Monday, January 7, 2013

Suburban Birding

Last Sunday was warm and sunny but we only had a few hours to spare so instead of a major outing we decided to bird some suburban parks along the Yarra River. We started at Chelsworth Park which has some nice billabongs and borders the Yarra River. There is a small wetland that sometimes has crakes and rails as well as the more common bush birds. The interesting thing we found here were a lot of button-quail platelets along the track beside the golf course. I have never seen button quail here so I will need to go back for a better look, early before the dog-walkers and joggers are out. In fact I was amazed how much lycra got around in the suburban parks. Joy tells me they are actually called a newly recognised species called MAMILS (Middle-Aged Men in Lycra) and they are often seen riding bicycles.
The treed area bottom left is known as Wilson Reserve
Next stop was Banyule and this is known as one of the best spots for suburban birding in Melbourne. We parked in Banyule Rd near the bus stop and walked in. First stop is a really small, disgusting mud puddle tucked in the reeds in the north-west corner of the park. Don't walk past when you see the plastic bottles, bits of litter and the occasional chewed dog ball. For some reason the skulkers love this puddle. A few years back there was a Painted Snipe in it and yesterday we found two Buff-banded Rail, a Spotted Crake and a Spotless Crake as well as a few teal and swamphens.

If you follow the track along the edge of the playing fields, taking care to step sideways at the approach of low-flying MAMILS, there is a spot to look down on the billabong. We found a Latham's Snipe here as well as the normal ducks, teal etc.
All this Echidna wanted to do was hide
The path then goes on down to the Yarra, turns north and eventually loops back to the playing fields. And this was where our day really got interesting. Joy found a Tawny Frogmouth and as walked we mused about what else might turn up. Having seen the frogmouth and the crakes and rails we were not to hopeful but, just down the track beside the river I found the most beautiful Powerful Owl I have ever seen. My heart melted and I had a smile from then to bed-time. Its plumage was bright and clean and clenched in its feet was a very plump Ring-tailed Possum. That is what birding is all about.
Leaves over the face, but here is our first Tawny Frogmouth for 2013

Twigs on the face this time, but it is a Powerful Owl so I wont complain

A close up of the face and its grey mask. 
With the tennis on and cricket being played and bicycle races happening across Victoria and international sailing races going on in Port Philip Bay it seems sport is "the thing" this year. Spurred on by the 2012 efforts of John Weigel it seems that this might be the year to challenge "personal bests". Not that birding is competitive or anything, but back in 2010 our personal best for birds seen in a calendar year in Victoria was 303. This year, seeing it has started so well with 120 species so far, we are going to see if we can improve on that personal best, 304 or 305 will be enough, especially as I have a couple of out of state trips planned.

All photos © Jenny Spry

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