By Peter Bennet
Quite chilly in the Weeroona carpark, which we filled up so much that some of us had to park outside the gate. Drifting PA announcements from the gymkhana across the road. Closer to hand, fleets of thornbills doing their shivering-leaf impersonations in the treetops, aided and abetted by pardalotes. Such a big group that we split up into several smaller ones to explore the Weeroona block, many of us with robins on our minds.
It’s not a large area, perhaps a 500m square, nicely wooded with box and gum, thick Acacia patches in parts and parklike greensward in others. The trick is to listen for birdcalls and find where the flocks are as they move around the area; grey fantails often a giveaway. Before too long there were happy robin-spotters everywhere: good sightings of flame, scarlet and red-capped. Also various honeyeaters, notably brown-headed and a single spiny-cheeked, a range of thornbills, sittellas, shrike-tits.
Horsfield’s bronze and fan-tailed cuckoo, one of the latter making a considerable performance of downing a large and very hairy caterpillar. A pair of wedge-tailed eagles circled overhead and a brown goshawk spotted. Various parrots including little lorikeet.
By 11.30-ish the sun was beginning to break through and the temperature at last to rise; we headed to the Somerton Rd picnic area for lunch. Very pleasantly laid out but hardly any birds so off for the afternoon to the sugargum plantation, accessed where the pony trail crosses Providence Road. Even though it was still cool it seemed most birds were taking a siesta – very little activity, especially from the purple-crowned lorikeets we had been all but guaranteed.
A large flock of straw-necked ibis heading south overhead, competing with the constant flow of jets to and from Tullamarine; a breakaway group watched honeyeaters bathing in a roadside puddle until the main crowd arrived to scare them off. More robins – eastern yellow and, in a highly suspenseful appearance, a pink robin photographed by Merrilyn but not identified until the next day.
And finally, right beside the cars, a pair of frogmouths to see us off (not that they displayed a lot of emotion). By this time the sun was quite warm and you could see the caffeine deprivation kicking in so we headed for home. A total of 51 species was quite reasonable for late autumn.
Special thanks to Philip Peel for leading the morning and for his detailed knowledge of the area.