… John Newman and Craig Morley

A casual look through the extensive list of records from the link below can leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that spring is here in Greater Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula. A healthy combination of warmer, longer days and lingering water in wetlands has led to a great array of bird species recorded this month over many different habitats.

The songs and calls are characteristic, even evocative and none more so than some of the recent spring arrivals that frequently give away their presence by their call long before they are seen. Olive- backed Orioles have been identified in several areas in the eastern Otways forests and Pallid Cuckoos are now fairly widespread throughout rural and lightly wooded areas where the plaintive penetrating upwards scale call cannot be missed. White-browed Woodswallows, often very high overhead, also have a most distinctive call that instantly draws one’s attention skyward on warmer blowy days. They have been seen drifting across our skies for several weeks now and low numbers, often in the drier forests to our north, may settle in to breed.

Farmland fence lines and grain crops have given rise to Brown Songlark and Australasian Bushlark records. Farmland to the west and north of Geelong can be reliable spots for these birds. Rufous Songlarks, recorded in the Brisbane Ranges and out to the west, at Wingeel, on the eBird Global Big Day, are more often seen in lightly wooded grassy areas. White-winged Trillers have had their first appearances for spring also in the month gone by.

A male Red-capped Robin at Cargerie was a rewarding find after being heard for several weeks.  Crimson Rosellas right in central Geelong city were an intriguing record. Eurasian Tree Sparrows are possibly overlooked in Geelong sometimes even tucked into small flocks of House Sparrows but are endearing birds and have been seen in Manifold Heights reminding us to look for that chestnut crown and dark cheek patch along with the chestnut rump, instead of the grey rump of the House Sparrow, as they fly away.  Most of our town Eastern Spinebills have retreated to the wetter forests to breed by now but one was seen still utilising bell-shaped flowers in North Geelong this month.

Plenty of Wedge-tailed Eagle records have been submitted this month from various areas and the most attractive Spotted Harrier continues to thrill as they float over fields in Moorabool, Murgheboluc and Modewarre areas. And Black Kites seem to be settled in at a number of places – it would be pleasing to gather more details on the breeding and movements of these birds in our region.

Wetland enthusiasts are still being richly rewarded for their muddy efforts. Both Baillon’s and Australian Spotted Crake have been seen and Black Swan breeding in Breamlea saltmarsh was satisfying with cygnets seen. Black-tailed Nativehen records have been very sparse over recent years but 5 birds near Winchelsea supplements several single bird records elsewhere. A Brown Quail was unexpected at Lake Modewarre margins and two Cape Barren Geese in Belmont on the edge of the Barwon River drew birders in to see them at this unusual site.

We do not get too many records from the beaches in the far west of our coast but a welcome selection of Hooded Plover records have been enjoyed.  Little Egrets have begun to prepare for breeding in Queenscliff again, following on from the noteworthy breeding events of the last two summers.  Sharp-tailed Sandpipers have arrived from their northern hemisphere breeding grounds, after a flight of 12,000km or more, to feed on numerous wetlands across Geelong. The vagrant Northern Shoveler, reported last month, reappeared at Lake Modewarre after several weeks’ absence with the last record around September 23. Which raises the question, where is it now? Interestingly, the Northern Shoveler was noted with higher numbers of Australasian Shovelers – possibly not unrelated events.  So, if you’re out and about with your ‘scope and come across higher numbers of Australasian Shovelers, spread across an expanse of water, take a closer look you just never know.

You can also take a look at the records on the website at: https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations

And don’t forget to log-in and look at the eBird web-site and search species and then zoom in on the Geelong region: https://ebird.org/australia/map

Many thanks to all the observant bird enthusiasts who have been submitting their sightings and in so doing are contributing to a better understanding of our local birds.

… John Newman and Craig Morley

Spring is well and truly with us now and the Bellarine Peninsula and surrounding areas are currently a treasure trove of bird activity, enjoyed and reported by a large number of dedicated observers.

