By Phil Marley
Well, after the fiery start to the New Year, there was little chance of bushfires on our first outing of 2020. With leaden skies and intermittent drizzle, this was definitely one for water lovers. And the foreshore birds did not disappoint.
Jawbone is a wonderful spot. Previously a rifle range for 80 years, but now boasting an array of lakes, salt marsh and mangroves set amid reedbeds and sand dunes abutting Port Phillip Bay, there is always a lot to see. Even with drizzle.
Our group of over 30 souls embraced the conditions and were well rewarded with early sightings of several Great Crested Grebes, Blue-billed Ducks and Australasian Shovelers. The boardwalk to the marine sanctuary offered close encounters with Sharp-tailed sandpipers, Pied Stilts and White-faced Herons. And some annoyed Masked Lapwings. And more drizzle.
After an hour or so, a few of the group headed for coffee, hoping caffeine would encourage drier conditions. It didn’t. But the birds continued to reward those who stayed the distance. In the drizzle.
Moving along to the western lake and the neighboring bushland, we found Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Singing Honeyeaters, Silvereyes and Australian Reed-Warblers (in the reeds – where else?). A gaggle of Royal Spoonbills occupied one of the islands in the lake, heads under wings (out of the drizzle).
Thence further west, to the Paisley-Challis Wetlands. These now give little hint to being the site of Melbourne’s first infectious diseases hospital (Cut-Paw-Paw Sanitorium). Established in 1884 to manage a smallpox outbreak, it could have been useful today for coronavirus. The salt marsh and wetlands offered Crested and Common Terns drifting overhead, a Common Greenshank moping in the Paisley Drain and lots of Little Pied Cormorants and Black Swans sitting on rafts out in the bay. With drizzle.
With some good sightings under the belt, the group reconvened at the WG Cresser Reserve in Altona for a picnic lunch and bird count – 55 species for the morning was a great reward for those who lasted long enough to eat their sandwiches. In drizzle.
Only a few folk continued into the afternoon, to check out the nearby Altona Coastal Park at the Racecourse Road ford. The Kororoit Creek offered excellent close-up views of a large flock of Royal Spoonbills, a Great Egret, three Common Greenshanks, lots of ducks and a solitary Common Sandpiper. The grassland offered a Black-shouldered Kite cruising by and 20 or so Straw Necked Ibis grazing – but no Glossies, which had been seen there in the previous week. Perhaps they don’t like drizzle.
Sixty species was a great start to what promises to be another good year for the group. Plenty more excellent sites to visit and plenty more excellent species to be seen. There’s just one thing we don’t want more of. [Clue: Medico and the first person sleep with the French when damp (7)].