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.

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