By Phil Marley
Well, this was an outing for the true believers. Six hardy souls ignored the dire forecast of rain, more rain and 45 km/hr winds and turned up for our Sept outing to Eynesbury. And they were rewarded with a true gem of a location and brilliant birding conditions.
Just south of Melton and 45 mins west of the city, the 288 hectare Eynesbury Forest is one of Victoria’s largest remaining stands of grey box and the largest one south of the Dividing Range. It is a reminder of the grey box woodlands that once covered much of this region.
From the Eynesbury Golf Club car park, the group first visited the lake – which was well populated with Freckled Ducks, Chestnut and Grey Teal, Coots and a couple of Hardheads. Overhead, Welcome Swallows and Tree Martins were busy keeping the air clear of flying insects.
Moving further north into the forest still west of the main road, we first encountered European Goldfinch, Brown Treecreepers, a pair of Australian Ringnecks and a solitary Diamond Firetail foraging on the track. Further on, we were surrounded by a raucous flock of Eastern Rosella arguing over something important and buzzed from above by a Black Kite and a Little Eagle.
Something spooky was going on in the forest. Whatever it was, the ducks knew about it since they were all sitting in trees – Australian Wood Duck, Chestnut Teal, Pacific Black Ducks and an Australian Shelduck were all perched aloft watching our passage. Maybe they had heard the forecast and were well prepared for the floods to follow the promised deluge.
The forest also offered up many Red-rumped Parrots, a Crested Shrike-tit and a flock of Straw-necked Ibis flying over. Large numbers of Tree Martins flew everywhere, with some coming down to puddles or to grassy areas to collect mud and stuff for their nesting hollows.
After two and half hours, we had covered just over half of the west forest, but some threatening clouds encouraged a return to the old Eynesbury Homestead Café at the golf club for lunch and a well-earned barista coffee indoors – luxury! And the break encouraged the weather to back off and the sun to come out – and the sun then stayed with us for the rest of the day.
After lunch, we visited the east side of the forest. The warmth from the sun had set up some nice thermals and we were treated to an aerial raptor display – Black Kites, a Whistling Kite, a Little Eagle and a Wedge-tailed Eagle all overhead all at the same time. Spectacular.
We then moved on the nearby Toolern Creek Park, to the bit where the creek path meets Strathtulloh Circuit. This was a dramatically different setting, with rocky cliffs overlooking a gorge. The weather also turned windy, but the sunshine prevailed.
We first headed south, descending to the grasslands next to the creek. Overhead a Brown Falcon flew over and a pair of Wedge-tailed eagles were given a run for their money by a very persistent Magpie. The light bushland next to the creek housed Weebills, Grey Fantails, Silvereyes, Goldfinches and – perhaps the find of the day – a Rufous Songlark in amongst the foliage.
Back along the cliff edge overlooking the creek,heading north, we found European Greenfinch, Black-faced Cuckooshrike and lots of Dusky Woodswallows. A Nankeen Kestrel graced us with a fly-over.
In all over 55 species seen, a rewarding day for the six brave souls who ventured out – our numbers depleted perhaps by the BirdLife Photography Biennial Convention over in Perth or school holidays (surely not fear of the weather). Thanks to John for leading the outing on the day, with Peter not able to join us at short notice, and to the Eynesbury Homestead Café for their warm hospitality – greatly appreciated.