Strolling: Birding on the Move

Tis a well known fact that mostly I am allergic to photographing birds as part of a long walking exercise programme. To me, its two distinct activities and the thought of knocking up 15 kms and seeing the occassional bird, way, way over there, is enough to make me stay at home.

Tis also a well known fact, and long term readers will be well aware that an area in the Werribee River Park just a few minutes drive from home has been called, “The Office”, as in “just another day at”. Over the past 10 years we’ve spent countless hours in the area and tis fair to say that at one stage we probably had a close relationship with the majority of the birds in the area.

But, and there in is the rub. But. Recent rains have made things much more complex for us.
The Werribee River ran to flood level and huge volumes of water rushed down the narrow channel, and of course gained speed and force as they went. So much so that a footbridge over the river has suffered ‘irreparable damage’. So Parks Vic, to protect the unsuspecting public, and those that would ignore signs suggesting it was unsafe, have now for everyone’s safety closed the area “Until Further Notice”.
One of the pylons holding the bridge has been eroded and needs a complete replacement. Sadly there is no budget money for that in the ‘foreseeable future’, so the area will be out of bounds for your average Sacred Kingfisher aficionado. (You can guess EE’s disappointment.)

Couple that with the need to install on the far side of the river a new pipeline to feed the Werribee Open Range Zoo, and that access road is also now heavily chain-wired, with a similar sign that says, in its meaning, No Access to Kingfishers Here!
I just hope the birds can’t read.

With two of our preferred birding spots now off limits, we are in the market, so to speak, for a new location. So a couple of days ago we took a walk along part of the track running alongside the Werribee River as it cuts through suburbia. Well actually the River has always been there and Suburbia has encrouched up to the edges of the river.

So we didn’t expect any exotic or unusual birds, but thought the walk would give us the option of exploring some locations that might prove worthwhile. And as Ashley over on “Aussiebirder” points out Forest Therapy is about taking the time to appreciate the simple, and common around us.

What surprised us was the height that the water had come up to in the recent floods. Trees festooned with plastic bags and other disposable disposed rubbish certainly drew a line. Including a rather large log that was jammed 5-6 metres above water level.

We did find the usual suspects and a few extras which did make the day worthwhile. And we have a couple of places that might yield us some good opportunities in the future.
Sore of feet and a little exhausted, we headed for home and lunch.

Red Wattlebird. One of a number still feeding noisy young
Can’t seem to go anywhere without a clan of Rainbow Lorikeets turning up to put on a show.
This White-faced Heron was looking surprisingly hunched up.
There was much discussion between the pair of Red-rumps. But as she wasn’t interested in moving away from the nest hole, I guessed there were young inside.
EE’s Spot of the Day. “Way down there on the Tree”
Helpful when we are in a forest of trees that goes a long way way down there.
Figured out eventually from a pair of helpful Willie Wagtails that were waiting for the Collared Sparrowhawk to move on.
It did, and in a few minutes flew past taking someone home for dinner
How strong are those pincers? The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo just sliced the tough seeds apart like scones. Want to see a Cockatoo rearranging the windowboxes on flats in the Melbourne CBD? See this ABC Article.
We spotted this young Grey Shrike-thrush begging for food in someone’s garden. Had to shoot through the railing because of space limitations.
Mum arrived with a big fat worm, but was immediately harassed by a squadron of White-plumed Honeyeaters, so…
It flew to another branch and enjoyed the meal itself.
Another great find. A Wagtail family. These young are a week or more out of the nest. The harassed parents are looking after four young from the clutch, so Wagtailville is very busy and noisy.

Saturday Evening Post: #37 Rich Songster

The 13th Century Persian Poet Rumi, wrote

“I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.”

He, no doubt, had never heard of the great songster of the Australian bush, but again, no doubt, he would have been impressed by the range, the volume, and the variety of the songs of the Grey Shrikethrush.

In winter when there is no one to impress, the one or two note call is quite penetrating, but hardly melodic, but come the season for mating, the call changes to the most beautiful and sustained tunes.
I once found one nesting in a old concrete tank, the shape of the broken top of the tank made the whole thing a superb sounding box, and as I peeked in side the bird was in full cry, not worried about who hears, not what they think.

It is estimated that a pair will maintain a 10 hectare sized territory, and perhaps that is why the loud song must ring from one end to the other.

Their diet is quite catholic, and they have no qualms about helping themselves to robins, thornbills and other small birds egg and young.  I once saw an adult with a match-sized stick, poking it into a hole in  a branch to lever out a small grub.

John Latham, one of Australia’s early and great naturalists gave it the binomial Colluricincla harmonica. Colluricincla refers to Thrush, while harmonica, from the  Greek harmonikos, – skilled in music, and Latin, harmonicus- harmonious.

This was one of a pair that were working their way along a river’s edge.  The simple calls were enough to keep them in contact with one another, but also gave me the opportunity to locate them amongst the scrub.


A day with the Werribee Wagtails at the You Yangs

Beginning to really like the monthly foray out with the Werribee Wagtails, good company, tops spots, usually  good birds, and yesterday good weather.

