Sunday, 9 March 2014


The helipad at Bunyip State Park

Yesterday evening we went looking for White-throated Nightjars at the helipad at Bunyip State Park.  Sadly, we did not see or hear a nightjar.  We heard several Sooty Owls, but couldn't manage to see one.  The only night birds we did see were a couple of Southern Boobooks.

Bunyip State Park (site number 50 in my book) is 65 kilometres east of Melbourne in the Dandenong Ranges.  We arrived at the helipad at 7.30, in time for a restorative cup of coffee before the serious watching began.  Black cockies wailed over the treetops and White-throated Needletails put on a aerobatic display over the helipad while we waited.  Two carloads of birders turned up, all wanting to see nightjars.  I was delighted at this, because I had feared that March was too late in the year.  I think of nightjars in Melbourne as a purely summer phenomenon, and March is, after all, autumn.  I feared the birds would be on their way back up north by March.  And perhaps they were.

It was a very pleasant evening:  balmy temperature, no wind, no pesky insects and good company.  A couple of Southern Boobooks flew over the helipad and ensured that we stayed focused.  I had thought that about 8.30 would be the right time, and I think that was probably right.  Although, I have no right to say so as we didn't see or hear any nightjars.  We did hear Sooty Owls, doing both the falling bomb call and the trill.  After a while of not seeing or hearing nightjars, the Sooty Owls got the better of us, and we all walked down the road, as the owls did sound quite close.  I suspect they were never as close as we had thought.  They were always just a little too far away - never close enough for even a glimpse.

Thank you to those lovely birders we met at the helipad who were so generous with their time and expertise.  I did enjoy chatting to you!  I still suspect that March is a little late for nightjars.  But it is always fun trying.  

Saturday, 8 March 2014


Cape Barren Goose

We had a wonderful day at Werribee on Friday.  Raptors starred.  We saw lots of waders and ducks and several crakes, including one Spotted Crake standing on a rock!

Early in the day, we bumped into Martin doing a survey, so we found out all we could.  He told us about Broad-billed and Pectoral Sandpipers, Double-banded Plovers, Black Falcons, Freckled Ducks, Little and Fairy Terns and Blue-winged Parrots.  We searched in all his recommended spots, but we did not see any of these birds.

We saw many Whistling and Black Kites, a couple of Black-shouldered ones too.  Several Swamp Harriers, one Brown Falcon, and a Brown Goshawk and an Australian Hobby.

A crake ran across the road in front of the bird hide.  It was very dark, and might have been a Spotless Crake, but I was not sure.  We saw several Australian Spotted Crakes and one skulking Buff-banded Rail.  The light was not good.  It was on the other side of the river, and in the binoculars just looked like a dark rail, but in the scope there was no doubting his identity.  I had never seen a crake perched on a rock before.  The rock was in a lagoon, surrounded by water.  The bird flew, only to be attacked by (of all things) a Welcome Swallow.  The crake disappeared under the water, never to be seen again.  I assume it swam under water to the bank.

The Golden-headed Cisticolas were, as ever, very beautiful.  A Little Grassbird sat obligingly up on top of a bush, determined to get its name onto my list.  White-winged Black Terns swooped over the lagoons, and loafed on the beach, so we could admire their non-breeding plumage properly through the scope.  We saw a remarkable seven Great Crested Grebes, always one of my favourites.

A most enjoyable day.  Many beautiful birds.  As a Sydney friend of mine said recently:  'it's impossible to have a bad day at Werribee.'