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!

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