Scarlet Honeyeaters in Benalla
Ten people attended our last activity for 2017 on Thursday 9 November, and what a lovely day it was. We set off along the walking track from the football oval heading east the old Hume Hwy where we crossed the creek for the return walk. We found several nesting birds. One was a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike on a very flimsy nest high in a red gum. Further on a Noisy Friarbird sat in a much more substantial hanging nest near the road bridge on High Street. Also heard near this bridge was the Scarlet Honeyeater, and after a few minutes the bird was spotted in a red gum tree across the road. We had better views of an Olive-backed Oriole, several Eastern Rosellas, Sacred Kingfisher and a tiny, but beautifully marked Spotted Pardalote. It was surprising to see a flock of White-winged Choughs near the creek and not far from houses. We recorded 32 birds during the walk. The bird list can be viewed HERE
We then drove to a private property near Violet Town to eat our lunch in a lovely shady garden. We watched Red-browed Finches and Superb Fairy-wrens hopping around our feet, and listened to a Rufous Whistler calling nearby. Other birds seen here included several Diamond Firetails, Peaceful Doves and Crimson Rosellas. Property owner Roberta showed us the old saucepan in a shed where the Grey Shrike-thrush makes its nest each year and a nest box for Striated Pardalotes. A pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles soared high overhead, and above them was a lone dark morph Little Eagle. We then enjoyed a walk around the large garden, with many plants in flower. Just before we left a male Scarlet Honeyeater showed itself briefly on a yellow flowering sage bush. Roberta was very pleased to finally see one in her garden.
Scarlet Honeyeaters in Benalla
Photo Richard Gregson, Birdlife Murray Goulburn
A lot of Scarlet Honeyeaters are currently visiting Benalla. These tiny birds are usually found down the east coast of Australia, with few coming into Victoria. This spring they arrived in large numbers, probably sent south by a severe drought further north. If you happen to see a tiny, red-headed bird in your flowering bottlebrush or grevillea, that is the male bird. The female is brown. They have been visiting many gardens in Benalla. For a tiny bird, the male has a loud tinkling call.
Just a reminder about our final activity for the year which is on the Thursday after cup day. We are going to Violet Town for a walk along the Honey Suckle Creek walking track. Then we will drive to a farm close to town, to enjoy lunch in a lovely ‘birdy’ garden. You may wish to walk further around the property after lunch.
Please meet at the seniors building car park at 9.30am, so we can car pool to VT. Bring your own morning tea, and food for your lunch. Roberta, our host, will provide tea and coffee for lunch, and should have enough chairs for us.
If you need to contact me, mobile cover willing, my mobile number is 0447 625755.
After discussion with members of the group, we have a new date for our final activity for the year. We will meet in the car park of the Seniors building at 9.30am on Thursday 9 November, for a birding walk along the Honeysuckle Creek track in Violet Town. We will then drive to a nearby property to eat our picnic lunch while enjoying the birds in a lovely garden setting. Please bring your lunch and a thermos or drink, a folding chair and binoculars.
We enjoyed a mild, sunny morning for our visit to Reef Hills on the southern outskirts of Benalla. There was a lot of bird activity near the entrance and we spent some time walking near the dam on Centre Road. The Grey Fantails were easy to see as they flew around us. We later saw 2 of them building a nest beside the road. The Rufous Whistler and White-throated Treecreeper also showed well. Then we had close views of a young Red-capped Robin as it flew to the ground catching insects, and two nearby Buff-rumped Thornbills. Other birds were harder to see, although we could hear many different calls. One was the Painted Honeyeater, an uncommon spring migrant to Reef Hills, but only a couple of people managed to spot it. Nineteen species were seen or heard.
We then drove down Reef Hills Road to the rotunda for morning tea and a chat, and enjoyed views of a male Scarlet Robin and 2 White-throated Treecreepers in the car park. Four other species were recorded. Vaughan then took us on a short walk to enjoy some of the many wildflowers on display in the park.
