19 March 2019
Pacific Gulls at various stages of development outnumbered the birdwatchers and were in turn outnumbered by the Silver Gulls at the Grantville foreshore while we assembled in the car park under a grey sky. We numbered 14 and Alan and Hazel Veevers, much appreciated organisers of the monthly beginners group, were our leaders. While everyone arrived we noted Red and Little Wattlebirds in the adjacent bush before carpooling to drive to the Candowie Reservoir.
The water level was very low because the dam was the water source for firefighting aircraft taking tanker loads to fight the recent fires in the area. The continuing drought has prevented any replenishment. A lone White-faced Heron patrolled the bank and a couple of Little Ravens foraged. The most numerous species was Eurasian Coots at water’s edge but other species were also over the mud – Australasian Shoveler and Chestnut Teal were closer than the Black Swans.
Two sightings of grebes sequentially added Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes while distant views using scopes added Blue-billed Duck and Hardhead after some discussion. Australian Wood Ducks were seen around the point after a short drive to move the cars. Sadly one of them appeared to be dead on an old tree stump. Turning our backs to the dam we were fascinated to observe a Black-shouldered Kite on a dead branch with its tailed prey, possibly a large mouse or a small rat, in its talons. Probably the viewing highlight of the outing.
Another hunter in this area was a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike using the fence as a perch. A pair of soaring Wedge-tailed Eagles was the third raptor of the day (the first had been a Whistling Kite sending up the Silver Gulls near the foreshore). The bush by the dam also held Grey Butcherbird, Grey Shrike-thrush and Magpie-lark while both Australian White and Straw-necked Ibis passed overhead.
We drove on to the Grantville cemetery and walked the adjacent Gurdies track listening and watching. An Australian Magpie and a Masked Lapwing seemed to be alone among the gravestones but along the track we recorded a Golden Whistler, heard several honeyeaters including White-eared and White-naped and glimpsed a White-browed Scrubwren in the understorey.
Both Crimson Rosella and Laughing Kookaburra were listed as we walked back. Back to the car park for lunch where the local Superb Fairy-wrens came out confidently once we were all seated quietly. A beach walk after lunch yielded no waders as the water level was against us and there was little mud. Mangroves seem to be growing well along the shore. By walk’s end there had been 30 species listed for the reservoir and 38 for the foreshore and the adjacent Gurdies Nature Conservation Reserve. The total for the day was 56 species which was a very pleasing result in the continuing drought and we thanked Hazel and Alan for all their preparation which yielded such a satisfactory result.
Diane Tweeddale, coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings