Today was the November outing of the Heyfield Birdwatchers, and we had a beauty!
Just four of us set off from Stratford at 830. The plan was to head for the Mitchell River and the Den of Nargun, on the way calling in and checking a couple of known favourite spots.
We turned off the highway at the eastern end of Providence Ponds and ambled slowly through some bushland toward Fernbank. The Callistemons were in flower and were attended here and there by some various honeyeaters. Three Emus plodded along the track ahead of us for a short time. We could hear Orioles, Choughs, Thrushes, Whistlers and Pardalotes calling throughout this section of bush, but we were a long way from the Mitchell River at this stage, so we pressed on.
My reason for taking this particular route was so I could check out a favourite wildflower spot at Fernbank. We didn't even get out of the cars. It’s sure been a bad year for wildflowers in this little corner of Gippsland. ‘Not looking good so far’, I thought.
Our spirits lifted a little at the Glenaladale Pumping Station. My plan was to have a cuppa here, spend 5 minutes checking out the surrounding bush and head on up to the Nargun’s Den for lunch. We didn’t get to see if the Nargun was in.
During morning tea at a particularly pleasant spot on the river bank, a Rufous Whistler entertained us with some great close up views and it’s wonderful repertoire of calls. Things were beginning to look a bit brighter.
There’s an old eucalypt at this site, with an exposed root system that I’ve admired before and wondered how the heck this individual could still be alive.
The thermos’s went back into the cars and we headed upstream briefly to see what was about. Eastern Yellow Robins, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and a few others were ticked pretty quickly.
We began to hear a duck like call coming from high in the tree tops. This was beginning to refresh my memory of a bird we once saw fairly regularly on the golf course each year, but it has been noticeably absent for some time now. Suddenly we all got splendid views of a pair of Dollarbirds hawking for insects high above the trees. This was a rewarding sighting because it was a first for John, Nancy and Marg. The birds would characteristically return to a high bare branch and allow us some beaut views with the binoculars.
A little further on, we discovered the Dollarbirds had a nest hollow they were returning to on a regular basis. I clambered up the slope to sit for a while in the hope the birds might return for a photo opportunity. The others proceeded on down the track for a bit. The Dollarbirds didn’t return for some time, and eventually John reappeared on the track below me and suggested I hurry on down and see what they’d found – without my help!
First was a juvenile Brown Falcon.
This bird was ‘stumbling’ about in a tree just beside the track. It didn’t seem to mind our presence too much, so we fired away with the cameras.
Then came the extraordinary. There seems to be some debate about whoever saw what first. I wasn’t there, so I’ll leave well enough alone!
Some Peregrine Falcons at nest.
High up on a rock ledge, three little heads could be seen and the parent birds kept buzzing us and keeping close watch on our activities. It’s times like this I wish I could talk birdspeak and say, “It’s OK mum and dad, I just want to get a little higher up the rocks so I can see your babies better. I won’t hurt them, I promise”.
I got back down onto the track, joined the others and we waxed lyrical about the sightings. Then someone said, “Oh, we saw a Black-faced Monarch too”. Sure enough, we just started to head back to the cars and the Monarch was there beside the track.
A Gippsland Water Dragon and a beautiful coppery Skink, both a bit too quick for pictures, completed a wonderful session.
We enjoyed our lunch on a grassy bank above the river and decided the walk down into Nargun’s Den was not going to be as rewarding as the morning session. We opted for a ‘touristy’ drive home, including an ice-cream and more sightings of Dollarbirds at Briagolong.
One out of the box.