… John Newman and Craig Morley
After what seems to have been a long cold and wet winter, there are the early signs of a shift in weather to spring time. The days are rapidly lengthening with sunrise before 7 a.m. and sunset after 6 p.m. we are noting the signs of escalating activity in our local avifauna.
We have had some very interesting bird sightings this month. One of the most amazing was a careful observation of a Barn Owl seen flying low along Moorabool Street in the middle of the day hotly pursued by Little Ravens and Australian Magpies. It must have been disturbed from its day time roost and made a dash for another location. You just never know what unexpected treats await! This month seems to also be the month of great numbers of some birds being seen. Thanks to our diligent observers, we have records of an extraordinary flock of 380 Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos in Cargerie, a total of 410 Blue-winged Parrots at Lake Connewarre, 108 Great Cormorants on the Barwon Estuary, 82 Royal Spoonbills, with a smattering of Yellow-billed Spoonbills, on the western shore of Swan Bay, 27 Caspian Terns also roosting at Swan Bay West and a flock of more than 60 Red-browed Finches at Lake Connewarre.
It's been pleasing to record several species we associate with mid to late August and early September. A Fairy Martin along the Barwon River at Merrawarp Road at Ceres was a welcome sight and a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo calling at Jan Juc was interesting. A beautifully plumaged Curlew Sandpiper was seen in flight at Swan Island and an Eastern Curlew at Barwon Estuary a most reassuring return. Both of these migratory waders are critically endangered in our East Asian-Australasian flyway. It’s always a thrill to record the return of Latham’s Snipe to local wetlands from their breeding grounds in Japan.
Some birds are already breeding with Black Swans seen with cygnets at both Breamlea and Jerringot at Belmont Common. Masked Lapwings have been seen with either eggs or young runners at various locations across the district this month. A New Holland Honeyeater with nest-material was seen in Newtown and local observers were excited to find recently fledged White-browed Scrubwrens at Eclipse Creek in the Brisbane Ranges.
Despite the records of spring migrants being submitted in recent weeks in August, we continue to receive records of our ‘winter’ birds still persisting in their cold weather haunts. Flame Robin records have been received from Bellbrae, Connewarre and St Albans Park with continued Pink Robins records from the Geelong Botanic Gardens as well as Jan Juc and Lake Lorne. We anticipate that these birds will all return to the cooler forests of the Otway Ranges and, perhaps, beyond over spring and summer to hopefully breed.
A partially leucistic Australian Magpie at Charlemont, sometimes seen as you drive along the Barwon Heads Road, is an interesting ongoing record. Gang-gang Cockatoos are still being seen with records at Fyansford and West Geelong. Several observations of Australian Wood Duck from Queenscliff were excellent with this species being rarely seen in the Queenscliffe Local Government Area (LGA). A Brown Falcon carrying a small snake at Connewarre was a wonderful sighting as were the Peregrine Falcons at the Brisbane Ranges and Queenscliff. Numerous records of majestic Wedge-tailed Eagles have been keenly submitted from areas to the north of Geelong – Balliang, Rowsley and Brisbane Ranges as well as to the west along the Geelong Ring Road and at Ceres on our recent Club excursion as well as the birds that persist on the Bellarine Peninsula.
In late news, at the time of finalising these notes, keen and thrilled observers have recorded our first early spring (August-September) GFNC record of Pallid Cuckoo on 1 September calling at Eclipse Creek and, in a very exciting development, a conservative initial estimate of 20 000 Banded Stilts at Lake Murdeduke on 28 August – what a stunning sight that must have been!
Once more we sincerely thank all the members and friends who observe and then, most importantly, document and submit their bird records to the GFNC web-site https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations and/or eBird Australia https://ebird.org/australia/home and remember to log-in to take full advantage of these wonderful resources.
... John Newman and Craig Morley
A fairly gripping winter to date has not slowed down the bird observers of Geelong and surrounds. Many people have been out despite regular rain, very cold frosty mornings and a good amount of wind. Accordingly, our local birders have recorded many great observations of our winter birds and in many cases made detailed records of their behaviour.
Several of the regular winter surveys occurred this month, focussed on shorebirds, waterbirds and saltmarsh parrots. Unsurprisingly we have had good records of wetland birds from right across the district. It has been very interesting to see regular records over many years of breeding Black Swans at Breamlea and they’re ‘back in the news’ this month with cygnets. A high number of swans (829) at Lake Victoria are utilising the conditions, with a few attending to nest renovations in preparation for breeding. Eight Brolgas at Sparrovale were a delight and a trio, including an immature at Reedy Lake seen a little later the same day, were possibly from that same group. A large flock of 156 Cattle Egrets has been seen in a paddock without stock along Murradoc Road at Drysdale. Keep your eyes open for other flocks around our area and continue to inform us of their local preferences and habits. Similarly, a total of 116 Royal Spoonbills at Swan Bay west, including at least 90 roosting near the jetty with a few Yellow-billed Spoonbills, complemented a flock of Royal Spoonbills in the same area several weeks earlier. A small flock of Australasian Shovelers at Freshwater Lake was a good find, as they materialised amongst myriad teal, included an immature bird.
A solitary Banded Lapwing alerting observers with the characteristic metallic strident call was an unexpected thrill at Lake Connewarre. Good numbers of Black-fronted Dotterels at Moolap Saltworks, during a complete survey of the site, likely indicative of ponds inundated with stormwater from adjacent areas. A very large flock of 55 Red-capped Plovers at Eurack seemed to be making the most of a hypersaline pond and food reserves.
We have once more enjoyed numerous reports of Australian Hobbies, particularly in fading light at or near sunset indulging in crepuscular hunting. Breeding of Black-shouldered Kites through autumn and into winter certainly seems to be a regular occurrence locally—this month numerous reports of young birds with adults have been submitted from Lake Connewarre, Sparrovale, Point Henry and Balliang. A wonderful observation of six Wedge-tailed Eagles at Balliang was stunning with the observer noting four birds standing in a paddock and two perched in adjacent trees. Two great records of White-bellied Sea-Eagles this month detailed a pair at Lake Connewarre participating in a honking duet and a single immature bird catching a fish in the shallows of Stingaree Bay offshore from Moolap Saltworks—not a common bird here at all. Several Barn Owl records from Werribee and Balliang prove the benefits of looking along rural roads after dark on a winter night.
