On Saturday I went to the You Yangs to pull out boneseed. The weather was perfect, the company was convivial and the birds were wonderful, as usual. The You Yangs Regional Park is number 31 on my Best 100 Birdwatching Sites in Australia, and the birding is great. We go to the You Yangs once a quarter, so birders have usually done some interesting trips between visits, and I enjoy the birdy gossip as much as the birds.
Boneseed is an invasive weed from South Africa and these outings are arranged by BirdLife Australia to keep our allocated patch boneseed free.
The You Yangs Regional Park is 55 kilometres south-west of Melbourne off the Geelong Road via the township of Little River. It is dry eucalypt woodland, with several small dams, so the birdlist features bush birds and waterbirds.
We start the day birding around the car park, then go to Gravel Pit Tor. We have lunch at a picnic table beside a small waterhole, then do some more birding around that site. In the early afternoon we pull out some boneseed, then finish the day with more birding at East Flat. It's obvious that the weeding is just an excuse for our primary activity: birding.
The You Yangs are famous for Tawny Frogmouths and, in autumn and winter, Swift Parrots. We didn't see any frogmouths on Saturday. The resident pair, usually seen around the park office, have not been seen for some weeks. I expect they'll return one day. I hope it's in time for our next excursion in March 2014.
The birdlist for the day is usually quite impressive. My personal list is always much smaller. I thought the best birds on Saturday were the Brown-headed and Black-chinned Honeyeaters together with (most unusually, just one) Varied Sittella. A pair of Scarlet Robins provided much pleasure and Rufous Whistlers entertained us all day. While I was boneseeding, I was serenaded by Yellow Robins, Olive-backed Orioles and Fantailed Cuckoos. It was difficult not to knock off work and look at the birds, but I always leave my binoculars in the car when we set to work, to lessen the temptation.
Raptors can be quite good at the You Yangs, but the only one I identified with confidence on Saturday was a wedgie. He soared over us while we were having lunch, reminding us it was time to stop feeding our faces and go birding.
Anyone is welcome to join us at the You Yangs on the first Saturday of March, June, September and December. All you need to bring is lunch, binoculars and enthusiasm!