John Newman & Craig Morley
The previous two summaries of bird observations have highlighted the wonderful conditions this summer with good water levels and moderate temperatures. It was hoped that the outcome of these conditions would be an excellent season of successful breeding and many of bird sightings submitted in February clearly demonstrate this fact – many juvenile birds have been recorded and many are still being fed by attentive parents.
The wetlands around the Geelong region have been largely showing excellent conditions so it is very pleasing to record Australasian Bittern juveniles at Reedy Lake and Brolga families with one and two juveniles in the lower Barwon wetlands. Reedy Lake remains the local stronghold of this uncommon and cryptic bittern and careful steps are being taken to manage the water levels to accommodate this species and circumstantial evidence, with juveniles in the Reedy Lake system, would strongly suggest local breeding. The small colony of breeding Australasian Darter at so readily viewed from Princes Bridge over the Barwon River has again had successful active nests with young. Black-fronted Dotterels at Avalon with juveniles was an interesting breeding record and the unique, by Victorian standards, Little Egret colony at Queenscliff thankfully has reared at least 11 young https://ebird.org/australia/hotspot/L5250994 It is critically important that we continue to monitor this colony and count the juveniles. Several breeding pairs of Nankeen Night-Herons have produced juveniles at the site. Collared Sparrowhawk juveniles in pines at Birregurra Golf Course were a noisy duo, as were the two at the decommissioned Barwon Water Swan Bay reservoir site, and a juvenile Rufous Fantail in the Otway Ranges suggests local breeding. Similarly juvenile Forest Ravens at the same location help build a picture of typical Otway forest birds successfully having bred this spring/summer. Silvereyes, White-throated Treecreepers and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters are species regularly recorded in the Geelong region and it is important to have documentation of active nesting and young birds this season from several areas in our region. Speaking of breeding by all accounts Lake Lorne, at Drysdale has been ‘humming along’ for many months and a visit to this significant regional wetland https://ebird.org/australia/hotspot/L1430767 never disappoints patient and careful observers! It will be interesting and important to keep an eye on the water levels as time goes on after the major roadworks and the increase of run-off from hard surfaces.
A bird seen sporting breeding plumage alone does not necessarily indicate active breeding but might alert observers to potential nesting. Great Cormorants in their breeding finery, with white blazes on their flanks, at Ocean Grove and Reedy Lake and a similarly adorned Great Egret at Reedy Lake were worthy of comment and delight. As were several Little Egrets at Moolap/Pt Henry and Lake Victoria with nuptial plumes flowing in the wind – is there another colony or two of these notable birds in our region?
Summer is a wonderful time to enjoy shorebirds in the many coastal and wetland sites for which the Bellarine Peninsula is famous. Banded Stilt records have finally begun to trickle in after a long hiatus, presumably due to good conditions at some of Australians inland salt lakes. A record of thirty-one birds in Torquay was a great record. A sole early returned Double-banded Plover at Moolap Saltworks seen during the summer wader count was noteworthy and eleven Eastern Curlews on the Barwon Heads estuary very pleasing for this critically endangered migratory shorebird. A Lesser Sand-Plover at Mud Islands was a wonderful record- these small sand-frequenting birds are very rarely seen on our coast now. Similarly the vagrant Hudsonian Godwit seen at both Sand Island (restricted access) and Mud Islands this month adds to other recent local records of this misplaced North American shorebird. Pacific Golden Plovers on the Barwon coast show this beautiful shorebird is just managing to hang on here and on this occasion was accompanied by a Common Sandpiper. And a record of at least 6000 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers wheeling about over the ‘newly gazetted’ Sparrovale wetlands https://ebird.org/australia/hotspot/L9792702 was a significant number, in the true sense of the word, and an exhilarating site for the keen shorebird surveyors!
One of the more extraordinary records submitted this month was of an Australasian Swamphen apparently pulling sugary lerps off eucalypt leaves, perched in the tree above the water at Blue Waters Lake in Ocean Grove – an excellent example of an observer taking the time to look at a common local bird and learning something completely new.
Once more we sincerely thank the more than forty five observers who so keenly observe AND record the fascinating birds of this region. Please keep them coming to the GFNC web-site or directly to eBird Australia.