Spring heralds the return of many migrant birds which return to our rich area for feeding and breeding.  This month’s observations comprise a very long list of fascinating records illustrating this annual phenomenon with Rufous Whistlers seen and heard at Durdidwarrah in recent days along with a species that is always a regional highlight – the Rufous Songlark. Dusky Woodswallows have returned in good numbers to our woodland and riparian areas. Cuckoo records have been many and varied with all of the local species recorded as well as the two rarer species – Black-eared Cuckoo in the northern dry area of the You Yangs and a most unexpected Brush Cuckoo in urban Geelong. Pallid Cuckoos arrived in late August as predicted and seem to be widespread now.  Fan-tailed and the two Bronze-Cuckoos are similarly widespread and detected readily by their reliable calls. Fairy Martins are returning to many familiar sites to breed and Australian Reed-warblers are giving away their spring-summer presence with penetrating calls from reed beds across the district.

There is still water in many wetlands and it was a great delight for two Australasian Darters to be seen at St Leonards – a widespread species that was once a great rarity around Geelong.  A few Black-tailed Nativehens have been seen and similarly the diminutive Baillon’s Crake spied on several wetlands. Cattle Egrets are developing a hint of their orange breeding colour in some of the rural paddocks that they frequent and numerous small family groups of Brolgas are delighting observers around Reedy Lake Bancoora and Buckley. A Kelp Gull was a great sighting on the Surf Coast and Whiskered Terns have now turned up in moderate numbers right across the Geelong region.

Low to moderate numbers of Banded Stilts are back and often sharing their saline habitat with Red-necked Avocets. The first of this season’s Latham’s Snipe counts resulted in birds seen in Belmont, Collendina and, rather surprisingly at a wetland adjoining Karaaf, Hopefully numbers will grow over the next few weeks in many sites. The vagrant Northern Shoveler documented last month at Lake Modewarre returned after an absence of some weeks and is again in the middle of the receding lake waters apparently associating with the related Australasian Shovelers.

Black Falcon records are not common in our district but this month there are numerous records of this supreme master of the air from no less than four different locations. Spotted Harriers also continue to be observed around Modewarre, Gheringhap and Shelford.

Flame Robins are hanging on for the end of their winter dispersal in many sites and will soon retreat to more heavily wooded areas, generally at higher altitude, to breed. Gang-gang Cockatoos are also still wandering locally but in smaller flocks with more sub-adults being seen. A suburban Little Wattlebird was a big surprise in Newtown as was a Noisy Miner.  A Scarlet Robin at Curlewis, apparently associating with the more usual Flame Robins, was most unexpected away from the usual woodlands and Weebills continue to be recorded regularly. It will be of great interest to see if any breed in their new locales over spring and summer. And writing of robins a male Red-capped Robin is currently delighting observers near Merdith. Southern Boobooks have been flushed and heard across the area and Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos continue to roam in small numbers.

This wonderful variety of records, from so many of our observers, is testimony to the very special region in which we live and wander and the dedication and skill of so many keen and talented observers. We thank them all. And, of course, don’t forget that you can look at the observations on the GFNC web-site at  https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations or go to https://ebird.org/australia/explore and log-in and explore species or species maps.

…John Newman and Craig Morley

A wide variety of bird records have been submitted to the club observations website this month and they illustrate the very interesting time we are currently experiencing. A change of seasons is upon us with some cold weather is persisting withy icy winds contrasting with the first glimmer of warmer days. The local birdlife is reflecting some of these changes. In addition a very serious drought over much of NSW and Queensland will probably see some drier country birds appear in our region over the weeks and months to come. Will we be thrilled by another influx of Scarlet Honeyeaters?

Those urban Australian Hobbies that have been providing much interest last month as they weave around traffic hunting at dusk have continued their antics.  Two glorious Grey Goshawks were seen together in Wallington and Spotted Harrier records have come in from the Lake Modewarre area this month as well as further north-west around Shelford. A White-bellied Sea-Eagle at Lake Colac was a treat away from the coast.

