Long time between posts people, been kinda busy, apologies to anyone that may have been hanging on my next word... In the last four days on our tours we've seen a plethora of avian gold nuggets such as Beautiful Firetail, Rainbow Bee-eater, Cicadabird, Flame Robin, Pilotbird, Spotted Harrier, Black Falcon, Tawny Frogmouth, Short-tailed Shearwater, Brolga, Arctic Jaeger, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Barn Owl, Brown Gerygone, Superb Lyrebird, Brush Bronzewing, Satin Flycatcher, Black-faced Cormorant, Little Eagle, White-winged Black Tern, Black-tailed Native-hen, Southern Emu-wren, Rufous Fantail, Gang-gang Cockatoo, Wonga Pigeon, the list goes on. And all these guys have been seen within the Greater Melbourne region. Since the start of 2011 The Melbourne Birder Tours have yielded over 210 species from a number of brilliant locations. A cooler than average summer and breeding success from last year for many species has resulted in continued optimal birding throughout southern Victoria, and although most birds aren't singing much, mating or defending territories now, there are still stacks of species about and finding birds has remained really exciting and very rewarding.
11th March, 2012
Lots of tours and birds have been undertaken and seen respectively in recent times, with highlights aplenty, too many to mention really. However I'll have a crack. I'll even put some of my own photos up, pathetic as they are but somewhat surprisingly ok given that they're executed via iPhone/Swarovski 80HD dodgy digiscopery.
Okay so most of the birding has been done at the Western Treatment Plant which, as ever, never lets one down. As well as the usual abundance of birds we've had some little gems like Eastern Curlew (a globally threatened species), Broad-billed Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Gull-billed Tern, Black Falcon, Spotted Harrier, up to nine Freckled Duck, White-winged Black Tern gradually taking on some breeding color, as have several of the Curlew Sandpiper present; truly beautiful birds in this plumage, an unfortunately dead and substantially dessicated specimen of a Tasmanian race ocellata Southern Boobook, Banded Lapwing with several fluffy chicks, Lewin's Rail and Black-faced Cormorant, which is a rarity in this part of the bay. From the 16th to the 19th Feb I was on a four day tour around southern & central Victoria with a couple from the Netherlands. 203 species were had including rippers like Magpie Goose, 1000's of Short-tailed & Fluttering Shearwater including a few Hutton's Shearwater, several groups of Little Penguin coming ashore on dusk at The Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, Latham's Snipe, Little Lorikeet, Rainbow Bee-eater, Southern Emu-wren, Purple-gaped Honeyeater, Large-billed Scrubwren, Superb Lyrebird, Rufous Bristlebird, Gilbert's Whistler, Pink, Scarlet, Rose & Red-capped Robins, Beautiful Firetail and Forest Raven to name but a few.
17th March, 2012 Mud Islands, Port Phillip Bay Had a brilliant day out on Mud Islands yesterday with Dave Richardson and the Birdlife Melbourne Photography Group. Leaving Sorrento Pier at 9.30am we were out on the islands in no time flat, and told we'd be picked up at 3pm, which we duly were. Such a beautiful, serene and peaceful place, of course a cracking autumn day helped, and we were further treated to some wonderful avian spectacles. Best of which were, in no particular order, an unexpected but nonetheless very fine Greater Sand Plover that afforded terrific views, lots of Double-banded Plover, a couple of flocks of Red Knot and a single Great Knot; a few of the Red Knot had donned significant levels of breeding plumage and looked crack-a-jack with their brick-red bellies. Also about the place were good numbers of Australian Pelican flying over in squadron formation, several Grey Plover, a small number of Ruddy Turnstone, a single Sooty Oystercatcher and several Australian Pied Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, several Fairy & Little Tern, 2 Curlew Sandpiper, small parties of Red-necked Stint, single Swamp Harrier, and an odd-looking gull that generated some debate but was most likely a juvenile Kelp Gull. On the way back to Sorrento we had close views of Australasian Gannet and a single Black-faced Cormorant.
23rd March, 2012
A classic autumn day yesterday with buckets of sun and virtually no wind all day until the late afternoon. With a family of four from Texas in the US of A as my guests we made an early start at the You Yangs Regional Park, which produced some great birds in the form of 3 Black-chinned Honeyeater, Crested Shrike-tit, Varied Sitella, Restless Flycatcher, a stunning adult Fan-tailed Cuckoo, 3 Diamond Firetail preening in the sun and looking fab and an obliging pair of Tawny Frogmouth. Raptors were in good numbers too, with Black falcon, Australian Hobby, Nankeen Kestrel, Brown Falcon, Wedge-tailed Eagle and Whistling Kite all putting in appearances. Moving on to the never-dull Western Treatment Plant we soon picked up a wide variety of waterbirds and shorebirds, the pick of which was a pair of Freckled Duck, an immaculate Lewins Rail sauntering out across the track in front of us, Glossy Ibis, a lone Black-tailed Godwit, and dozen White-winged Black Tern with ever-increasing levels of black breeding plumage splashed across their little bodies. Also seen was Australian Spotted Crake, Banded Lapwing & Banded Stilt, Red-necked Avocet, Blue-billed Duck, a lovely pair of Cape Barren Goose and a nice bunch of snoozing Double-banded Plover and Red-capped Plover. There was also the spectacle of dozens of Australasian Gannet, Silver Gull and Crested & Common Tern in a bit of a feeding frenzy just offshore. It was a terrific day with some food ol' Texan humour thrown in too. 24th March, 2012
Yet another great day of birding out and about in the wilds of the Greater Melbourne region - yes there are some wilds, today with my main man Eric from Virginia, USA and his camera. It was a cold start but with a few sunny breaks the day was not too bad and we had some fantastic photographic encounters with Rufous Bristlebird, Southern Emu-wren, Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Scarlet Robin, Nankeen Kestrel, Gang-gang Cockatoo and last but by no means least amazing close-up shots of Australia's smallest bird the Weebill. Other birds seen included Hooded & Double-banded Plover, 7 Wedge-tailed Eagle (3 at Mt Duneed and 4 at the You Yangs), Tawny Frogmouth, Short-tailed Shearwater, Forest Raven, several flocks of White-naped & Yellow-faced Honeyeater moving through the woodlands near Anglesea on migration,Crested Shrike-tit, Black-fronted Dotterel and 5 rather late White-throated Needletail.
27th March 2012
A shortish visit to the Western Treatment Plant with Dave from Altona to look for recently reported Freckled Duck was hugely successful with 7 seen well through the 'scopes on Lake Borrie. Some were even awake. Also kicking a goal when we found 37 White-winged Black Tern in a loose flock fluttering and prancing over the water like big black & white butterflies, as several now have rapidly increasing levels of alternate plumage. Such ace birds. Apart from these and a very photogenic Australian Hobby there was not a lot else about on a surprisingly quiet day here. Few waders were about of any number, although we did see 4 each of Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Plover, but there were no Common, Fairy or Little Tern, fewer Pink-eared Duck and Grey Teal than recent times, even Chestnut Teal numbers seemed down. Possibly a response to the opening of duck-shooting season combined with the lure of more inland flooding?