BIRD & DUCK STORIES OF DAMPER CREEK RESERVE

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LATE AUTUMN JOY
This season of plentiful rain has attracted a number of winged visitors: exotics such as the red and blue rosellas from the Dandenongs and the green and orange King parrots from further north, notably Lake Eildon. There are some glorious songsters too – notably the fast moving band of about eight young male magpies high in the Wetland gum trees. One Field Guide [Thank you, Jill and Ray Anderson] states that they stay together in a group until the end of June. [Afterwards, I expect, they have their long period solo, as initiates.] Today I went walking in the late afternoon along the Wetlands path. High in a gum a currawong was singing a lovely melody – that too was answered by his mate in a lighter, short reply. A number of other male voices then joined in. I recalled, then, other years when I'd heard the currawong give a wonderful vale at Middle Bridge as the sun went down – and that was answered by others at the far end of the Reserve. I haven't stayed out late this year – or gone down before sunrise, but I expect that the last call of all – and the first of the morning – would be the kookaburra. "King of the Bush"? Maybe.
(Borg, J 2011, "Late Autumn Joy", Damper Creek Doings, June 2011.

SPRING FEVER AT DAMPER CREEK
What a rich, wet, Spring we've had, with many visiting birds. On the lake this morning there were two pairs of visiting Chestnut Teal ducks and another pair that have evidently stayed: for there were eleven small, very lively, sooty babies on the pond, each with dark feathers splashed with white or amber spots.

Today, too, as I walked back towards Tarella Bridge, a brilliantly coloured small bird alighted near my feet as I turned to gaze at the Pardalote cliff face, that is dotted near the base with small holes. Its colours of yellow, white, brown, black [through the eye] and amazing maroon were so bright and thick, it looked as if they'd just been painted on. Yes, it was a Pardalote: small, but so chunky, it was possible to believe it had dug one of the holes deep into the bank. It cared nothing for me, as it swallowed a large grub. So much plentiful food this year – and many nesting Wattle birds cheerfully engaged in manoeuvres. Many calls from Butcher birds as well, while the Rainbow Lorikeets, as 3 always, brighten up every scene.
(Borg, J 2010, "Spring Fever at Damper Creek", Damper Creek Doings, October 2010. )

WATER BIRDS AT DAMPER CREEK
The heavy August rains have brought down clay that has sealed the bottom of the wetland ponds and brought back the wood duck pair and a frequently visiting pair of chestnut teal. Recently I added a poster of Australian Water Birds to the back Park Rd. board. How many different water birds have you seen at Damper Creek? Since I started observing about four years ago I’ve seen eight altogether, including a spoonbill and a heron. And how many people remember the shrieks of our one and only purple swamp hen, who built a nest on the reed bed, but had no partner? There was another bird too – not included in the poster – that came at a time of heavy rain and sat on a branch over the rushing creek, just up from the fern gully. It was like a Walt Disney "Baddie": soot grey with a long, twisted neck and sharp beak – and surrounded on both sides by a kookaburra and a magpie, who tried to make it move on. [It was an Eastern Reef Egret (Grey morph), I later learnt from my Field Guide.] The magpie flew off after a time and left the egret to be persuaded by the kookaburra who, water feeding, had more to lose.
(Borg, J 2010, "Water Birds at Damper Creek", Damper Creek Doings, September 2010. )

BIG AND BEAUTIFUL BIRDS AT DAMPER CREEK
In late autumn we?ve been lucky enough to have a resident family of eight yellow tailed black cockatoos a continual presence. (Their favourite spot seemed the area of remnant bush land across the creek from the fern gully.) But one day in late May one young one appeared over my head as I descended the path to creek level at the end of the Ranger's Reserve – and chased off his young brother, who was biting through a thickish branch on a small tea tree beside the path. I stopped beside it and he seemed to be smiling as he looked at me with one big round eye. I could have touched him…chased him off, rather. I felt a bit guilty – but needn't have worried.