An Australian Reed Warbler calling regularly was an unexpected winter record for Reedy Lake. A Brush Bronzewing on a track at Bellbrae was a great record of a moderately common, though infrequently observed species in our region. A Crested Shrike-tit in direct-seeded revegetation in Colac was satisfying, as were Flame Robins at Wallington, Reedy Lake and Mt Gellibrand. A flock of 12 Gang-gang Cockatoos along the Barwon River in Newtown, and a Laughing Kookaburra at Grasstree Park at Torquay and two birds calling in suburban Highton, made for pleasing records. Mistletoebirds are still around enjoying the fruiting mistletoe at Edwards Point. A Rose Robin in Bellbrae brought a smile to the observers. The same observers noted two green Satin Bowerbirds looking for olives to eat at Bellbrae.
An enormous count of more than 2800 Welcome Swallows at Sparrovale appeared as clouds of birds. Another super-flock of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos, some 170 birds, were seen at Highton and this record was complemented by many other records of large flocks around town. An observation of Swift Parrots at Rice Reserve was a wonderful highlight to finish this report.
… John Newman and Craig Morley
Working through this month’s wintery bird records really highlight what a wonderful array of bird sightings our members submit in the Geelong region, particularly with the cold start to winter.
We have not seen a lot of sea-watching records despite some strong southerly winds to date but a Northern Giant-Petrel at Pt Lonsdale was a great find, with the record noting the red tip to the bill that enabled it to be differentiated from the closely related Southern Giant- Petrel. The latter species has a green tip to the bill. The coastal strip that is so bird-rich in summer has still provided a variety of good finds with eight Hooded Plovers, 35 Double-banded Plovers and 15 critically endangered overwintering Curlew Sandpipers all at Blue Rocks near Thirteenth Beach. Karaaf saltmarsh had a welcome visit from five Brolgas—a good number for the Bellarine Peninsula/Surf Coast. Cattle Egrets in numbers up to 40 were seen at sites ranging from the Birregurra-Warncoort Road, Cape Otway Road, Deans Marsh and Batesford. An interesting record of a single Banded Stilt at Avalon was submitted with detail provided of reducing numbers at that site over the preceding weeks until just this single individual was left. We are left to ponder why it remained as others left—perhaps a young and inexperienced bird or an older bird. This record shows that with the context of the previous higher flock numbers, a single bird can provide a very interesting record.
A Barn Owl was seen before dawn on a fence post at Anakie and a Black-shouldered Kite pair was seen at their nest tree at Balliang. A dark morph Little Eagle at Yarram Creek at Swan Bay was another great sighting of this exciting raptor and a White-bellied Sea-Eagle record from Lake Colac was a thrill as were observations of this species from the Bellarine Peninsula at Lake Connewarre and Swan Bay. And writing of Lake Colac, it was pleasing to receive records of two Magpie Geese and a similar number of Great Egrets at the Bird Sanctuary.
Many Geelong bird lovers are entranced by Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos resulting in a good number of records of this species in most months! A species so often heard before they are seen with the far-carrying distinctive call before they come into view with that oh so recognisable flight pattern. This month we have records of a wonderful flock of 240 at Cargerie and a flock of 122 in Highton as well as flocks of 50 and 90 birds mostly around the Highton area. Smaller flocks have also been reported this month. Please keep submitting these valuable records to the club website or directly to eBird including time of day and direction of flight to help piece together the movements of this evocative and much-loved species. A flock of 25 Gang-gang Cockatoos was most noteworthy, given that it is higher than reported in recent years, also using the Barwon River corridor. Blue-winged Parrots were also flocking on the eastern side of Lake Connewarre with a stunning total of 332, typical of the good numbers of this species seen in pasture and saltmarsh in recent weeks at this restricted access area. A smaller flock of 15 utilising the glasswort vegetation on the dry floor of Lake Modewarre was an interesting record reminding us that the inland lakes of our region can provide important habitat for species in the non-breeding season.
Brush Bronzewing records can be sparse locally so a bird seen at Barwon Heads was noteworthy, as was a Common Bronzewing in Geelong Botanic Gardens within Eastern Park, with few records of the species over many decades at this urban park. Several Mistletoebirds have been seen in Highton and Newtown, one calling as it flew over and one male silently gorging on Wire-leaf Mistletoe
Amyema preissii berries in a street acacia. This is typical of the, at least local, movement of the species at this time of year. Numerous Pink Robin records have been submitted from the Geelong Botanic Gardens, the You Yangs and Highton and a record of a male Rose Robin in the Brisbane Ranges was most welcome! A Shining Bronze-Cuckoo calling in dense forest near Aireys Inlet was a surprise for this predominantly migratory spring-summer species. And observers at Eclipse Creek in the Brisbane Ranges were excited to observe a ‘local record’ of 35 Redbrowed Finches. A similar number were observed in a flock in saltmarsh at Lake Connewarre recently.
Breeding is also on the minds of some species with a Little Raven seen carrying a large food parcel, perhaps for courtship-feeding or food-caching, over Newtown and several records of stick gathering and nest refurbishment are just starting to filter into the records. There was an interesting record, also from Eclipse Creek, of Whitebrowed Scrubwrens collecting nest-material, reminding us that some of ‘our’ birds will nest in most months if the conditions are right!
… John Newman & Craig Morley
With a lot of the March-April bird migration having settled (with one or two notable exceptions – please read on!), well documented in recent Geelong Naturalist Bird Notes and online records, now is a time for seeing birds in more regular winter locations. It has been great to get out on formal surveys such as the May Orange-bellied Parrot survey (please see the separate article in this edition) as well as informal visits to our favourite local haunts.
Our local area is rich in coastal saltmarsh and wetlands and it is no surprise that birders regularly seek out such sites. It was great to hear of an Australasian Bittern seen at Hospital Swamp and three Brolgas at nearby Reedy Lake. Out at Avalon saltmarsh a small flock of 16 Banded Stilts was seen and the Barwon River Estuary held a nice flock of 32 Double-banded Plovers. This is the time of year when small flocks of Sanderling can occasionally be seen on our coast at Blue Rocks rather than 1-2 so a flock of 12 at this site was a great record this month.
Cattle Egrets have been observed in low numbers up to eight across several locations namely Ocean Grove, Leopold and St Albans Park and higher numbers further afield including 40 with dairy cattle at Deans Marsh and 48 at Colac Saleyards.
