Long time readers will no doubt recall that I often claim to have Grey Box sap running in my veins.
These amazing old trees are the superstructure for the type of forest and forest birds that I really enjoy working with. And as Woodlands Historic Park has such an untouched stand of Grey Box, its not hard to see why I love it as I practically learned my forest birds craft out there.
Another find stand of Grey Box is at Eynesbury near Melton.
Every second month the local Eynesbury Environmental Group, here’s their facebook page, conducts a morning walk in the forest for interested locals and visitors.
Chris Lunardi does a super job of getting us out in to the forest to look at some of the lesser visited areas and to find interesting birds.
Chris also seems to have an amazing ability to chose days where the weather is kind. And this past Sunday was no exception.
Probably the highlights of the day were a pair of very vocal Peregrine Falcon, and several sightings of Diamond Firetails.
Diamond Firetails often are found around the lawns and golf greens in good numbers, and occasionally a few birds through the bush. We managed to find them in 4 locations throughout the day.
We were at Eynesbury. Looking, as usual for Flame Robins, and finding none, we had moved our endeavours to Jacky Winter. Now Jacky is not in nesting mode at the moment, and range a bit wider across the forest it seems. So we waited around some of the usual haunts.
I noted off on the far side of the open area, an old Grey Box, now a skeleton of its former self, and no doubt with some good nesting hollows hidden among its wide branches.
A lone Long-billed Corella has sat in the sunshine for quite a few minutes and just seemed to be enjoying the warmth.
When on a turn of fate a small group, mob, gang of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos in full cry happened past.
For reasons, I can’t figure, one of them dropped down out of the flock and headed straight at the erstwhile Corella. Who to its credit decided that being pushed from its perch was not going to happen without a struggle.
However in the end, the bigger bird won out and the Corella took to the air.
After a few proud crest flushes, and a loud calling session, the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo departed to catch up with its mates.
Had to wrestle with the title. After all the majority of Freckled Ducks I’ve ever seen have been asleep on the bank or on logs. No swimming about for these ducks. Sleeping is their number one activity. And I suspect they have turned it into an art form.
At Eynesbury there is a small clan of Freckled Duck and they seem pretty content with the area and are to be found most days we travel out there.
We were coming back to the vehicle after spending an afternoon with the nesting Jacky Winter and had stopped at a table by the dam for a quick cuppa before the trip home.
Which is when for some Duck Reason, the Freckled all sailed off the little island were they had been preening or snoozing and came by for a quick swim about. Didn’t take us long to replace the cuppa with the camera and here are a few of the more exciting moments.
Been pondering anew, my approach to Bird Photography, again. Yes dear reader, tis that time of year again for tinsel, things red and white, muzak that dumbs the mind at the shopping centre and of course my annual “where is my photography going to bend in 2019”. But
Fear not, this is not that blog.
Great gasps of relaxation and sighs of relief heard across the ‘blogosphere’.
I really wanted to get the remainder of the shots from our Eynesbury excursions, (incursions?) out.
So rather than belabour, here is the best of the rest sort of feature.
There is still one more chapter to put up, but I’m going to do that as a Snapshots type blog as it concerns our favourite Jackys and their now well fledged young. Might even get that done the next few days.
Eynesbury township just a few minutes from Melton, was established around a golf-club. Part of the deal concerns a stand of Grey Box Forest, that is in close to original condition, or perhaps, well established with old trees and understory, might be a better description. It was used until the mid 1950s as a pastoral area, and the forest was used to run the shorn sheep from the shearing sheds in the area.
Many long term readers will know that its been noted that I have Grey Box sap running in my veins and a visit to the Eynesbury Forest is enough to rejuvenate the lowest of my spirits.
The local Eynesbury Conservation Group, you can look them up on Facebook, conduct a walk on a Sunday morning every two months. Usually led by the award-winning Chris Lunardi, a local identity; EE and I make it a point to turn up if at all possible.
Much to see in a day, so we cheated, and went back for a second look the following day.
Here are some of the Gems of the Forest. Little Eagle, one of a pair. And try as I might I’ve not been able to locate their current nest site.
Peregrine Falcon, a new bird for me at Eynesbury, this one is working on short wings with quick flutters. Target— Tree Martins that are nesting in the forest. We found at least one carcass to confirm its skills.
