… John Newman and Craig Morley

After what seems to have been a long cold and wet winter, there are the early signs of a shift in weather to spring time. The days are rapidly lengthening with sunrise before 7 a.m. and sunset after 6 p.m. we are noting the signs of escalating activity in our local avifauna.

We have had some very interesting bird sightings this month. One of the most amazing was a careful observation of a Barn Owl seen flying low along Moorabool Street in the middle of the day hotly pursued by Little Ravens and Australian Magpies. It must have been disturbed from its day time roost and made a dash for another location. You just never know what unexpected treats await! This month seems to also be the month of great numbers of some birds being seen. Thanks to our diligent observers, we have records of an extraordinary flock of 380 Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos in Cargerie, a total of 410 Blue-winged Parrots at Lake Connewarre, 108 Great Cormorants on the Barwon Estuary, 82 Royal Spoonbills, with a smattering of Yellow-billed Spoonbills, on the western shore of Swan Bay, 27 Caspian Terns also roosting at Swan Bay West and a flock of more than 60 Red-browed Finches at Lake Connewarre.

It's been pleasing to record several species we associate with mid to late August and early September. A Fairy Martin along the Barwon River at Merrawarp Road at Ceres was a welcome sight and a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo calling at Jan Juc was interesting. A beautifully plumaged Curlew Sandpiper was seen in flight at Swan Island and an Eastern Curlew at Barwon Estuary a most reassuring return. Both of these migratory waders are critically endangered in our East Asian-Australasian flyway. It’s always a thrill to record the return of Latham’s Snipe to local wetlands from their breeding grounds in Japan.

Some birds are already breeding with Black Swans seen with cygnets at both Breamlea and Jerringot at Belmont Common. Masked Lapwings have been seen with either eggs or young runners at various locations across the district this month. A New Holland Honeyeater with nest-material was seen in Newtown and local observers were excited to find recently fledged White-browed Scrubwrens at Eclipse Creek in the Brisbane Ranges.

Despite the records of spring migrants being submitted in recent weeks in August, we continue to receive records of our ‘winter’ birds still persisting in their cold weather haunts. Flame Robin records have been received from Bellbrae, Connewarre and St Albans Park with continued Pink Robins records from the Geelong Botanic Gardens as well as Jan Juc and Lake Lorne. We anticipate that these birds will all return to the cooler forests of the Otway Ranges and, perhaps, beyond over spring and summer to hopefully breed.

A partially leucistic Australian Magpie at Charlemont, sometimes seen as you drive along the Barwon Heads Road, is an interesting ongoing record. Gang-gang Cockatoos are still being seen with records at Fyansford and West Geelong. Several observations of Australian Wood Duck from Queenscliff were excellent with this species being rarely seen in the Queenscliffe Local Government Area (LGA). A Brown Falcon carrying a small snake at Connewarre was a wonderful sighting as were the Peregrine Falcons at the Brisbane Ranges and Queenscliff. Numerous records of majestic Wedge-tailed Eagles have been keenly submitted from areas to the north of Geelong – Balliang, Rowsley and Brisbane Ranges as well as to the west along the Geelong Ring Road and at Ceres on our recent Club excursion as well as the birds that persist on the Bellarine Peninsula.

In late news, at the time of finalising these notes, keen and thrilled observers have recorded our first early spring (August-September) GFNC record of Pallid Cuckoo on 1 September calling at Eclipse Creek and, in a very exciting development, a conservative initial estimate of 20 000 Banded Stilts at Lake Murdeduke on 28 August – what a stunning sight that must have been!

Once more we sincerely thank all the members and friends who observe and then, most importantly, document and submit their bird records to the GFNC web-site https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations and/or eBird Australia https://ebird.org/australia/home and remember to log-in to take full advantage of these wonderful resources.