Monday, 28 September 2015

BLEG -- Peach Flat

Last Monday, two Heyfield birdoes, Jos and I, accompanied Birdlife East Gippsland to the property at Peach Flat owned by Rod McMillan and Michele Adler. They have put a huge amount of time and effort into reclaiming the place for nature. The frog calls were LOUD. It is a marvellous spot with George Creek running through it and a former marsh/swamp/moist area between the creek and the road having been turned into a lake. Regeneration is entirely natural. The group spent the time prior to morning tea walking the area and hills around the lake and then went on a bush walk over the dry hill behind George Creek to an open area which led via a series of DSE tracks to another wet area then back for lunch.  The weather was mostly sunny with a bit of breeze. Sixty-two species were recorded! There were no super highlights, all were "expected" species but the Wedge-tailed Eagles, the Pallid Cuckoo being "seen to" by a Willie Wagtail and the Latham's Snipe were pretty nice. Following are the images I took with the exception of the cuckoo v willie photo by John Hutchison.

Image courtesy of John Hutchison.
Willie Wagtail attempting to see off a Pallid Cuckoo
Pallid Cuckoo Cacomantis pallidus. Same one as above
Pizzey & Knight notes ... "flies down to seize hairy caterpillars in grass".
An earthworm would be a poor substitute??
Australian Wood Duck Chenonetta jubata
Pied Currawong Strepera graculina

Friday, 25 September 2015

Western Treatment Plant -- My First Visit

On Thursday last week I attended the Werribee HQ of Melbourne Water for a Safety Induction prior to receiving a key to enable me to enter all birding parts of the Western Treatment Plant [WTP]. The first part of the induction was a very interesting description of the function of the WTP. 11,000 hectares now almost entirely under cropping but formerly the home to 100,000 cattle and 80,000 sheep! Victoria's biggest farmer! 150 megalitres [ML] of Class C water is produced each day from the 145 ML of "raw product"! Class C water can be released into the bay but, during the summer, the vegetable farmers of Werribee use the water which has been further improved to Class A for irrigation on crops for human consumption! They even have an odour-removing machine involving 4 x 4-storey silos where the underground channel comes to the surface on the north edge of the farm. [Must be a boy thing]. The second part was the safety requirements including wearing closed shoes and long pants. The place is a hotbed of snakes -- tigers, browns, copperheads and black bellies.

Tiger Snake at WTP 24/09/2015 by Nina Zuccolo

After receiving my key-to-bird-watching-heaven, I went along and did a slow tour of the western part. That look me 5 hours to do about 15km. Lots of raptors -- Whistling Kites, Black Kites, Swamp Harriers, Brown Falcons, Nankeen Kestrels.

Black Kite Milvus migrans
Swamp Harrier Circus assimils
Lots of waders had arrived -- Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Red-necked Stints and Common Greenshanks [lifer] ...

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia

... Caspian, Crested and Whiskered Terns, Australian Pelicans, various Cormorants, hundreds of Swans ...

Australian Pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus
Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax varius
Black Swan Cygnus atratus
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus
Silver Gulls Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae -- flying flat out up wind
Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
... Hoary-headed Grebes, Chestnut Teal, Great Cormorants, Red-necked Avocets, and Silver Gulls, one lonely female Eastern Osprey and Banded Lapwings with chicks. What, an Osprey?! I was driving slowly along the track between the lakes and the beach when I noticed a large raptor sitting on rocks at the water's edge of a rocky point. A closer look through the bins and then the scope showed it to be an Eastern Osprey. Wow. Although the bird had been reported to Birdline and eBird just a few days earlier, I was able to take some good photos and post them on the Victorian Birders Facebook page which started a mini stampede of birders to the WTP. It seems this is the first report of an Osprey at the WTP, ever! As of today [25 September], the bird is still there. I am not surprised as where the Little River empties out into Port Philip Bay, with the extra 150 ML of water, is a fertile area and food source where there were hundreds of cormies, gulls, terns, avocets, swans etc etc eating and relaxing.

Eastern Osprey  Pandion cristatus

After I had reached Gate 4 and exited the WTP, I drove west along Beach Road towards Avalon Airport where a Banded Lapwing pair and chicks had been reported. It didn't take too long to find them as they were only 10 metres from the roadside fence. More images.

Banded Lapwing Vanellus tricolor
So my first visit to WTP scored an Osprey!!! Mega. It can only go downhill from there!

Magic. t1250 and be there!

Monday, 14 September 2015

Robertson's Beach and the Striated Pardalote

Robertson's Beach is south of Yarram in a pretty part of the world with the green grass of dairy farms alongside the intricate waterways of the lakes and inlets fronting Bass Strait.

