By Phil Marley
Spring was in the air for our Sept outing and the birds were hopping. Birdsong was everywhere and aerial tag-and-chase routines were in full swing. And, once more, the weather-gods smiled – heavy rain of the previous 24 hours moved away in the early morning leaving a totally dry day with mostly blue skies and sun.
The Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve was a little gem. A 113 ha site established in 2002, its mix of fairly open bush, with many 200+ year-old gums with lots of hollows, and a light and varied understorey provided great habitat for many species – almost 50 were recorded.
The day started at Ramsey’s Lane where a well-defined 3.5km circular walking track provided a semblance of direction. But many headed off-track into the light bush to pursue shots. We then moved 800m to the adjoining Pickpocket Diggings Historic and Cultural Features Reserve on Zumpes Rd – a 6.4 ha site also established in 2002.
A strong breeze made spotting birds in the treetops a little hard but some lulls in the wind helped. Honeyeaters topped the list – Yellow-tufted, White-plumed, White-naped, Fuscous, Yellow-plumed, Yellow-faced, Red Wattlebird and more. They also gave the first challenge of the day – differentiating the Fuscous from the Yellow-plumed. More ID challenges were to follow, with lots of Buff-rumped Thornbills positively identified only after helpful discussions to distinguish it from the Yellow Thornbill. The bush provided many good sightings of Brown Treecreepers, Spotted Pardalotes were seen and heard everywhere and Eastern Yellow and Red-capped Robins and Jacky Winters were also spotted.
Zumpes Rd provided Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes, more Honeyeaters and another two ID challenges. Was it a Square-tailed or Black Kite circling low over the treetops? Little Eagle was ruled out since the head shape was wrong, but the square tail could have been either. Side shots showed a white face (STK), but some reported seeing a forked tail (BK) and others that there was a second buzzing the first. Later sightings suggested a Little Eagle was also in the area, but strong bandings on the primaries raised doubts. We’ll see what the photographic evidence shows (of course, a photo never lies – it just may not tell the whole truth…).
A local bird group arriving at Ramsey’s Lane as we left helpfully indicated that Zumpes Rd had a resident Owlet Nightjar, but forgot to tell us in which of the 100,000 trees it was located. One tree hollow offered up promising movement, but it was furry not feathered. This ID challenge turned out to be a yellow-footed antechinus (thanks Kathy for nailing the ID) – a first for our outings but not one for the bird-list.
Lunch was taken in the Newstead Park, which was humming with others enjoying the offerings from the CFA pastie and cake stand. Weebills darted in the trees directly overhead and a walk along the stream delivered some Red-browed Finches and more Thornbills and around 25 other species. Sadly the post-lunch visit to the Newstead cemetery did not replicate the recent sighting of a Rainbow Bee-eater and the Powerful Owl next to the Loddon River had gone elsewhere for its daily snooze.
The Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve was a great site and many look forward to returning when the management reduce the wind. A special thanks to Peter for our Sept outing, with John escaping to the UK in search of warmer climes.