Craig Morley…

on behalf of the Geelong Field Naturalists Bird Group members who participated

Another enjoyable late afternoon-early evening was enjoyed by some keen and intrepid observers participating in the second BirdLife Australia Bittern listening survey for spring 2015. No Bitterns were heard on this follow-up survey.

Once again observers took the opportunity to have a co-ordinated survey a significant portion of the Reedy Lake/Hospital Swamp system with sites listed below surveyed on Sunday 8th November.

Some of the highlights were a small flock of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos drifting south across Baenschs Lane and Little Grassbirds, Australian Reed-Warblers and Golden-headed Cisticolas continued to be vocal at most sites. Whiskered Terns were once more numerous across the sites.

Whitehorse Road produced several Spotted Crakes and a Lewin’s Rail, that came out to feed at dusk, provided much delight and excitement to observers, as did a Latham’s Snipe at Fitzgeralds Road. And an Australian Hobby “motoring through” after flying insects, well after sunset, gave one observer a huge thrill.

Magpie Geese, in low numbers, were reported by observers at Woods Road and Moolap Station Road. Also numerous Swamp Harriers were observed, though the concerted display flights reported during the Bittern survey of 17th October seem to have diminished.

The movements of the Straw-necked Ibis and Australian White Ibis to from the central reed beds continue to add evidence that these species are breeding in the central reed bed of Reedy Lake.

Unprecedented numbers of Brolgas in the system were a highlight of the first Bittern Survey conducted on 17 October, with three pairs being accounted for and a seventh Brolga being observed in the Reedy Lake/Hospital Swamp system on that Saturday night. Subsequently the pair off Moolap Station Road/Woods Road was reported to be moving about with a half-grown juvenile. On the more recent second Bittern Survey evening there were fewer records of Brolgas; one heard after dusk from Woods Road and pair flying to roost from Baenschs Lane at sunset.

Once more a sincere thank you to everyone who contributed, their time, effort and skills. Your willingness to help is greatly appreciated!

If you would like to learn more about the birds seen and heard on Sunday around the Reedy Lake/Hospital Swamp part of the Lower Barwon Wetlands, please follow the relevant links provided below to the Eremaea eBird lists .

Hospital Swamps—Baenschs Lane

Reedy Lake—Woods Road

Reedy Lake—Moolap Station Road

Reedy Lake—Whitehorse Road

Reedy Lake—Fitzgerald Road

Mid-week Bird Group excursion to Bannockburn. 27th November 2014

Leader: Kay Campbell

Lynne Clarke.

An overcast sky and cool southerly breeze had most of the fifteen who came on Thursday 15th November wish we had been less optimistic about the weather, but the birds didn’t care. As soon as we drew up on the edge of the Bannockburn Bush where a swathe of Sugar Gums had been recently felled there were Brown-headed Honeyeaters to greet us, among others, and a Little Eagle drifting up from the south east being harassed by what looked like a Dusky Woodswallow.

Kay Campbell organised us to car-pool for the short drive up Stephens Road where the gate into the Barwon Water property was open for us. We walked up to the area where the Bannockburn sewage is treated.  This is where about twenty years ago there was a huge controversy between Barwon Water and many conservationists, particularly including the Geelong Field Naturalists Club, when a beautiful stand of ancient Yellow Gums, in the centre of a large area of virgin bush never touched by its previous farming owner, was felled.  Two settling ponds have been constructed which now provide habitat for the many species of waterbirds on the accompanying list. Because the ponds are not very large we had good views of them, particularly of the Pink-eared Ducks, Blue-billed Ducks and Australasian Shovelers. Because of the growth of Bannockburn, our Barwon Water guide told us, two more settling ponds had been recently constructed, this time on some of the open grassland previously used for crops. We wondered why they had not been built there twenty years ago?

As we strolled back past the woodland which still contains lovely Yellow Gums we were delighted to be watching a young Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike not long out of the nest and rather wobbly on its feet, begging for and being rewarded with delicious food by its parent. The bright orange gape was most distinctive against its soft grey plumage.

Soon after we surprised a wallaby which had come down to the little steam. It tore off at top speed. We also saw a number of well-worn tracks where obviously numerous wallabies and kangaroos traverse.

As we came out to the road a Spotted Pardalote burst out from a hole in the little bank, and proceeded to explore the eucalypt above it.

We then took a track just near the end of the golf course, and found the forest alive with little birds, including Jacky Winters and a Restless Flycatcher. Craig drew our attention to the call of a White-winged Triller, and though we searched and Kay played the call on her app it proved elusive. It was only after we gave up and turned to go that a high movement in a tree ahead of us betrayed its presence. It floated, calling, from perch to perch across the forest.

