Wednesday, April 4, 2012

An Autumn Day at the Poo Ponds

Early in the morning a mist hangs over Port Phillip Bay but as the sun lifts, so does the fog. The wind is calm and reflections in the ponds are sharp and clean. It is very quiet, not even the lapping of wavelets on the sand. Some days in autumn are just made for birdwatching and last Thursday was one such day.

A pair of brolga were feeding at the edge of the Summer Lagoon and Cape Barren geese were in the grass near the Paradise Rd Lagoon. The raptors have had a good breeding season and brown falcon, whistling kite, swamp harriers, little eagle, wedge-tailed eagle, sea eagle and black-shouldered kites were everywhere. Four whistling kites were in the trees at the Little River Ford, the wedgies were flying low, up the tree line of 29 Mile Road and the brown falcons stood sentinel, as usual, on fence posts and powerlines.

A white ibis stood on the rocks in the Little River near the ford with its neck feathers all fluffed out giving it a white ruff. The sun picked up the beautiful pink markings on the feet. White Ibis can look quite dignified, when they try.

Down in the Western Lagoon pond 9 a group of royal spoonbills were resting on a sandbank. One of them had decided that sleeping on one leg was too difficult and had settled down, perhaps more comfortably, on its haunches. On a quiet day of birding when there is no rush and no noise it is wonderful to sit quietly and see knew sights.

At Western Lagoon pond 4 some red-capped plover mixed with a few red-necked stint and juvenile double-banded plover. On Paradise Rd a flock of plump-looking banded stilts dozed alongside avocet and black-winged stilts. On the low-tide sand flats beside the rocky outcrop inside the Beach Rd gate four bar-tailed godwits picked around amongst the silver gulls and pied oystercatchers looking for food.

A special sight for the day was down at the Murtcain Drain outlet. A flock of 100 +/- red-necked stints were feeding on the sandbank to the left of the outlet and some of them were coming into breeding plumage and showing the red neck of their name. I really enjoy watching waders but as they only visit us outside the breeding season they are normally seen in their drab colours. When some of them colour up for us here on their wintering grounds they are transformed, and my mind draws me to their northern breeding grounds. How wonderful it must be to visit those far off places, Kamchatka, Pribilof, sigh, and see great flocks of waders all in their breeding finery. Ah well, maybe one day, when I win the lottery. Until then I will just have to be content to dream.

Most of the waders have left for the northern breeding grounds but there are always beautiful birds at the Western Treatment Plant.

In flight over the Borrow Pit

Little Raven in the Autumn sun

Some beautiful birds chose very inelegant perches ...

... but they are still elegant within themselves

Brown Falcon on 29 Mile Rd

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