Friday, 10 January 2014


Jell's Park, Wheelers Hill

This morning I visited Jell's Park in Wheelers Hill.  I like to go here each summer as Australasian Darters nest on an island in the lake.  I counted 22 nests this morning, and I'm sure I missed some.  Young birds, apparently fully grown, spilled over out of the untidy stick nests, up to three birds in each one.

Jell's Park is in Wheelers Hill, 22 kilometres south-east of Melbourne.  I would have liked to have included it in my top 100 birding sites, but I just couldn't fit it in.  The bird list has 124 species, which doesn't include White-throated Needletails which I saw one day circling above the transmission lines.  The 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.  There is a large lake and fishing is permitted from the jetties.  It is very popular, boasting over 900,000 visitors each year, which puts it in contention with Victoira's top tourist attractions.

I had thought, until this morning, that it would not be possible to visit Jell's Park without seeing (and of course hearing) Bell Miners.  But the colony has moved on.  Not one tinkle did I hear this morning.  Noisy Miners seem to have displaced them, temporarily at least.

Freckled Duck were reported on the lake some months ago, and I was delighted to see one loafing on a dead branch this morning.  It is always a thrill to see Freckled Ducks, although I reckon they are our laziest duck, real lounge lizards of the bird world.

The sky was grey and I stayed only half an hour.  So I cannot complain that I did not hear any cuckoos or Sacred Kingfishers, which I expect in summer.  I didn't really give them a fair go.  I did hear Laughing Kookaburras - they are always hanging around the picnic area.  And of course I was greeted in the car park by Grey Butcherbirds and Rainbow Lorikeets.  Grey Fantails were everywhere and one aggressive Red Wattlebird chased a beautiful male Golden Whistler across the path right in front of me.

I have had some good sightings this year.  I visited Blackburn Lake with my cousin to add the Nankeen Night-Heron to my list and my cousin pointed out a Tawny Frogmouth roosting in a gum tree.  Roger and I went to Werribee looking for the Broad-billed Sandpiper and Long-toed Stint that had been sighted.  We dipped on both of these, but we had fantastic views of Spotted, Spotless and Baillon's Crakes.  I visited Banyule to see Latham's Snipe, and added a Buff-banded Rail too.  So, 2014 is still looking good.

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