… John Newman & Craig Morley

With a lot of the March-April bird migration having settled (with one or two notable exceptions – please read on!), well documented in recent Geelong Naturalist Bird Notes and online records, now is a time for seeing birds in more regular winter locations.  It has been great to get out on formal surveys such as the May Orange-bellied Parrot survey (please see the separate article in this edition) as well as informal visits to our favourite local haunts.

Our local area is rich in coastal saltmarsh and wetlands and it is no surprise that birders regularly seek out such sites. It was great to hear of an Australasian Bittern seen at Hospital Swamp and three Brolgas at nearby Reedy Lake. Out at Avalon saltmarsh a small flock of 16 Banded Stilts was seen and the Barwon River Estuary held a nice flock of 32 Double-banded Plovers. This is the time of year when small flocks of Sanderling can occasionally be seen on our coast at Blue Rocks rather than 1-2 so a flock of 12 at this site was a great record this month. 

Cattle Egrets have been observed in low numbers up to eight across several locations namely Ocean Grove, Leopold and St Albans Park and higher numbers further afield including 40 with dairy cattle at Deans Marsh and 48 at Colac Saleyards.

It’s always a great experience to happen upon Gang-gang Cockatoos and small flocks of up to 13 birds have been sighted at several places around Highton.  In a similar vein Flame Robins have been reported from Lake Connewarre and Mt Gellibrand to name just two locations. An Australian King-Parrot in Anglesea was a surprise and two Chestnut-rumped Heathwrens, also in Anglesea, was pleasing for this elusive heathland gem. We do not get too many records submitted of Crested Shrike-tit, so two birds along the Barwon River at Fyansford was a great record of a species that can be very hard to pin down.  A few Dusky Woodswallows were still present, late in May at locations such as Rice Reserve, the You Yangs and St Leonards. A Rose Robin at Bellbrae a good record for late May and earby, two separate sightings of Powerful Owls were the product of much careful habitat checking.  These glorious large forest owls can be remarkably hard to see despite their huge size and May-June is the time that pairs are beginning to nest in large hollows. Writing of nesting it’s always exciting to note successful breeding of Black-shouldered Kites with an adult with two young buff-coloured birds near Colac.

Great numbers of Stubble Quail have been recorded, with up to sixteen birds recorded at Balliang and lower numbers elsewhere such as Lake Connewarre. And speaking of noteworthy numbers of birds two fortunate observers at Eclipse Creek, Brisbane Ranges, remarked about their “local record” of a flock at least 40 Red-browed Finches. An astounding flock of 110 Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos at Belmont was a phenomenal sight as was a flock of at least 90 of these majestic and captivating birds navigating downstream along the Barwon River Valley at sunset on eBird Global Big Day. We’ve already mentioned Lake Connewarre several times and it’s exciting to note an adult Eastern Spinebill observed in dead vegetation on the edge of the delta in late April and a sight of adult male and female Cape Barren Geese flying north-east across Lake Connewarre on 29 May.
A Spangled Drongo, possibly a first-year bird, has bobbed up at Anglesea on 22 and 25 April perhaps reinforcing the point we postulated on in our May 2021 Bird Notes that there is some curious phenomenon going on where some individuals of this species undergo what is known as reversed-direction migration and come further south-west from south-eastern N.S.W. instead of the usual movement to the north-east at this time of year https://www.gfnc.org.au/news/bird-news/358-may-2021-bird-observations-some-highlights  Another most unexpected migrant passing through our area were 8 White-browed Woodswallows at St Leonards on 12 May recorded with an unequivocal description in eBird https://ebird.org/checklist/S109724420 . This record is all the more extraordinary as we did not enjoy a “woodswallow spring” where this species and, sometimes, Masked Woodswallows flood across our skies on days of warm northerlies in October and early November. In fact we had few if any records of this species in our region over spring and summer. All begging the question of this group on 12 May, with some Dusky Woodswallows (an unusual occurrence in its own right to have the Dusky species apparently mixing with their White-browed cousins – not at all an expected phenomenon) where did they come from and where were they going?  

Let’s finish off this month with a brief return to eBird Global Big Day – it was most pleasing to see many members and friends getting out there on 14 May to enjoy “our birds”.

132 species recorded for Greater Geelong

42 species recorded for Surf Coast

26 species Golden Plains