It was a relief just to be able to go on our first outing for the year – we had been in a ‘short, sharp circuit-breaker’ COVID-19 lockdown only three days before. Somehow it felt like we had earned this outing. And, being the responsible folk we are, the group self-regulated so that 19 turned up, under the new 20 person limit for outdoor gatherings.
We met at the carpark close to the Tower – and headed off into rain. Light rain admittedly, but it lasted about half an hour, just enough to ensure we were properly wet. Unfortunately our group coordinator Peter, with his direct line to the rain gods, was unable to be with us this time and his absence had immediate impact. The birds were not too impressed by the rain either – we saw almost none for the first hour or so, just Little Ravens, Magpies and Larks.
On reaching the Tower (a monument to migration and aspiration), we headed south down the coastal track. And then we started getting excited. First up Striated Fieldwrens hopped onto bushtops and started singing. Not to be outdone, Golden-headed Cisticolas did the same. And on the coast, a Brolga was also stirred into action – mainly flying away from us, but a good sighting nonetheless.
Out on the bay, an Australasian Gannet put in some diving practice, while a flock of 13 White-faced Herons flew past nonchalantly. A pair of Pacific Gulls thought flying and diving were too much like hard work, so just floated on the water, but a couple of Crested Terns and Pied and Little Pied Cormorants were up for a fly-over.
Rounding Point Cook and heading for the Homestead, the weather improved to sunny and our bird fortunes picked up too. We encountered New Holland and White-plumed Honeyeaters, lots of Superb Fairy-wrens and some White-browed Scrubwrens and Grey Fantails.
But the star attraction was a female Satin Flycatcher that lingered for 30 minutes in the treetops in front of our whole paparazzi pack. Based on sightings of the female, we first thought it was a Leaden Flycatcher, but a return visit by one of the group later in the day found a male that was clearly a Satin, together with the female.
The excitement carried us through to lunch at the beach picnic area, following by an hour’s stroll in the coastal scrub. Singing Honeyeaters, Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Crested Pigeons, European Goldfinches and another Satin Flycatcher were good additions. And a Whistling Kite – the only raptor firmly identified on the day.
Next stop was the lake north of the RAAF Lookout Carpark on Main Drive. This was a new location for many – and offered lots of Little Grassbird calls and good views of Cisticolas, Australian Reed Warblers and a family of Australasian Grebes (two adults with four chicks). And also a thirsty flock of Zebra Finch, which came in for a drink just five meters from our group and stayed long enough for everyone to get some shots.
Three of the group ventured on to the Skeleton Creek Boardwalk for a late afternoon stop on the way home. The most notable finds were some Little Black Cormorants sitting in a row on overhead powerlines and a solitary Common Sandpiper walking along the edge of the creek, bobbing its tail.
With 54 species for Point Cook and 27 at the Boardwalk, the day was a great success and an excellent start to what we hope will be a full year of activities. COVID-permitting.