Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pottering around

This year started out cold, wet and windy, spoiling our New Year’s Day lunch at the WTP in  the process. It then continued wet and windy into the weekend of 4th and 5th of January so we tried to get some sheltered birding and headed for the tall trees of Wombat Forrest, west of Melbourne. We only lasted until about 1300 when the wind finally blew us out of the forest and back home. Bother.
Forest road in the tall dry woodlands of Wombat Forest, west of Melbourne

Satin Flycatchers can appear black but as the sun hits them they really do shine like satin

They also have a wonderful crest that gives them a distinctive profile

Female Crested Shrike-tit. The male has a black bib

Cicadabirds do sound just like cicadas with there high pitched buzzy call. They also stay high in the canopy and can be very hard to find. This is the male of a pair that have returned to Wombat Forest each summer for a few years now

Between the 6th and 13th the weather improved and I had a couple of pleasant days birding at WTP but then, summer arrived in Melbourne with a crash. From the 14th to the 17th the temperatures were over 40º C every day, topping out at 44º C (111º F) on Thursday 16th, and the northerly winds with the heat made it feel like someone had just opened the doors to a blast furnace. The whole state had a total fire ban and the WTP was closed to birding, which was wise but a shame, it would have been rather pleasant to be sitting in the cool car watching birds wade about in the mud because it got to 30º C (86º F) inside my little brick row-house and I had fans going to try and give the sensation of cool, if not the fact. 
Summer Lagoon at WTP with hundreds of Australian Shelduck. At the moment there are many thousand shelduck spread across most of the ponds

Red-kneed Dotterel

Reeve feeding in the shallow low-tide sand flats of Port Phillip Bay in front of the WTP bird hide

Pectoral Sandpiper, rear and the similar looking Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in front

Birds rest in huge flocks on the roads inside the WTP and it pays to check each flock carefully. Here a White-winged Black Tern rests with a flock of Whiskered Terns

Brolga in flight with the You Yangs in the background

Brolgas with White-headed Stilt in the foreground.

White-headed Stilt stopping to smell the daisies

From the 18th the wind returned and made looking for small bush birds as difficult as it was before the heat but by the 19th things had improved and we went chasing Painted Button-quails in the You Yangs, south-west of Melb. They are a definite skulker and can be hard to find and see with their disruptive colouring. Last year I heard their soft “oom” call a few times and saw the small, round platelets they scrape out in the leaf litter as they search for food, but I didn’t see one. This time we got lucky and a small group of five or six birds were found in he dry woodland and gave us reasonable but fleeting views as they skittered between tree trunks and leaves.
Volcanic cone and boulders of the You Yangs State Park

Owlet Nightjar in its hollow

A pair of the very elusive and shy Painted Button-quail trying to sneak past without being seen

I followed up our Sunday outing to the You Yangs with a visit to the Point Cook Coastal Reserve looking for a possible American Golden Plover. It was first found late last year and seen again during the first week of this year. As this would be a new bird for my list the pursuit for a good look at it will be a continuing story until I track it down. There is a long weekend coming up with a trip to Chiltern in the north-east of the state so my next attempt at the plover will have to be late this month or early February. Ah, the joy of birding, always something new to find, some new challenge.

All text & images © Jenny Spry

1 comment:

  1. It seems you've had a great start to the year despite the weather!