16 May 2018
The meeting point car park filled with cars as 24 assembled under cloudy skies in Wonthaggi. Rain storms had fallen the previous day so we were grateful for a cold but dry day. Nola Thorpe led the walk and warned us that her recent recce had yielded very few birds in the heathland. However we were a hopeful mix of Melbourne and Wonthaggi birders as we drove off in convoy – you never know with birding.
The heathlands car park was already occupied by a pair of horse riders, regulars, who wished us good birding as they set off. Initially Nola’s dire prediction looked accurate for we saw and heard little. Then there were Grey Shrike-thrush calls and glimpses of New Holland Honeyeaters. In more timbered country there were Spotted Pardalote, Grey Fantail and Grey Butcherbird. Near a small dam, five Australasian Shelducks flew overhead.
The dam, which birds frequent in summer, was uninhabited as recent rains had provided plenty of surface water elsewhere. A small flock of Red-browed Finches foraged on the ground and White-eared Honeyeaters called and perched on emergent boughs, seeming to take on the roles of Singing Honeyeaters elsewhere. A cool burn had been done about a month previously and it was interesting to see the growth of grass blades and of the Xanthorrhoea bases below the burn line.
The heathlands are a mosaic of different burnt zones which will hopefully provide habitat for many species. We searched unsuccessfully for the elusive Southern Emu-wren and the Striated Fieldwren before returning to the cars to drive to the desalination plant. The car park was under surveillance as we assembled – several Eastern Grey Kangaroos watched quietly from a bracken patch.
We lunched at the picnic area of the desal plant before walking on the trails and checking the ponds. Here waterbirds predominated with large flocks of Pacific Black Ducks and Grey Teal. A few Eurasian Coots and fewer Chestnut Teal and Australasian Grebes were also present.
Both White-faced and White-necked Herons used the ponds and Straw-necked Ibis flew over. Raptors here were Black-shouldered Kite, Nankeen Kestrel, Swamp Harrier and Peregrine Falcon while Welcome Swallows swooped across the ponds. As always, Superb Fairy-wrens were among the reed beds. Back to bird call and the group’s lists were 36 species in the heathlands, 39 species at the desalination plant and a gratifying total of 59 species for the day.
We thanked Nola for all her preparation which had produced such a great result for this cold season of the year.
Diane Tweeddale, Coordinator BirdLife Melbourne weekdays outings.