When I got home from the last twitch at Stockyard Point near Jam Jerrup, I saw a report for another rare vagrant to Victoria – the Little Stint. It was seen in the flock we had just left. Due to its brown/orange breeding plumage it stood out from the 100s of the plain grey over-wintering Red-necked Stints. Without the colour plumage it would have been identical to the others and no-one would have noticed it. We waited two weeks for another suitable weekend where the tide was high at a reasonable time. The weather, if possible, was even colder but at least newly purchased thermals helped keep me warm. It took a while to spot the little wader but an eagle-eyed and patient birder (Emma) finally found it – Lifer 347. We spent the next four hours watching it move from the sand spit to a small sand bank out of the strong cold wind. Much of the time its head was tucked in as it napped at high tide. When it looked up a dozen cameras would snap away. Several times it flushed and we thought we had lost it but it always seemed to come back to the same sand divot.
Little Stint Twitch, Stockyard Point, Jam Jerrup, Vic
Mixed wader flock, Stockyard Point, Jam Jerrup, Vic
Mixed wader flock
Little Stint and waders, Stockyard Point, Jam Jerrup, Vic
Little Stint and waders II
Little Stint III
Red Knot in bright breeding plumage and mixed waders
I drove down to the Flinders Ocean Beach today, also called Mushroom Reef due to the shape of the exposed reef at low tide. It is part of the Mornington Peninsula National Park. It was high tide and I walked along the sand looking for Hooded Plovers and other waders.
A birding minute or two at Flinders Ocean Beach
Singing Honeyeater in the strong wind, Flinders Ocean Beach, Flinders, Vic
Flinders Ocean Beach, Flinders, Vic
Second Cove, Flinders Ocean Beach
Juvenile Hooded Plover (without the signature black hood)
Over Summer the Western Treatment Plant, associated wetlands and conservation ponds are home to many thousands of migratory birds that spend the breeding season in the Northern Hemisphere: Northern China, the tundra of Arctic Siberia and along the eastern Eurasian Arctic. After the breeding season the shorebirds birds migrate down south of the equator and spread out over the Southern Hemisphere including Australia and New Zealand. The return to and introduce first year birds to their favourite feeding grounds. At the Pooh Farm there are thousands of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints, and many Curlew Sandpipers, and a number of Common Greenshanks and Godwits . Every now and again a rarer species turns up. This year we have had Pectoral Sandpipers, now becoming a regular in low numbers, a few Broad Billed Sandpipers and an exciting visit by a Red-necked Phalarope. A number of regular birders patrol the main shallow lagoons looking for a rare find. It can be difficult as many of the birds look the same, come in a variety of colours and plumage even within a species and may appear as a single slightly different bird amongst thousands.
This Summer I visited with a few neighbourhood birders including Dave, an experienced birder who has specialised in various shorebirds over the years. He managed to spot the Broad-billed Sandpiper, a stint sized species with a long flat bill. On two separate occasions, amongst thousands of birds, Dave has managed to find this little bird based on its features and its habit. The Broad-billed Sandpiper became my 321st Lifer and my 318th State Tick.
Broad-billed Sandpiper, Western Treatment Plant
Curlew Sandpiper, Western Treatment Plant
Mixed flock of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints. Western Treatment Plant
Over Easter I explored the Bellarine Peninsula, south of Melbourne and the other side of the opening of Port Phillip Bay. I have not been down this way before for photography and birding so it was all new. I researched some tips from John (my birding mate) and hit a few sites over several days.
The first area was the Lonsdale Lakes starting at Lake Victoria. It is a flat area with wide mud banks and a fairly shallow lagoon. It is quickly drying out but obviously still has a good food supply for the various species I came across: Swans, Stilts, Red Necked Stints, Red Capped Plovers, White Faced Herons and Gulls.
The vegetation long the lake side and paths is low scrub, shrubs, grasses and salt -bush and various succulent type plants -all very tough and hardy for dry, salty and windy conditions. It is quite attractive in the right light too with many shades of green…
The path along the lake’s edge
Lake side vegetation
Red Capped Plover – a tiny young bird in a wide expanse, well camouflaged when hiding beside a small rock
Red Capped Plover
Red Capped Plover II
Red Capped Plovers
Red Capped Plover III
Red Necked Stints flying in
Many Black Swans were feeding in the shallow water and flying over to fresh feeding grounds
I watched this White Faced Heron for a while and took a few shots as it fed in the mud along a nearby creek. At one point it stood quite still, did a full body shake and then went back to feeding. It might be part of a grooming action or just bringing in more air under its feathers as the day got later and cooler.
Until I went to have a look at the Cheetham Wetlands in Altona Meadows I never knew that there was actually a geographical landmark of Point Cook. I thought it was just an outer fringe suburb of South Western Melbourne.
There is an old homestead and cafe nearby and an easy to reach carpark. There is a path straight down to the beach and a short walk along the beach to Point Cook. Another path from the carpark meanders through the grass fields to the wetlands observation tower.
The Actual Point Cook
A quick visit to the Point at high tide produced quite a few shorebirds feeding along the edge or preening and resting on the rocks.
Red Necked Stints
Red Necked Stints II
Red Necked Stint
Crested Tern II – on processing I noticed the tern wore a silver band on his right leg
Crested Terns and Curlew Sandpipers
Melbourne CBD skyline from Pt Cook beach
A walk along the beach and then following a vehicle track brought us to the tower with views of the city and over the wetlands. At this time of year (late Summer) the wetlands are quickly drying out. I assume that the creek below the tower is being fed by the suburban street runoff from recent rains.
Cheetham Wetlands Observation Tower – through the heat haze
Cheetham Wetlands Observation Tower II – an interesting design – fanciest bird hide I have ever been to…
Cheetham Wetlands Observation Tower III
Cheetham Wetlands Observation Tower with an old nest