The bird list for our first stop can be viewed at http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S39817516
The second stop bird list is http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S39817682
On Tuesday 3 October, U3A Bird watching group will visit Reef Hills State Park for a morning bird walk. Please meet in the car park at the entrance to Reef Hills at 10am, bringing anything you want to eat or drink during the walk, a chair if you have one and of course binoculars.
Reef Hills is 5 km south of Benalla, and the entrance to the park is off the Midland Highway about 300 metres past the freeway overpass, on your right.
We are hoping for some warm sunny weather, as our September outing to Chiltern to look for Regent Honeyeaters was cancelled due to cold, wet weather.
There will be no outing in November because of the Melbourne Cup day holiday. I am happy instead to run an activity on Tuesday 5 December if members are interested.
In view of the cold, wet weather forecast for tomorrow (Tues 5 Sept), I have decided to cancel our trip to Chiltern.
I will provide details of our next activity on Tues 3 October in due course. I hope we have better luck with the weather then.
U3A Bird watching resumes on Tuesday 5th September after a winter break. We will visit Chiltern Mt Pilot National Park hoping to see a special bird, the endangered Regent Honeyeater. A large number of captive-bred birds were released at Chiltern in autumn, and we hope some will still be feeding in the park. Some of us attended a recent talk in the library by Andy from the Regent Honeyeater revegetation project.
Please meet at 9.30am in the car park behind the new U3A room in the Seniors building off Fawkner Drive. The drive to Chiltern is nearly an hour up the Hume Freeway, so you should bring lunch, a thermos and a folding chair if you have one. Chiltern forest is well known for its birdlife and wildflowers, so it promises to be a lovely early Spring outing.
Fourteen people attended our bird watching walk on a sunny Tuesday morning on 6 June 2017. Vaughan Cowan led us around the northern section of Benalla golf course, an area of red gum bushland with a large dam and not many golfers to interrupt our birding. Vaughan made sure we kept well away from the golfers as we carefully skirted or crossed several fairways.
The golf course is a popular spot with a variety of parrots and cockatoos. We saw a large number of Eastern Rosellas feeding on the fairways. King Parrots were flying through or perched in the trees. Several flocks of noisy Musk Lorikeets were attracted to three flowering ironbark trees beside one fairway. I was surprised to see one Rainbow Lorikeet with them. This is the first one I have seen around Benalla, and seems to be a new record for the area. Rainbow Lorikeets have long been established in Shepparton and Melbourne, and there are good numbers in Seymour, so their spread to Benalla was probably inevitable. The most numerous bird was the Noisy Miner, which thrives in the habitat provided by tree-lined fairways.
In the bushland we found some of our smaller birds; a flock of Striated Pardalotes feeding high in the red gum foliage, several Red-browed Finches in the tall grasses below, and a couple of family groups of Superb Fairy-wrens. Back at the car park, several people saw two Gang-gang Cockatoos landing in a lone tree on the driving range. We then adjourned to the golf club bistro for an enjoyable lunch.
We recorded 23 species for the day. The full bird list can be viewed at
U3A Bird watching will resume on Tuesday 5 September 2017.
Photographs: Sandie Chrimes
Our U3A Bird watching group has been invited to join the U3A Garden appreciation group for a talk at the library this Thursday 22 June at 10am.
The guest speaker is from the Regent Honeyeater team that has been working in the district for some years now, propagating and planting native shrubs and eucalypts to improve habitat for the endangered Regent Honeyeater. The session will end about 12 noon, with time for a cuppa included. There is no need to book.
I hope some of you are able to come along.
We enjoyed the birds and the wonderful scenery at John and Freida’s Chesney Vale property on Tuesday 2 May. There was a cool breeze and birds were hard to find, although we enjoyed great views of a Wedge-tailed Eagle flying overhead. Four Dusky Wood swallows were hawking insects above our heads then landing high in a large eucalypt. It was good to see two Restless Flycatchers, a bird that is becoming increasingly rare in the district. Thirteen bird species were recorded for the morning. Thanks to John and Freida for hosting our visit. We all enjoyed our picnic lunch, Frieda’s cakes and a cuppa afterwards.