Cattle Egrets are being seen in low numbers in wet paddocks mostly in the company of cattle. It will be interesting to see when the last records for the year are submitted.  It is now a number of years since this species bred locally. Banded Lapwings continue to frequent local paddocks and are probably breeding again. It would, indeed, be most pleasing to be able to confirm this. A wonderful gathering of nearly 11,000 Banded Stilts was seen at Lake Gnarput near Lake Corangamite – only small flocks are presently in the local Geelong area. The cryptic Lewin’s Rail and Spotless Crake have been seen at several local wetlands and Stubble Quail were seen running between lakeside weeds at Lake Modewarre. Those strong wintery winds have brought both Shy Albatross and Black-browed Albatross to our inshore waters.

The continuing trickle of Eastern Barn Owl records has not slowed with more birds at several locations through the suburbs. There is great concern that this species is one amongst several, including Southern Boobook, Nankeen Kestrel and Black-shouldered Kite, that may be succumbing to bio-accumulation of rodent poison in their bodies. Study is underway at the moment to learn more of this situation as it is strongly suspected that there may be more than just a die-off of their food source due to the cold snap killing off rodents.

Some of the migratory birds of spring have begun arriving with exciting records of Black-eared Cuckoos from the You Yangs and more widespread records of Shining Bronze-Cuckoos. And Fantailed Cuckoos and Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoos, though some members of each species tend to remain with us over the colder months, have become more conspicuous in recent weeks with their distinctive calls. Records of Tree Martins have been on the increase, at several locations, over recent weeks. The autumn-winter robins present over the past 3-4 months – Flame, Rose and Pink Robins – are still being noted, in lower numbers, will soon retreat to the wetter Otway gullies to breed. There was a fascinating, but sad, record of a recently dead adult Bassian Thrush found in the street on the edge of the CBD – reminding us that these wonderful birds do move about in the cooler months and are subject to the vagaries of humans in the built environment. And records of our old favourites the Gang-gang Cockatoos have declined, in the last week of August, as they move back into the Otway Ranges and hinterland for the warmer months. On a similar theme our beloved Yellow-tailed Black -Cockatoos are still roaming the area and we urge members to continue to record their presence in the region.

Finally, the interesting surge of Weebill records in our local area has to our great delight continued through August. A Black-chinned Honeyeater record at the You Yangs was pleasing for this dry country bird, and White-naped Honeyeaters and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters are trickling back into our region on their return migration.

Once again we thank all the keen and determined observers, listed below, who record the birds of our region, and we encourage everyone to keep these records flowing to the GFNC web-site and eBird to help paint the picture of the local bird populations and movements.

… John Newman and Craig Morley

Sometimes there are birding locations that do not necessarily appear productive or special with a casual glance but prove to be quite remarkable. The current spate of winter records from the grasslands around Avalon show how rich in food items this large grassy paddock system must be. Regular records of Eastern Barn Owls have been noted this month; many Black-shouldered Kites have been seen, including a record of 37 birds, and it’s well worth paying attention  to check these birds carefully considering the recent record of the very similar and extremely rare Letter-winged Kite at Rupanyup in recent weeks. It is forty years since this enigmatic and irruptive species last paid a visit to our region, at the Avalon area. Locally noteworthy raptor species, Spotted Harriers and up to 3 Black Falcons, have delighted observers with their masterful flying and hunting skills over these same Avalon grasslands. Continuing with our raptor theme Australian Hobbies continue to thrill observers and the mid-city antics of a particular bird hunting House Sparrows and possibly Common Starlings on dusk, sometimes amongst moving cars, has been quite the show again this winter. The glorious white morph Grey Goshawk at Point Henry was a surprise, and Little Eagles, Whistling Kites and Wedge-tailed Eagles over the inner suburbs show that it is worth watching the skies in town as well as the more rural areas.

A small flock of Banded Stilts have returned to the Moolap Saltworks and a flock of 55 Freckled Ducks at Blue Waters Lake in urban Ocean Grove was a great find, along with over 100 at Lake Lorne.  And currently Pink-eared Ducks number well over 1000, at Lake Lorne, so it will be interesting to see how long they stay. Caspian Terns breed at Mud Islands over spring and summer and use our estuaries and lake shores to rest at times, so it was great to see nine birds at Barwon Heads. Fairy Terns off Point Lonsdale were a good record as were the three White-fronted Terns seen there, a bird not often seen in our region and only usually in winter. And before we leave waterbirds – there was a most unexpected adult male Northern Shoveler at Lake Modewarre the morning after the July Bird Group meeting. A strongly migratory species breeding in northern Eurasia then, normally, in the non-breeding season moving as far south as Thailand and is an infrequent vagrant to Australia.

