Tanunda Wetlands and Mill Park Lakes – September 2014

By Peter Bennet

  1. Tanunda Wetlands and Plenty River

Showers were threatening on Saturday morning – as were roving religionists and locals – but the strength of the turnout, 32 in all, soon put paid to all of them. It was pleasing to again welcome several new members as well as two international visitors (they come all this way just to go out with us? Amazing), representing Sweden and Japan.

Some of the Group - Colin Ellis

Some of the Group – Colin Ellis

Tanunda is a reserved stormwater filtering area, part of Plenty Gorge Park. The combination of deep and shallow ponds with the dry sclerophyll forest of the river escarpment attracts a wide variety of birds, especially at this time of year. Perhaps unusually, the dominant duck species is the Blue-billed which is resident, but several other species were also present, with Black Swans nesting. The occasionally-sighted crakes were not visible – perhaps a little late in the day for them – but Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants were seen, along with Australasian Grebes and the usual bevy of Coots, Moorhens and Swamphens. Reed-warblers are back and Little Grassbirds were heard.

Black Swan - Colin Ellis

Black Swan – Colin Ellis

Tanunda can be a good spot for raptors but today only the resident Brown Goshawk was sighted.

White-faced Heron - Mick Connolly

White-faced Heron – Mick Connolly

The edge of the escarpment provides good views into the treetops as well as a number of good observation posts. Numerous parrot and honeyeater species were spotted, as well as pardalotes (that’s not necessary, they’re spotted already!) of both spotted and striated persuasions. Perhaps nothing remarkable today, but a respectable total of 47 species made it well worth while.

Hoary-headed Grebe - Merrilyn Serong

Hoary-headed Grebe – Merrilyn Serong

  1. Mill Park Lakes

After lunch at Hawkstowe Picnic Area (also part of Plenty Gorge Park) we moved on to Mill Park Lakes, a constructed wetland in the middle of a housing estate. Given its location the range of birdlife is remarkable. The human-waterbird interface is well exploited by both partners with large numbers of Coot, Black Duck, Hardhead and Black Swan besieging visitors for bread – we can only hope the birds include enough roughage in their diets to stay healthy! But many other waterfowl also are common here, including the endangered Freckled Duck of which over 30 were present. We also sighted Black-tailed Native hen, Black-fronted Dotterel and a solitary Black-winged Stilt; a small number of Australasian Shovellers added interest and Hoary-headed Grebes were resplendent in black and white plumes.

Australasian Shovelor - Ian Wilson

Australasian Shovelor – Ian Wilson

With a group this size there was no need for the traditional crocodile formation or even assigned buddies – in fact before too long there were birders everywhere. Fortunately the design of the area provides a great deal of water frontage. It is rumoured that someone did get a shot of a bird without another photographer in the background, although it’s only hearsay at this stage and we await graphical confirmation!

Blue-billed Duck - John Van Doorn

Blue-billed Duck – John Van Doorn

Again, a healthy species total was achieved – 41 at this site, making 63 for the day. Careful planning had ended the proceedings close to the cafe so a group of diehards adjourned there to analyse the day.

Next outing is to Cranbourne Botanical Gardens on Saturday, October 18. As usual details will be emailed about 2 weeks beforehand. See you there!

Black-tailed Native-hen - Merrilyn Serong

Black-tailed Native-hen – Merrilyn Serong


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