Saturday 21/10 by Peter Bennet
Due to a slight misunderstanding in the editing of the instructions for Saturday morning, the day’s birdwatching began somewhat earlier than we’re accustomed to: 6.30AM outside the caravan park in Anglesea. Unfortunately the edit didn’t make it to the local birds who were a little on the tardy side in arising for the day, and in fact although the sun was due at pretty much that time the low cloud cover prevented very much of the photographer’s stock-in-trade reaching the vicinity.
But no matter! A band of hardy souls set off down the riverbank, entertained by a bevy of blue Superb Fairy-wrens. There were a few Honeyeaters about, fantailed and Horsfield’s bronze cuckoos, various small scrub birds and a dignified overflight by a white-necked heron. A kangaroo bounded across the beach, paused to consider the situation but decided against a swim and continued up the dunes.
Next stop (with a visit to the bakery for a caffeine update by the usual suspects) was O’Donohue Road, a hillside heath with great views across to Aireys Inlet. Within a few minutes the group (now up to about 25 people) was scattered across the landscape – would anyone find the Emu-wrens? The answer is yes – mostly glimpses but a couple of photos were managed. One particularly blessed bush contained in short order three different wrens – Superb Fairy, Striated Field and Southern Emu.
Both shining and Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoos, as well as Fan-tailed Cuckoo, were calling and occasionally appearing, along with several Honeyeaters – notably brown-headed and white-eared – blue-winged parrots and pipits. The Emu-wrens were a first for some and not common in anyone’s book so a lot of rather pleased birders (and a relieved Marg Lacey) headed off for Point Roadknight.
PR is a lovely bay with an eroded rocky point. It’s often the haunt of roosting terns and gulls but the fishing must have been better elsewhere – just a couple of Pacific Gulls, a dozen crested terns and a couple of great cormorants. A moment of excitement erupted when a tern came in with 20-odd centimetres of eel hanging out of its beak – it rapidly thought better of hanging out with its best mates and flew off again, pursued by several of them anxious to have a chat. But an inspection of the ocean (plenty of it about) showed a very large flock of possible Shearwaters well offshore (just dots, no chance of ID) and a lone Shy Albatross gliding gracefully past about 400m offshore.
Next stop was Coalmine Rd. This location is notable chiefly for its giant mosquitoes, so big and so close that binoculars were not required. But there were also lots of bush birds, from the nest-building Rufous Whistler to a pair of orioles to the interleaved calling of four cuckoos – the species seen earlier plus the pallid.
Lunch at Coogarah Park and a leisurely (the polite word for extremely slow) exploration of the paths through the wetlands yielded some new species. A Buff-banded Rail was glimpsed, a Sacred Kingfisher was active in the entrance swamp, a pair of Black-fronted Dotterels fossicked along the shore. The cuckoos were busier than ever so the bush birds should have been a little more discreet, we felt, rather than carrying on their various lives energetically and publicly.
We had intended visiting Gherang Gherang Bushland Reserve before lunch but Marg had checked it the day before and found little of interest and it was dropped. So naturally Ruth and Mike appeared at lunch having visited GGBR reporting, amongst other interesting species, scarlet honeyeaters! Back on the list for tomorrow.
By mid-afternoon the energy levels were starting to flag and by common consent we pulled up stumps about 4, having had a very successful and extended day of birding. And besides, we needed to conserve some strength for dinner at the Aireys pub!
Early Sunday at the Lighthouse by John Van Doorn
After the relative sleep-in compared to the previous day most assembled at the Airey’s Inlet Lighthouse at 7:30 AM. This location has a reputation as a very good place to see Rufous Bristlebirds and it did not disappoint with several being seen, usually a brief view as they dashed from one bush to the next. The best location for the Bristlebirds was effectively a suburban street running from the lighthouse. They didn’t stay in the open very long as they ran from one bush to the next.
The Bristlebirds were not the only interesting sightings with Singing Honeyeaters singing as well a Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo showing itself along with the usual Crimson Rosellas, Wattlebirds competing with some interesting sculptures for our attention.
Sunday Proper By Phil Marley
The lazy folk who only joined the outing for the Sunday arrived at Distillery Creek picnic ground after the weekend gang had already done an early shift around Aireys Inlet lighthouse. The newcomers had to put up with excited stories of Shy Albatross, Emuwren and Bristlebirds seen earlier. But the day was young and many more species were to be bagged.
Mostly sunny conditions with no breeze, Distillery Creek offered great birding territory. Several cuckoos – Horsefield’s, Pallid and Fantailed – were seen or heard. The woodlands also accommodated nesting White-throated Treecreepers, songful Golden Whistlers and several Sacred Kingfishers, together with a range of the common honeyeaters – White-naped, White-eared, New Holland.
Most folk followed the gentle track only a couple of hundred meters, but were rewarded with constant bird song and a good range of sightings. A Satin Flycatcher distracted some, others followed a flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos and a solitary Wedge-tailed Eagle high up above. Calls of Olive-backed Oriole and Black-faced cuckoo-shrikes echoed everywhere.
Mid-morning we de-camped to the nearby Aireys Inlet Water Reclamation Plant 5km down the road. The change in setting offered Blue-billed Ducks, Musk Duck and many Hoary-headed Grebes and a range of other water fowl. A nearby flock of Pied Currawongs offered a continuous chorus, interspersed by raucous Sulphur-crested Cockatoos spooked by a wedgie overhead.
Lunch back at the Distillery Creek picnic ground offered the chance to re-group and for Peter to take a bird list. But he was upstaged by White-winged Trillers and Rufous Whistlers demanding photographic attention at close quarters. Half-eaten sandwiches were abandoned and the bird-list forgotten as the group diffused into the bush following birds making a tactical withdrawal.
After lunch a small group reconvened at Gherang Gherang Woodland Reserve, about 10km inland in the Anglesea Health. They were rewarded with some excellent sightings of spectacular Scarlet Honeyeaters and some Mistletoebirds feeding in flowering mistletoe.
With a total of over 100 species for the weekend, this was a terrific outing in a wonderful location offering a variety of habitats in close proximity. Many thanks to Marg Lacey for the scouting and organisation and for scheduling all the birds to be in attendance and to Peter for organising the rest of us to show up too. Great job both!