A fledged Jacky Winter. Not from our usual pair, but one of two young birds on the wing. Well done Jacky
A trip through the Greybox will always be accompanied by the trills from the many Brown Treecreepers in the area. A threatened species, so its good to see them so active in the forest At the lake, an Australasian Grebe was nurturing at least one new addition to the family
Big, bold, noisy and hungry. Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are working in the wattles that have seeded
“Our’ Jacky Winter young. The nest is near falling apart, and the young still have a few days to go to fledge. Jacky made it quite clear today, that we were not welcome. So we moved on quickly
Normally at this time of the year the forest would be ringing with the calls of hundreds of Dusky Woodswallows. Again, it is feared they are in decline, and this is the first season we’ve seen so few. But those that have come down, have wasted no time in getting off their first batch. This pair are feeding two young
Two Black Kites were in the air having the best time on the strong winds. it really deserves a blog page of its own to describe and show the antics of this couple of birds, but two should do eh?
And finally two of the Tawny Frogmouth from the Children’s Playground park. Other photographers, you know who you are Lyndell, seem to be able to get them on days when they are low down, in the open and all together. They seem to be quite happy to sit in the trees while kids play about on the swings and climbing things just metres below.
We, EE, Mr An Onymous and I had gone up to Eynesbury for the Eynesbury Environmental Group’s Sunday walk in the forest.
We motored up in style in the An Blackmobile, and what other colour would Anonymous chose. (Let’s not go there).
We arrived in good time, thanks to great navigating by the unnamed driver. Chris, he of the awards, was waiting in the car park and the sun was shining. How good.
We waited for the rest to arrive, and heard a unusal call in the tree line at the carpark. A little searching and lo and behold, to our astonishment, and joy and delight, let it be said, there was a Swift Parrot at work in the tree, feasting on lerp.
Still in the Little Visits Mode:
The monthly Birding Walk at Eynesbury was on again today.
We drove into the Grey Box forest in the warm sunshine, and slowed down to enjoy the play of the light among the trees. It has rained overnight and there was that wonderful distinct crispness to the air and the whole forest seemed to sparkle in the moment. The great Grey Box stood soaking up the light and the tones of the light playing over their trunks was a delight to see.
The monthly Bird Walk at Eynesbury rolled around and the calendar clicked over the last Sunday in the month, so we looked out the window, and sure enough Sunshine!
So Sunshine, we headed out to Eynesbury to catch up with the group of locals in their exploration around the Grey Box forest.
Chris had initially planned on being away, and asked another local, Leigh, to take the day. As it turned, Chris turned up anyway. Nice to catchup.
The sunshine added to the recent rain made the open areas around the housing estates glow in most impressive green with lots of new growth coming on.
So we set out for a looksee along the river gorge to the east. In times past before the housing establishment, a small creek drained water outward the gorge and as it tumbled over the rocky edge a wonderful waterfall would suddenly appear. And. Today was such a day. The little creek has now been somewhat controlled to a drain-way through the estate, but in the last few hundred metres runs over the rocky ground, forming little pools as it goes. Then. Taking is self to the edge, it plunges down the 30 or so metres to empty into the creek, that runs toward the Werribee River. And spectacular it would be too in full flood and great light, but I was just a bit late as early morning shadow hid the sparkle of the water.
For a birding day, it was a bit quiet, even for me and my missing bird karma as Mr An Onymous puts it.
We did manage a fine Eastern Yellow Robin, an Eastern Spinebill and a couple of Crested Shriketits as we strolled along one of the forest tracks. And so another birding morning came to a close, lots to talk about, plenty of things to share about the few birds we did see, and to get a perspective of the area from Leigh’s point of view. He has been in the area almost since its inception and gave a fine running commentary of points of interest along the way.
EE and I took a cuppa by the lake, and then headed down to see the Tawny Frogmouths in the local park-area. See the May report for details. Sure enough, dependable as clockwork there they were. One has added an additional extra piece of camo to the perch as a branch has broken off higher up and now obscures the perching branch very well.
Off to look for Flame Robins, but no luck there either, and it was time for home, just as we went past the old shearing shed area a small shape darted into the tree. A Speckled Warbler. And to make its point is warbled away quite merrily. Just about managed to get off a couple of shots before it was gone. Looking at it the shots, it’s no wonder they are so hard to spot given the wonderful markings on the feathers that blend into the scrub so well.
Thanks to Leigh and Chris for the day, and also to everyone who turned up and enjoyed both the sunshine and the birds. Looking forward to the July Sunday.
All we needed were some grey birds and it would have been complete.
We turned up at the monthly Eynesbury Residents Birdwalk. Did one back in April see details of the area in that post. Details Here
This time the lake was in fact a, lake!. Water had been added and the ducks were happy and in residence again. And there was a “Farmers Market” in full swing. Make note to self, leave earlier, bring wallet, and enjoy some shopping therapy before the walk in June!
