… John Newman and Craig Morley

Spring is well and truly with us now and the Bellarine Peninsula and surrounding areas are currently a treasure trove of bird activity, enjoyed and reported by a large number of dedicated observers.

Spring heralds the return of many migrant birds which return to our rich area for feeding and breeding.  This month’s observations comprise a very long list of fascinating records illustrating this annual phenomenon with Rufous Whistlers seen and heard at Durdidwarrah in recent days along with a species that is always a regional highlight – the Rufous Songlark. Dusky Woodswallows have returned in good numbers to our woodland and riparian areas. Cuckoo records have been many and varied with all of the local species recorded as well as the two rarer species – Black-eared Cuckoo in the northern dry area of the You Yangs and a most unexpected Brush Cuckoo in urban Geelong. Pallid Cuckoos arrived in late August as predicted and seem to be widespread now.  Fan-tailed and the two Bronze-Cuckoos are similarly widespread and detected readily by their reliable calls. Fairy Martins are returning to many familiar sites to breed and Australian Reed-warblers are giving away their spring-summer presence with penetrating calls from reed beds across the district.

There is still water in many wetlands and it was a great delight for two Australasian Darters to be seen at St Leonards – a widespread species that was once a great rarity around Geelong.  A few Black-tailed Nativehens have been seen and similarly the diminutive Baillon’s Crake spied on several wetlands. Cattle Egrets are developing a hint of their orange breeding colour in some of the rural paddocks that they frequent and numerous small family groups of Brolgas are delighting observers around Reedy Lake Bancoora and Buckley. A Kelp Gull was a great sighting on the Surf Coast and Whiskered Terns have now turned up in moderate numbers right across the Geelong region.

Low to moderate numbers of Banded Stilts are back and often sharing their saline habitat with Red-necked Avocets. The first of this season’s Latham’s Snipe counts resulted in birds seen in Belmont, Collendina and, rather surprisingly at a wetland adjoining Karaaf, Hopefully numbers will grow over the next few weeks in many sites. The vagrant Northern Shoveler documented last month at Lake Modewarre returned after an absence of some weeks and is again in the middle of the receding lake waters apparently associating with the related Australasian Shovelers.

Black Falcon records are not common in our district but this month there are numerous records of this supreme master of the air from no less than four different locations. Spotted Harriers also continue to be observed around Modewarre, Gheringhap and Shelford.

Flame Robins are hanging on for the end of their winter dispersal in many sites and will soon retreat to more heavily wooded areas, generally at higher altitude, to breed. Gang-gang Cockatoos are also still wandering locally but in smaller flocks with more sub-adults being seen. A suburban Little Wattlebird was a big surprise in Newtown as was a Noisy Miner.  A Scarlet Robin at Curlewis, apparently associating with the more usual Flame Robins, was most unexpected away from the usual woodlands and Weebills continue to be recorded regularly. It will be of great interest to see if any breed in their new locales over spring and summer. And writing of robins a male Red-capped Robin is currently delighting observers near Merdith. Southern Boobooks have been flushed and heard across the area and Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos continue to roam in small numbers.

This wonderful variety of records, from so many of our observers, is testimony to the very special region in which we live and wander and the dedication and skill of so many keen and talented observers. We thank them all. And, of course, don’t forget that you can look at the observations on the GFNC web-site at  https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations or go to https://ebird.org/australia/explore and log-in and explore species or species maps.