…John Newman and Craig Morley
What a wonderful array of bird records have been submitted to the Geelong Field Naturalists Club observations website this month or directly to eBird Australia. The clear theme this month is bird migration and an enormous number of interesting migratory birds have turned up on our doorstep and are worthy of comment. The alarmingly dry conditions in NSW and Qld have presumably pushed birds further south, in higher numbers, than we see most years.
Olive-backed Orioles have a very distinct ringing call that is easily heard in woodland and records have begun for this season from Paraparap, Aireys Inlet, Gum Flat and Inverleigh. Similarly, other woodland species have been excitedly recorded with White-browed and Masked Woodswallows. They are often detected calling high in the sky on warm blowy days or seen in noisy flocks in drier woodlands. Hopefully we will find many breeding pairs as the spring and summer progress. White-browed Woodswallows have been seen in the Brisbane Ranges, Inverleigh, You Yangs and up to 200 at Bannockburn. These drier woodlands are often strongholds for these beautiful birds over summer. Masked Woodswallow are almost always seen in lower numbers than the closely related White-browed on this eastern side of Australia and this is certainly the case with lower proportions noted in these locations.
A few Sacred Kingfishers have been found already in our region with single birds at Eastern Park, Avalon and Deakin University at Waurn Ponds. A Brush Cuckoo is always a sought after migratory bird in southern Australia but with a clear repetitive call, one has been seen and photographed at Anglesea. A large flock of twenty Swift Parrots at Ocean Grove was a real thrill at the end of the mainland season before they migrate across Bass Strait to Tasmania for summer breeding.
Many woodland birds have been attracting attention all over Victoria this spring and we have had our share of interesting sighting. White-winged Trillers are seen in low numbers over most, but not all, summers in the Geelong district but this year there are many birds in widespread locations. Swan Island, Fyansford, Edwards Point and Barwon Downs were all noted early on with up to 7 birds, usually in flocks of males and females. Avalon, Hamlyn Heights, North Geelong, Hospital Swamp and Reedy Lake joined the list by the end of the month.
Brown Songlarks and Rufous Songlarks have been seen and heard in grasslands around Avalon and Swan Bay farmland and it is likely more will be detected as the weeks roll by. These fabulous songsters give an array of ventriloqual song and twangy metallic notes that delight the observer. Australasian Bushlark, sometimes under reported around Geelong, have been seen in the company of the Songlarks. A very large flock of Stubble Quail at Avalon was a great find.
Perhaps the standout sighting for this month was a remarkable Square-tailed Kite seen over Ocean Grove by a very experienced observer. This breathtaking raptor is very rarely seen in our district. It is of great interest that a Square-tailed Kite was also seen on the other side of Port Phillip a week later.
Shorebirds and waterbirds have also been seen in increasing numbers indicating the return of migratory birds. Latham’s Snipe are back with sixty-five birds seen at Begola Wetlands in Collendina during the September Latham’s Snipe Survey. Several Sanderlings at Blue Rocks were a thrill as were the small number of Pacific Golden Plovers seen there. Edwards Point proved the place to be for one hundred or more Bar-tailed Godwits and a Common Sandpiper on the Otway Coast at Barham River was a good find.
Whiskered Terns are back for the spring and summer with so far small numbers at Pt Henry, Swan Bay Jetty and Breamlea saltmarsh. The same jetty was a resting site for a Gull-billed Tern which is unusual on our coast. A White-bellied Sea-Eagle at Buckley was unusual away from the coast but these magnificent birds are known to utilise larger inlands lakes which are abundant in western Victoria.
Once more we thank the observers who take the time to submit their fascinating records to the club database and/or directly to eBird Australia. These records continue to captivate and inform us as the season changes thereby building a picture of changes in our local avifauna over the longer term.
…John Newman and Craig Morley
The period from mid-August through September and into October is a fascinating time to be looking at birds in south-eastern Australia and our own patch on the Bellarine Peninsula and Surf Coast is a key area for great bird diversity that many enjoy. This month’s observations have captured a tremendous variety of records of local resident birds in breeding mode along with the return of migrants.
The return of some of the cuckoos is often much anticipated and, in recent weeks, an outstanding richness of species has been recorded. The rare Black-eared Cuckoo has been recorded at Avalon and a Brush Cuckoo, a locally uncommon species, was observed in the wooded roadside along Nortons Road, Paraparap. We usually only have one or two records of each species submitted for any given spring season. Pallid Cuckoos are more regular and readily identified by their strident, ascending multi-note call. Returning from further north over summer they were recorded at Meredith in late August, Inverleigh and Steiglitz in early September and now the Bellarine Peninsula with records from farmland in Wallington and Connewarre by mid-September and, of course, we all await the return of the rare, but now regular, Pacific Koel.
Australian Reed Warblers similarly are usually detected first by their penetrating calls from dense reed beds near rivers and watercourses and are a welcome sign of spring’s return. They have now been detected at several sites locally and will soon become a major part of the background birdsong at many local wetlands over the months of spring and summer. Fairy Martins have also been seen from mid-August onwards initially at St Albans Park, Torquay, Fyansford and Reedy Lake. Many culverts and creek crossings will soon house their reliable colony of these graceful birds. The first White-winged Triller has been noted at Cargerie and hopefully this season will see more of these birds across our region.
Other examples of local bird movement this month have been up to 100 Grey Fantails along the length of Nortons Road and Crescent Honeyeaters at Jan Juc at the margin of their usual dense habitat.
