…John Newman and Craig Morley

Upon reading the current month’s bird observations for the Geelong region there are many highlights to savour. Several themes run through these records this month and it is worth looking at some interesting breeding records and raptor records that have been of particular interest. There are then fascinating smatterings of really unusual bird records to enjoy. It is really worth spending some time reading the details of the records highlighted in this summary.

The wide-ranging collection of observations indicating winter breeding is good evidence that when conditions are right, birds breed. There are numerous records of Australian Magpies and Little Ravens collecting twigs and sticks and flying to high vantage points to begin nest building and refurbishment. In the Breamlea saltmarsh and at Jerringot Wetlands birders are noting, and enjoying, Black Swans on nests incubating eggs or perhaps hatchlings on their elevated mounds built of reeds from the surrounding wetland. Black-shouldered Kites had a demanding juvenile birds with their tell-tale buff-coloured feathers at several sites, including Wingeel, Ombersley and Connewarre. Cape Barren Goose breeding records are notable locally and so numerous recently-fledged young as well as birds on nests at Lara was interesting. Masked Lapwings copulation witnessed this month reminds us that it’s the time of the year when this highly adaptable species breeds.

Many local bird enthusiasts have a great affection for our local raptors and there are numerous records this month of interesting raptor sightings and behaviour.  Sightings of the majestic White-bellied Sea-Eagles are always a highlight, with two resident pairs on the Bellarine Peninsula, so it was of interest that an individual was seen flying west along the coast at Torquay. In a similar way, local Black Falcon records always create excitement so it was pleasing to have a record, from Inverleigh, of this uncommon species.  A young Collared Sparrowhawk, at Bannockburn, was a source of much curiosity for an astonished observer when it spent a prolonged period of time flying through a large flock of White-winged Choughs, perhaps practising hunting skills. Australian Hobbies have been recorded at several locations displaying their wonderful and breath-taking crepuscular hunting technique of surprise approaches, in fading light, after sunset. And we should find room to include a most noteworthy record of a female Little Eagle taking down a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo at Warncoort; a prey item that is rarely recorded for the species (Stephen Debus pers. comm.). https://ebird.org/australia/checklist/S69873863

Winter is the classic seabird watching time with the strong southerly winds bringing the ocean-loving species closer to our coastline. If birders are patient and can withstand the cold blowy conditions, time spent at one of our clifftops or lighthouses can often reveal albatross and other pelagic species. This month we have records of both Brown Skua and Arctic Jaeger from just such a site at Point Lonsdale. It was noteworthy to have records, from several different locations over several days, of exceptional flocks in excess of 1500, of Crested Terns utilising our coast presumably to escape rough weather further out to sea.

A fascinating record, this month, was of two Hooded Plovers seen and photographed at Cundare Pool in the Lake Corangamite system. These birds are exclusively coastal beach inhabitants on our eastern Australian coast so to see birds in this location, more than 50 km from the coast, is nothing short of astonishing. One of the birds was flagged and was identified as a bird bred in the Phillip Island area. It is also interesting to ponder that the Western Australian Hooded Plover subspecies does indeed regularly utilise inland salt lakes some hundreds of km from the coast. These Hooded Plovers are doing reasonably well in those locations, in stark contrast to our coastal birds that are struggling to survive the increasing pressures of beach use by humans and dogs.

Brown Quail are another of the less frequently recorded species for the Geelong region so we were delighted to hear of five birds in damp terrain at Ombersley. The exceedingly small and delicate Southern Emuwren has been documented, this month, at several locations around Anglesea heath and Lake Connewarre sedge-lands.

 A flock of 80 Cattle Egret, in their beautiful white plumage and bright orange beaks, was a wonderful record at Barwon Downs and immense flocks of Little Corellas, at Winchelsea and beyond, in numbers of 2000-3500, have presumably have found a source of food in this agricultural area. Powerful Owl records from the Brisbane Ranges and Anglesea area were very pleasing with May often the month when these magnificent forest owls finding mates and commencing breeding, so it is a good time to listen for their characteristic penetrating call in large forest tracts. Writing of owls, it is most exciting to report on a record of a rarely recorded and poorly understood bird of the region, the Barking Owl, which surely astonished and delighted the observer in the early hours of the morning at Meredith!  A most exciting record and a great way to wrap up our report for June!

Thank you to all the observers, at this least 42 in this current crop, who so keenly and willingly record their bird observations as highlight records to the GFNC web-site: https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations

 or directly as complete or incidental records to eBird Australia: https://ebird.org/australia/region/AU-VIC-GGE?yr=all&m=&rank=lrec