The Merri in East Brunswick - summer meanderings

15th March 2023
By Arimbi Winoto

My legs really needed a stretch after an indulgent weekend of eating and drinking. So, I set out in the hottest part of the day, in sensible shoes despite the heat - mindful of recent tiger snake sightings. I wasn’t expecting much birdlife in the middle of such a warm day but took binoculars anyway. The path was so quiet, just the odd lone walker and one small party of late lunch picnickers.

Noticing a tiny movement in a nest I had thought abandoned, I stood quietly at a respectful distance and watched willie wagtail parents busily flying in and out feeding two eagerly gaping mouths.
Then, the insistent cry of a magpie lark – I looked up just in time to see it flit off leaving the annoyed yellow interior of a tawny frogmouth beak to open and close after it. The tawny ruffled her feathers, shrugging off the rude intrusion into her daytime rest, glanced at me and slowly closed her eyes, blending back into the mottled grey eucalypt trunk.

Willie wagtail feeding young in their nest     Tawny frogmoth, perched on a branch mouth wide open

Willie wagtail, Rhipidura leucophrys; Tawny frogmouth, Podargus strigoides

Still barely moving, I heard white browed scrub wrens chattering on the opposite bank – there they were – little brown things amongst the bushes. Then some movement in the creek – a long-necked tortoise swimming! His quizzical face broke the surface as he clambered out onto a log to sun himself. I hadn’t seen tortoises in this section of the creek before so this moment was a joy.
Eventually walking on, I found a pacific black duck pair swimming gentle circles in the cool shady water under a bridge. Further upstream, a juvenile white-faced heron was hunting in shallow puddles amongst new green growth filled with flotsam and jetsam from recently receded floodwaters.

My endpoint was a glorious spreading elm – its branches sheltering a tawny frogmouth family of three, a grey butcherbird, three noisy miners (not so noisy this afternoon) and a magpie lark all peacefully sharing the shade. Turning back in the late afternoon, in another shady bend of the creek, a dusky moorhen was calling her four chicks to shelter them under her capacious wings.

Dusky moorhen perched on her nest, with three chicks

Dusky moorhen, Gallinula tenebrosa

I stretched my legs back home, happily rejuvenated by this little corridor of nature in our backyard.

Image credits: Arimbi Winoto

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