The other group of birds that are much anticipated at this time of year are the migratory shorebirds returning from the breeding areas of the Arctic north. Sure enough, the earliest returns in the form of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers have been seen mid-August at the new developing wetlands of Sparrovale at Charlemont and soon after with records at Torquay and Moolap. A single Curlew Sandpiper at Torquay was a treat. The stately Eastern Curlew, so dangerously threatened with extinction, has returned to the Barwon Estuary in small numbers. The first record for the season of returning Latham’s Snipe this year goes to several birds seen at Connewarre on August 26. Many birders love their local Masked Lapwings, a resident Australian shorebird. They are masters of suburban survival and often raise a family on roadside nature strips and busy roundabouts. Many records this month document in detail the trials and tribulations of local Lapwing families.
Other wetland bird records of note have included an Australasian Darter at the Barwon Estuary, ocean-side Australasian Shovelers also at the Barwon Estuary as well as Torquay and Breamlea. Brolgas are back at Reedy Lake and Hospital Swamp and a few wintering Cattle Egrets persist at St Albans Park.
Kelp Gulls are always a treat on our coast and an Ocean Grove bird was photographed and enjoyed.
An Osprey seen in mangroves at the Barwon Estuary was an excellent find. These large fish-eating raptors are classified as rare in our region and very occasionally drift along our coast. Peregrine Falcons never fail to thrill with their supreme mastery of the air and hunting prowess and a pair at Moolap may hopefully have success in breeding. A Barwon Estuary bird was also noted this month. Australasian Hobby records around town similarly continue to impress.
Few people seek nocturnal bird records on a regular basis but thankfully we have a few diligent birders who are very keen. Searching the northern dry woodlands and forests around Steiglitz, the Brisbane Ranges and Bamganie, in recent weeks, has proved fruitful with numerous confirmed records of Powerful Owl and Southern Boobook. Similarly Barn Owl records continue to be submitted from the Connewarre area.
Bassian Thrush records this month provided a fascinating insight into the behaviour of this species with birds singing in the rain and also several of these birds were collecting and carrying worms and considered to be breeding – very important records as, over the years, we have few breeding records of this cryptic and secretive species. Blue-winged Parrots feeding at the tip of Point Addis was a treat and a Little Wattlebird in suburban Hamlyn Heights a great pick up. A phenomenally large flock of 113 Pied Currawongs, at Cape Otway, really drew attention and the triumph of finding both Rose and Pink Robins in their Otway stronghold was a thrill. A female Zebra Finch in the company of House Sparrows, at Curlewis, was an interesting and curious record and large flocks of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, numbering 100-200, are still being recorded on the Peninsula and at Cargerie to the north-west.
Once more we thank the observers who take the time to submit their fascinating records to the club data-base and/or directly to eBird Australia. These records continue to captivate and inform us as the season changes thereby building a picture of changes in our local avifauna over the longer term.
…John Newman and Craig Morley
The last month has been marked by very varied winter conditions – a lot of rain, very strong cold winds and yet a share of sunny days with a hint of spring creeping in.
On at least several occasions, over this month, very blowy conditions have been enticing seabird enthusiasts to some of our many rocky headlands and lighthouses to see what the wind has blown in. Winds originating in the Southern Ocean can bring unusual pelagic bird species close enough to shore to identify them.
A Yellow-nosed Albatross sighted at Point Addis was a treat being identified by the combination of underwing pattern and bill colour. Many Fluttering Shearwaters have been sighted from the Surf Coast this winter especially Point Addis and the neat white underside and dark upper side draws attention from observers. The rarer Hutton’s Shearwater is very similar and seldom definitively identified from shore here. Two unusual species were seen from Point Lonsdale lighthouse, a favourite site to these pelagic bird enthusiasts. Brown Skua has been seen on two occasions with its bulky brown body and wings, bold and strong flight and ‘flashes’ of white on the outer wings. A Common Diving-Petrel was also seen here darting along the troughs between waves in a blur of wings. It is sometimes described as a ‘flying potato with wings’.
Other wetland birds of note this month included 6500 Grey Teal at Lake Modewarre, 2000 Eurasian Coot at Lake Connewarre, and a much sought after Australasian Bittern at Reedy Lake. A Black-faced Cormorant at Pt Roadknight was unusual on our coast away from Port Phillip.
The emerging spring conditions have also seen the signs of breeding in various species across our district. Australasian Pipits have been seen in display flight at Breamlea and collecting nest-material at Connewarre. Many Australian Magpie records also note birds collecting various types of nest-materials. They are well known to nest early in the season. Australian Wood Ducks perched in a Belmont Garden were unusual and presumably looking for a nesting hollow. Black Swans with cygnets at Breamlea in the saltmarsh were a delight and Common Bronzewings at Ocean Grove were well and truly in breeding mode. Spring has also seen the emergence of various cuckoo species with Fan-tailed Cuckoo in particular being noted from mid-July in various locations across the Bellarine and Geelong with its highly recognisable mournful trilling call.
Great records of various raptor species have been made over recent weeks. Many Australian Hobby records continue to be submitted and a Black Kite over Eastern Park, the first time in over 40 years, that this species has been observed there. Black Kites have been observed in higher numbers and over a wider distribution in recent years from all corners of the Geelong region.
Australian Owlet-nightjars have been recorded in the Brisbane Ranges as have several Southern Boobooks. Blue-winged Parrot numbers were, perhaps, lower than usual during the Orange-bellied Parrot survey in July but these beautiful parrots were seen at Lake Modewarre feeding on grasses and in Elaine, and 19 Common Bronzewings at Buckley, feeding in a paddock among sheep well away from trees, was a high number of these endearing birds in unusual circumstances.
Forest Ravens at Lake Struan, near Lismore, was a very interesting record, with at least 4 birds noted. This species has been recorded in this area previously and seems to be a location where they stray further inland than their usual Otway stronghold. The very deep bass baritone call of the Forest Raven seems to be the best way to become aware of the presence of this species.
