Nature providing the best lockdown entertainment for inner-city residents

Kaylah Joelle Baker

As lockdown continues in the City of Melbourne, many inner-city residents are discovering a keen interest in the nature found outside their doorsteps.

One park receiving a lot of attention lately is Royal Park, due to the recent appearance of an Eastern Barn Owl on Tuesday, August 17.

Following conversations of an owl being spotted at the entrance of the Melbourne Zoo a couple of weeks ago, birdwatcher and double bass musician for the Orchestra of Victoria, Stuart Riley, was keen to see if he could find the unique bird at his local park.

“On Tuesday, my wife and I were in one location and saw a group of three young people looking up into a tree at a group of ravens or magpies making a big fuss. They were quite territorial and had found the owl resting for the day in their tree,” Mr Riley said.

“We saw this kerfuffle and then saw the direction in which the owl flew away but we didn’t think for a minute we would find it.”

Considering himself lucky for not only finding the bird again but for bringing his camera, Mr Riley was pleased he could brighten the day of many city residents when he uploaded the photograph to the Friends of Royal Park Parkville Facebook page.

“It’s Murphy’s law – the day you don’t take your camera is the day you see something rare. So, I always take my camera with me,” he said. “I’m quite pleased there is a lot of interest [in the photo].”

Believing nature is the biggest healer of all, Mr Riley is hopeful the recent sighting will also encourage the community to really embrace the time they are allowed to spend outside.

“I think a lot of people are really struggling and even the people who look like they’re not struggling probably are. From my perspective, I go out for mindfulness,” he said.


Just get outside, whether there’s sunshine or clouds or whether you’re into birds or not. Look around and breathe in the fresh air.


Impressed by the photographs surfacing online is Royal Park supervisor Chris Nicholson.

“All the birders out there have nowhere else to go and Royal Park is the place for them and they seem to be finding all these amazing birds,” Mr Nicholson said.

With everything from Tawny Frogmouths to White-naped Honeyeaters, Spotted Pardalotes, Rose Robins and Mistletoe birds being spotted, Royal Park proves nature really can unite community in many ways.

“There are more people at the moment walking than there normally is. It’s just like last year, as the actual usage of the park has increased by ten times. Residents obviously don’t have big back yards in this part of the world and so royal park is their backyard,” Mr Nicholson said.

And it seems the normally nocturnal Eastern Barn Owl knew its white, heart-shaped face was exactly what the community needed to see during this time.

Council seeks bird watchers to track Superb Fairy-wren

The City of Melbourne is calling on bird watching enthusiasts to contribute to a new citizen science project to track the native Superb Fairy-wren.

The project will collect vital data on the health, habitat and movement of the birds around the Parkville area.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said Parkville was blessed with some of Melbourne’s best parks and gardens, home to an abundance of local wildlife.

“What better way to beat the lockdown blues than by getting outside and using part of your two-hour exercise period to help us study the curious little fairy-wren,” the Lord Mayor said.


We’re calling on local bird watchers, both budding and experienced, to help us gather information which will directly contribute to the ongoing health and wellbeing of our local birdlife.


During permitted daily exercise, and in line with health restrictions, locals around Royal Park, Princes Park and Melbourne Cemetery are being encouraged to take note of fairy-wren sightings and locations, as well as movement patterns and behaviour.

Superb Fairy-wrens are small birds with a round body and long upright tail. Adult breeding males have bright blue and black plumage, while non-breeding adult males and females have greyish brown plumage.

The council’s environment portfolio lead Cr Rohan Leppert encouraged Parkville locals to keep their eyes open for fairy-wrens.

“The Superb Fairy-wren is a small but colourful character which is easily identifiable, and a great species to study to gauge habitat quality. By better understanding the wren population around Parkville we will be able to better target our environmental projects in the area,” Cr Leppert said.


If you live in the areas surrounding Royal Park and Princes Park, I would encourage you to hop online and take part in this project.


The data collected will be used to locate the fairy-wrens so wildlife experts can safely capture and fit the birds with coloured leg bands. This will allow experts to identify individual birds and track their movements.

The project is the latest City of Melbourne’s biodiversity study, in partnership with BirdLife Australia, RMIT University and the University of Melbourne.

Interested participants can record their observations via the Birdata App between September and November 2021. For more information about the study, or to get involved, visit the City of Melbourne website •

Caption: The majestic Eastern Barn Owl. Photo by Stuart Riley.

Caption: Council is calling on local bird watchers to observe the native Superb Fairy-wren.

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