Wanniassa Hills & Fadden Ponds

Sun 19 June 2016 08:00am

Ryu Callaway

Note the change of date. Arrive by 8am on this cold chilly winter morning (hint: remember your gloves!) to Fadden Hills Pond located on the corner of Bugden Ave and Nicklin Cres. There are no proper parking arrangements in the area- note that the gravel parking near the tennis courts is for tennis club members only. I suggest you park along Stopford Cres or Nicklin Cres out of the way, and carpool where possible. We will spend some time loitering around the pond. A Spotless Crake was present throughout the cooler months last year, and the tree-lined creek occasionally presents some nice birds like Rose Robin.


We will then (slowly) walk up to Wanniassa Hills NR, doing a loop of the SW section of the reserve. Mixed feeding flocks abound over winter in the comparatively healthy eucalypts of the reserve. With some patience, we can expect to get some very decent views of Golden Whistlers, White-eared Honeyeaters, Scarlet Robin, pardalotes, and a range of thornbills. Be prepared for some mildly steep and rocky sections, as I will modify the route as we go depending on where the mixed feeding flocks are. We will then check out the dam just in case there is a grebe swimming in its murky depths (assuming it rains between now and then) or a duck or two to add to the list. Hopefully, the fog will have cleared up by this point and we will return via the southernmost peak (the smallest but also with the best views). This may be a good opportunity for a quick snack while taking in the breathtaking views of Tuggeranong and the Brindabellas, with the possibility of a raptor or two. The whole morning should take about 3-4 hours.


Post event report

Just 3 other hardy COG members assembled for the first ever COG outing that I was to lead, which, despite an unpromising weather forecast, turned out to be a very mild morning without a drop of rain and some nice birds to be found. We first started at the pond, where a Spotless Crake had been vigorously overturning leaf litter in front of the 2 early arrivals. Despite much waiting, it did not reappear for the other 2 members, who were fortunately able to see it much later upon return from Wanniassa Hills. We recorded a decent 24 species on around the pond although the adjacent gully was uncharacteristically quiet.


We then walked up to Wanniassa Hills, and went off-route to investigate the Yellow-rumped Thornbill call detected by a pair of sharp ears almost immediately upon entering the reserve. Before we knew it, we were in the middle of a large mixed feeding flock. A male Mistletoebird was a nice surprise, and a male Golden Whistler posed beautifully on every exposed branch. Four species of thornbill along with both pardalotes, Weebills, Eastern Spinebill, White-eared Honeyeater, Grey Shrike-thrush, and a pair of Scarlet Robins were recorded. The highlight of the morning was that the Yellow-rumped Thornbill which had initially lured us to this mixed feeding flock was adding material to a half-built nest, which was quite an unexpected find for June. Other interesting observations included a Galah vigorously rubbing its head on a bare patch of the trunk of a eucalypt (referred to in HANZAB as scarring, and is worked on for up to an hour a day over many years, from the beginning of the breeding season until the start of incubation, especially by the male. It is done on the nest tree, either around the nest hollow or on the trunk, and varies in size from a very small chewed area to covering 5m of the trunk. It involves “interspersed bouts of working on scar with bill-stropping” and “eye-wiping by wiping face on scar, [which] leaves behind a dusting of fine powder from skin of periophthalmic ring”. Most Galah nest trees have some scarring, and it may be a territorial display as it is much more prominent in areas of high Galah density).  Another Galah was carrying a leafy twig into a hollow on another tree. A pair of Red-rumped Parrots sat in their favourite tree and the female disappeared into their usual hollow. After experiencing the beautiful views of the Tuggeranong Valley, the morning was wrapped up nicely with an easy downhill stroll and a few green Satin Bowerbirds, making 32 species for the reserve.


We recorded a total of 41 species for the morning.

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