Chris had a walk to the north eastern area of the forest planned for us, and the six or so hardy stalwarts set off for a looksee. And a quiet day it happened to be. We did get a good view of the ubiquitous Superb Fairywren, and again noted how many Brown Treecreepers have made this their home.
Chris pulled out the best spotting by giving us a grand view of a male Flame Robin, rich in colour and brightening up the day. Just as we were enjoying it all, he took off not to be seen again.
A couple of Striated Pardalotes come down out of the top branches and all got a good view of these delightful little birds. Not to be out done a Jacky Winter helped add to the charm of the area, as only Jacky can, and performed some feeding twists and turns in an open area. But, in the end, we had to say it was a quiet day.
Perhaps the recent rain had made the food scarce. We turned back and meandered through the open forest. You can do that in Grey Box, its a lovely forest to walk through. Tracks become optional. Chris offered all sorts of running commentary on fox and rabbit issues, to what sort of native plants were working in well in the local gardens, and one our number told how her three sickly looking Running Postman were now clambering all over the garden pots. Super.
A Common Bronzewing, a few more Treecreepers, and the inevitable Red-rumped Parrots kept us entertained until we eventually reached the roadway, and back to the cars.
Might have been a quiet morning, and the light might have been less than ideal, but we all were pleased to have seen a little more of the Eynesbury Forest and to enjoy some great company at the same time. Now we’re looking forward to the June walk.
Way to go Chris.
EE and I grabbed a quick bite to eat, and a cuppa, then went round to a small open park area among the houses on the west side of the lake. We’d been told that a pair of Tawny Frogmouth were in the park and ‘easy to spot’. Hmmm.
You know that feeling? You’re walking into a park for the first time, checking trees, checking trees, knowing that Tawnies are, well, not necessarily ‘easy to spot’. In fact, I’d left the camera in the car. Now that is confidence. EE on the other hand, well, she would wouldn’t she? Had camera out, and at the ready.
Looking, looking. Well I suppose I’d taken about five steps into the park. “Oh”.
If only everything was that “Easy to Spot”. There aren’t a lot of trees, so Tawnys didn’t have a lot of choice. “There they are!!! ” Trudge back to get camera, (all five steps).
We then moved down to the forest proper to look for more Flame Robins. No such luck, not as ‘easy to spot’. A flock of Maned Ducks, (Wood Ducks) were house hunting and that kept us amused for a few minutes. A duck in tree.
Then the sound of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters on the way back got us looking and eventually locating a couple.
So in the end a good day at Eynesbury, and another triumph for Grey Box
More discussion on housing details. Her list of options must be met
Seeing off a rival home seeker. This interloping female was chased off by the male of the pair.
Perhaps she is house hunting, there was lots of discussion with her mate.
Tawny Frogmouth, looking up it was difficult at first to see it against the trunk
A find. Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
Good to see in the open. Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater.
Ahh, water, in the lake. Hoary-headed Grebe is pleased to make use of the once more filled lake.
I’ve said before that I enjoy the company of Jacky Winter.
We were at Eynesbury today on a bird count day. Found time to find several Jacky Winter. They were most co-operative, and I’ve put them here in a gallery as it gives a chance to view them in the carousel. Click on one image and you’ll be able to show through the set.
Enjoy. Jacky and I did.
My mate Chris L, he of Mt Rothwell, and formerly Western Treatment Plant, fame has established a monthly bird walk around the Eynesbury Grey Box Forest.
It is a pretty informal arrangement, no signing of paper and turning up is about the only requirement.
“Are you interested in coming on Sunday?”, he said. Hmm. Didn’t really have to consult the diary. “Be there at 10 of the clock,” says he.
And so EE and I hit the road to Eynesbury in some brilliant sunshine. When Chris organises a day, well, he organises the weather too.
By start time, about half a dozen locals, and Geraldine from Werribee Wagtails – Now BirdLife Werribee, turned up. Chris really wants to make it an opportunity for the local residents to enjoy the forest around their village.
Eynesbury is built around a golf course (well not really, but on the other hand, really). Another golfing friend, took a trip out there one day, saw the greens, and the area, and was back the following day to sign up for a villa. Nothing like a game of golf that starts from your front step.
Surrounding the man-made, is the indomitable Grey Box. This is one of the largest stand of Grey Box left in Victoria. Something the locals are particularly proud of, and with every right.
We set off along the track that leads around the ornamental lake. Lake being a somewhat strange term at the moment as the dry weather has reduced it to a series of water holes. And a home now for a number of Black-fronted Dotterels, among the usual ducks and other waders. The cormorant families have had to move on.
A trip around the lake led us off into the wilds of suburbia as we walked along a track between the forest and the residences. Many little bush birds, particularly Superb Fairy-wrens along here. It seemed that there was about one Fairy-wren clan to every front yard.
