Bird Life at Albert Park, Melbourne (Very Long)

Subject: Bird Life at Albert Park, Melbourne (Very Long)
From: (Gil Langfield)
Date: Tue, 3 Oct 1995 22:07:01 +1000
I attach the latest Fact Sheet from the Save Albert Park Group.  More
information can be obtained from

Bird Observations 1979-1995

The birds of Albert Park have been the subject of daily observation and 
detailed record keeping for 15 years by Ms Mary Ellen Talmage member of the 
Victorian Ornithological Research Group and recognised authority on ravens in 
the park. Her work is recognised in Melbourne Parks & Waterways Draft Strategy 
Plan (Dec.1993) and Master Plan (Nov. 1994) which both use her census figures 
of birds observed in the park.

Since a weekly census of the prolific birdlife of Albert Park Reserve was 
undertaken by Ms Talmage in 1979, 129 species have been recorded ranging from 
Honeyeaters and Red-Capped Robins to much larger birds such as Sea Eagles, 
Kingfishers and Peregrine Falcons. Of the 129 at least 50 were seasonal 
residents on their way to other breeding grounds or food  supplies, and 33 were 
actually using the park as a breeding ground.

When Albert Park lake was drained by Melbourne Parks and Waterways in 1992 new  
wetlands were established in apparent recognition of the importance of birdlife 
to the park. These wetlands were adopted as nesting sites by Black Swans, 
Masked Lapwings, Dusky Moorhens and ducks.

Impact of the Destruction of Vegetation

The removal of over 1000 trees together with shrubs and bushes has seriously 
affected the
habitat and had a devastating effect on the park's birdlife.

The new pit garage and pit straight are being built through the migration route 
of Flame Robins and Richard's Pipits, the area of an important banding research 
project begun in 1984 and now abandoned. Over 100 birds are usually seen in 
migration, but only 10 were observed in 1995. The removal of stands of native 
plantings from that area has ended the breeding grounds of Yellow-rumped 
Thornbills, Willie Wagtails, Mudlarks and Magpies. The nesting trees of 
Yellow-rumped Thornbills have also been removed.

Scrubwrens and Red Wattlebirds have set up a small breeding colony at the south 
end of the
park in the dense vegetation of the Burnley Horticultural College Plantings. 
Most of those birds
have fled since the wholesale clearing of this habitat in February 1995.

The area of the now demolished Hellas Soccer Stadium had a mixture of native 
plantings, and
was an important breeding habitat and food source for native birds: - 
Wattlebirds, White-plumed Honeyeaters, Willie Wagtails and Mudlarks. In 
November 1994 the trees were
felled at the height of the breeding season; the flocks of birds whirled 
overhead in confusion
and then dispersed. They may not be seen again.

    "I have recorded generations of families in there..., but now all their 
shelter and food
    is gone, and the birds are gone too." (Ms Talmage, Port Phillip Leader, 

An unprecedented variety of birds are now observed in the surrounding  suburbs.

The Albert Park Habitat

Birds have used Albert Park at different times of the year and in different 
ways; some need the
vegetation, some the playing fields, others the lake. Birds like the 
Silver-eyes and Greenfinch
arrive in the Spring, raise their young and move on to the winter feeding 
grounds. Some 'stop
over' during migration like the Richard's Pipits. Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets 
appear when the
gum trees are in blossom, and move in late Autumn. Others such as Coots use the 
parkland as their winter feeding ground. Waterbirds feed in and around the lake 
and use the islands for nest sites - ducks, Black Swans, Masked Lapwings and 
Dusky Moorhens. Birds have different food needs at various times of the year.

The Australian Grand Prix Corporation and MP&W have a simplistic view of tree 
Numbers are not sufficient. A diversity of tree species is needed to meet the 
special needs of
many birds. Replanting the lost habitat with new trees of the same age will not 
attract or
support the former number and variety of birds until they become established 
which takes time.  In addition a stable environment without constant erecting 
and removing of structures is also needed if birds are to be encouraged to 
return to and remain in the park.

The balance between flora and fauna has been seriously upset by the Grand Prix 
Corporation's construction works and cannot be rectified as easy as it was 

Birds Most Affected by Tree Removal

Masked Lapwing                 Fewer breeding pairs
Galah                          Fewer nest sites
Eastern Rosella                Gone after trees felled Nov94
Sacred Kingfisher              Gone after trees felled Nov94
Welcome Swallow                Some breeding sites destroyed
Richard's Pipit                No migrants since area destroyed
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike      No breeding observed in 1994
Flame Robin                    Numbers down and few seen migrating
Grey fantail                   Formerly seasonal breeder now only a migrant
Willie Wagtail                 Many nest sites destroyed
White-browed Scrubwren         Habitat destroyed, birds gone
Yellow-rumped Thornbill        Habitat destroyed, birds gone
Red Wattlebird                 Some nest trees felled; numbers down
Little Wattle bird             Some nest trees felled; numbers down
White-plumed Honeyeater        Some nest trees felled; numbers down
Tree Sparrow                   Not seen since Hellas areas vegetation destroyed
Australian Mudlark             Some nest trees felled; numbers down
Little Raven                   Fewer breeding pairs

Future of Birdlife in Albert Park

The quality of a public park is enhanced by a variety of birdlife. "I'm not 
saying I see Albert
Park as a bird sanctuary, but I think birds are an asset, and part of the park" 
(Mary Ellen
Talmage, Port Phillip Leader 13/2/95).

The value of birdlife for the passive recreation enjoyment of the park is 
neglected in MP&W's
plans. No reference is made to flora or fauna under Principles for Unstructured 
(p.40) or to habitat under Tree Planting Policy (p.52) in the Master Plan of 
November 1994.
The latest Proposed Environmental Management Plan for Albert Park (July  1995) 
unconvincing on the role of birdlike and the impact of the Grand Prix. The 
statement of "Where consistent with the Master Plan, and with public safety, 
species should be chosen to enhance habitat for urban wildlife" (p.4-5) can 
only be interpreted to mean that vegetation policy will be subordinated to the 
needs of the Grand Prix.

The Proposed Environmental Management Plan presents no more than  
generalizations about the impact of the Grand Prix:

    "It is not anticipated that birdlife will be unduly affected by major 
events as has been
    the case with the Adelaide Grand Prix" (p.4-14).

This is not supported by MP&W's own consultants' report on the lake management 
Knight Merz) which has noted that "because the Grand Prix will last for over 
four days it will
take longer than normal for birds to return" and it "could have a significant 
impact on wildlife
currently using the lake.." (p.70)

The Proposed Environmental Management Plan has seemingly rejected an option 
proposed by its own consultants of using macrophyte planting in the lake to 
improve the lake's water quality, one which would provide reed beds as habitat 
for birds and would "increase the passive recreation value of the lake" by an 
"enhanced natural environment for birds" (p.61). The consultants' report 
recognises the need for "structurally diverse vegetation" for "improved bird 
habitat values" (p.31).

Wildlife would prove an embarrassment when the Grand Prix and other major 
events are held.
The observation by Sinclair Knight Merz that "Given that Albert Park lake has 
limited value at
present for a wide variety of wildlife, it is reasonable to conclude that the 
Grand Prix should
not have a major impact on wildlife in general" (p.70) is probably the key to 
future fauna
management. MP&W has no interest in encouraging a return to the past diversity 
and numbers of birdlife in Albert Park in the immediate future while Albert 
Park continues to host the Grand Prix.

                                 10 August 1995

Permission to copy is given provided this copyright notice is reproduced in full


Gil Langfield

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