Gayle is an accountant. Shh – don’t tell. She thinks she’s a writer.
Published October 31st 2015
The Birds Know the Family that Plays Together Stays Together
Birdwatching might not be top of your list for family outings but don't sell it short, it's an activity that can engage and captivate parent and child alike. Jells Park is a great place to start with an abundance of birds easily spotted especially around the lake and on the edges of the conservation area. Add to that great playgrounds, several picnic and BBQ areas and a restaurant and kiosk and how could you go wrong?
Who doesn't love a kookaburra and it shouldn't be too long before you hear their laughter chortling through the trees. Children are always captivated by ducks and water birds and there's no shortage of them. Why not have a family competition for most birds spotted or first of a species spotted or play that old favourite, 'I spy with my little eye…"
The park is home not only to natives but also to migratory birds and over 150 species have been sighted here. Don't worry if you aren't a bird expert, there are identification charts in the bird hide. A field guide is always handy but is an unnecessary expense. As foreign as it seems to talk tablets and smart phones on a day in the great outdoors the Birds in Backyards website has a handy bird finder facility at www.birdsinbackyards.net/finder. I prefer to take photos and ID the birds later.
The best places for sightings are at Jells Lake which is accessed on easy, wide paths from the Visitor Centre. Maps of the park can be downloaded here in the 'Park Notes'. Eurasian coot are usually found at Jetty 1 and when I was last there a blue faced heron was confidently strutting along the boardwalk.
A bird hide on the east of the lake accords views of the island where birds are so abundant they jockey for space and supplementary nesting boxes have been installed. The lake circuit is 2.3kms but it is a shared path and bikes are welcome. The bird hide has a long bench seat with two viewing slots of one metre each. Don't worry if it's busy, the island can be seen from the lake track between Jetty 3 and the bird hide.
What you will see depends on the time of year and spring is tops as the birds are nesting. On an October afternoon visit I spotted Australian white ibis, great cormorant, little pied cormorant, Australian wood ducks, Eurasian coots, purple swamp hens, white faced herons, straw necked ibis, Australian darters and little black cormorants. Ibis, herons, ducks and swamp hens are also commonly spotted in wetlands and ponds throughout the park. You might even sight pelicans.
In this oasis in suburbia you will be surrounded by birdsong. Magpies, noisy minors and lorikeets are common. On the edges of the conservation area look to the trees. There are kookaburras here, eastern rosellas, and wattle birds, to note but a few. Nesting boxes have been installed to supplement tree hollows and encourage native birds.
Be warned bird watching is an addictive pastime. Before you know it you are hooked and destined for years of pleasure and plenty of reasons to get out in the fresh air.
Jells Park is on Waverley Road, Wheelers Hill, just east of the intersection with Jells Road. The park is open daily with 24 hour pedestrian access. Waverley Road gates open at 8am. There is onsite parking. For more information ring the Visitor Centre (Madeline's at Jells) on (03) 9561 4522 or go to the Parks Victoria website where you can download the Park Notes and a Map. Entry is free.