… John Newman and Craig Morley
This month sees a fabulous variety of records scattered from suburban habitats to the wetlands, saltmarsh, woodlands and the, sometimes, bleak and very blustery coast. Sifting through the long list of June observations really highlights the wonderful birdlife to be seen in our small reserves, suburban parks, riverside corridors and gardens over winter.
As the cold winter weather really settles in to higher altitude, wetter parts of the Otway Ranges many birds move into milder areas where they have some protection from the severe cold and more food reserves exist. For birders and nature lovers who are prepared to explore these local habitats there is much to be seen.
Along the Barwon River in town is the wonderful riverside reserve that stretches for many kilometres and this corridor has well utilised by birds and birders alike this month. Adjoining the main riparian tracts are smaller reserves many of them rehabilitated by Friends groups and the likes and are now adding to useful habitat for our local suburban wildlife. Phoenix Reserve in Newtown has proven its value, in recent weeks, with high numbers of Spotted Pardalotes and Weebills foraging, presumably for lerp and scale. A Fan-tailed Cuckoo was seen there and a little upstream a glorious male Rose Robin was identified. Downstream, a brown Pink Robin was seen at the Breakwater in the same location another bird was seen last winter.
The coastal vegetation and adjoining reserves offer similar respite from the wintery higher altitudes and this month Crescent Honeyeaters at Ocean Grove and Jan Juc were excellent finds, reminding us that this is another species that will ‘wander’ in the cooler months and the shorter days. High numbers of Eastern Spinebills have moved into our parks and gardens including up to 10 together in Ocean Grove. One of the classic winter highlights for many birders is the arrival of the endearing Flame Robin on the Bellarine Peninsula and rural farmlands at lower altitudes, and this year many have now been sighted right across the Peninsula, Bellbrae, Wallington, Connewarre and further to the west at Wingeel and Barunah Park.
A Ninox owl in Ocean Grove Nature Reserve was positively identified as a Tasmanian migrating Morepork (Tasmanian) a relative of the Southern Boobook but considered a different species and related to New Zealand Morepork. Southern Boobooks have been heard regularly in various areas such as Balliang.
A flock of up to 37 Swift Parrots in flowering eucalypts has been thrilling many at the main entrance of the You Yangs. The elusive Southern Emuwren continues to be seen in lignum saltmarsh around Lake Connewarre and a group of eight, including 4 adult males, coming out to dry in the morning sun after heavy overnight rain held the attention of mesmerised observers. Black–chinned Honeyeaters, on private property at Maude, were an excellent sighting of another uncommon species in the Geelong region that is often localised and hard to find.
Winter always draws a few dedicated birders to the blustery coastal headlands and this month at Pt Addis a most enticing triad of Brown Skua, Northern Giant-Petrel and White-fronted Tern was seen.
Many records of raptors have been submitted this month including Little Eagle, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Swamp Harrier, Collared Sparrowhawk, Black Kite, Whistling Kite along with the falcons – Nankeen Kestrel, Australian Hobby, Brown Falcon (including a pair copulating in mid-June at Wallington) and last, but definitely least, Peregrine Falcon. In addition to these species several extras stand out. Black-shouldered Kites with dependent young have been seen in several locations including St Albans Park and Lake Connewarre reinforcing the point that this species has two peak laying periods one of which is autumn and the other in spring. It has also been fascinating to see, as the weeks have progressed, up to 11 young birds, ranging from dependent juveniles to less-dependent immatures, congregating along less than 200m of fence at Lake Connewarre. A white morph Grey Goshawk was seen at Inverleigh. It is always a huge thrill to come across this elegant and truly captivating hunter with all white plumage. White-bellied Sea-Eagles have also been seen in two locations, at Pt Henry where a perched immature was beautifully photographed and another observation at Ocean Grove, was an excellent find.
Black Swans have produced young cygnets in saltmarsh at Bancoora/Breamlea and Hooded Plovers have been seen on the beaches between Collendina and Pt Lonsdale in groups numbering up to 13 birds, again reminding us of the flocking of this iconic species in the non-breeding season. We hope desperately that they can have a productive breeding season in the months ahead.
Once more we thank the well over 40 keen and diligent observers who have added to the story of our Geelong region birds by adding their records of observation as highlights to the GFNC web-site https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations and/or as complete lists or highlights to eBird Australia https://ebird.org/australia/home
And remember to log-in on each of these web-sites for your enjoyment, such as the ‘species maps’ or ‘search species’ options in eBird.