…John Newman & Craig Morley

What a truly wonderful array of bird records our local birders have submitted this month. It represents the burgeoning of spring with the eagerly anticipated arrival of migratory birds as well as some wonderfully detailed records of interesting behaviours of some of our more common resident species. It reminds us of what fascinating insights can be gained by simply stopping to observe bird behaviour.

Keeping an eye on the skies this month has proved fruitful. A white morph Grey Goshawk was a welcome sight at Birregurra in its glowing white finery and a Wedge-tailed Eagle over Newtown was ‘replaced’ the following day with a Little Eagle. Not surprisingly both species created quite a commotion from local birds which certainly alerted the prepared observer. Collared Sparrowhawks have been seen flying and displaying over several local neighbourhoods hopefully getting organised for breeding at numerous locations in suburban Geelong. One final raptor record of note was a Barn Owl flushed from dense roadside wattles at Breamlea at 9am while the observers were searching for Orange-bellied Parrots. The small birds in the vicinity were most irate at this intruder being flushed.

With plenty of local birders out searching our saltmarsh and wetlands for Neophema parrots this month we have had many welcome records of avian specialists in these habitats. A record of two Brolgas surreptitiously working their way through long flooded grass at Breamlea was a wonderful observation. A Lewin’s Rail calling in the same general location matched a Lewin’s Rail calling at Reedy Lake. This very cryptic species has a characteristic ‘kek kek kek’ call that can betray its presence. Several Buff-banded Rails along the Barwon River at Highton were observed communicating with each other with screeching calls. Breeding may be on their minds. Records of Cattle Egrets continue to be submitted with two at Reedy Lake and three at Ocean Grove, with cattle at each of these sites,130 in a paddock near Lake Purrembete, without cattle, and 27 flying in late in the day, presumably to roost, in trees fringing a wetland, east of Birregurra. In at least three of these records some birds were showing hints of orange breeding flush developing. It will be fascinating to keep an eye out for records of this species over coming months to see if we can confirm birds remaining to breed in our region! Several Nankeen Night-Herons were observed at Queenscliff, ‘gardening’ and refurbishing nests in the colony and the accompanying Little Egrets will be successful again this year.

Spring is always accompanied by the return of migratory shorebirds and so it was most pleasing to see records this month of numerous species submitted. Sharp-tailed Sandpipers have returned to locations including Lake Victoria and Avalon and two Banded Lapwings at Lake Connewarre were most unexpected, reminding us that these boldly marked waders which usually frequent grasslands can be seen on occasion in many different habitats and locations. The closely related Masked Lapwing is a very familiar urban bird to most of us and so a record of at least 5 concurrent breeding events in an area with at least 26 birds, at Queenscliff, was a great observation. The eagerly anticipated arrival of Latham’s Snipe, having completed the migration south from the breeding grounds in northern Japan, was confirmed on 27 August, pretty well right on time. Since then, numerous birds have been recorded at locations including Ombersley, Waurn Ponds and Collendina.

Woodland bird records this month are many and varied. Some of the records document sightings of the less frequently seen small secretive species – Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Southern Emuwren and Speckled Warbler – all noted in suitable habitat with attention grabbing calling and singing. Other records document the arrival of spring migrants – Fairy Martins mixing in with Tree Martins at Swan Bay, an Olive-backed Oriole at Anglesea and Shining Bronze-Cuckoos in numerous areas. Some records have illustrated bird movement through suburbs such as White-eared Honeyeater in Jan Juc. A Rose Robin in the Brisbane Ranges and Pink Robins at the You Yangs, along with the Geelong Botanic Gardens, have been pleasing spring records.

A fascinating record was received of a Little Raven very deliberately consuming hens’ eggshell into its crop and going to quite some effort to break up larger pieces into smaller more manageable sizes. It was a fascinating read and reminds us of the joys to be had spending time just watching what our birds are doing. A few days later an adult male Australian Magpie was observed filling its crop with smaller eggshell fragments from the same vegie patch where the eggshells are put out to deter snails and slugs! Presumably these birds are feeding nestlings/recent fledglings with a high source of calcium.

Once more we sincerely thank all the members and friends who observe and then, most importantly, document and submit their bird records to the GFNC web-site https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations and/or eBird Australia https://ebird.org/australia/home and remember to log-in to take full advantage of these wonderful resources.