BIRD WATCHING - A LEGACY (Part I)
George Bedggood

John’s Gospel 14:23-29 tells of the legacy Jesus left for His followers; the legacy of love, peace and the Holy Spirit. This from the One who has so few earthly possessions (even His clothes were gambled for while He was dying).

Recently when giving a bird slide night to our Church brotherhood I was asked, "How did you get started as a birdwatcher? "My reply was that 56 years ago my grandfather gave his 6 year old grandson a copy of "Leach’s Birdbook". My grandpa lived at Box Hill South and found time to sit with me and name the feathered visitors to his garden. Together we strolled to nearby Kingswood College, the Box Hill Gold Course, Wattle Park and Surrey Park. South of Canterbury Road there was plenty of vacant land dotted with eucalypts, wattles and golden gorse.

I lived at Ringwood, at theat time a suburb with plentuy of open space and buhland. Ringwood Lake and the dam adjacent to the Cool Stores in Whitehourse Road (No maroondah Highway then), the Yarra River at Warrandyte and the Bellbird inhabited bush along Dandenong Creek where the Ringwood Public Gold Course is situated to-day wwere great places for waterbirds. Other good birding areas where the Slaughterhouse Paddock adjacent to New Street where the Homeguard trained most Saturdays, the antimony mine at Ringwwod East, Mullum Creek with its tangle of ti-tree and the open paddock in Wantirna Road where magnificent draught horses grazed.

My Grandpa wncourage me to lost all the birds I had seen and rewareded me with two shillings, a fortune for a small boy when I had recorded fifty birds. The penny note book has been lost but I can still recall most of the species which may be of interest to any eastern suburbe readers.

Stubble Quail could be found in rough grassland, especially in autumn while mushrooming. Feral (Rock) Pigeons were always at the railway yards and the hay and corn store. Common Bronzewings were associated with wattles and the native cherry exocarpus when fruiting.