It’s always a great experience to happen upon Gang-gang Cockatoos and small flocks of up to 13 birds have been sighted at several places around Highton. In a similar vein Flame Robins have been reported from Lake Connewarre and Mt Gellibrand to name just two locations. An Australian King-Parrot in Anglesea was a surprise and two Chestnut-rumped Heathwrens, also in Anglesea, was pleasing for this elusive heathland gem. We do not get too many records submitted of Crested Shrike-tit, so two birds along the Barwon River at Fyansford was a great record of a species that can be very hard to pin down. A few Dusky Woodswallows were still present, late in May at locations such as Rice Reserve, the You Yangs and St Leonards. A Rose Robin at Bellbrae a good record for late May and earby, two separate sightings of Powerful Owls were the product of much careful habitat checking. These glorious large forest owls can be remarkably hard to see despite their huge size and May-June is the time that pairs are beginning to nest in large hollows. Writing of nesting it’s always exciting to note successful breeding of Black-shouldered Kites with an adult with two young buff-coloured birds near Colac.
Great numbers of Stubble Quail have been recorded, with up to sixteen birds recorded at Balliang and lower numbers elsewhere such as Lake Connewarre. And speaking of noteworthy numbers of birds two fortunate observers at Eclipse Creek, Brisbane Ranges, remarked about their “local record” of a flock at least 40 Red-browed Finches. An astounding flock of 110 Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos at Belmont was a phenomenal sight as was a flock of at least 90 of these majestic and captivating birds navigating downstream along the Barwon River Valley at sunset on eBird Global Big Day. We’ve already mentioned Lake Connewarre several times and it’s exciting to note an adult Eastern Spinebill observed in dead vegetation on the edge of the delta in late April and a sight of adult male and female Cape Barren Geese flying north-east across Lake Connewarre on 29 May.
A Spangled Drongo, possibly a first-year bird, has bobbed up at Anglesea on 22 and 25 April perhaps reinforcing the point we postulated on in our May 2021 Bird Notes that there is some curious phenomenon going on where some individuals of this species undergo what is known as reversed-direction migration and come further south-west from south-eastern N.S.W. instead of the usual movement to the north-east at this time of year https://www.gfnc.org.au/news/bird-news/358-may-2021-bird-observations-some-highlights Another most unexpected migrant passing through our area were 8 White-browed Woodswallows at St Leonards on 12 May recorded with an unequivocal description in eBird https://ebird.org/checklist/S109724420 . This record is all the more extraordinary as we did not enjoy a “woodswallow spring” where this species and, sometimes, Masked Woodswallows flood across our skies on days of warm northerlies in October and early November. In fact we had few if any records of this species in our region over spring and summer. All begging the question of this group on 12 May, with some Dusky Woodswallows (an unusual occurrence in its own right to have the Dusky species apparently mixing with their White-browed cousins – not at all an expected phenomenon) where did they come from and where were they going?
Let’s finish off this month with a brief return to eBird Global Big Day – it was most pleasing to see many members and friends getting out there on 14 May to enjoy “our birds”.
132 species recorded for Greater Geelong
42 species recorded for Surf Coast
26 species Golden Plains
…John Newman & Craig Morley
When reading through the submitted bird records of the last month from the many keen birders of the Geelong region you will see a dazzling array of observations that illustrates the many joys of autumn birding.
Some glorious sunny weather has remained with us over recent weeks and no doubt enticed people out into the wetlands, forests, plains and beaches. We are still seeing a lot of autumn bird movement. Honeyeaters are now fairly obviously moving around with many fascinating records of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and a few of White-naped Honeyeaters moving in small to larger flocks. Some observers are noting these birds utilising tree plantations and shelterbelts in open country or roadside vegetation, ‘rolling’ along with intermittent stops, calling regularly. Once more emphasising the need for plantings of this type to provide corridors for birds and other wildlife to move and migrate! Singing Honeyeaters have also been recorded in several new locations (Limeburners Point and Eastern Park) this month probably moving about from Pt Henry and other known haunts further east along the coast. Swift Parrots have again been seen flying overhead calling at Ocean Grove, one of our few local areas that this critically endangered species utilises more predictably.
Another of the local species displaying obvious movement across our region is the Grey Fantail. The records this month show some large gatherings at some locations and some may be a mix of the mainland subspecies alisterii and the Tasmanian subspecies abiscapa. The fascinating inquisitive behaviour and squeaky call make them fairly easy to detect and it is fascinating how a large group of dozens of them can be seen in a single location one day and then gone the next, moving on to another site. Last month we read about the wonders of the Geelong Botanic Gardens and the autumn birds found there. Rose Robins have still been seen there early in the month though now are seemingly gone while, up to 4, Pink Robins are currently there.
Unobtrusive Mistletoebirds have been seen in fruiting Wire-leaf Mistletoe in suburban streets perhaps once again indicative of, at least, local movement. Their tiny size meaning their presence is often only given away by the characteristic sharp single-note or the sweet little short “tootsie-cheer” calls. An Olive Whistler in the edge of the Otway Ranges, south of Colac, was a nice morning surprise. Flame Robins have well and truly made an arrival in the paddocks and parks of our area with small groups in many locations. Hopefully larger flocks will be noted soon. A large noisy flock of 20 Dusky Woodswallows at Ocean Grove Nature Reserve was an interesting April record, suggesting birds gathering or resting during migration. A sight on the Lake Connewarre floodplain of at least 310 Blue-winged Parrots heading to roost, made up of smaller flocks arriving sequentially before dark was exciting. Forest Raven records continue to be submitted from the plains well to the west of Geelong and to the north of the Otway Ranges reminding us that this species is present in these areas so a careful ear should be kept for corvids with a bass baritone call rather than the expected mid-range calls of Little Ravens.
