Monday, July 11, 2011

Cheetham Wetlands, Altona, Spangled Drongo, November 20th

Today I was to return to Altona, more specifically Truganina Park, a place that I found very diverse. What I didn't know was that Cheetham backed onto it, so I made a decision to walk that way. I took the regular walk along the river over the Laverton Creek bridge and up the path that borders the little patch of woodland. Before this, I checked the little dam area for any rails, but only came up with the regular Moorhens and Aus. Reed-warblers. I decided this time to take a different route; this time I walked past this area and onto the main road (Andrew Park Drive), which I followed to the carpark of the 100 Step memorial hill (I can't remember exactly what its called). I took a walk up the hill here where in the grassland slopes I picked up Australian Pipit for the first time ever, and spent about ten minutes pursuing them for better looks, which they didn't seem keen on giving.

After this, I looked across the routes to see that the path that goes past that little patch of woodland in Truganina Park caught up to here, but I was not ready to leave yet. As I returned to the top of the hill, a soaring bird caught my sight. It was one of those two Accipters, which at this time I had no clue on how to seperate. When I returned there was a heated discussion about it being a Pacific Baza on birdforum (hence why I am sketchy about it these days), but in the end it became a Collared Sparrowhawk, which was a new one for me as well (though I've still yet to find this Goshawk; the commoner bird of the two Australian accipters).Taking a few shots before it slowly glided away, I resumed my walk down the hill. In the same place I caught a Royal Spoonbill overheard, which too was a new bird for me. I followed the path out of the car park virtually parallel (in a sense) to a housing estate.

I kept on following this path, picking up a few goldfinches on the way, until I reached an intersection at the co-ordinates -37.885617,144.793485. To the right was the "proper" walking path, whereas left was the wetland walk. I caught sight of a few ravens in the tree and a smaller bird next to them. I walked on for a few seconds before the smaller bird caught my eye (at the time it sort of blended in with the ravens) and I had in the viewfinder before long. I had wanted to see a Koel for a very long time. Not only would this be a rare bird down here, but one of my (many) dreams would be granted.

However after a bit I became kind of unhappy with the Koel I.D.. I was aware of a bird called a Spangled Drongo, which I knew very little about. I knew so little about this bird that I could not remember how you would tell it apart from a Koel. From memory I knew the Koel was much more slender than this, and it had a very long cuckoo-like tail, which this bird definately hadn't. I pursued it a little and it moved to a few different locations, and I eventually nailed it on a broken branch of a dead tree, where from that point on I left it alone.

Later on I managed to nail Yellow-rumped Thornbill. I managed to stalk around the corner of the bush and it popped out in the open. I took many many shots, but the one to the left was the only that showed the side of the bird and the only one that wasn't entirely focused (!) which seems to be a fairly common theme among my pictures. Though it isn't perfectly focused, it beats my previous shots. I spent a while trying to find a White-fronted Chat, which I had only seen once before at a distance. I thought I heard one, but I ended up finding a Singing Honeyeater, which if you've heard it "sing" you will know that it was not very aptly named.

I walked on until I reached the main path again, having seen a few Skylark and more Pipits along the way, both very numerous to the extent I never really managed to I.D. them all (apparently the flight style is different but I never noticed anything at the time). I also heard a few Marsked Lapwings before I decided to turn back based on the time. I checked the grass here just incase I found one of these infamous "Altona Skipper" butterflies. Me being a butterfly fan I would be stoked to find something like this. Unfourtunately they would likely have a short flying time, typical of restricted Hesperiid skippers, but I cannot find any information about these butterflies at all, similar when I tried to find these "Pearl Whites" that apparently live in the Botanic Gardens.

I returned the same way, and the Drongo/Koel was still there in the same tree I originally found it. Having figured I harassed it enough I left it alone this time round. On the way back I passed a nest in the woodland area of Truganina Park. In the shade I saw two dark birds which I also assumed were Ravens, but when I check my photos they turned out to be Brown Falcons!

All in all a great day, especially when I managed to confirm the Drongo I.D. in my field guide! A Koel is a rarity, but this is something else. I can only find one record in Victoria from the Dandenongs, and it looks like that even in NSW this tropical bird can be hard to come by.

34 birds seen and at least 4 ticks (one being a vagrant(!)) ending a very nice day.

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