Wednesday, 30 January 2013


No one would consider Melbourne General Cemetery to be one of our top birding sites.  And no, it did not make it into my forthcoming publication "Best 100 Birdwatching Sites in Australia."  It wouldn't make it into my top 200.  But it is often convenient for me to bird there, and it's as good a place as any to look for Flame and Scarlet Robins in winter.  It's a reliable spot for Common Greenfinch at any time.  And I usually see Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Red Wattlebirds, Willie Wagtails and Superb Fairy-wren.  And I have had some good sightings over the years.  I've seen Tawny Frogmouth, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos and once, a Little Eagle flew over.  I'm happy to wander around any cemetery at any time.  The birding is often good, and if it isn't, there are always interesting graves and monuments for diversion.

Superb Fairy-wren, photo by Jim Smart
Melbourne General Cemetery is a large site located in Carlton, quite close to Melbourne's central business district.  Last Tuesday, I had just fifteen minutes here and took the opportunity to try to add a couple of species to my sadly small 2013 birdlist.  It was mid-afternoon and quite warm - not an ideal time for birding. Nevertheless, I thought a New Holland Honeyeater would be easy, but it was not so.  I did see Little Wattlebirds, which was a new bird for me at this site.  A Red Wattlebird flew overhead.  Instinctively, I put my binoculars on it, and into my field of vision, flying above the wattlebird, came an Australian Hobby.  I've seen hobbys here several times.  I believe they are more common around Melbourne now than in the past.  I lived in North Carlton for ten years and don't remember ever seeing a hobby there during that time.  Today, they are not a remarkable occurrence anywhere in suburbia.

I heard thornbills and went in search of a Yellow-rumped.  They were uncooperative, flitting in and out of the canopy, squeaking at me provocatively.  I managed to get one in my binoculars, and thought he was a Yellow-rumped, but I couldn't see his rump or his pretty spotted crown.  He flew off and I found another.  This time I had a good look, and it proved to be a Brown Thornbill.  I believe these birds, too, are becoming more and more common around Melbourne.  I've seen them every time I've been out birding this year.  I wasn't going to be put off by seeing the wrong variety of thornbill.  I knew thornbills were often in mixed flocks.  I chased those birds, and eventually had a most satisfying view of my butter bums.

I always enjoy Melbourne General Cemetery.  It never lets me down, perhaps because I never start out with high expectations.  I achieved my aim.  I added two species to my annual list.  I couldn't ask for more than that.

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