Another feature of local conditions noted over recent weeks has been the smoke haze sitting over the district as farmers burn off crop stubble. A wonderful array of raptors making the most of this food resource has been submitted, as small birds, mammals and reptiles scramble for cover or are caught unaware of the fire and make for easy pickings. Black Falcons, generally scarce, have rewarded alert observers this month, in the vicinity of these burn-offs with several descriptive records coming in from the drier western plains as well as a bird in Lara. Continuing the raptor theme a Spotted Harrier was a beautiful sight at Hesse and several Peregrine Falcon records illustrate the excitement of seeing this powerful hunter. White morph Grey Goshawks have been well represented in recent weeks perhaps illustrating the dispersal of birds to more open habitats over autumn from the more-dense forest habitat of spring and summer. Though we must hasten to add that a pair of these glorious birds in a territorial display in prime breeding habitat on the Curdies River, north of Timboon, held the undivided attention of two mesmerised observers for many minutes. A Powerful Owl record at Bellbrae was a wonderful observation, heard calling in the early evening.
Wetland records have been keenly received with excellent observations of several unusual duck species with young – Blue-billed Ducks at Lake Struan, Musk Duck at Lake Elingamite, along with Australasian Grebes with very recently hatchlings in Eastern Park, Geelong all with young. Little Black Cormorants were giving every indication of feeding nestlings out on the remains of the old bombing target in Lake Gnarput during a recent survey. Cattle Egrets are now being seen and recorded in our district with small flocks of up to five birds being noted and a stunning record, in the last week of April, of 180 gathering at Lake Colac Bird Sanctuary. A very large flock of 620 Australian Pelicans in flight must have been quite a sight south-west of Cressy and a Buff-banded Rail in the Geelong Botanic Gardens has been enjoyed by many. A Kelp Gull at Breamlea was a great record of this rare local gull, with the careful observer noting the white tail, clarifying the slight build differentiating this species from the closely related and common Pacific Gull as this species, at this time of year, can have an all-white tail as the sub-terminal black band wears away. A Lewin’s Rail enticed birders at Lake Connewarre with its characteristic call and 5 Bar-tailed Godwits at Lake Victoria was unusual at this time of the year as were a duo of Double-banded Plovers at Pt Henry – a species seldom seen at this location in recent years.
The grasslands of the western plains hold many gems for the few who go looking and several records of juvenile Australasian Bushlarks were great observations indicating local breeding and a stubble burn-off caused some 17 Australasian Pipits to flush along with a similar number of Eurasian Skylarks. A small covey of five Brown Quail at Derrinallum was a surprise as they burst from the long grass beside ploughed farmland.
… John Newman & Craig Morley
The passing of summer’s heat and the loss of early morning sunlight in recent weeks herald the onset of autumn, the still days, sunshine with less intensity and calm waters mark autumn with a beauty all of its own. Birdlife over this season similarly has its own special appeal most obviously marked by bird movement to and from our region. Some birds dispersing after breeding in the cool forests of the Otway Ranges, whilst others that breed in Tasmania arrive seeking the somewhat milder climate of southern Victoria for winter. Some of these species will remain here for the whole winter, others are passing through en route to a milder climate further north. Some species arrived in spring from Australia’s north to escape the intense heat and rain that summer brings, to breed in our relatively milder summer locales. Many of these species are now heading north to continue the cycle. All in all it’s a very exciting place to be at the moment and the many sightings submitted to our Club web-site and via eBird illustrate a lot of these movements.
The Geelong Botanic Gardens has long been known as a bird haven and late summer through autumn and into winter when wonderful species not often seen in urban Geelong arrive and can be enjoyed by the keen observer. Many of these species follow a predictable arrival date and so can be anticipated fairly accurately. If we consider the line graphs generated in eBird from data submitted for Eastern Park https://ebird.org/australia/barchart?byr=2000&eyr=2022&bmo=1&emo=12&r=L2549826 and Geelong Botanic Gardens https://ebird.org/australia/barchart?byr=2000&eyr=2022&bmo=1&emo=12&r=L3637443 from 2000 to current we discover Rufous Fantails, often seen in the shady rainforest garden, may arrive in the second week of February with a peak in the third week of March. Rose Robins arrive in the first week in March, reaching a peak in the third week of March with records continuing on and off through to the second week of August. So far, in 2022, at least two Rose Robins have been seen, one with a lovely deep pink breast. A female Satin Flycatcher was an unexpected delight for a patient careful observer and also in the Gardens Golden Whistler, Eastern Spinebills and good numbers of Grey Fantails, the latter, mostly passing through have been noted. A total of ten Brown Thornbills, including some juveniles being fed, was a record high number for the species in long-running surveys at this site. A female Superb Fairywren was also an unusual bird for the Gardens, perhaps wandering from Limeburners Point. In recent days a much-anticipated Pink Robin, as usual a ‘brown bird’, has turned up and, perhaps, we may be treated to a Bassian Thrush in coming weeks in the Geelong Botanic Gardens.
Many other great sightings have flooded in also from far and wide. Gang-gang Cockatoos are being seen widely around the suburbs enjoying fruiting trees, expertly extracting the seeds from the fleshy fruit. Many sightings comprise small, presumably, family groups. A Painted Buttonquail seen in the Otway Ranges was in surprising wet forest habitat and the pair of Powerful Owls located close to Forrest was a treat. Rose Robins have also been observed through the wetter areas of Forrest and Apollo Bay recently. Rufous Fantails have also been located ‘on passage’ as far afield as Bellbrae, Ironbark Basin and Ocean Grove Nature Reserve. Ocean Grove has also been the scene of another Satin Flycatcher record and our first Swift Parrots for the season. Nearby at Barwon Heads, a lone White-throated Needletail was seen ahead of a thunderstorm.
Silvereyes have been more numerous in recent weeks, some sporting the rich rufous flanks of the Tasmanian lateralis subspecies. Varied Sitellas at Ironbark Basin were a great find and a noisy flock of Yellow Thornbills in a suburban park in Newtown were busy in the company of Brown Thornbills and Spotted Pardalotes. Several Grey Fantails of the Tasmanian subspecies albiscapa were seen around Apollo Bay sporting darker sooty grey plumage and minimal white in the tail.
A young Kelp Gull at Apollo Bay was very satisfying and four Red Knots at Lake Victoria was a good record for the last weeks of the migratory wader season. A record of 2750 Australian Shelduck at Lake Murdeduke made a fabulous sight and a lone Latham’s Snipe at Jerringot in Belmont must have been pretty well the last to leave for the breeding ground back in Japan. Breamlea saltmarsh continues to provide good habitat for Buff-banded Rail, Spotless Crake and Australian Spotted Crake.
