North Americans at the Western Treatment Plant

In October 2013, BirdLife Melbourne was asked by Legacy Tours if we could assist with taking a party of North Americans birding at the Western Treatment Plant and the You Yangs Regional Reserve. Over the following months there was a number of emails exchanged and the date was set for 12 October 2014, for a group of 11 birders.

As I drove down the Monash Freeway on my way to Werribee I thought how lucky are we to have cracked such a wonderful day weatherwise. The hot air ballooners must have agreed as I could see six in the clear blue sky. We met up at about 8:20 am at the Paradise Rd gate in Pt Wilson Rd, where my drivers for the day, Gina Hopkins, Dave Torr and Euan Moore and Jenny Rolland were waiting for us. Fortunately Gina had spent the previous Tuesday at the WTP and knew where the birds were. Michael from Legacy Tours had checked through Gina’s list of sightings of the previous Tuesday and highlighted the target species so that we didn’t waste time.

We headed for the T Section Lagoons with a few stops along the Pt Wilson Rd to check out what was in the plantation. To our surprise and everybody’s delight, Jenny spotted a Tawny Frogmouth. All the drivers were quite surprised as for all it was their first sighting of a Tawny Frogmouth at the WTP. T Section was very productive with Red-necked Avocets, Marsh Sandpiper and the Golden-headed Cisticolas singing strongly and happy to come very close. We spent some time at the regular crake spot, and eventually everybody managed to see a Baillon’s Crake.

Golden-headed Cisticola
Golden-headed Cisticola

Next stop was Western Lagoons where we observed Royal &andYellow-billed Spoonbills and a pair of Brolga. As Banded Stilt was a high priority we drove down Austin Rd to see a very large flock of Banded Stilts feeding in the shallow water. As a bonus Zebra Finches sat on the road or the fence wires to give everybody a good look. The day’s list was quickly mounting and we hadn’t yet been into the main parts of the WTP. A quick conference was required to review the plan for the day. It was quickly decided to revert to Plan B, abandon the You Yangs and return to the WTP after lunch. This eased the pressure on the drivers as we had more time to do the WTP justice.

Some of the group on Austin Road
Some of the group on Austin Road

Because of the extra time we were able to do the full circuit back to T Section which was a very fortunate move. Another treat, about eight Gull-billed Terns at T Section, that were not there on our first visit. Eight is a large number of Gull-billed Terns for the WTP. We squeezed in a quick trio to Kirk Pt to check out what was on the rocks, and hopefully pick up a Striated Fieldwren. One was heard calling loudly but would not show, but a Singing Honeyeater did.

Next we joined the visitors on their bus and headed to Lara for lunch and a toilet stop. While waiting in the loo queue, Jenny heard some Purple-crowned Lorikeets in a flowering ironbark. Something to look forward to after lunch. Lunch, provided by Legacy Tours, was at a bakery and some of the North Americans tried that famous Aussie food of a pie and sauce out of a paper bag. After observing both Purple- crowned and Musk Lorikeets it was back to the WTP to see some ducks. We slowly ticked off most of the ducks but could not find the Freckled Duck that was there on Tuesday. The plan was to be back at the bus by 5:00 pm, but going to Dave’s sites for successful looks at Blue-billed Duck and Australian Spotted Crakes, it was obvious that we were going to be late. This wasn’t helped when Euan and Jenny’s car spotted the only Cape Barren Goose for the day, requiring the three other cars to do a U-turn.

We eventually made it back to the bus at 5:45 pm. The North Americans had a day to remember and were very appreciative of BirdLife Melbourne’s efforts, with Legacy Tours giving BirdLife Melbourne a very generous cash donation. Final tally for the day? Not quite sure but very, very close to 100 species. My thanks to Gina, Dave, Jenny and Euan for showing the visitors around one of Melbourne’s great birding sites.

Contributor and Photographer: Bill Ramsay

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