By Phil Marley
A glorious sunny day with clear blue skies embraced the 20-strong group for our July outing to two wetlands. With a total of over 60 species for the day, both offered excitement over some rare sightings, great displays and memorable photo opportunities.
First up, the Braeside Park wetlands presented a chilly start, but close-up encounters with Rainbow Lorikeets and a Striated Pardalote provided welcome early distractions. Out on the main pond, a collection of Eurasian Coots and Grey and Chestnut Teal outnumbered other water birds, as they usually do. An Australian Pelican presided over the gathering from a distance, while some Australasian Shovelers provided a new experience for many by climbing out of the water to show us their fluoro orange feet – something we’re unlikely to forget.
But the sighting of the day was found on the far side of the lagoon near some Black-winged Stilts – a sole Australasian Bittern – a lifer for many.
The wetlands were continuously buzzed by low-flying light aircraft from neighbouring Moorabbin Airport. But a Black-shouldered Kite and Swamp Harrier gliding around high up were unfazed and the birds on the water were not spooked. In the greenery fringing the lake, Red-rumped Parrots vied for hollows in dead trees with much noisier Rainbow Lorikeets, Grey Fantails put on their own aerial display catching insects on the wing, Superb Fairywrens tweeted away and Brown Thornbills flitted in and out of the foliage – all unperturbed by the learner pilots overhead.
Walking round the lake, the hide provided some good viewings of Australasian Grebes, as well as a fox looking for a late breakfast. Around the far side of the lake, a mini-armada of 15 or so Blue-billed Ducks (males and females) provided another rare experience. Some Australian White Ibis, a Great Egret, a Little Pied Cormorant and a Golden-headed Cisticola provided other points of interest.
Picnic in the car park provided close up encounters with Noisy Miners and Little Ravens wanting a share of our sandwiches, while five Straw-necked Ibis and a Pied Currawong glided past silently overhead in search of their own lunch. A Tawny Frogmouth continued to sleep in a nearby tree, unaware of the feeding frenzy around it.
We regrouped for the afternoon at the Edithvale Wetlands 3km down the road. The 103 ha Edithvale Wetlands are part of the 260 ha Edithvale Seaford Wetlands, one of only 11 sites in Victoria listed under the international Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the only urban one. It is the last remaining remnant of the once expansive Carrum Carrum Swamp, which stretched from Mordialloc to Frankston. Much of the 4319 ha swamp was drained in the 19th Century so that now there remains only a string of wetlands.
We started at the Edithvale hide, which was originally built in 1979. It closed in 2010 and recently reopened in Aug 2016 after major renovation works to replace rotten footings, raise the ceiling in the lower level and refurbish the building. It is staffed by volunteers from the Friends of Edithvale Seaford Wetlands to enable it to be open to the public at weekends. The two-storey hide provided magnificent views out across the south ephemeral wetland sanctuary area with over a thousand birds on the lake. Eurasian Coots, Black Swans and Grey and Chestnut Teal predominated, while a hundred or so Australasian Shovelers did an excellent job of hiding a solitary Pink-eared Duck in their midst.
A 2.5km stroll around the north wetland brought sightings of a Flame Robin, Little Grassbird and an aerial attack by a Nankeen Kestrel on a Black-shouldered Kite. Having shrugged off its smaller tormentor, the kite went on to provide a memorable 20 minute close-up display of hunting over the edge of the lake. Hovering repeatedly in search of small critters to eat, it was oblivious to the sounds of hundreds of shutters from our photographers grouped on a perfectly placed viewing platform. The kite failed to catch anything, but hopefully someone caught a good shot of the bird hanging in mid-air in excellent mid-afternoon sunlight.
Special thanks to the volunteers from the Friends of Edithvale Seaford Wetlands for hosting us at the Edithvale Wetlands hide and telling us about their work, and to Peter and John for leading another great day out – and for their continuing good relations with the weather gods.