July is a good time to seek out the migratory passerine species before they begin to head back to their breeding areas, often the wetter gullies of the Otways or further afield. Pink and Rose Robin records continue from various locations including Barwon Heads, Beeac and Eastern Park – both species can be fairly cryptic and the July Bird Group meeting presentation  by  Sean Dooley from BirdLife gave plenty of pointers on how to distinguish the brown-grey individuals.

Fan-tailed Cuckoos in St Leonards and Avalon could be early arrivals for spring or over-wintering individuals and a large flock of Pied Currawongs into Bacchus Marsh seems to be indicative of the recent arrival of this species in that area as an autumn-winter visitor. Swift Parrots are alarmingly threatened now, with breeding and feeding habitat destruction, and local records have been sparse this past year or two, so a flock of seventeen Swift Parrots in Newtown was a wonderful record and shows the benefit of being aware of their characteristic ‘swit-swit’ call to reveal their presence and keeping aware of your neighbourhood birds. Weebill records are now a regular monthly feature of the Geelong region, again having a characteristic cheery whistling call and it will be most interesting to see if they remain a regular part of our urban avifauna long term or are a transient, though much enjoyed, feature for the time being only. A record of two Singing Honeyeaters, feeding on fruits of a street tree on the urban fringe, is fascinating as the species is rarely observed in our region away from coastal scrub. And a Yellow-faced Honeyeater in an urban garden alerts us to the fact that these birds will soon be passing  through Geelong in small, often inconspicuous, flocks heading back to the Otways to breed; so keep an ear and an eye out for them.

We encourage everyone to keep these records flowing to the GFNC web-site and eBird to help paint the picture of the local bird populations and movements and, as always, we thank and acknowledge the keen observers of the Geelong region birdlife who so willingly record their observations.

…John Newman and Craig Morley

The very mild autumn season continues with only small bursts of rainfall to date and a few cooler, but not yet cold, mornings. April and into mid-May has brought a great collection of records that cover myriad species and habitats, with some highlights illustrated here. You can look for more records at https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations or you may like to investigate the records many members are adding to eBird Australia by following this link https://ebird.org/australia/map/ and then adding the species you are interested in looking at and then zooming in on the Geelong region using the mapping tool. Thanks once more to all the observers, listed below, who have added records to the GFNC web-site.

Blue-winged Parrots have moved from their summer forest habitat to the saltmarshes and open country around Geelong. Lake Modewarre’s grassy edges and Breamlea and Bancoora saltmarshes, along with Lake Connewarre have proved enticing to these parrots in recent weeks. For more parrot news please refer to the round-up of the May Orange-bellied Parrot surveys in this issue.

Flame Robins have begun their movement into rural areas, enjoying paddocks and fence lines, as well as some sites close to Geelong’s urban areas. Fuscous Honeyeaters, uncommon visitors to the drier northern woodlands, have shown up recently in the Brisbane Ranges and an Olive Whistler, at Lake Lorne in Drysdale, follows several recent records of these beautiful songsters in unexpected areas on the Bellarine Peninsula. Rose Robins in the eastern Otways are a treat for keen observers and the cryptic and secretive Chestnut-rumped Heathwren proved true to form in several areas of heathland this month. Weebills have continued to mark their welcome presence known in suburban Geelong with their cheerful song in several suburbs and also rural areas. It is interesting to wonder that their movements are associated with tree-lined watercourses, such as the Barwon River, and shelterbelts along rural roads. And late autumn records of the migratory Dusky Woodswallow, in some cases higher numbers such as 19 gathering late in the day at Wingeel in late April and early May, have been submitted from our region.

