With the weather largely cleared after Sunday night’s rain a group of 18 midweek birders assembled at the end of Hallam Valley Road. The wetland here is currently undergoing improvement works. The link below provides extra detail on the need for these works for those interested.
Such works clearly involve some disturbance to the nature of the site. The water levels were lower than normal with plenty of exposed mud. Despite this, and the presence of ongoing works and machinery, the morning provided some excellent bird watching.
Early highlights included quite a large flock of Rainbow Lorikeets, Brown Goshawk, Black-fronted Dotterel, Peregrine Falcon, and quite a bit of activity in the grassland to the North of the path.
Identification here was a matter of patience and many pairs of eyes. Golden-headed Cisticola, Silvereyes, and a single Australian Reed-Warbler were noted. As we progressed through the wetland the air began to fill with White-faced Herons and a couple of White-necked Herons also got in on the act.
The lower water levels and exposed mudflats seemed to be offering feeding opportunities not normally present here. Ducks and waterhens were few and far between with Masked Lapwings seeming more numerous.
Heading up to the edge of the Main Hallam Drain we noticed the lifeless bodies of some Eels that had succumbed to the pump out of water.
Taking a short detour toward the Freeway in the South-East corner, the Blackberry and grassy verges along this area provided habitat for New Holland Honeyeaters, European Goldfinch, White-browed Scrubwrens, and Superb Fairy-wrens.
Up near the pond at the end, a group of 20 Red-browed Finch were seen. Retracing our steps and continuing to the South-West the small lake just over the main drain yielded Little Black Cormorant, Australasian Darter, Pelican, Australian White Ibis, Straw-necked Ibis and more White-faced Herons.
Royal Spoonbills were also recorded in this area and some Yellow-billed were seen flying over. The ponds on the North side of this section had somewhat more water in them and held small flocks of Teal, Pacific Black Duck, Dusky Moorhen and Purple Swamphen.
Through to the South-West corner and during the return walk to the main gate we picked up Welcome Swallows, White-plumed Honeyeaters, Noisy Miners, Grey Butcherbird and Wood Duck.
A dead rat being attended by several species of fly and some European Wasps brought home the gruesome face of nature at work (photos by Maarten Grabandt below).
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.