Thursday, 31 January 2013


The first month of 2013 is over, and I've seen some good birds.  I visited seven Melbourne parks (Banyule, Blackburn Lake, Braeside, Jells Park, Karkarook, Wilsmere Billabong and Wilson Reserve), and went to Bendigo, Healesville and Kooyoora State Park.  My best birds were Baillon's Crake (thanks to Richard), Spotless Crake, Latham's Snipe (lots of them), Ruff (thanks to Andrew), Large-billed Scrubwren and that lovely little Rufous Fantail.  Now let's see what I can do in February.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013


There were reports of both Chestnut-rumped Heathwren and an Australian Painted Snipe at Crusoe Reservoir in Bendigo and I could not resist the temptation.  Crusoe Reservoir is surrounded by Greater Bendigo National Park, so there was every indication it would provide good birding.  However, I did not plan my trip properly.  I allowed too little time for the snipe, and was a bit unlucky with the heathwren.  But it is a great spot.  I'm pleased to add it to my repertoire.  Next time, I'll allow more time.

Eastern Yellow Robin, photo by Jim Smart

We left Melbourne at 3.15 p.m., and arrived at Crusoe Reservoir at 4.45.  Rog said I could have an hour and (perhaps stupidly) I thought I might be able to get the snipe in that time.  In retrospect, I don't think that was ever going to be possible.  Two hours might be doable.  However, I set off optimistically.  It was quite warm and I was in a hurry.  I decided Crusoe Reservoir might just be the Eastern Yellow Robin capital of Victoria.  There were lots of Dusky Woodswallows too, and a pair of noisy Crested Shrike-tits.  Honeyeaters flew by, but I told myself I was on a mission to see a snipe, and could not dally admiring honeyeaters.  Thanks to Birdline Victoria, I had good directions.  I knew the bird could not be seen from the track, and birders had to bush bash along the shoreline.  It had been last seen on a small inlet 200 metres past the pine plantation.  My plan was to find the pine plantation as quickly as possible, then to leave the track and follow the shoreline.  I knew it was going to be hard work.

Just past the pine plantation, as I was searching for a suitable spot to approach the shoreline, a grey-brown bird flew across the track in front of me.  I did not get a great look, but I saw a long tail, with white outer tips.  It landed on the ground just out of sight.  I thought it could only be a Southern Scrub-robin.  This was worth taking a few minutes to follow up.  So I did.  The bird had other ideas.  It scurried away uncooperatively.  I'm sure it was a Scrub-robin as I can't imagine what else it could possibly have been.  I was most surprised to learn later that the Southern Scrub-robin is not on the birdlist for the Greater Bendigo National Park.  That can't be right.  The habitat is perfect.  And I'm sure that's what I saw.  But then, I can always be mistaken, as has been proved many times.

When my scrub-robin departed unambiguously, I once again turned my attention to the snipe.  I believe I found the inlet where it had been last seen.  The terrain was not inviting.  Foolishly, I looked at my watch and realized I couldn't make it back within my time limit.  I spent a half-hearted five minutes looking for the bird, then reluctantly hurried back to my husband, quite snipe-less.  It was 6 o'clock.  Rog had had a long drive and thought it was time to book into our motel for the night.

The next morning, I started out at Crusoe No 7 Pond looking for Chestnut-rumped Heathwren.  I've never seen these birds in my home state and I wanted to rectify the omission.  Again, thanks to Birdline, I had good directions about where to go.  I found the spot easily, but alas, there were no heathwren this morning.  There were lots of Red-browed Finches and Superb Fairy-wrens and some waterbirds on the water.  The most common bird this morning was the Yellow-tufted Honeyeater.  These are such beautiful birds, I always feel guilty wishing a few would morph into something a little rarer.  Conditions were perfect, and I spent an enjoyable time at Crusoe No 7 Pond.  There simply weren't any heathwren at the designated spot when I was there.  I vowed to return.