The long list of raptor species documented in this month’s records is headed by the Australian Hobby with several records of impressive crepuscular hunting with great power and agility always on show. Black Falcons continue to thrill with their adept hunting and audacious behaviour – a female harassing a Wedge-tailed Eagle thrilled keen observers on eBird Global Big Day. Good numbers of Black-shouldered Kites continue to delight with their sleek form and habits including some, presumably taking advantage of good rodent populations, breeding well into autumn and possibly winter. A few urban Little Eagle records remind us to keep watching the skies even in suburbia. Spotted Harrier records from the drier farm lands of our region complement the last few months with regular recordings of these gloriously plumaged birds.

Some of our wetlands have good water levels and so records of Brolga, Black-tailed Native-hens, Buff-banded Rails and Australian Spotted Crakes continue to be submitted. Cattle Egrets have again established themselves in our rural areas as they do every autumn and winter and regular sightings of the birds in stocked paddocks coming in from many localities. Lake Lorne’s now famous Freckled Duck population has not disappointed with numbers in excess of 400 on 12th May.

A few wading birds have been noted including low, but persisting, numbers of Banded Lapwings and Banded Stilts. New Zealand’s migratory Double-banded Plovers are regular on our shorelines and sheltered inland lakes at this time of the year but a record of over 500 at Lake Murdeduke represents a nationally significant percentage of the flyway population, estimated to be just 19,000 individuals.

Beach-cast rarities have continued to be found by a diligent birder with Antarctic Prion and Common Diving-Petrel topping the list this month. Brown Skuas off Pt Lonsdale lighthouse were a real treat for some careful observers and large flocks of Fluttering Shearwater similarly exciting. It is interesting to note that there were records of low numbers of Short-tailed Shearwaters along our inshore waters well into May. Time spent watching for seagoing birds from our southern coastline can pay big dividends if birders are prepared for the winter weather, that is no doubt on the way, along with some of the key ID features of the seabirds that may pass by. Some of the albatross, Cape and Blue Petrels and White-headed Petrel, to name just a few, to prepare for some sea-watching!

…  John Newman and Craig Morley

The extensive list of bird observation submitted to the club over the past month follows on with many of the same themes as last month – migrants on the move, post-breeding dispersal of young birds and sea-going birds being seen offshore and washed ashore. High numbers of raptor sightings, of many species have also been submitted reminding us of the popularity of these charismatic and enigmatic birds.

Walking our prized beaches looking for specimens of pelagic species has been a noteworthy past-time of numerous club members past and present. Geelong’s southern coastal position exposes us to the full brunt of Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean and the list of species found over the years is extensive and impressive. In April freshly beach-cast specimens of Antarctic Prion and Salvin’s Prion were found and stimulated much discussion at the Bird Group meeting where the specimens were examined. Arctic Jaegers have also been observed haranguing and harassing gulls offshore.

Cattle Egrets are being seen again for the first time in many months in local paddocks as they arrive for the cooler months. The Little Egrets have vacated the Queenscliff colony after a remarkable breeding event where many young were successfully raised.  A family group of four Brolgas at Point Henry was a delight and once again Lake Lorne (Drysdale) is hosting an increasing number of Freckled Ducks. Good water levels at Freshwater Lake (Pt Lonsdale) have proved favourable for Australasian Shovelers among other species. The small but productive stormwater harvesting lake in Eastern Park has allowed a pair of Australasian Grebes to rear a clutch, well into autumn, as did a farm dam at Wallington.

A look through the online records (https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations) will show the extensive list of raptor species recorded in recent weeks. Besides the charismatic and oft-reported Australian Hobby, Black-shouldered Kite and Collared Sparrowhawk, several species, less frequently recorded, are present again. White-bellied Sea-Eagles have been seen along our coastline and forest bordering the Surf Coast and at Lake Modewarre.  Black Kites and Black Falcons have been seen in extraordinary numbers utilising burn-offs in farmland in the hunt for prey.  A white morph Grey Goshawk at Fyansford is suggestive of autumn dispersal. Records of Powerful Owls from the strongholds of the Brisbane Ranges and Ironbark Basin have been most welcome as have the Eastern Barn Owl records from Inverleigh.

