Why does this blog exist?

It might surprise you to know that a year ago, I wasn’t interested in birds. Coming to Australia changed that. Pretty soon after Emily and I arrived, we started ranking up species, starting with the Common Mynah and Rainbow Lorikeet. Now we’ve been here for nearly a year and we’ve got 138 species, the latest being the Crested Shrike-tit.

Birding is something we do in our spare time and we’re only here for two years in total, so we want to see as many birds as possible. One of our goals is to see 200 species, so we have 62 more to go. I hope we’ll probably see more than that.

This blog exists to chronicle some of our efforts. So do check back every once and a while and follow our progress!

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Our Visit to Terrick Terrick National Park

Terrick Terrick National Park (TTNP) is located just over 200km north of Melbourne, and comprises of light forest and grasslands. There is a single campsite along with an outhouse and picnic area situated near a large rocky hill called Mount Terrick Terrick.

So how’s the birding? The picnic area abounds with little brown birds like Jacky Winter and Brown Treecreeper. Near the cemetery not far from the picnic area we saw White-browed babbler, Red-capped Robin, and one of either Brown Goshawk or Collared Sparrowhawk.

Reigel’s Rock – It’s a big rock.

Now there are two large rock formations in the park aside from Mount Terrick Terrick: Bennett’s Rock and Reigel’s Rock. In fact from the top of any of these, you can see the other two. Both sites are a meeting of the forest and rockier habitats and proved to be great birding. Reigel’s Rock was first on our list, and on the way we saw a kangaroo drinking site. This region is a little different than the more forested area of the park, being more sparse and rocky.

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Finally Tawny Frogmouth!

 

Our bird books all say the tawny frogmouth is a common bird in the Melbourne area and I’ve been keen to see it for a while. Whenever we go for a walk in Yarra Bend Park I always look at trees and point to a small piece of wood sticking up, believing that I’ve spotted it. Since, after all, the tawny frogmouth’s ability to blend in with eucalyptus bark is nothing short of legendary.

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Review: Pizzey and Knight’s “The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia”

Under review is the 9th edition of “The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia” by Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight, edited by Sarah Pizzey. It describes virtually every bird that can be seen in Australia including vagrants. Chances are, any bird you see will be in this book.

It contains excellent colour illustrations by Frank Knight. Each species is accompanied by a description of its appearance, voice, habitat, breeding times, eggs, and range and ecological status. The range is supplanted by a clear distribution map. To aid in finding a bird, the front and back cover contain a quick finding guide. The last part of the book contains short descriptions of all the bird families in Australia, which makes for interesting reading and can give additional valuable clues for identification. At 608 pages, it is perfect for short walks or the car, though it may be too heavy for some on longer backpacking treks into the outback.

Finding a species is usually easy. When the illustrations don’t provide enough for identification, often the hints in the text do. There were only a few types of birds that were difficult to identify. One is the family Charadriidae. For example, I could not distinguish between the Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers and I only came to a conclusion after consulting a specialised shorebird book.

Another type of cryptic birds are terns. Distinguishing terns is notoriously difficult and most of the time I give up. In the book, some of the terns are illustrated standing, flying from above and flying from below, but not all, which is frustrating. Then again, tern plumage is varied and never constant on an individual, so even illustrations from a given angle may not be enough for a definitive answer. To this end I have ordered an additional book on seabirds to see if I can improve my luck with terns. Ideally, I’d love an additional section for these tough groups including additional illustrations, descriptions, and photographs, though I understand that this may make the book too large.

Despite these few difficulties, the guide is detailed, accurate, and fun to browse. In summary, it is superb for anyone interested in finding and identifying Australian birds. Highly recommended.

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Pied Currawong in Melbourne? Go to the cemetary

Some books will list places to find the more elusive species such as the Gang-gang Cockatoo or the Cape Barren Goose. For species like the Pied Currawong, usually only its preferred habitats are listed. However, I believe in listing some good locations for even the most common species, which can come in handy especially for visitors.

So where can you find the Pied Currawong in Melbourne? Try the south-western area of the Melbourne Cemetary. Although the Pied Currawong can be found or at least heard all over Melbourne, it’s often high in a tree refusing to pose for a picture. Not in the Melbourne Cemetary. Just past the south-west entrance there are a few smaller trees that are often visited by Pied Currawongs.

If you can’t find it there, try the south lawn of the University of Melbourne just after a light rain. Besides the Pied Currawong, there will probably be Magpies, Magpie-Larks, and even a couple of Masked Lapwings.

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A City Filled with Lorikeets

It wouldn’t be bad birding, if I didn’t comment on how many lorikeets we’ve seen.

Now, the number of lorikeets we’ve seen is simply astounding. The other night we were going for a walk in Yarra Bend, and we must have seen at least 50.

And they all were rainbow.


Now, I have nothing against the rainbow lorikeet.

In fact, it’s thanks to this beautiful bird that we became interested in birds at all. Jason spotted them first in Fitzroy Gardens and we were like, “Is that a parrot? I think that’s a parrot.”

And then later, I started thinking, “Okay so we saw a parrot. But what kind of parrot was it?”

Then I found the answer on birds and backyards. Next I had to look up every single other parrot-like bird we saw (sulphur-crested cockatoo, red rumped parrot, gallah), and then that turned into having to look up every bird we saw, and then Jason came on board, and then you know it became serious.

However, in the spirit of bad birding, we haven’t found any lorikeets besides the rainbow lorikeet. And not for lack of trying. There’s supposed to be the little lorikeet, the musk lorikeet, and the purple crowned lorikeet living among us in Melbourne. Yet, we haven’t seen head, tail, or feather of them.

Meanwhile, some dude’s busy mocking us by posting a sighting of musk lorikeet at Melbourne uni! Following in his footsteps we checked out the System Garden at the university and found… rock dove.

So other lorikeets, where are you hiding?

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