Sunday, 31 August 2014


Tawny Frogmouth - a bird I did not see in August
It is spring at last and I can say goodbye to August, always one of my worst months for birding.  It's not that the cold Melbourne weather keeps me inside and not looking, it's just that I never see much during the month of August.

I am unashamedly, not only a twitcher, but also a lister.  Some birders regard both these words as derogatory, but I see nothing wrong with admitting that I am both these things.  Of course I always want to see as many species as possible, and I keep lists to record what I see.  Why find fault with that?

This means I know what a dreadful record I have during past Augusts.

I have modest aims.  I try to see 100 species every month.  Usually this is easy, but not in August.  This month just gone, August 2014, I saw only 86 species.  Yet I visited the Western Treatment Plant at Werribee, Bendigo, Karkarook and Blackburn Lake.  Better birders than I would see 100 species at Werribee alone.  In my defence, I should point out that I was not alone when I visited Werribee, and was therefore constrained by my companions.  I was most frustrated when I couldn't stop to identify waders, and had to keep up with the others.  We did see Brolgas, always a highlight.  In total, I managed just 61 species on my trip to Werribee.

There wasn't much around at Bendigo, although I saw Spiny-cheeked and White-eared Honeyeaters.  This latter bird is my second favourite honeyeater - my favourite being the demure little Brown-headed.

At Karkarook (as I previously reported) I saw Blue-billed Duck, but not much else.

I walked around Blackburn Lake last Friday with my cousin.  First, we visited a couple of Tawny Frogmouth roosts, in the hope of adding this bird to my monthly list.  It was not to be.  The only bird of note that I did add to my list, was a Nankeen Night-Heron, all decked out in his breeding best, looking most splendid.  Sadly, he seemed to be alone.

So I'm pleased that August is behind me, although by any standards, Brolgas, Blue-billed Ducks and Nankeen Night-Herons are all good birds.

Bring on September!  I should have no trouble at all in seeing my target 100 species, even without a trip to Werribee.  Let's see how I go.

Friday, 22 August 2014


Yesterday I visited Karkarook, the site that I just couldn't squeeze into my top 100 birding sites.  I like to go there on 1 January to get Blue-billed Duck onto my annual list.  It is a very pleasant spot, very popular with joggers and dog walkers, but notwithstanding all the people, the birding is often quite good.  Twice to my knowledge, Little Bitterns have turned up there.

There is a bird hide, but it is one of those noisy ones that frighten every bird within a hundred metres when you open the door.  I go to the hide, but I never go in.  The view is just as good from outside.

There are often Hoary-headed Grebes at Karkarook, and usually Greenfinch.  I saw several hoary-heads yesterday, but alas! no Greenfinch.  That might be the first time I've been there and not seen or heard these exotic finches.  I'm pleased to say that the Blue-billed Ducks didn't let me down.

One dog walker noticed my binoculars and asked me to identify the beautiful little blue bird she was admiring.  It was a male Superb Fairy-wren, at his breeding best.  

The sun was shining, the birds were singing, it was altogether a glorious day.   Melbourne is lucky to have so many pleasant parks.  No wonder we are the world's most livable city.

Monday, 18 August 2014


I live in suburban Kew.  My usual morning walk is to the east, away from the city.  I always see Rainbow Lorikeets (our most common bird), Australian Magpies, Little Ravens (that nest at the end of our street), Red Wattlebirds and, unfortunately, Spotted Doves.  I usually see Magpie-larks and Common Mynas.  I often see Grey Butcherbirds, Brown Thornbills, Common Starlings and Feral Pigeons. I am seeing Noisy Miners more and more frequently.  They are newcomers, along with Pied Currawongs and Little Corellas, while we have lost White-plumed Honeyeaters, which used to be common.  I sometimes hear Spotted Pardalotes, but I don't always see them.

This morning, I walked to the west, towards the city.  I was surprised at how different the birds were.  I've always known that if I want to see Little Wattlebirds, I should head west, not east, but the entire birdlife was different this morning.  There were Crested Pigeons, Long-billed Corellas and Welcome Swallows in the corner park.  Noisy Miners were bombing the corellas.  I used to see Eastern Rosellas here, but it's been a long time since I last saw one.  Sulphur-crested Cockatoos squawked overhead, and I thought I was going to miss out on my usually common Rainbow Lorikeets, until they put in an appearance just as I arrived home.  I saw Silver Gulls flying overhead too, but not a hint of butcherbirds anywhere.  I also dipped on magpies and Red Wattlebirds, but I saw lots of Spotted Doves, several Common Mynas, and one Common Blackbird.

I really would not have thought that the birdlife could be so different, walking in different directions from my home.  I will have to be more adventurous in future, and try other directions too.  I've been walking east for many years, and think I know the birds well on that route, but who knows what I might find if I venture north?

Sunday, 10 August 2014


Bendigo is to be congratulated on its Writers Festival, which, by all accounts, must be deemed a great success.  The 2014 festival was held last weekend.

I was invited to host a chat with Dr Penny Olsen about her recent book, 'An Eye for Nature, the Life and Art of William T. Cooper.'  Sir David Attenborough wrote a foreword for the book.  He refers to Bill Cooper as 'arguably one of the greatest of all bird artists.'  And I must say, Bill Cooper comes across as a really nice bloke.

There were lots of famous people milling around the festival.  Les Murray spoke at the opening.  I know that Blanche d'Alpuget was there because the publicist was nonplussed when The Age preferred to interview me, rather than her!  (So was I!)  I saw Robert Manne amongst the crowd and Stephanie Alexander came out of the theatrette before I went in.  I enjoyed sitting in the Green Room, feeling very important, sipping black coffee and soaking up the atmosphere.  There seemed to be dozens of young female volunteers, dressed in turquoise tee-shirts, and delighted to be involved in the festival.  I asked one how it was going, and she assured me that it was great, 'hundreds of people had turned up.'  I thought it looked more like thousands.

A writer always likes to see her books on sale, and they had some of mine there, so of course I felt good about that too.  Everyone seemed cheerful, enjoying themselves, experiencing Bendigo.

And no one mentioned the mosque.

Well done, Bendigo!  A festival for everyone to put into their diary for next year.