Then came the debate.  Was there time to look for the snipe this morning?  The clock was ticking and I dearly wanted to visit Kooyoora State Park, about an hour's drive from Bendigo, where I was hoping to see many wonderful birds.  Birds like Speckled Warblers, Diamond Firetails, Hooded Robins, Rainbow Bee-eaters, Gilbert's Whistlers and Painted Honeyeaters.  Had I known that I was going to dip on every one of these species, I might have devoted some time to the snipe, but, ever the optimist, I decided to be greedy and go for my long list of expected good birds.  With the benefit of hindsight, had I looked for the heathwren yesterday, and the snipe this morning, I might have ticked them both.

So, we set off for Kooyoora State Park.  This park did make it into my "Best 100 Birdwatching Sites in Australia."  It is number 14 - very high on the list.  So you can understand why I was prepared to forego my snipe to get here.

We set off on the Calder Highway, stopping to buy a sandwich in Marong, and turning off the Highway at Inglewood.  (Incidentally, Inglewood used to be a good spot for Southern Scrub-robins, before the Department of Sustainability and Environment decided that the area needed a preventative control burn.)  We took the Melvilles Caves entrance to Kooyoora State Park.  A Wedge-tailed Eagle soured overhead as we drove in.  We saw just one Brown Treecreeper, and many White-throated.  There were White-browed Babblers and Peaceful Doves.
Red-capped Robin, photo by Jim Smart
There were lots of Red-capped Robins, all very friendly, and perhaps even more Mistletoebirds, who simply ignored me.  I did see one aberrant robin.  I decided it was a Scarlet Robin, even though that would be an unusual sighting at Kooyoora in January.  They usually pass through here in winter.   It had a prominent white spot on its forehead, and a splotchy scarlet breast.  But where it should have been black, on its head and back, it was striated grey and white.  Very odd.  I wondered whether it was an aberrant Red-capped Robin, as they were so common hereabouts, but there was no doubting the white spot on its forehead.  Whatever it was, it wasn't as it should be, according to the field guides.

I'd had a most enjoyable 24 hours.  It had been good birding and I told myself that I had no right to complain at what I'd missed out on, I should be happy with what I had seen.  But we birders are inherently greedy.  We always want more.


No one would consider Melbourne General Cemetery to be one of our top birding sites.  And no, it did not make it into my forthcoming publication "Best 100 Birdwatching Sites in Australia."  It wouldn't make it into my top 200.  But it is often convenient for me to bird there, and it's as good a place as any to look for Flame and Scarlet Robins in winter.  It's a reliable spot for Common Greenfinch at any time.  And I usually see Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Red Wattlebirds, Willie Wagtails and Superb Fairy-wren.  And I have had some good sightings over the years.  I've seen Tawny Frogmouth, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos and once, a Little Eagle flew over.  I'm happy to wander around any cemetery at any time.  The birding is often good, and if it isn't, there are always interesting graves and monuments for diversion.

Superb Fairy-wren, photo by Jim Smart
Melbourne General Cemetery is a large site located in Carlton, quite close to Melbourne's central business district.  Last Tuesday, I had just fifteen minutes here and took the opportunity to try to add a couple of species to my sadly small 2013 birdlist.  It was mid-afternoon and quite warm - not an ideal time for birding. Nevertheless, I thought a New Holland Honeyeater would be easy, but it was not so.  I did see Little Wattlebirds, which was a new bird for me at this site.  A Red Wattlebird flew overhead.  Instinctively, I put my binoculars on it, and into my field of vision, flying above the wattlebird, came an Australian Hobby.  I've seen hobbys here several times.  I believe they are more common around Melbourne now than in the past.  I lived in North Carlton for ten years and don't remember ever seeing a hobby there during that time.  Today, they are not a remarkable occurrence anywhere in suburbia.

