Merri BirdWatch Report - November 2022
19th January 2023
By Ann McGregor, Merri BirdWatch Co-ordinator
Over the fourteen years, from November 2008 to September 2022, Friends of Merri Creek bird surveyors have submitted 520 checklists across our ten regular survey sites to the global database eBird. A total of 151 species has been recorded – quite impressive for an urban/peri-urban waterway. Around 90 to 100 species have been recorded each year.
The variety of habitats largely explains the diversity of birds. Our survey sites extend from inner urban Clifton Hill, opposite Yarra Bend Park, upstream along the Merri, to Galgi ngarrk (Craigieburn Grasslands Conservation Reserve) on the expanding northern fringe of Melbourne. As well as the flowing Creek, Coburg and Edwardes Lakes provide habitat favoured by aquatic species. The Merri open space corridor, re-vegetated with local shrubs, trees and ground-cover plants since the 1980s, provides food and shelter for many birds. A few species depend on native grassland habitat. This is generally vastly depleted across western Victoria, but persists in the Galgi ngarrk, Bababi marning and Bababi djinanang survey sites. Adaptable species pest species like the Noisy Miner and Common Myna can thrive in parkland with exotic grasses and trees.
Some species are resident year-round. Others return annually to nest. Some species are recorded at most sites every season, while others have only been recorded once or twice in our surveys. The possibility of spotting an unusual, or unexpected bird, is one of the intriguing aspects of birding.
On our November round of surveys, a total of 62 species was seen. Migrants that breed along the Merri corridor in spring-summer include the Australian Reed Warbler and Little Grassbird, both seen at Edwardes Lake. Two Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoos were recorded in Galgi ngarrk. These birds are brood parasites, laying one egg in the nest of small birds, such as fairy-wrens or thornbills, and leaving them to do the hard work of rearing young. They migrate north in autumn, returning to Melbourne in winter-spring. Their descending, high-pitched whistle 'fee-ew' or 'tseeeeuw' is more often heard than the well-camouflaged bird is seen.
Brown Thornbill, Acanthiza pusilla, Moreland Rd. P. Mollison
Also spotted in November were Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Striated Pardalote and Rufous Whistler. These species are not often recorded in our surveys. Typical common, resident species like Spotted (Turtle) Dove, Rainbow Lorikeet, Australian Magpie, Little Raven and Common Myna were recorded at most of our sites.
Heavy rainfall in the weeks before the survey led to the Merri flowing strongly, turbid and high. It was also wet underfoot in grassy areas and many frogs were calling. In these conditions, waterbirds spread out rather than concentrating on wetlands, lakes and creeks, while other species do not need to cluster along fertile waterway corridors as they do in dry times. This effect was particularly noticeable in Clifton Hill, where only one waterfowl and 11 other species were recorded. The tiny Brown Thornbill is still hanging on there, despite being outnumbered by aggressive Noisy Miners.
At Galgi ngarrk, the survey was postponed twice until 11 December, because the flooded causeway across the Merri, at O’Herns Road, prevented access to the conservation reserve. The strong winds that day meant that many birds were keeping low and quiet, so were more difficult to observe.
A Blue-tongue Lizard, that lives in the rocky bank at the eastern end of Albion Street, Brunswick East, was sighted again on the Blyth Street – Moreland Road survey. It was within a metre or two of a couple of Tiger Snakes coiled together, right beside the Merri Path with its steady stream of pedestrians and dogs. A good reason for dogs to be on-lead near the Creek.
In our September survey the White-faced Herons were busy nest-building in a tree hanging over the Creek in Brunswick East. By mid-November, they had reared three fledglings that were perched near the nest.