Kicking off the year’s outings with a bumper day is always a challenge, but today the Western Treatment Plant came up trumps.
We met at the Paradise Road gate at the genteel hour of 9.00am. After condensing into fewer vehicles to reduce traffic and disturbance, each car headed off independently for its own adventure – crossing paths as the day went on and sharing sightings.
The Western Lagoons beckoned many, due to early sightings of Brolgas. They didn’t disappoint, with a large group of nine foraging lazily in the reeds and shallow waters.
A large flock of Australian Shelducks stood idly on the edge of the large pond near the entrance and White-fronted Chats did their usual routine of flitting along the tracks ahead of the cars. But they had to share the tracks with a few Eurasian Skylarks and Horsfield’s Bushlarks.
The coastal heathland held Striated Fieldwrens, White-browed Scrubwrens and some European Goldfinches, while Fairy Martins shared the skies with hundreds of Welcome Swallows.
T Section had a rather different offering – waders, crakes and rails. A decent flock of Red-necked Stints flew between different spots trying their wading skills. An occasional Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Double-banded Plover was seen with them. And some Common Greenshanks and Marsh Sandpipers got in on the act too.
Not to be outdone, two Brolgas also strolled around the edges of the ponds.
The crake pond (Pond 4) lived up to its name with a couple of Australian Spotted Crakes and Baillon’s Crakes being seen by many. A Buff-banded Rail came out from reeds at the edge of pond 7 too, to pose for photos. Excellent!
Pied Stilts, a dozen Royal Spoonbills, Black Swans, both Teals, Eurasian Coots, Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes, a few Australasian Shovelers and several types of Cormorants were also in attendance.
Back to Paradise Road for lunch (in a most salubrious setting), we shared interesting sightings which shaped plans for the afternoon’s tours.
The paddocks off Paradise Road presented more than a dozen Cape Barren Geese being supervised by a solitary Australian Hobby on fence post.
Those who ventured down to Ryan’s Swamp found it full of water – a novelty – and a good spot for Zebra Finch and Straw-necked Ibis.
Lake Borrie was uncharacteristically quiet – just a few hundred Australian Shelducks, Teals and Coots. But the reeds between the ponds echoed with the calls of Golden-headed Cisticolas, Australian Reed-Warblers and Little Grassbirds. Above the reeds, a Swamp Harrier cruised by looking for a late lunch.
The bird hide provided far-away views of around 18 Pied Oystercatchers, a couple of Australian Pelicans and hundreds of Silver Gulls on a sandbar. Also at the hide was a miscreant in shorts flying a drone who was sternly told to cease disturbing the birds (and did).
Another sandbar off the Lake Borrie discharge point hosted Crested, Little and Fairy Terns – good to see them side-by-side to help in their ID (and with a spotting scope too).
On a dead tree at the coastal end of Beach Road, a Black-shouldered Kite watched us as we drove by, then circled overhead to ensure we kept going. Further inland, the road provided good views of Black Kites and Whistling Kites – and a Whistling Kite nest. Others saw a Peregrine Falcon, a Nankeen Kestrel and a Brown Falcon on their travels.
What a day! Our last visit was March 2019 – due an extraordinary sequence of cancellations due to Covid, total fire bans and floods – and we were very lucky to avoid another cancellation with a fire ban on the 40 degree day before this outing. On the day, we had mid-20s, bright light with some sun and gentle breezes – perfect.
Despite overall bird counts being well down – only a couple of thousand shelducks! – the place felt deserted, yet we managed 89 species on the list (thus breaking our record for a day’s count by one). Also 32 participants, which is also a pretty good flock! Highlights included around 11 Brolga, Baillon’s Crakes, Bushlarks, eight raptor species and at least some waders (which have been in very short supply this season) including Double-banded Plovers.
Thanks to Peter for his usual magic of coordinating the outing and marshalling the troops on the day – hopefully nobody is still there locked in.