Tag Archives: Western Treatment Plant

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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Under the watchful gaze of a Brown Falcon

A regular member of the raptors often sighted at the Treatment Plant lagoons is the  Brown Falcon, a striking bird that often perches on posts and signs waiting for opportunities to pounce on small mammals, rabbits, birds, snakes and lizards. Towards the end of our day at the Lagoons last week, we found our  Falcon perched and watching out for its next meal. While wary of us it remained quite calm and unlike many other raptors allowed us to approach close enough to gain a few photographs.

Brown Falcon, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

Brown Falcon, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

Brown Falcon, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

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Brown Falcon, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

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Brown Falcon, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

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Brown Falcon, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

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Immature but graceful…

I always get a buzz when I find a White-bellied Sea-eagle at the Western Treatment Plant and anywhere else for that matter. A beautiful large raptor with an upright proud stance. This one is a year or two old and still to come into its mature colours and full size.

Immature White Bellied Sea-Eagle, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

Immature White Bellied Sea-Eagle, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

Immature White Bellied Sea-Eagle, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

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Immature White Bellied Sea-Eagle, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

Not every shot can be flattering….

Immature White Bellied Sea-Eagle, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

Thats better…

Immature White Bellied Sea-Eagle, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

Back to regal….beautiful long wings and still to gain maturity and size…

Flyby Pelican and Immature White Bellied Sea-Eagle, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

 Pelican flyby and Immature White Bellied Sea-Eagle on the navigation tower…

Zebra Finches of Kirk’s Point

We often see Zebra Finches at the pooh farm, mostly in small groups perched on the wire fences. They quickly fly from the fence wires along the road another 10 metres and wait for the car to catch-up before flushing again. We rarely get decent photos. Last weekend we drove down to Kirk’s Point to look for Blue-winged Parrots and while watching the parrots and waiting for good opportunities for a photograph, my fellow birders discovered a good sized flock of Zebra Finches. We photographed the colony and watched them continue to build and reshape their nests. There are so few suitable trees in this flat sea side landscape that this colony chose a small bushy tree amongst a few stunted wind swept trees. They need dense prickly bushes to protect them from predators. We sat near the tree and photographed the birds go about setting up for the next generation.

Zebra Finch, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

Male Zebra Finch, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

Zebra Finch, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

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Zebra Finches, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

Male Finch with a female below

Zebra Finches, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

A par of finches near their nest site…

Zebra Finches, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

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Zebra Finches, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

A bit of a nuzzle…

Zebra Finches nest, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

Zebra Finches nest, part of a small colony of nests in a stunted tree…

Zebra Finches nest tree, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

Zebra Finches nest tree at Kirks Point (You Yangs in the background) 

Zebra Finches, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

Zebra Finches, Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria

A great visit to the Pooh Farm…

Its always a good visit when you see a rare bird (and even if only a glimpse), and get lucky with a few good close ups of a few favourites…I have only seen the Lewin’s Rail once before at the Coolart Wetlands and then this time at the Western treatment Plant.

Lewin's Rail,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Lewin’s Rail, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Little Grassbird,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Little Grassbird, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Golden-headed Cisticola,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Golden-headed Cisticola, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Nightingale of the Pooh Farm

Another bird species that thrives in the reed beds of the Crake Pit at the Pooh Farm is the Australian Reed Warbler…it is more often heard than seen, generally only  glimpsed  as it flies between clumps of reeds in the lagoons, secretive but loud during Spring/Summer breeding seasons.

The reed warbler has a loud ringing song and has been described as being one of the most melodious singers hence one of its the informal names, Nightingale. Often heard in Spring and Summer in wetlands with good reed coverage. The warbler uses sustained singing to defend its territory amongst the reeds.  It migrates north during autumn for the winter and back for the spring.

Acrocephalus australis  – Acrocephalus, Greek for  ‘peak head’ and australis Latin for ‘southern’ . Also called Clamorous Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Reed-lark, Swamp Tit, Water Sparrow, Nightingale (HANZAB Volume 7b)

Australian Reed Warbler,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Australian Reed Warbler, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Australian Reed Warbler,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Australian Reed Warbler,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

…got the Damsel fly…

Australian Reed Warbler,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Australian Reed Warbler,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

…a quick leap to the next target…

Australian Reed Warbler,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Australian Reed Warbler,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Australian Reed Warbler,  Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

…typical pose when seen, hanging onto a reed ready to pounce on prey…

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…

Hawking with the Swallows

Another day at the Western Treatment Plant looking for Crakes and Rails, and in the next lagoon to the Crake Pit, we found a large flock of Welcome Swallows working a small section of the lagoon scooping small insects off the surface of the water. They stayed in a fairly small area and allowed us to get quite close to attempt some flight shots  – often quiet difficult with these fast moving birds.

