By Phil Marley
For the last outing of the year we headed south-east of the city to two contrasting spots – woodland reserve and foreshore. Both offered interesting sightings.
A pair of Spotted Pardalotes provided an up-close-and-personal experience three metres from our parked cars at Adams Creek Nature Conservation Reserve. Oblivious to the excited shutters clicking away, they provided welcome entertainment for the early starters as they waited for others to arrive. A Superb Fairy-wren found great issue with that other Fairy-wren it could see in the car mirror, just as big as itself.
The reserve offered a gentle stroll along a wide track through native bush. Predictably Honeyeaters featured large – White-eared, White-naped, Brown-headed, New Holland, Yellow-faced. But another early sighting was a Mistletoebird, feeding in flowering mistletoe overhead. Small flocks of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos and Straw-necked Ibis flew over while the group searched for Shining-bronze, Brush and Fan-tailed Cuckoos, whose calls had been heard. Eastern Whipbirds added to the soundscape and, not to be outdone, a Laughing Kookaburra cackled away.
The wide track was slow going due to soft sand and a few dips and turns, but the varied bush rewarded us with encounters with Olive, Golden and Rufous Whistlers, Rainbow Bee-eater and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike. A pair of Grey Currawongs kept pace with us for a large part of the walk.
Regrouping back at the cars, we adjourned to the skate park in Lang Lang for an early lunch. The local bakery was well patronised and more than made up for skate park, which needed a bit of TLC.
The afternoon saw us cross the South Gippsland Highway/Bass Highway to the coast at Jam Jerrup. A 1.5 km beach walk brought us to Stockyard Point. The walk was a little challenging with more soft sand and an unforgiving midday sun, but the whole setting was truly beautiful. Turning west, we faced French Island across Western Port Bay, turning south-east encompassed Pioneer Bay further along the coast. Vistas in all directions were sensational.
Stockyard Point offered large colonies of terns standing at the water’s edge – mostly Whiskered and Gull-billed, but a couple of Caspian and Crested hidden in the mix. In turn, the terns shared the beach real-estate with several hundred waders – mostly Sharp-tailed and Curlew Sandpipers. A Grey Plover was by itself but with more discovered by one intrepid birder risking his shoes in the mud further down the shore. A couple of Red Knots, Red-necked Stints, Red-necked Avocets and Red-capped Plovers added some red to the foreshore crush and provided activity as they sifting the waterlogged sand for lunch.
Occasionally the whole multitude took to the air – either because some of our group ventured too far down the beach or, more likely, because an overhead sea eagle ventured too close (clearly the greater threat).
The flock of a thousand mixed birds circling around and resettling on the water’s edge provided some fabulous sights, and perhaps a tantalising glimpse of another un-identified species in their midst.
The plan had been to sit on the beach and let the rising tide push the birds up the sand towards our lenses. Nice plan, but after two hours in 30 degree heat and unrelenting sun, and no gelati van in sight (a serious omission by the management), the group decided to retreat to the car park. Wise decision as it turned out, since the beach was being cut off by the rising tide. A later return would have involved swimming with our camera gear.
An excellent day with almost 70 species recorded across the two habitats – and a good top-up to our vitamin D levels. A big thank-you to John for scouting the spots and being our guide for the day.