Discussion in 'Australia' started by Chlidonias, 23 May 2014.
You consider Melbourne to currently be ahead of Adelaide?
hmm, I didn't mention Wild Sea or Growing Wild did I. I remembered Wild Sea as being fine from my visit in 2011 but on this visit I realised I had completely forgotten how most of the exhibit is just completely empty wasted space. The windows into the seal pools are good, the aquariums along the wall are good, but in the middle is just a huge void with a giant seaweed sculpture. The outside pools aren't exactly large either, but I don't know if they are original pools (in which case, so be it) or if they were built new for the exhibit (in which case, pretty poor).
Growing Wild: I liked the feel of parts of it but at the same time it was a bit weird and confusing. There's no apparent connection between any of the elements (quokkas, Aldabra tortoises, brush turkeys, tree kangaroos) so I think it is just "Hmm, what can we put in there that we have spare." To me it wasn't even obvious that the walk-through bit, where the quokkas are (and supposedly formerly mara, which I don't think anyone on here ever saw) was a visitor area with its heavy metal gates. Inside the walk-through it is nice and sort of "wild" but there are odd metal sculptury things which detract from the experience, especially given that this is meant to be the childrens' zoo. The brush turkey aviary seems just tacked on for no reason and is really out of place. Worst of all is how much room is taken up with totally non-animal elements (although this is the way all zoos seem to be going nowadays).
With the Predator-Prey exhibit I noticed (or thought I noticed at least) the signage on the construction fences all said Predators Precinct. I think they have changed the name from the "Predator Prey Precinct" of last year to just "Predator Precinct" (possibly due to reading comments on Zoochat ).
I heard crakes at Lillydale Lake Park but otherwise no. While I was at the benches by the billabong at Banyule Flats, two lots of dog-walkers came to the same spot. One family with small children tied up their two dogs at the sign on the main dog-walkers path which says that this is an important bird area and to keep dogs on leads, and then took their children to the water to look at the ducks. The other person led her dog to the water, then removed the leash so it could go chase the ducks....
There are ****** everywhere. Did you tell them anything?
no. Sometimes I say things, sometimes I just leave it. To be clear, the family did the right thing -- keeping their dogs away from the billabong.
They don't get much harder than Bell Miners!
yeah, for bell miners I just watch the general vicinity of the calling until I see one move then get it in the binoculars. They can't seem to sit still for long.
That's about the only way to do it!
We went to Lake Connewarre a few weeks ago to look for Orange-bellied Parrots, but instead we were greeted by a squadron of red-neck, Cletus the slack jawed yokel-types who were duck hunting. My wife and I didn't really fit in with the crowd, if you know what I mean, so we beat a hasty retreat. On the drive out, we saw a guy straight out of the Swamp People TV show driving a huge 4x4 with a no-teethed, shirtless man in the passenger seat - it was a balmy 4C morning...
In the grand scheme of things, I guess a dog chasing birds that see and hear it from a mile away isn't as bad as a bogan aiming for a Pink-eared Duck and hitting a Freckled Duck instead.
We are having a fox drive if you want a real cultural experience next weekend. There are a couple of blokes coming up from Melb so I could probably get you a ride.
Fox hunting is a community service - I dig that. Not sure I would want to do it myself though.
some general birding on the river
I have for the last few days been out of the central city and staying in the suburbs in the south of Melbourne. There's a river right nearby and it is surprisingly good for birds. I spent only about two hours walking along the bank one afternoon and spotted 35 species of birds. A lot of them were just the common Melbourne species I've seen lots of everywhere – common mynahs, magpie-larks, that sort of thing – but there were some more interesting species as well. The first bird to add to the year list was in a set of flowering eucalyptus trees. There were rainbow lorikeets in there, but I was checking for something a bit smaller and less ubiquitous, and after a bit of time I managed to find a musk lorikeet. Further along the path I spotted a small flock of largish dark birds in a bare tree. Normally with Australian birds I get an automatic ID pop into my head as soon as I see them, at least to the level of “honeyeater” or “thornbill”, but these ones drew more of an automatic blank. I got my binoculars on them and – as evidence for how long it has been since I was in New Zealand – I uttered a delighted “starling!” out loud to myself which was a little embarrassing. Starlings are great-looking birds, especially in winter plumage, but such a common introduced species really shouldn't elicit such a happy response upon seeing them!! A few days later I saw a flock of European goldfinches which I was just as pleased with. I really have been away from New Zealand too long.
