Tag Archives: Crake Pit

Baillon’s Crake’s migration mystery

The only place I have regularly seen the Baillon’s Crake:adults and juveniles, is at the Crake Pit at the Western Treatment Plant. According to HANZAB (Handbook of Australian New Zealand Antarctic Birds) it is probably migratory but as it does not call in Winter it is hard to know for sure…however considering how many people are currently visiting the crake pit to look for and photograph the Lewin’s Rail it surely would be seen quite often. On our numerous trips over Summer and Autumn we saw quite a few Baillon’s and they did not appear to be overly shy, often coming right out from under cover. Given the lack of reporting lately I would guess that it does migrate to Northern Australian. It is a very small bird with long olive legs and large feet to help it move across the sodden vegetation.  It has small wings so a long flight north is an amazing feat of endurance.

Baillon’s Crake’s formal name is Porazana pusilla (Porzana:Italian dialect for ‘smaller crake’ and pusilla meaning ‘very small’ or ‘paltry’. It has also been called Lesser Spotted Crake, Tiny, Little, Little Water and Marsh Crake. 

Baillon's Crake,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon’s Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon's Crake,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon’s Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon's Crake,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon’s Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon's Crake,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon’s Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon's Crake,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon’s Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon's Crake,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon’s Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon's Crake,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon’s Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon's Crake,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon’s Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon's Crake,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon’s Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon's Crake,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon’s Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Baillon's Crakes,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Sun-baking and preening at a midday roost…

Spotlight on the Spotless Crake

The Western Treatment Plant’s Crake Pit has been quite active with a number of crake species taking up residence over the Summer, through Autumn and on into the Winter. A few seem to have even bred and had chicks in the Pit. When visiting I have seen quite a few Spotted Crakes and Baillon’s Crakes but not too many Spotless Crakes. We were quite pleased to see one slowly poke its head through the reeds and then come out to feed. It even had an altercation with an aggressive Spotted Crake.

The Spotless Crake has a few names: formally Porzana tabuensis  – Porzana is the Italian (Venetian) name for smaller crake, and Tabuensis after the location of the first Spotless Crake described – Tongapatu, Kingdom of Tonga. Informally the crake has been called Leaden Crake, Spotless Water Crake, Little Swamphen, Swamp Rail and the Motor-car Bird – after one of the revving sounds it makes.

Spotless Crake,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Spotless Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Spotless Crake,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Spotless Crake,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

a skulking Spotless Crake

Spotless Crake,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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The Crake Pit,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Part of the Crake Pit, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Spotted and Spotless Crakes,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Spotted and Spotless Crakes – the Spotted moved around and behind the Spotted, who did not seem to notice

Spotted and Spotless Crakes,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

But once the Spotless started to glean insects from around the feet of the Spotted, the Spotted finally noticed it and exploded and attacked the bigger Spotless…

The Crake Pit, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

The Crake Pit, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

The Pooh Farm Crake Pit

At the Western Treatment Plant and lagoons there is a spot within the T-Section informally called “the Crake Pit“. It is fantastic location for photographing small skulking species of birds that are not often seen – even by avid Birders. It is home to Crakes and Rails. So far at this location I have managed to photograph Baillon’s Crake, the Australian Spotted Crake (also called the Australian Crake or Water Crake) and the Spotless Crake. Also found in this spot are Buff-banded and Lewin’s Rails. Over a series of early morning visits, we managed to spend a few hours each time just sitting and waiting to see what would pop out into the sunlight and starting feeding on the many insects in the water and along the reed beds. It was a very different experience to actually stay in the one spot and wait rather than constantly move around the huge treatment plant lagoons looking for the many species of birds that live and feed here…it felt like a guilty pleasure to just sit and wait (yes, for a birder just sitting still in the middle of a sewerage plant and watching settling/filtering lagoons is a guilty pleasure….)

The photos below are of the Australian Crake also called the Australian Spotted Crake (Porzana fluminea) – Porzana is the Italian (Venetian) name for smaller crakes, and fluminea is Latin for ‘frequenting rivers’. 

Australian Spotted Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Australian Spotted Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

The Crake Pit,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

The Crake Pit, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

The Crake Pit,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Australian Spotted Crake,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Australian Spotted Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Australian Spotted Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Australian Spotted Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Australian Spotted Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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A Growling Grass Frog

On a visit to the Western Treatment Plant we stopped at the Crake pit in T-Section which due to intermittent rain has maintained a water level that is perfect for several species of Crake. Along with watching and photographing the crakes we heard a Growling Grass Frog – a frog becoming more rare and endangered in many areas of Southern Australia including Victoria. It is also called the Southern Bell Frog and rather unkindly: the Warty Swamp Frog. I quite like the name Growling Grass Frog. It has a deep drawn out call and you assume it is a larger frog but when seen it not very big at all. Recently I started to record sounds of various birds and pretty much anything else I could get close to. I have found that there are very few areas that don’t have man-made noise pollution in the background – freeways near wetlands, boats along the coast, distant chainsaws and trail bikes far out in the forests. Luckily in this case the background sounds were two rather melodic birds: the Australian Reed Warbler and a Little Grassbird.

Click on the play button to hear the Growling Grass Frog

Growling Grass Frog, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee

Growling Grass Frog, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee