Weekdays Outing to Karkarook, Heatherton

2 December 2015
Contributor: Diane Tweeddale; photographs by Marilyn Ellis

The weather was breezy, fine and clear as we met in the car park. A crowd of 28 took up the challenge to list more than the 40 species seen on a recent recce. Noisy Miners and Australian Magpies dominated the car park area and the latter were clearly used to picnics as at least 30 Magpies, mostly immature, warbled and squabbled around us at lunchtime. We set off around the main lake where the high water level precluded any sightings of rails or crakes with Eurasian Coots (including young) the most numerous species. At the eastern end of the lake a small flock of Silver Gulls rested, a more pleasing sight than the rafts of thousands which had been present, dominating the avifauna, a few years ago. Australian Reed-Warblers were vocal but mostly stayed unseen within the reed beds while Superb Fairy-wrens called and flew near us frequently.

Superb Fairy-wren male - Marilyn Ellis
Superb Fairy-wren, male

Little Grassbirds called plaintively and one was even glimpsed briefly by a couple of walkers. Not far from the bird hide a couple of Red-browed Finches fed on dock seeds. The hide had been senselessly vandalised with glass cracked in one of the display cases. A cormorant on a buoy caused much debate with ‘stained Little Pied’ finally giving way to ‘immature Great Cormorant’. The only other cormorant was one Little Black Cormorant on one of the minor western ponds. Another debate was occasioned by some teal with the final resolution: two Grey Teal with a female Chestnut Teal beside them. Back to the shelter for lunch with lists of over 30 species. The only raptor seen had been a passing Swamp Harrier while cockatoos were absent though Eastern Rosellas plus Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets were recorded. Honeyeaters were White-plumed Honeyeaters and Noisy Miners plus Little and Red Wattlebirds. One Little Raven flew over, making surprisingly good progress despite a complete absence of tail feathers – and thereby hangs a tale?

Pacific Black Duch - Marilyn Elllis
Pacific Black Duck

A few needed to depart after lunch but most stayed to walk around the western chain of ponds beside Warrigal Road. Here the list of waterbirds increased and highlights were Freckled Duck, male and female Australasian Shoveler and then Hoary-headed Grebe (with young) after we had begun to think the day would be ‘grebeless’. Several glimpsed a flushed Latham’s Snipe and everyone admired the solitary Great Egret.

Great Egret - Marilyn Ellis
Great Egret

Two more species not present on the recce but seen today on the mud of these ponds were Black-fronted and Red-kneed Dotterel. A couple of Black-winged Stilts also foraged in the shallows. Here litter traps clean the gross pollution from the incoming storm water and then reed beds remove chemicals and oils to purify the water before it’s sent on to the bay. Not bad for an area that started as swamp, was converted to sand mines and then made into a park (revegetated twice due to losing the initial plants to fire) with paths and facilities. The bird list of 50 species is a tribute to the character of this small area bounded by busy major roads on the north and west and overflown by aircraft from Moorabbin airport to the south-east.

Diane Tweeddale, leader

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