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
I visited one of my favourite birding sites yesterday – the Western Treatment Plant also known as the Pooh Farm. It is a 200 square kilometer site for the treatment of Melbourne’s waste products. Before the treated water is released into the Bay it moves through large areas of settling ponds and ocean side lagoons. Over the years it has become a major site for Bird species including many migratory birds that spend the Northern Winter in Southern Australia. It has become famous and has actually been named a world RAMSAR Wetlands. It is a great place to drive around and study the various shorebirds as well as the resident birds like the raptors. I made 23 trips there last year and it has become a regular spot for me when the conditions (temp, tide and winds) are right for a day visit – it is a very wind exposed site with limited tall vegetation and no facilities. People drive from hours away and interstate to visit a place that is only 35 mins away for me. A permit and key system is in place and to get full access to the 2 major areas one has to purchase permits and sit an induction process.
And a common question I get when people ask about the site – “What is the smell like?” There is no “off” smell, just the smell from the sea and the vegetation. There are heaps of insects but nothing that bites. It is the insects that help bring in such huge bird numbers.
The Lagoons are adjusted by the Melbourne Water engineers and suit different birds at various times of the year. Each species has a food and water depth requirement. The photo below was taken in Nov and yesterday it was dried out. And yes I have often nearly driven into the water while trying to drive, use binoculars and take photos all at the same time.
Lagoons within the T section of the Western Treatment Plant – Avalon Airport and the You Yangs in the background
If anyone wants to head out to the “farm” let me know….it is a great experience and I look for any excuse to go.
I found 75 species yesterday and attempted to take a few photos while driving the various roads…..
Shorebird flock, Western Treatment Plant – mostly Red Necked Stints and and Sharp Tailed Sandpipers
Shorebird flock II, Western Treatment Plant
Swamp Harrier II – nice lines and effortless turns
Brolgas, Western Treatment Plant – always a treat to find these large rare birds.
Red Necked Avocet, Western Treatment Plant – a very easy to identify species, nothing else even remotely like it in Australia.
Sharp Tailed Sandpiper
Welcome Swallow II
Juvenile Welcome Swallow
Posted in Birds, Victoria, Western Treatment Plant
Tagged Australian Birds, Bird Photography, Brolgas, Nature Photography, RAMSAR, Red Necked Avocet, Sharp Tailed Sandpiper, Shorebirds, Swamp Harrier, Victoria, Welcome Swallow, Western Treatment Plant
Jawbone Reserve is an easy to reach Marine and Park reserve along the shoreline of Williamstown. It has many water and heathland birds and a good list of 50+ species can be gathered in a few hours. Some of the bird visitors are seasonal but most are there all year round. It is an excellent site for beginners (birders and photographers) as the birds are generally used to the passing traffic and will ignore anyone on the paths. If you walk along the edge and stop and use a camera or binoculars they can get a bit edgy and some species will fly off or move away. Careful observations (and quiet calm movement) will result in rewarding sightings and photos. At low tide the outer lagoon drops right down exposing sand and mud bars and thousands of waders can cover the area. A birding scope is needed to get clearer views further out.
Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, Williamstown, Vic – looking west towards Altona
Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, Williamstown, Vic – looking out into the Bay across the lagoons and tidal flats.
Sharp tailed Sandpiper
3 Shags on a Rock – Little Black, Little Pied and Pied Cormorants
Mid Day Siesta – Swans, Stilts & Cormorant
Blue Billed Duck – one of only a few true diving ducks amongst Australian duck species.
Blue Billed Ducks – male with Blue Bill and the female. The female Blue Billed can often be mistaken for the rarer and endangered Freckled duck.
Great Crested Grebe
Black Winged Stilts – well named. In the strong wind they did have a little difficulty in maintaining their balance. When scared or flying they make a sound like a small barking dog.
During high tide at Jawbone many of the water birds move onto the sheltered lagoons including hundreds of Swans. When I visited this last week, there were a number of swans with neck tags. Previously I have researched what the tagging meant. If you see a swan you can go to the http://www.myswan.org.au site and log the bird. It is part of a study and research program. Once you log the swan via its tag you can get a bit of a history of it and where it has been. I once asked a researcher about the tag as I thought it might be a bit cruel but was advised that it does not bother the swan and is actually quite loose. The swan’s neck is quite thin and half of it’s width is actually feathers so the tag fits well. I logged the swans below.
Black Swan P45
Black Swan S75
Black Swan R47
Black Swan R45
Black Swan F09
Posted in Birds, Victoria
Tagged Australian Birds, Bird Photography, Black Swan, Black Swan Tagging, Black Winged Stilt, Blue Billed Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, Nature Photography, Pied Cormorant, Royal Spoonbill, Sharp Tailed Sandpiper, Victoria
The pooh farm is one of the best birding sites in Victoria and arguably in Australia – it is only 35 mins away for me and I go as often as I can (20+ times so far this year). I hardly get less than 65 birds and as high as 88 in one day. The good birders get over 100 in a day. To get access to all birding areas you need 2 permits and a key supplied by Melbourne Water.
Brown Falcon, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee – 19 Nov 2014
Golden Headed Cisticola, Western Treatment Plant, Weribee, Victoria – 19 Dec, 2014
Yellow Billed Spoonbills, Western Treatment Plant, Weribee, Victoria – 5 Nov, 2014
Striated Fieldwren, Western Treatment Plant, Weribee, Victoria – 29 May, 2014
Spotted Crake, Western Treatment Plant, Weribee, Victoria – 22 Aug, 2014
Blue Winged Parrots, Western Treatment Plant, Weribee, Victoria – 22 Aug, 2014
Sharp Tailed Sandpiper, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee – 19 Nov 2014
Posted in Birds, Victoria, Western Treatment Plant
Tagged Australian Birds, Bird Photography, Brown Falcon, Golden Headed Cisticola, Nature Photography, Sharp Tailed Sandpiper, Spotted Crake, Striated Fieldwren, Victoria, Yellow Billed Spoonbill