April has revealed many birds forming winter flocks and moving through our district, rich rewards for patient observers. Large flocks of Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes in several locations were noteworthy. Autumn-winter dispersal of Flame Robins has been noted in many lower altitude open habitats and Gang-gang Cockatoos are present in many areas and an Olive Whistler, seen well and described by keen observers, near Queenscliff was a very special record. Pink Robin and Rose Robin records clearly have been satisfying for some keen-eyed observers, Rufous Fantails passing through more open areas have been noted again this month and Bassian Thrushes, at Ironbark Basin, were a treat.

A rare report of Speckled Warblers in the Long Forest reminds us that this mallee remnant is still a local haunt of these birds and a lone Swift Parrot, at Ocean Grove, is a reminder of the serious population decline of these gorgeous migratory parrots. Late records of Pacific (Fork tailed) Swift and White-throated Needletail were a pleasant surprise, and Weebills continue to be seen in suburban areas and beyond. Dispersing White-eared Honeyeaters and a surprising Yellow-tufted Honeyeater near Aireys Inlet have been noteworthy honeyeater records.  High numbers of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo records in moderately sized flocks have also been submitted from many locations this month.

This wonderful variety of records, from so many of our observers, is testimony to the very special region in which we live and wander and the dedication and skill of so many keen and talented observers. We thank them all.


…  John Newman and Craig Morley

It is a great delight to read of observers continuing to frequent some of Geelong’s central green zones such as the Geelong Botanic Gardens to record the movement of migrating birds. This time of year is exciting as birds begin to move out of the wetter, dense forests into more open areas and in some cases head north to escape the colder southern winter. Geelong Botanic Gardens and Eastern Park provide an important green corridor for such movements as noted this month with wonderful records of variable numbers of Rose Robin, Rufous Fantail, a female Satin Flycatcher and, amazingly, a female Leaden Flycatcher. The fluctuating numbers and species may suggest various waves of birds moving through. These records are joined by the growing numbers of Eastern Spinebills, Golden Whistlers and Gang-gang Cockatoos recorded over recent weeks from various urban areas, with noteworthy flocks of the latter numbering in the low 20s.

The forest areas are still providing birders with lovely birds such as the photogenic Pink Robin, Bassian Thrush, Painted Button-quail, Crested Shrike-tit (with an incessantly begging juvenile)  and Olive-backed Oriole.  The Weebill, Australian’s smallest bird, continues to be seen more regularly in the suburbs and riparian areas, none more unusual than the specimen seen with an equally unlikely Brown-headed Honeyeater, in the coastal scrub, at the very tip of Pt Henry. White- throated Needletails overhead have been seen in the strong, warm autumn winds, ahead of cold fronts and cool changes. The much sought after and rarely recorded White-throated Nightjar has been seen and or heard in the Brisbane Ranges and Anglesea Heath.

With bird migration still on our minds, a wonderful array of shorebirds have been seen in recent weeks  preparing to make their way north for the Northern Hemisphere breeding season. A Pectoral Sandpiper and Marsh Sandpiper on a small inland wetland were most surprising and high numbers of Curlew Sandpipers are still using Lake Victoria to increase their energy reserves before their imminent northward journey. A lone Grey-tailed Tattler and Great Knot at Mud Islands thrilled the lucky observer and remind us of the greatly diminished populations of these species compared to years gone by. Jerringot has a few Latham’s Snipe present – what date will the last birds be detected for this summer season? It is bitter sweet to report of a “beautiful” White-headed Petrel found, in poor condition with a compromised foot, on the beach at Ocean Grove. It was euthanised by Zoos Victoria after assessment.

The less often visited western lakes such as Cundare Pool have been phenomenal on recent visits – high numbers of Australian Shelduck, Blue-billed Duck, Double-banded Plovers and, incredibly, good numbers of breeding Australian Pelicans. A third breeding cycle this summer of Australasian Grebes on a farm dam is worthy of comment and the breeding colony of Little Egrets at Queenscliff has been successfully again this summer – with the club taking steps to secure the future of the site. Birders are reminded to submit all records of all egret species – either directly into eBird or to the club web-site.