A huge flock of 96 Galahs on an oval in Barwon Heads was a remarkable sight and Golden Whistlers have been recorded in many sites reminding us of their wanderings in the cooler months. There have also been several exciting records of Mistletoebirds in the suburbs and one at Lake Connewarre flying over the saltmarsh. These delightful birds can be difficult to see with their diminutive size but the glorious red and satin blue plumage of the male and phenomenal nest of woven web make them a true gem. The sweet song and high pitched single note, given in flight, often betray their presence.
And, as we go to publication for this month the first records of Pallid Cuckoo (Brisbane Ranges) and Latham’s Snipe (Lake Connewarre—Salt Swamp) have just been submitted!
Once again we acknowledge and thank those keen observers, who so willingly submit their records directly to the GFNC web-site https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations . We would encourage readers to log-in and visit the eBird Australia website and search https://ebird.org/australia/map by adding a particular species and ‘zooming in’ on the Geelong region to see all the records of this species and perhaps even limit the search to ‘current year’ to see more recent records.
…John Newman and Craig Morley
Continued heavy rain episodes over our local area have created very wet conditions across much of the Geelong region this month. Saturated paddocks and roadsides and full wetlands and dams have meant large areas of inundated habitat.
Lake Modewarre, to the west of Geelong, has long been a site of much interest for local and visiting birders. Blessed with numerous access points which allow the various shorelines to be explored, we are seeing water returning to the lake after being almost dry by the end of last summer. The interest at Lake Modewarre is not always directed to the water birds. July has been a great example of this with two Black Falcons and a glorious Spotted Harrier being seen by numerous observers over several weeks. Black Falcons are an uncommon raptor in the Geelong region usually seen over paddocks and farmland. The aerial acrobatics of this very powerful falcon are remarkable and having two birds so local and reliable has been a boon to bird observers. One bird has been perching less than a metre above the muddy shore keeping watch and a second bird, presumably a mate, more often seen soaring and diving making forays across the lake and towards the lakeside vegetation.
The Spotted Harrier is also uncommon locally but a very different bird indeed. Also showing a preference for paddocks and grasslands, this long winged harrier seems to float on light air currents just a metre or so above the top of the grasses or crop looking for prey, soaring and winding higher on occasion. This hunting style and the beautiful rich rufous plumage spotted with white dots makes for a memorable bird watching experience. Lake Modewarre is also currently home to many waterbirds including at least 1500 Black Swans, some of which are breeding, and a very carefully counted 5030 Grey Teal. Anticipation for other interesting observations over the ensuing months is high.
The Australasian Shoveler is a beautiful duck and 21 at Freshwater Lake at Point Lonsdale was a treat as was more than 100 at Karaaf Wetlands on the Orange-bellied Parrot survey. Higher numbers are also at Lake Connewarre. Cattle Egrets are being regularly reported with some 64 birds at Drysdale with cattle, 75 from Barwon Downs and 85 at Birregurra with lower numbers around Curlewis including some associating with sheep. The Bellarine Peninsula has long been known as a refuge for Australia’s rarest duck, the Freckled Duck. This month a record of 310 from Blue Waters Lake at Ocean Grove was a highlight. Similarly the well monitored Lake Lorne at Drysdale continued to have good numbers of Pink-eared Ducks with 650 present in recent weeks, though this number seems to have dropped dramatically in recent weeks. And Australian Wood Duck are once more attracting attention in suburbia with their drive to check out possible nest-sites.
A pair of Banded Lapwings flying over and landing at Charlemont was unexpected, their wavering call separating them from the more common Masked Lapwing. The restricted-area beach at Sand Island proved home to 168 Double-banded Plovers, a winter migrant from New Zealand. Small flocks of Hooded Plovers mostly 5-6 birds are gathering on various beaches along our coast. Winter records of Blue-winged Parrots have dribbled into the club website with 43 birds at Charlemont feeding in salt marsh and good numbers in farmland of Cargerie. A flock of Little Corellas at Apollo Bay was unexpected and a further indication of the spread of this endearing but noisy cockatoo. Similarly winter records of Stubble Quail are rare and so 3 birds calling at Curlewis was noteworthy. Low numbers of the Ocean Grove Swift Parrots are also still being reported.
Other than the raptor records mentioned above, two records of White-bellied Sea-Eagles were interesting – one at the saltworks at Moolap and one at Curlewis. Observers are very good at recording the Black-shouldered Kites that characteristically hover over farmland with their pristine white plumage. The characteristic dashing flight of Australian Hobbies similarly attracts many records and the bird hunting at dusk right in the heart of the city traffic has continued to be studied.
Once again we acknowledge and thank the keen and diligent observers who help to add to our picture of the fascinating birds of the region by recording their sightings on our club web-site https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations and/or directly into eBird Australia. You can visit the eBird Australia web-site, log-in, and searching https://ebird.org/australia/map by adding a particular species and ‘zeroing in’ on the Geelong region to see all the records of this species and perhaps even limit the search to ‘current year’ to see more recent records.
…John Newman and Craig Morley
The long list of records submitted to the Club website this month including several new contributor records is very encouraging that the colder wetter weather has not discouraged bird watchers from heading outdoors. There has been wonderful, much anticipated rain and some cold days but the birds are out there and winter holds its own special appeal on the Bellarine Peninsula.
There is a lot of freestanding water around our region at the moment with farm dams brimming, roadside ditches full and paddocks with waterlogged furrows. The birds are responding. A cumulative survey of wetlands on the Bellarine Peninsula in late May records the phenomenal number of 2029 Freckled Ducks present, far outnumbering any previous local survey record. This astounding result supports our understanding of how important our local wetlands are for the protection of this endangered duck species. Cattle Egrets are now scattered across many localities mostly seen with their cattle allies, a typical winter sight. Banded Lapwings at Avalon were spotted within the wet paddocks and Black Swans at Breamlea Saltmarsh and a Brolga family at Reedy Lake were refreshing finds. 1500 Pink-eared Ducks at Lake Lorne and the associated Macleods Waterholes was a wonderful record. An unusual immature Australasian Darter at Blue Waters Lake at Ocean Grove may suggest some dispersal from the regular breeding habitat along the Barwon River in Highton and Newtown.