When I got to the river, the first species I saw was a trio of royal spoonbills feeding in a deep pool, their heads almost underwater as they swept their bills from side to side along the bottom. Little black cormorants and little pied cormorants were cruising up and down, and a pied cormorant flew past as well. White herons (aka great egrets to non-NZers) were pretty common. Three ducks floating in mid-river turned out to be musk ducks, and they were in the same spot every day I passed by. A number of Pacific black ducks and a few chestnut teal were around as well. I almost didn't even register another species because I thought it was just a couple of silver gulls flying upstream, but fortunately I did check them out with the binoculars and they proved to be a pair of black-shouldered kites! On the way back along the river I heard something singing away in the reed beds. I'm rubbish at bird calls but it obviously wasn't a reed warbler. I stood for a couple of minutes waiting for movement, and then a little bird flew up high in the air, still singing, and curved back down into the reeds where luckily it then sat perched on the top of one reed to continue its song. A golden-headed cisticola.
A few days later I made another birding foray along the river and this was even more successful. I didn't see as many year birds but I did see a lifer! Also there were a lot of rabbits, so that was a new year mammal. I passed the regular birds, passed the spoonbills, passed the musk ducks, and kept on going further along than last time. I'd been told there were pelicans around here and sure enough I found one. Just one. It was sleeping on top of a pole in mid-river. A fence then blocked my passage, so I retraced my path, crossed the river at a bridge and went up the other side. I found the pair of black-shouldered kites up here, and also a whistling kite and a few swamp harriers. When I got further on from where the fence was on the other side, I found another pelican. This one was awake and standing on a log next to a chestnut teal which in comparison looked like a mouse. It is amazing how big pelicans are when you see them alongside “normal-sized” water birds!
There were a lot of ducks in this area, mostly chestnut teal and Pacific black ducks, but while I was checking out the flock I spied something much more exciting – pink-eared ducks! Four of them! This has always been one of my most-wanted Australian birds, and I wasn't expecting to see them here. (Actually they were the main reason I went to Lillydale Lake Park because I had read pink-eared ducks could be seen there, but no). I had been afraid that when I finally saw a pink-eared duck it would be a silhouette on the far side of a huge reservoir, but these ones were close enough to see perfectly. Not quite close enough to see the tiny speck of pink on the head which gives them their name, but certainly close enough to observe every other detail. Absolutely beautiful birds, perhaps the most beautiful duck in the world. I was extremely happy. Funnily enough, on the way back along the river I was checking out the ponds of the water treatment plant which is nearby – there was no access, so I was using my binoculars through gaps in the trees – and I saw a flock of probably two hundred pink-eared ducks! I went from zero to two hundred just like that.
Moonlit Sanctuary, 27 May
One of the Melbourne zoo collections I really wanted to visit while in town was Moonlit Sanctuary which lies just south of the city on the Mornington Peninsula. I had never been there before but the owner is a Zoochat member (MRJ) and his posts had made me eager to go with their talk of such delightful critters as yellow-bellied gliders and spot-tailed quolls. I am of course a big fan of small mammals, and to see them at night rather than in a nocturnal house was something I was really looking forward to.
First I took the train to Frankston, end of the line, but from which there is a bus (number 776) to Pearcedale, the town outside of which Moonlit lies. I had been fore-warned that Frankston was the Bogan capital of Melbourne but I don't think I was fully prepared for quite how, er, “regional” it was. Almost all the people sitting round the bus terminus looked like they had just taken a break from tending their stills out the back of their deep-woods cabins, a couple of glaze-eyed stoners wandered blithely through traffic, while on the other side of the road a twenty-something couple were having a blazing row in the street for the entire half an hour I was sitting there.
It is about 25 minutes by bus between Frankston and Pearcedale, apparently a large enough gap to discourage the lower-living set, sort of a Bogan-break (like a fire-break but for Bogans). From Pearcedale to Moonlit Sanctuary there's no public transport but it is less than three kilometres so that's not an issue unless you only have one leg.
