Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Cranbourne Royal Botanic Gardens

Melbourne has been suffering a record heat wave which has not been conducive to birding.  (Nine consecutive days over 30, and we thought we'd put summer behind us!).  When the forecast today was for a cool change, I grabbed the opportunity to visit Cranbourne Royal Botanic Gardens.  They're about 43 kilometres south-east of Melbourne and comprise 363 hectares, some formal plantings, most remnant bush.
Two thirds of the 'gardens' are untouched bush.
I usually judge the success of my visit to the Cranbourne Royal Botanic Gardens by the number of southern brown bandicoots I see.  They are quite common here.  This morning I didn't see any.  It was over an hour's hot drive to get here (what cool change?) and when I arrived a sign informed me that because it was a day of very high fire danger the Bushland and Stringybark Picnic Area were closed to the public.  Hrrmph!  Several signs warned that snakes share the paths.  I looked, but I didn't see any snakes either.

I trudged up to Trig Point, planning to take a photo of the view, which can be impressive.  Not today.  This morning all I could see was haze.  I was begining to think I should have stayed at home.  Then a Varied Sittella caught my eye and I knew the trip had been worthwhile.  I lost count of the number of Grey Fantails I saw.  They were playing together with both Striated and Spotted Pardalotes.  Bell Miners were calling, so I had to add them to my list.  It took a couple of minutes, but soon I was rewarded with good sightings.   I also saw Brown and Striated Thornbills.  Some other disappointed hikers asked me if I'd seen the Wedge-tailed Eagle's nest, but when I said no, they didn't volunteer where it was.

Because I was denied access to Bushland, I decided to explore the planted native gardens, an area I've never bothered with before.  It was delightful!  Lots of New Holland Honeyeaters in the banksias, while scrubwren, fairywren and Eastern Yellow Robins played around my feet.  And there were coots and grebes in the ghastly water feature in the middle.  A bronzewing flew over, but I failed to convince myself that it was a Brush.  Lots of Welcome Swallows warmed themselves on the red earth, called the 'Red Sand Garden.'

I returned to the car park and a Grey Butcherbird bade me farewell.  It was not an altogether successful morning, but I find it hard to complain when I've been treated to sittellas, and a yellow robin almost landed on my foot.

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