Ed Champness and his partner Kathryn Coughlin had just flown into Melbourne a few days prior, and were unsure of where to best utilize their time here in terms of birding and birding locations. An email to yours truly, The Melbourne Birder, and the wheels were set in motion. Sure it was short notice, but hey, I'm nothing if not flexible.
I picked the pair up from their temporay abode at Mooroolbark in Melbourne's eastern suburbs and we were quickly on the freeway, hurtling toward our first destination, some wet forest locations south-east of Melbourne. Ed and Kathryn were after a broad range of species to give them a bit of an introduction to our birdlife and whet the apetite for future visits.
So we were soon looking at sapphire-like Scarlet Honeyeaters, glowing Rufous Fantails, a ridiculously tame pair of Pilotbird, Southern Emu-wren, Blue-winged Parrot, Shining Bronze-Cuckoo and Satin Flycatchers high in the canopy. Olive Whistler and Brush Cuckoo were heard. Kathryn was most impressed by an obliging pair of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo that allowed us to creep withon 3 metres of them.
Heading back through town we visited the world-famous Western Treatment Plant with its array of swamps, lagoons, mudflats and grassland. Here we managed to get onto a swag of different waterbirds and shorebirds, including Cape Baren Goose, Blue-billed Duck, Pink-eared Duck, Black-tailed Native-hen, Pacific Golden Plover, Red-kneed Dotterel, Red-necked Avocet, Wood Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, both Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits, Marsh Sandpiper, Whiskered, White-winged Black, Little and Fairy Terns. Other birds seen here included Rufous Songlark, Horsfield's Bushlark, Stubble Quail, Striated Fieldwren and Fairy Martin.
The day was wearing on but our energy levels weren't wearing out. We headed west to some drier open country and bushland areas, where we managed to pick up a soaring Black Falcon that unsettled a large flock of both Little and Long-billed Corella, Wedge-tailed Eagle, a juvenile Collared Sparrowhawk, Sacred Kingfisher, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Scarlet Robin, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Yellow Thornbill, and finally, late in the day, two incredibly beautiful Rainbow Bee-eaters. We watched these little gems glowing in the last rays of the sun, and I have to say it was a pretty nifty way to end proceedings.
The final tally for the day was a whopping 154 species, including those that were heard only. Ed and Kathryn couldn't have been happier; some days all the birds just seem to come out.
9th January, 2010 Western Treatment Plant
Made a quick dash to the WTP with Chris Tzaros to look for the recently reported Wood & Pectoral Sandpipers. These weren't forthcoming, but photo ops were a-plenty, and Chris managed glorious close-up shots of Baillon's Crake, Fairy Tern, White-winged Black-Tern and Whiskered Tern.
14th January, 2010 Southern Goldfields Region, Central Victoria.
Well I said we'd be back, and here we are, or were. Anyway, the point is Dave Richardson wanted another go at the Painted Honeyeaters up around Clunes, so that's just what we did, plus visited a few other locations around this region. Turned out to be a great day with some fantastic birds.
First things first though and we set our sights on the area where we had a very brief glimpse of a Painted Honeyeater prior to Christmas. Almost straight away two birds were heard singing, one of which made its way over to us and gave more prolonged views than last time, allowing David to see all the salient identification points as well as drink in the beauty of this unusual honeyeater. Fantastic. Great start. Needless to say Dave was stoked. Also seen here were two Little Eagle, soaring low over the treetops.
At nearby Talbot Reservoir we soon picked up the target species here, Black-chinned Honeyeater, with a pair calling beautifully right overhead. We also heard Yellow-tufted Honeyeater calling a ways off.
Moving right along we travelled toward Lexton, stoppping at a few spots along the way. One roadside stop produced the goods. Initially stopping for a Restless Flycatcher that flew over the road, we soon had birds everywhere, including a pair of White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike (one of which was a dark phase bird with black head and chest), White-winged Triller, a large party of Dusky Woodswallow, Musk Lorikeet and Olive-backed Oriole. A roadside swamp near Beaufort looked good for Australian Painted Snipe so we had a bit of a look. If they were there we didn't see them, but did see a small flock of Australasian Shoveler, 6 Black-fronted Dotterel, Hardhead and both Hoary-headed & Australasian Grebes.
South-east of Beaufort we stopped in a large section of woodland, in particular a large dam surrounded by box-ironbark forest. I'd had a tip-off from a good birding mate regarding this place, and sure enough, the reason for the gen soon turned up. First one, then two and finally 6 Black Honeyeater came down to drink at the dam. As we sat quietly in the shade we watched for males and two females congregate on a dead twig over the water. If that wasn't enough a male and female Satin Flycatcher soon joined them! The male was ridiculously glossy sitting there in the sunshine with the reflected light off the water also adding to the whole glam effect. And then an Echidna that had been ambling by just sort of plonked down behind us and went to sleep. Amazing!!
On our way back we stopped at Anakie Gorge, picking up gorgeous Diamond Firetails, a party of Flame Robin, Australian Raven and Varied Sitella.
We ended up with a list of exactly 100 species, a very nice day indeed and punctuated by a good selection of honeyeaters.
Good on you Dave and thanks mate for another great outing!!
16th January, 2009 Greater Melbourne Region
Graham Clarke from the UK was with me today and had a list of sought-after species that were possible for the Greater Melbourne area at this time of year. Having birder here before, Graham's list was somewhat narrowed down, and the pressure was on!! My approach therefore involved a visit to wet forest habitats in the early morning, some local wetland sites just south-west of Melbourne in late-morning then move through to drier forest locations in the afternoon.
The day started well with beautiful calm weather, and we picked up Scarlet Honeyeater, White-throated Needletail, Southern Emu-wren and Australian King-Parrot. Further into the forest we were able to secure good looks at a small group of Blue-winged Parrot, Satin Flycatcher, Rose Robin, Rufous Fantail, Pilotbird, however only a meagre visual offering from an extremely furtive Olive Whistler. Unfortunately also we only heard Brush Cuckoo and Red-browed Treecreeper. As time was marching on we left the cool and peaceful confines of the forest and headed back toward Melbourne. Whilst en route the forecast cool change hit with a vengeance. However it was not rain and thunderstorms as one might imagine, but an extremely irritating and frustrating dry change, bringing with it high-powered and gusty southerly winds that reduced visibility and nearly blew the vehicle off the road. Finally we made it to some local wetland sites where I hoped we'd see Black-tailed Native-hen, Sooty Oystercatcher, Lewin's Rail, Australasian Gannet, Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo and Striated Fieldwren. Well none of those eventuated as it seemed all birdlife had hunkered down out of the wind; all we got there was a very distant gannet way out over the hazy ocean...
So we cut our losses and headed out bush, looking for Speckled Warbler and Spotted Quail-thrush in particular. Neither would show themselves in the areas I have seen them before, but not much else was showing either as conditions were atrocious. Nevertheless I was beginning to question my ability to actually find birds!! Even my dead-cert Painted Button-Quail site was a barren and windy wasteland...
Trudging on we finally managed to see some parrots in the form of Long-billed Corella and Purple-crowned Lorikeet, both on Graham's wanted list. Amazingly, a Purple-crowned Lorikeet propped and stayed perched tenuously in a low tree being whipped about by the gale long enough for us to have extended views. We actually walked away from it in the end. Normally these birds are seen hurtling through the treetops or as one cranes one's neck to pick the form of the bird out from amongst similarly-colored eucalypt foliage!!
We also had some good fortune by way of an obliging Australian Owlet-nightjar that peered out from his roost hollow and gave Graham another life bird!
We finished the day with a bit of a diversion to another site I knew of that had a resident family of Striated Fieldwren, and sure enough when we arrived these birds joined the party, all lined up on a fence singing their little territorial hearts out.
So despite some very tough conditions we managed a reasonable list ultimately, with 134 species, several of which were life birds from Graham's list.
Cheers Graham and thanks for your patience, it was a loooong day!!
24th January, 2009 Western Treatment Plant
At the WTP again and this time looking for the Long-toed Stints that have been seen in various locations about the plant on and off since Spring '09. No joy today unfortunately for me and my companions - Ando Hurnard and Dave Richardson. But as usual we saw lots of other things of interest, including what appeared to be a family party of Cockatiel - 2 adults and 4 juveniles. We were told about these birds by Maarten Hulzebosch who we'd bumped into earlier that morning; he was the discoverer of what is probably the first record of Cockatiel for the WTP! It's incredible the birds that the place seems to drag in. For example in recent times there have been records of Orange Chat, Peaceful Dove, White-throated Gerygone, Dollarbird, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Grey Goshawk (white phase), Brown Treecreeper and Masked & White-browed Woodswallow. Is there something at the WTP that is attracting these wanderers and passage migrants in particular, or is it just the fact that there are possibly more people consistently birding this location than anywhere else?? It's probably the latter, but it is still amazing to me how many species are on the list here and some bizarre ones at that.
Apart from the funky parrots we also saw 2 separate Black Falcon, one of which was being vehemently chased by Banded Lapwings - nice little outback scene there, a pair of Brolga with a rapidly developing chick in tow, Red Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit flocks on The Spit, and a wayward Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo seen flying over the Princes Hwy from out of WTP boundaries.