4 March 2014, species count 59
The weather was good though the cloud made colour identification challenging as eight people assembled at the Balyang Sanctuary. Magda Dodd led the group and the bird list quickly mounted as assorted waterbirds were observed. Highlights included (1) a Royal Spoonbill perched in clear view on a dead tree
(2) nesting Darter beside the Barwon River with two well grown young on one nest with an adult female perched on a branch beside plus an adult male occasionally in attendance
and (3) a close encounter with a Latham’s Snipe for a couple of early birders. A group of four or five Gang-gang Cockatoo were also noisily present and added to the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo in a tree hollow and the Little Corella flying about. Rainbow Lorikeet was the only other parrot here.
We drove beside the river to Jerringot Wildlife Reserve near the golf course. There was very little water and we watched unsuccessfully for crakes or rails at the edges of the mud. Australian White Ibis, Black-winged Stilt and Black-fronted Dotterel were welcome additions here. Some of our group were fairly new to birding and the finer points of identification were explained with the aid of printed field guides and mobile phone apps. The presence of both Yellow and Yellow-rumped Thornbill in the same acacia clump gave plenty of practice. The species count for these Geelong sites was 41.
From Geelong we drove to Drysdale where we parked by the tourist railway and lunched in the shade before checking the Lake Lorne birds. Eurasian Coot dominated but the sighting of Hoary-headed Grebe with young was welcome. A Whistling Kite over the lake caused some alarm calls. Masked Lapwing were present in numbers, several dozen rather than the more familiar twos or threes, and they became quite vocal when the predator was present. A Rufous Whistler was observed by a fortunate few just before we returned to the cars. Despite the middle of the day we recorded 34 species here.
The final stop was the Swan Bay Jetty, an unfamiliar location for the Melbourne birders. It is favoured by fishermen so we didn’t expect rarities but we were still able to add shorebirds and seabirds to our day. A lone Common Greenshank shared a sand spit with two Pacific Gull while a line of cormorants perched on a rail allowed comparison between Little Black, Pied and Great.
Peeping cries alerted us to a begging young Crested Tern beside an adult on a small sand islet. A highlight was a Striated Fieldwren perched and singing close to our group. However it was a brief encounter of the bird kind as an aggressive Welcome Swallow drove it away. There were 17 species listed here, not bad for an afternoon when the fishermen had been launching and landing boats all day.
The cumulative total for the day was 59 species and we were very grateful to Magda for sharing a little of her home area with us.
Contributor: Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne Weekdays Outings