Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Werribee WTP Spring - almost

Well, I was sort of joking on my last blog when I said spring was here but now I think it may have really arrived early, even if it is only the first week of August and a good three weeks from the official start of spring. When we were down at the plant on Sunday the Banded Lapwings had a chick running around, the Little Ravens were nest building, the Eurasian Skylarks were in full song and the Black Falcons were very obviously paired.
Looking over Walsh's Lagoons to the You Yangs

Eurasian Songlark

I went down with Joy and again the raptors put on a full show. First act was a Black Falcon sitting on a fence post beside the road feasting on a rat. The meal was well advanced and we only knew it was a rat because when the falcon eventually took off the rat’s long tail hung out behind.
Black Falcon with the remains of a rat

Further down the road a magnificent Wedge-tailed Eagle sat on a post trying to soak up the morning sunshine, all the time being harassed by a Magpie. Such insolence; the Wedgie finally gave up and flew off.
Australian Magpie annoying a Wedge-tailed Eagle

The Black-shouldered Kites were feeling game too and took on a Black Falcon that I guess had strayed into their territory. The Black Falcon was about as interested in its antagonists as the Wedgie had been and just continued on its way with only the occasional barrel roll and flash of talons to show it recognised that the kites were there.

After this display we found the Black Falcons again and they really put on a “Big Year - Attu” moment for us (if you haven’t seen the film you must). The sky was overcast and rain had just started to fall. With the strong west wind blowing the afternoon felt much colder than the 12ยบ C it actually was and the rain made it feel like winter was making a comeback. When we stopped the car to open a gate we saw two Black Falcons high up in front of us and as we watched they started some aerial play, climbing, diving, twisting and rolling. We sat with the binoculars on them and drank in the display. Gorgeous. Such power and beauty. 

And then came the “Attu” moment; the falcons flew at each other and the lower one rolled over and the two birds locked talons. From here they went into a spiralling fall, tumbling slowly around each other, locked together as one with wings half closed. SIGH. I have never seen that display before. It was unbelievably wonderful. I can close my eyes right now and still see them falling slowly down and flowing together. What a sight!
Black-shouldered Kite annoying a Black Falcon

Out on Beach Rd a Banded Lapwing couple were looking after young chicks while cattle wandered around nearby. I do hope that the young chick is careful; what with all the raptors in the area and the cattle the first few weeks of life could be a real challenge.
Banded Lapwing and chick in their preferred habitat; short grass and lots of cow pats

With all the rain we have had the ponds are all full and the overflows are running fast. It seems there must be good food in them too as both the Eurasian Coots and Dusky Moorhens were feeding in them. The fast-flowing water gave some interesting effects as the birds stuck their heads down to feed.
Eurasian Coot

Dusky Moorhens

Then we found this very curious Welcome Swallow.
It just sort of peered in the window of the car at me. Probably wondering what sort of beast I was

And this is something we often see at the plant because of how close the Avalon Airport is, a Red-tailed QANTAS-bird. How I would love to be on it. Ah well, just another 3 months or so and I will be.
Red-tailed QANTAS-bird

Just because I can’t keep away I was down at the plant again yesterday with Marlene and the waders are starting to arrive back. There were lots more Red-necked Stints than last weekend and on Summer Lagoon 2 there were five Greenshanks still showing some breeding plumage. Yeeeah. Spring is in the air.
Greenshanks with the remains of breeding plumage

All images & text © Jenny Spry

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