We met down at the Eastern Entrance and took a walk, all 25 of us, down the fence line track.  Immediately we’d started and a pair of Scarlet Robins entertained us, and then a pair of Jacky Winters.  Not to be out done a pair of Restless Flycatchers came out to play in the morning sunshine.  It could hardly be better.

A litre further down the track and we came across a family of Flame Robins, and then… It got a lot better.  We spotted a lone male Red-capped Robin.  Big news for me, as I’ve been trying to locate such bird in the area for the past few months. We walked along the creek line that runs on the south side of the “Seed beds” and came upon another larger flock of Flame Robins, and a pair of Scarlets.
The ‘whip’ for the day rounded us up, and after a morning ‘cuppa’ at the Big Rock carpark, and a few more birds, we took to the drive around the Great Circle Road.   Stopping at one spot we walked in to see a Mistletoe Bird, but it must have gotten the dates wrong in its diary and try as we might we had to admit defeat. Prehaps next time.  A big group of Crimson Rosellas, and a beautifully vocal Grey Shrike Thrush were suitable consolation.

We stopped again at Fawcetts Gully and there was a female Golden Whistler, but try as I might, I couldn’t get a reasonable shot.  Did see the departure of an Eastern Yellow Robin, but again trying too hard, I missed it completely.

So to lunch, and a Collared Sparrowhawk that whisked through the trees, much to the chagrin of around 25-30 White-winged Choughs.
We walked down to see the resident Tawny Frogmouths, and through the bush past the dam near the rangers work area, and there found quite a number of Brown-headed, and White-naped Honeyeaters among others.

After the birdcall, the count was 45. Not a bad day’s birding. Mr An Onymous and I went back past Big Rock to have another look for some Scarlet Robins we’d been working with the previous week, and just as we were leaving we spied another Eastern Yellow Robin just off the side of the road.

As an aside, the Editor of Werribee Wagtails newsletter “Wag Tales”, Shirley Cameron is handing over the job, and I’ve taken on the task.   Bit daunting as 26 years of love, care and attention to the group by Shirley sets a pretty high standard for the incoming ‘new bloke’.
One thing I’m going to do is add the pdf of the magazine to this blog, and you should be able to find it from the Front menu Tab.   Will make an announcement when the first one goes ‘live’.

To add to that, I’ve created a new Flickr page that will have some of the magazine photo content for viewing, also allows us to have others add material for the pages.  We’ll hasten slowly.


Yellow-rumped Thornbill at bathing duties, preening in the early morning sunshine.
Yellow-rumped Thornbill at bathing duties, preening in the early morning sunshine.

One of a number of Scarlet Robins for the day.
One of a number of Scarlet Robins for the day.

My find of the day.  One Red-capped Robin, and I can't wait to get back down to have another look
My find of the day. One Red-capped Robin, and I can’t wait to get back down to have another look

Pair of Jacky Winters.  Rare to see them sitting together.
Pair of Jacky Winters. Rare to see them sitting together.

Restless Flycatcher, quite happy to perform with 25 people watching
Restless Flycatcher, quite happy to perform with 25 people watching

Jacky Winter always a favourite find for me.
Jacky Winter always a favourite find for me.

Female Scarlet Robin hunting with a large flock of Flame Robins
Female Scarlet Robin hunting with a large flock of Flame Robins

Tawny Frogmouth, quite near the Main Office area  and completely oblivious to our presence.
Tawny Frogmouth, quite near the Main Office area and completely oblivious to our presence.

Around the Sugar Gums at Woodlands

With the backpaddock now devoted to the enjoyment of two foxes, and some soon to be introduced bandicoots, it’s been time to find a new area to explore.

Luckily Woodlands has an abundance of locations and habitats.  On the promting of our friend Richard, we decided on an excursion up into the Sugar Gum plantation.  This is pretty old vegetation these days, and has more than a few species so  we expected a bit of a treat.

On the track in, just about every tree had its own Striated Pardolote in residence, and many of them were happy to come and see what was going on. A small flock of weebills went by also, Would that be a wee flock of weebills?

But the highlight of the day was down in the clearing near the rangers work area.  A number of Dusky Woodswallows were at play in the open area. We sat and watched for about 30 minutes.  Now there are some rules to the games, and that became apparent. One rule is:Everybody find a perch on a tree- not the same tree. Rule two was one by one try to unperch the ones with the best location. Rule three: unperched birds can then try to remove the next most likely location.  The problem with the game is that rule three deteriorates into three or more birds on the one perch squabbling about whose site it is.
Good naturedly they then all fly off for a well earned feed. After some circling of the watching humans, rest momentarily and go back to rule one.

If there was a rule four, it seemed to have something to do with agitating the local Willie Wagtails who were busy getting acquainted.

The walk back to the car uncovered a covered up Pallid Cuckoo.  They had been calling all morning, and this one was close to the working area of a family of Superb Fairy Wrens. It didn’t seem to mind me taking a closer look at it.

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