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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Where it all Began

Woodlands Historic Park!!! Where to begin, I have been visiting this park for many years now and this is possibly the inspiration behind my birding obsession. As a young teenager I still remember clearly walking into the back paddock in 1996 aged 16.
The area has changed a fair bit over the years but back then I can remember walking into the back paddock from the homestead and stumbling across a grove/plantation of Prickly Moses Wattle and Boxthorn ( latter being removed as I am aware). The birds this day were very active with lots of chatter and I was standing listening to them when I heard a call that I had not heard before.
Back is 1996 Australian Geographic sold a bird squeaker that was made of a piece or red wood with a metal/copper insert, you could twist it around to a make squeaking tweet ( it always worked better with a bit of saliva).
As I twisted the squeaker I was instantly aware of a male Red capped Robin, it jumped out onto a Boxthorn branch and started calling and looking at me, I couldn't believe my eyes as I had checked the parks bird list a hundred times over and knew this species wasn't on it.
Excited I was, packed up my gear and headed off to the Park Rangers headquarters to tell them the great news, but as I spoke to the rangers on duty they believed I was wrong using things like "it's not within range and the wrong sort of habitat" "you must have confused it with a Flame or Scarlet Robin  which are relatively common here".
Those comments to me was like a red flag to a bull, the next day I returned to the same spot, this time with camera in hand and my father along for a second pair of eyes. Instantly we found the male in the same tree as yesterday and with a little coaxing out was able to get off about 15 shots ( yes they were still on film back then).
That afternoon I had the film developed at Kmart and made sure to get an extra large A4 sized photo for the rangers. I returned to the rangers headquarters the following weekend with my photo in an envelope. Smugly (I was a teenager!) I handed them the photo and they were completely amazed that my sighting was legitimate and they asked to keep my photo to put up in there office. I walked out of there with my chest out pretty pleased with myself!
At this time I was a member on BOCA which was Bird Observer Club of Australia and they had an unusual sighting phone number to call if you had found anything rare or unusual
 (like Birdline nowadays). I remember that month getting the monthly magazine and seeing my name printed in the pages was a huge highlight.
That was the start of my fascination with birds, keeping records of sightings and continuing to have a love for Woodlands Historic Park with a running total of 116 species to date.
To this day Woodlands is by far the most tranquil, invigorating and greatest birding spot I have come across so close to the centre of CBD Melbourne. I for one recommend any birder from beginner to the most experienced to get out there and have a look around, I promise you you won't be disappointed!

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