An edited version of this article appeared in the September 2017 edition of Australian birdlife.
Victoria’s second largest city is close to an array of wonderful birding sites including wet forests, coastal heathlands, dry woodlands and a number of wetlands of international significance. These are some of the local birding spots within 10 kilometres or a drive of 30 minutes from the city centre.
Eastern Park and Geelong Botanic Gardens
Close to the CBD, Grey Butcherbirds, Australian Magpies, Pied Currawongs, Eastern Rosellas, Crested Pigeons and Rainbow Lorikeets are regular. Gang-gang Cockatoos and Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos are possible. There is a Nankeen Night Heron roost. Australian Hobby and Collared Sparrowhawk are likely from September to April. In the Botanic Gardens, look for Brown Thornbills, White-browed Scrubwrens; in autumn-winter expect Rose and Pink Robins (brown birds), Eastern Spinebills and Grey Fantails. Yellow-faced and White-naped Honeyeaters and Rufous Fantails pass through in autumn and spring. Eurasian Coots, Dusky Moorhens, Australasian Grebe and Pacific Black Ducks are regular at the lake. Great Egret, Latham’s Snipe and Baillon’s Crake may turn up. A short walk to Limeburners Point will add cormorant species and Crested Terns. Across Corio Bay look for Australasian Gannets; Arctic Jaeger (spring-summer) may be pestering terns and gulls.
Links to eBird Hotspots:
Eastern Park http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/hotspot/L2549826
Botanic Gardens https://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L3637443 Stormwater Harvesting Lake http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/hotspot/L2965365
Parkland beside the Barwon River, look for Chestnut and Grey Teal, Australian Wood Duck, Pacific Black Duck and possibly Hardhead, Latham’s Snipe, Buff-banded Rail and Spotted Crake. On the river, nearby, Australasian Darters breed with nests in close proximity to those of Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants. Alarm calls of New Holland and White-plumed Honeyeaters may alert you to Grey Goshawk (autumn-winter), Collared Sparrowhawk, Australian Hobby or occasionally Peregrine Falcon. Parrots include Red-rumped Parrots, Rainbow Lorikeet, Eastern and Crimson Rosellas. A gentle 6 kilometre return walk upstream to Queens Park may add Brown Goshawk, Collared Sparrowhawk, Little Eagle, Whistling Kite, Kestrels, Black-shouldered Kites, Sacred Kingfishers and Dusky Woodswallows (spring-summer) and roosting Tawny Frogmouths or a Southern Boobook. Carry water be sun-smart and aware of snakes!
Links to eBird Hotspots:
Balyang Sanctuary https://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L2549672
Queens Park http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/hotspot/L2549974
Barwon River Estuary
Ocean Grove boat ramp and the path downstream to the bridge, provide views of many shorebirds on the sandflats. A telescope will be useful. Bar-tailed Godwits, Eastern Curlews, Red-necked Stints, Curlew and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Common Greenshanks can be seen. Black-tailed Godwit, Terek Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Sanderling or Whimbrel may turn up. Expect several duck and cormorant species with Black Swans, Great Egrets and White-faced Herons. Spiny-cheeked and Singing Honeyeaters may be found in the fringing shrubs. Caspian Terns or a fly-past of a White-bellied Sea-Eagle may be added delights.
Link to eBird Hotspot: http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/hotspot/L2368529
Point Addis and Ironbark Basin
Point Addis car park is known for Rufous Bristlebirds that afford good views. Out to sea, look for Shy and Black-browed Albatross, Short-tailed (October to April) and Fluttering Shearwaters. Brush Bronzewings are possible. Moving to nearby Ironbark Basin will provide opportunities for views of Crescent Honeyeaters, Gang-gang Cockatoos, Scarlet Robins, White-throated Treecreepers, Striated Thornbill, Varied Sittella, White-eared and Brown-headed Honeyeaters, Satin Flycatcher (spring-summer) and, less frequently, Leaden Flycatcher and Bassian Thrush. Blue-winged Parrots quietly feed on seeding grasses or loaf in trees during summer.
Links to eBird Hotspot:
Point Addis http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/hotspot/L921929
Ironbark Basin http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/hotspot/L2547804
You Yangs Regional Park
This reserve offers rewarding bush birding. The Information Centre is a great place to start, especially if the gums are flowering to attract Purple-crowned and Musk Lorikeets along with honeyeater species, including Black-chinned. The careful observer may be rewarded with Painted Button-quail, Common and Brush Bronzewing, Speckled Warbler, Southern Whiteface, Diamond Firetail, Rainbow Bee-eater and Scarlet Robin. Expect Weebill, several thornbill species, Jacky Winter, Crested Shrike-tit and Rufous and Golden Whistlers. Western and White-throated Gerygones and Dollarbirds, though vagrants, may be recorded. Keep an eye skywards for raptors and please respect the private property to the west of the Western Plantation.
Link to eBird Hotspot: http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/hotspot/L941188
check numerous sub-sites Hotspots for more detail
e.g. Visitor Entrance Area https://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L3330932
Gravel Pit Tor https://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L3267760
As well as these some other local areas to explore include
Hospital Swamp is a good site for water-fowl and waders and seems to provide more than its fair share of unusual and rare bird sightings. As well as the regular Royal Spoonbills, Yellow-billed Spoonbills and Red-kneed Dotterels, you may be lucky enough to see Magpie Geese, Glossy Ibis, White-winged Terns, Brolgas, Marsh Sandpipers or Wood Sandpipers.
Links to eBird Hotspots:
Hospital Swamp: https://ebird.org/australia/hotspot/L2548959
and sub-sites such as
Baenschs Lane: https://ebird.org/australia/hotspot/L3403957
Hospital Swamps Road: https://ebird.org/australia/hotspot/L3280987
Inverleigh Common and Bannockburn Reserve
These are some of the few remaining Yellow Gum grasslands and are excellent areas for bird watching. The late winter and early spring flowering of the magnificent Yellow-gums make it an important stop-over for nectar feeders, like Spiny-cheeked and Black-chinned Honeyeaters, while White-browed Woodswallows, Olive-backed Orioles and Jacky Winters are reported at other times. Swift Parrots may pass through from April to September.
Inverleigh Common: https://ebird.org/australia/hotspot/L2547650
Bannockburn Reserve: https://ebird.org/australia/hotspot/L2547674
both these Hotspots have numerous sub-site