Other interesting winter bird sightings have pleasingly been submitted. The small roaming flock of Swift Parrots enjoying the Ocean Grove Yellow Gums continues to be seen across a small area but are very hard to pin down. A single White-eared Honeyeater in suburban Jan Juc was most unexpected away from the wetter forests. A flock of 30 Zebra Finches at Limeburners Lagoon in the Corio/Hovells Creek area further records the creeping movement of these most endearing finches. Flame Robins have been seen, the males lighting up fence lines and recently turned paddocks at Mt Duneed and Dusky Woodswallows at Curlewis are noted as an unusual winter bird for the Peninsula.
Winter is a time when diligent sea watching from exposed headlands can reveal unusual sea bird or ‘pelagic’ species pushed north of their more usual wild southerly feeding grounds over the frigid austral winter. Most winters we receive many records of albatross, shearwaters, a few prions and an occasional petrel. Whilst we wait for some of these species to be reported this year there appears to be a very interesting phenomenon of the very unusual Southern Fulmar being pushed towards our southern coast. Over recent weeks many many individuals of this species have been seen right across the coast of South Australia and Victoria, as far north as Sydney. Many birders and photographers who head out to the continental shelf on pelagic birding trips are reporting this species which has been remarkable. One of our regular winter beach walkers has found a damaged specimen of the Southern Fulmar at Ocean Grove, a most impressive local record.
Large noisy winter flocks of Pied Currawongs and Little Ravens are in urban Geelong at the moment confirming that it is indeed winter. At least two of those Little Ravens have been seen carrying nest-material so breeding is on the minds of some bird species already in anticipation of spring bounty. Night birding in winter has the decided advantage of early darkness and it is with great interest that numerous Eastern Barn Owl and Powerful Owl records have been submitted. The ghostly white Eastern Barn Owl perched on fence posts in farmland is well known to those who patrol the quiet roads of our district at night particularly around Avalon and Werribee. Careful analysis of sound recordings taken in the Brisbane Ranges continues to detect Powerful Owls in the dense bushland.
Stubble Quail records in winter are few and far between so a record at Cargerie was notable and Mistletoebirds roam about in winter as a Newtown record confirms. A Rose Robin at Lara was a treat and 800+ Musk Lorikeets on the Peninsula was astounding. A winter Brown Songlark at Rokewood was similarly a most unusual bird for this time of the year.
Two Sooty Oystercatchers at Point Lonsdale was a good record of this scarce shorebird on our coast and twelve Hooded Plovers at Freshwater Lake a reflection of post breeding winter flocking and the same number of Banded Stilts was also seen there.
Many raptor records have been submitted with Little Eagles scattered across the district, a gorgeous white morph Grey Goshawk at Mannerim and Black Falcons continuing to be seen in the western farmlands. Australian Hobbies have again been seen hunting close to dusk in town and Black-shouldered Kites noted in many locations perched and hunting.
Once again we thank the keen and diligent observers in our Geelong region who so willingly and keenly submit their records as incidentals to the GFNC website, or as incidentals or complete lists to eBird Australia.
And remember you can find these records and more at https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations
… John Newman and Craig Morley
Many of our local bird records come from the wide range of habitats on the Bellarine Peninsula most months of the year, appropriately so given the astounding suite of bird species present in this large area. However it is interesting to look across the records for the past month and revel in the many observations that have been had in the less often visited grassland and farmland to the west of Geelong – still providing varied habitat with lakes both dry and wet, grasslands and farmland, remnant vegetation and plantations, there is much to be seen way out west.
The Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo is a favourite of many local bird observers with its characteristic lanky flight, delightfully evocative call and preponderance for flocking. The area around Cargerie, west of Meredith and Elaine, has been attracting flocks of up to 260 of these beautiful birds and consistently 70+. They may be utilising the pine plantations or remnant bush or moving between forest further north and the Otways. It is possible that these large flocks indicate a lack of food reserves and is actually an amalgamation of smaller flocks that are all searching for food together.
The large swathes of farm land, and at certain times of the year burning of crops, out west is a great way to see raptors. On one occasion at least six Black Falcons were seen over burning crops, making the most of the smoky stubble and the prey that this phenomenon pushes into view. These masterful hunters are also most adept at robbing other birds, such as Black Kites, Whistling Kites and even other Black Falcons, of their catch when the opportunity arises. And a late record of at least two White-browed Woodswallows passing through a roadside plantation, in late April on a warm northerly breeze, reinforces how important these habitat links can be in farmland and are well worth investigating.
Lake Modewarre is dry for the time being after a long dry summer but the habitat has still attracted Brown Songlark, Stubble Quail and Australasian Bushlark in recent weeks. Hopefully late autumn, winter and spring rain will provide enough water there to continue the amazing range of wetland birds that the past few seasons have shown. Brolgas have also been seen here circling the highway close to usual haunts around Buckley.
Back on the Peninsula, Ocean Grove is still hosting a flock of the critically endangered Swift Parrot with up to 35 birds roaming somewhat cryptically through the Yellow Gums there but proving difficult to pin down. Bassian Thrush records in central Geelong are infrequent but the diligent eyes monitoring the Geelong Botanic Gardens have found a bird in recent weeks utilising the leaf litter in the shadows. At least one Pink Robin continues to be seen here and records of this species from Balyang Sanctuary and farm land at Little River again remind us of the dispersal of at least females and sub-adults of this species at this time of the year. Flame Robins, by contrast, are spreading across the whole district mostly over cultivated lands and wetland edges as they do every year in autumn and winter.