A good flock of 16 Banded Lapwings at Batesford was a surprise and the gathering of 10 Australasian Bushlark at Curlewis may suggest flocking of this delightful bird species prior to heading off to milder climes to avoid our cooler southern months. Stubble Quail calling in March is unusual and caught an observer’s attention.

The records of our less common raptor species such as Spotted Harrier and Grey Goshawk always create a lot of interest within our ranks and there are several records of each scattered across the Geelong area in recent weeks. Numerous records of Collared Sparrowhawk and Australian Hobby, from a great many locations, also indicate the pleasure these species bring.

Please keep your records coming in. We should all be justly proud of the wonderful efforts of members and friends of the club in continuing to add to our understanding of the birds of the Geelong region.

Please start giving some serious thought to the big global birding event on Saturday 5th May. We have the opportunity to participate in the eBird Global Big Day, now in its third year, when birders worldwide have the opportunity to go birding on one day to record as many of the world’s bird species as possible. Last year club members joined with more than 20,000 observers to record 6635 of the world’s bird species. Find out more at https://ebird.org/australia/news/global-big-day-5-may-2018 

… John Newman and Craig Morley

As late summer progresses and early autumn looms many of our coastal sites and drying wetlands have been thoroughly surveyed and enjoyed by Geelong birders. Some of these wetlands have carried water over from last winter exposing shallows and muddy banks, providing exciting records of seldom seen birds. The summer shorebird count was completed recently, as part of twice yearly BirdLife Australia Shorebird Surveys, and further bolstered the records with visits to several restricted access sites.

Exciting records such as White-winged Black Tern, Banded Stilt, Black-tailed Native-hen and Glossy Ibis lead off this month. Shorebird records from across the Bellarine Peninsula have been many and varied with gems such as Great Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Plover coming from the restricted- access Swan Island. A lone unbanded Hooded Plover on the Barwon River Estuary was a most surprising find away from the usual surf beach habitat. Though it turns out, is one of a pair raising two chicks on the Ocean Grove spit between 16W and 17W.  High numbers of the critically endangered Curlew Sandpiper at Lake Victoria were joined by hundreds of other shorebirds including two Double-banded Plovers, recently arrived from New Zealand for our more mild winter. Shorebirds use the Lake Victoria site late in summer and into early autumn to utilise rich food resources in evaporating lake margins to fuel their phenomenal flight to the arctic. High numbers of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers moving between the Moolap Saltworks and the damp grass of the adjacent CSIRO site was also most interesting and has not previously been noted. Gull-billed Terns seen at the Lake Connewarre delta are another seldom recorded local species. And Caspian Terns have enjoyed another successful breeding event at Mud Islands where the sight of a Grey-tailed Tattler was enjoyed more recently.

On our coast, Black-faced Cormorants on the St Leonards Pier were a surprise, and numerous records of several Kelp Gulls between Torquay and Barwon Heads show that careful attention to larger gulls may turn up this uncommon species. Little Egret breeding at Queenscliff, most likely the only colony in Victoria, continues to be monitored though records of the species feeding at other sites, such as Lake Victoria and Hospital Swamp as we mentioned last month, does raise the fascinating possibility of breeding of the species elsewhere in the region.

Once Gang-gang Cockatoo records begin flowing in, one knows autumn is on the way and numerous records have come in this month from Highton, Newtown and Connewarre. Equally, White-throated Needletail and Fork-tailed (Pacific) Swift records tend to be most numerous in the late summer stormy winds and we have pleasingly had many records of both. Australian King-Parrots with begging young, in the forests behind Lorne, confirm local breeding and Musk Lorikeets in high numbers have been enjoyed overhead before dark presumably heading to roost. Night bird records have been numerous this summer with records of White-throated Nightjar, Powerful Owl, urban Eastern Barn Owls and Southern Boobooks populating our list this month.

