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Monday, 18 August 2014

Area 5: Weeroona Aboriginal Cemetery / Providence Road Carpark

I will apologise now for the length of this blog,  there is so much to discuss it may become very long. As you drive down Providence Road, I have heard that this is the place to see Jacky Winter (still haven't seen one myself). The farmland to the left or right depending on which way your driving usually has a resident Australian Hobby roosting in the dead gums and on occasion things like Ibis and Masked Lapwing call and can be seen along here.
The trees that line the road are good for White-winged Chough which have recently started to nest along this stretch and can be heard before being seen. Last year the Chough numbers in this area were astonishing with numbers exceeding 30 in a feeding group.
As you pull into the small carpark, I recommend standing here for at least 5 minutes, Australian Wood Duck nest in these trees, Tawny Frogmouths have bred here the past 3 years and are easily seen. All the Lorikeets are usually present, either flybys or feeding actively in the treetops. Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike have a very nice nest they have occupied for 2 years now and it's always interesting to watch the pair share parental duties. 
Golden Whistler, Striated and Spotted Pardalotes and Grey Shrike-thrush are seen regularly in these first 4 or 5 large trees, and in the small gums on your right as you head through the gate you will find birds like Yellow-rumped, Striated and Brown Thornbills, Red-browed Finch, Grey Fantail and Superb Fairywrens. Here is your first chance to also find a pair of Red-capped Robins, to your left is the Aboriginal Cemetery. 
    Weeroona Cemetery

And as you stand about 50 metres from the gate entry the robins flit between the wire fence on your left (occasionally in the first row of trees) in cemetery and on your right the dead wattles with no foliage, standing patiently here for a few minutes should be enough to get great views. Along this section there is also a possibility of getting Scarlet Robin as the male usually hangs out around this spot, so make sure you keep a look out.
About 150 metres from the gate there is the entry point into the Cemetery on your left (this area is restricted). I have spoken to an Aboriginal Elder that I have met a few times now at outings around the park and asked him about access to the cemetery (the last place a Painted Button-quail was seen) and was told I needed to write a letter and forward it to the Aboriginal Leaders for approval. As of yet I haven't done this but I do envision on doing it soon, would be a nice addition to my park list if I could find the Button-quail. 
To the right opposite the cemetery entry point is a small clearing/ corridor that used to have power lines running through which was removed a few years back. For those people who follow paths you will miss out on the best birding now as you need to go off track here. As described in previous posts this area is also part of the dispersive feeding birds so it can be quiet at times and other times hard to know where to look. 
So as you start down this corridor on your left there is a small stand of gum and wattle which is great for Brown-headed Honeyeater, Varied Sittella, Golden Whistler and occasionally Horsfield's and Shining Bronze-cuckoo. About 3 metres further down there is a small circled area of Spikey/ Prickly Moses Wattle which is another great spot for Red-capped and Scarlet Robins. also in this area you can get Crested Shrike-tit as well as all the parks Thornbill species and Weebill. 
This spot is also where I saw the male and female Rose Robin last year in the large gums to your right. this large gum (dead and old) is a great tree for birds to stop off and have seen Mistletoebird here. Make sure you keep a look out for raptors, Brown Goshawk and Collared Sparrowhawk both nest in this section and are regularly seen. Also the Little Eagles (one light and one dark morph) breed in the old Geriatric Hospital area and are seen usually gliding over and this is a great spot as there is no tree cover to obscure your view. I have also had Whistling Kite, Wedge-tailed Eagle and Peregrine Falcon all  seen along this clearing.
Pretty much from this large gum there are two distinct habitat changes to your right the trees are predominately gum with a lower canopy of Silver Wattle and to your left just gum trees with not much smaller cover. Right down the middle is a small plantation of very small Golden Wattle planted along the corridor.
So firstly I will go to the right, along this area things like Golden and Rufous Whistler, Grey Fantail, Scarlet Robin and on occasion Olive Backed Oriole are seen. Silvereye, Yellow and Striated Thornbills are common darting in and out of the wattle and you can always hear the beautiful call of the Weebill. You will notice the small dam on your left and also notice the habitat changes again after the last group of wattles. 
Back to the large gum if you head left this is a great place for Red-capped and occasionally Scarlet Robin. The Red-capped Robin in this area is a juvenile and only now is startling to redden up after 2 years, you usually can find him feeding on the floor so just make sure to keep a look out for movement on the ground. Also last winter I saw at least 20 Flame Robins in this spot feeding on the bugs brought to the surface from a heavy downpour. Flame Robins only visit Woodlands over winter but there beautiful colour is always an everlasting memory. 
In this spot you get Grey Shrike-thrush and Crested Shrike-tit, you will hit the dam about 300 metres from the path and as I have mentioned in previous posts the dams are relatively poor regarding bird diversity. About 80% of the time this dam has not one waterbird on it, however the other 20% of the time weird things have been seen. I have had Australian Wood Duck, Grey Teal, Pink-eared Duck, Nankeen Night Heron, White-faced and White-necked Heron, Little Pied Cormorant, Australasian Grebe and Dusky Moorhen. The Dam area also is good in hot summer days with many Honeyeater species turning up like Yellow-faced, White-naped and New Holland to drink. 
    Geriatric Dam

On the opposite side of the dam to the west is the cyclone fence that is/was the old Geriatric Hospital site, and last year I was able to find ( and chase around for nearly an hour trying to photograph) a lone Rufous Songlark which stayed around for a few weeks. Standing at this cyclone fence looking through you can go north or south, to the north you can get most birds I have already discussed and heading left you get onto the path that runs alongside the back paddock fence. This path if you take it to your right (west) there is some great habitat in the corridor between the Geriatric cyclone fence and the Back Paddock. 
Birds around these trees are White-winged Triller, Shining and Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo, Red-capped, Flame and Scarlet Robin, Dusky  Woodswallow, Spotted and Striated Pardalotes, Weebill, Brown and Striated Thornbills. This is probably one of the best hot spots in the whole park, and without fail always seems to produce the goods. This path goes all the way up the hill and it ends at the junction of the Sugar Gums Plantation/ Back Paddocks north west corner. Birding along this whole section can be very good.
If you turn right at the cyclone fence after hitting the track from the dam it will take you back towards the central (main) northern boundary gate and the path leading from the cemetery carpark. Birds along this path are varied and dependent on the time of year but Red-capped and Flame Robins, Varied Sittella, Rufous Whistler and nesting Striated Pardalotes are there as well as possibly seeing the White-throated Treecreeper. Galahs are regularly seen in the gums as you get to the cemetery track and I have also seen Collared Sparrowhawks here.
If you keep following this path heading east (along back paddock perimetre)  you can get to Gellibrand Hill, do be mindful this section is probably the steepest in the park but isn't overly challenging. Not much bird action is along this path but is a quicker way to get access to Gellibrand Hill ( and when back paddock is locked) the only way to the large dam in the south east corner. 
Not sure who of you reading my blog would be interested but Paul Randall and Myself went looking for owls a few months back and did find at least 3 Southern Boobooks in the gums on Providence Road just near the carpark. These birds are rarely sighted in the park (mainly because no one ventures out after dark) and we also found a very friendly Tawny Frogmouth. 
Birding at this section is by far the best birding on offer at Woodlands and I have no doubt with a little effort, good listening skills and some patience you should get at least 30 to 40 species in this section alone. I somewhat get bemused at Eremaea/Ebird records of only 5 or 10 species seen per visit, with some time and patience you shouldn't have to leave the carpark for that number. I challenge someone now to go to the places I have mentioned in my blogs and not find at least 40 species!

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