… John Newman & Craig Morley

Variety is certainly an apt descriptor for the records which have been logged this month on the GFNC observations website. These records cover many, if not all, of the habitats we expect to see in this varied landscape of ours from ocean beaches and wetlands to woodlands and grasslands. Bird enthusiasts are clearly enjoying getting out and taking note of what they see and of course taking the trouble to submit the records which allows this important information to enter the formal databases for the Geelong region including the Bellarine Peninsula and Surf Coast.

Autumn brings cooler and usually windy weather and heralds the start of ocean watching season and patrols for beach-cast birds. Over the months to come we hope to see plenty of records of our offshore pelagic birds and terns submitted but this month  a beach-cast White-faced Storm Petrel at Ocean Grove was the pick of these records.

Similarly, autumn is a well-studied and documented season for bird migration. Birds which breed at higher elevations in the forests and wet gullies of the Otway Ranges disperse over winter to areas with more moderate weather and more food resources. This accounts for the continued recording of Pink Robins, Rose Robins and Rufous Fantails in the Geelong Botanic Gardens. At least two Pink Robins have been reported, both ‘brown birds’ female or juvenile birds and probably several Rose Robins and Rufous Fantails based on individual plumage differences of the respective birds of each species. Flame Robins have begun to move into farm lands in Wallington and will hopefully be widespread over the coming weeks. Grey Fantails of the Tasmanian subspecies albiscapa have been seen in several locations including Batesford and Connewarre indicating the migration over Bass Strait has occurred for winter.  High numbers of Blue-winged Parrots have also arrived at Connewarre. Pacific Swifts overhead at Modewarre and Highton late in the afternoon is typical of windy conditions in late summer and early autumn and it pays to keep an eye on the skies in these conditions. Similarly White-throated Needletails, over Newtown and Pt Lonsdale, were a welcome sight for some keen observers. Singing Honeyeaters in Jan Juc were a treat and probably indicative of at least local movement of this species at this time of the year.  Other honeyeater species are on the move across our region for milder climes for winter. Keep an eye and ear out for White-naped Honeyeaters in coming weeks as they continue the pattern several weeks after the Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. A White-naped Honeyeater was noted recently heading across Lake Connewarre in a small flock of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters.

Perhaps the migratory woodland bird record of most importance for our area is the reassuring arrival of a small number of Swift Parrots back at Ocean Grove in the endemic Yellow Gums. This critically endangered bird is now the subject of a recovery plan as wild populations have plummeted to perhaps less than 1000 birds so having them locally in our unique woodland is a delight. Diamond Firetails at Long Forest, near Bacchus Marsh, was important as these birds seemingly continue to disappear from the Geelong region.

Blue-billed Ducks with chicks is an amazing record at Yarram Creek on the Bellarine Peninsula as breeding records are few here. A female Lewin’s Rail at Lake Victoria was a real thrill for the observers on the recent GFNC excursion as the species is notoriously difficult to see with cryptic habits of skulking in reed-beds. This record was a double treat at the same location with two Spotless Crakes, another sought –after secretive wetland bird.

The Little Egret colony at Queenscliff continues to support post-breeding juveniles and, at the same site, there were at least 2 juvenile Nankeen Night-Herons in or near nests until recently. Over 800 Magpie Geese in Lara utilising cropping paddocks was a sight to behold.

Two Black-tailed Godwits in breeding plumage at Lake Connewarre was a rare treat, as was the Sanderling on 28 March, late in ‘summer’ season. A flock of ten Sanderling at Blue Rocks was a very good find with some showing breeding plumage. This is an unusually high number for, our local shores, but not exceptional with a flock of 60 recorded in April 2020, a flock of 23 in October 2013 and a flock of 40 in March 2012 recorded in the Black Rock/Blue Rocks area. As species such as Sanderlings and godwits leave us to migrate north to Siberia to breed, the Double-banded Plover leaves New Zealand and heads for Australia arriving on our ocean beaches and estuaries to spend a more moderate winter feeding before heading back to the alpine areas of  New Zealand next summer to breed.

Once more we sincerely thank the well over 50 observers, when we include GFNC excursion and Landcare Bird Survey participants, who keenly and diligently record their observations and submit them to our web-site and/or directly to eBird as complete lists.

https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations

https://ebird.org/australia/home

Please remember to log-in to eBird to make the most of facilities such as more ways to explore: ‘species maps’ https://ebird.org/australia/map and then add the species name and refine the period of time you wish to investigate: such as current year or a sequence of months over a period such as 2010-2020.