Wednesday of last week (19/3) was a strange day in
Melbourne. Summer decided to have one last fling.
There had been hot gale-forced winds all day, and a
dust storm in the afternoon so severe that I couldn't
see the city skyline only a kilometre away. The wind
was extremely strong, and the promised cool change was
still a few hours away, so I was considering getting
the tram home for the first time since the start of
the Puny Twitch. An email from Richard Nowotny soon
changed all that! Richard had seen a Buff-banded Rail
at Westgate Park the previous morning, so I was off on
my bike to check it out.
When I arrived I was surprised to see that it was
'business as usual' for the birds, the wild conditions
made no difference to them. Among the highlights were
Royal Spoonbill, Red-capped Plover and a solitary
Common Greenshank, but after an hour there was still
no B-b Rail. When I noticed a tiger snake swimming
towards me from one of the islands I decided it was
time to leave! As I pedalled off the briefest of alarm
calls from the local honeyeaters made me look up to
discover three Fork-tailed Swifts directly above. They
were very low and making slow progress into the
northerly gale, allowing excellent views. I could
clearly see their white rumps as they rolled from side
to side with the gusts, but only glimpsed the forked
tails a few times (they were mostly held closed).
Definitely a bonus bird for the list!
On the way home I stopped to inspect a litter trap
that is being constructed across the Moonee Ponds
Creek (it was really an excuse for a rest). I'm hoping
it will form a mini wetland habitat for the birds.
Whilst there I glanced up at one of the local
high-rise blocks, and was surprised to see a
falconesque shape on a south-facing ledge right near
the top. It was far too big for a Hobby. I got the
binocs out to see that it was definitely a falcon but
with fading light behind, its colours were indistinct.
I peddled off looking for a better view, hoping that
it wouldn't move until I did. Unfortunately the best
view was at the junction of the freeway off-ramp and
the main road. At least it was still there, although
facing the other way! I peered up, with the cars
whizzing by, for what seemed like an eternity.
Eventually it turned a little more, pooped over the
side (I'm glad I wasn't directly below) then hopped
along the ledge revealing bright yellow legs and fine
under-barring. Peregrine Falcon! I was starting to
enjoy this wind storm! By waiting another few minutes
it finally looked down showing the bright yellow
eye-ring and dark hood. I haven't seen it there before
or since, so I can't help wonder if it was sheltering
from the wind.
The following Friday I finally made it to the Albert
Park Lake (about 3km South of the CBD) and was amazed
at the number of Eurasian Coots and Black Swans. They
were everywhere! At first I thought I wouldn't see
anything else, but eventually spotted small group of
Hardheads, and surprisingly, a single Australasian
Shoveler. Bingo! Another one for the list.
As I rode past a couple of moored yachts I noticed an
owl shape out of the corner of my eye. It turned out
to be a quite convincing decoy, attached to the
rigging, presumably to scare off the local birds.
Unfortunately it was one of those overseas jobs. You
know, the ones with those silly looking fake ears! The
birds weren't fooled though, as this boat seemed to be
covered in more droppings than all the rest put
After the inner Melbourne Swift Parrot sightings
posted by Lawrie Conole and Tim Dolby (thanks guys) I
decided to continue on home via Royal Park, Parkville.
There was plenty of 'lorikeet action' right through
the park, but no swifties that I could find. There was
one pleasant surprise however. I heard some Little
Lorikeets in a flowering gum and eventually managed to
get a decent look at one. These little blighters must
be one of the most frustrating birds to watch. You
only seem to get tantalising glimpses as they fidget
through the densest of foliage. But when you finally
get a good view of these tiny jewels you know it was
worth the wait (though my neck still hasn't
So, with the Puny Twitch on 98 and everyone telling me
that there is a Nankeen Night Heron (with my name on
it) at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, the big 100 is
tantalisingly close. I wonder what the 100th bird will
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