I was really impressed with Moonlit, partly I think because the night tour is, well, a tour so it is more personal and also very hands-on with the cuddly animals (I was on the tour with a group of about eight uni students doing a conservation course). I think another reason is simply that small animals appeal to me much more than lions and elephants. It is a difficult comparison because they are very different organisations, but I think I probably enjoyed my visit to Moonlit more than my visit to Melbourne Zoo. My review is here: http://www.zoochat.com/24/first-visit-moonlit-sanctuary-27-may-366452/
It is definitely somewhere I would recommend to everybody, and especially to, say, nanoboy
On the wild animal front, at Moonlit I added Cape Barren geese and common bronzewing pigeons to the year list during the day, and at night I added tawny frogmouth and common ringtail possum (mammal number 70 for the year!!). Sadly no sugar gliders were seen although they do occur in the wild in the park.
Visiting Moonlit got me thinking about night zoos. If you've been keeping up with my travels and reviews you will know that I thought little of Singapore's Night Safari (or, at least, the way they keep their large animals). Moonlit was very different because it focuses on smaller animals, and it has the benefit of being able to have the larger animals (i.e. macropods) free-roaming. I of course wondered if it would be possible to have a night zoo in NZ, and I think the answer is no. In winter it gets dark before 6pm so that is good, but it is too cold so your visitor numbers would plummet. In summer it is warm enough for most people, but it doesn't get dark until about 9pm! It just wouldn't work as a stand-alone idea.
May i cut in for a moment, your mention of the royal spoonbill, reminded me of an article in IZN from afew years back that made mention of i think it was Adelaide zoo and perhaps another collection, taking eggs from the wild to improve the captive stock, i wonder was this venture successful?
Pink-eared ducks are fair game during hunting season. Hunters have a daily bag limit of 10 ducks per day for the duration of the 3 month duck hunting season. A hunter could theoretically shoot 1,000 birds per year. They are quite attractive though, aren't they? (The ducks, not the hunters.)
Yes I need to get to Moonlit soon. How did you get home after the nocturnal tour? I can't imagine you walking the 3km back at 10pm....
I've just put a few photos of the lyrebird from the Dandenongs into the wildlife gallery:
I have uploaded these photos into the Melbourne Museum gallery in a series entitled Tragic Taxidermy. I got all but one uploaded and then ran into a small problem with my laptop wherein it somehow uninstalled its own software rendering itself useless, possibly in retaliation for having to witness the taxidermic tragedies I was forcing upon it, and I had to take it to a shop and get it fixed. The final photo is now up (a bear cuscus!!).
Melbourne Museum Gallery
I will say in all fairness that I obviously chose the worst mounts to photograph for the series. The specimens in the museum are a great range of ages and not all of them hold their own well in comparison to newer ones! Many other mounts in the room were excellent.
I've got lots of other photos which will be uploaded over time.
I've put the rest of the museum photos in the gallery. Most of them are from the Forest Gallery and Bugs Alive!
Seaford Wetlands: 30 May and 2 June
The Seaford Wetlands are in the south of Melbourne, in the suburb of Seaford. Funny that. The area of the reserve is completely surrounded by a shared walking-cycling path which is very handy, but they are a bit of an odd wetlands in that for most of the path you can't see any water, just the front of high reedbeds. They should be easy to get to by public transport – I figure take the train to Seaford station and then just walk down McKenzie Street to the end – but I had loan of a bicycle so I approached the wetlands from the Mornington Peninsula Freeway which lies on the other side of the reserve from the railway line. I have been to the wetlands twice now so the following is sort of an amalgamation of the two visits.
The first good bird I found on my first visit was actually not at the wetlands but while I was on my way there, on the river near where I am currently staying. The same river where I have also seen pink-eared ducks. It is a good river. This new bird was a yellow-billed spoonbill. I have been looking for this bird every time I come to Australia and now I have finally found one; in fact it was almost right at the exact spot where I saw the three royal spoonbills on my first visit to this river. It's not really a great feat but now I have seen all of the world's spoonbill species (three in the wild and the other three only in captivity). The spoonbill flew away while I was looking at it, so I continued on my way. When I reached the start of the track which runs around the wetlands there was a narrow canal-like river – and there was a yellow-billed spoonbill. Possibly the same yellow-billed spoonbill. Also on that canal was a white ibis, a pelican, a royal spoonbill, a couple of black swans and a bunch of chestnut teals.
The second time I visited the wetlands I saw a Pacific gull on the river, and in the streets along the way I spotted a scaly-breasted lorikeet in the top of a eucalyptus tree. Melbourne isn't within the natural range of this species but they have become established here via cage escapees. While I was looking at the lorikeet a woman came out of a nearby house and asked “have you lost a bird?” I said “no, I'm just looking at wild birds.” She made a sort of confused noise in her throat so I asked, “have you found a bird?” “No,” she said and went back inside.
