We began early with a trip up Coombs Rd spur, leading from Yan Yean Reservoir up the Great Dividing Range. As promised there was a lyrebird performing just off the track when we parked, but only glimpses obtained. Off in the gullies could be heard one or two more. Wandering up the old eroded track we heard, more than saw, a number of bush birds – yellow-faced honeyeater, white-throated treecreeper, yellow robin, fan-tailed cuckoo, amongst others – while overhead circled a watchful pair of black-faced cuckoo-shrikes. In between the lyrebirds’ showy synopsis of local bird calls many of the genuine article could also be heard. If you have the patience and agility to explore the gullies there are numerous display mounds here.
As usual, not enough time as we rushed off to the main meeting point – Yellowgum Reserve, part of Plenty Gorge Park. There’s a good walking circuit here with great vantage points for viewing birds on the river and in the treetops. Unfortunately the organiser of the day forgot to inform the birds of this so it was rather quiet, ornithologically speaking. Highlights included brown falcon, darter, white-winged choughs and a pair of long-billed corellas strategically placed beside the road on the way out. There was a platypus spotted in the river as well, not a common record for the Plenty, and an echidna so at least the monotreme list was well-ticked (100% of possible species!).
With Yellowgum not providing much in the photographic line we stopped at Laurimar Lakes (otherwise North Doreen) on the grounds of a freckled duck report from the day before – the single bird was still there, along with a pair of pelicans which restored our faith in birds with photogenic sense. Considering the proximity of traffic, shops, cafes (did someone say café?) there was a reasonable range of species present.
Then back to schedule with lunch at Yan Yean Reservoir. By now group numbers had built up to the day’s maximum of 22 as we feasted on the lake views and rafts of waterbirds. (I’ll clarify that, we feasted our stomachs on lunch and our eyes on the other things.) The exotic conifer near the old homestead held its usual quota of nankeen night-herons, we think 9 of them although hard to count precisely. A range of duck species on the lake, all 3 grebes, whistling kite and white-bellied sea-eagle, and many others.
The highlight photographically was the small swamp below the dam wall. Here we formed firing lines on either side to catch reedwarblers and little grassbirds as they flitted amongst the reeds; excellent operatic displays from a male reed warbler, and cameo appearances from buff-breasted rail and spotless crake. Another feature was Baillon’s crake; by sitting patiently most of the group managed to get reasonable sightings and perhaps even a few shots. A Horsfield’s bronze cuckoo demonstrated both call and visible diagnostic features from the top of a tree. Last word went to an Australian raven giving its distinctive drawn-out wail just above the picnic shelter as we finished the bird call.
With cool but sunny weather and the variety of sites it was a very good day overall, with 76 species all up.