… Craig Morley and John Newman

Once more there are many fascinating highlights in recent weeks.

Let’s start with shorebirds. Several observers were delighted to find a Pectoral Sandpiper at Avalon. A bonus was a Great Knot, sadly a species that is far less numerous, than was once the case, in our region and worldwide. There was a handful of Red Knots that gave a satisfying comparison. Some observers also found a Sanderling at this site!

Staying with birds that require wetlands, but changing the focus somewhat, it is fascinating to see myriad ibis across the skies of the Bellarine Peninsula and to the west and north-west. The vast majority of these birds are Straw-necked Ibis with a smattering of Australian White Ibis heading out from breeding colonies to forage for invertebrates in pastures. It is exciting to have confirmation of breeding of both species at Reedy Lake - hundreds of the former and tens of the latter. And of course both species will be breeding at Mud Islands, in the southern end of Port Phillip where there will be tens of thousands of Straw-necked Ibis and thousands of Australian White Ibis each tending nestlings, judging by the increase in ‘air traffic’ in recent weeks.

Continuing with breeding waterbirds, it is exciting to have had a record of two adult Brolgas with two young at foot in Reedy Lake and confirmation of breeding of, at least, a low number of Magpie Geese at Reedy Lake. And Little Egrets are back in attendance at ‘their tree’ in Queenscliff. Up to 14 were present on 21 September and none on a subsequent visit on 24 September but they now seem to have settled in with regular records of 12 or more at the site. This is a very important and significant site as, to the best of our knowledge, it is the only breeding site for the species in Victoria – allowing of course for the possibility of some breeding along the billabongs and backwaters of the Murray River in the north-east. This Queenscliff colony has been active since at least 2016/2017. There are also Nankeen Night-Herons breeding in nearby trees.

It’s always exciting to note Banded Stilts in our region, with recent records of 200-400 from Avalon, though we should note the massive flock of 40 000, that kept observers mesmerised at Lake Murdeduke in September, has moved on. A truly enigmatic and astonishing species!

Two observers were mesmerised, for a different reason, as they marvelled at a prey transfer from male to female Peregrine Falcon at Point Addis. The Square-tailed Kite seems to have departed from the Ocean Grove Nature Reserve with a useful comment by an observer on 27 September that the bird was seen flying off to the north-west. As was commented on in these notes last month there was a second bird at Bannockburn on 26 September and there have been occasional  more recent records of the species, in that area, so it will be fascinating to see what happens in coming months.

Two Rainbow Bee-eaters at Indented Head on 13 October, perching in a she oak and hawking out and back for flying insects was an amazing record and surely astonished the keen observer! Usually a species recorded to the west and north-west of Geelong and occasionally the south, with rare ‘flyover’ records for suburban and peri-urban Geelong and there are very few records on the Bellarine Peninsula.

Finishing off with observations from the eastern end of the Bellarine Peninsula an observer was fascinated to observe and record the flights, on separate occasions of two White-fronted Chats, two Magpie-larks, several Galahs and Australian Magpies across Swan Bay from east to west, a distance of at least 2.5km across open water. In the case of the Galahs it was at least 3 km as they made land-fall at Swan Bay jetty – not a direct route from shoreline to shoreline! As someone once said, ‘we should never stop learning!” And making mention of continuing to learn, if you’re looking out over Swan Bay, or for that matter anywhere along our coastline including Port Phillip and Corio Bay, please keep an eye out for small terns: Fairy Terns and Little Terns of the genus Sternula. A large distant flock of at least 110 small terns, most probably the majority of which were Fairy Terns, was observed foraging around and loafing on a sand-bar in Swan Bay at low tide in late September. https://ebird.org/australia/checklist/S73859980 and https://ebird.org/australia/checklist/S73861979

We still have so much to learn about the numbers and movements of Sternula in our region so please keep an eye out over coming months and report what you observe either to the GFNC web-site or eBird.

We have recently re-jigged the Bird News section of our GFNC web-site posting the monthly bird notes from December 2017 onwards at https://www.gfnc.org.au/news/bird-news

Thanks again to the keen observers, who, in the last month have so willingly and keenly submitted their observations to the GFNC web-site https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations and directly, as complete lists or incidentals, to eBird https://ebird.org/australia/home and if you’d like to explore and search Species maps – remember to log in to eBird.