The Western Treatment Plant continues to be a major drawcard for birders from around the world, and my guest for the morning, Sally from Durban in South Africa iss no stranger to the place. She has birded here a few times before in her travels. Why come back you ask? Simply for the sheer experience of encountering so many birds in a relatively small area, no more no less. Just for the sake of birding. And the birding was good as you'd expect. An nice surprise was an Intermediate Egret, the first I've ever had here at the WTP and long anticipated. Four Double-banded Plover in full breeding plumage was real eye-candy and a new bird for Sally, and an unexpected pair of Baillon's Crake swanning about in the open and well away from cover excited and tantalised us. Well we enjoyed them anyway... Other goodies included 3 Brown Songlark along Austin Rd, 4 Pink-eared Duck - a bird who's numbers have fluctuated wildly here this year, an adult White-bellied Sea-eagle which is a bird that always captivates, and we heard a Lewin's Rail; quite often the only sign of their presence is the strange pig-like grunting and thudding gallop calls that emanate from the saltmarsh. Thanks Sally for a most enjoyable morning.
3rd September, 2011
So many times the weather in Melbourne looks like it's going to be rubbish, but as soon as you head north and cross the Great Dividing Range in Central Victoria things drastically improve. Let's face it, the divide isn't a particularly monumental quantum shift in climate zones, or a drop in altitude or anything like that, but the sun always seems to be shining and the wind a little less severe. And so it was again today as Jessica from Melbourne and me traveled to the drier woodlands around the Heathcote area, also picking up her Dad who lives in Heathcote and wanted to come along for the ride. The morning was superb with no wind and full sunshine as we started off just south of Heathcote in an excellent section of woodland that borders open farmland and a vegetation regeneration zone; birding here is always good. Almost straight away we had 3 species of cuckoo - Pallid, Fan-tailed and Horsfield's Bronze, singing away in close proximity, as well as the local gang of White-browed Babbler, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, White-throated Treecreeper, Restless Flycatcher and Red-rumped Parrot all showing well. In another section of woodland we watched 3-4 Striated Pardalote displaying to each other, wings spread and yellow throats aglow in the early morning sun. Also here was a Rufous Songlark in full voice, several Brown Treecreeper, Crested Shrike-tit, a very furtive Black-chinned Honeyeater who refused to stay around long, and two Brown Quail that exploded from beneath our feet! In another location north of the township in a slightly different habitat we encountered a beautiful Shining Bronze-cuckoo, gorgeous Diamond Firetail that allowed close views of their rich blood-red rumps, a flirtatious Speckled Warbler that wouldn't sit still, Rufous Whistler in full voice, male and female Scarlet Robin and funky Fuscous Honeyeaters. A male Mistletoebird also dropped in, always warmly recieved.. It was a deliciously bird-filled morning and definitely laden with all things that signify the wonderful onset of Spring in southern Australia. Thanks guys for a brilliant morning out and about!! 12th September, 2011
And so throughout the night had the evocative and eerie call of the wild and nomadic Banded Stilt come upon the wind to the ears of one Dave Richardson in his humble abode in Melbourne's Western Suburbs. And so in turn did he again realize that his very senses were yet privy to the subtle beauty and quiet majesty of these avain wonders who have for millenia wandered to and fro across this ancient landscape. Wanderings indeed that had seen them arrive at barren, windswept and disused old saltworks at Avalon, near Geelong in September of 2011. And lo did he, David and myself Steven, find ourselves on a cold and blustery morning on the twelfth day of said month rejoicing with utmost delight and joyous abandon the connection between the big fella and the Banded Stilt. Over 100 to be specific, plus heaps of Red-necked Avocet and Black-winged Stilt for direct comparison. What a coup..! On the way back home we dropped in to the Western Treatment Plant where we topped off the morning with some more excellent birds, including 13 Banded Lapwing in typical short-cropped grassland habitat, Baillon's, Spotless and Aus. Spotted Crakes, Lewin's and Buff-banded Rail, a gorgeous male Blue-billed Duck, several recently arrived Whiskered Tern scattered around the plant, and to finish off 4 more Banded Stilt!!
16th September, 2011.
An Australian Little Bittern, a much sought-after and difficult species, had shown up at a small but busy suburban wetland park in Melbourne’s south-east. David Richardson and myself duly found the bird, a juvenile, mid-morning after the execution of some excellent observational skills on the part of Dave. Also here were Blue-billed Duck, Latham’s Snipe, a possible Wood Sandpiper seen in flight, Collared Sparrowhawk, Brown Quail, Buff-banded Rail and a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, itself an uncommon species in this part of Melbourne.
19th September, 2011
Travelled north-east of town today for a day trip taking in temperate rainforest, wet sclerophyll forest and riparian woodland, with Aaron from California. At the temperate rainforest patch in Toolangi we had fantastic views of Pink & Rose Robin, Olive Whistler, Large-billed Scrubwren, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo and Superb Lyrebird only metres away. Many astonishingly good photos were obtained by Aaron. Coming out of the mountains we stopped at a small wetland & woodland reserve in Yea where we picked up a pair of recently arrived Western Gerygone that afforded wonderful close views, a cracking Crested Shrike-tit, Weebill, Bell Miner, Shining Bronze-cuckoo and a few pairs of Dusky Moorhen with fluffy little black chicks in tow on the billabongs. Reaching some drier woodlands near Seymour with habitat more akin to central Victoria’s box-ironbark woodlands we chanced upon an early arrival White-browed Woodswallow, Speckled Warbler, Noisy Friarbird and a rowdy flock of White-winged Chough.
24th September, 2011
What a huge day this turned out to be. Aaron from California and I were birding together again and had decided the coastal heath and wetlands to the south-west of Melbourne were in order. At the end of the tour we had 135 species under the belt with highlights including Rufous Bristlebird, Brush Bronzewing, Blue-winged Parrot, Southern Emu-wren, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Blue-billed Duck, Forest Raven, Red-kneed Dottetrel, Black-tailed Native-hen, Fairy Tern, Black-browed Albatross, Spotless Crake, Lewin’s Rail, Banded Stilt and White-bellied Sea-eagle. Thanks for a terrific couple of days Aaron!
29th September, 2011
A terrible morning to be out birding was the consensus as we headed to the Western Treatment Plant with cold, blustery and wintry conditions accompanying us. But Alan & Helen from the UK weren’t to be dismayed and really, the beauty of somewhere like the WTP is that you can bird quite comfortably from the warmth of the vehicle for 90% of the time. Which is just what we did.Highlights were few however, given the less than favourable meteorological conditions, but we did manage to snaffle a Spotted Harrier, a bird I’ve waited a long time to see here, plus several Banded Stilt, a nice little trio of Baillon’s Crake, 9 Black-tailed Native-hen, 2 Pink-eared Duck, a Brolga , the lovely sight of a pair of Cape Barren Goose with one stripy gosling, and just one and only one Australian Shelduck. All in all not too bad a morning’s birding…