and Masked Lapwing. A beautiful sight was a flock of around 50 White-winged Black Terns.
We ended up with 92 species for the morning; something that quite often happens here is that the bird-list creeps up without you realizing, and you end up with a surprising tally