Thursday, 18 December 2014


Yesterday I returned from a delightful all-too-short trip to Rutherglen.  We managed to avoid the bushfires and in a very short time recorded over 80 species of birds.

We left on Tuesday.  It was hot and horrible and I feared I would not see anything of interest.  My fears were vindicated, when my bird total for the day was a miserable 15 species.  I thought I'd probably have had a larger score if I'd stayed at home.

I started Wednesday with an early walk around Lake King.  The temperature was very pleasant and I managed 30 species before breakfast.  I lamented the fact that I'd missed Blue-faced Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird and (one of my favourites) White-breasted Woodswallow, which I usually see here in summer.  Still, I enjoyed the Black-fronted Dotterels at the lake and the Eurasian Tree Sparrow in the main street.  

First stop after breakfast was Bartley's Block.  Here I was greeted by a very vocal Western Gerygone.  I decided it couldn't get any better than this and he would be my Bird of the Day.  The Rufous Whistlers, Grey Shrike-thrushes and Olive-backed Orioles were vocal too, filling the air with music.  A young Red-capped Robin wanted to make friends and Brown-headed Honeyeaters played cooperatively in the gum trees at eye level.  A big noisy flock of Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters seemed to be mobbing something.  I climbed through the fence but as I approached, they quietened down.  A little later, as I was admiring a treecreeper, the honeyeaters appeared in hot pursuit of a small grey bird.  The bird fell to the ground and I thought the honeyeaters would kill it.  As it lay immobile, the honeyeaters lost interest and left.  Stupidly, I approached the bird on the ground, to see if it was alive.  I should have left it alone.  It may have had an opportunity to recover and escape.  As it was I frightened it, it flew and I have no doubt the honeyeaters would have resumed their persecution.  Alas, I did not identify it.  It was a young bird, it had no tail.  Its back was striated and it had a black stripe over its eye.  Truly, a mystery bird.

Roger would rather read his newspaper

At Greenhill Dam, all I saw was a Peaceful Dove, so we drove on to Cyanide Dam.  Here Roger happily read his newspaper, while I walked around the dam.  The water level had dropped from my previous visit, and the grebes had left.  But there were Fuscous and White-naped Honeyeaters, as well as those ubiquitous bullies, Yellow-tufted.  I stood looking at the water, when a male Turquoise Parrot came down for a drink.  He was breathtakingly beautiful.  I wondered whether to go back and tell Roger, but I realized that he'd rather read his newspaper, so I enjoyed that parrot all by myself.  It really can't get better than that.  He assumed the title of Bird of the Day.

A kookaburra laughed and an Eastern Yellow Robin sat quietly observing me.  This may be the only time I have ever visited this dam without seeing a Brown Treecreeper, a bird that stubbornly remained off my list for the whole of this trip.

Then it was off to Chiltern Number One Dam (pelicans, cormorants and spoonbills) then Number Two Dam (reed warbler, Tree Martins, Dusky Woodswallows, Little Grassbird).  I thought I heard a cuckoo and chased it down to reveal, not a cuckoo at all, but a pair of shrike-tits.  Wouldn't you think, that after fifty years of birdwatching, I'd know the difference?

Then Rog took me to lunch at The Terrace at All Saints, which is always quite delicious.  In the afternoon, I was treated to a birding tour by a Rutherglen local.  Local knowledge is always an opportunity to grab with both hands.  We drove a little way out of the township, and I saw, for the first time in my life in Rutherglen, a flock of about two hundred Plumed Whistling-Ducks!  They are not a common sight in Victoria, although I have seen them at Serendip, and at Deniliquin in New South Wales which is not that far away.  They wheeled over our heads and whistled at us.  It was a real treat.  Then we drove to Shaw's Flat, admiring Zebra Finches on the way.  We looked for Dollarbirds along the Murray, but weren't able to locate any.  I finished the day with 69 species, not bad given that I'd taken a few hours off birding to enjoy a long lunch.

On Thursday, I again started the day with a walk around Lake King, thinking that I wouldn't be able to do better than yesterday morning's score of 30.  I managed 36!  I picked up the three that I'd missed yesterday (Blue-faced Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird and White-breasted Woodswallow) and I saw swamphen with young of various sizes, one Nankeen Night-Heron, heard Striated Pardalotes and I saw a bird I've never seen at Lake King before:  a Baillon's Crake.  Wow!  

After breakfast I added Pied Butcherbird to the list, and on the way back to Melbourne, I saw Brown Falcon, Black Kite, Little Eagle and Little Pied Cormorant.  Altogether a great trip.  I don't know whether the highlight was the Plumed Whistling-Ducks or the Turquoise Parrot.  Let's call it a draw.

No comments:

Post a Comment