Given that the weather wasn't great and that at this time of year there are generally less birds around than say, November or February, I think we did pretty well with our total list of birds over the two days. Of course it is testament really to the fantastic variety of habitats and associated diversity of birds that is found within a stone's throw of Melbourne, and we didn't even visit all of the spots! By we I mean of course myself and Martin, an English ex-pat living in Hong Kong who had flown here for a conference and managed to snaffle a couple of extra days for solid birding. And so it was to be as I picked up Martin form Tullamarine Airport and spirited him away to the wild and wonderful woodlands of central Victoria for the first day, and tall, wet forest, heath woodland, wetland and shoreline for the second day. Among the highlights in our totsl of 161 species were Pink-eared & Blue-billed Ducks, Lewin's Rail, Double-banded Plover, Sooty Oystercatcher, eight White-winged Black Tern, 2 of which were in complete breeding garb, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, 5 stunning Blue-winged Parrots, a furtive pair of Southern Emu-wren, Superb Lyrebird, Red-browed Treecreeper, Pilotbird, Shy Heathwren, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Large-billed Scrubwren singing beautifully, 21 species of honeyeater, Gilbert's Whistler, Crested Bellbird, Scarlet, Flame, Rose & Hooded Robins, White-browed Babbler, Varied Sitella, an Olive-backed Oriole singing with gusto and incorporating much mimicry - unusual at this time of year, Bassian Thrush, a very late Rufous Songlark, Diamond Firetail and Zebra Finch.
27th May 2011
Today I was priveleged to have the wonderful company of Karen from Glenhuntly along for a day's birding. Priveleged because Karen happened to be along for her third outing with The Melbourne Birder, and if there's one thing we love at The Melbourne Birder, it's repeat custom!! Karen had expressed a desire to see, amongst other things, a Rufous Bristlebird, having had but the briefest of glimpses once before along the Great Ocean Road. So we set a course for the closest place to Melbourne that one can find this species, Pt Addis, between Torquay and Anglesea, south-west of Geelong. Alas to cut a long story short, we failed to see a single bird and only heard very distant individuals. Which was disappointing. Even the weather was okay so I can't blame that.. However we did connect with some other birds here, namely big swirling flocks of Yellow-faced Honeyeater apparently on migration along the clifftops, along with smaller numbers of White-naped and Crescent Honeyeaters accompanying the throng. Speccy stuff, while offshore were handfuls of majestic White-capped Albatross skimming the waves. We decided to cut our loss and search for some other birds that Karen had yet to see, and were soon at the Breamlea Flora & Fauna Reserve, where we saw several Double-banded Plover, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater and a singing Horsfields Bronze-cuckoo. At nearby Black Rock we found a gorgeous immature Hooded Plover on the rocks, its plumage a ghostly pale silver. Also there were more DB Plover, Red-necked Stint, 3 fly-over Blue-winged Parrot, Fan-tailed Cuckoo and more Yellow-faced Honeyeater moving along the coast. Pt Lonsdale Lighthouse was our next port of call, and here a bit of sea-watching produced more White-capped Albatross, 3 Black-faced Cormorant and several small pale terns well offshore that were most likely White-fronted Tern. The best birding of the day came at the arguably the best birding place in Melbourne, the Western Treatment Plant. Here it was a bit of a crake & rail fest as we manged to see a lifer for Karen in the form of a Lewin's Rail beautifully, skulking and peeping out from in amongst the saltmarsh, as well as hearing others. Also seen were 2 Buff-banded Rail - always great to watch, and we heard singing Spotless and Australian Spotted Crake as well. Brilliant stuff. Other goodies consisted of 90 Pink-eared Duck, an odd, out of season record of 3 Whiskered Tern foraging offshore, a single Red-kneed Dotterel, Great Crested Grebe, another Fan-tailed Cuckoo, and the ever-popular and charismatic Striated Fieldwren. Thanks to Karen for another teriffic day out with loads of laughs.
28th May, 2011
Today was another day whereby I celebrated the joy of repeat custom, as young bloke James from Bentleigh came along for another outing with me, his third. We were on a bit of a mission this time, as the extremely rare and critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot was in town. Well, not town exactly but the wild and windy Western Treatment Plant. Up to 5 birds had been seen by other observers on recent visits. Alas, not by us today unfortunately. Quite literally these birds are rarer than hen's teeth - that's a known and documented fact. We consoled ourselves with other birds however, most impressive being a single Spotless Crake that James managed a photo of, a huge sub-adult White-bellied Sea-eagle that also obliged us with several photo-ops, 4 Double-banded Plover, a Red-kneed Dotterel, 2 Blue-winged Parrot, Fairy Tern, 6 or 7 Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo scattered about the place and all singing strongly, and two winter visiting Singing Honeyeaters. As we headed out we stopped at the small woodlot along Pt Wilson Rd, and were lucky to pick up a few woodland birds that are rare on the plant given the general lack of extensive belts of trees. There were 2 Crested Shrike-tit, an Olive-backed Oriole, a Grey Shrike-thrush and a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike. Lots of shrikey stuff there and a nice end to the morning.
29th May, 2011
I was back at the Western Treatment Plant again today for another morning tour, and had Margaret & Robert from Newcastle as company this time. Not much had changed really from the day before and we saw much the same birds, although missing a few such as Spotless Crake and Red-kneed Dotterel. We did however, see 3 White-winged Black Tern which was quite a late record, and a lovely male Flame Robin, as well as 3 Pink-eared Duck which have been elusive of late. Not having been to the plant before, my guests were more than impressed at the sheer vastness of the place and the associated abundance of birdlife. 30th May, 2011
This was to be my fourth day in a row visiting the Western Treatment Plant!! On this occasion I was taking out Uni student Peter from Ohio, USA who was hoping to see some parrots of the genus Neophema, namely Blue-winged Parrot and if lucky enough, Orange-bellied Parrot. Well, the Deity of all things Psittacine was smiling down upon us mere mortals this morning as not only did we see a nice group of Blue-winged Parrot, but a wonderful if brief encounter with 5 OBP as they flushed from a row of Phragmites and flew off in full sunshine. It was a major coup, and the rest of the morning's birding was just an added bonus to our sighting of what is ostensibly Australia's rarest bird.