On Sunday, the clouds opened. It rained and rained. And then rained some more. Vertically, horizontally, sideways, it pelted down. Boy was it wet.
Luckily for us, our outing was on the Saturday.
We assembled at the west end of Toynes Rd at the eastern edge of the You Yangs. A pair of Scarlet Robins obviously got Peter’s email too. Joining us at the car park, they posed this way and that to provide an excellent start to the day’s photography.
The You Yangs lived up to their reputation as one of the top birding sites in Victoria. As we ambled into the park along Branding Yard Road, our second sighting was a close-up Wedge-tailed Eagle. Circling low down and skimming the tree tops, it eyed our group as an option for breakfast. Click, click, click. Fantastic! So special to see this bird low down and with plenty of time to get a range of shots.
Our hendectet (group of 11) did a gentle one-hour circuit through the bush under sunny but cool and slightly windy conditions. Cutting southwards to Great Circle Drive and then back to the east boundary fence, the level walk offered up a good mix of bush birds – White-plumed, New Holland and White-naped Honeyeaters, Rainbow Lorikeets and a rainbow mixture of Thornbills, Weebills, a Grey Shrikethrush and Varied Sittella, and another close encounter with a male and female Scarlet Robin.
Fortified by good photos, the group motored round to the main park entrance and spent the next 90 mins or so circumnavigating the Visitor Centre – carefully avoiding the mountain bike event on some of the larger tracks. The new territory provided many new birds. Golden Whistler, a couple of well-disguised Tawny Frogmouths, White-throated Treecreeper, Yellow Thornbill and a Common Bronzewing, as well as a flock of Red-browed Finch and more than one type of Rosella, were all accounted for. Not to be outdone, a Yellow-billed Spoonbill flew over at altitude, attracting lots of bins.
Time for lunch! We cruised ten minutes down the road to Serendip Sanctuary to become the only group picnicking in the BBQ area – obviously too cool for less hardy folk. In the early 1900s, Serendip was used for farming and as a sheep stud, then as a health resort. The 250 hectare site was purchased by the State Government in 1959 and developed through the 60s and 70s by the Fisheries and Wildlife Division as a wildlife research station and captive breeding site. It was developed into an education centre in 1987 and opened to the public in 1991.
For us, it was raptor rapture. Australian Hobby, Whistling Kite, Brown Goshawk and a pair of duelling Little Eagles provided outstanding aerial entertainment and plenty of sore necks. The aviary offered opportunities for close-up portraits of captive Musk Duck, Buff-banded Rail and Blue-faced Honeyeater, while Eurasian Tree Sparrow and Red-browed Finch flew freely in and out of the fenced areas, posing for photos at close quarters.
Lake Serendip (the south lake) was low on water but the residual puddle had attracted a big flock of Masked Lapwings, Cape Barren Geese and some Black-fronted Dotterel. The lake’s North Arm had plenty of water and a large fleet of Australasian Shoveler, with similar numbers of Chestnut Teal and Eurasian Coot and plenty of Pink-eared Ducks and Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes, and the odd Hardhead. Rarer sighting included Spiny-cheeked and Black-chinned Honeyeaters and perhaps a hundred Magpie Geese.
The management are to be congratulated on their foresight in arranging the outing a day ahead of the great deluge and for coordinating 69 bird species to join us. What a great day! Had it been the Sunday, this would have been a rather different story.