I heard thornbills and went in search of a Yellow-rumped.  They were uncooperative, flitting in and out of the canopy, squeaking at me provocatively.  I managed to get one in my binoculars, and thought he was a Yellow-rumped, but I couldn't see his rump or his pretty spotted crown.  He flew off and I found another.  This time I had a good look, and it proved to be a Brown Thornbill.  I believe these birds, too, are becoming more and more common around Melbourne.  I've seen them every time I've been out birding this year.  I wasn't going to be put off by seeing the wrong variety of thornbill.  I knew thornbills were often in mixed flocks.  I chased those birds, and eventually had a most satisfying view of my butter bums.

I always enjoy Melbourne General Cemetery.  It never lets me down, perhaps because I never start out with high expectations.  I achieved my aim.  I added two species to my annual list.  I couldn't ask for more than that.

Sunday, 27 January 2013


Braeside Park is 310 hectares of bush and wetlands in suburban Melbourne, quite close to the Mordialloc airport.  Small planes buzz overhead as you bird.

I enjoyed an hour there this morning, and clocked up 46 species of birds (47 if you count the Magpie-lark I heard, but did not see) plus one rabbit and one fox.  Without a doubt the most exciting bird of the morning was a beautiful Ruff.  There were also Blue-billed Duck, Nankeen Night-Herons, Royal Spoonbills, White-necked Heron, Latham's Snipe and great views of a Brown Goshawk.

I timed my arrival to coincide with the opening of the gates at 8.30 a.m. hoping to avoid the crowds.  This park can be very popular with cyclists and families during summer and I thought Australia Day would be very busy.  My plan was to get there early, see my birds, and be home by morning tea time.  The bird I was really hoping to see was an extraordinary blue ibis, which I'd heard was here.  It's apparently an Australian White Ibis with aberrant colouration.  However, I didn't see any ibis of any colour today.  But I didn't come away disappointed.

In the carpark, I was greeted by a Purple Swamphen, a Masked Lapwing and some Magpies.  Alarm calls alerted me to a Collared Sparrowhawk, flying fast at canopy level. I started, as I usually do, with the Wetlands Trail.  I've seen crakes and Magpie Geese here before.  But not today.  I searched for ibis, but had no luck.  There were Royal Spoonbills and Black-winged Stilts and a few loafing ducks.  Not a very promising start, I thought as I set off for the bird hide, pleased that I'd arrived early.  There were just a few cyclists around, and a couple of joggers.  A wetland en route to the bird hide proved most productive, but also most frustrating, as the birds were a long way away, too far for my binoculars.  I really needed a scope.  I didn't have a scope with me, but even if I had thought to bring one, it would have been too far for me to carry it.

I could see a huge flock of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers (perhaps 500) and a very large number of Red-kneed Dotterels (about 30 I reckon).  I could see one Latham's Snipe and an Australian Reed-Warbler cavorted in the open in front of me.  There was lots of inviting exposed mud, and I was surprised not to see any crakes.  There were ducks and pelicans, coots and grebes.  I thought the prettiest birds were the Black-winged Stilts, posing with their reflections mirrored in the water.  Frustrated that I could not identify any stints, or indeed anything else amongst that flock of sandpipers, I hurried on to the bird hide.

As a demonstration of my contrary nature, I was delighted to hear voices in the bird hide as I approached.  Normally I shun my fellow man, but birders to chat to are always welcome.  There were two birders present, and one of them had a scope.  I asked him what he'd seen at the wetland, amongst all those sharpies.  He said there was one Pectoral Sandpiper and one Ruff!There were also some Great Crested Grebes about.  From the bird hide I could see cormorants, darters, ducks (including the Blue-billed), night-herons, Australasian Grebes, stilts and herons.  Again, I scanned the banks for crakes, but I could see only coots.  At 9.15, I'd been at Braeside for 45 minutes, and my bird count was 40.  I thought I'd better turn for home, and have a quick look at the sandpipers on the way.  Who knows, I might be able to make out the Ruff or the Pectoral Sandpiper or even Great Crested Grebes. 