Raptors continue to captivate and excite! Wedge-tailed Eagles were recorded in several locations over the Bellarine Peninsula including 4 together over Collendina. A Peregrine Falcon was enjoyed at Apollo Bay as were several sightings of white morph Grey Goshawks, including an adult female in Eastern Park, with unidentified prey in its feet, which had at least 8 other species very agitated. A Black Falcon at Winchelsea was a great record and a big surprise as it languidly circled into view causing a big stir amongst the 4000 Little Corellas in the vicinity. The observer returned later in the day and found at least 5000 Little Corellas but, alas, no Black Falcon! Australian Hobby records have also been widespread through March from a wide variety of habitats and locations including a juvenile loudly chasing and harassing a second bird presumably, an adult or a sibling, with food.
… John Newman & Craig Morley
As the Barwon River flows downstream from the Otway Ranges across the western plains to meander through Geelong and into Lake Connewarre, finally emptying into Bass Strait at Barwon Heads, it provides many types of ideal habitat for a great diversity of bird species. Each different part of the river’s course is worthy of time spent sitting, watching and marvelling at the complex interplay between the river, the vegetation and the wildlife. This month we highlight many records that are intricately tied to the Barwon River in different areas.
Near Winchelsea is a riverside billabong that has attracted a lot of keen observation over many years. Known as Karngun Bridges Swamp https://ebird.org/australia/hotspot/L3039410 conditions vary markedly as the seasons change. The higher rainfall of recent months has provided good breeding conditions for numerous species. Great records of juveniles of Yellow-billed Spoonbill, White-faced Heron and the rarely noted juveniles of White-necked Heron all represent local breeding in a mass event more reminiscent of occasional breeding in the Murray River wetlands. A gloriously plumaged Great Cormorant, resplendent in breeding flush with white thighs, cheeks and short nuptial plumes and vivid yellow bare facial skin is surely evidence of this species breeding at the site though other birds attending nests could not be found amongst the Australasian Darters, Little Pied Cormorants and Little Black Cormorants with active nests in the wonderful River Red Gums at this delightful site.
Nearby, a vast flock of 3500 Little Corellas with a few closely related Long-billed Corellas was seen in the vicinity of the Barwon River at Winchelsea, only to disperse over the next fortnight. They were presumably enjoying food resources provided in the riverside area rather than the more predictable grain stores nearby. Closer to Geelong, Gang-gang Cockatoos have been recorded, since late January, at several sites in Newtown including Balyang Sanctuary https://ebird.org/australia/hotspot/L2549672 adjoining the Barwon River. We always look forward to the movement of these wonderful birds into our suburbs as the days shorten towards the autumn equinox.
Our wetlands continue to provide many great records and the news of Pink-eared Ducks breeding at Lake Lorne provides evidence of a rarely recorded local event for the species and a beautifully plumaged Gull-billed Tern at Lake Gnarput, during an extensive survey of the western lakes, was very satisfying as this is a species rarely recorded from our wetlands and lakes. The Little Egret colony at Princess Park in Queenscliff https://ebird.org/australia/hotspot/L5250994 has continued to attract observation with up to 34 birds, including at least 22 juveniles, recorded in February. Good records of Brolgas coming from wet areas to the west as well as the usual Lake Connewarre complex of wetlands are always sure to be a highlight of any birding outing!
The summer wader count saw many locations surveyed and some highlights included 381 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers at Lake Modewarre and at Sand Island near Queenscliff nine Eastern Curlews, 38 Grey Plovers and a very locally rare Greater Sand Plover. A noteworthy 388 Curlew Sandpipers were recorded at Lake Victoria. The Point Impossible Whimbrel is still in the area and nearby a Latham’s Snipe in the saltmarsh at Bancoora was unexpected. A Hooded Plover on the shore of Lake Victoria was a good sighting also and an adult Black-fronted Dotterel with 3 tiny chicks, at Marcus Hill, was a thrill for the patient observer. Before we leave wetlands and, in particular shorebirds, we must note the December record of a vagrant to our region an Australian Pratincole at Lake Victoria https://ebird.org/australia/checklist/S101983475 .
A small group of Dusky Woodswallows was found breeding at Marcus Hill and, in December a keen observer recorded Spotted Pardalotes with a nest tunnel off the side of a rabbit burrow and a good flock of nine Weebills at Wallington was a rare record of the species on the Bellarine Peninsula. And some diligent and persistent observers have been kept busy over recent months carefully watching and recording the progress of several Blue-winged Parrot nests, in fence posts, in the Brisbane Ranges.
The presence of Forest Ravens https://ebird.org/australia/species/forrav1 well inland, north of the Otway Ranges, was further supported with a record at Kariah, north of Camperdown. The very deep baritone call is quite different to the calls of its corvid relatives the Little Raven https://ebird.org/australia/species/litrav1 and Australian Raven https://ebird.org/australia/species/ausrav1 .
Records of Rainbow Bee-eaters were submitted this month were most welcome. One from the You Yangs and a second very interesting record of at least two birds calling high overhead flying north over Ceres. Stubble Quail are still calling in crops west of Geelong and small flocks of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos are being seen across the region.
There have pleasingly been many records of Australian Hobby from varied sites across the western farmland, inner Geelong suburbs and the Bellarine Peninsula. These masters of flight and hunting are a joy to watch as exemplified by two juveniles hawking for flying insects over a meadow of Bolboschoenus fringing a wetland during a recent Sparrovale survey. A glorious white morph Grey Goshawk at Cressy held the attention of three observers as did an adult pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles sharing a fresh rabbit kill at Inverleigh and a juvenile White-bellied Sea-Eagle feeding on the wing at Collendina.
…John Newman & Craig Morley
This edition of bird notes covers two months and as you read through it is hard not to be dazzled by the sheer number of breeding records that our many observers have noted and submitted to the web-site as well as the very many records submitted directly to eBird Australia. These records cover a wide array of species across many habitats and continue to reinforce the fact that the Bellarine Peninsula, Surf Coast and Otway Ranges continue to be gems of Victoria birding. In addition to these breeding records there are many interesting species sighted since our last edition.
