On this brisk and cloudy morning David Richardson and myself headed to Western Treatment Plant to look for, among other things, a recently reported Australasian Bittern. This is a bird that had so far eluded David, always seemingly out of reach, his efforts thwarted, chasing fresh sightings and coming tantalisingly close, always a reedbed or just bad luck between him and the bittern...
Well today was no different because we didn't see it.
But we did see lots of other stuff. Like hundreds of waders. Mainly Red-necked Stints, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Curlew Sandpipers but with a few Greenshank here and there and a lone Black-tailed Godwit at the Borrow Pits that appears to be a recent arrival. It seemed very tired anyway (long flight??) as it slept the whole time while the other waders fed around it.
We also got onto 3 Rufous Songlark singing away in the treed verges along the 29 Mile Rd. Heaps of these have infiltrated Victoria in the last few weeks and they seem to be turning up all over the place. Including here. Further sightings involved a single Blue-winged Parrot, 50 odd Black-tailed Native-hens, hundreds and hundreds of Whiskered Terns, many in smart breeding clobber, lots of Fairy Martins gathering mud for their little bottle nests, and a juvenile Golden Whistler. 84 species all told, and a lifer for David (the songlark).
4th October, 2009 Central Victorian box-ironbark forests.
Just for something a bit different today my birding companion and I headed north of town to the central Victorian box-ironbark forests around the Heathcote-Bendigo region.Steven, who is from South Africa and over here on work assignments, was interested in looking at some of the bird species that occupy the drier forests and woodlands in the Greater Melbourne vicinity.
Rain accompanied us for most of the morning, however it wasn't heavy and there was no wind, so apart from us getting a little wet, the birding was easy and sensational.Birdlife was prolific and very active, and in the Heathcote area we got onto Black-eared Cuckoo, Speckled Warbler, Diamond Firetail, Rufous Songlark and Olive-backed Oriole amongstother birds.
Further up the road at CrosbieStateForest we found a few flowering Grey Box which had attracted many lorikeets, and there were good numbers of Musk, Little and Purple-crowned Lorikeet screaming about the place.Also here we found White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, calling Rainbow Bee-eaters overhead, and a possible Painted Honeyeater in the distance.At Runnymede we heard a returning migrant Sacred Kingfisher, while nearby in some open paddocks Brown Songlark and Horsfield's Bushlark sang, and several Stubble Quail were heard.
Satisfying the urge to refill our grumbling tummies, we stopped at a local bakery, before heading for our next destination, the fabulous Greater Bendigo National Park.Consisting of many varying habitats from box-ironbark forest through to low shrubby mallee, this reserve supports a good number of species, many of which don't occur any closer to Melbourne.Entering from the north we were soon birding in some lovely box-ironbark woodland and had terrific views of Western Gerygone, a beautiful Black-eared Cuckoo, Hooded Robin, Red-capped Robin, Pallid Cuckoo, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Speckled Warbler, Wedge-tailed Eagle and very brief looks at Crested Shrike-tit.Further on as we approached some areas of mallee we started seeing Yellow-plumed Honeyeater, Purple-gaped Honeyeater, Variegated Fairywren, White-fronted Honeyeater, White-browed Babbler, Grey Currawong, and heard frustratingly close Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Gilbert's Whistler, and Shy Hylacola.Late in the afternoon several groups of White-browed Woodswallows drifted high overhead, alerting us to their presence by their distinctive calls.
It was a really great day in the bush, and the cool weather conditions, although a bit damp at first, allowed for continuous bird activity and thus constant and excellent birding throughout the day.Not to mention Steven's company, which was excellent and allowed for a vast range of different conversation topics, not least of which was our mutual high regard for that wonderful country of South Africa.Thanks Steven, hope to meet again some day.
15th October, 2009 North-east Greater Melbourne
David Richardson and myself again headed out into the wilds of Greater Melbourne today, daring to brave the forecast rain, wind and general hellish weather that has been a dominant feature of the last week in this part of the world. Our aim was to try and hit on some of the remnant patches of woodland and riparian vegetation that still occur in areas along the Goulburn River between Seymour and Yea. Luckily for us the weather held off for the most part and there was hardly even any wind. Birding was excellent in the morning and we had a fantastic purple patch in an area of grey box and red-gum woodland adjoining lightly treed farmland. At first not much was calling all we saw was a pair of Jacky Winter - lovely in itself but to be expected around here.
Looking to leave as it seemed there was little else about, all of a sudden a male White-winged Triller turned up, then another, then a pair of Flame Robin with a dependent fledgling. Soon after we happened onto a singing Rufous Songlark, followed by a young male Red-capped Robin, and amazingly a pair of Hooded Robin with a juvenile in tow! Not only that there was an Eastern Yellow Robin nearby as well. In quick succession came a trio of stunning Rainbow Bee-eaters that perched incredibly obligingly close-by, a small party of Varied Sitella passing over, 2 Wedge-tailed eagle overhead, Spotted & Striated Pardalote, another adut male Red-capped Robin, Weebill everywhere, and to top everything off we had great views of an immature White-throated Gerygone and a flock of 150 plus White-browed Woodswallows!! Fantastic stuff and all within a period of half an hour. Amazing.
Other stops along our way produced Restless Flycatcher, Brown Treecreeper, Brown Quail, Red-rumped Parrot, Black-fronted Dotterel, Fantailed, Shining Bronze and Pallid Cuckoos, Little and Long-billed Corellas, more Sacred Kingfishers and an Olive-backed Oriole. So despite the freezing cold day, it was some brilliant spring birding, plus the best dimmies in Victoria at the tuck shop in Yea.
19th October, 2009 Altona Coastal Park
With a half hour to spare this morning I stopped by the Altona Coastal Park for a look around. This is a large park on the site of a former racecourse, bordering the Kororoit Creek. It has been extensively revegetated with indigenous trees and shrubs, but for the most part it is open shrubby grassland, with mangrove stands along the creek. In the stand of casuarinas along the walking path on the western side of the reserve I found a beautiful male Satin Flycatcher. I recorded the same species here almost exactly two years ago to the date, in the same trees. Possibly the same bird traveling through on passage?? It's certainly an unlikely location to record the species, so it was clearly on migration and most probably the same individual following the same route. Also seen nearby was a Common Sandpiper along Kororoit Creek,a known haunt for the species in the district.
26th October, 2009 Western Treatment Plant.
Yet another enjoyable day was had at the Western Treatment Plant today when Eric Sczrypczak and myself cruised around the farm looking for photo opportunities for his burgeoning website collection.And the birds did indeed oblige us with several close-up frame-fillers, such as Dusky Woodswallow, Fairy Martin and Australasian Pipit on fenceposts in the early morning sun, and some Yellow-rumped Thornbills that required the use of the vehicle as hide to get even remotely close to the birds.Black-tailed Native-hen, Musk Duck, Australian Spotted Crake, Black-shouldered Kite and Crested Tern also made good film fodder.
Some other more unusual birds seen today included a Common Sandpiper, Little & Fairy Tern, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit and up to 7 Shining Bronze-cuckoo seen and heard at various locations around the plant.
Thanks as always Eric for some relaxed birding and thought-provoking conversation.