Merri BirdWatch report - May 2023

28th July 2023
By Ann McGregor

In May, fifty-one people braved the cold, wet weather to join our bird surveys. They were rewarded with a dose of nature therapy, some unusual birds, the many regular species, as well as frogs, kangaroos and wallabies. We recorded 73 bird species and a grand total estimate of 2,026 birds across the ten sites along the Merri, between Clifton Hill and Craigieburn, and at Edwardes Lake.

Bird survey EBruns May23 PMollison
BirdWatch participants braved the wintry weather in East Brunswick.  Photograph: Peter Mollison.

At Galgi ngarrk, the birds were active despite the weather. Highlights were pairs of Mistletoebirds and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes, and nine White-faced Herons gathering together. A bright male Flame Robin was in the company of three females or juveniles, on their way down from the mountains to spend winter in open lowland areas. Another two Flame Robins and three pink robins were sighted at Bababi marning.  This is only the second time we have recorded Pink Robins. The first record was in May 2022 on the East Coburg-Thornbury survey.

You never know what will turn up on a bird outing. The big surprise at Galgi ngarrk was a seabird flying overhead that clearly wasn’t a Silver Gull. After the survey Peter Bennet’s photo allowed its identification as a Short-tailed Shearwater, apparently blown inland on the southerly winds. Also, commonly called Muttonbirds, they are birds of the oceans, except when they come to southeastern Australia between September and April to breed in burrows along the coast. They fly about 15,000 km around the western Pacific and across to Alaska for the northern hemisphere summer – an incredible migration journey, taking less than four weeks. The chicks stay in the burrow for 3-4 weeks after the parents leave, then they, in late April make their own way on the same migration route. There were reports on eBird of Short-tailed Shearwaters at Mordialloc Beach, Point Ormond, Ricketts Point, Jawbone Reserve and Webb Dock on the same day as the sighting at Galgi ngarrk. We hope their amazing internal navigation systems took them all safely back to the ocean.

At Bababi marning, the surveyors were trying to identify a bird when an Australian Hobby swooped and carried it off to a nearby gum tree. They watched as the Hobby plucked and ate its lunch on an exposed branch about four metres off the ground. They never did identify the unfortunate prey.

The East Brunswick surveyors had good views of Musk Lorikeets and Eastern Rosellas. A more unusual sighting was of three juvenile Crimson Rosellas, feeding on seed heads.  Juvenile Crimson Rosellas are mostly green, unlike the red and blue adults.

A keen group of 15 survey participants, many of them students from the University of Melbourne, split into two groups (with two experienced leaders) to follow the survey route around Coburg Lake in opposite directions. It is interesting that although 28 species were recorded by each group, nine species were recorded by only one, not both groups.  White Ibis numbers were well down from previous counts, with 12 recorded.

The most numerous birds overall were Rainbow Lorikeets, followed by Silver Gulls, with Rock Doves and Little Ravens coming equal third. 

Pipit by Peter Bennet      Short-tailed Shearwater - Peter Bennet      Crimson Rosella eating cats ear EBruns May23 PMollison
The Australasian Pipit is a grassland bird. This one was photographed at Galgi ngarrk (Craigieburn Grasslands Reserve), perching on a thistle head.  Photograph: Peter Bennet.
A Short-tailed Shearwater well away from the sea, flying over Galgi ngarrk during the survey on 7 May.   Photograph: Peter Bennet.
A juvenile Crimson Rosella feeding on seed heads in East Brunswick during the May survey. Photograph: Peter Mollison.

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