A lot of the track around the wetlands runs past fields and through scattered trees. There are the usual sorts of birds here, like black-shouldered kites, red wattlebirds, brown thornills, things like that. Amongst the common birds which were new for my year list were eastern rosellas, white-plumed and New Holland honeyeaters, red-browed finches and striated pardalotes. Birding is a pursuit of random events in some ways. You can visit the same place twice and see completely different birds each time. The first time I was at the wetlands I didn't see a single robin, the second time I saw at least four eastern yellow robins and a male flame robin. You never know what you're going to get.
There are only two or three spots along the track where you can actually see good stretches of water. One has a viewing platform, and here there was a little mud beach covered in chestnut and grey teals, Pacific black ducks, wood ducks, coots, dusky moorhens and purple swamphens. There were a few pied stilts stalking around in the shallows, and scuttling along the water's edge was a red-kneed dotterel. Out in the open water were dabchicks: I'm sure some of them were probably hoary-headed grebes but the only ones close enough to be sure of were little grebes (they are all still in winter plumage so not really distinctive yet). On my second visit I found some hoary-headed grebes closer to the shore which I could be definite about.
The next good water view revealed a large number of pink-eared ducks – close enough to actually see their pink ears! – and blue-billed ducks. On the second visit the blue-billed ducks were all gone but had been replaced with a whole lot of Australian shovellers.
The Seaford Wetlands are a nice wee spot, I'll probably be back there a few times.
Coolart Wetlands, 5 June
The Coolart Wetlands are on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne. They are a mix of open woodland and lagoons situated next to a historic homestead. There are a number of interesting mammals living in the area, including koalas, antechinus, echidnas and swamp rats – none of which I have seen this year although I have seen them all on other visits to Australia. I really visited the reserve just for mammals, particularly looking out for koalas, but in the end I only saw a couple of swamp wallabies.
The reserve isn't the most convenient place to visit by public transport but it is pretty straightforward. Also, entry is free so the only cost of the outing is the train/bus fares. First you take the train to Frankston and then catch the number 782 or 783 bus. These only run about every two hours, and the trip takes about an hour on a very convoluted route. There is a closer train station (Morradoo, on the Stony Point line) but this line starts at Frankston itself and you would still have to catch the same bus from Morradoo to Coolart so it's a bit of a half-and-half decision. There is a bus stop right at the entrance to the reserve, but it is sited just before you can see the sign and if you miss it (say, if the bus driver doesn't actually know where it is you want to go!) the next stop is about 2km further on. If you're arriving by bus ring the bell when you see the sign for the Somers School Camp instead.
I had been told that there hadn't been a lot of birds seen at Coolart lately but I went anyway, mainly for koalas as I said, and found that there were indeed very few birds on the wetlands. The main lagoon, with a nice two-storey hide, was almost devoid of waterfowl. There was a hoary-headed grebe, a coot, a black swan, and a group of six wood ducks. That was it. On the edge of one of the little islands was a black-fronted dotterel, and in the surrounding trees were eastern yellow robins, white-eared honeyeater, white-browed scrubwrens and superb fairy-wrens. On some other water bodies I saw a couple of little black cormorants, more wood ducks and grebes, some chestnut and grey teals, a white-faced heron and a great egret. In other words, not much.
Wandering around the trails through the woodlands I saw a lot of honeyeaters (mainly red and little wattlebirds, with quite a few yellow-faced and white-cheeked honeyeaters), some parrots (eastern rosellas and galahs), and a few others like grey shrike-thrush and a female golden whistler. I found a track with a bridge across a tidal creek which led to the beach. A sign warned not to disturb any waders, making particular note of red-capped dotterels which breed locally, but I saw none. A couple of rocks further along the shore a kilometre or so had several cormorants sitting on them and I walked down until I could see whether there were any black-faced cormorants amongst them (there weren't: they were all pied and little pied cormorants). I also didn't see any Burrunan dolphins off the beach either (it was worth looking!).
The wetlands are a nice spot but not really worth going out of your way for if looking for birds, unless you haven't seen any Australian birds before. I saw 44 species all up, but only two were new for the year list (the black-fronted dotterel and the white-eared honeyeaters).
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