So I set off again and when I arrived at the sandpiper spot, there was another birder there.  Quietly, I scanned the sandpipers, but they were all too far away.  I admired the snipe, and endeavoured to ensure that I hadn't missed anything else.  Then, bless him, the birder with the scope turned up.  He found the Ruff and allowed me to admire it through his scope.  Once I'd identified it, I looked at it through my binoculars, but it just looked like a large sharpie.  Seen through the scope, it was an exceptionally beautiful bird.  Thank you, Andrew!

A Brown Goshawk landed in a dead tree above our heads, some Whiskered Terns flew by and my total had grown to 46.  Not bad for an hour.

Monday, 21 January 2013


According to the weather forecast, Tuesday was the best day to go birding this week.  I planned to go to Healesville and hoped to see a Lewin's Honeyeater, a Superb Lyrebird and a Large-billed Scrubwren.  I thought that if I arrived early, I'd miss the holidaying hordes.  The Maroondah Dam picnic area opens at 8.30, so I decided that's when I'd arrive.


It was actually cold when I arrived at the Watts River Rotunda, with a totally grey sky and very bad light for birding.  My spirits rose, however, when Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos flew over.  These magnificent big birds with their lovely slow wing action always make my spirits rise.  Someone had left seven sausages on the barbeque and I wondered where all the kookaburras were.  Perhaps they're all so well fed, they only eat the very best sausages.  Still, it was amazing that some little creature hadn't taken advantage of a free feed overnight.   I walked down to the river, but the birds were very quiet.  I saw Crimson Rosellas and heard Pied Currawongs, but with no sunshine and such bad light, I feared I might have chosen the wrong day to drive to Healesville.  I heard an Eastern Yellow Robin and a White-throated Treecreeper, but neither bird would show itself.  I did manage to see Brown Thornbills, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Grey Fantails.  A Laughing Kookaburra flew by, ignoring the sausages, so I figured he was just a fussy eater.  I turned to leave when an Eastern Spinebill flitted in a nearby gum tree and a pair of Common Bronzewings landed beside the rotunda.  Thinking this whole trip had been a mistake, I returned to the car and drove on to my second spot.


Graceburn Weir is one of Melbourne's best kept birdy secrets.  I've never seen another birder there - in fact, I've rarely seen another person.  This morning, as usual, I had the place to myself.  Bushfires went through in the holocaust of 2009 and many black trunks and dead trees bear testimony to the hell that was.  The undergrowth is growing up to be even more dense than it was before.  If this is a good or bad thing I do not know.

Graceburn Creek
Graceburn Weir, just outside Healesville, takes water from Graceburn Creek and delivers it to the Maroondah reservoir for Melbourne's water supply.  Birds enjoy bathing and drinking in the race.  The track beside the race is well maintained and flat - very good for birders who are straining to see the birds in the canopy, a hundred metres above.  Today, with such a grey sky, all the birds in the canopy are tiny black silhouettes, impossible to identify.

As I walked towards the weir, it was still cold and there was a slight breeze.  It didn't take me long to realize that I wasn't going to see my Lewin's Honeyeater.  I heard Pied Currawongs, Grey Fantails, Brown Thornbills and Yellow Robins.  When a White-throated Treecreeper called, I stopped and looked.  It would be a new bird for the year.  I looked and waited and waited and looked.  Treecreepers called in the distance, to my left, right, in front and behind, but nothing would come within sight.  When I had not seen a bird, not just a treecreeper, but any bird at all, in twenty minutes, I knew that I'd made a mistake to come today.

Then, suddenly, I saw a flock of Red-browed Finches.  Lots of young birds showed that they'd had a good season.  Then I saw and heard a Brown Goshawk, my first raptor for the year.  In celebration, a black wallaby jumped across the path in front of me.  That was the turning point.  The birds came thick and fast.  It usually takes 30 minutes to walk to the weir.  The birds were so distracting this morning, it took 50 minutes.  The first wonderful sighting was a Rufous Fantail.  He was glorious.   I hadn't seen one since March 2011 at Gipsy Point.  Today's bird came down to eye level and gave me a very good look.  What a beautiful bird!  Then there was a magnificent male Golden Whistler, Eastern Rosellas, Silvereyes, White-browed Scrubwrens and one lonely Dusky Woodswallow.  I heard what I thought was an Eastern Whipbird, but it might just as easily have been a Superb Lyrebird.  I'm sure that the black cockies I thought I'd heard here were in fact a lyrebird.  The bush here is too dense to go bush bashing.  If the lyrebirds stay away from the track, there's no hope of seeing them at Graceburn.  I wasn't worried.  I planned to see lyrebirds at my next stop. 
Rufous Fantail