Our June activity for 2017 will be on Tuesday 6 June. We will meet at 10am at the Benalla Golf Club on the Midland Hwy. Please park in front of the practice fairway, just north of the main car park. Vaughan Cowan will introduce us to some attractive, wooded areas of the golf course, and a large dam in a quiet corner of the course. The fairways and large trees attract large numbers of birds. A small section of the walk may be a little rough under foot.
We will then have lunch at the golf club. Please let me know by Thursday 1 June if you will be coming to lunch so I can reserve a table. Also let me know if you would like a lift. Ph 5762 5755.
Bring binoculars if you have them, sturdy walking shoes, a water bottle and any nibbles you need en route.
Our April outing was a leisurely walk around the red gum woodland area at Lake Benalla on Tuesday 4 April. Some of the most interesting sightings included a kookaburra with a mouse in its bill and at least 8 Yellow-billed Spoonbills. At a drying waterhole, we watched from a bridge as four bird species fed for an extended period: Yellow-billed Spoonbill, White-faced Heron, Australian White Ibis, and a beautiful Azure Kingfisher, which dived repeatedly into the water catching small fish which had no escape. We recorded 28 bird species for the morning.
Coming up on Tuesday 2 May 2017 - Visit to private property at Chesney Vale
Our May activity will be at John Lloyd and Frieda Andrews’ property at Chesney Vale, overlooking Winton Wetlands. We had a very enjoyable visit there last year, and we have been invited to return this year. Please meet at Barkly Street, on the old tennis courts behind Aldi, at 10am, on Tuesday 2 May. We will car pool from there. It will be a morning activity, but I’d encourage you bring your own picnic lunch, and maybe a mug, as it is a lovely spot to eat and chat after the birding activity. Wear sturdy shoes and bring binoculars if you have them.
The Chesney Vale hills are home to a number of threatened woodland birds. Last year we found three of them on the property: Brown Treecreeper, Hooded Robin and Diamond Firetail, among the 30 plus species recorded. I look forward to seeing what turns up this time.
Kathy Costello, Convenor
U3A Bird watching Tuesday 4 April 2017 Lake Benalla
Our first activity for 2017 will be on Tuesday 4 April. We will meet at 10am behind the library, near the BBQ beside the walking track around Lake Benalla. We will walk towards Jaycee Island for a half circuit of the lake, and expect to finish around midday. This is the same walk that got the group started in 2016. The walk around Lake Benalla is an excellent way to introduce the birds of Benalla. For those who attended our activities in 2016, it will be a nice refresher to test your bird watching skills.
What to bring
Binoculars if you have them, sturdy walking shoes, a water bottle and any nibbles you need en route.
U3A Bird watching Tuesday 2 May 2017 Chesney Vale
We will visit private property at Chesney Vale on Tuesday 2 May, travelling in convoy from Benalla. Please meet in the car park behind Aldi in Barkly Street at 10am. The Chesney hills are home to a few of the less common bushland birds in our region, and we have a good chance of seeing some of them.
What to bring
Binoculars if you have them, sturdy walking shoes, a water bottle and a picnic lunch. We should be back in Benalla by 1.30pm.
Kathy Costello, Convenor
U3A Birdwatching continues in 2017, with six sessions in April, May, June, September, October and November.
Editors Note: A special thank you to birdwatching convenor Kathy Costello, who responded to a website request from a visitor attached to the USA’s gliding team keen to do some birdwatching in Benalla during the World Gliding Championships.
The group’s final outing for the year was to the Molyullah district about 30 km south of Benalla. On Thursday 10 November eight of us travelled along O’Dea Road to the intersection with Schulz Road, where bushland meets farmland in the pretty Sams Creek Valley. A lot of birds were calling as we walked along the road. A female Rufous Whistler flew onto her partially-completed nest in a dead mistletoe just above us while the male watched from a nearby tree. We also saw the delicate nest of the Grey Fantail.
