South Gippsland – April 2021

Phil Marley

First stop for our first weekend outing of 2021 was Reef Island, a tidal island in Coronet Bay near San Remo. This stunning location offered vast vistas across Western Port Bay to Philip Island and French Island and along the Western Port Intertidal Coastal Reserve beach front.

White-eared Honeyeater – Catherine Noone

The beach offered dramatic scenery – and superb birding. The air was filled with over a dozen Eurasian Skylarks practicing for the Eurovision Song Contest, while the tidal flats and shallow water sported good numbers of Black Swans, White-faced Herons, Royal Spoonbills, Great Egrets and Silver Gulls. Masked Lapwings seemed to be holding their annual convention there with over 50 foraging. Some well-camouflaged Double-banded Plovers were well-spotted around puddles on the foreshore, while a couple of Australian Pied Oystercatchers, a couple of Common Crested and Caspian Terns and a single Grey Butcherbird were also sighted.

Striated Fieldwren – Ian Melbourne

After strolling along the beach to Kennedy Point, our group of 24 headed out to Reef Island. Luckily, the causeway to the island was fully out of water (actually, someone had correctly interpreted the tide tables – thanks John). But this did not diminish the challenge of the stony link whose coarse angular fragments of ferruginized basalt and sandstone provided a good workout for the ankles. Mangroves had also obliterated most of the thin sandy track on the island, necessitating some deft footwork through a complex mosaic of salt marsh, mangroves, silty mud and gravel ridges.

But Reef Island provided a good base from which we observed Short-tailed Shearwaters in flight, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants sitting on rocks, Cattle Egrets perched on mangroves (there being no cattle on the island), a Whistling Kite standing on the beach and – a definite highlight – a pair of Grey-tailed Tattlers wading in a shallow lagoon.

Double-banded Plover – Michiko Iida

Thoroughly invigorated by the exercise and 41 species recorded, we retired to the San Remo foreshore for lunch and much-needed coffee – and the sight of a White-bellied Sea Eagle soaring over the bay.

Cattle Egret – Peter Bennet

Our afternoon location was the Wonthaggi Heathlands Nature Conservation Reserve. On the drive there, sharp-sighted observers glimpsed twin spectacles of 30 Cattle Egrets flying overhead and a further 50 or so in a paddock pretending to be sheep.

Brown Thornbill – Michiko Iida

Wonthaggi Heathlands cover an 811 hectare area abutting 10 kms of unspoiled and secluded coastland between Kilcunda and Cape Paterson. The heathland habitat provided a change in birds, with an emphasis on honeyeaters – New Holland, White-eared, White-naped, Crescent and both Wattlebirds. A Brown Goshawk and a Fan-tailed Cuckoo were also seen. But the afternoon highlight was certainly a Southern Emuwren which a few were lucky enough to glimpse.

Grey Shrike-thrush – Steve Hoptroff

Halfway through the heathlands stroll the group split into two, with some opting for the longer walk down to Cutlers Beach, while the remainder opted for a “track” offering a “short cut” back to the car park. With the Trade Descriptions Act in abeyance, the latter group arrived back at the cars later than the beach party and with tall stories about their adventure.

Wonthaggi Heathland Survivors – Phil Marley

Fortunately, the next stop was the Inlet Hotel in Inverloch for dinner, where the birds, adventures and tall stories of the day were shared over excellent food and drinks. Our special thanks to the hotel staff for looking after our dinner group of 14 so well on a very busy night.

Eastern Whipbird – Phil Marley

Sunday dawned with light drizzle and dull conditions, but by the time we reconvened at Point Smythe the drizzle stopped and the skies slowly cleared to sunny conditions. Part of the Cape Liptrap Coastal Park, Point Smythe faces Inverloch across Anderson Inlet and offered exquisite coastal bush with tall tea tree and abundant coastal banksias in full bloom.

Olive Whistler – Michiko Iida

With a 6 km network of protected sandy paths, our group of 18 split into multiple parties heading to the beach or the point or staying in the bush. Everyone saw Silvereye which threatened to deafen us with their frenzied calling, many saw Crescent Honeyeaters and Olive Whistlers and a few saw Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos flying over. But the special sightings seen by a select few were two Pink Robins, two Hooded Plovers and an Eastern Whipbird.

Pink Robin – Diane Peters

Point Smythe was a standout. The birding was so good the 12pm lunch break at the Fisherman’s Jetty in Venus Bay ended up being 1.15pm as most were reluctant to move on.

Hooded Plover – John Van Doorn

With a long drive back to the city ahead, only 12 ventured on for the afternoon site – Bald Hills Creek Wildlife Reserve, near Tarwin Lower. Created in 1987 and now near the moving shadows of a windfarm, the reserve provided a completely different habitat with tall gum trees – bog gum, messmate, narrow leaf peppermint, blackwood, and swamp and scented paperbark. And a freshwater wetland with hide. The highlight from the 28 species seen in the short visit was some Varied Sitellas seeking insects in the tree bark.

