Would you pay $20 to increase your chances of spotting a bogey bird that has eluded you for years? If so, then read on!
The Azure Kingfisher has captivated me for the best part of a decade: its iridescent deep blue, its tiny stature, and its mythical elusiveness. Try to get a pinpoint location to see one and you’ll usually get a “try anywhere along the banks of a river/creek”. As in the whole length of the Yarra River and its tributaries. 😂
So imagine my cautious optimism when I read a recent post by a kindly birder on the Victorian Birders Facebook Group that Azures were seen/can be seen/have a good chance of being seen at the Blue Lotus Water Garden in Yarra Junction? Still, it was definitely worth a try, coupled with a day out in a part of Victoria we never visited before.
We arrived just after opening time on Australia Day weekend to a relatively empty car park (but rest assured that by midday it got very, very busy), paid our $20pp (less for concessions, free for kids under 15), grabbed our maps, and made a beeline for where it was last seen: the long bridge across the main large pond.
Having just used an app to learn the bird’s call in the car park, I was seriously doubting myself when within 5mins of arrival I thought I heard the call.
There, sitting on a low branch of willowy-looking tree, partly obscured by leaves and twigs, just three metres away and almost at eye-level, was a most beautiful Azure Kingfisher! And as I started taking photos, another Azure flew off, so there are at least two at the site! The remaining Azure stayed for at least 10mins affording mind-blowing views, only darting off as a Brown Falcon circled above. Success! I almost cried in delight. 😢
As much as I was ready to go home, we decided to get our $20 worth and walk around the garden. With the rains and the sunny days, the thousands of lotus flowers were in magnificent and colourful bloom and a sight to behold.
We did the ‘river walk’ along a path that runs parallel to a small creek (Little Yarra River, perhaps?) and saw multiple Azures darting in and out of the trees, up and down the river, and in front and behind us – the tiny deep-blue bobs flashing by us was pure heaven!
And to make it an even better $20 x 2 spent, other species were in large numbers and just everywhere! Satin Bowerbirds, Yellow-faced, New Holland and White-naped Honeyeaters, Laughing Kookaburras, Australian Reed-Warblers out in the open, Red-browed Finches, Eastern-yellow Robins, waterbirds, and more.
We left with huge, satisfied smiles on our faces, in agreement that we would have easily paid twice the fee for the experience. Our next stop was a visit to the Warburton Californian Redwoods – a photographer’s dream with the towering trees laid out in a grid, and the Flying Foxes roosting high in the canopy.
We ended the day with a very tasty ice cream 🍦 at the local Warburton ice cream parlour, and a walk along the Yarra River where hundreds of families were splashing about in the water, picnicking on the banks and just enjoying the Australia Day weekend, all against the backdrop of a cloudless blue sky and forested mountains. Definitely a fantastic day out to remind us of how fortunate we are to be here in Melbourne, Australia. 👍