There are at least nineteen species recorded breeding lately in our area. We have wonderfully detailed records of our critically important Little Egret colony, happily shared with Nankeen Night-Herons, at Queenscliff with at least 17 juveniles and 6 juveniles respectively. Please enjoy the details of these methodical observations. Australasian Shovelers with young are a rarity on the Bellarine, so seven small ducklings at Portarlington were noteworthy and Chestnut Teal with young nearby at the same site was a delight. We rarely receive records of Australian Spotted Crakes breeding but with Bancoora Saltmarsh being a crake haven recently it was very satisfying to see a record of two adults with two immatures there. Black-fronted Dotterels with young at Marcus Hill were noted and Australasian Grebes were seen with young in Eastern Park and on a nest in Ocean Grove. And writing of waterbirds there are numerous species breeding at Lake Lorne, including at least three clutches of Hardhead, a species infrequently observed breeding in our part of the world.
Changing our focus to land-based birds, an Australasian Pipit carrying food was seen at Werneth, a Black-faced Cuckooshrike juvenile at Bannockburn and one carrying food at Connewarre and Blue-winged Parrot juveniles at Connewarre, identified by their bone-coloured bills, along with other records of this species from the Brisbane Ranges were all important and worthwhile records. Crested Shrike-tits at Rice Reserve were seen with young and these too are rarely detected breeding locally. Dusky Woodswallows are more obvious with their breeding and so records at Curlewis, Bannockburn, Connewarre, Leopold and Batesford gave insight into how widespread this endearing species is across our region. An interesting record of Fairy Martins breeding on a wall at Torquay was also of note. Some dead birds at the foot of the wall, remind us of the perils of safely rearing young to adult hood. Sacred Kingfishers are also currently breeding along the Barwon River in Newtown.
Raptor breeding records have been numerous with Australian Hobbies with two juveniles at the old Geelong Golf Course, Brown Falcons at various stages of breeding in many locations including the western plains and Leopold. Collared Sparrowhawks with young were seen at Wingeel and a begging young white morph Grey Goshawk at Kawarren was a great record. Swamp Harriers have finally been confirmed to be breeding at our beloved Jerringot after several years of suspicious activity at the site where richly coloured chocolate brown fledgling is being taught the ropes by diligent parents.
Moving on from breeding records there has been a number of outstanding bird sightings in our area of late. Quite a few people enjoyed seeing the remarkable local Dollarbird around the Ocean Grove/Wallington area. Initially identified at Portarlington in early December, it may well be the same bird that became a bit more reliable at Ocean Grove. Another record of this species was also submitted from Distillery Creek near Aireys Inlet and a record, in late January, from the western plantation at the You Yangs strongly suggests there may well be more than one individual in our midst. Keep an eye out and please keep the records rolling in! One species that has attracted a lot of local attention is the Whimbrel seen on Thompson Creek estuary at Breamlea. It is uncommon in our region, possibly becoming less frequent, so it was gratifying for keen observers to be able to see it locally again. Up to 10 Eastern Curlews have been seen on the Barwon estuary at low tide. Up to 1100 Banded Stilts at Moolap Saltworks was an astounding number.
Another species that’s always worth the effort of stopping to enjoy is the Australasian Bushlark. An enthralled observer at Barunah Park stopped to observe one perched on a stone fence as it proceeded to sing, over two 4 min periods, with mimicry of Stubble Quail, Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo, New Holland Honeyeater, Willie Wagtail, Rainbow Lorikeet, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Eurasian Skylark, Common Starling, Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Golden-headed Cisticola, Superb Fairywren, Australasian Pipit, Brown Songlark, White-browed Woodswallow, Welcome Swallow, House Sparrow, European Goldfinch. Quite an astonishing and memorising performance – 17 species!
The third Latham’s Snipe Count for the spring/summer took place in January. It was pleasing to see numerous records of this species submitted with significant numbers from the Birregurra district. A Spotless Crake at Balyang Sanctuary has been seen several times despite the species’ renowned secretive and cryptic habits. Pacific Koel records continue to come in from the Highton and a record from Rice Reserve at Connewarre was very interesting. A small group of Scarlet Honeyeaters has persisted at Long Forest over the spring and summer and a Rufous Bristlebird heard clearly at Gellibrand, a bare minimum of 28 km from the coast, reminds us that these cryptic birds can penetrate a long way inland in the Otway Ranges. Powerful Owls are always a thrill to hear calling and She-Oaks Picnic Ground was just such a location in December. Brown Quail and Stubble Quail records from west of Inverleigh thrilled the diligent observer, especially a record of 35 (probably 40+) of the latter all calling and counted carefully along 1 km of a drying wheat crop, in 25 min from 21:10. On a clear moonless evening after a day of 35°C the observer was marvelling at the experience and then realised all calling had stopped, by 21:35, as last light faded. Local sunset had been 20:50.
Finally we finish off with two stunning aerialists – each so special in their own particular way. A large female Black Falcon circling high overhead keeping a watch circling over burning stubble at Pitfield was exhibiting behaviour typical of the species – watching for prey burnt or displaced by the flames and smoke. These birds are also known for their habit of harassing other birds Little Ravens, Black Kites, Brown Falcons and even their own kind to steal a food item. A solitary White-throated Needletail, at Indented Heads, is one of the very few records so far this season of this species. Hopefully as summer continues we will see more of these magnificent masters of flight over our Geelong region.
Please keep looking and enjoying and recording our fabulous birds!
Thanks once again to the many keen, interested, dedicated and diligent observers and recorders of our birds! You will find many of the records we have mentioned here, along with many others, on our web-site https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations
and please log in to https://ebird.org/australia/explore and use the ‘species map’ option and narrow the date range to Dec-Jan and 2021-2022 and search for the sightings of various species recorded in our region in recent weeks.
John Newman & Craig Morley
Unusually cold days through November coupled with continued wind and steady rainfall seemed to be the pattern, in this current La Niňa event, with few, if any, of our hotter early spring days with northerly winds. This weather pattern has meant some of our anticipated spring migratory birds, such as White-browed and Masked Woodswallows, have not arrived though plenty of records of other species of interest continue to be submitted by the many keen bird observers scattered right throughout our district.
