Monday, 22 September 2014


When we drive up the Hume, we always stop at the Grasstree Roadside Reserve.  I've seen some good birds here over the years and some pretty wildflowers too.  There's usually a friendly Red-capped Robin and always Weebills.  In spring there are orchids and in autumn there are butterflies.  Just once I saw Brown Quail here.

Located 105 kilometres north of Melbourne, Grasstree is one hour's drive from the Western Ring Road, so for us, coming from Melbourne, it is the perfect spot for coffee.  There is a small dam, where I've seen White-faced Herons and once, a Royal Spoonbill.  Fairy-wrens hop around your feet while you enjoy your break and Grey Fantails scold from above.  I do recommend the walking path.  If you like Grasstrees, you won't be disappointed.  I was brought up to call them 'Black boys,' but this is now deemed politically incorrect and we are supposed to say 'Xanthorrhoea.'
Yellow-faced Honeyeater, photo by Jim Smart
The birds were great when I was there last Saturday.  A very vocal Spotted Pardalote drew attention to himself, out in the open high in a dead tree.  There were Brown and Buff-rumped Thornbills, Red-browed Finches and perhaps best of all, one of my favourite honeyeaters, the Brown-headed.  They are such pretty little birds.

A large family of Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes flew in while we were there.  I think there were six birds, all apparently in adult plumage.  Willie Wagtails chatted happily and Welcome Swallows swooped above.  Then suddenly everything went quiet.  I looked up to see a Whistling Kite gliding by.

One very loud call confused me.  I don't know why I always have such trouble with this call.  I should know it by now.  Eventually I tracked it down.  It was the Yellow-faced Honeyeater.  Ken Simpson describes the call as 'cheerful "chick-up."  Liquid repeated "chir rup, chir-rup" in falling sequence, loud for size of bird.'  I'll try to remember that.

I must mention the wildflowers too, because they were almost as good as the birds.  There was one wattle flowering and one cream flowering grevillea.  There were candles, sundews, lots of glossidia, some beautiful deep blue dianella and several white and two different yellow flowers I was unable to identify.  

Grasstree Roadside Reserve rarely disappoints.  If the birds aren't behaving, you can read the informative signs and learn about the history of gold and bushrangers in the vicinity.

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