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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Area 1: Homestead section

The car park at the Homestead opens from 8.30am to 4.30pm. It is a locked gate so do make sure you have left before they close. As you drive in always check the horse paddocks for herons, egrets and ibises as well as the occasional duck species ( Australian Wood and Pacific Black). Birds of prey seen along this stretch of road are Black-shouldered Kite and the resident breeding pair of Brown Falcons.
There is a little ford that crosses Moonee Ponds Creek as you drive down and along here is usually good to find a few nice bush birds. You can park at the little house and windmill on the right hand side, I however drive up to the main homestead carpark and start from here.
2 things you have to be mindful of  firstly the park is large (820ha) so you cannot do all areas in one day so I usually try and target 2 or 3 key areas per visit. So make sure you choose your target species wisely otherwise it can be a tedious day trying to squeeze too much in.
Secondly as there is limited paths in the homestead area ( no tracks along Moonee Ponds Creek) be very careful of brown snakes as I have had some very close encounters with them along this stretch.
Once you park at the homestead, check out the gardens and surrounding open grassed areas for Superb Fairywren, White-browed Scrubwren ( I have been lazy and still need this for my park list), parrot species like Eastern And Crimson Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot as well as Sulphur Crested Cockatoo and Galah. The usual garden birds seen are Eastern Spinebill, White-plumed Honeyeater, Australian Magpie, Magpie-lark, Willie Wagtail and Little Raven which are pretty common.
After about 10 minutes I walk back down the road to the windmill and start the walk along the riverbank towards the airport. Along this stretch birds likely are Dusky Woodswallow in the dead or dying gums on the riverbank, Red Wattlebirds, as well as Spotted and Striated Pardalotes.
Occasionally you will flush Australasian Pipit in the grass as well as Brown Songlarks.
As you follow the river around you will walk under the Brown Falcon nest which has been occupied for many years now, and at the right time of year you can watch them call and aerial combat with each other.
Red- browed Finch and Eurpoean Goldfinch are usually flocking around the small shrubs close to the riverbank and when there is water in Moonee Ponds Creek some water birds can be found. As you move along the creek you will certainly encounter Yellow-rumped Thornbills feeding on the ground, and as you near the wildlife fence ( back paddock) you will get back on the lilydale topping crushed rock path.
From this path follow it towards the Airport, along this grassy patch it has some nice ( not really nice)  artichoke thistle that is very enticing for Golden-headed Cisticola and is probably one of the only places in the park you can get it. You will come to the south east corner of the wildlife fence, there is a small corridor between this fence and the fence of the disused quarries, I tend to stick to the quarry fence side and walk along the perimeter to a viewing platform into the quarry. Water birds are usually visible from here, Hardhead, Chestnut and Grey Teal, Black Swan, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorant and have occasionally have had White-necked Herons in the swampy grasslands around the quarry.
Always make sure you keep looking skywards as the resident raptors enjoy the thermals and you regularly can see Wedge-tailed and Little Eagles and Whistling Kites circling above. Once I have checked the quarries I get back on the path and head towards the south west corner and walk along the path. Along the fence line things like White-winged Triller (spring/summer) Golden and Rufous Whistler also Fairy and Tree Martin and Welcome Swallows enjoy the open areas and you can watch the Tree Martins landing on the path in Spring collecting mud for their nest in the River Red Gums along here.
I do enjoy standing still here for a few minutes watching the Martins going about their business, their aerial expertise is truly mind blowing. The whole section I have covered in this blog is covered in River Red Gums and when these are in flower I have seen Rainbow, Little, Musk and Purple- Crowned Lorikeets feeding on the Blossoms of these monster trees

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