Across a dry creek and into the forest proper and the call of Brown Treecreepers announced our presence. Then a Jacky Winter couple, and the familiar call of Diamond Firetails, but search as we might we didn’t spot them today.
A bit of ramble through the thickets between the Grey Box and we were nearing the end of our morning. When a call of an Crested Shrike-tit echoed across the open area. After quite a bit of searching, I’d concluded we’d missed it, and a cuppa beckoned.
Not so Christo. With stoic patience he continued, and a “Here it is!” was really a grand statement of his birding skills. The group hurried to see. And not only one, but two and working very close to the track and unperturbed by our presence.
The photographers were in for a treat and we were shown the skills needed to both track down and extract grubs from the most unlikely places among the bark.
And all too soon we were back in the carpark, and farewelling the lovely area.
One of the highlights of Woodlands Historic Park is a stand of Grey Box Forest that is on a ridge running from Gellibrand Hill. Probably, once in older times the Grey Box was a predominate stand in the area. The Grey Box on the ridge line has survived, again, probably because the area would be difficult to cultivate.
Running along the ridge is pipeline for the nearby airport so I’ve named the ridge. Pipeline Ridge. Over the years, the open forest has provided a grand home, and a fine stop over point for Red-capped, Scarlet and Flame Robins. One season I came into a clearing on Ridge and there among the great Grey Box was at least 70 robins at work on the moss-beds in the clearing.
I love Grey Box Forest. I’ve said it before, but I think I have Grey Box sap in my veins.
These wonderful trees are survivors. No heavy rainfall areas for them. A low rain fall, and a gritty stony shallow earth, and they are at home. And so one of the great things I love about Grey Box is their perseverance and their steadfastness and their survival against the odds.
The average Grey Box is quite slow-growing, it earns it durable title over many long years.
It makes a tall upright and generally “Y” shaped spread. In fact up on Pipeline is an old downed warrior that I’ve used as a sit spot, and I first called it the “Y Tree” before I realised that was the general shape of Grey Box.
The bark is a grey (funny about that), fine and flaky. Thinner branches are smooth.
As it grows it develops, as do many eucalypts holes that become home or nesting locations for a variety of birds. The forest area also developes a finer understory, that can be very open, as it is on Pipeline or quite dense as in a few locations in the Eynesbury Grey Box forest.
The cool understory make fine homes for both Black Swamp Wallabies, and Eastern Grey Kangaroos. When I was a little bloke the Kangaroos were called Forrester. Which I figured was a typographical mistake and what was meant was Forest. And so for a long time in my youth the were “Forest Kangaroos”. Ahhh!!!
When the bandicoot program was established at Woodlands a few years back the Predator-free fence was put in place and cut the territory of the only Black Swamp wallabies in half. I’ve often wondered how the ones that ended up on the outside of the fence fared against the foxes and feral dogs in the area. I’ve no idea either how many were cut off on the inside, and try as I might I’ve only been able to locate two that I can recognise. There might well be more, as one pair of eyes can only see so much.
Understory in our wonderful Grey Box includes a lot of layover space for the Eastern Greys, and they do a fine job of keeping some areas quite scrub free, and at the same time contribute a fair amount of droppings.
I have a theory, and no budget to prove it, that the composting of the droppings and leave litter promotes the growth of a small saltbush type plant that has a bright red tiny berry. I theorise that the tiny berry is food for some insects that the Robins consume and thus collect carotene.
The red of the Robins comes from a class of pigments called carotenoids. Carotenoids are produced by plants, and are acquired by eating plants or by eating something that has eaten a plant.
For several years at the beginning of the bandicoot project in the Back Paddock at Woodlands, the Kangaroos were removed. (They eat grass, that is the home of the endangered bandicoots. No grass, no home, no bandicoots).
But the number of layover areas, and the resultant saltbush deteriorated over the next few years, and the Robin numbers that we saw decreased. And at the moment, I believe, (well I’m allowed a theory or two), that as the plant and the carotene insects diminished, so did the resident Red-capped Robins. And the Flame and Scarlet Robins moved on to other areas for winter — some not too far as there a seriously large mobs of the Forresters down along the Moonee Ponds Creek outside the predator-fence.
But the average Eastern Grey Kangaroo female is a pretty persistent little producer, and her male companions are also very capable at their jobs and between them there has been a growing population of Kangaroos in the Feral-free area. Which means perhaps the old layover areas may get a rebirth too.
Endurance is a work that springs to mind when you stand under a majestic and venerable Grey Box. Its branches wide-spread and supporting a varied habitat around it.
