Tag Archives: Pooh Farm

A Little Grassbird enters stage left.

During my last visit to the Treatment Plant, I stopped the car while driving around the Western Lagoons and filmed  a Spotted Crake that crept out of the salt bush and heath to have a drink and check for easy prey. Just to the left of the Crake a Little Grassbird also popped out to check in the tidal mud for prey. These birds are often heard at wetlands and seen when they flit low across the water to the next clump of reeds but I dont often see them clearly for a shot. The Little Grassbird’s scientific name Megalurus gramineus means “grassy large-tail” due to its large broad tail and preferred habitat.

Little Grassbird, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Vic

Little Grassbird, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Vic

Little Grassbird, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Vic

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A hopeful encounter

On Saturday I went to the Knife-makers Guild annual show in Attwood (as you do), and instead of fighting the freeway traffic back home, I decided to head south and drop by the Western Treatment Plant (the pooh farm). While driving out of the lagoons to leave I flushed what I thought were two Blue-winged Parrots off the track. I saw a flash of orange as they flew over the windscreen of the car and realised these must be a pair of the released Orange-bellied Parrots, a very rare and endangered species. They only flushed to the back of the car so I used the door for cover and took a few photos – bad light and shooting into the sun but got a few shots. They were smaller than I expected and made such a melodic buzzy call when flying. There has been a real push to try and breed up and release parrots to join the 50 wild birds that are estimated to be left (with only 340 in 10 captive/breeding recovery facilities). In the wild the tiny parrot migrates from its summer breeding grounds in Tasmania, flies over Bass Strait and into the coastal regions of Victoria –  a tough flight with very few intact feeding grounds at the end of the journey. I found out later that these two were males and part of the 2017 release program but had not joined the wild population yet. I am hopeful that this parrot does not die out in the wild during my lifetime.

Orange-bellied parrot, Western Treatment plant, Werribee

Orange-bellied parrot, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee

Orange-bellied parrot, Western Treatment plant, Werribee

A pair of male Orange-bellied parrots

Orange-bellied parrot, Western Treatment plant, Werribee

note the pair of leg bands.

Orange-bellied parrot, Western Treatment plant, Werribee

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Orange-bellied parrot, Western Treatment plant, Werribee

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Hare of the T-section

I don’t often see Hares in the wild. I have seen two now at Werribee  and both were a surprise…once when it came down a dirt track towards the car I thought it was a fox, then a small dog but then it raised its ears and I saw it was a hare.

The hare below was just sitting and enjoying a bit of sun on a cold winters day. When the birds alert went up that a raptor was cruising by it seemed to recognise the call and became much more aware and started to look up and around.

I had to check Wiki to learn more about it: Long-eared, and long limbed, Hares are fast runners, typically living solitarily or in pairs. Hare species are native to Africa, Eurasia, North America, and the Japanese archipelago. Hares do not bear their young below ground in a burrow as do rabbits, but rather in a shallow depression or flattened nest of grass called a form. Young hares are adapted to the lack of physical protection, compared to a burrow, by being born fully furred and with eyes open. They are able to fend for themselves soon after birth where rabbits are born blind and hairless.

Hares are swift animals: The introduced hare found in Australia (Lepus europaeus) can run up to 56 km/h and can leap up to 3 m (10 ft) at a time.

During a spring frenzy, hares can be seen chasing one another and “boxing”, one hare striking another with its paws (probably the origin of the term “mad as a March hare”). For a long time, this had been thought to be male competition, but closer observation has revealed it is usually a female hitting a male to prevent copulation.

Hare, Western Treatment Plant, T-section, Werribee

Hare, Western Treatment Plant, T-section, Werribee

Hare, Western Treatment Plant, T-section, Werribee

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Hare, Western Treatment Plant, T-section, Werribee

well suited for a life above ground, fast, wary and camouflaged

Spring is fast approaching…

Many birds are busy at the moment. Potential nest sites explored, claimed and defended, nest mounds are being constructed and the recent mild weather has convinced several species to start the nesting cycle now.

The two mounds below were found in the first T-section lagoon at the Western Treatment Plant. I was surprised to see that they were fairly close to the road and in a large and fairly exposed lagoon.  Very happy to see the Brolgas nesting again at the Lagoons, though a little concerned that if it rained further then the nest could be swamped by the rising water levels. The swan’s nest was much higher from the water.

Nesting Brolga, T-section, Western treatmwent Plant, Werribee

Nesting Brolga, T-section, Western treatmwent Plant, Werribee

Brolga, T-section, Western treatmwent Plant, Werribee

Nesting Brolga’s mate nearby keeping a watch…

Nesting Swan, T-section, Western treatmwent Plant, Werribee

Nesting Swan, T-section, Western treatmwent Plant, Werribee

The hunter’s perch…

One of the best reasons to visit the Western Treatment Plant over winter is the large number of Raptors that can be easily seen.  The species found all year round include the Swamp Harriers, Kites (Black-Shouldered, Black and Whistling) and the Brown Falcons. Several more stop by for a few months to breed locally or just to take advantage of an abundant food supply – these include the Black Falcon, Kestrel, Brown Goshawk, Spotted Harrier, Sea-Eagle and Wedge-tailed Eagle.

Below are two regulars that I often see and photograph. The Brown Falcon and the Whistling Kite – both perched in late afternoon light on dead tree branches with great open views of the surrounding area.

Brown Falcon, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Brown Falcon, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Whistling Kite, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Whistling Kite, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Last bird of the day…

On the drive out of the Western Lagoons and T-section and back along the Point Wilson Road heading home after along day of birding, I spotted a dark silhouette in one of the bordering Pines. Very easy to identify with the swallow shaped forked tail, the raptor on the branch was a Black Kite. The kite is a medium sized raptor, blackish-brown in colour,  and often seen slowly cruising along the country highways. It is reported to be the most common raptor in the world. We regularly see several along this road and it is one of the first birds we encounter for the day and one of the last.

Black Kite, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Black Kite, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

A deadly hunt

On a recent trip to the Western Treatment Plant, we saw and photographed a number of raptors including several Black-shouldered Kites. We drove along the lagoon tracks and found a kite feeding on a recently caught rat.  The kites favoured prey are the mice and rats that inhabit the long grass fringes of the lagoons at the treatment plant. The kite is one of the two Australian species of raptor that can hover above a hunting ground and drop with sudden speed onto its prey. (the blog’s image logo was a kite that was hunting and hovering). After it catches the rat, it then flies to a regular feeding post or branch and consumes the prey by tearing the rat apart and eating until the rat is small enough to swallow the rest whole. Rather gruesome but interesting to watch and photograph.

Black-shouldered Kite, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Black-shouldered Kite, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Black-shouldered Kite, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Black-shouldered Kite, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Black-shouldered Kite with a rat

Black-shouldered Kite, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Black-shouldered Kite, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Black-shouldered Kite, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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