I reckon all the honeyeaters I saw were either Yellow-faced or White-naped (and there were lots of both of those) but I confess that the tiny black silhouettes high in the canopy may well have included other species.  Whether or not there were others, I came home without my Lewin's.  I didn't mind in the least.  As far as I was concerned, the Rufous Fantail had made the drive worthwhile.  I returned to the car and drove on to my final Healesville stop.


Badger's Weir is where I take overseas visitors to see Superb Lyrebirds.  I don't think I've ever been here without seeing one.  Until today.  I heard several, which is pretty good for January, but I couldn't manage to see one.  I took Lyrebird Track to the weir, and barely saw a bird.  So, I was going to miss out on my hoped-for Large-billed Scrubwren, as well as my Lewin's Honeyeater AND my Superb Lyrebird.  There's no justice in the world, I thought, as I walked back to the car.  Then, at eye level to my left, I saw a scrubwren.  I raised my binoculars.  Yes!  It was Large-billed.  Yippee!  To help me celebrate a White-throated Treecreeper landed right beside me and hopped up the treetrunk.  All that unsuccessful looking at Graceburn, and here the bird just about sought me out.

I went home happy.  I didn't have a very large count but I was delighted with my black cockies, my Rufous Fantail and my Large-billed Scrubwren.  It was certainly worth the drive.

Saturday, 19 January 2013


This morning I had a lovely walk in Willsmere Park.  The weather was perfect and there were not too many joggers and cyclists.  I'd always thought this park was in Kew, but I noted this morning that the oval is used by the Deepdene Uniting Cricket Club.  Apart from the oval, there is a small patch of remnant bush by the Yarra surrounding the Willsmere Billabong.  The whole park is adjacent to a golf course, and, on the other side of the river, just a stone's throw away, is Wilson Reserve, where I birded on New Year's Day. 

I've seen some good birds at Willsmere over the years.  Once I saw an Olive Whistler, once a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo and once (famously) a small party of Brown Gerygones, well out of the bird's accepted range.  I've often seen Azure Kingfishers, and sometimes Nankeen Night Herons and Crested Shrike-tits.

This morning, I was there for just under an hour and notched up a total of 20 species, but sadly, nothing new for the year.  By far the most numerous bird was the Noisy Miner.  The Common Bronzewing is living up to its name this summer around Melbourne.  Rainbow Lorikeets were common too, as ever, and I was aware of (that is, either saw or heard) a remarkable eight Grey Butcherbirds!  There are always Willie Wagtails, White-browed Scrubwrens and Superb Fairy-wrens.  The Eastern Yellow Robin calling from the bush refused to show himself.

I was disappointed there were no annual ticks for me, but I have absolutely no right to complain.  It really was a very pleasant walk.  And if I saw Brown Gerygones every time I visited, they wouldn't be rare any more would they?

Sunday, 13 January 2013


On Sunday (yesterday) I sat down and prepared a schedule for the week.  I was definitely going to start work on my new book on Monday, no more procrastinating.  So this morning, I arose at 5.30 and went to the gym.  Driving home at around 7 a.m. (feeling virtuous) I noticed what a beautiful day it was.  A great day for birding.  I told myself that I really should grab this chance of a pleasant not-too-hot January day.  I owed it to myself to go birding.  And so I did.