Pied Cormorant – Peter Bennet

What an excellent weekend escape! With a final tally of 74 species over the two days and some good birds in the mix, several of the group extended their stay for an extra day to do more on the Monday while the rest headed home thoroughly happy. Our thanks as always to Peter and John for an excellent choice of locations, keeping the rain at bay, wrangling the birds to put in appearances and chaperoning the troops on the ground.

Craigieburn Grasslands (Galgi Ngarrk) and Yan Yean – March 2021

By Steve Waller

It promised to be the most perfect morning. At the end of Ohern’s Road Cragieburn, the crowd of excited long lenses and digital cameras swirled excitedly around their chattering owners. Beyond this group Craigieburn Nature Reserve itself stretched toward the horizon. Its rich autumn tones of ripe native grasses, exotic woody weeds and plentiful birdlife awaited under a blue-vaulted sky.  The group eagerly anticipated a rich photographic harvest of scintillating Cisticolas, titillating Thornbills, even a Quail or two, and raptors without end. All of this and more, if only we could finally get everyone to the right meeting spot!

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Point Cook and Skeleton Creek Boardwalk – February 2021

Phil Marley

It was a relief just to be able to go on our first outing for the year – we had been in a ‘short, sharp circuit-breaker’ COVID-19 lockdown only three days before. Somehow it felt like we had earned this outing. And, being the responsible folk we are, the group self-regulated so that 19 turned up, under the new 20 person limit for outdoor gatherings.

Satin Flycatcher - Stephen Garth

Satin Flycatcher – Stephen Garth

We met at the carpark close to the Tower – and headed off into rain. Light rain admittedly, but it lasted about half an hour, just enough to ensure we were properly wet. Unfortunately our group coordinator Peter, with his direct line to the rain gods, was unable to be with us this time and his absence had immediate impact. The birds were not too impressed by the rain either – we saw almost none for the first hour or so, just Little Ravens, Magpies and Larks.

Little Raven and Australian Magpie - Phil Marley

Australian Magpie, Magpie Lark  and Little Raven – Phil Marley

On reaching the Tower (a monument to migration and aspiration), we headed south down the coastal track. And then we started getting excited. First up Striated Fieldwrens hopped onto bushtops and started singing. Not to be outdone, Golden-headed Cisticolas did the same. And on the coast, a Brolga was also stirred into action – mainly flying away from us, but a good sighting nonetheless.

Silvereye - Stephen Garth

Silvereye – Stephen Garth

Out on the bay, an Australasian Gannet put in some diving practice, while a flock of 13 White-faced Herons flew past nonchalantly. A pair of Pacific Gulls thought flying and diving were too much like hard work, so just floated on the water, but a couple of Crested Terns and Pied and Little Pied Cormorants were up for a fly-over.

Pied Cormorant-Stephen Garth

Pied Cormorant-Stephen Garth

Rounding Point Cook and heading for the Homestead, the weather improved to sunny and our bird fortunes picked up too. We encountered New Holland and White-plumed Honeyeaters, lots of Superb Fairy-wrens and some White-browed Scrubwrens and Grey Fantails.

Australian Magpie - Stephen Garth

Australian Magpie – Stephen Garth

But the star attraction was a female Satin Flycatcher that lingered for 30 minutes in the treetops in front of our whole paparazzi pack. Based on sightings of the female, we first thought it was a Leaden Flycatcher, but a return visit by one of the group later in the day found a male that was clearly a Satin, together with the female.

White-faced Heron - Michiko Iida

White-faced Heron – Michiko Iida

The excitement carried us through to lunch at the beach picnic area, following by an hour’s stroll in the coastal scrub. Singing Honeyeaters, Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Crested Pigeons, European Goldfinches and another Satin Flycatcher were good additions. And a Whistling Kite – the only raptor firmly identified on the day.

Australasian Grebe - Phil Marley

Australasian Grebe – Phil Marley

Next stop was the lake north of the RAAF Lookout Carpark on Main Drive. This was a new location for many – and offered lots of Little Grassbird calls and good views of Cisticolas, Australian Reed Warblers and a family of Australasian Grebes (two adults with four chicks). And also a thirsty flock of Zebra Finch, which came in for a drink just five meters from our group and stayed long enough for everyone to get some shots.

Zebra Finch - John Van Doorn

Zebra Finch – John Van Doorn

Three of the group ventured on to the Skeleton Creek Boardwalk for a late afternoon stop on the way home. The most notable finds were some Little Black Cormorants sitting in a row on overhead powerlines and a solitary Common Sandpiper walking along the edge of the creek, bobbing its tail.

Tiger Moth - Michiko Iida

Tiger Moth – Michiko Iida

With 54 species for Point Cook and 27 at the Boardwalk, the day was a great success and an excellent start to what we hope will be a full year of activities. COVID-permitting.

Bird List Point Cook Feb2021