Westernport Expedition November 21 – By Peter Bennet
Heading for the deep East we met at Wonthaggi Heathlands in mild but overcast conditions – 20-odd hardy souls (mostly with hardy bodies attached). The wind was suppressing the smaller birds which wisely stayed down in the undergrowth but a reasonable range of species was about. It seemed to be a honeyeater sort of day with noisy miner,white-fronted chat, both wattlebirds, and white-eared, yellow-faced, New Hollland, white-naped and crescent honeyeaters all identified. The dull light and wind made photography challenging but some captures were achieved.
As we reached the ocean beach the sun began to break through; we found attractive views across to Cape Woolamai and picturesque rockpools aplenty.
This was just as well as the bird count was a bit on the meagre side: one silver gull, one pacific gull, one great cormorant (glimpsed)and one white-faced heron (passing through). Overcome by this veritable cornucopia we made our way back up through the sand dunes and coastal scrub to the carpark.
The power of good organisation was realised with lunch in brilliant sunshine at San Remo, which of course meant fresh coffee. We are not addicted, we can give it up any time we want, just not yet. Then on to Reef Island with the cloud closing in again. It seems like a bit of a slog along the beach to the island but there were, as often, some hidden treasures. Along the dunes there were cisticolas and skylarks; on the mudflats white ibis, great egrets, royal spoonbills and even the odd swan (certainly not more than three or four hundred).
Amongst the mangroves around the island, though, there were some excellent discoveries: eastern curlew, grey-tailed tattler, ruddy turnstone, and Pacific golden plover amongst more common species. Lacking a telescope we were able to summon up spirited discussions about the identities of dark blobs, purporting to be birds, at about 500 miles, sorry metres distance: an uneasy consensus was reached of chestnut teal. The pair of Caspian terns were not in doubt, however, once they woke up and poked their large red bills out.
After a while the more cautious among us remembered the rising tide and we escaped by the skin of our teeth (well, it makes a better story even if not strictly true!). Quite a reasonable total of 56 species for the day and yes, we have taken on board the suggestion of less wind next time, we’ll do what we can. And so endeth the 2015 program – Best wishes for the silly season and summer birding, and hope to see everyone next year!