It was an auspicious day for our May outing, with voting for a new leader high on everyone’s mind. But the assembled group of 29 stayed focussed on a more important matter – birding. Indeed they didn’t mention the E word all day.
First stop, in a foggy six degrees – Banyule Flats Reserve. This was also auspicious, having been featured in The Age recently with Anthea Fleming decrying the likely catastrophic impact of the proposed North East Link road. For now, the reserve is a beautiful, tranquil spot and a top hotspot for bush birds. Let’s hope it long stays this way.
Many started with a short visit to the lake, which was low on water – living up to its formal name of Banyule Swamp. It was correspondingly low on birdlife – flocks of Australian Wood Duck and Silver Gull shared the muddy paddling pool with a solitary Pink-eared Duck and sole Dusky Moorhen. A small number of Red-rumped Parrots, Straw-necked Ibis and Little Corellas jostled for a foothold in the dead trees in the middle.
Others headed initially for the neighbouring Grotty Pond and had more luck, finding a Buff-banded Rail. Both groups glimpsed a couple of egrets coming in to land, but not enough to identify as great/intermediate/cattle/little. We did agree they weren’t Eastern Reef Egret.
Heading south down the west paddock towards the Yarra provided close encounters with some Galah and Currawongs – both Grey and Pied. The bushy riverbank track yielded good number of Silvereye, Brown Thornbill, Spotted Pardalote and White-browed Scrubwren. Several Common Bronzewings and a Mistletoebird were seen.
Back on the main Yarra Trail, a pair of Tawny Frogmouths put on a magnificent display – of dozing (what else do they do?). Some Gang-gang Cockatoos were a little put out by our clicking shutters and headed off for quieter locales.
On reaching the bridge over the Plenty River, the group headed away from the Yarra and over the grassy fields of Viewbank Hill to the north of the reserve. A Collared Sparrowhawk and 20 or so Australian Magpies punctuated the wonderful panoramic vistas across Melbourne.
Back at the carpark, a flock of Long-billed Corellas put on a well-regimented display of mowing the footy oval while staying perfectly inside the square shadow of the floodlight tower. Two Masked Lapwings looked on in awe.
We reconvened ten minutes away at Eltham Lower Park for a picnic lunch in the sun.
For the afternoon, a diminished group headed south over the Yarra into Candlebark Park (presumably the rest were trying to avoid fines for not voting).
Some headed down the boardwalk along the Yarra, while others headed up rugged tracks across the hills, dodging suicidal mountain bikers on the way. The trek was well worth it, bringing the group to a beautiful reeded lake – which, disappointingly, yielded only Eurasian Coot, Dusky Moorhen, Australasian Swamphen and some Pacific Black Duck in addition to an Australasian Grebe. The bush however rewarded the cross-country trekkers with a close-up encounter with a herd of White-winged Choughs and a Grey Butcherbird, posing nicely. A flyover of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos wrapped things up.
With 60 or so species observed, this was a satisfying way to spend a sunny day avoiding an election. Oops, the E word slipped out. Sorry.
Thanks to Peter for previewing the locations, to Peter and Anthea for guiding the groups on the day and to Peter for hosting a great afternoon tea for the survivors.