Friday, 30 August 2013

BANYULE FLATS RESERVE

Grey Butcherbird by Jim Smart
A Grey Butcherbird serenaded me as I got into my car at home to drive to Banyule Flats Reserve, and another one greeted me as I arrived in the Banyule car park.  Banyule is (I believe) Melbourne's best birding spot - yes, it is in Australia's top 100 sites.  In fact it is in the top 20.  I was surprised when I checked my records to note that I hadn't been to Banyule since January.  An oversight I really should rectify, and what an appropriate way to say farewell to winter.

The first thing I noticed at Banyule was the large amount of wind damage.  Many trees were down, some of them quite large.  (If I'd thought about it, I should have expected this, as we lost our side fence in the ferocious wind recently.)  There was also lots of water.  Too much water, perhaps.  I like to see muddy banks for birds to probe, but today all the banks were submerged.

My first stop (as always) was the lake, where a sign rather optimistically features a bittern.  Here I've seen all three crakes, Buff-banded Rail and Latham's Snipe.  But not today.  (And never a bittern.  But, to be fair, who knows what lurks amongst the reeds and bullrushes.)  Today I had to make do with teal, swan, coots, one lonely Silver Gull and dozens and dozens of Welcome Swallows.  Swallows were hawking over the water and perching on every available post.  I didn't attempt to count them.  Lets just say there were lots.  Amongst them I saw just one Fairy Martin, a vanguard for the summer horde to follow.

Usually, my next port of call is the grotty pond, where a female Australian Painted Snipe turned up in 2001, delighting all Melbourne birders.  However, a large, chatty group of walkers was on that path, so I turned towards the river instead.

Here I was greeted by the glorious song of a gorgeous male Golden Whistler.  He sat on a leafless branch and put his heart and soul into his song.  He was without doubt the bird of the day, and he alone made the drive to Banyule worthwhile.  In less than an hour, I clocked up 32 species, including four new ones for August.  At the end of the month, four new birds is good, but considering that I'd been birding in Queensland and Chiltern this month, I was pleased to add four species to my monthly list.  They were White-browed Scrubwren (extraordinary that I hadn't yet seen this common little fellow in my travels), Common Bronzewing (which, as usual lived up to its name at Banyule), a very vocal and very pretty Eastern Spinebill and the aforementioned Golden Whistler.

Banyule is always worth a visit.  I really shouldn't leave it another seven months before I go again.

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