Australian Reed-warblers are occasionally seen in unusual habitats on migration and a bird in the coastal scrub at Blue Rocks was just such an individual. The enigmatic and greatly enjoyed Black Falcon has delighted observers with records over Wallington and Black Rocks recently and records Spotted Harriers from Beeac, Curlewis and Inverleigh surely delighted observers with masterful displays of floating flight synonymous with species. And the spell-binding performance by an adult female Peregrine Falcon with prey, trying to avoid Swamp Harriers, caused shorebird counters to be more than momentarily distracted at Moolap!

Once again we thank the keen and diligent observers in our Geelong region, listed below, who so willingly and keenly submit their records as incidentals to the GFNC web-site, 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

…Craig Morley and John Newman

Welcome to 2018 and Happy New Year to members and friends especially all those keen observers and recorders of birds in the Geelong region.

This edition of the bird notes covers two months and we are, once again, spoilt for choice.

Spotted Harriers have been observed in several areas including Curlewis and Inverleigh and one of the birds at Curlewis was a juvenile possibly indicating breeding somewhere in the area. A juvenile male Black Falcon delighted observers, also at Curlewis, and raises the exciting possibility of local breeding of this fabulous species as does the record of a female chasing prey at Avalon. Australian Hobbies have successfully fledged clutches at Breakwater and North Geelong. And the evocative Peregrine Falcon has delighted keen-eyed observers with cameo appearances over suburban areas.

Enough of raptors but keeping the breeding theme, so apt at this time of the year, a pair of Leaden Flycatchers set up home within 40m of a pair of Satin Flycatchers at Meredith, and several pairs of Satin Flycatchers and at least 1 pair of Leaden Flycatchers are also breeding in the Aireys Inlet area. The significant and important breeding colony of Little Egrets at Queenscliff continues apace. Keeping the focus on Family Ardidae at least one Intermediate Egret has been providing a lot of enjoyment at Lake Colac and a keen observer received an early Christmas present when an Australasian Bittern unexpectedly flushed from a reed-bed at Hospital Swamp. And, at this location, it would be fascinating to learn more about the Little Egrets and Great Egrets which have been frequenting Hospital Swamp and then flying off to the south – is there another breeding event that we are yet to discover? Yellow-billed Spoonbills have bred successfully at Wallington and Serendip.

Sub-adult Kelp Gulls have been turning up along the Blue Rocks end of Thirteenth Beach and a group of 10 sub-adult Pacific Gulls, at Lorne, added to a holiday outing for some.

Back to Lake Colac for a moment, a brief but convincing appearance of an Eastern Yellow Wagtail in mid-December was a huge rarity and highlight for two attentive birders and up to four Pectoral Sandpipers have been delighting locals.

Returning to breeding records, Common Bronzewings have intrigued observers recently with a nest at Serendip on a dis-used White-winged Chough nest and well-developed juveniles tucked in on the edge of a dis-used White-faced Heron nest at Wallington. Southern Boobooks with fluffy fledglings uttering incessant insect-like twittering delighted some fortunate and careful observers.

Eastern (Pacific) Koels have done it again with a juvenile incessantly begging “ek ek ek ek” and being fed by a Red Wattlebird. Before finishing on this fascinating topic of breeding birds it should be mentioned that we continue to receive records of Scarlet Honeyeaters and it would be well worth spending some time when you come across these gorgeous birds and you may be rewarded with confirmation of breeding in our region – a rare event indeed!

And while we swelter through more hot days in February, the days are slowly shortening and species are on the move again with records of Gang-gang Cockatoos, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos and Rufous Fantail so please keep those records rolling in and keep an ear out for the tuneful cheery whistling notes of the Weebill and you may be rewarded as has a grateful observer in Newtown.

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 web-site, or as incidentals or complete lists to eBird Australia. If you would like to ‘explore’ on the eBird web-site: try searching for an area you would like to learn more about. For example search the Greater Geelong local government area by following: http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/subnational2/AU-VIC-GGE?yr=all

You might like to learn more about the distribution of a particular species by following: http://ebird.org/ebird/australia/map/ and adding the species eg. Scarlet Honeyeater or Sharp-tailed Sandpiper or another species (in the navigation pane) and zoom in on the map to find out more about in the Geelong region or beyond. Please note you need to be logged in to your eBird account to view the maps.