Dusky Moorhen, Eastern Swamphen, Coots and Australasian (Little) Grebe were all common at Ringwood lake. They nested there too.
Little Pied Cormorants were to be seen on all waterways.
Spurwing-winged Plovers (Masked Lapwings) gave us curry at nesting time.
Straw-necked Ibis were uncommon visitors.
White-faced Herons, the "Blue Crane" nested each year near the dam in Slaughterhouse Paddock.
Black Swans could always be found on Ringwood Lake.
Black Ducks were commonly seen on all waterways.
Whistling Kites we called Whistling eagle, and it was the common bird of prey in the area.
Black-shouldered Kites turned up as an odd pair or single, mainly when grasshoppers were in numbers.
Brown Falcons (Brown Hawk) were fairly common.
Nankeen Kestrels were common in open areas. We had a mouse plague about 1945 and Kestrels and Owls became very common.
Boobook Owls were frequently heard and had one had a daily roost in a bushy gum tree near Ringwood Primary School.
Barn Owls were in the area. One regularly hunted near the Gospel Hall in Warrandyte Road. Gang-Gang Cockatoos came in late winter and early spring to feed on sawfly larvae in gums near the school. In autumn they enjoyed the cotoneaster and hawthorn berries.
Crimson and Eastern Rosellas both were common and could be pests in the orlchards and backyard fruit trees.
Tawny Frogmouths were a real find as they were so difficult to locate although their call was heard regularly. A pair had a daylight roost in Barkily Street. About Christmas each year they would have two young at roost with them, but we never found their nest. Sacred Kingfishers were a common sight along the creeks and the river.
Fab-tailed Cuckoos I remember as a regular spring/summer migrant often being chased by small birds.
Welcome Swallows were very common residents, nesting at the school, railway station and the shops.
Fairy Martins: I found my first "Bottle Swallows" nests under the Warrandyte Road bridge over Mullum Creek. There were about a dozen nests clustered together and out of reach.
I can still see in my mind’s eye my first nest of Grey Fantials in a wattle overhanging the Dandenong Creek.
Willie Wagtails were a common resident.
Scarlet and Flame Robins I associate with a teacher at my school, Miss Black, who taught us how to separate these two species. She would say, "the flame burns higher", indicating that the red breast on the Flame Robin goes right up to the throat. She was very keen on nature study and Gould League of Bird Lovers, and encouraged our observatins. Both robins were autumn/winter visitors and we were detailed to note their date of arrival and departure.
(Eastern) Yellow Robin we called "Yellow Bob". He was very common in all bushland and nested deach year during our Christmas holidays.
Golden Whistlers were a very common resident. Rufous Whistlers were not seen as frequently as the "golden".
Grey Shrike-thrush (Grey Thrush) was a common resident. One year one nested in our large Pittosporum eugenioides at Barkly Street.
Magpie-lark (Mudlark) was a common resident, whose nests we frequently found.
Eastern Whipbirds could be heard calling along Dandenong Creek.
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes were a common resident of the area.
Blackbirds were very common, nesting in our berry shrubs Crataegus crenulata, Pyracantha augustifolia & Cotoneaster pannosa. (I have a 1930-31 nursery catalogue with these species marked as purchased for our garden). The female Baackbirds were often very tame whilst on the nest and I can recall stroking the breast of one brooding hen.
Striated Thornbills were common and nested in an overgrown cypress hedge. Brown Thornbills and Yellow-rumped Thornbills were very common.
White-browed Scrub-wrens were to be seen regularly along the creeks and in most bushland.
Superb Blue Fairy-wrens were also one of our very common residents.
White-throated Treecreepers were closely associated with the stringybarks of the district, and their calls and songs were the most predominate in the bush in spring.
Spotted Pardalotes were seen often nesting in creek banks and in mine tailings dumps.
Striated Pardalotes were also common residents. The first nest of this little bird that I saw was in a gnarled broken tree branch in Wattle Park; another was in a crack between bricks at Ringwood Primary School.
Silvereyes were found commonly in orchards and gardens especially when fruit and berries were ripe. They once nested in our lemon tree.
White-naped Honeyeaters were common residents.
Eastern Spinebills were very common when grevilleas, especially rosmarinifolia, banksias, callistemons and fuchsias, flowered. One pair nested in my grandfather’s garden each spring.
Bell Miners formed many colonies close to creeks and the Yarra River.
Red Wattlebirds were garden bullies, and found commonly in the area.
Richard’s Pipits were widespread and common in most open paddocks.
Red-browed (Firetail) Finches were common near creeks and blackberry thickets.
House Sparrows were common nesting residents.
Goldfinches were common in gardens, parks and nested in plum trees. I first saw my first ever flock of Greenfinches during a Sunday School picnic at Keast Park, Carrum, where they fed among the ti-tree. My next sighting was in an orchard at Ringwood.
The Common Starling, true to its name, was common in all areas. Indian Mynas joined the starling in seeking lunch-time scraps in the schoolyard.
The Australian Raven, which we all called "crow", I remember as hanging around the open range poultry farms and the schoolyard.
In late autumn/winter, Pied Currawongs would visit us, feeding on cotoneaster and other berries.
Grey Butcherbirds, were noted for its beautiful song and attacks on canary cages hung outdoors.
White-backed Magpies were very common and the terror of small schoolboys at nesting time. A regular nesting pair in Barkly Street could not distinguish between bird lovers and toehrs, so that I often went to and from school in very fast time.

My Grandpa left me the legacy of his great love for the Bible and a hobby which has brought great pleasure for nearly sixty years. I now have had the privilege of bird watching with my eldest grandson in such varied places as Orbost, Kununurra, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Boddington, Peak Hill and Naambucca Heads. May we all pass on the legacy of love for God and an appreciation of His wonderful creationb to His glory and praise.




This report was published in The Christian Bird Observer’s Magazine, October 1998