I had David from Hoppers Crossing with me again today, who was keen to obtain better views of a few of the birds we saw last time in the forests east of Melbourne. The day turned out to be a gorgeous mid-winter's sunny affair with little wind, although the temperature must have dropped below freezing during the night as the puddles had frozen over. It took a while for my nose to thaw out too. Anyway at our first locale we were able to catch up with and have great looks at Yellow-faced, Lewin's and Brown-headed Honeyeaters (all lifers for David), plus more Red-browed Treecreepers, a confiding female Gang-gang Cockatoo and a great look at an Australian Raven calling nearby in the sun, its throat hackles fully extended and plumage all glossy and slick. We also managed to get onto a beautiful Brown Gerygone that approached us to within a metre in response to a little gentle pishing, and 3 Large-billed Scrubwrens that were equally confiding. We also happened to chance upon a small silvery Peregrine Falcon that was feeding on its Red Wattlebird kill by the roadside; it glared at us balefully and took off. We ended the day fortuitously when rounding a bend in the track and surprising a male Superb Lyrebird who didn't seem too fazed by us and allowed some great views of his lovely tail and rusty throat patch. Nearby we watched 11 Grey Shrike-thrushes and a couple of Eastern Yellow Robins foraging for worms presumably in a paddock on the edge of the forest. A really peaceful day thus came to a close, with quality forest time and 5 lifers for David.
16th July, 2009: Heathcote-Graytown National Park
A beautiful sunny day saw myself and birding buddy Andy travel north of Melbourne into central Victoria to an area of bushland near Heathcote in search of the elusive Chestnut-rumped Heathwren. Andy has yet to see this skulker so we were on a mission. It is a great place anyway to see some of central Victoria's woodland species and we soon gazed upon Flame and Scarlet Robins frolicking in the sun, beautiful Diamond Firetails, a singing Speckled Warbler, Jacky Winter, Fuscous, Yellow-faced, White-plumed, Brown-headed, White-naped and White-eared Honeyeaters, and even a Yellow-plumed Honeyeater, which is a species normally found in mallee areas to the north-west, so it was a tad out of place. Andy and I eventually got onto a very furtive Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, but unfortunately it was only myself that was able to get a look at it as it bounced around half invisible in the undergrowth. Too slow Andy, better luck next time mate..
19th July, 2009: Surf Coast
What a day!! We were in the mood for some different types of birds in some different types of habitats, so David from Hoppers Crossing and I hooked up yet again and headed south-west of Melbourne with a view to catching up with some birds of the heathlands in the hinterland of the Otway Ranges. The weather forecast wasn't good, with gusty north-westerly winds strengthening in the afternoon and the chance of showers, but nothing ventured nothing gained as they say. As it turned out the heathlands were nothing short of sublime, and in the early morning calm we easily found a small party of Southern Emu-wren that allowed some spectacular close range views, as well as a gorgeous Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Crescent Honeyeater, singing Striated Fieldwren and a pair of Blue-winged Parrot tinkling as they flew overhead. A distant Wedge-tailed Eagle was seen soaring over the hills also. In some of the more wooded sections nearby we found Buff-rumped, Striated and Brown Thornbill, Eastern Spinebill, heard a Rufous Bristlebird and found both Grey and Pied Currawong.
Anyway the wind had started to really pick up, so we left the heath and headed for the coastal areas to the north-east of Anglesea. Travelling along the Great Ocean Road we soon saw that there were several albatross revelling in the windy conditions just offshore. We ended up seeing three different species for the day - lots of Shy, 2-3 Black-browed, and a single Yellow-nosed Albatross off Breamlea. There were many Fluttering Shearwaters in tight groups just offshore also. On one beach we found a large flock of roosting Double-banded Plover, several Red-capped Plover, small numbers of Red-necked Stint and 4 Hooded Plover. These birds were regularly disturbed by dogs off leads and their owners ignorantly stumbling along, and it is amazing how seriously vulnerable species like Hooded Plover still survive on these beaches. It is a testament to their tenacity and survival skills, but one can't help feeling that this situation will not persist and the plovers will end up losing out long term...
I guess the highlight of the day ended up being the sighting of two or more Humpback Whales slowly making their way west along the coast about half a kilometre offshore. It was truly an amazing sight and there were even a couple of breaches. A fantastic end to a great day with the wheeling flocks of Fluttering Shearwaters and more stately Shy Albatross scything over the waves in the sun, set against the backdrop of the Humpbacks coursing majestically along.
22nd July, 2009: Forests east of Melbourne
On a cold, windy and gloomy day myself and Andy Short from the UK travelled eastward to find some forest birds and whatever else came along, because not only had Andy not seen any of our indigenous species, but because he is also a keen photographer. No sooner had we got to our first destination that Andy found his first subject matter, a beautiful and confiding Swamp Wallaby on the side of the track. The smoky, rustic tones of the wallaby matched well the surrounding environment of tall, dry grass and dark tree trunks in which it stood, and some outstanding photos were taken. This set the tone of the morning nicely, further up the track and after a bit of a stalking game Andy was able to watch and photograph well a male Superb Lyrebird belting out his full repertoire of song and mimicry. Further on again and we were able to quietly watch a pair of King Parrots feeding in a roadside sapling. Unconcerned by our presence, they allowed close approach and needless to say some fantastic photos. Heading to our next location we chance upon a very confiding Laughing Kookaburra sitting on a fence. By staying in the car we were able to pull right alongside the bird while Andy went berserk in a frenzy of digital snap-happiness. This was one of his hoped-for targets so he was more than stoked.
It got to mid-afternoon and we had seen some great birds at this point, however my English friend had only jumped off the plane two days prior and was still very jet-lagged, and the poor geezer was having trouble keeping his eyes open! After snapping some pics of Lewin's Honeyeater and a less than satisfactory view of an exceedingly shy Pilotbird, we decided to call it stumps. Even though it was 3.30pm the light was rapidly deteriorating and photographic opportunities had all but dissolved. On the way back we pulled in quickly to one site and were able to see a small party of Satin Bowerbirds, hordes of Little Corellas, Galahs and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos all feeding on the ground with some Australian Shelduck. Yellow-rumped Thornbills were nearby plus Pied and Grey Currawongs, but as we left, well, Andy was already fast asleep...
27th July 2009: Newport Lakes Park
I paid a brief visit to my local patch again today - Newport Lakes Park, as there had been news of a pair of Painted Button-quail turning up again. So off I trotted to have a bit of a search. An hour and a half's scratching around finally yielded results and I was privy to some brilliant views of these totally beautiful birds. I got to within a couple of metres of them at one stage and to see the intricate patterning and subtle hues and earthy tones of the plumage was just fantastic. Really great birds. While I was there I also saw a marauding Grey Butcherbird which was new for my personal list of the reserve, and only the second one I've seen in the City of Hobsons Bay, plus Flame Robin, Eastern Spinebill, Little Lorikeet and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater.