An unusually chilly morning for January saw James & John from Bentleigh, plus myself of course at Bunyip State Park at the crack of dawn. James, 15 is about as keen a birder as a young bloke can get; his dad John was just happy to come along for the ride. Bird-wise things were a little on the quiet side with no Brush Cuckoo or Pilotbird even heard let alone seen. However. We did bust out some of the good stuff that Bunyip SP is renowned for and managed great looks and even better photos of a stunning Beautiful Firetail, displaying Superb Lyrebird, a male Spotted Pardalote at less than one metre distance, Large-billed Scrubwren and the seemingly ever-reliable Scarlet Honeyeaters. The morning ended up being warm and sunny and James went home with some great pics plus a bag-full of lifers.
Beautiful Firetail Stagonopleura bella, 3rd Jan Bunyip State Park. Photography by James Bailey
Spotted PardalotePardalotus punctatus,3rd Jan Bunyip State Park. Photography by James Bailey
4th January, 2011
Down at the good ol' Western Treatment Plant again with Dave Richardson for the morning where we were able to procure a reasonable list of waders for the morning. This list was highlighted by Terek Sandpiper, Ruff, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Knot and Marsh Sandpiper. The Stilt Sandpiper was not evident today.
5th January, 2011
Back at Bunyip State Park for the full day today, and with Robert from the UK who has birded in Australia extensively and had a small but select list of birds he would like to see while here on this particular visit. Triumphant were we in our pursuits as we found the birds required. Southern Emu-wren (after considerable hunting), Red-browed Treecreeper, Rose Robin, Crescent Honeyeater and a surprise lifer in the form of a Shining Bronze-cuckoo that wasn't accounted for! Other goodies included White-throated Needletail, Flame Robin, Bassian Thrush, Brush Cuckoo and a hulking Lace Monitor that would have been close to 2 metres long (that may be a slight exaggeration, but it was still really long...)
6th January, 2011
Back at Bunyip state Park again!! However our visit was to coincide with the fall of night rather than the break of day, as Mark & David from Melbourne were keen to pick up White-throated Nightjar and Sooty Owl. Arriving with a bit of daylight to spare we managed to collect a few diurnal birds before dusk, such as a lifer for David in the form of Scarlet Honeyeater. Others seen included Brush Cuckoo, a Superb Lyrebird settling in to roost in a tree only 2m above ground and allowing close approach, and right on dusk a squadron of vocal White-throated Needletail high overhead.
There was an initial fly-by from a White-throated Nightjar just on dusk also which afforded a good look a the bird's wing pattern and underparts. After dark was when the real action began however when the same or another White-throated Nightjar was seen circling our area in the spotlight only to land in the top of a dead tree nearby and give us stonking views. Incredible. It's glowing ruby eyes mesmerised and tantalised before it took off, perhaps back to the gates of Hades??
Stoked, we set off to try our luck on the other demonic denizen of these forests, the Sooty Owl. Along the way we heard several Southern Boobook, and singles of Tawny Frogmouth and Australian Owlet-nightjar.No sooner had we pulled up at the first possible location than we heard that all too familiar blood-curdling, splintering trill and falling-bomb whistle, and not too far away. Next thing we knew it was in a tall Mountain Ash right overhead. For the next half an hour the bird flew from one tree to the next, but always staying in the vicinity. It was also always staying behind some foliage and it took a while before we all had decent views. This in the end we did and the gorgeous bird's pewter like plumage and smoky glowering face were a sight to behold. What a bird, and lifers for my two companions. This was a night to well remember.
9th December, 2011
I was back in the company of Dave & Mark, and again we were birding in the magnificent wet forests of the hills south-east of Melbourne, this time with a few diurnal targets. They being Black-faced Monarch, Brush Cuckoo and Pink Robin. Which were all duly found over the course of the day. Along with many other brilliant birds. In particular we had a fantastic purple patch in the Yarra State Forest during the afternoon where Satin Bowerbird, Brown Gerygone, Cicadabird, Blue-winged Parrot, Superb Lyrebird, Rufous Fantail, Black-faced Monarch, Sacred Kingfisher , Dusky Woodswallow, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Satin Flycatcher and Collared Sparrowhawk were all together in one spot!!!
Pink Robin Petroica rodinogaster female,9th Jan Yarra State Forest. Photography by Mark Bennett.
19th January, 2011
Sandy from Singapore was my guest today and he carried with him several thousand dollars worth of camera gear, hoping to get a bit more than some happy snaps I guessed.
Anyway we had a big day planned, starting off at Bunyip State Park where Bell miner, Scarlet Honeyeater, Shining Bronze-cuckoo and several others soon fell under the gaze of his 800mm Cyclops. Sandy was particularly happy with his shots of Superb Fairy-wren and Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo (which see).
Moving on back toward the other side of town saw us on the coast, where we lucked onto a few good waders like a Grey-tailed Tattler, a brief glimpse of the Stilt Sandpiper who is still in residence, and a very early returning migrant Double-banded Plover from New Zealand.
It wasn't until we hit the drier woodlands to the south-west of Melbourne that Sandy really hit his straps, peeling off corking portraits of Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Long-billed Corella, Dusky Woodswallow, Tawny Frogmouth and a scintillating Rainbow Bee-eater in the soft late sunlight. Thanks for donating some shots to the cause Sandy, extremely generous and most gentlemanly of you.
22nd January, 2011
Back to that wonderful location that is like a gift that keeps on giving, the Werribee Poo Ponds, aka Western Treatment Plant. Des from Deer Park was to accompany me today for a half day tour, keen to gain a better understanding of the place. Amongst our 81 species for the morning we had some nice surprises. Highlights were a count of 116 Australasian Shoveler, a pair of White-bellied Sea-eagle on Lake Borrie, Grey Plover, 6 Red-necked Avocet - they've been scarce of late, a Ruff and a handful of Pectoral Sandpiper. And terns were about too, we saw Fairy, Little, White-winged Black, Common and Crested along the coast. Cheers Des, thanks for the company.
24th & 26th January, 2011 Western Treatment Plant Double-header.
A very nice little Long-toed Stint has deigned it appropriate to spend a bit of time getting aquainted with the all the good things that the WTP has to offer - murky water here, slimy edge there, microscopic worm, small bivalve mollusc, whatever. It seems that, unbeknown to its good self, this bird is high on many a human's "must see list". And many a human did thus flock to see this bird, including Dave from Altona who hired me over the course of two mornings to try and find the little brown slip of a bird.Anyway to cut to the chase, Dave himself found it on the 26th Jan. Skulking around one of those slimy edges it loves so much. Being brown.
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as someone once said, and all one had to do was look beyond the slime and the sepia, and see the warm rufous & rusty tones, fine little striations on the breast, and those fantastically olive-yellow legs with that super-long middle digit. What a bird... and I think I can speak for the couple of dozen other punters there that day when I say thanks Dave for finding it.
28th January, 2011
Some sublime conditions on a windswept coastal headland south of Geelong called Pt Addis enabled Elinor from the US and myself to witness three separates sightings in the one spot that would be tough to beat, period. First, a Brush Bronzewing was heard calling, then located in a stunted eucalypt, his colors aglow in the early morning sun that backlit his form, trembling with the effort of each soft "oom". Throught the spotting scope it was a magical sight. Some Blue-winged parrots had being flying intermittently overhead all morning, landing in trees far off and unseen. Finally and fortuitously, one of these little gems landed in a low tree not ten metres away from where we were quietly having some coffee and cake. It also allowed us to view it throught the scope. If the bronzewing was good, this was, well...
Not long after that we were subject to another delicious treat, and it wasn't my home-made banana bread either, but a trio of super-skulking Rufous Bristlebirds on the edge of the thick scrub along the road. Amazingly one sat still long enough for us to drink it in through the scope as well!! Scope views of Rufous Bristlebird are virtually unheard of, especially from 20 metres. I guess this was a good illustration of sitting quitely and waiting for the birds to come to you. What an hour of birding.
That sort of experience is tough to top, but we went close when we found three Hooded Plover later that morning, one of which was a fluffy little salt n' peppery chick legging it along the beach after its parents. Good way to end a brilliant morning.
31st January, 2011
I was again hosting Elinor from the US and we headed up to the foothill and tall forest of the ranges east of Melbourne, where highlights included a male Cicadabird who sang beautifully overhead, a pair of furtive Pilotbirds, two Red-browed Treecreeper, a single White-throated Needletail streaking past through the treetops, two separate parties of Large-billed Scrubwren and a gorgeous male Satin Flycatcher. We also heard Bassian Thrush, Beautiful Firetail and Australian Owlet-Nightjar.
Cicadabird, Coracina tenuirostris. Photography by Chris Tzaros
It was to be a day of great sightings and unusual species, and moving down to the coastal wetlands south-west of Melbourne yielded more ace birds like Gull-billed Tern, a juvenile Lewins Rail, Spotless Crake calling in the reeds, a single Pectoral Sandpiper, Wedge-tailed Eagle which is always terrific to see, Brown Quail and 3 Blue-billed Duck. 137 species for the day meant that it was quality as well as quantity!!