Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Reflections in a WTP Settling Pond

Yesterday a high pressure system was sitting over Melbourne but a front was due to arrive sometime around the middle of the day. Knowing that my birding time may be limited by this weather change I headed for the Western Treatment Plant early, getting there at about 8:00 am. The forecast turned out to be exactly what happened with the morning being calm and clear and then, at about 11:00 am, the sky clouded over and a north-west wind came in hard enough to rock the car around every time I stopped to check out the birds.

Strong winds at the WTP are not pleasant. The tracks and empty ponds are composed of a very fine black soil and it does not take long for binoculars, scopes, hands, clothes, everything to become coated. Just half an hour lays enough dust on the dashboard that you could use your finger tip to write your day list in it. As I eat my lunch I try not to think of what that fine dust that coats everything is made from.

Still, the first few hours were the best I have had at the WTP for some time. There was no wind at all, not even a gentle zephyr to mar the glassy surface of the ponds. The temperature was low so there was no heat haze to blur the scope views and many of the waders were moulting into breeding plumage. In fact, the moulting was so universal across all the ducks and waders that small white feathers floated gently on the ponds and accumulated around the edges like a lace trimming. Sounds carried well too and the unmistakable honking call of Brolgas in flight could be heard log before the birds came into view. On getting out of the car with the scope the cool morning air, scented with dew on the grass, was a joy to breathe,

This is also the time of year that all wader watching opportunities need to be grabbed whenever possible. The flocks are getting touchy and spend a lot of time on the wing, circling and landing, then exploding into flight for no apparent reason. The Curlew Sandpipers are the brightest with their brick-red chests but the Sharp-tailed Sandpipers are also getting bright new primaries to carry them north. Within the next few weeks the waders will disappear and then all we can do is wait until they return, with worn feathers and voracious appetites.

I know everyone does "reflection" photos but the morning was so perfect and the birds so beautiful I could just not resist (smile).

Looking north over Pond 6 at the "T" Section lagoons

A mixed flock on a mudbank 


White-headed Stilt – that we used to call Black-winged Stilt

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper


Common Greenshank

Red-necked Stint

White-headed Stilt

Marsh Sandpiper

All images & text © Jenny Spry

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