…John Newman and Craig Morley

Continued heavy rain episodes over our local area have created very wet conditions across much of the Geelong region this month. Saturated paddocks and roadsides and full wetlands and dams have meant large areas of inundated habitat.

Lake Modewarre, to the west of Geelong, has long been a site of much interest for local and visiting birders. Blessed with numerous access points which allow the various shorelines to be explored, we are seeing water returning to the lake after being almost dry by the end of last summer. The interest at Lake Modewarre is not always directed to the water birds. July has been a great example of this with two Black Falcons and a glorious Spotted Harrier being seen by numerous observers over several weeks. Black Falcons are an uncommon raptor in the Geelong region usually seen over paddocks and farmland. The aerial acrobatics of this very powerful falcon are remarkable and having two birds so local and reliable has been a boon to bird observers. One bird has been perching less than a metre above the muddy shore keeping watch and a second bird, presumably a mate, more often seen soaring and diving making forays across the lake and towards the lakeside vegetation.

The Spotted Harrier is also uncommon locally but a very different bird indeed. Also showing a preference for paddocks and grasslands, this long winged harrier seems to float on light air currents just a metre or so above the top of the grasses or crop looking for prey, soaring and winding higher on occasion. This hunting style and the beautiful rich rufous plumage spotted with white dots makes for a memorable bird watching experience. Lake Modewarre is also currently home to many waterbirds including at least 1500 Black Swans, some of which are breeding, and a very carefully counted 5030 Grey Teal.  Anticipation for other interesting observations over the ensuing months is high.

The Australasian Shoveler is a beautiful duck and 21 at Freshwater Lake at Point Lonsdale was a treat as was more than 100 at Karaaf Wetlands on the Orange-bellied Parrot survey. Higher numbers are also at Lake Connewarre. Cattle Egrets are being regularly reported with some 64 birds at Drysdale with cattle, 75 from Barwon Downs and 85 at Birregurra with lower numbers around Curlewis including some associating with sheep. The Bellarine Peninsula has long been known as a refuge for Australia’s rarest duck, the Freckled Duck. This month a record of 310 from Blue Waters Lake at Ocean Grove was a highlight. Similarly the well monitored Lake Lorne at Drysdale continued to have good numbers of Pink-eared Ducks with 650 present in recent weeks, though this number seems to have dropped dramatically in recent weeks. And Australian Wood Duck are once more attracting attention in suburbia with their drive to check out possible nest-sites.

A pair of Banded Lapwings flying over and landing at Charlemont was unexpected, their wavering call separating them from the more common Masked Lapwing. The restricted-area beach at Sand Island proved home to 168 Double-banded Plovers, a winter migrant from New Zealand. Small flocks of Hooded Plovers mostly 5-6 birds are gathering on various beaches along our coast. Winter records of Blue-winged Parrots have dribbled into the club website with 43 birds at Charlemont feeding in salt marsh and good numbers in farmland of Cargerie. A flock of Little Corellas at Apollo Bay was unexpected and a further indication of the spread of this endearing but noisy cockatoo.  Similarly winter records of Stubble Quail are rare and so 3 birds calling at Curlewis was noteworthy. Low numbers of the Ocean Grove Swift Parrots are also still being reported.

Other than the raptor records mentioned above, two records of White-bellied Sea-Eagles were interesting – one at the saltworks at Moolap and one at Curlewis. Observers are very good at recording the Black-shouldered Kites that characteristically hover over farmland with their pristine white plumage. The characteristic dashing flight of Australian Hobbies similarly attracts many records and the bird hunting at dusk right in the heart of the city traffic has continued to be studied.

Once again we acknowledge and thank the keen and diligent observers who help to add to our picture of the fascinating birds of the region by recording their sightings on our club web-site https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations and/or directly into eBird Australia. You can visit the eBird Australia web-site, log-in, and searching https://ebird.org/australia/map by adding a particular species and ‘zeroing in’ on the Geelong region to see all the records of this species and perhaps even limit the search to ‘current year’ to see more recent records.