Large noisy flocks of up to 1000 Little Corellas have been seen in Torquay and Winchelsea and groups of up to 12 Gang-gang Cockatoos continue to roam suburban Geelong, Ocean Grove and Torquay. Brush Bronzewing records are uncommon in our area but their stronghold around Anglesea proved the right place to be as did a rare record from Wallington on the Bellarine Peninsula proper.
The Brisbane Ranges continue to be an excellent place to record Powerful Owls and Australian Owlet-nightjar and a group of six Laughing Kookaburras, crammed together for warmth on a branch for the night, was also a wonderful record from this area. We continue to receive occasional records of Barn Owls along roadsides at Avalon and Connewarre.
The wetland jewel that is Lake Victoria at Pt Lonsdale played host to 1000 Banded Stilts in recent weeks, and prior to our very welcome rains of early May the drying muddy margins of Jerringot and Balyang Sanctuary were unusually productive for Black-fronted Dotterels with up to 25 recorded on one occasion. Juvenile Australasian Darters were still perched over the Barwon River at Princes Bridge, in recent weeks and 12 Australasian Grebes nearby on the river was an unusual record for that location.
And of course we must not forget the three records of Antarctic Prions found in compromised circumstances after a period of heavy wind forced rain in early May. This is a rare species of the open waters off our southern coast, sometimes found beach-cast, and individuals found in central Geelong and Black Rock were taken into care but died soon after and a third was found recently dead at Wyndham Vale.
Many thanks to all the observers who diligently record their observations on the Club website and submit their lists to eBird Australia for us all to enjoy.
And log-in and try searching in eBird Australia for Flame Robin records for the current year https://ebird.org/australia/map/flarob1?neg=true&env.minX=111.3313627480535&env.minY=-46.18023617246652&env.maxX=173.2942533730535&env.maxY=-23.906462682986337&zh=true&gp=false&ev=Z&mr=1-12&bmo=1&emo=12&yr=cur
and customising the date range to cover more years or certain months or you can also check the newly published Geelong Bird Report 2013-2016 available for download from this web-site as a PDF at https://www.gfnc.org.au/about-us/publications
… John Newman and Craig Morley
Daylight Saving has finished for the summer, Easter has come and gone, mornings are getting colder and birds are on the move. As all the indicators of summer show us that autumn is here we can see much evidence of the predictable movement of birds this season occurring all around us. Many bird observation records have been submitted which paint a delightful picture of this seasonal movement.
Robins, robins, robins. The appearance of Flame, Rose and Pink Robins in some of our favourite local bird haunts is a much anticipated phase of the annual bird cycle around Geelong. After breeding in the wetter forests of the Otway Ranges over summer, these three species disperse into more open areas over winter to escape the cooler temperatures and perhaps lack of food at higher elevations. Flame Robins have been widespread especially in more open forest, in farmland and along fence lines often around lakes and water sources. The glorious red-breasted males are stunning in the autumn and winter sun. Rose Robins are far less obtrusive and have been seen in the Geelong Botanic Gardens and along the Barwon River. These birds like to stay in the canopy of trees and darker shadows of shrubs. Pink Robins similarly have been seen around Barwon Heads and Lake Victoria, all richly coloured brown birds. It is also interesting to note the subtle differences in the timing of the appearance of these three species with, for example, the Rose Robin noted in mid to late March, while the Flame a few weeks later. The Geelong Botanic Gardens have similarly continued to host brilliant Rufous Fantails and high numbers of Grey Fantails. At least a few of these have been of the Tasmanian Grey Fantail subspecies albiscapa with darker grey almost black colouring, richer buff on the chest and less white in the tail. A bird probably of this subspecies, which migrates from Tasmania for the winter, has also been seen in the Otway Ranges at Mt Sabine. Trying to identify the albiscapa and alisteri subspecies of Grey Fantail adds a challenging twist to birding around Geelong at this time of the year.
Migrating Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and White-naped Honeyeaters have been obvious over recent weeks and we have enjoyed the movements of these birds with the former species moving 10-14 days earlier than the latter. Each species is known to form large migrating flocks and this has certainly been the case for the Yellow-faced Honeyeaters with perhaps 100 birds in a large flock at Ocean Grove, several 100s on the move at Pollocksford and the mesmerising sight of more than 10 000 heading west from Port Campbell and around 2000 White-naped Honeyeaters also on the move at the same location. As this example shows the Yellow-faced species can greatly outnumber the White-naped though they often move around in mixed flocks, making their presence known with very different calls. In coming weeks the White-naped Honeyeaters may well out-number the Yellow-faced which tend to move earlier. Some will be heading further north for winter and some probably just circulating in the district, presumably avoiding the cold and damp of June and July in the Otway Ranges and nearby areas. The return of the birds, in spring, is far less obvious.
An Australian Owlet-nightjar at a nesting box in Steiglitz was a delight and several scarce Eastern Barn Owl records have been submitted from the Breamlea area and in suburban Highton. Records of Australian Hobbies have continued to ‘come in’, with some possibly ‘shadowing’ migrating honeyeaters, and hopes are high for more astounding winter hunting antics right in the centre of Geelong in the months to come. The less frequently reported Black Falcon has been detected in the western farmlands around Inverleigh and Shelford with up to six being attracted to a recent stubble burn-off. Black Kite records have been numerous and widespread including some over the suburban edges of Geelong at Highton and North Geelong. Very high numbers of these Kites, up to 200 birds, have been recorded at the Western Treatment Plant in recent weeks and 35 birds together at Lara were noted in this month’s records. The endearing Black-shouldered Kite attracts observer attention with their glowing white form and hovering ability especially around the Connewarre area and out to the west of Geelong.
