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Friday, 5 September 2014

Woodlands Homestead area, 05/09/2014

So my father and I had a few hours this morning spare so decided to go for a drive out to the homestead area (decided to find the elusive Scrubwren). As we drove in the homestead gate the first birds seen were Australian Wood Ducks in the horse paddocks on the left, a few Little Ravens and about the same number of Australian Magpies. On pulling into the carpark there were many Tree Martins landing around a small puddle just off the road giving great close views (photos to come when pc back up and running). 
Birds heard calling from the carpark were a many but Red-rumped Parrot, Eastern Rosella and Magpie-lark were the most dominant. We walked from the car and up past the toilet block, I sort of had an idea where to look for the Scrubwren as I know they like thick cover so decided to target the hedge that surrounds the homestead. As we got closer to the hedge a huge flock of Red-browed Finches at least consisting of 30 birds flushed from the recently cut grass. There was also a few pairs of Superb Fairywrens skipping across the grass and hiding in the small shrubs just in front of the hedge. 
As we got to the hedge I used the morecombe app to try my luck with the White-browed Scrubwren call and within 5 seconds of the first call finishing a beautiful little Scrubwren popped up onto the hedge and looked quizzically at me. After a few photos we left him to go about his business and heading off down to the path. 
    White-browed Scrubwren

My next spot was to check out the large quarry in the south west corner of the back paddock and the quarry fence, so as we headed down the path from the homestead there was a bit of bird activity with Yellow-rumped Thornbills on the ground and Tree Martins flying overhead. As we got about 300 metres down the path I heard the call of a Pallid Cuckoo, we followed the call and found it on top of a dead gum which gave great views and some nice pictures. Pallid Cuckoos were extremely common in 2012 with many sightings around the park, but last year there was only 1 occasion a Pallid Cuckoo was seen, so I was very excited about an early arrival of the spring migrants.
    Pallid Cuckoo

In another dead gum about 50 metres away there was a cute pair of Brown Falcons sitting together, as I tried for distant photos I could hear the Spotted and Striated Pardalotes calling loudly. 
As we got to the y junction we headed off towards Moonee Ponds Creek and cut through the slightly wet grass on a diagonal through the trees ( yes we left the path). As we got to the first trees we found a group of Striated Thornbills which sat nicely for us in a small gum. Straight after this we came across a small party of Weebill who's beautiful call entertained us for a few minutes. From here we found a nice patch of Prickly Moses which had a lot of smaller birds, predominantly Superb Fairywrens and Yellow-rumped Thornbills. From here we could see the back paddock fence and as we neared it I heard then saw a pair of Yellow Thornbills scurrying between trees, finally settling into a small gum that was about 3 metres high and started calling, such a pretty Thornbill (my favourite for sure). High in the sky towards the back paddock we saw a Little Eagle getting harassed by a Little Raven, the same dark morph as we saw a few weeks back.
On reaching the back paddock fence I heard a Brown Goshawk calling from inside the back paddock, and as we got a glimpse of it, it flew from a few trees back, then I am assuming the partner of bird calling flew over our heads going east to west (smaller type so thinking it was a male). Standing at the fence I could hear the call of a Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo not far away, so following the call was able to find it with relative ease in the trees on either side of the fence. 
Continuing south along the fence line we flushed an Australasian Pipit sitting on the rabbit proof fence, which in normal pipit style flew with it undulating pattern. Also at this spot near the south east corner of the back paddock we were able to find a lone Fairy Martin flying low over our heads, could definitely see the rusty orange head. 
Our first sighting for the day of a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles circling low above the quarry, as we made our way into the quarry ( yes the sign says keep out but the fence is open so you can just walk in). I haven't been in here for many years and couldn't remember how many quarries had water in them, but as I found there is only 1 which wasn't overly birdy today. 4 Hoary-headed Grebes, 4 Eurasian Coots and a pair of Pacific Black Ducks were the only waterbirds, however I was surprised to find out where all the Fairy Martins were this year ( certainly found the spot) as they were hawking around the quarry, nesting in the sheer rock walls and continuously diving down to water level to collect some water to complete their nests. Also of interest here were a few House Sparrow also nesting on the rock walls and a few Eurasian Skylarks flying around and calling loudly. We did flush a couple more Australasian Pipits on walking through the introduced grasslands between quarries ( as I said before only 1 quarry has water in it). 
On our way out of the quarries I heard the distinct calls of the Golden-headed Cisticola and on tracking them down found a nice little clump of introduced plants that harboured at least 4 of these beauties. We stayed and watched them calling loudly from the exposed tips of the closest thistle and was able to get some beautiful photos.
    Golden-headed Cisticola

We walked north back along the fence line, nothing much else was seen here that we hadn't seen on the way down,  but our next location was to head into the Sugar Gums for a quick look, but as time was running out it was a very quick visit, Crimson and Eastern Rosella were moving through the trees as we arrived, and the bird activity wasn't overly enticing but some birds to note was Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Red Wattlebird, White-plumed and Brown-headed Honeyeater, many Willie Wagtails and a few loud calling Grey Shrike-thrushes. As we walked through along the north/ south path we heard a Pied Currawong but not really much else was present.
As we made our way back to the car, again not much was seen that we hadn't already ticked off but a highlight was the pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles getting mobbed by at least 30 birds, Little Ravens, Australian Magpie and Magpie-lark were the culprits and as the birds neared us the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Galah started their alarm calls. Was very intersting to watch the persistence of the flock as the Eagles went about there business without blinking an eye, you would think the continued dive bombing of the birds would surely frustrate the Eagles but they were very subdued.
Getting back to the car I wanted one last photo of the Tree Martins in the carpark which I succeeding in getting.
    Tree Martin

 Another great day at Woodlands with 49 species seen in just over 2 hours, it is funny how the different areas of the park yield different species. White-browed Scrubwren has now made my park list sit at 117...

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