Weekdays outing to Reef Island

2 March 2016
Reef Island beyond the swans
Reef Island beyond the swans. Photograph by Diane Tweeddale

The forecast of a day of 30o did not deter 23 bird watchers from meeting. Our leader was Bill Ramsay whose timing ensured that a falling tide allowed us to walk out along the causeway to the island almost dry shod. The car park sounded with calls of wattlebird and raven while Black Swans paddled by in small groups, apparently unfazed by the early morning salt water exercising of horses from the near horse farms. The beach north of the car park was noteworthy for the crowd of about 100 Masked Lapwings which vastly outnumbered the few Silver Gulls.

The beach section of the walk to Reef Island
The beach section of the walk to Reef Island. Photograph by Margaret Bosworth

We concentrated on the beach but the adjacent heathy grassland sounded occasionally to calls of Superb Fairy-wren, Australian Raven and Striated Fieldwren. A young Black-shouldered Kite perched distantly on a dead tree and a male and female White-fronted Chat foraged at the upper end of the beach. Walking was variable and more challenging when we reached the rockier sections. The vegetation was interesting with sea grass draping the lower sections of the mangroves and salt bushes. Near the causeway Black Swans congregated, at least 100 of them in the shallows. Distant views of a pair of Australian Pied Oystercatchers and a solitary Eastern Curlew took some work.

Heading out along the causeway - Bosworth
Heading out along the causeway. Photograph by Margaret Bosworth

As we reached promising areas we added Little Pied, Little Black and Pied Cormorants with list highlights of Great Egret, Royal Spoonbill and Pacific Gull. Then we reached areas of shallow ponds and waders. Scopes up again! Double-banded Plover, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Red-necked Stint came first and then Red-capped Plover and Curlew Sandpiper were added later.

Pacific Gull
Pacific Gull. Photograph by Margaret Bosworth

Much discussion occurred over the identification of a godwit but eventually the bird changed position and a confident call of ‘Bar-tailed Godwit’ rang out. Out to the end where we were delighted by a flock of about 20 Pacific Golden Plovers (a few in traces of breeding plumage) and about 20 Ruddy Turnstones with a solitary Grey-tailed Tattler perched on a rock at water’s edge.

Lunchbreak
Lunchbreak. Photograph by Diane Tweeddale

Lunch seated on driftwood or seagrass drifts was a welcome relaxation and then the party divided into the northern ‘rockhoppers’ and the southern ‘gentle walkers’. The former did not add more species but the ‘gentlefolks’ succeeded in locating a previously elusive Red-capped Plover definitively. Not an addition to the group list but personally satisfying to those who’d missed it before. A welcome cool breeze rose about 1pm and fanned hot brows on the return walk. Back at the cars a few departed but most stayed on for bird call where a gratifying total of 45 species was recorded. Not only the total but the composition was much appreciated and we thanked Bill for his work and preparation which went into this successful day.

Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne Weekdays outings

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