By Phil Marley
What a difference a day makes. With the Friday beset with showers and the Sunday with rainy squalls, the weather gods were kind to us on the Saturday – sunny, 16 degrees and no wind. Luxury.
But Woodlands Historic Park presented a non-weather challenge for our group – where to go?
At 704 hectares, it is just so big – five time the size of Jells Park or Royal Park. It covers vast tracts of remnant native woodland, open grassland and wetlands along the Moonee Ponds Creek. It includes a fenced area, the Back Paddock, where rabbit, fox and feral cat populations are being controlled to protect the endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoots.
It also includes the historic Woodlands Homestead – an early prefabricated building from the 1840s – and a sugar gum plantation planted around 1940 to supply firewood to the former Greenvale Tuberculosis Sanatorium (now demolished).
So, with habitats for all sorts of birds, where to go?
We started at the Providence Road carpark and headed west towards the lake. The open forest offered bush birds including Brown Thornbills, Brown-headed Honeyeaters, Spotted Pardalotes and Weebills. For some reason, the Australian Wood and Pacific Black Ducks preferred the lake.
We then headed across grasslands of the site of the former Sanatorium buildings. The open spaces provided good hunting grounds for raptors, with Whistling Kites, Little Eagles, Collared Sparrowhawks and Brown Goshawks seen overhead. Flocks of Rainbow Lorikeets chirped away in the flowering gums while Sulphur-crested Cockatoos sat in trees eating pine cones.
Continuing west past the water towers, we followed the edge of the gum plantation north. Word had got out that a bunch of people were in the area and flocks of birds came to see us – half a dozen Crimson Rosellas tagged us in the trees, three Brown Goshawks eyed us from overhead, a large family of Tawny Frogmouths watched from a single branch and dozens of Honeyeaters – White-naped, White-plumed and Yellow-faced – flitted around supervising our progress.
Most of our group then returned to their cars to head for lunch at the Somerton Road carpark – others detoured through the Back Paddock, spotting Flame Robins, Red-rumped Parrots and Black-faced Cuckooshrikes.
Over sandwiches and caffeine, we were buzzed by half a dozen White-winged Choughs and many dozens of Tree Martins – obviously jealous.
In the afternoon the party split. Some headed off to explore Moonee Ponds Creek close to Oaklands Rd, adding Red-browed Finches, a Wedge-tailed Eagle and a diving Collared Sparrowhawk to their lists. Others followed the creek around the picnic area for close encounters with Spotted Pardalotes, Tree Martins and Silvereyes. Others returned to the Back Paddock and saw very few birds – but many, many rabbits. Still work to be done in controlling the rabbits.
All in all, a great outing in perfect conditions – we certainly reached our step targets for the day, with most covering 10km. The 54 species sighted was a good haul for a location badly affected by drought over many years. Thanks once again to Peter and John for marshalling our meanderings.
[The following site may be of interest: http://whp.altervista.org/index.php ]