Two White-throated Treecreepers landed on a nearby trunk, while a Sacred Kingfisher and a Kookaburra were also seen. A number of honeyeaters were calling, and we had a good view of two of them, the Yellow-faced and the White-naped Honeyeater. The plain-looking Fuscous Honeyeaters were difficult to identify high in the trees, and although we could hear a number of White-throated Gerygones calling quite close to us, it was frustrating that we did not get a look at this beautiful little bird.
Near our parked cars, a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike was spotted low in a nearby tree, and on a farm dam over the road was a pair of Australasian Grebe and an Australian Wood Duck with 5 small ducklings. Our bird list can be viewed on eBird at http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S32646622
We then drove to a nearby property, where we ate our sandwiches while admiring the view over the valley. While the Superb Fairy-wrens, White-browed Scrubwrens, King Parrots, Noisy Friarbirds, Mistletoebirds and Silvereyes fossicked around the garden, owners John and Janette answered our many questions about their beautiful property.
After lunch they then took us to several spectacular waterfalls not far from the house. Thank you to both of them for their generosity and time. We loved the place.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the birdwatching program this year. U3A Birdwatching will continue next year, with 3 sessions in April, May and June.
Kathy Costello, Convenor
Nine members of Benalla U3A’s Birdwatching group travelled to the Warby Ranges on Thursday 13 October for a walk along Pangarang Track.
We stopped briefly at nearby Pine Gully picnic ground for morning tea before driving to the start of the walk to Pangarang Lookout. The Turquoise Parrot was the birding highlight of the day. We were lucky to see 10 of these birds not far from the car park, and a couple of people in our group had very close views of this stunning little parrot. It is one of the special birds of the Warby Ranges and Chesney Vale Hills.
We saw 11 other species of birds, including a pair of Red-capped Robins, a few Grey Fantails and Rufous Whistlers, 4 Varied Sittellas and a male Mistletoebird. We also saw a White-winged Chough sitting on its large mud nest. Other birds were identified by call, including wrens, weebills and pardalotes, but they were hard to find in the vegetation.
Unfortunately 4WD tracks had caused severe damage to several sections of this lovely walking track, and the damage was made worse by water erosion after recent heavy rain. But the mozzies were loving the moisture. And so were the sun orchids. Large numbers were in bud, but not quite in flower. The group then returned to Pine Gully to sit in the sun for a well-earned lunch.
Our bird list can be viewed on EBird at http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S32182552
Next outing to Mollyullah district on Thursday 10th November
We will meet at the Barkly St car park at 9.45am, and car pool for our drive to O’Deas Road near Mollyullah. Bring your lunch, thermos and a water bottle. Our visit is to the northern edge of Toombellup State Forest. There is an easy walk along the road, where we can view the birdlife and wildflowers in this pretty valley.
We have been invited to visit a nearby farm where we will have our lunch and a cuppa, while enjoying the views down the valley. John the owner will then lead us on a walk to a waterfall on the property.
U3A Benalla’s Birdwatching group resumed in September after a two month winter break. We were fortunate to be invited to visit John and Freida’s lovely bush block in the Chesney Vale Hills on Thursday 8 September. It was a mild day & our group of 13 saw a number of uncommon woodland birds on the property.
A small flock of White-browed Babblers moved quickly through the garden, but they were difficult to observe. Everyone had close looks at a pair of Jacky Winters which perched quite close to us. We also saw a pair of Crested Shrike-tits, with their attractive lemon breast and striking black and white head. Eastern Rosellas and a flock of Red-rumped Parrots were seen well, plus a Restless Flycatcher which made its distinctive scissors grinder call as it hovered nearby. A Dusky Woodswallow perched on a branch above our heads, several Brown Treecreepers flew onto nearby tree trunks, and a small flock of White-winged Choughs was easy to see up ahead. Those of us who walked a bit further up the hill were lucky to find a couple of Diamond Firetails feeding on the ground, while three Hooded Robins chased each other through the trees.