There have been several outstanding shorebird records in the last month. An Oriental Pratincole, a vagrant to the Geelong region, seen in flight at Hospital Swamp was astounding and unfortunately could not be relocated. A Pectoral Sandpiper at the same location was making the most of large areas of exposed mud. Hooded Plovers often congregate after the breeding season and this year Lake Victoria has played host to up to 20 of this threatened shorebird, a local icon of our crowded beaches. A Sanderling at Pt Impossible was a thrill and over 700 Banded Stilts at Lake Victoria was an excellent observation. Australasian Darters have again been breeding on the Barwon River at Highton with 13 juveniles still present in the nesting trees. Grebes are rarely seen out of the water but a record of a young Australasian Grebe on the bank of a wetland near Mt Mercer, possibly being harassed and ‘moved on’ by an adult and a Hoary-headed Grebe (Hospital Swamp), also out of water, were curious and noteworthy. Four Spotless Crakes at Balyang Sanctuary was a pleasing record for this urban wetland.
Many thanks to all the observers who diligently record their observations on the Club website and submit their lists to eBird Australia for us all to enjoy.
And log-in and try searching in eBird Australia for Yellow-faced Honeyeater https://ebird.org/australia/map/yefhon1?neg=true&env.minX=143.76133072725986&env.minY=-38.4751599985835&env.maxX=145.33146017767046&env.maxY=-37.93090559056011&zh=true&gp=false&ev=Z&mr=1-12&bmo=1&emo=12&yr=all&byr=1900&eyr=2019 and customising the date range to Dec-Feb and then Jun-Jul and compare the difference or you can also check the newly published Geelong Bird Report 2013-2016 available for download from this GFNC web-site at https://www.gfnc.org.au/about-us/publications
…John Newman and Craig Morley
Early March provided the ideal weather conditions for an amazing phenomenon of local birding interest. Several very hot days provided warm and windy conditions extending into the evening. To the bird observing community this is very typical of conditions which bring both Pacific Swifts and White-throated Needletails to our attention. We were not disappointed.
As the detailed list of monthly bird records shows, found via the link below, Pacific Swifts were seen in probably unprecedented numbers and over a wide selection of suburbs. All were typically flying in the wild winds at variable altitude. An observer in Newtown spent a diligent few hours watching the skies and counting numbers and saw almost 7000 of these glorious masters of the air passing mostly very high to the NW. A few White-throated Needletails were also seen over the same weekend mixed with the Swifts. It was a birding memory not to be forgotten.
There has not been any significant rain this month and as such most of our smaller wetlands are drying quickly. This has pushed birds into the few wetlands that contain water and this month’s records show very good numbers of birds like Wood Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in important Hospital Swamp. Belmont Common’s Jerringot wetlands similarly have all but dried up with good showings of Australian Spotted Crake, Spotless Crake and Buff-banded Rail. A nice flock of Banded Stilts was seen at Avalon and a lone Black-tailed Nativehen is still lurking at Torquay. The international waders like Bar-tailed Godwit and Eastern Curlew are hanging on before departing soon for their arctic breeding grounds. And the Little Egrets are still in and around the breeding area at Queenscliff moving back and forth to Swan Bay to feed as the tides dictate.
Black Kites have been seen in suburban Geelong over recent months and a flock of eight birds very high over Highton seemed to be utilising the same strong winds that the Swifts were enjoying. Numerous Little Eagle records were submitted from various areas of Geelong this month. A juvenile Spotted Harrier, out in the western farmlands, was observed quartering over stubble coming closer and closer to eventually give very excited observers some wonderful views; especially when it doubled back to have a brief unsuccessful chase of an Australasian Bushlark.
The change of seasons into autumn has been very evident with local bird sightings. The late summer-autumn arrival of Rufous Fantail, Rose Robin and Eastern Spinebill at the Geelong Botanic Gardens has been well documented this month and is quite an annual event. Pacific Koel was still heard in Highton with both the distinctive calls of the male and female being heard well into the last week of February. Our late summer-autumn Gang-gang Cockatoos are becoming locally common again and a young Pallid Cuckoo at Connewarre was a treat indicating local breeding event.
Beautiful Firetail records are few in our region tucked away in the damp dense Otway Ranges and hinterland scrub, so it was excellent to have separate records from two localities this month. Rainbow Bee-eaters were seen in the dry woodlands north of Geelong and a flock of Tree Martins was probably gathering prior to migration or taking a rest after crossing Bass Strait. Australian King-Parrots are not common in Jan Juc and the records of the moderately common, yet infrequently recorded, Brush Bronzewings on the Otway Coast were much appreciated sightings. A breeding record of New Holland Honeyeaters in Newtown reminds us these birds can breed at almost any time of the year if conditions and food resources are adequate.
Thanks again to all the observers, listed below, who so keenly and willingly provide records to the GFNC web-site https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations and directly to eBird Australia. Try searching species and zoom in on the Geelong region to find out more about the records when you log-in to eBird https://ebird.org/australia/map
… John Newman and Craig Morley
There have been many very interesting sightings over this late January-early February period with evidence of local breeding of several species that are not often confirmed as breeding here as well as many records of transient visitors more typical of this late summer time.
Keeping an eye on the skies in late summer especially ahead of strong winds or squally storms can reveal Pacific Swifts and White-throated Needletails. Both have been observed over this period. Though different in shape, size and flight pattern both of these species are masters of the air and a delight to watch. The smaller Pacific Swift is usually seen less frequently but is attracted by similar conditions. Many records over a 3-4 week period in late January and early February have been submitted from many sites including Avalon, Lorne, Newtown, Torquay, Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads. We should continue to see these species in the warm summer and autumn winds. White-throated Needletails are larger and very strong fast fliers. If ever observed at low altitudes observers will be dazzled by their power, speed and the ‘woosh’ of their wings, in the still air, as the birds ‘whiz’ past. There have been fewer records of this species submitted this month all on the same day, in very different locations, across Anglesea Heath, Greater Otway National Park and at Pomborneit.