We returned to our vehicles and drove back around the Bush, down an unmade road (Old Base Road) to a gateway where we took our lunch to a shady spot beside a waterhole, where Pobblebonks were relentlessly calling. It was not only popular with them: as we ate many birds came down to drink, including Brown-headed Honeyeaters and a small flock of Red-browed Finches. Altogether there were seven honeyeater species in the vicinity.

As we were doing our bird list an Australian Hobby sailed across the now clear blue sky above us. We thanked Kay for a great day out and departed. Ken and Merrilyn’s was the second last car to leave and as they headed south were saw a raptor flying up from a nearby tree. They checked and there was indeed a large nest from which it had come, where there were three well-grown young. Craig’s carload, the last to go, could not neglect this sighting, so stood around for some time waiting, for the adult to return to confirm its identification. The bird stayed out of sight; so one of our number returned later that afternoon and confirmed that it was a large female Brown Goshawk at the nest.

A gorgeous, varied day was had by all, thanks to Kay’s careful planning and management, and the lovely birds of Bannockburn.

The bird list for the excursion (separate eBird lists were completed for the main sites visited ie Bannockburn Bush Reserve and Stephens Rd Bush and water treatment ponds.

Australian Shelduck 1
Pacific Black Duck 4
Australasian Shoveler 2
Grey Teal 30
Chestnut Teal 30
Pink-eared Duck 100
Hardhead 50
Blue-billed Duck 6
Hoary-headed Grebe 10
White-necked Heron 1
Little Eagle 1
Brown Goshawk 4
Whistling Kite 1
Eurasian Coot 30
Masked Lapwing 4
Common Bronzewing 1
Fan-tailed Cuckoo 3
Shining Bronze-Cuckoo 1
Laughing Kookaburra 1
Sacred Kingfisher 1
Australian Hobby 1
Galah 3
Long-billed Corella 2
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo 4
Eastern Rosella 3
Red-rumped Parrot 4
Superb Fairy-wren 16
Yellow-faced Honeyeater 6
White-plumed Honeyeater 8
Red Wattlebird 6
New Holland Honeyeater 2
White-naped Honeyeater 4
Black-chinned Honeyeater 1
Brown-headed Honeyeater 2
Spotted Pardalote 5
Striated Pardalote 4
White-browed Scrubwren 2
Brown Thornbill 2
Yellow-rumped Thornbill 8
Yellow Thornbill 4
Weebill 2
Dusky Woodswallow 2
Australian Magpie 2
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike 3
White-winged Triller 2
Grey Shrike-Thrush 4
Rufous Whistler 8
Willie Wagtail 4
Grey Fantail 6
Magpie-lark 3
Restless Flycatcher 2
Little Raven 2
White-winged Chough 8
Jacky Winter 2
Eastern Yellow Robin 1
Welcome Swallow 6
Common Blackbird 4
Mistletoebird 1
European Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow 2
Red-browed Finch 4

The Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

Changes in their distribution in the Geelong region since 1993

compiled by John Bottomley, written by Barry Lingham

ytbcRecords of the Yellow-Tailed Black-Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funereus) in the Geelong Region have been supplied by members of the GFNC during the past 10 years or so and John has analysed these and earlier records from other sources such as Belcher (Birds of the District of Geelong) and Pescott (Birds of Geelong).

The pre-1993 range of the YTBC :-

  1. Was essentially to the South and West of Geelong,
  2. Was centred on the Otways,
  3. Extended along the coast eastwards to Torquay, and
  4. Generated isolated records from Pettavel, Mt. Duneed, etc.

Records were from late Spring to Early Autumn. i.e.. from Summer. Birds returned to the Otways for Winter. Records from North of Geelong may have been of birds from the Wombat or Enfield State Forests. This has all changed!!

Since 1993 it is clear :-

  1. Observations have been much more frequent.
  2. The increase has come in two phases, 1993-6 and post-1996.
  3. Maximum reported flock sizes have increased in two stages.
Flock size records:-
Year No. of Reports Max. Flock Size Ave. Flock Size
Pre-1993 7 8 3.7
1993 14 43 16.2
1994 8 82 37.4
1995 15 64 25.1
1996 38 70 21.4
1997 82 165 21.6
1998 65 150 38.5
1999 99 150 26.2

Details of Changes by Year

Changes to pre-1993 range.
  • Eastward extension along coast to Ocean Grove.
  • A first isolated record from the Bellarine Peninsula.,/li>
  • Birds regularly reported from Geelong.
  • Maximum flock size up to 43 from previous eight.
  • No substantial changes.,
  • Maximum flock size of 82.
  • Much the same as 1994.
  • Maximum flock size of 64
  • Much the same as 1995.
  • Records again from Ocean Grove
  • Records from both West and North-west of Geelong.
  • Maximum flock size of 70.