Welcome Swallows, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Welcome Swallows, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Welcome Swallow, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Welcome Swallow, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

Welcome Swallow, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Welcome Swallow, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Welcome Swallow, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Welcome Swallow, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Welcome Swallow, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Welcome Swallow, Western Treatment Plant, Victoria

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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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Nervous Birds at the Pooh Farm

Over the last 3 months I have been making regular visits to the Western Treatment Plant in Werribee, near the Avalon Airport. The local fields, irrigated by the recycled and treated water have recently been harvested and ploughed. This has brought many Raptors to the   WTP particularly Whistling and Black Kites. These two species are regular visitors and resident at the lagoons and nearby fields anyway but huge numbers have come in including many juveniles. We also found a nice pair of Musk Ducks  – the male has a large bill lobe that becomes inflated in the mating season. The two below were happily sunning themselves in one of the overflow canals.

Juvenile Black Kite, WTP, Victoria

Juvenile Black Kite, WTP, Victoria

Whistling Kite, WTP, Victoria

One of dozens of Whistling Kites on the prowl

White Fronted Chat, WTP, Victoria

Nervous and very wary White Fronted Chat

Musk Ducks, WTP, Victoria

A female (left) and Male Musk Ducks

Female Musk Duck, WTP, Victoria

Female Musk Duck

Female Musk Duck, WTP, Victoria

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Twitching with the twitchers…

A rare bird was reported at the Western Treatment Plant a few months ago, a Red-necked Phalarope. It was quite far away in the middle of a large lagoon but I did get good views through my spotting scope and a few average photographs…and there was plenty of company to share my “lifer” (1st time seeing a new species of bird). A twitcher is someone who hunts out rare and vagrant birds to add ticks to their life lists. They can travel all over Australia and the Territories. While I am generally a birder – will view/study, photograph any bird, I will twitch a good Victorian sighting of a rare bird…like the Lake Tutchewop Long Billed Dowitcher. I can can proudly add the Red-necked Phalarope to my twitch and life lists.

Red Necked Phalarope Twitch

Sneaking up on the Twitchers in their natural element

Red Necked Phalarope Twitch

(psst…the man on the left, David E, was a contributor and reviewer to HANZAB for those that know the Aussie/NZ 7 volume Bird Bible) 

Red Necked Phalarope Twitch

Everyone is delighted to observe the rarity…

Red Necked Phalarope Twitch

Fellow obsessive Twitchers – Dave and Gio

Red Necked Phalarope, WTP

The little white dot is a Red Necked Phalarope

Red Necked Phalarope, WTP

Red Necked Phalarope – a  lonely little bird, a long way from home and lifer 330

Cape Barren Geese, WTP

Large Cape Barren Geese conducting a flyby and stirring up the twitchers…

 

 

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

Lifer 321

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

Broad-billed Sandpiper, Western Treatment Plant

Curlew Sandpiper, Western Treatment Plant

Curlew Sandpiper, Western Treatment Plant

Mixed Sandpiper stint flock, Western Treatment Plant

Mixed flock of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints.  Western Treatment Plant

Off with the Fairies…

Over the summer I have visited the Werribee Treatment Plant (the pooh farm) numerous times. Every visit produces a comprehensive list of woodlands, wetlands and shorebird species, great aerial action, lots of raptors and during summer many juveniles. On this visit we drove around the Lake Borrie conservation lagoons and came upon large numbers of Fairy Martins including a good number of Juveniles. The young birds have not learnt to fear cars or humans yet so using the car as a mobile bird hide I was able to get some nice shots of the young Fairy Martins.

Juvenile Fairy Martins, Werribee Treatment Plant, Victoria

Juvenile Fairy Martins, Werribee Treatment Plant, Victoria

Juvenile Fairy Martins, Werribee Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Juvenile Fairy Martins, Werribee Treatment Plant, Victoria

Juvenile Fairy Martins – a little older than the previous pair

Juvenile Fairy Martins, Werribee Treatment Plant, Victoria

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I also managed to sneak a few pics of this little skulker – a Spotless Crake. These birds like a muddy bank and plenty of cover to dart back into protection. They are not often seen and hard to photograph.

Spotless Crake, Werribee Treatment Plant, Victoria

Spotless Crake, Werribee Treatment Plant, Victoria

Spotless Crake, Werribee Treatment Plant, Victoria

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Spotless Crake, Werribee Treatment Plant, Victoria

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