Narrabundah Hill

Sun 07 April 2024 08:30am

Jack Holland

Description:  This outing has again been timed for the autumn honeyeater migration season, with the northern and western boundaries of the reserve having known local migration routes.  We will walk along these two boundaries, depending on conditions and the species seen, and we will either return by the same or a different path.  This will be around 4 km on relatively flat ground.  We will also look for other autumn birds such as Scarlet Robin and mixed feeding flocks, or late departing summer migrants such as gerygones.

Meeting time:  While daylight savings will have ended that morning the walk will start at 8:30 am to maximise the opportunity to see the honeyeaters which generally come through late in the morning in early April (we saw over 2500 birds there at a similar timing in 2019).

Meeting place:  Meet at the parking area and stile at the northeast end of the reserve, at the corner of Warragamba Avenue and Eucumbene Drive, Duffy.  Please note that the entry to this parking area is a little tricky and is in fact about 25 metres past (on the Mount Stromlo side) the T-junction with Warragamba Avenue and, for those driving along Eucumbene Drive from Duffy, involves a quite tricky 180 degrees turn, so please take care.  Please take water and morning tea to have on the track.  

Name of leader and contact details:  To participate, please contact Jack Holland by email on – please include your mobile and emergency contact name and number.

Post event report

Twenty one members and guests, including a couple from Perth, joined me on this outing on a surprisingly dry (given the over 70 mm of rain at my nearby place over the two days before), relatively mild and partly sunny, moderately windy morning.  We walked for about 1.5 km along the northern and about one quarter of the western boundaries of this reserve, returning by the same route.  The aim was to observe the honeyeater migration, as well as to find any mixed feeding flocks (MFF), autumn altitudinal migrants and any late departing summer migrants.

I had expected honeyeaters to come through after the two previous likely poor migration days and we did see a conservative total of at least 150 Yellow-faced Honeyeaters (YFHE).  However, these were in groups of no more than about 8, and also the vast majority were seen along the northern boundary.  As well as being in small groups, many YFHE were feeding quite low, including in the blackberries, even dropping to the ground, very unusual in my experience during migration.  Also, quite a few were flying the “wrong way” to the west rather than east.  We stopped for morning tea under the usual main migration path about a quarter of the way down the western boundary, but only about 15 YFHE came through in over 20 minutes, with some of them also heading west.  No White-naped Honeyeaters were seen or heard amongst them.

Other birds were moving through, the most notable of these being around 85 Red Wattlebirds, most of these over about a 15 minute period halfway along the northern fence, with in one case around 20 birds stopping in a dead tree for around a minute.  In a smaller group, also resting in a dead tree, Duncan McCaskill noticed an Olive-backed Oriole sitting high in the same tree, affording reasonable views for all before it moved on.  Other species, partial migrants like the above, also seemed to be moving through but it was much harder to get good views of them.  These included many Silvereyes with some of the buff-flanked Tasmanian forms seen, often feeding in the blackberries, and Spotted Pardalotes mainly identified by their call as they moved through.  Even the Grey Fantails, of which we saw over 10 mainly singly or together, didn’t show as well as usual, nor did the larger 4 Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes flying over.  While lots of species were feeding together, there wasn’t really the classic mixed feeding flock that I had expected.  Red-browed Finches were also feeding in the blackberries but also proved to be surprisingly hard to view.

The undoubted highlight of the morning was the Scarlet Robins.  We first saw a male which showed very well at the north-west corner (it didn’t even move when a lady with a very large dog walked right under the tree) and briefly its partner, with then another pair on the western side which allowed everyone very good views.  Then the slowest of those returning to the cars saw 2 males and one female about 400 m from the car park.  I was very pleased to find 7 birds there this time as they have been very hard to find in recent years.

A bird that did show itself very well was the single White-eared Honeyeater, like the robins another altitudinal migrant.  It sat quietly at the top of a dead tree for at least 5 minutes, without calling at all.  The surprise find of the morning was a female Crescent Honeyeater seen by only a few participants as it rested briefly at the top of a tree before it moved on with the YFHE.  As often happens, there were several raptors trying to take advantage of the birds moving through, the best views being of a female Collared Sparrowhawk as it circled above us several times.  Earlier we had seen what we concluded was an Australian Hobby as it flew over after having disturbed the birds.  A couple of Wedge-tailed Eagles were also seen circling around a distance away above the trig point.

At 32 species, this was the second lowest number in the now 10 trips I have led at this timing (the lowest was 31 species in 2021; there have usually been between 42 and 50).  The reason for this very low count wasn’t clear, as the conditions looked very good, and I had expected birds to be active after the heavy rain of the previous days.  Nevertheless, participants enjoyed the morning, and I was reminded again of how important COG outings can be as social occasions.

Jack Holland


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