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A Beginners day at Woodlands Historic Park

BirdLife runs a number of Beginners days throughout the year, and Hazel and Alan do a super job of finding the right places to explore and go out of their way to make sure that beginners get the best looks at the various birds found on each day out.

So when the Woodlands Historic Park Beginners day came along we were very happy to go along and catch up with friends and to share just a little of our experiences in the park. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to see the park through a different set of eyes. And some 40 pairs of eyes is always going to see so much more than just my poor old eyesight straining through the bushes.

As the weather has been anything but predictable of late, we were also pleased to see some open blue sky  as we drove out toward the park, and as the day went on, the warmth came on well.  Our flickr friend, Eleanor turned up and that made the day a little bit special.
The first part of the day featured a walk around the upper ends of the Moonee Ponds Creek, which was actually carrying a flow of water following the recent rains.  The creek here suffers from losing input water because of the large reservoir at Greenvale, but none the less it still drains from a long way up toward the north.   It also is an especially steep fall from the north side of the park to the more southern areas, so the creek dries out through the park very quickly.
A number of small weirs and dams have been used across the creek over the years, and the Chaffey Brothers, built a substantial weir and bridge near the homestead at one stage. But, on a heavy flood year, the foundations gave way and the weir was never repaired.

At first our outward journey seemed a little slow for birds, but eventually things began to pickup, with a Crested Shriktite being a major find, some thornbills, and Galahs and a pair of Eastern Rosellas which let the photographers gain some excellent portraits.  A Brown Falcon took to the air on our approach into the open farmland areas, and the usual Sulphur-crested Cockatoos continued to screech at our presence.

We walked around the homestead and then headed back on a middle track above the river, and some spotted a Scarlet Robin.  And after much investigation we were able to get quite close to the female and she gave lovely views for those who might not often have the acquaintance of such a fine looking lady.
Lunch time, and bird count and we had 37 species to our list.
On to the BackPaddock area.  Mostly to look for Robins.
A trip around the dam area didn’t do much for the enthusiasm, and I managed to add some Brown-headed Honeyeaters, and more Shriketits. A Whistling Kite and a Wedgetailed Eagle made up for small numbers else where.  Despite EE and I looking in some of the places that have been quite profitable of late, the robins were not in a cooperative mood.

The group moved toward the BackPaddock, and I spotted a male Red-capped Robin on the inside of the fence, and the group moved to have a look.  Eventually we found him, and his lady, and also a few Flame Robins.  The male Red-capped Robin performed so wonderfully close to many of the group and hunted quite close to us on the ground. Nice way to end the day.

Thanks to Alan and Hazel and their helpers for such a good day out, and lovely warm weather to add to the warmth of the company.

 

Eastern Rosella at Launch
Eastern Rosella at Launch
Crested Shriketit
Crested Shriketit
DWJ_3430
Brown-headed Honeyeater
Eastern Grey Kangaroo: Male. Not to be meddled with.
Eastern Grey Kangaroo: Male. Not to be meddled with.
Red-capped Robin
Red-capped Robin
Up close and personal.
Up close and personal.
Red-capped Robin
Red-capped Robin
he was happy to hunt on the ground around our group
he was happy to hunt on the ground around our group
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A Day at Eynesbury

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.

Thanks Chris, we enjoyed the day.

Our first Jacky Winter for the day.  It gave the photographers a chance for a close approach
Our first Jacky Winter for the day. It gave the photographers a chance for a close approach
Jacky Winter. Always a fine pose
Jacky Winter. Always a fine pose
Intent of extracting a meal
Intent of extracting a meal
Eastern Shrike-tit on a twisted piece of bark.  A great find for our Guide.
Crested Shrike-tit on a twisted piece of bark. A great find for our Guide.
Eastern Shrike-tit
Crested Shrike-tit
Jacky WInter on blue
Jacky WInter on blue
When I was a little bloke, these were called "Grass Parrots".  Not so here.
When I was a little bloke, these were called “Grass Parrots”. Not so here.
Tree Martin on the wing
Tree Martin on the wing
No room on the branch
No room on the branch
Varied Stittella
Varied Stittella
A Brown Treecreeper wishing us good bye
A Brown Treecreeper wishing us good bye

 

 

Breakfast, bring your own, Shrike Tit style

Its been awhile since we’ve really been out and about.  The weather has been anything but kind.

So given the options we drove out the gate, turned left and ended up at the You Yangs this morning.

Among other things found a Crested Shrike-tit hard at work looking for a tasty breakfast.

And given the new look on the site, I’ll put up the photos and let them explain.

Think the new wide layout makes the photos cool, but I can’t figure out the spacing.

Be aware of those pincer like jaws that can trim branches in a snap.
Be aware of those pincer like jaws that can trim branches in a snap.
 Nothing in this bit.
Nothing in this bit.
There must be something down there somewhere. (and there was)
There must be something down there somewhere. (and there was)
I have no idea how it knows that there is a grub inside that branch.
I have no idea how it knows that there is a grub inside that branch.
Took a bit of work to get the grub exposed.
Took a bit of work to get the grub exposed.
There that looks tasty.
There that looks tasty.
Well worth all the hard work.
Well worth all the hard work.

Enjoy.

Welcome Return. Flame Robins and Scarlet Robins in the forest

Andrew and I had planned a morning out to scout about a bit. See Andrew’s Blog here.
The weather stayed kind, but for the first half hour or so, not a wingfeather was seen. We walked down along the ridge in the Backpaddock and again it was all very quiet, until we found a Red-capped Robin and then his lady, and probably a couple of juveniles.  He has moulted out, and seemed quite pleased with himself and took the time to hum his little “deritt” song.

The girls had stopped down by the three road crossway, and were having their own great morning with a pair of redcaps, a Flame Robin female, and a couple of Flame Robin juveniles.  Isn’t that always the way.
Andrew and I got back to find all the activity happening right where we had turned off the track.

The female Flame Robin looked in great shape. Very plump and sleek. So she hadn’t travelled far to get there. No pictures as I was driving the binoculars at the time and the camera wasn’t in reach. Don’t you just get that.

We walked, quite pleased with our collective selves, to the dam, and on the way a familiar red flash dashed across the track. Scarlet Robin.  But then another wing flash, and it was not the Scarlet Robin’s Red-capped consort, but a real live female Scarlet Robin.  Then a second one.  Most interesting and rewarding. All were quiet, as they usually are.  So I am not sure if they are all new arrivals, or two females only.  The male and one female played lots of high speed pursuits about the trees.

On to the dam and a number of Grey-shrike Thrushes were bathing and then they too joined in tree chase games.  And to make a great morning even better, Dorothy spotted a yellow flash in the tree, all excited we were, but it wasn’t a Robin, but one of two Eastern Shrike-tits, doing what they do best; eating grubs.

While we were congratulating ourselves on our good fortune, Rodger, he of the red-spot camera site fame turned up, and added to our morning’s wander.

The next few days should prove to be very interesting.

We all got back to the car in time for lunch, so a good end to what started out quietly.

Female Scarlet Robin. The first female Scarlet I’ve clocked for 2012.
Eastern Shrike-tit hard at work on a lovely lunch time snack.