Dandenong Catchment Survey – October to December 2013 report

Previously, the three month Dandenong Catchment Survey report appeared on the BirdLife Melbourne website. With the introduction of the BirdLife Melbourne blog, all future reports will use this medium.

About the DCS

In 2007, a three year contract was issued by Melbourne Water for Bird Observation and Conservation Australia (BOCA) to survey 10 wetlands in the Dandenong Valley Catchment. Each site was to be surveyed once a month with the starting time before 8:00am. As the sites varied in size, the time to complete a survey could vary from one to three hours. For many ‘Birders’ an additional challenge became evident as not only bird species were required, but frogs, mammals, reptiles and fish were also to be noted. Smartphone apps became a ‘tool of the trade’, especially with frog calls.

The ten sites are: Frog Hollow, Endeavour Hills; Kilberry Boulevard, Hampton Park; River Gum Creek Reserve, Hampton Park; South Golf Links Rd, Narre Warren; Hallam Valley Rd, Hampton Park; Waterford Wetland, Rowville; Troups Creek, Hampton Park; Mordialloc Creek, Braeside; Heatherton Rd South, Dandenong and Heatherton Rd North, Dandenong North.

The first three year results were so successful that Melbourne Water extended the contract which was passed on to BirdLife  Australia after the merging of BOCA and Birds Australia two years ago, and is a continuing project with volunteers from BirdLife Australia completing the surveys, the results of which are forwarded to the BirdLife National Office who report back to Melbourne Water.

In December 2012, a new site was added, Rigby’s Wetland in Rowville, the largest wetland constructed by Melbourne Water.

October – December 2013 Report

Various weather conditions were experienced at all the 11 sites the past three months. Each site has a specific day in the month to complete the survey, and with 11 sites being monitored, the day may be any day of the month. Rainfall plays a huge part in water bird activity, sometimes causing flooding  creating additional feeding habitat, or with low rainfall, mud flats are exposed allowing the ‘wader’ species to enter an area. Unfortunately at some sites, dog owners allow their dogs to roam off-lead and even allow their dogs to enter the water, causing water bird disruption. This activity is noted for action by Melbourne Water.

This period, the 180 bird species barrier for the 11 sites was broken with three new bird species added. Wood Sandpiper and Curlew Sandpiper at Rigby’s and a Regent Parrot, presumably an escapee, at Heatherton’s Rd South.

Highlights at individual sites

A Song Thrush, a new species at Frog Hollow on 30 November. Only five other sites have recorded this species with Heatherton Rd Sth recording it on most survey days.

The team at Kilberry Boulevard added Fan-tailed Cuckoo to their list on 19 December. A species absent at all other sites except five and only at Rigby’s in October for this period. A Barbary Dove is with a group of Spotted Doves and was recorded again in November and December.

Water levels were low at River Gum on 19 December creating an excellent habitat for Black-winged Stilt, Black-fronted and Red-kneed Dotterel, all taking the advantage of the exposed mud flats. This is the only site to record the Scaly-breasted Lorikeet and it is seen on most survey days, and this period in November.

South Golf Links Rd had an invasion of Eurasian Coot with 96 recorded on 10 October, 68 on 28 November and 45 on 12 December. The Long-billed Corella was recorded on 12 December – the only site for this period.

The Spotted Harrier is still spreading its wings, showing up at Hallam Valley Rd on 20 November – new for the site. This is the sixth site to record this species, but the only site this period. A lone Caspian Tern on 18 December and the next day it was at River Gum. The same bird?

The Australian Raven has been recorded at five sites with one being on a non-survey day. Waterford Wetland recorded an Australian Raven there on 28 October – new for the site. Of all the sites, Waterford, which is only a small wetland, attracts Latham’s Snipe in numbers much higher than all the other sites and this period was no exception. Twenty two on 28 October, 12 on 29 November and seven on 27 December. All sites recorded Latham’s Snipe this period with the exception of Frog Hollow. A special bird at Waterford on 27 December was an Australian Spotted Crake – new for the site. All  other sites, with the exception of Heatherton Rd Nth, have recorded this species.

Cattle Egret, a species often seen in the Dandenong Valley but only recorded at Troups Creek in November this period. A more exciting find on 24 October was a Rufous Songlark, making four sites to record this species. A Little Eagle in December added to the tally of four raptors this period.

Only two surveys were completed (October and November) at Mordialloc Creek this period. One of the results was lost in the mail but luckily, individual species were known so all was not lost. A Whiskered Tern was recorded in October. Previously recorded at this site but not at any of the other 10 sites on a survey day, but at Troups Creek on a non-survey day.

In this a ‘parrot breeder’ must reside near the Heatherton Rd South site as a Regent Parrot was recorded there on 13 October survey day. The tally for parrot escapees at this site is now three, with Superb and Princess Parrots added previously. A Sacred Kingfisher during the November survey was the only record for all the sites. On the 13 October survey, an addition to the list, a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo. It was also recorded during the November survey.

Heatherton Rd North is one of the few sites to record the Grey Shrike-thrush, and during this period was recorded each month. It was one of four sites this period to record the White-necked Heron. A species not often seen in the valley.

Where does one start with Rigby’s? It is the largest wetland developed by Melbourne Water and so far, only a year in operation and being surveyed, is offering many surprises. New species keep showing up on survey and non-survey days. At the end of September, 119 species were listed for the site with 97 recorded on survey days. During this period the following species were added:

  • 23 October: Rock and Spotted Dove, Blue-winged Parrot, Crested Shrike-tit and Eastern Yellow Robin, the latter previously recorded on a-non survey day.
  • 27 November: Rufous Whistler, Wood Sandpiper, the latter previously recorded on a non-survey day. Also in November on a non-survey day, a Curlew Sandpiper was added to the list.
  • 19 December: Crested Pigeon – new for the site.

Twenty bird species have been recorded at Rigby’s on non-survey days which creates a challenge for the team on survey day.

The 11 site total at the end of December 2013 is 182 bird species with the following four yet to be recorded on a survey day: Lewin’s Rail, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Lorikeet and Olive-backed Oriole.

More information?

A full tally of the three month sightings may be found on the BirdLife website: http://www.birdlife.org.au/locations/birdlife-melbourne/projects-initiatives-mel and download the pdf below. The results are also displayed at the BirdLife Melbourne Branch monthly Balwyn meetings.

Graeme Hosken, BirdLife Melbourne DCS Recorder

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