White-winged Trillers are uncommon spring-summer migrants and a juvenile seen at Wingeel suggests local breeding at the site where several males were regularly singing in spring. Numerous juveniles in a flock of 25 White-browed Woodswallows, at the same location, are also very good evidence of breeding where several birds were observed building nests in late spring. Local breeding records of Brown Songlark are rare so two juvenile birds and an adult on a one kilometre stretch of farmland at Barunah Park was noteworthy, as was a total of 13 Australasian Pipits, including juveniles, from the same stretch of road. And, from Batesford, records of Rainbow Bee-eaters with some indication, from the plumage of the birds, that local breeding may have occurred. The Pacific Koel is still being recorded calling in Highton. Will a juvenile appear to give a fourth straight breeding year, after the first record of the species breeding in the Geelong region, in February 2016?
Gang-gang Cockatoos have been seen in many areas of Geelong and beyond, including two records on the Bellarine Peninsula where, in each case, the note was made that it was the first record of the species, for the observer, at the location. Writing of a species that is associated with the Otway Ranges for at least part of the year, it was very exciting to record that an Australian Masked-Owl, a species rarely recorded in the region, was calling from densely forested area near Forrest, earlier in February . Spotted Quail-thrush at Anakie was a welcome sighting for a lucky birder with this species being hard to detect in its dry woodland habitat. And birds well away from their usual range always create interest and the two White-fronted Honeyeaters, a species associated with dryer scrub and woodland further to our north, were no exception. Records of the fascinating Spotted Harrier continue to be widespread from Avalon, Connewarre, Curlewis, Inverleigh, Murgheboluc and Shelford.
Double- banded Plovers will be arriving from New Zealand in coming weeks and one bird has already been recorded at Blue Rocks. Another shorebird, the land-based Banded Lapwing, has been recorded at a ‘usual location’ in paddocks at Connewarre, in good numbers, and further west at Beeac. At this location the observer noted the species had not been recorded for some time. One intrepid birder was rewarded with a count of more than 450 Freckled Ducks at an area with restricted access (and viewing) along Swan Bay Road. With a note of birds arriving in our district or gathering in high numbers we cannot overlook the Little Corellas gathering at Winchelsea and also in the Drysdale area in huge flocks numbering well into the hundreds and, in some cases, thousands.
We would also encourage readers to log-in and explore the eBird Australia web-site https://ebird.org/australia/map enter a species name, zoom in on the Geelong region and see what you can find.
… John Newman and Craig Morley
This summary of bird observations, submitted by more than 55 observers over December and January highlights the enormous variety of summer records with varied weather conditions and good wetland water levels early in the summer have provided good conditions for our summer migrants and resident birds.
A recent sighting of two male Scarlet Honeyeaters at a waterhole in the Brisbane Ranges, early in the morning before a day of extreme heat, reminds us of the irruption of this species through much of Victoria, including our region in spring/summer 2017-18 – a phenomenon which has not been repeated this year. It is also a timely reminder to just sit and enjoy and let the birds come to you. A breeding record of Rufous Fantails in the Otways was a treat and Southern Emuwrens near St Leonards in Gahnia habitat was an outstanding record away from the Lake Connewarre and Anglesea Heath locations usually preferred by these secretive birds. Great records from the Long Forest of Speckled Warbler, Australian Owlet-nightjar and Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, all birds which are scarce or with restricted ranges in our area, and the first summer record of Pied Currawong in Bacchus Marsh is noteworthy. A record of White-throated Nightjar calling in the Brisbane Ranges reminds us of the presence of these elusive (cryptic) birds during the warmer months. Fork-tailed (Pacific) Swift s have also been seen overhead in many locations, with changes in weather, including Barwon Heads, Ocean Grove, Torquay, Lorne, Pt Lonsdale and Newtown. In recent days there have also been some White-throated Needletails detected in flocks, at Ocean Grove, so please keep a careful eye out.
Pacific Koel records have been submitted from areas such as Highton, Anglesea, Ocean Grove, and Lara. The record, from Highton, of a male and female calling, raises the tantalising possibility of a late breeding record of this species –a recent addition to the list of breeding birds for the Geelong region. Please keep an eye and an ear out for this species; it will be interesting to see how far into 2019 records for this species will be recorded. A juvenile Pallid Cuckoo being fed by a Scarlet Robin at Bamganie was an important find and keen observers have been enthralled by breeding Sacred Kingfishers in the Brisbane Ranges.
The many Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo records remind us of how enchanting we find these graceful birds. Records of female Brown Songlark are not numerous, so records of single birds on fences at Anakie and Curlewis are worthy of note. A record of six Gang-gang Cockatoos in Eastern Park was a timely reminder of the post-breeding dispersion of this species in our region and a fascinating record of 15 Australasian Bushlark, from Curlewis, raises the possibility of post-breeding/pre-migratory flocking behaviour – another interesting question with the associated opportunity for us to learn more about the birds of our region.
Raptors are again richly represented in number and variety with confirmed breeding by several species in widespread locations. Peregrine Falcons have managed to find a suitable breeding site in the largely demolished aluminium smelter at Point Henry on which to raise a family. Australian Hobbies have raised young in North Geelong, East Geelong and a family was seen flying over Newtown. Collared Sparrowhawks have raised young at Wallington, Balyang Sanctuary and Eastern Park again this year. A recently fledged juvenile male white morph Grey Goshawk at Kawarren was a thrill for keen observers. Spotted Harriers have been seen at Avalon, Winchelsea, Murgheboluc and Connewarre and sightings of Black Falcons, this time from Wallington, Lake Murdeduke and Avalon always raise the spirits!
