…John Newman & Craig Morley

This October will conjure many memories for people but most of them will be based around continued rain, cooler temperatures and precious few sunny spring days. Whilst Geelong has been spared much of the severe flooding of other areas in Victoria and Australia, many local areas are inundated and river levels in low flood. The wet weather has not hampered the efforts of many of our local birders to make and record their observations and there are many great sightings submitted to the Club website and eBird.

Starting with local wetlands, an Australasian Bittern at Lake Colac was a great record of a rarely observed bird as was a single Brolga at Lake Modewarre, an uncommon bird for that site. There have been several wonderful breeding records of ducks over recent weeks. A pair of Australian Wood Ducks shepherding 17 ducklings at Anglesea and six adult Hardheads with 9 ducklings was a great record at Ocean Grove with breeding records of this species infrequently observed. A Lewin’s Rail cryptically exploring the muddy edges at Hospital Swamp was another great record of a seldom seen bird and three Plumed Whistling-Ducks which just ‘turned up’ at a dam on private property at Barunah Park was important as we tend to get a smattering of records of this species to the west of Geelong. Most pleasingly the breeding colony of Little Egrets at Queenscliff is starting to build up with five birds returning to the site where Nankeen Night-Herons, judging by the fragments of eggshell on the ground under the trees and some of the gurgling noises, already have nestlings.

Many people have enjoyed seeing solitary Common Sandpipers at the basalt rock platform at Black Rock and also at the Ocean Grove Boat Ramp. Both of these locations are well known haunts for the species but much patience and diligent searching, is often required, in order to see this subtly toned, small greyish brown shorebird with contrasting white highlights. With this season’s first official Latham’s Snipe count completed in September, a significant record of 89 Latham’s Snipe at Begola Wetlands clearly puts this site high on the list of nationally important wetlands for this highly cryptic and vulnerable shorebird. Two Pacific Golden Plovers at Blue Rocks have been noted by numerous observers though recollections of higher numbers of these birds at the site are, unfortunately, an all too recent memory for many.

Some wonderful raptor sightings have come in this month.  Two records of White-bellied Sea-Eagle from less typical sites – an almost adult bird circling high above the scrub at Black Rock and an adult bird, most interestingly, over Forest Road then drifting to the west over Anglesea heathland. We are indeed privileged to have several breeding pairs in our local region. Several pairs of the now threatened Little Eagle have been enjoyed by observers – a pair comprising a light and dark morph utilising the winds of the Fyansford escarpment and another two, a light morph and dark morph, at Serendip Sanctuary were spectacular with the light morph bird indulging in an exaggerated rising and dipping display. Peregrine Falcons at Barwon Heads have been thrilling local birders with aerial flights and below eye-level fly-bys and another member of this entrancing family of birds held an excited observer transfixed as a Brown Falcon consumed a yabby. Writing of raptors a record at Queenscliff of an Osprey, probably an adult female with a faint necklace, is a species rarely recorded in this part of the world was most noteworthy and reminds us to be prepared for the unexpected as the distinctive buoyant bow-winged flight, so typical of the species, attracted the attention of the observer.

There is nothing like a very rare bird to draw keen birdwatchers from far and wide to a site and the record of an Eastern Yellow Wagtail at Coogoorah Park at Anglesea several weeks ago was no exception with the bird being recorded for most of one afternoon. The next day it was seen for a brief moment around 7:10a.m. and then proceeded to elude those who turned up from 7:20a.m. onwards! A Brush Cuckoo entertained many with its incessant call and gave good views to some as some form of compensation. This is a noteworthy species in our area in its own right and Coogoorah Park and the adjacent section of Coalmine Road seem to be a good place to look and listen in October!  A Brush Bronzewing seen in recent weeks at Black Rock was an important sighting of an uncommon though infrequently observed species on the Bellarine Peninsula. A flock of fifty Blue-winged Parrots at Cargerie was a good record and Chestnut-rumped Heathwrens continue to reward patience and effort in some of their usual habitat at Anglesea. Fairy Martins building their nests in a cavity under a boulder at Dog Rocks brought a lot of pleasure to the excited observers. At least one Pacific Koel is back at Highton and a pair of Pied Currawongs with an active nest, on loud speakers under the roof of a grandstand, in the main stadium of Kardinia Park completely took the astonished observer by surprise! A small family of White-winged Choughs at Serendip comprising three adults with two begging juveniles was a thrill. Another much anticipated local return has been the record of Sacred Kingfishers at Balyang Sanctuary where they bred last year. Hopefully the recent local flooding here will be much to their delight. A record of Rufous Bristlebirds, with an adult feeding a young one at Split Point Lighthouse at Aireys Inlet was an important observation of a species for which we receive few breeding records. Finally, a single almost white bird with minimal black markings in a flock of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos at Cargerie was most noteworthy.

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

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