… John Newman and Craig Morley
It is with great excitement that the summary for this month’s bird records is written for the detailed list of over 100 records documents an astounding variety of our regional birds including breeding records we rarely hear of and outstanding migratory birds that have appeared locally. We urge you to spend some time savouring the detailed records available via the link https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations and also log-in to eBird and use the explore species or species map options https://ebird.org/australia/explore
The two Australian bittern species found in our region would rate high on a birder’s list of species to find and this month the same observer has recorded each – Australasian Bittern at Point Richards, a new location and Australian Little Bittern at Hospital Swamp in a similar location to records over last spring-summer. Each species utters a characteristic call. A good time to listen is at dusk and the following few hours. We are reminded by a very experienced and perceptive observer that the Australasian Swamphen can produce a guttural call at least slightly reminiscent of what one might expect from the Australasian Bittern. If observers consider they have heard an Australasian Bittern booming we would encourage them to check online and in our experience if you consider you are listening to an Australasian Bittern you should be able to notice the indrawn breath before the ‘boom’ and also appreciate the regularity of the booming. It is also worth noting that the call(s) of the Australian Little Bittern tend to be low volume, with a frog-like quality, and might easily be overlooked so please keep an ear out and be prepared. Please check these online links we’re sure you’ll find others.
Australian Little Bittern
N.B. depending on the eBird portal you are using the name of this species may come up as Black-backed Bittern - when you are logged in/using the eBird Australia portal, the name will come up as Australian Little Bittern, as it should’
An Australian Spotted Crake detected by call in a remote ephemeral wetland at Barunah Plains was a good find. Good winter and spring rains have meant these wetlands have provided enough habitat and food reserves to support successful breeding for numerous species. It’s always pleasing to have local Brolga breeding records and it’s especially heartening, and rewarding, to have several active nests beyond the Lower Barwon system in the agricultural areas to the west of Geelong. Several records of Gull-billed Terns, again in recent weeks, around the Corangamite lakes add a thrill as we have few records of this species in most years. There are very few records of breeding White-necked Heron in our region so some active nests in a wetland near Winchelsea was a most rewarding and exciting observation. A single bird of the same species flying across the Barwon Estuary was noted as most unusual in this location and habitat.
Birds of prey create a lot of interest and it’s exciting to note several nests of Wedge-tailed Eagles have been carefully observed, at a distance, to the west of Geelong and a thorough, patient and very cautious observer has been rewarded with finding White-bellied Sea-Eagles nesting on the Bellarine Peninsula. A recent sighting of a Square-tailed Kite in the Brisbane Ranges is exciting and raises the question, is it one of the birds that was at Bannockburn or Ocean Grove in late September or a third member of the species visiting our region.
There continue to be excellent records of many of our spring migratory species. A Black-eared Cuckoo at Eynesbury was a very good find and, writing of our less frequently recorded migratory cuckoo species, there have been several records of at least one vociferous Brush Cuckoo in the Anglesea-Aireys Inlet area. The former is a bird of dry woodlands whilst the later tends to be a species we associate with wetter forests, it is worth noting that we have no confirmed breeding records of Brush Cuckoo and few unequivocal breeding records of Black-eared Cuckoo in the Geelong region! So please be on the look-out as you venture out over the coming weeks and months – you might just add some very important information to our knowledge of the birds of the Geelong region! The now regular Pacific Koels have turned up true to form in Highton delighting, at least some, residents with early morning calls which, though clear and penetrating, can be very hard to locate. And keep a listening ear out for the lower volume more understated ‘wukka wukka, wukka wukka’ call of the species!
Satin Flycatchers have arrived in our region with at least 5 very vocal birds in close proximity in the Anglesea heath, hopefully with breeding intent. Little Lorikeet records are not particularly frequent in the Geelong region so a flock of six feeding in Ocean Grove was a thrill.
The agricultural lands to the west of Geelong do not get as much bird-watching attention as many other areas around our region – refer the maps of seasonal survey coverage on page 5 of the Geelong Bird Report 2013-2016. Over recent weeks there has been a great array of grassland species with evidence of likely breeding – Brown Songlark, Australasian Bushlark and also several Australian Reed Warblers calling frequently from an inundated Canola crop. An unusual record of a Singing Honeyeater, found in a shelterbelt at Barunah Park, also reminds us that it is well worthwhile spending time, observing carefully and patiently, on the track less travelled.
It was with great success and satisfaction that one of our members rescued a Tawny Frogmouth chick that had come out of the nest in Jan Juc. With some simple ingenuity it was returned to a makeshift nest under the watchful eye of its parents who continued to successfully fledge several weeks later. A lovely record of Southern Boobook in suburban Geelong also alerts us to keep an ear out after dark especially on these warmer evenings.
With sincere thanks to the keen observers who submit their highlight records to the GFNC web-site or as complete lists to eBird Australia.