Serendip Sanctuary was a new venue for Birdlife Beginners and the 38 members who attended were anticipating seeing a range of wetland and waterbirds. Sadly, the whole area was very dry and there was no water at all in Lake Serendip and the North Arm. Despite this there were many interesting sightings throughout the day. On leaving the carpark area (which was dominated by New Holland Honeyeaters) other species were soon located. A few lucky members caught sight of a male Rose Robin and shortly afterwards a family of Golden Whistlers was seen.
A Restless Flycatcher perched in a tree was a “lifer” for many of the group.
On entering the first of the open animal enclosures a raucous group of White-winged Choughs were busy foraging and several Red-rumped Parrots were seen – some feeding on the ground, others flying and one pair investigating a nest hollow.
Purple-crowned Lorikeets had been reported in the area and a couple of members were fortunate enough to see a pair fly from a nearby tree. A pair of Whistling Kites flew low overhead enabling a good view of their underwing pattern. A couple of Cape Barren Geese were feeding in this area along with several Magpie Geese and when all of them flew off over the fence it was agreed that they could be added to the tick list!
After walking past several dry ponds, the members entered an enclosed aviary which provided close up views of several less-common species such as Bush Stone Curlews and Buff-banded Rails. It was amusing to watch a flock of Red-browed Finch flying in and out through the netting to avail themselves of the food and water supply.
One small pond had bore water being piped into it to enable children to do pond-dipping. As the members approached, a Black-fronted Dotterel flew away but a Little Pied Cormorant remained along with Dusky Moorhens, an Australasian Grebe, a Eurasian Coot and a few Teal and Pacific Black Ducks. Whilst walking back to the carpark a huge flock of Magpie Geese could be seen in the distance and two pairs of captive Australian Bustards were admired.
Bird call after lunch recorded 40 wild species and members agreed that it had been a very productive visit.
It was decided to move the short distance to the You Yangs Regional Park for a second, brief, walk in the afternoon. This was regarded as an “off the record” addition for those interested. The highlight there was the sighting of a Wedge-tailed Eagle flying overhead and 4 additional species were seen: Silvereye, Rainbow Lorikeet and both Yellow-faced and White-naped Honeyeaters.
Once again, many thanks to Eleanor Dilley for providing her photographs.
The group numbered 16 when we assembled by the information centre on Tuesday at 13.00 in calm sunny weather, perfect for birdwatching.
Our leaders were Sally and Derek Whitehead, keen birders who live on the island. They were very familiar with the Cape Barren Goose population but those visiting from the Melbourne branch were very interested to see the recovery of this once-threatened species. Almost to plague proportions according to some disgruntled land owners.
The geese were quiet but that cannot be said of the numerous Masked Lapwings. These noisy neighbours appreciate the mowed grasses and clearly you were not an islander if your block didn’t boast a pair, preferably breeding. Meanwhile the sky was filled with skeins and small groups of Ibis, mainly Straw-necked though there were a few Australian White.
Our first location was the Newhaven jetty where both Silver Gulls and Pacific Gulls were observed, the latter mostly immatures in their mottled brown plumage and looking somewhat scruffy.
The area also hosted Black Swans and Australian Pelicans while cormorants included Little Pied, Pied and Little Black.
Out to sea an Australian Gannet was briefly viewed and then confirmed as it plunged after fish. Around the houses ringing the jetty area we also noted Welcome Swallows, Galahs, Australian Magpies and Wattlebirds, Red and Little.
Then it was across to Fisher’s Wetlands, Newhaven, where there were ducks, Chestnut Teal, Australian Wood Ducks, Australasian Shovelers and Australian Shelducks.
Both Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes were present while Black-winged Stilts foraged on the far side of the water.
A Royal Spoonbill shared a roosting islet with swans and pelicans and a Whiskered Tern fluttered and dipped near them. From the bush we could hear a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo calling while a Swamp Harrier and then a Brown Falcon started our raptor count for the visit.
The birding is usually excellent at Fisher’s Wetland and today was no exception. The bush was home to Yellow-rumped and Brown Thornbills plus White-eared Honeyeaters and Grey Fantails.
On checking Rhyll inlet from the cliff top (scopes are recommended for this location) we were able to include several new species. The sand spit hosted Bar-tailed Godwits and Australian Pied Oystercatchers and a Caspian Tern flew past while the highlight here was Whimbrels on the rocks at the cliff base.
We were kept so busy observing and recording that we decided to drive over to the Shearwater estate and complete the day with a bird call there rather than visit the Rhyll yacht club as originally planned.
The yacht club might have similar results to the Newhaven jetty area while the estate contains central wetlands for water management and is well worth a visit. Yes, there were Little Grassbirds calling and many watchers managed to see an Australian Reed-Warbler as it foraged along the reed base. Highlights here were Fairy Martins collecting mud for nests under a culvert and a pair of Superb Fairy-wrens glowing brilliantly in the late afternoon light as they perched on the reeds.
We called the list and were gratified to number 68 species for the afternoon. Thanks to Sally and Derek.
Next morning we assembled at 08.30 without two of our number who were only available for the Tuesday. The first stop was the Oswin Roberts Reserve on Harbison Rd, Rhyll, another excellent birding location.
We didn’t need to leave the car park to record Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets, Laughing Kookaburra, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Eastern Rosella and Fairy Martin.
Walking around the short circuit by the car park we had the good fortune to locate and then actually see a calling Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, to watch brilliantly coloured Striated Pardalotes and to encounter a couple of feeding Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos.
Fan-tailed Cuckoo proved challenging to locate but most of us were finally able to view the birds. A fortunate group actually observed not one but three Fantail Cuckoos in the same binocular view.
Along the track we encountered a couple of Swamp Wallabies while checking the understorey. Then it was time to drive to the Nobbies for seabirds. Here the raptor count increased as we recorded Peregrine Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel and Whistling Kite.
Many smiles resulted from the glimpses of Little Penguins in their nesting boxes on the side of the hillside as we traversed the board walk. Crowds of tourists and families were taking advantage of the school holidays and beautiful weather. The calm settled conditions for the previous couple of days were not likely to have driven any albatrosses inshore so we were not surprised when none were seen.
It was not a far drive to Swan Lake from the Nobbies and most of us were soon smiling as pairs of Black Swans led their fluffy grey cygnets and a pair of Chestnut Teal boasted seven ducklings.
There were raptors, Swamp Harriers and Whistling Kites, as we walked the board walk and some of us wondered how many cygnets, ducklings and goslings would make it to adulthood. We decided to have the bird call here and made ourselves comfortable but the usual “bird call calls” rang out with White-browed Scrubwren and Silvereye joining the list at the last minute. The morning’s list totalled 66 species and the cumulative total for the two days was 90 species. It goes almost without saying that we thanked both Sally and Derek whole-heartedly for all their preparation which had gone into such a successful session.