… John Newman and Craig Morley

Working through this month’s wintery bird records really highlight what a wonderful array of bird sightings our members submit in the Geelong region, particularly with the cold start to winter.

We have not seen a lot of sea-watching records despite some strong southerly winds to date but a Northern Giant-Petrel at Pt Lonsdale was a great find, with the record noting the red tip to the bill that enabled it to be differentiated from the closely related Southern Giant- Petrel. The latter species has a green tip to the bill. The coastal strip that is so bird-rich in summer has still provided a variety of good finds with eight Hooded Plovers, 35 Double-banded Plovers and 15 critically endangered overwintering Curlew Sandpipers all at Blue Rocks near Thirteenth Beach. Karaaf saltmarsh had a welcome visit from five Brolgas—a good number for the Bellarine Peninsula/Surf Coast. Cattle Egrets in numbers up to 40 were seen at sites ranging from the Birregurra-Warncoort Road, Cape Otway Road, Deans Marsh and Batesford. An interesting record of a single Banded Stilt at Avalon was submitted with detail provided of reducing numbers at that site over the preceding weeks until just this single individual was left. We are left to ponder why it remained as others left—perhaps a young and inexperienced bird or an older bird. This record shows that with the context of the previous higher flock numbers, a single bird can provide a very interesting record.

A Barn Owl was seen before dawn on a fence post at Anakie and a Black-shouldered Kite pair was seen at their nest tree at Balliang. A dark morph Little Eagle at Yarram Creek at Swan Bay was another great sighting of this exciting raptor and a White-bellied Sea-Eagle record from Lake Colac was a thrill as were observations of this species from the Bellarine Peninsula at Lake Connewarre and Swan Bay. And writing of Lake Colac, it was pleasing to receive records of two Magpie Geese and a similar number of Great Egrets at the Bird Sanctuary.

Many Geelong bird lovers are entranced by Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos resulting in a good number of records of this species in most months! A species so often heard before they are seen with the far-carrying distinctive call before they come into view with that oh so recognisable flight pattern. This month we have records of a wonderful flock of 240 at Cargerie and a flock of 122 in Highton as well as flocks of 50 and 90 birds mostly around the Highton area. Smaller flocks have also been reported this month. Please keep submitting these valuable records to the club website or directly to eBird including time of day and direction of flight to help piece together the movements of this evocative and much-loved species. A flock of 25 Gang-gang Cockatoos was most noteworthy, given that it is higher than reported in recent years, also using the Barwon River corridor. Blue-winged Parrots were also flocking on the eastern side of Lake Connewarre with a stunning total of 332, typical of the good numbers of this species seen in pasture and saltmarsh in recent weeks at this restricted access area. A smaller flock of 15 utilising the glasswort vegetation on the dry floor of Lake Modewarre was an interesting record reminding us that the inland lakes of our region can provide important habitat for species in the non-breeding season.

Brush Bronzewing records can be sparse locally so a bird seen at Barwon Heads was noteworthy, as was a Common Bronzewing in Geelong Botanic Gardens within Eastern Park, with few records of the species over many decades at this urban park. Several Mistletoebirds have been seen in Highton and Newtown, one calling as it flew over and one male silently gorging on Wire-leaf Mistletoe Amyema preissii berries in a street acacia. This is typical of the, at least local, movement of the species at this time of year. Numerous Pink Robin records have been submitted from the Geelong Botanic Gardens, the You Yangs and Highton and a record of a male Rose Robin in the Brisbane Ranges was most welcome! A Shining Bronze-Cuckoo calling in dense forest near Aireys Inlet was a surprise for this predominantly migratory spring-summer species. And observers at Eclipse Creek in the Brisbane Ranges were excited to observe a ‘local record’ of 35 Red-browed Finches. A similar number were observed in a flock in saltmarsh at Lake Connewarre recently.

Breeding is also on the minds of some species with a Little Raven seen carrying a large food parcel, perhaps for courtship-feeding or food-caching, over Newtown and several records of stick gathering and nest refurbishment are just starting to filter into the records. There was an interesting record, also from Eclipse Creek, of White-browed Scrubwrens collecting nest-material, reminding us that some of ‘our’ birds will nest in most months if the conditions are right!