... John Newman and Craig Morley

A fairly gripping winter to date has not slowed down the bird observers of Geelong and surrounds. Many people have been out despite regular rain, very cold frosty mornings and a good amount of wind. Accordingly, our local birders have recorded many great observations of our winter birds and in many cases made detailed records of their behaviour.

Several of the regular winter surveys occurred this month, focussed on shorebirds, waterbirds and saltmarsh parrots. Unsurprisingly we have had good records of wetland birds from right across the district. It has been very interesting to see regular records over many years of breeding Black Swans at Breamlea and they’re ‘back in the news’ this month with cygnets. A high number of swans (829) at Lake Victoria are utilising the conditions, with a few attending to nest renovations in preparation for breeding. Eight Brolgas at Sparrovale were a delight and a trio, including an immature at Reedy Lake seen a little later the same day, were possibly from that same group. A large flock of 156 Cattle Egrets has been seen in a paddock without stock along Murradoc Road at Drysdale. Keep your eyes open for other flocks around our area and continue to inform us of their local preferences and habits. Similarly, a total of 116 Royal Spoonbills at Swan Bay west, including at least 90 roosting near the jetty with a few Yellow-billed Spoonbills, complemented a flock of Royal Spoonbills in the same area several weeks earlier. A small flock of Australasian Shovelers at Freshwater Lake was a good find, as they materialised amongst myriad teal, included an immature bird.

A solitary Banded Lapwing alerting observers with the characteristic metallic strident call was an unexpected thrill at Lake Connewarre. Good numbers of Black-fronted Dotterels at Moolap Saltworks, during a complete survey of the site, likely indicative of ponds inundated with stormwater from adjacent areas. A very large flock of 55 Red-capped Plovers at Eurack seemed to be making the most of a hypersaline pond and food reserves.

We have once more enjoyed numerous reports of Australian Hobbies, particularly in fading light at or near sunset indulging in crepuscular hunting. Breeding of Black-shouldered Kites through autumn and into winter certainly seems to be a regular occurrence locally—this month numerous reports of young birds with adults have been submitted from Lake Connewarre, Sparrovale, Point Henry and Balliang. A wonderful observation of six Wedge-tailed Eagles at Balliang was stunning with the observer noting four birds standing in a paddock and two perched in adjacent trees. Two great records of White-bellied Sea-Eagles this month detailed a pair at Lake Connewarre participating in a honking duet and a single immature bird catching a fish in the shallows of Stingaree Bay offshore from Moolap Saltworks—not a common bird here at all. Several Barn Owl records from Werribee and Balliang prove the benefits of looking along rural roads after dark on a winter night.

An Australian Reed Warbler calling regularly was an unexpected winter record for Reedy Lake. A Brush Bronzewing on a track at Bellbrae was a great record of a moderately common, though infrequently observed species in our region. A Crested Shrike-tit in direct-seeded revegetation in Colac was satisfying, as were Flame Robins at Wallington, Reedy Lake and Mt Gellibrand. A flock of 12 Gang-gang Cockatoos along the Barwon River in Newtown, and a Laughing Kookaburra at Grasstree Park at Torquay and two birds calling in suburban Highton, made for pleasing records. Mistletoebirds are still around enjoying the fruiting mistletoe at Edwards Point. A Rose Robin in Bellbrae brought a smile to the observers. The same observers noted two green Satin Bowerbirds looking for olives to eat at Bellbrae.

An enormous count of more than 2800 Welcome Swallows at Sparrovale appeared as clouds of birds. Another super-flock of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos, some 170 birds, were seen at Highton and this record was complemented by many other records of large flocks around town. An observation of Swift Parrots at Rice Reserve was a wonderful highlight to finish this report.