Werribee Waders

BirdLife Melbourne Werribee Waders identification course, which was led by John Barkla, ran prior to BirdLife Australia’s Farewell the Shorebirds event.

Many of those who attended were relatively new to birding or shorebird identification, whilst some need a refresher course. With his extensive knowledge of shorebirds and beautiful photos John was able to convince participants that they would be able to identify 99% of the migratory shorebirds that visit Werribee (i.e. three species, Red-necked Stint, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Curlew Sandpiper) despite making us aware that individuals within a species can vary quite a lot., and that the different plumages can complicate it.

By the supper break in the middle of the evening, many were feeling a bit more confident about that.

After supper a few doubts crept in. Would they be able to pick, for example, a Pectoral Sandpiper from a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper? A sample slide gave a couple of pointers.

Sample slide. Photograph by John Barkla
Sample slide. Photograph by John Barkla

Most people left the presentation having enjoyed it, and looking forward to putting it into practice at the Werribee Treatment Plant (WTP).

Vehicles in convoy at the WTP. Photograph by Deb Oliver
Vehicles in convoy at the WTP. Photograph by Deb Oliver

We were lucky to have an almost perfect autumn day for the outing and were also lucky in that there were a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers in the same pond as Sharp-tailed Sandpipers which gave us the opportunity to compare them.

At the WTP. Photograph by Bill Ramsay
At the WTP. Photograph by Bill Ramsay

We didn’t manage to find any other of the less common shorebirds, apart from one Bar-tailed Godwit, but John gave an impromptu lesson on Tern identification as we looked out onto rocks where several species were perched at almost high tide.

Photography by Bill Ramsay
Photograph by Bill Ramsay

Even at lunch most eyes were still on the watch for birds, even if the scopes were deserted!

We finished the day with 95 species seen and a lot of tired but happy birders feeling more confident that they can identify our three most common migratory shorebirds.

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