I could resist the temptation of Banyule no longer.  I arrived just before 8 and was greeted by a Grey Butcherbird in the car park.  A Mistletoebird serenaded me as I walked to the swamp.  The first thing I saw was three Yellow-billed Spoonbills.  I couldn't remember seeing them here before.  Then I scanned the muddy verges, looking for snipe and crakes.  Immediately I saw Latham's Snipe.  I counted seven, some feeding in the shallows, some loafing on the edge.  Now I felt justified in taking time off work to visit Banyule.  I had time for just a cursory look at the ducks in the water when I was joined by a fellow birder.

"Look at all those snipe!" I enthused.

"Yes," he said.  "There were nine here yesterday."

Well, I thought, seven was good enough for me.

"Have you seen any crakes?" I asked.

He told me that he'd just come from the grotty pool, and that he'd seen Australian Spotted chasing Spotless Crakes and two Buff-banded Rails.  I didn't bother to examine the ducks on the swamp.  I thanked my nameless friend and hurried off to admire his crakes.  The path to the grotty pool looks down on the large swamp, where I had just been admiring snipe.  I paused briefly to check the verges, and there were several Australian Spotted Crakes!  They were on the far edge from where I'd been sitting, and a little small for good viewing from such a distance. 

When I arrived at the grotty pool, two Common Bronzewings were cooing to each other above the water.  There were Grey Teal and Dusky Moorhen in the pool, and yes! there with them was an Australian Spotted Crake.  I drank him in.  In a very short while, a Spotless Crake appeared, and, right on cue, the spotty fellow chased him.  I watched for a while, the spotted bird gave me excellent views, but only allowed quick glimpses of his spotless cousin before chasing him away each time he appeared.  Then a Buff-banded Rail (huge by comparison) strutted past and I congratulated myself on my magnificent birding.  How clever was I, to see all these birds.  I didn't consider that all I'd done was to follow other people's directions and note what appeared in front of me.  I thought I'd done a great job.

On the way back to the swamp, I paused again to look at the Australian Spotted Crakes along the edge of the water.  There were at least four of them.  I could see that there was another birder by the water, where I'd met my anonymous adviser half an hour before.  I thought I'd have another quick look at the swamp to see if anything else had arrived.

The new birder revealed himself to be Richard Loyn, and he told me that there were Pink-eared Ducks on the water, an unusual species for Banyule.  I shouldn't have rushed off without examining all the waterfowl properly.  At least I'd had the good sense to return.  Together we admired the pinkies, another first for me at this spot.  Then Richard mentioned in passing, no doubt confident that I'd already seen them, that there were also Baillon's Crakes amongst the spotted ones.  I confessed that I'd missed them and very generously he pointed one out.  It was on the far side of the water, and I would never have identified it without Richard's help.  Thank you, Richard!

I hurried home, vindicated by my decision to go birding.  I was at my desk working by 9 a.m. so there was absolutely no room for guilt.  And I'd added three crakes, a rail and a snipe to my annual list.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013


In Melbourne's hot summer, when there's a pleasant day, it's best to grab the opportunity immediately and go birding.  This morning looked good, so I ventured to Karkarook Park, planning to add Blue-billed Duck and Common Greenfinch to my annual list.

Karkarook Park is in Heatherton on the corner of Warrigal and South Roads.  It used to be a sand mine and is now part of Melbourne Water's water purification system.  The park is centred on a 15 hectare lake.  There is an unfriendly noisy bird hide, which was open this morning, according to the sign on the gate.  Signage notwithstanding, I couldn't open the gate.  However, it is probably best not to open the noisy gate anyway.  I stood beside the hide and watched Australian Reed-Warblers playing amongst the reeds.  I would not have seen any more from the hide, and I would probably have frightened all the birds within hearing.

The first thing I do at Karkarook is to stand on the little wooden bridge and check out the ducks.  I have seen Blue-billed Ducks from this bridge.  However, not this morning.  I walked on, intending to look for snipe and crakes around the ponds on the Warrigal Road side of the park.  However, I heard a greenfinch calling off to my right and wondered whether to deviate.  A bird in the hand. . .

