Merri birdwatch - September 2023
29th October 2023
By Ann McGregor
The springtime nesting season was well underway by the time of our September bird surveys along the Merri between Clifton Hill and Craigieburn, and at Edwardes Lake on Edgars Creek. Nests were recorded for Little Pied Cormorant, Magpie (2 sites), Noisy Miner (2 sites), Pied Currawong (2 sites), Little Raven (2 sites), White Ibis, White-browed Scrubwren, Red Wattlebird, and Magpie-lark (2 sites). Parasitic cuckoos have come south to find host nests for their eggs; at Galgi ngarrk there were two Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoos, three Pallid Cuckoos and one Fantailed Cuckoo.
Highlights at Bababi marning in Campbellfield included close-up views of a Black-shouldered Kite, a Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo, a Mistletoebird and a Rufous Whistler. A Rufous Songlark and a Fantailed Cuckoo were heard.
Galgi ngarrk (Craigieburn Grasslands) had an impressive tally of 43 species, a personal best for Bridget Gardner, who has led surveys there since 2017. The nine observers were treated to an airshow between a Black-shouldered Kite and a Brown Falcon with its young in tow, observing how to do it.
Grey fantail, Craigieburn Grasslands, Randall Kohn
The presence of Noisy Miners does seem to correlate with fewer of the smaller bush birds, as shown by the numbers at three survey sites with large Noisy Miner populations: Clifton Hill, Coburg Lake and Edwardes Lake. In Clifton Hill with 22 Noisy Miners, only one Eastern Spinebill and two Brown Thornbills were recorded. Around Edwardes Lake, with 20 Noisy Miners, there were two Brown Thornbills and one White-browed Scrubwren. At Coburg Lake with 21 Noisy Miners, one Magpie-lark was the closest to a ‘small’ bush bird.
By comparison, Bababi djinanang in Fawkner had no Noisy Miners, and a much healthier tally of 15 Superb Fairy-wrens, six White-browed Scrubwrens, two Brown Thornbills, one Spotted Pardalote, 18 White-plumed Honeyeaters, 10 New Holland Honeyeaters, one Golden Whistler, six Grey Fantails, four Willie Wagtails, 13 Silvereyes, 14 Red-browed Finches, six European Goldfinches and one Common Greenfinch. Similarly, Bababi marning had only one Noisy Miner and 17 species of smaller native bush birds, many of them along the Creek bank. A dense lower/mid-storey of shrubs is considered to be valuable protection for smaller birds from species that behave aggressively. It will be interesting to see in future whether Noisy Miners do establish in the Merri grassland reserves to the detriment of small birds, or whether the patches of trees have enough understorey to maintain small bird populations.
Magpie lark, female, Peter Mollison
Key finds at Coburg Lake included a family of seven Black Swans. The parents were guiding their five cygnets around the lake and teaching them to feed on the lake margins. Two Royal Spoonbills flying north along the Creek corridor were recorded for only the second time in our surveys, the first being in February 2012 at Edwardes Lake. Despite efforts by Merri-bek Council to manage them, the White Ibis population has boomed again at Coburg Lake, growing from about a dozen in May to over 240 in September.
Two days before the survey in Hall Reserve Clifton Hill, there was a flock of 50+ Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos in trees by the Merri. Unfortunately, they didn’t stay around to be counted in the survey.
Arimbi Winoto, our leader on the Kirkdale & Merri Parks survey, is also a champion Tawny Frogmouth spotter. She did a focused Frogmouth survey in early September, walking approximately 7 km north on the east bank of the creek from East Brunswick into Edgars Creek and then back 7 km along the west bank. The tawny tally was 23 at 13 different sites including 8 nests! (This includes the resident pair at Fleming Park, which is several hundred metres west of Kirkdale Park.) When I asked Arimbi how she finds all these well-camouflaged, motionless birds, she responded “I just walk very, very slowly mostly looking up!”
And also spotted at Galgi ngarrk...!
Kangaroo and Joey, Randall Kohn