A couple of days around Melbourne

October 5, 2011 — October 6, 2011

We were set a challenge by friends from the US, to find a few birds and mammals of note. Only two of us were actually birdwatchers. For the rest, there was a rule that all 'birds' of note had to be at least 10" long or in fact ... hairy. As it turned out, the 10" rule changed as the day progressed, particularly when it involved parrots. It's only when accompanied by visitors from overseas you suddenly realise how incredible it is to see Australia's parrots and cockatoos going about their business on garden fences and nature strips.   

 A couple of days around Melbourne  Koala at Somers

At Somers there were no Koalas in the trees next to the yacht club so we circumnavigated the 'koala walk' to no avail. It was only after we'd turned to leave that we suddenly spotted one ... a huge animal, wide awake, sitting in a rough-barked manna gum. With plenty of photos taken, we headed to Balnarring to pick up some meat pies and then back to Coolart Wetlands for a spot of lunch.

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 Spotlighting in Bunyip

Almost immediately, a troop of Yellow-bellied Gliders started chattering away. They too were near the tops of trees and apart from the occasional giveaway crash, as these flying marsupials leapt between trees, they were really awkward to find. A Sambar Deer barked at us from nearby, echoing across the whole valley as we searched the tree tops and eventually caught sight of tell-tale eye-shine and a long fluffy body snaking along branches. The glider climbed a little then jumped. It was fully illuminated in the spotlight as it passed overhead and this time came to an uncharacteristically silent landing. A koala chewed on eucalypt leaves, lifting its head occasionally, daunted by the unfamiliar calls of the Sambar Deer. 

We headed out up the Link Track but it was silent in the forest. The moon was shining very brightly and you wonder whether the animals are nervous of being spotted by owls, let alone by us. The only other mammals were a single Brush-tailed Possum and Swamp Wallaby that happened across the road in front of us on the way out. Where Link Road joins Tonimbuk Road we stopped again briefly where a casual scan by spotlight revealed a Southern Boobook owl sitting nearby. His calls set off another group of Yellow-bellied Gliders calling.

All in all a very successful night spotlighting at a great location and perfect weather.      

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 Western Treatment Plant

The T-section lagoons are in great condition. The highlight had to be about 300 Curlew Sandpipers, a few of which still had some vestiges of summer plumage - just before we left, the whole lot flew up, as an Australian Hobby dashed through low and with full force. There were hundreds of Red-necked Stints and a few Greenshank around, as well as both spoonbills (Yellow-billed and Royal). On the spit, we could see Red Knot, including one almost summer-plumaged 'red' bird. Fairy Terns were feeding in the bay, there was a family of Black-shouldered Kites on fence posts and a few Australian Spotted Crakes openly feeding in the saltmarsh.

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 Mt Rothwell Sanctuary

We topped the trip off with a visit to Mt Rothwell. They run monthly walks looking at the native animals that run wild in a 1200 acre predator-proofed area. The Eastern Barred Bandicoots are particularly interesting, as they are original mainland animals.

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Mammals 10 species
Southern Brown Bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus) 20
Rufous Bettong (Aepyprymnus rufescens) 15
Eastern Barred Bandicoot (Perameles gunnii) 12
Yellow-bellied Glider (Petaurus australis) 6 One seen well
Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby (Petrogale penicillata) 4
Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) 3
Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) 3
Common Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) 2
Long-nosed Potoroo (Potorous tridactylus) 2
Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolor) 1
Land Birds 23 species
Red-necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis) 800
Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) 300
Australasian Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae) 12
Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia) 7
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 5
Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris) 4 including 2 juvs
Hoary-headed Grebe (Poliocephalus poliocephalus) 4
Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx basalis) 3
Eastern Barn Owl (Tyto delicatula) 3
Australian Crake (Porzana fluminea) 2
Striated Fieldwren (Calamanthus fuliginosus) 2
Yellow-billed Spoonbill (Platalea flavipes) 1
Fan-tailed Cuckoo (Cacomantis flabelliformis) 1
Red-browed Treecreeper (Climacteris erythrops) 1
White-browed Scrubwren (Sericornis frontalis) 1
Australian Hobby (Falco longipennis) 1
Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa) 1
Southern Boobook (Ninox boobook) 1
Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) 1
Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) 1
Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla) 1
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) 1
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata) 1
Seabirds 2 species
Fairy Tern (Sternula nereis) 10
Pacific Gull (Larus pacificus) 1



Written by

Simon Mustoe

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