A Rainbow Bee-eater on private land just north of the Ocean Grove Nature Reserve was a very interesting find, reminding us of the historical records in the area, such as December 1991, when the species at least attempted to breed just outside the western boundary. Scarlet Honeyeaters continue to be heard in Long Forest and further careful observation may present evidence of a breeding event. Olive-backed Oriole records are widespread this month from the drier woodlands of the Brisbane Ranges and Inverleigh down to Anglesea and Point Addis and onto the Bellarine Peninsula at Ocean Grove. The much anticipated Pacific Koel has returned at the ‘usual’ locations of Highton and Wandana Heights. It continues to be a source of fascination as to how many calling birds we have in this area and beyond. So it’s important for us to record when (date and time) and where the characteristic “koel” calls are heard in our region. Hopefully we will also receive documentation of breeding.
A Spotted Quail-thrush pair seen in the Brisbane Ranges was pleasing as was a Tawny-crowned Honeyeater calling in the Anglesea Heath, as was the Australian Owlet-nightjar heard calling in Long Forest.
The Bellarine Peninsula has been the scene of some other interesting and important sightings this month. Two records of Painted Buttonquail at different sites this month are most notable, coming close behind several records in October of this cryptic and infrequently reported species! Two birds moving quietly through the undergrowth at Portarlington Water Treatment plant was a great find as was a single bird at Mannerim. Two Laughing Kookaburras carrying food in Winchelsea surely indicate active breeding and Striated Pardalotes were seen to be entering a metal cross bar on a power pole, also presumably entering a nest. Hollow-nesting birds will often utilise human made structures if they are suitable for rearing a family. The record of two Common Mynas at Lake Colac was disappointing as this invasive species continues to extend its distribution.
Blue-winged Parrots have been seen in several less common locations in our district this month. Three birds in the Long Forest were noted as very rare visitors. Two at Cressy and two at Glenmore were also noteworthy. The dry plains of the west have continued to reveal great grasslands species this spring. Australasian Bushlarks have been observed in several sites with wonderful mimicry of other local species, Brown Songlarks have returned to their preferred grassland habitats and many Stubble Quails have been heard calling from the farmland across the western district. Weebills have been detected in the shelterbelts along these quiet country roads and a Rufous Songlark, at Long Forest, was a reminder that we seem to have had fewer records of this migratory species over recent years.
A large flock of Banded Lapwings continues to be utilising the same paddocks out at Barunah Plains. Other shorebird records of note include sixty Curlew Sandpipers at Avalon Saltworks and the spotting of a rare Pectoral Sandpiper at Moolap Saltworks were both excellent records. Low numbers of Pacific Golden Plovers are still finding refuge at Blue Rocks near Breamlea, a shadow of the numbers utilising this site in years gone by. Good numbers of Whiskered Terns, some 450 or so, have been counted at Lake Connewarre Delta and thankfully our wild weather does not appear to have displaced the critically important Little Egret colony at Queenscliff.
At least one whingeing juvenile Collared Sparrowhawk at Winchelsea, during the Upper Barwon Landcare Bird surveys, clearly indicated breeding at the survey site.
The behaviour of the Magpie-larks with a nest under the cross-bar of a power pole in Newtown would indicate they are feeding and tending young nestlings and the Spotted Pardalotes, reported from a drain culvert in the same suburb, have gone un-noticed in recent weeks until a recent sighting of a bird flying out from under the culvert carrying something in its bill – presumably a faecal sac.
Once more we sincerely thank and acknowledge the myriad observers across our region who consistently and diligently record their observations directly to eBird, as complete lists or incidentals, or our to club web-site as incidentals or highlights from their eBird lists. https://ebird.org/australia/home https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations Please visit these sites and remember to log-in to maximise your options and enjoyment e.g. to gain access to “explore Species Maps” option on eBird.
And why not follow this link for Sacred Kingfishers see the sorts of research that our records are supporting: https://ebird.org/australia/science/status-and-trends/sackin1
Or follow this and you can choose your species to view: https://ebird.org/australia/science/status-and-trends/species
… John Newman & Craig Morley
Another month of fairly wild windy spring weather has not held back the enthusiastic bird observers of our region with an amazing array of birds reported from all parts of our district. With thanks to those who participated in the eBird Global Big Day adding their highlights to the Club website for all to enjoy. Many thanks for the added details that give a lot more understanding as to why certain records are important or unusual. And, more broadly, thanks once again to the keen and diligent observers and, most importantly, recorders of the birds of the Geelong region – your efforts continue to help build a wonderful story of our birds!
It has remained fairly wet and, in spite of the wild days, overall fairly mild so far this spring so wetland birds feature prominently in this month. Whiskered Terns in a marshy area in the western plains at Barunah Park numbered 75 where they foraged actively and another 63 in stunning breeding plumage purposely moving north, on Swan Bay, just offshore of Queenscliff golf course. Forty were also seen at Wurdiboluc Reservoir and a low number at Hospital Swamp. White-fronted Terns have again been seen locally with a bird ashore at Bancoora Beach and two at Lorne. Very pleasing sightings, indeed! Our small, yet highly significant, colony of Little Egrets at Queenscliff seems to be heading in the right direction. Over recent weeks increasing numbers, with their flowing nuptial plumes, have been noted foraging and loafing in the immediate area on Swan Bay and 16 were observed perched in one of the nest trees late on 20 October where there had been none earlier in the day. It didn’t take long for the number to build with 22-24 in subsequent days! Low numbers of Cattle Egrets, up to 14 birds, have continued to be reported from many sites including several on the Surf Coast, St Albans Park, Lake Connewarre and Leopold.
An immature Brolga at Lake Connewarre was a great sighting as was a single Black-tailed Nativehen at Queenscliff Golf Course. This species is rarely seen locally unless there is a major irruption when they can be a common feature of many wetlands. A good flock of Banded Lapwings has been observed repeatedly on the western plains, up to 38 birds, and the beautifully plumaged Australasian Shoveler has been seen in pairs on wetlands across the Surf Coast and at Shelford. A Baillon’s Crake at Hospital Swamp was a wonderful find of this tiny secretive wetland gem and Australian Wood Ducks have been seen with young at Bacchus Marsh and Ocean Grove. A group of breeding Australasian Darters at Winchelsea was an important find and they were in the company of Little Pied and Little Back Cormorants nesting at the same site. Before we finish with waterbirds we must at least briefly mention some wonderful western lakes sightings with peak numbers of 4000 Banded Stilts, 1200 Red-necked Avocets, 1500 Red-necked Stints and 350 Australasian Shelducks.