Summer is the time when the highest numbers and widest variety of shorebirds are seen: Pacific Golden-Plovers are frequenting several sites and the record, from Blue Rocks, of three Sanderlings is a good number for this species along our coast. Lake Modewarre’s rapidly drying water proved ideal for 3000 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and several Black-tailed Godwits. A Wood Sandpiper at Reedy Lake was a welcome sight, for several observers over an extended period, and 14 Eastern Curlews and a Hudsonian Godwit on restricted land at Queenscliff were captivating and very exciting. Salty Lake Murdeduke provided habitat for some 5000 Banded Stilts and the salt works at Avalon were also good for more modest numbers of this species and a Pectoral Sandpiper was an exciting find, at Lake Victoria, for some experienced observers.
A Spotless Crake has been seen in Torquay, as receding water levels reveal muddy habitat and, as we go to print, the recently exposed mud at Jerringot bird hide is affording good opportunities to see the species. Latham’s Snipe count saw small numbers of birds scattered across the district with 36 (Jerringot) and 31 (Begola).
Whiskered Terns were observed feeding over a low grassy paddock in Connewarre and several rarely reported Gull-billed Terns were seen at Lake Murdeduke. Two Australasian Bitterns and an Australasian Little Bittern were seen at Reedy Lake over the summer reinforcing the importance of this location for these rare species. Breeding records of Australasian Darter on the Barwon River at Princes Bridge are welcome as were records of breeding success for Australasian Grebes in East Geelong and Ocean Grove. An unexpected Blue-billed Duck with young was most noteworthy and fascinating find at Gerangamete.
Finally a freshly beach-cast albatross record from Thirteenth Beach at Barwon Heads created some interest and was determined to be an immature (Southern) Royal Albatross, a rare visitor to our shores.
As always we thank and acknowledge the observers who record their observations to add to our developing picture of the fascinating birds of this region.
…John Newman and Craig Morley
Spring is a time when not only the birds are active and obvious but accordingly bird observers are out in good numbers watching behaviour and excitedly reporting the species that the longer, warmer days have brought to the Geelong region.
Many of the records submitted over late October and November involve breeding observations. For many species, the longer warmer days mean good food supplies and more favourable conditions for rearing a family before it becomes too dry and hot in the months ahead.
The Barwon River Australasian Darters are once again showing signs of breeding in the trees beside the Princes Bridge, though in lower numbers than in recent years. It is not so very long ago that Darters were most uncommon in our region. Australasian Grebes are now rearing clutches of stripy-headed chicks in several local wetlands. Black-fronted Dotterels are masters of nest disguise in gravelly sites and reward patient observers with broken wing displays and signs of nesting. The much-loved Peregrine Falcons at Point Henry have so far successfully managed to find a remaining elevated site and get several chicks to the fledging stage. Let us hope that whatever future development there include retaining suitable high structures that will allow these masters of the air to continue to breed there. The locally scarce Brown Treecreeper was confirmed breeding at Eynesbury, a local stronghold for this endearing woodland bird. Grey Currawong breeding records from marginal locations at Breamlea and Wallington are also of great interest.
If you are familiar with duck calls, night time can be an intriguing time to be outside listening for flying ducks if conditions are right – generally moonless or nights with heavy overcast. Both Australian Shelduck and Pink-eared Ducks have been identified flying overhead at night in Newtown this month. Cattle Egrets are persisting in our area with beautiful buffy-orange breeding flush around the face and neck. Once considered winter visitors to Geelong, they are in fact here for most weeks of the year in variable numbers. Black-tailed Nativehens are persisting in the Torquay area and Queenscliff looks like it will again play host to Little Egret breeding, a rare event indeed for Victoria.
Australia’s rarest duck, the Freckled Duck, has been seen at two unusual locations this month – Deakin University (Waurn Ponds) and a swamp near Winchelsea. Glossy Ibis have been noted at Hospital Swamp, Reedy Lake and in the western lakes towards Colac and rarely reported Gull-billed Terns have been seen at Lake Corangamite.
Spring-summer is wader time in the south and lovely records of Bar-tailed Godwits (Lake Corangamite), Eastern Curlew (Barwon estuary), Pacific Golden Plover (Lake Victoria), Sanderling (Blue Rocks) and Sooty Oystercatchers (Portarlington) are some of the less common wader species in the Geelong region that have been enjoyed in recent weeks.
Spring migrants have continued to enthral local observers. Observers keeping an eye and an ear on the skies on windy warm days have been rewarded with many records of White-browed Woodswallows, generally with fewer Masked Woodswallows mixed in, often given away by their cheery ‘chap chap’ contact calls. The now spring regular, the Eastern Koel, is being heard in recent days from Highton and Tree and Fairy Martins are back in residence across our region across wetlands and woodlands and, in the case of the latter, at culverts. A Black-eared Cuckoo was a good find at Anglesea Heath and a ‘green’ Satin Bowerbird at the same place was an unexpected surprise for two keen observers.
Two Little Wattlebirds in suburban East Geelong provided an unexpected thrill for local observers and serves as a reminder to keep checking our local patches for unexpected visitors. And finally several members, on their way to the November Bird group meeting, thoroughly enjoyed the show put on, not far offshore from Eastern Park, by several Australasian Gannets.
As usual we sincerely thank all the observers who have added their records to the GFNC web-site https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations and eBird where you may like to log-in and go to https://ebird.org/australia/map add the name of species and zoom in on the Geelong region – find where that species occurs in our region. You can also customise the date range for more recent years. We wish all the bird observers in the Geelong region a happy and safe Christmas and may your New Year be filled with many wonderful and exciting sightings.
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