… John Newman and Craig Morley

During the month of May, across the Bellarine Peninsula and Surf Coast, there have been numerous sites that have had a wonderful array of birds seen, highlighting the richness and variety of autumn birds present in our district. These May records highlight both autumn bird movement and fascinating resident species.

Lake Connewarre and surrounds has been a most interesting location over May. We have records of a Horsfield’s Bushlark flying over the saltmarsh and pasture and a lot of honeyeater movement in the tree corridors and open space across the lake. These tree lines are well used to provide movement across the district as refuge from predators. Crossing the large expanse of the lake delta and open saltmarsh is, however, a high-risk manoeuvre with aerial predators such as Brown Goshawks, Collared Sparrowhawks, Australian Hobbies and Peregrine Falcons active in the area. High numbers of Red Wattlebirds were seen earlier in the month making forays over the saltmarsh and finally retreating back to the same tree line. Perhaps they eventually struck out across the lake or ended up going the long way around the fringes. This month we have a fascinating record of four Crescent Honeyeaters in the presence of Eastern Spinebills and several other honeyeater species heading along a shelterbelt at Belchers Lane, perhaps to head out across the lake.

Southern Emuwrens, highly sought-after cryptic gems, have been seen in good numbers in the lignum tangles in the Connewarre saltmarsh. The nearby Breamlea saltmarsh was providing food reserves for ninety Blue-winged Parrots and a Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo calling, though not unusual, is worthy of comment. An immature Nankeen Night Heron perched on the edge of Thompson Creek at Pt Impossible was unexpected in the middle of the day.

The Barwon Heads coast has been most enticing this month with many wonderful birds seen. Twelve Australasian Shovelers were seen offshore flying west with Grey and Chestnut Teal. A Giant-Petrel, of uncertain species, was seen flying west with Fluttering Shearwaters. These mighty pelagic birds are not often seen from shore locally. Four Brown Quail at Blue Rocks was a great sighting of this locally ucommon and enigmatic species.

The Geelong Botanic Gardens continue to supply reliable sightings of Rose and Pink Robins and Bassian Thrush – all three species creating a delightful diversion right on the edge of the central business district.  The first year Western Gerygone rarity associating with Golden Whistlers and Grey Fantails in the eucalypt foliage of Eastern Park was enjoyed by several groups of observers after its initial discovery. A small unobtrusive bird, a vagrant species, rarely recorded more likely to be encountered in woodlands to west and north of Geelong with very few records. Two Australian Hobbies hunting late in the day over a busy East Geelong intersection was a treat and replicates numerous records over the years of autumn and winter hunting of House Sparrows among the traffic and nature strips by these accomplished and courageous hunters. A Nankeen Kestrel perched atop the spire at St Mary’s Basilica in central Geelong had a magnificent outlook over the surrounds. Musk Lorikeets have been seen flying over Geelong West and Gang-gang Cockatoos, always a favourite for our local birders, have been seen feeding in garden trees in Newtown and East Geelong. Eastern Spinebills along the Barwon River at Queens Park were widespread over five different locations and represent birds dispersing from the Otway forests over autumn and winter. Superb Fairywrens in Belmont and Highton were locally uncommon urban garden visitors.  A lovely mobile flock of twenty Silvereyes was enjoyed moving through a Newtown garden. Swift Parrots have finally been seen after their crossing of Bass Strait with five in the Ocean Grove area and four at Newcomb, much anticipated sightings of this species whose population is ever dwindling.

Wallington has also had a great variety of records this month with Little Eagle seen soaring overhead and a solitary Black -tailed Nativehen at a local farm dam was a great record. Nearby a Yellow Thornbill was seen still feeding a juvenile, very late in the season, in a mixed flock with Weebills and several honeyeater species. A Pied Currawong in the area was intriguing with its complete lack of white on the folded wing and inner tail.  Nearby at Ocean Grove Nature Reserve a Flame Robin was seen actively utilising an area that was burnt in March, making the most of this transient habitat opportunity and a  large group of at least 23 Flame Robins was seen in a ploughed field and adjoining fence line in Bannockburn.

And in late news we’ve received records of 80-100 Black-tailed Nativehens in a swamp west of Inverleigh where the landowner recalls having only seen 20 or so in the past. There was also a brief aggregation of up to 13 Brolgas in the last week which now seems to have dissipated with the “locals” seemingly becoming just a little territorial! Finally we mention an extraordinary record of an uncommon wetland species in the Geelong region. Towards the end of the A.F.L. match at Kardinia Park on Saturday night the attention of at least two fans was dragged from the football. An immature or non-breeding Great Crested Grebe flew in over the roof of a grandstand, circling in the flood lights several times to regain height before flying out to the south-east between two grandstands. Perhaps a bird dispersing from wetland further afield and attracted/distracted by the lights, there was a first quarter moon in the sky and some waterbird species are known to migrate at night sometimes landing on roofs illuminated by moonlight apparently thinking that they’ve found a wetland.

Thank you to all members and friends who participated in the eBird Global Big Day. Once more we express our sincere thanks to all those keen observers who diligently observe and record our birdlife. Please keep the records flowing and especially submit your highlight sightings to our club web-site https://www.gfnc.org.au/ log-in and follow the tab to Bird Observations.