Over the last month or so I have paid several visits to the Western Treatment Plant with various people, and rather than detail each report and risk the onset of tedium for the reader I thought I'd provide a highlights package... From 27th June to the 29th July four excursions were made to the plant for a total of 99 species. Probably the highlight was a drake Northern Shoveler that had been seen during late July, Dave Richardson and I were lucky enough to catch up with it on the 29/7. Other rippers included an immaculate adult Lewin's Rail seen on the 2/7, with Spotless Crake vocalising nearby, and several Double-banded Plovers some of which were moulting into alternate plumage in readiness for the return trip to New Zealand and a spot of procreation. 85 Cattle Egret seen on 24/7 is a good number for here, and Eastern Great Egret numbers have been steadily increasing. Blue-winged Parrots were seen regularly, while cuckoos began showing up, with 2 Fan-tailed Cuckoo seen on 27/6 along 29 Mile Rd, and Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoos have increased in number and seemed to be calling everywhere. Three Singing Honeyeaters at 270S Borrow Pit on 2/7 is a high number for the plant; the species does visit in winter. Flame Robins featured prominently along the fencelines, and Crested Shrike-tit and Grey Shrike-thrush were two slightly more unusual passerine visitors.
9th July, 2011. Pt Lonsdale Lighthouse.
Conditions today had promised to be favourable for seawatching with a strong sou-wester forecast, so myself and fellow birdfreak Dave Richardson set a course for Pt Lonsdale in the hope of some lively pelagic action from the relative comfort and stability of continental terra firma. Anyway there's a reason people set forth in tiny thin-hulled craft, battling cold and wind-whipped vomit to look at seabirds, that reason being you actually see some, and sometimes they're really rare! Unlike us, safely and comfortably positioned on land in a futile attempt to make our eyes see a long way and pick out that White-faced Storm-petrel 537 metres away in Bass Strait ( a bird I am yet to see in case there are any readers who have not been furnished with that fact). However we did enjoy extended views of Shy and Black-browed Albatross, debated whether one bird may have been a Salvin's Alby, and a couple of Fluttering Shearwaters flying past 200m out. A good way to spend a morning needless to say, and no puke.
27th July, 2011 Heathcote environs.
A morning spent in the woodlands surrounding the central Victorian town of Heathcote was the agenda for myself and Aaron (from Oregon, USA) and we started off in the fabulous Spring Plains Nature Conservation Reserve. It's a mouthful but the place is always birdful, to coin a phrase. Straight away we had a pair of White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, several Flame Robin, the local posse of White-browed Babbler, and a single silent Rufous Songlark. This species has over-wintered in several locations across central Victoria this winter. We also got onto a nice Black-chinned Honeyeater, several Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters and a cracking Crested Shrike-tit, which is always a popular bird with the punters with it's black & white humbug head and lemon-yellow underparts. Moving on to the north of town we ducked into the southern portion of the massive Heathcote-Greytown National Park. Here we connected with a slightly different suite of birds, best being a curious Painted Button-Quail, an even more inquisitive Purple-crowned Lorikeet that can came down to within one metre of our heads in response to our pishing!! Spectacular. Also here were Shining Bronze and Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo singing away, a spunky Speckled Warbler and a scintillating male Mistletoebird. Spring is definitely on the way and the forest looks fantastic.
29th July, 2011
Spotlighting mission this evening with Steven from Melbourne. Target: Sooty Owl. Result: Positive A beautiful adult bird seen well in the spotlight for several minutes while we had a cuppa and a Tim Tam. Does it get any better?? I'm asking the question here and I'm not getting a response. Because it doesn't, that's why. Sooty Owl. The pinnacle in anyone's birding career. Lucky really because we didn't see or hear much else during the course of the evening, apart from a gorgeous Yellow-bellied Glider. Great stuff, thanks Steven.
30th July, 2011
Highlights of a day with Ken from Malawi. Visited the woodlands just south-west of Melbourne with a side trip to the Western Treatment Plant. These included a very fortuitous roadside stop for several highly endangered Swift Parrot feeding just above us in some flowering eucalypts; the confiding birds allowed wonderful close views. In the Brisbane Ranges we had Wedge-tailed Eagle, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Scarlet Robin and Australian Raven. Several searches for Spotted Quail-thrush yielded zero. At the You Yangs we were limited to the perimeter roads as the park was still closed due to flood damage, nevertheless we had brief views of Black-chinned Honeyeater, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater and Weebill. At the nearby Serendip Sanctuary we saw several Cape Barren Geese grazing in adjacent paddocks, free-flying Magpie Geese in the wetlands within the sanctuary, and a Common Bronzewing. At the WTP we were lucky to see a beautiful adult Baillon's Crake, an unusual mid-winter record, as well as several Australian Spotted Crakes and calling Spotless Crakes. We also heard a Lewin's Rail and saw a few Buff-banded Rail. Flame Robin were still evident in grassland areas, and Red-necked Avocet numbers have steadily increased. 103 species for the day.