Summary of changes 1993-6.

  • Birds seen regularly in Geelong for the first time.
  • Expansion of range eastwards along coast to Ocean Grove.
  • With one exception birds are not reported from the Bellarine Peninsula.
  • Birds observed in open country to West and North-west of Geelong at the end of the period.
  • Maximum flock sizes range from mid-40s to low 80s as compared to eight pre-1993.
  • Birds present in Geelong all year round but large flocks occur only in Winter. Birds in all other areas are reported in Summer.


  • A substantial change from the period 1993-6.
  • Birds still present in Geelong.
  • An increase in reports from the West and Northwest of Geelong.
  • Significant increase along coast to East of Torquay with birds now regular at Ocean Grove.
  • Regular reports from the Eastern Bellarine Peninsula.
  • Regular reports from the Lake Connewarre area.
  • A jump in maximum flock size to 165.


  • Birds now present in the Western as well as Eastern Bellarine Peninsula.
  • Maximum flock size of 150.


  • Similar to pattern in 1996,1997and 1998.
  • Only an isolated report from the Eastern Bellarine Peninsula.
  • Large numbers in the Lake Connewarre-Leopold area.
  • Maximum flock size of 150.
Changes 1993-9.

Steady two-phase expansion of range to the North and East.

  • Birds present along coast to Ocean Grove after 1993.
  • Birds present throughout Bellarine Peninsula from 1997.
  • Birds present to North of Lake Connewarre in Leopold and surrounding
  • areas from 1997.
  • Birds present in Geelong since 1993.
  • Birds present to West and Northwest of Geelong since 1996.

Maximum flock sizes have increased:-

  • up to 80 in 1993-6, and
  • up to 165 in 1997-9.

Large flocks are seen:-

  • in April to September. i.e. Winter and just before and after, and
  • only in Geelong, Ocean Grove, the Bellarine Peninsula and Leopold.
In other areas birds are reported:-
  • in Summer and just before and after, and
  • only in smaller numbers.

What has happened? John's guess, call it an hypothesis, is :- Pre-1993 the population was based in the Otways. Local records were of summer dispersal non-breeding birds to South and West of Geelong and along the coast to Torquay. Some birds may have spent some part of the winter in the Enfield State Forest.

Between 1993 and 1996 up to 80 birds moved into the Geelong region. These were Winter birds. They patrolled a flyway from Pettavel through Waurn Ponds, Belmont, to the Barwon River and hence to Queens Park and later Eastern Park by way of South and East Geelong. They appear to have dispersed, at least some of them, in summer to areas surrounding Geelong.

Between 1997 and 1999, a further 80 birds moved into the Geelong region. These too were winter birds. Birds continued to be regularly seen on the western suburbs flyway and were in addition regularly seen in Leopold, Lake Connewarre, Ocean Grove and Bellarine Peninsula. Some of these continued to disperse throughout the Geelong region in Summer.

Why so? Hypothesis is that there is insufficient Winter food to allow the population to over winter in the Otways and/or Enfield State Forest and that two groups of up to 80 birds have moved into the Geelong region in search of Winter food. (Trevor Pescott suggested that the birds could have originated from as far away as the Mount Gambier area).

  1. the presence of Winter birds in Geelong and subsequently the Bellarine peninsula.
  2. the widespread presence of small numbers of Summer, presumably non-breeding birds which are now dispersing from their new Winter range in Geelong rather than from their former range in the Otways (or elsewhere)

What is not known is:-

  1. Whether the Winter food shortage is in the Otways, Enfield State Forest or other areas.
  2. Whether Geelong's winter birds are returning to the Otways to breed in Summer or are simply dispersing across the Geelong region in small groups.


  1. How to get information on recent logging in the Otways and Enfield State Forest ?
  2. What is the pattern, frequency, numbers and seasonality, of observations of Yellow-Tailed Black-Cockatoos in the Otways and Enfield State Forest?
  3. Are Geelong birds returning to the Otways to breed or staying in the Geelong region all year?
  4. If the latter, is there any habitat suitable for breeding in the region?
  5. Are they attempting breeding? Twenty birds spent the Summer around Lethbridge.
  6. Where are they roosting ?

John has answered many of the mysteries about the YTBC in Geelong, but he has raised many questions that need to be answered before we have a clear understanding of what has happened. The future for the YTBC is unclear. Are these long-lived birds doomed due to failure to breed or will they continue to breed in places unknown ?