18 February, 2023 – Western Treatment Plant

Phil Marley

Kicking off the year’s outings with a bumper day is always a challenge, but today the Western Treatment Plant came up trumps.

White-fronted Chat (male) – Mick Connelly

We met at the Paradise Road gate at the genteel hour of 9.00am. After condensing into fewer vehicles to reduce traffic and disturbance, each car headed off independently for its own adventure – crossing paths as the day went on and sharing sightings.

White-fronted Chat (female) – Mick Connelly

The Western Lagoons beckoned many, due to early sightings of Brolgas. They didn’t disappoint, with a large group of nine foraging lazily in the reeds and shallow waters.

Brolga – Stephen Machet

A large flock of Australian Shelducks stood idly on the edge of the large pond near the entrance and White-fronted Chats did their usual routine of flitting along the tracks ahead of the cars. But they had to share the tracks with a few Eurasian Skylarks and Horsfield’s Bushlarks.

Horsfield’s Bushlark – Peter Bennet

The coastal heathland held Striated Fieldwrens, White-browed Scrubwrens and some European Goldfinches, while Fairy Martins shared the skies with hundreds of Welcome Swallows.

Red-necked Stint – Phil Leahy

T Section had a rather different offering – waders, crakes and rails. A decent flock of Red-necked Stints flew between different spots trying their wading skills. An occasional Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Double-banded Plover was seen with them. And some Common Greenshanks and Marsh Sandpipers got in on the act too.

Marsh Sandpiper – Phil Marley

Not to be outdone, two Brolgas also strolled around the edges of the ponds.

Brolga – Graham Gill

The crake pond (Pond 4) lived up to its name with a couple of Australian Spotted Crakes and Baillon’s Crakes being seen by many. A Buff-banded Rail came out from reeds at the edge of pond 7 too, to pose for photos. Excellent!

Royal Spoonbill – Michiko Iida

Pied Stilts, a dozen Royal Spoonbills, Black Swans, both Teals, Eurasian Coots, Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes, a few Australasian Shovelers and several types of Cormorants were also in attendance.

Pied Stilt – Stephen Garth

Back to Paradise Road for lunch (in a most salubrious setting), we shared interesting sightings which shaped plans for the afternoon’s tours.

At lunch in the lee of the loo – Anthea Fleming

The paddocks off Paradise Road presented more than a dozen Cape Barren Geese being supervised by a solitary Australian Hobby on fence post.

Buff-banded Rail – Phil Marley

Those who ventured down to Ryan’s Swamp found it full of water – a novelty – and a good spot for Zebra Finch and Straw-necked Ibis.

Golden-headed Cisticola – Kerry Gill

Lake Borrie was uncharacteristically quiet – just a few hundred Australian Shelducks, Teals and Coots. But the reeds between the ponds echoed with the calls of Golden-headed Cisticolas, Australian Reed-Warblers and Little Grassbirds. Above the reeds, a Swamp Harrier cruised by looking for a late lunch.

Australian Reed-Warbler – John Van Doorn

The bird hide provided far-away views of around 18 Pied Oystercatchers, a couple of Australian Pelicans and hundreds of Silver Gulls on a sandbar. Also at the hide was a miscreant in shorts flying a drone who was sternly told to cease disturbing the birds (and did).

Sandbar near hide – Anthea Fleming

Another sandbar off the Lake Borrie discharge point hosted Crested, Little and Fairy Terns – good to see them side-by-side to help in their ID (and with a spotting scope too).

Common Starling – Gaynor Robson

On a dead tree at the coastal end of Beach Road, a Black-shouldered Kite watched us as we drove by, then circled overhead to ensure we kept going. Further inland, the road provided good views of Black Kites and Whistling Kites – and a Whistling Kite nest. Others saw a Peregrine Falcon, a Nankeen Kestrel and a Brown Falcon on their travels.

Brown Falcon – Michiko Iida

What a day! Our last visit was March 2019 – due an extraordinary sequence of cancellations due to Covid, total fire bans and floods – and we were very lucky to avoid another cancellation with a fire ban on the 40 degree day before this outing. On the day, we had mid-20s, bright light with some sun and gentle breezes – perfect.

Black-shouldered Kite – Phil Marley

Despite overall bird counts being well down – only a couple of thousand shelducks! – the place felt deserted, yet we managed 89 species on the list (thus breaking our record for a day’s count by one). Also 32 participants, which is also a pretty good flock! Highlights included around 11 Brolga, Baillon’s Crakes, Bushlarks, eight raptor species and at least some waders (which have been in very short supply this season) including Double-banded Plovers.

T-Section Ponds – Michiko Iida

Thanks to Peter for his usual magic of coordinating the outing and marshalling the troops on the day – hopefully nobody is still there locked in.

End of year Social – December 2022

Phil Marley

Another year down, another occasion to share stories, another suite of bird photos to enjoy.

The Terminus Hotel did its regular excellent job of hosting our annual dinner. The outside marquee was perfect and the food and drink great – as usual. Hard to drag ourselves away to Fitzroy High School for show-and-tell. But we did. No regrets.

There was much to celebrate. Although we cancelled trips to the Western Treatment Plant twice during the year (is this our most cancelled destination?) and the weekend campout at Wedderburn was postponed for 12 months to allow it to dry out after floods, we had nine excellent outings. And a bonus on-line slide show in July.

Outing conditions varied from sunny to tropical to windy to downright wet (is Cranbourne Botanic Gardens our wettest destination?). Through it all, great times were had, good company shared and many fabulous photos captured. And we discovered some new beautiful places (Tahbilk Wetlands and Ocean Grove Nature Reserve and Blue Lake spring to mind).

The show-and tell was all about the stories behind the pictures – the places people had been, the lifers spotted, the birds that attacked cars – the blurred shots, the artistic shots, the precious shots and the grab shots and never-to-be-repeated shots.

So another year finishes. And our happy group goes home with more pleasant memories of our shared feathered interest.

With thanks to Peter and John for yet another year coordinating and curating the group and the outings and for all the careful planning and preparation that goes in to making them so successful and enjoyable.

Here’s to more in 2023.

Australian Hobby and Willie Wagtail – Beverley Oliver
Greater Bluebonnet – Catherine Noone
Hooded Plover – Steve Hoptroff
Galah – Anthea Fleming
Diamond Firetail – John Barkla
Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo – John Young
Pheasant Coucal – John Van Doorn
Spotted Pardalote – Meryle Findlay
Australian Owlet-nightjar – Michiko Iida
Peregrine Falcon – Peter Bennet
Eastern Rosella – Phil Marley
Red-winged Fairy-wren – Rodger Scott
Tawny Frogmouth – Ruth Ault
Spotted Pardalote – Michael Prowse
Rufous Fieldwren – Steve Waller
Australasian Grebe – Stephen Garth

Serendip Sanctuary – 19 November 2022

Serendip(itous) Sightings of the Avian Kind…

By Steve Waller

Our visit to Serendip was always going to be a dicey affair.

The weather forecast was somewhat dire for birders with expensive electronic gadgetry hanging from their necks. Rain was forecast; lots of it. However, the optimists were cheered by the prospect its timing would be delayed until after lunch. After all, a whole morning’s birding in such a top location could be had and so carpe diem!

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