Archive for March, 2009

No picnic at Hanging Rock

Hanging Rock area, Victoria

Hanging Rock area, Victoria

After visiting Mt. Macedon, John took us to the picnic area called Hanging Rock. This volcanic outcrop was made famous in the movie Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) directed by Peter Weir and based on the novel by Joan Lindsay. The film tells of the mysterious disappearance of a teacher and three girls while on a picnic at Hanging Rock. The story is told in such a way that you think it is based on fact, but the author never indicated whether any part of it was based on true events.

We decided to take the stroll to the top, but found that near the top it is more strenuous than merely strolling. I forgot to take any provisions with me (which was silly of me, I know) and my sugar levels dropped dramatically and so I didn’t quite make it to the top. That’s the trouble with diabetes (sigh).¬† A lovely ice cream from the cafe at the base helped to correct the problem.

Striated (or Brown?) Thornbill, Hanging Rock, Victoria

Striated Thornbill, Hanging Rock, Victoria

Because I had never been to this spot before I was more interested in taking photos of the rock formation – which were spectacular – rather than take photos of birds. I did manage to get the poor photo above of a Striated Thornbill. I also saw some Brown Thornbills.

There were a few trees flowering so the honeyeaters were out in force, including Red Wattlebirds, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, and White-eared Honeyeaters. This was the only time I recorded the White-eared HE on the trip.

There was another Flame Robin to enjoy, as well as a Grey Shrike-thrush and many Superb Fairy-wrens. I also heard a treecreeper but didn’t get to see it.

And no – we didn’t find Miranda.

Hanging Rock, Victoria

Hanging Rock, Victoria

Swamp Wallaby, Hanging Rock, Victoria

Swamp Wallaby, Hanging Rock, Victoria

Flame Robin, Mt. Macedon, Victoria

Female Flame Robin, Mt. Macedon, Victoria

Female Flame Robin, Mt. Macedon, Victoria

While staying with friends in Gisborne in January, John took us on a tour of the district. One of the first stops was Mt. Macedon, a short distance north east of the town. We’d been there several times before, but I always enjoy this lovely spot. On previous occasions I had been disappointed with the lack of birds and this time was not much better. In fact I only recorded¬† five different species, including Australian Magpie, Striated Thornbill, Grey Shrike-thrush and White-throated Treecreeper. Not an inspiring list for twenty minutes of birding.

While walking back to the car from the War Memorial Cross of Remembrance at the lookout I saw a dull brown bird that looked like a female Flame Robin. I managed the photo above which shows her in a very nice pose. A few minutes later I was delighted to find the male in all of his colourful glory. I had to be patient to get him to pose nicely. He was flitting around all over the place looking for a tasty meal. I was very pleased with one of the shots I managed.

Male Flame Robin, Mt. Macedon, Victoria

Male Flame Robin, Mt. Macedon, Victoria

Flame Robins are widespread throughout south eastern Australia. They are found in eastern New South Wales, throughout Victoria and Tasmania in suitable habitat and in southern South Australia. Their preferred habitat includes woodlands, open forests, farmland, grasslands, scrubs, orchards, parks and gardens. They breed from August through to January and lay 3-4 eggs. The nest is a rough cup of bark, grass, webs, and moss and can be lined with animal hair or fur. It can be made in a tree cavity or tree fork or even in sheds.

Reference:

Pizzey, G, and Knight, F, 1997: The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Sydney, Angus and Robertson.

A visit to Bendigo, Victoria

Long-billed Corella, Bendigo Botanic Gardens Zoo

Long-billed Corella, Bendigo Botanic Gardens Zoo

While staying with our friends in Gisborne north of Melbourne last January we went for a drive to Castlemaine and then on to Bendigo. The main purpose of the trip was not to do any birding but rather as a social outing. The ladies in our group wanted to see an exhibition in the gallery so my friend and I spent the time shopping. We didn’t buy anything, which can be the best kind of shopping.

Before leaving I asked my friend to drive to the Bendigo Botanic Gardens. I wanted to check out the small zoo there and to get a few photos. I’m sorry I did. This very small zoo can hardly be called a zoo. Two rather disgusting aviaries with only a handful of birds and a small enclosure with three wallabies does not exactly inspire one to visit. The gardens are also in a very poor state. I guess the local authorities have the excuse of the continuing drought and severe water restrictions.¬† I didn’t even bother making a list of birds living in the natural environment there as I was so upset. Visits here in the past have been so enjoyable in this beautiful city, but this time I felt very let down.

Birding around Gisborne, Victoria

Crimson Rosella, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra

Crimson Rosella, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra

On our holiday earlier this year we stayed for several days with friends in Gisborne, north of Melbourne. I didn’t deliberately go our birding while there but we did go for several drives in the district and I’ll write about those in coming days.

Instead, I took note of those species I saw or heard around the garden and on a walk we did one evening. I was quite surprised by the numbers of Common Mynas now present in Gisborne. I can’t recall ever seeing so many on previous visits. On one occasion there must have been at least 30 sitting on a neighbour’s roof and fence. That is too many!

The town still has large numbers of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Long Billed Corellas. Several times I heard a small flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos flying over. Crimson Rosellas (photo) are also quite common in the area, but I can’t recall seeing or hearing any lorikeets or Galahs on this visit. They must have been around, but I didn’t record any this time.

The common garden birds, apart from the mynas, included House Sparrows, Common Blackbirds, Australian Magpies, Red Wattlebirds and New Holland Honeyeaters. Interestingly, the Mynas seem to have replaced the Common Starling.

I also saw a small flock of thornbills moving through the garden. None would give me a good enough look to positively ID them. They might have been Little Thornbills, but I can’t be sure.

Travelling from Orbost to Gisborne in Victoria

During our holiday in January earlier this year, one of our longest days of travelling was to go from Mallacoota in the far south east of Victoria all the way to Gisborne north of Melbourne. We were on the road all day with just short breaks for morning tea and lunch. There was little time for birding except for those short stops.

After morning tea at Orbost we headed on west towards Melbourne, travelling through picturesque Lakes Entrance and Bairnsdale. I didn’t bother keeping a list of birds seen along the road; there weren’t all that many to see because by mid morning it was getting rather warm. I was hoping to reach Sale for lunch, but we made only as far as Stratford on the River Avon (no -not THAT one – this one’s in Australia). This is Ben Cruachan country but for the second time in little over twelve months, we didn’t have time to call in on Duncan. Pity about that. (Keep the billy boiling, Duncan.)

At Stratford we found a suitable, albeit rather warm, picnic area for lunch. I managed a short list of birds during our short stay, including Common Starling, Willie Wagtail, House Sparrow, Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, Spotted Turtledove and Rainbow Lorikeet. Nothing to get terribly excited about.

Probably the most common birds around were the Common Mynas which seemed to be everywhere. Pity about that.

Common Myna

Common Myna

This whole area is yet another place I’d like to explore further over a week or two, and not just drive through. It wasn’t long before we were scooting along quickly on the freeway heading into Melbourne, then on the City Link and on towards our friend’s place in Gisborne. In all the times we’d travelled this route in recent years, this was the quickest and most trouble free. We actually arrived in Gisborne a little ahead of schedule.

It was a wearying day with long hours in the car and little opportunity for birding. Some days are like that.