A huge success this month with the Birdlife Melbourne Shorebird study and field trip taken by John Barkla. We headed to the Western Treatment Plant (WTP) on Saturday 11 February after an extensive and comprehensive beginner talk given by John on Thursday night in front of 50 odd participants.
At the WTP we had 49 attendees. Luckily we had the help of Dez Hughes, the ‘Wader Whisperer’. Together John and Dez ran a very successful field trip with most of the common/uncommon waders present on the day and with a few rare waders too.
We started at 9 am where we headed to the T-section ponds and we found two Black-tailed Godwits, two Double-banded Plovers, 10+ Common Greenshanks and a few Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints. From here we went and checked out the Western lagoons where we found Marsh Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpiper and some Red-kneed Dotterel.
Our next stop was the Beach Road Rocks, here we stayed for the remainder of the day, with great views of the Red-necked Phalarope, Red Knot, one Terek Sandpiper that showed really well where we could get some nice shots, one Broad-billed Sandpiper that was tough to get on to, but most people were able too see it. Also, we had Common, Whiskered, White-winged, Crested, Little and Fairy Terns on the rocks.
A 17 car convoy cruised around the plant which was the largest I have seen, but was excellently controlled by John, and a huge thanks must go to John, Allison and Dez for putting in a huge effort today and finding all these birds for nearly everyone that attended. It’s tough and hard enough to point out to the person standing next you where to look for a specific bird but with almost 50 people all vying for prime position, this becomes increasingly hard and they did an extremely great job!
Since I have been involved with Birdlife Mlebourne this has been the most rewarding, productive and exciting outing I have attended; watching everyone learn new things, watching people’s excitement at seeing a rare wader and the sheer delight of gratitude that was showed to John at the end was very welcoming!
In October 2013, BirdLife Melbourne was asked by Legacy Tours if we could assist with taking a party of North Americans birding at the Western Treatment Plant and the You Yangs Regional Reserve. Over the following months there was a number of emails exchanged and the date was set for 12 October 2014, for a group of 11 birders.
As I drove down the Monash Freeway on my way to Werribee I thought how lucky are we to have cracked such a wonderful day weatherwise. The hot air ballooners must have agreed as I could see six in the clear blue sky. We met up at about 8:20 am at the Paradise Rd gate in Pt Wilson Rd, where my drivers for the day, Gina Hopkins, Dave Torr and Euan Moore and Jenny Rolland were waiting for us. Fortunately Gina had spent the previous Tuesday at the WTP and knew where the birds were. Michael from Legacy Tours had checked through Gina’s list of sightings of the previous Tuesday and highlighted the target species so that we didn’t waste time.
We headed for the T Section Lagoons with a few stops along the Pt Wilson Rd to check out what was in the plantation. To our surprise and everybody’s delight, Jenny spotted a Tawny Frogmouth. All the drivers were quite surprised as for all it was their first sighting of a Tawny Frogmouth at the WTP. T Section was very productive with Red-necked Avocets, Marsh Sandpiper and the Golden-headed Cisticolas singing strongly and happy to come very close. We spent some time at the regular crake spot, and eventually everybody managed to see a Baillon’s Crake.
Next stop was Western Lagoons where we observed Royal &andYellow-billed Spoonbills and a pair of Brolga. As Banded Stilt was a high priority we drove down Austin Rd to see a very large flock of Banded Stilts feeding in the shallow water. As a bonus Zebra Finches sat on the road or the fence wires to give everybody a good look. The day’s list was quickly mounting and we hadn’t yet been into the main parts of the WTP. A quick conference was required to review the plan for the day. It was quickly decided to revert to Plan B, abandon the You Yangs and return to the WTP after lunch. This eased the pressure on the drivers as we had more time to do the WTP justice.
Because of the extra time we were able to do the full circuit back to T Section which was a very fortunate move. Another treat, about eight Gull-billed Terns at T Section, that were not there on our first visit. Eight is a large number of Gull-billed Terns for the WTP. We squeezed in a quick trio to Kirk Pt to check out what was on the rocks, and hopefully pick up a Striated Fieldwren. One was heard calling loudly but would not show, but a Singing Honeyeater did.
Next we joined the visitors on their bus and headed to Lara for lunch and a toilet stop. While waiting in the loo queue, Jenny heard some Purple-crowned Lorikeets in a flowering ironbark. Something to look forward to after lunch. Lunch, provided by Legacy Tours, was at a bakery and some of the North Americans tried that famous Aussie food of a pie and sauce out of a paper bag. After observing both Purple- crowned and Musk Lorikeets it was back to the WTP to see some ducks. We slowly ticked off most of the ducks but could not find the Freckled Duck that was there on Tuesday. The plan was to be back at the bus by 5:00 pm, but going to Dave’s sites for successful looks at Blue-billed Duck and Australian Spotted Crakes, it was obvious that we were going to be late. This wasn’t helped when Euan and Jenny’s car spotted the only Cape Barren Goose for the day, requiring the three other cars to do a U-turn.
We eventually made it back to the bus at 5:45 pm. The North Americans had a day to remember and were very appreciative of BirdLife Melbourne’s efforts, with Legacy Tours giving BirdLife Melbourne a very generous cash donation. Final tally for the day? Not quite sure but very, very close to 100 species. My thanks to Gina, Dave, Jenny and Euan for showing the visitors around one of Melbourne’s great birding sites.
BirdLife Melbourne again organised an outing to the Western Treatment Plant (WTP) after the BirdLife Australia AGM for interstate and country delegates attending the Network Day and the AGM. Five cars were required for the 14 delegates (a big increase on the five who went to the WTP last year). We met at the Paradise Rd Gate at about 12:00 noon, visited Western Lagoons, T Section Lagoons and travelled to the Borrow Pit via Beach Rd and the coast route. There were numerous stops to observe the birds along the way at all the known hot spots. The outing ended at about 4:00 pm as most delegates had planes or trains to catch to return home.
A total of 92 species were seen or heard on the day, a very acceptable total for four hours when many of the summer waders were absent. Unfortunately we could not produce an Orange-bellied Parrot or Northern Shoveler like last year. To see the bird list for the day go to http://www.birdlifemelbourne.org.au/outings/site-lists/wtp-werribee.html. For about two thirds of the delegates it was their first visit to the WTP and not surprisingly they were most impressed with the size of the site and the number of birds. Many expressed a wish to visit the site again.
My thanks to my drivers, Greg Buzza, Euan Moore and Jenny Rolland, Sonja Ross and John Stirling who made the day possible.