Bird survey: Red-capped Robin visits Bababi Djinanang grasslands

Red-capped Robin at Bababi Djinanang

Red-capped Robin at Bababi Djinanang

The Merri Creek bird survey at Bababi Djinanang in Fawkner recorded 36 different bird species in the May survey. Last year the survey at the same time of year recorded a similar number: 37 species. Relatively still conditions, but overcast made for good birdwatching. For several birds we heard their song well before seeing them.

Some of the highlights of the survey include seeing a purple swamphen in the reeds where Central Creek meets Merri Creek. Though common elsewhere along Merri Creek and Edgars Creek it is not often seen in Fawkner.

Up in the open grasslands we flushed into flight some Brown Quail, saw Spotted Pardalotes in a mixed species feeding group, and even caught a sight of a Golden-headed Cisticola.

Right at the end in some re-vegetated woodland at the edge of the grasslands we came across a Red-capped Robin (Petroica goodenovii) mingling with a small flock of female Flame Robins. An exciting find, not having been seen before at this location. Red-capped robins favour perching on rocks and low branches and are subject to predation by domesticated and feral cats, and nests sometimes raided by larger bird species. Welcome to Fawkner, little Red-capped Robin!

Red-capped Robin at Bababi Djinanang

Red-capped Robin at Bababi Djinanang

According to Brian Bainbridge from Sustainable Fawkner who leads the bird survey at this location, “This species occasionally breeds in Greenvale near the airport and is occasionally seen at the You Yangs and Bacchus Marsh. Checked out the records, only two others in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, one last year at Travancore, and one four years ago on the Moonee Ponds Creek at Jacana Reserve.”

The bird photographed is likely to be female or an immature male. According to the wikipedia article on the Red-capped Robin, “The female is an undistinguished grey-brown above with a reddish tint to the crown, and paler underneath with dark brown wings and pale buff wing patch. Some females have a reddish tint to the breast. Both sexes have a small black bill, and dark brown eyes and legs. Immature birds initially resemble the female”.

Native re-vegetation along Merri Creek and in urban gardens has encouraged a diversity of bird life, even in a heavily urbanised environment. The bird surveys are an important tool in tracking bird species diversity. This is important as many common plant and animal species are facing dramatic biodiversity decline from climate change.

The survey at this site does two loops: the first goes round the open grassland area, followed by a larger loop following the Merri Creek.

The quarterly surveys at ten sites in northern Mellbourne (nine along the Merri Creek plus Edwardes Lake on Edgars Creek) have been running since October 2008. You can download a list of bird species (PDF) recorded by Friends of Merri Creek between October 2008- Feb 2012.

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