For a day or two later, I found all three tea trees lining that stretch had been washed down the bank by wind and heavy rain. A few days later (June 1) I crossed Middle Bridge (to the west side) to see a very strange sight. A number of currawong were chasing away assorted birds from the small gums and tea tree that line the creek there. All in complete silence! I saw Rainbow lorikeets, Eastern Rosellas, Noisy Miners – each with a currawong on its tail. (Awesome – when Noisy Miners don't say a word!) Then I looked up into the branches of a small gum to see young currawong sitting patiently. (One with soft brown feathers was only half grown.) Our resident currawong pair near Middle Bridge must be glad to have their winter guests back again.
(Borg, J 2010, "Big and Beautiful Birds at Damper Creek", Damper Creek Doings, July 2010. )

CHANGE AND SERENDIPITY AT DAMPER CREEK
Much has happened since the exquisite Blue Kingfisher and his family departed. Perhaps with a shortage of water and food, the parent kookaburras have also flown, leaving fishing rights to their six [2X3] young ones – knowing the earlier brood would care for the three young ones they'd helped to raise. Meantime, the Monash Council workers have cleared 5 huge amounts of silt from the lake and ponds – while the ducks have taken it all with equanimity. [Their habit of flying upstream to other ponds has no doubt helped.] Following the Blue kingfishers, we were visited by a pair of Bronzewing pigeons…that stayed! The little path from Middle Bridge to the fern gully is their favourite spot, their iridescent colours changing as they pass from shade to light. (While across the creek on the high ground bordered by the path to Sunhill Rd., a family group of Yellow tailed black cockatoos frequently pays us a visit.) The fern gully itself always has many visitors, especially the groups of tiny insectivores that silently flit under the fronds. In late march I think I spotted a rare White Wagtail, though the Field Guide warns of jumping to conclusions. My biggest thrill was to see close a pair Grey Fantails perched on small branches just above the tree ferns – their tails shimmering in shades of silky grey, as their sharply angled feathers caught the light. I expect the recent rains will bring many more visitors to the fern gully and to Damper Creek!
(Borg, J 2010, "Change and Serendipity at Damper Creek", Damper Creek Doings, April 2010. )

BIRDS RARE AND COMMON PART II: SUMMER ‘09/10
In late Spring I received an email from our President, Helen Clements, with an attachment note from a friend across Park Rd. and photo of a rare Grey Currawong. Her neighbor had been listening to a program about the rare bird – and was "spooked" when she glanced out her window and there it was on the rooftop, looking at her! She took a quick snap: the same attractive image that is on the Park Rd. notice board. Yet it doesn't do justice to his long yellow legs and strut, knees angled out. He seemed to make his home the enclosed sanctuary [on the east side of Damper Creek] from the Children's Playground to the far end where the Ranger's road dips down – yet seemingly to prefer the more open, drier land at each end. And one day I encountered his mate and large, 6 fluffy baby, both grey too, near the Park Rd. end. But I haven't seen them since the big January rain that brimmed the lake and shot big logs and debris over the dam wall. A few days later I was walking along the top path and stopped beside the open gate leading down to the rock wall – and looked, disbelieving, at a small bird sitting on the lowest [bare] branch of the small gum beside the sandy path. He seemed all beak: it was large and shaped like a kookaburra?s. He was bell shaped, with tiny black feet. But what amazed me was his colour: a brilliant purple blue. He was a rare Azure Kingfisher, the smallest of the Kingfisher family, which feeds only on live food in streams. They dive into the water almost vertically – and so his odd shape and tiny feet. In the ensuing week I saw both his mate and young one, similarly shaped, but a little disappointing in apricot tinged beige. And then they were gone – perhaps at the first hint of pollution.

But our ducks are still there: "old faithfuls". Or are they? I think the handsome red-brown parents in the breeding pond are our old pair, more richly fed. Their first batch was sadly depleted by predators, then by flooding rain. Their second was protected so carefully – father and mother at either end, that amazingly all eight young ones grew to maturity. At noon the parents watched over the eight, who slept on a small island in the breeding pond. From my vantage point above I looked, amazed, to see the eight arranged bill to tail in a shining copper coloured spiral. No wonder that predators were confused! While later four disappeared overnight – probably to other waters. Junior and his partner have raised two batches also – with mixed success. The "second best" breeding spot near the reedy inlet [opposite the little "bridge", now defunct] is not protected by overhanging swamp gums, while the long necked tortoise that swims there, fancies young ducklings too. At the moment there is just one of Junior's last batch, now half grown. Yet – super at camouflage and great at a turn of speed, he (or she?) may well survive!
(Borg, J 2010, "Birds Rare and Common Part II: Summer 09/10", Damper Creek Doings, February 2010. )