Leaving the wetland theme for drier habitats, a cyclist in Newtown was most surprised to be swooped by a Pied Currawong and the usually elusive Painted Buttonquails have been seen several times this month at Anglesea, Ocean Grove Nature Reserve and Long Forest. These cryptic ground-dwellers are sometimes given away by the presence of circular areas of cleared ground, called platelets, created by the bird spinning in circles to expose invertebrates in the ground cover. Little Wattlebirds are suspected to now be resident in Bacchus Marsh and a Crescent Honeyeater at St Leonards was a long way from the wet forest and scrub of the Otway Ranges and hinterland where they are more usually seen. Gang-gang Cockatoos are still present in the suburbs with 10 seen flying along the Barwon River in Highton at dusk. The Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos continue to be keenly recorded by birders across our region. The actual records with details of sites and flock sizes make for interesting reading.
A Chestnut-rumped Heathwren singing gloriously in the Anglesea Heath made a strong impression as did, at Coogoorah Park, an immature male Brush Bronzewing – a moderately common though, perhaps, under recorded species in our region. Brown Thornbills in the Geelong Botanic Gardens were feeding young and Blue-winged Parrots records have been submitted from sites far and wide from Cressy to Jan Juc and 1 flying over Highton was a great record. A Spotted Pardalote drew one observer’s attention high on a powerline in a suburban street and then, after a period of patient observation, flew rapidly and directly into a drainage culvert – most probably visiting a nest-site. A flock of 45 Purple-crowned Lorikeets in Inverleigh was a great sight and record.
We receive few records of Black Falcon, one of the most dazzling aerial hunters of our skies, so a record of one circling high at Hospital Swamp, to add to a similar record last month, was very exciting. Similarly a record of male and female Brown Goshawks displaying overhead at Bannockburn was made all the more memorable when a female Collared Sparrowhawk appeared from the woodland rising to ‘see them off’. What a wonderful opportunity to compare and contrast these very similar woodland raptors.
John Newman and Craig Morley
It has been very exciting to read through this month’s bird records submitted to the Club website, eBird and iNaturalist. Many people have been out between enforced lockdowns to make the most of early spring birding and this has revealed an amazingly diverse collection of records with some real thrills among them.
We have had numerous records from the farmland and plains west of Geelong this month and it is a reminder of some of the seasonal gems that can be found out that way. A trip to Lake Modewarre was rich in its bird diversity including three Brown Quail in wet grass and a Spotted Harrier, an uncommon species in our region whose movements are still unclear. Further west were such highlights as nine Gull-billed Terns foraging over a ploughed field in Barunah Park, several Australasian Bushlarks singing in fields, Fairy Martins gathering mud at a culvert soon after their spring return, a Restless Flycatcher also seen here was pleasing and an amazing congregation of 145 Australian Magpies scattered across a paddock. What a sight! Another Brown Quail was flushed from a roadside drain at Wingeel. Brown-headed, White-naped and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters have all been seen in small groups around Wingeel, Murgheboluc and Ceres. Whilst the exodus of migratory honeyeaters to warmer areas over winter occurs as a mass movement, the return of these birds appears to be far more subtle in small groups moving through roadside corridors and bushland and their presence at this time of the year is very interesting to document. And a Crescent Honeyeater calling from a garden at St Leonards near the Beach Rd car park for Edwards Pt Reserve was a most unexpected delight https://ebird.org/australia/checklist/S95226394
There have been plenty of interesting sightings along our coast. Jan Juc has been running hot with interesting sightings including Australian Wood Ducks on a median strip behaving oddly while resident Tawny Frogmouths are nesting there again. A small group of Blue-winged Parrots were seen feeding in the area at a community park. The Barwon estuary had a White-fronted Tern, an uncommon winter visitor, loafing with a large flock of Crested Terns. Black Rock provided interest with another flock of Gull-billed Terns flying east and four Pink-eared Ducks floating on the sea offshore – a most interesting sight. The same observers in this area also saw two Weebills there in revegetation corridor, most unexpected. A Caspian Tern fishing successfully amongst a small flock Little Black Cormorants in the Barwon River was fascinating.
Latham’s Snipe are now being seen in low numbers in many locations across Geelong having returned from their Japanese breeding grounds. An Intermediate Egret on Belmont Common documented on iNaturalist was a remarkable sighting of this very unusual wetland bird. Cattle Egrets have not been obvious this winter and so a small flock of 23 at Corio complements small groups at Bellbrae and Ocean Grove this month. Australian Wood Ducks were very intriguing on several rooftops in suburban Newtown – perhaps these hollow-nesting ducks were desperately looking for a suitable ‘site’. Similarly, a family of Australian Shelducks, a pair with nine chicks, walking along a bushland road in the Brisbane Ranges had presumably bred in a hollow in the forest. Belmont’s Princes Bridge Australasian Darter colony is back in action with nest repairs and occupancy underway. Pallid Cuckoos have returned to our region with at least 1 silent bird being buffeted about by a north wind at Swan Bay on 24 September. There were others recorded in the days that followed. And in very recent news a Magpie-lark has been observed putting the finishing touches to a nest on a power pole in Newtown. https://ebird.org/australia/checklist/S95282109
Together with the Jan Juc sighting Blue-winged Parrots have been seen in Cargerie, and Common Bronzewings are nesting again in Ocean Grove. Little Wattlebirds have been observed at Bacchus Marsh where they are rare and also at Ocean Grove. Rufous Whistlers calling at locations such as Distillery Creek and Barunah Park certainly heralds the arrival of spring and a Speckled Warbler at the You Yangs was a great sighting of this scare woodland bird.
A white morph Grey Goshawk was recorded at Teesdale calling conspicuously and a Little Eagle at Queens Park high in a pine tree may be an indication of breeding, a site they have used on occasion in the past.
A very exciting find was a Lewin’s Rail https://ebird.org/checklist/S95003567 heard at Jerringot giving repeated ‘kek’ calls – try this link to gain more of an appreciation of the call the keen observer heard over several late afternoons https://ebird.org/australia/species/lewrai1 and some keen-eyed observers remind us that Black-faced Cormorant do breed on the cliffs at Port Campbell https://ebird.org/australia/checklist/S94721200
Once more we thank the myriad observers, numbering well over 40, who diligently record our birdlife with observations on our club web-site https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations and directly into eBird as complete lists or incidental records https://ebird.org/australia/home and remember to log in to gain maximum benefit from looking through these resources.
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