We were lucky to see so many woodland birds in such a small area. The Chesney Vale Hills are an absolute treasure for birdwatchers. We recorded 34 species in this small area. The list has been entered on EBird http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/view/checklist/S31635063
We ate lunch on John’s new deck, with cake, tea and coffee supplied by Freida. It was lovely to have Rupe join us, as he recovers from his accident. After lunch, we made a brief visit to Duck Pond, at the far end of Winton Wetlands. The beautiful Pink-eared Duck showed very well in the scope, but there were few other birds around, so we finished up and headed back to Benalla. Many thanks to Freida and John for their hospitality.
Our next outing is on Thursday 13th October, a day trip to the Warby Ranges. Meet at Barkly Street car park at 9.45am, bring morning tea and lunch and a folding chair if you have one. We will car pool and share transport costs. Our main bird walk will be along Pangarang track.
Photographs: Margaret Walshe
I am back from my birding trip and looking forward to our next activity this coming Thursday. We will be visiting John and Frieda’s property at Chesneyvale overlooking Winton Wetlands. They have some interesting birdlife around the property and in the adjoining bushland.
We will meet at the Barkly Street carpark at 10am, and travel in convoy to the property which is off Lake Mokoan Road. Please bring your lunch and a folding chair if you have one, so that we can continue birding in the afternoon. At this early stage, it promises to be a mild, mainly sunny day.
Kathy has been away during August however she will be back for the next outing which will be to Chesney Vale on Thursday 8th September. Kathy will undoubtedly be in contact with group members by email before the outing.
The remaining outings for 2016 are scheduled for Thursday 13 October and Thursday 10 November.
Ten members of the group visited a sheep property 5km west of Benalla on Thursday 9 June. After days of wet weather, we were lucky the rain held off for our morning walk.
As we drove in, there were two White-necked Herons and a White-faced Heron in a nearby paddock. In the garden we saw an Eastern Spinebill, a few Superb Fairy-wrens, and a small flock of Red-browed Finches which flew into a shrub beside the driveway.
A short walk took us to a high point on the banks of the Broken River, with a sandy beach below and great views along the river. We continued our stroll through some massive River Red Gums, looking at White-plumed Honeyeaters, Eastern Rosellas, White-browed Scrubwren and a Grey Shrike-thrush on the way.
In the distance we identified two Australian Shelduck (used to be called Mountain Duck) and a large flock of Little Ravens in the paddocks. A flock of about 70 Galahs flew into the River Red Gums as we made our way back to the house for a late morning tea under the carport. Some of us had close views of a female Scarlet Robin along the driveway as our cars left the property, making a total of 25 species for the morning.
Thanks Carole and Godfrey for organising our visit. It was a great spot to finish the birdwatching program for the semester.
A detailed list of birds recorded at each outing is available for download below. Please ring Kathy Costello if you would like a printed copy.
What’s happening in Semester 2?
There will only be three monthly outings, on Thursday 8 September, Thursday 13 October and Thursday 10 November, as Kathy is unavailable in July and August. More details will be provided in later newsletters.
If you would like to know more about birds in the Benalla district and would appreciate help in identifying birds, this group could be for you. The program involves mainly morning walks in local habitats rich in a range of bird life such as Reef Hills, Winton Wetland and Benalla Lake. There will also be one or two all day outings to more distant areas such as the Warby Ranges. Bring along a pair of binoculars to gain more value and enjoyment from this activity.
If you are new to the birdwatching group, check out Birdwatching - Notes for Partici-pants - you will also find a video which may assist you to adjust your binoculars in Kathy's post.
1st Tuesday 9.30am to 12 noon
Three meetings in Semester 1 2018 - March, April and May .
Meet at the car park behind the Benalla Senior Citizens Community Centre. Check newsletter for times and details.
Please note that outings are automatically cancelled on days of total fire ban.
Convenor and contact details
Kathy Costello 5762 5755 Mobile 0447625755
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