Friday, 7 June 2013


My nephew and I both have birthdays in early June, so we decided that a joint celebratory lunch was in order.  We chose a restaurant in Carlton, which meant I could spend an hour or so in nearby Royal Park beforehand, looking for Swift Parrots.  These endangered parrots have been reported here just once this year, a fortnight ago.

These birds are in trouble.  It is estimated that the total population is 1,000 pairs.  They breed in Tasmania in summer and spend the winter on the mainland.  So far this winter, there have been just three reports in Victoria:  on 21 May, two birds were seen in Royal Park; on the same day three birds were seen at Crusoe Reservoir in Bendigo; and on 30 May, four birds were seen in the You Yangs.  As I set off, scanning all the flowering eucalypts in Royal Park, I knew that my chances of seeing Swift Parrots were not good.

I'd seen Swift Parrots in Royal Park in June 2011, in a eucalypt near the tram tracks.  Perhaps irrationally, I headed for that tree.  There were lots of raucous Rainbow Lorikeets making their presence felt, living up to my Third Law of Birdwatching:  'The more gorgeous a bird's plumage, the less melodious the song; and conversely, the more drab the plumage, the more mellifluous the song.'  It was grey and cold, with no sunshine.  I managed to avoid the golfers, but sadly, I also managed to avoid the Swift Parrots, if indeed there were any there.

Rainbow Lorikeets live up to Sue Taylor's third law of birdwatching.  Photo:  Jim Smart.

I wandered through the park to Trin Warren Tam-boore, totting up a total of 25 species, not altogether bad for a grey winter day in a city park.  I saw plenty of Roger's favourite honeyeater, the New Holland, several overactive Eastern Spinebills and one spectacular Spotted Pardalote, conveniently at eye-level.  There was too much water in the wetlands and I saw no ducks.

I put the absence of Swift Parrots behind me, and turned my mind to celebrating the fact that both my nephew and I had survived another year on this planet.  Happy Birthday, Nephew!

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