… John Newman & Craig Morley
Another month of fairly wild windy spring weather has not held back the enthusiastic bird observers of our region with an amazing array of birds reported from all parts of our district. With thanks to those who participated in the eBird Global Big Day adding their highlights to the Club website for all to enjoy. Many thanks for the added details that give a lot more understanding as to why certain records are important or unusual. And, more broadly, thanks once again to the keen and diligent observers and, most importantly, recorders of the birds of the Geelong region – your efforts continue to help build a wonderful story of our birds!
It has remained fairly wet and, in spite of the wild days, overall fairly mild so far this spring so wetland birds feature prominently in this month. Whiskered Terns in a marshy area in the western plains at Barunah Park numbered 75 where they foraged actively and another 63 in stunning breeding plumage purposely moving north, on Swan Bay, just offshore of Queenscliff golf course. Forty were also seen at Wurdiboluc Reservoir and a low number at Hospital Swamp. White-fronted Terns have again been seen locally with a bird ashore at Bancoora Beach and two at Lorne. Very pleasing sightings, indeed! Our small, yet highly significant, colony of Little Egrets at Queenscliff seems to be heading in the right direction. Over recent weeks increasing numbers, with their flowing nuptial plumes, have been noted foraging and loafing in the immediate area on Swan Bay and 16 were observed perched in one of the nest trees late on 20 October where there had been none earlier in the day. It didn’t take long for the number to build with 22-24 in subsequent days! Low numbers of Cattle Egrets, up to 14 birds, have continued to be reported from many sites including several on the Surf Coast, St Albans Park, Lake Connewarre and Leopold.
An immature Brolga at Lake Connewarre was a great sighting as was a single Black-tailed Nativehen at Queenscliff Golf Course. This species is rarely seen locally unless there is a major irruption when they can be a common feature of many wetlands. A good flock of Banded Lapwings has been observed repeatedly on the western plains, up to 38 birds, and the beautifully plumaged Australasian Shoveler has been seen in pairs on wetlands across the Surf Coast and at Shelford. A Baillon’s Crake at Hospital Swamp was a wonderful find of this tiny secretive wetland gem and Australian Wood Ducks have been seen with young at Bacchus Marsh and Ocean Grove. A group of breeding Australasian Darters at Winchelsea was an important find and they were in the company of Little Pied and Little Back Cormorants nesting at the same site. Before we finish with waterbirds we must at least briefly mention some wonderful western lakes sightings with peak numbers of 4000 Banded Stilts, 1200 Red-necked Avocets, 1500 Red-necked Stints and 350 Australasian Shelducks.
Leaving the wetland theme for drier habitats, a cyclist in Newtown was most surprised to be swooped by a Pied Currawong and the usually elusive Painted Buttonquails have been seen several times this month at Anglesea, Ocean Grove Nature Reserve and Long Forest. These cryptic ground-dwellers are sometimes given away by the presence of circular areas of cleared ground, called platelets, created by the bird spinning in circles to expose invertebrates in the ground cover. Little Wattlebirds are suspected to now be resident in Bacchus Marsh and a Crescent Honeyeater at St Leonards was a long way from the wet forest and scrub of the Otway Ranges and hinterland where they are more usually seen. Gang-gang Cockatoos are still present in the suburbs with 10 seen flying along the Barwon River in Highton at dusk. The Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos continue to be keenly recorded by birders across our region. The actual records with details of sites and flock sizes make for interesting reading.
A Chestnut-rumped Heathwren singing gloriously in the Anglesea Heath made a strong impression as did, at Coogoorah Park, an immature male Brush Bronzewing – a moderately common though, perhaps, under recorded species in our region. Brown Thornbills in the Geelong Botanic Gardens were feeding young and Blue-winged Parrots records have been submitted from sites far and wide from Cressy to Jan Juc and 1 flying over Highton was a great record. A Spotted Pardalote drew one observer’s attention high on a powerline in a suburban street and then, after a period of patient observation, flew rapidly and directly into a drainage culvert – most probably visiting a nest-site. A flock of 45 Purple-crowned Lorikeets in Inverleigh was a great sight and record.
We receive few records of Black Falcon, one of the most dazzling aerial hunters of our skies, so a record of one circling high at Hospital Swamp, to add to a similar record last month, was very exciting. Similarly a record of male and female Brown Goshawks displaying overhead at Bannockburn was made all the more memorable when a female Collared Sparrowhawk appeared from the woodland rising to ‘see them off’. What a wonderful opportunity to compare and contrast these very similar woodland raptors.