I understand that Striated Pardalotes have made the cliff at Robertson's Beach their nesting venue for many years now. Hundreds have been seen at various times. After my visit to Jack Smith Lake, I went on to check it out for myself. It was a beautiful day with hardly a breath of wind, a dead flat sea and a receding tide. Wilson Promontory is across the water, a fishing boat tugged gently at it's mooring, a Little Egret foraged in the mangrove roots alongside the swans, grey teal and white-faced herons and a Nankeen Night-heron flew overhead. Idyllic.

The Pardalote cliff is at the northern end of the beach and pretty easy to get too. I envisage a cliff as being many metres in height with lots of barriers [these days] and warning signs. This cliff is no more than six metres at it's highest point and runs for about two hundred metres falling away at each end to the dune area behind the beach or the seawall at the town end.

As I scanned the cliff with my binoculars I noticed one Striated Pardalote rear end poking out of a hole. Ah ha. Someone is home. I walked along the base of the cliff. There was evidence of recent erosion. I think that the entire cliff face had been "wiped clean" over winter as there were no old nest holes, about 15 holes that looked fresh to me and material from at least half of the length of the cliff edge was resting on the beach. A couple of large banksias had come down. Ideal pardalote perches for assessing the potential digging sites on the cliff face. So I sat just a few yards away and waited, listening for SP calls to indicate their presence. I counted no more than 6 individuals over an hour or so and saw only two birds active on the cliff face. Images follow.

Is the coast clear?
Just checking. Is the coast still clear?
You can never be too sure. Is the coast clear?
What about that guy over there with the camera? Is he a threat?
No. I'll get stuck straight in to excavation.
Cleaning my head of grains of sand
Magic. Just be there.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Jack Smith Lake

On Saturday I visited Jack Smith Lake, to the south of Sale by 50 kms and north of Yarram and right by the seaside, to privately look for Orange-bellied Parrots on the OBP survey weekend. Thank you Duncan for providing lots of good geographical information as to where they could be -- based on a sighting back in 1982. I didn't have high hopes -- and wasn't disappointed. I spent about 4 hours there walking about 4 km across the eastern edge of Lamb Lake and the southern edge of JSL itself. I think I saw one pair of Blue-winged Parrot [no photo] plus another 40 species. A standout were a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles.

First cab off the rank, as I alighted from the car within 400 metres of the entrance, was the continual call of Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo. There were several around calling almost continually. At one stage, some White-fronted Chats gave them a seeing-to.

Also on the ground was an Australian Pipit, a relatively common bird and I reckon quite pretty.

Duncan had "warned" me that I may see Striated Field-wrens. And I did. Several families in fact. These ones were to the east of Lamb Lake.

After my walk around Lamb Lake, I motored down to the southern extreme of JSL and parked. There is a bit of water in JSL at the moment and plenty of associated birds.

Black Swans -- about 90 in all
Banded Stilts
Some nice ducklings in front of the stilts
Who do these belong to?
Yes. Mr and Mrs Australian Shelduck
After JSL I went further south to Robertson's Beach to look for Striated Pardalote. See next blog post.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Heyfield Birdoes visit Healesville

... Healesville Sanctuary to be precise.

Seven of us including Jack's goddaughter, Claire, from the UK, congregated at the cafe just inside the Sanctuary entrance by 9.30 and off we went. The main thrust of the day was birds, both free-flying and captured, although Claire did manage to see our icon species -- platypus, roos and wallabies, wombat, dingo, Tassie devils, fruit bats, koalas and echidnas. Our bird list was a modest 27 species but it was the ones in the enclosures that were spectacular. Orange-bellied Parrots alongside Helmeted Honeyeaters sucking up a nectar/honey mixture. Princess Parrots and Inland Dotterels.

The highlight, though, was the Flight Arena where we saw both shows. Black Kite [River] or Whistling Kite introduced hosts, knowledgable and funny, who then free flew ...

  • a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo [Swazi]
  • a Pink Cockatoo
  • a male and female Red-tailed Black-cockatoo
  • a Barking Owl [Timber]
  • a "performing" Long-billed Corella named Kev
  • Black-breasted Buzzard [Bernice, Beatrice] cracking a plaster Emu egg
  • a male and female Eclectus Parrot, Les and Akela
  • a 44 yo male and 17 yo female Wedge-tailed Eagle

The show was very well done. It was also good to have Jim with us, bubbling with stories of his recent trip up Cape York peninsula on various birding sorties. Below are some images of the day.

Western Grey Kangaroo from Kangaroo Island
Nesting Bush Stone-curlew
Star Finch - Fighting Extinction Aviary [FEA]
Helmeted Honeyeater - FEA
Orange-bellied Parrot - FEA
One way to clinch an ID
Barking Owl
 Tawny Frogmouth
Brush Bronzewing
Plumed Whistling-Duck
Inland Dotterel
We had a great day. Thanks to Peter for organising it. Next outing is at Peach Flat on Monday 21 September, meeting at Briagolong Bakery at 9am. Let me know if you are coming.