A greenie distracted me, the greenfinch stopped calling and I continued on to look for my snipe.  I saw several rabbits (I usually see water rats) but no snipe and no crakes.  But I did see my beautiful Blue-billed Duck.  His bill was as blue as Christopher Robin's nanny's dressing gown. 

All the usual waterbirds were present and there were more Common Bronzewings and Black-winged Stilts than I remember seeing at Karkarook on previous visits.

Once I'd ticked my blue-bill, I turned my attention to greenfinch.  I visited their usual haunts.  Sometimes I heard their call, but could not see the bird.  Still, I persevered, and eventually my patience paid off.  I had great views of several greenfinch.  I feel a bit guilty trying so hard to get exotic species on my list, but I do it anyway.  A tick's a tick, if only an annual one.

I walked around the lake and by the time I returned the sun was doing his stuff and it felt much hotter than the forecast 26.  I'd been at the park precisely one hour and seen 35 species including my two target species.  If only every birding trip were so successful.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013


When I'm in Melbourne on 1 January, I like to spend New Year's Day at Banyule Flats Reserve.  Aside from Werribee sewage farm, I believe this is Melbourne's top birding spot.  However, this year I did not go there.

My ever-tolerant family does its best to understand my obsession with birds.  I'm sure this is why my nephew (aged in his mid-thirties) asked me to take him birding.  We agreed that we'd go to Banyule on Friday 4 January.  So I chose other locations on 1 January.  Now it seems that it will be too hot to consider birding on Friday, so we have postponed our trip.

Meanwhile, I spent New Year's Day at two suburban Melbourne parks:  Wilson Reserve in Ivanhoe and Jell's Park in Wheelers Hill.

Wilson Reserve, Ivanhoe

The weather was perfect as I set out for Wilson Reserve.  There had been recent sightings of Spotless Crakes here and I was ever hopeful.  Wilson Reserve is a welcome patch of bush beside the Yarra, perhaps Melbourne's easiest site for Eastern Yellow Robins and Common Bronzewings.  Years ago, this was the place we'd send people wanting to see Red-whiskered Bulbuls, but I haven't seen one here for many years and I believe they are locally extinct.  I always hope for Azure Kingfishers and, as far as I remember, have always seen Bell Miners.  It was a very pleasant walk.  I arrived at 7.30, before all the dog walkers and had the walking track almost to myself.  The temperature was perfect and the birds were happy.  But there was nothing exciting to kick start my year.  The crakes refused to show themselves, as did the Little Grassbirds I heard calling from the reeds.  One of the first birds I saw was a Silvereye (one of my favourites) and I was greeted by Willie Wagtails and many Grey Fantails happy to celebrate the New Year.  I left at 8.45, disappointed in my total of 32.

I considered going home, but, as it was still early, decided instead to visit Jell's Park.  I knew that I'd add Australasian Darter to my total.  I might get a cuckoo, a whistler or a dotterel too.  Again, I started out optimistically, and the weather was still perfect when I arrived at 9.15.  By now, a few cyclists had emerged and there were a few walkers about.

Jell's Park is 22 kilometres south-east of Melbourne and has an official birdlist of 124 species, to which I can add White-throated Needletail, which I saw some years ago, but didn't report, as I didn't realize it was a special sighting.  Jell's Park is part of the Dandenong Valley Metropolitan Park and comprises 127 hectares of open space and picnic areas with some remnant bush along the Dandenong Creek.  Its one downfall is that it is very popular and boasts 900,000 visitors each year.
Jell's Park, Wheelers Hill

At least the Australasian Darters did not let me down.  But why didn't I take my camera?  This photo was taken some months ago.  Today, the darters were nesting.  I counted at least 24 nests from the birdhide and it would have been a good photo.  Some of the nests may have belonged to Little Pied or Little Black Cormorants, but most were clearly darters.

Despite ideal conditions, I did not see much beside the darters.  There was a lovely vocal pair of Rufous Whistlers who cavorted above my head, but not much else worth reporting.  I left at 10.15, disappointed with my annual total at just 38.