My Tai Chi master says” Endurance, glasshooper, is not in context of a temporarily demanding activity. Another facet of endurance is that of persevering over an extended period of time. Patiently persisting as long as it takes to reach the goal.
Patiently enduring the Grey Box forest welcomes our admiration.
I love Grey Box. It has so much to share, and it has so much to teach.
Thought I’d share some of the wonder of the forest over the years. All images made on or near Pipeline Ridge
Astute reader that you are, you’ll have recalled that the last posting here was a trip to Eynesbury for a visit to some Woodswallows at Nursery.
Decided on a whim today, to take another trip to the same spot not that we expected to find the Woodswallows still on nest, but y’know, perhaps we might be lucky.
Well time, tide and Woodswallow fledglings wait for no photographer, and they had indeed taken to wing. Now of course it was a new challenge.
But there is something relaxing indeed about a pot of tea, (Earl Grey- see the connection?) in a Grey Box forest. So we sat. And slowly the forest began to reveal those hidden secrets.
Over there, Tree Martins, still feeding young. On the other side a pair of Rufous Whistlers who entertained with their calls. More Brown Treecreepers than you can count, and most of them either at nest, or ferrying food for demanding young.
And my favourite find. Jacky Winter. The pair near out sit spot had two young and were keeping them up in the tops of the trees, but we still had enjoyable encounters.
Off to look for Matilda the Pacific-black Duck who has taken over a hollow, and to my surprise, she was still domicile, but only her carefully crafted wing tip feathers were showing her presence. Must be close for her now. I’ve no idea where she is going to lead them to water, but the nearest must be about 2km away through the scrub.
In the same area, lo and behold a second pair of Jacky Winter, with two well advanced young. I’d be betting these were the same birds we photographed in the area last year. One of the adults adjusted to my presence in a few minutes and continued to feed and preen quite closely. Then it (she?) sat down on the ground a few metres away and “sun-hazed” and quite went into a trance. Satisfied I was no danger, it allowed some fine portraits to be made.
And the I heard the wheezy call of a Diamond Firetail watching the portrait session.
As we started for home we came across the White-browed Woodswallows feeding some young, and then a family of Brown Treecreepers looking after their growing juveniles.
Of course no trip to Eynesbury would be complete without a sighting of the elusive Speckled Warbler, and to both our delights one flew by as we walked back to the car, and then began to feed on the small slope nearby. No close approaches with this bird, so my score of great photos of this little dude is still intact. Zero.
When I was a little tacker, The Gould League of Bird Lovers conducted a range of programmes at primary schools, intended mostly I think now with hindsight to stop young boys from stealing eggs during the spring season. “Bird Nesting”, t’was called, and the eggs were kept in small containers lined with cotton wool, and each, well, each had a story of “Daring-do” in how it was retrieved. Often from tall trees, or so it seemed.
Being a bit on the scared of heights side of things, it now seems appropriate to tell, that I never collected a single egg. But used to marvel at the tales of those who did.
Not that I didn’t go out with intent. If I lacked the means, I certainly did not lack the enthusiasm. Which I suppose taught me by some empirical osmosis the signs of a nesting bird. Jon Young makes a point of having a “Sit Spot” in which you return to day after day, season after season, and learn the lore of the land in that spot.
Today, of course we are much to busy to have a 30min break with the birds, and would have to travel distances to get anywhere like open bush. So we do it a bit vicariously, squeezing a few minutes here or there. One reason I always enjoyed my closeness to Woodlands Historic Park was the ability to slip in and out at a moments notice and stay in touch with the birds in their territories.
Like riding a bicycle, the signs of birds and their ways may not be a honed skill anymore, but I found today, that I can still pick some of the tell-tale signs. Which brings us to Eynesbury Grey Box Forest.
Within a few minutes of arriving at a small clearing in the area, it became apparent that there were some White-browed Woodswallows (among others) that were engaged in their breeding programme. Just where the nest was, high, low, open, exposed or secretive, was at that stage bit of a mystery, but again some latent skills began to yawn, stretch and point. “Over there”, saith I. Where said EE. Well it took a few more minutes of close observation, and finally there it was. And what a view.
Talk about a bird with a sense of design and location. This one ticks all the boxes. The local realestate folk would be proud. Long sweeping curves, carefully crafted. Magnificent views, a shot flight to the shops, and an enclosing verandah. A must for the aspiring home-maker. A Winner by any standards.
White-browed Woodswallows, share the nesting duties, each one sitting for 15-20 minutes or so, and then relieved by the other partner who sits on a branch close by, and in what can only be Woodswallowese, calls out, “Hurry up, its my turn to sit now.”