... John Newman and Craig Morley

Spring is a time of much anticipation in bird observing circles. It heralds the arrival of more bird species into our area, many birds with breeding on their agenda in our milder climate with good food reserves. Plenty of water in wetlands and warming, lengthening days means more insect life, more small reptiles, more grasses in seed. One year to the next, it is a topic of much expectation – will we see Woodswallows and Trillers again this season, will the spring skies be filled with Songlark melodies, which waders will we see return this year, what will we see breeding locally? Many of these arrivals are weather and season dependent and with the arrival of warm, northerly spring winds and an approaching El Nino, we can happily now report that most of these anticipated arrivals have indeed eventuated.

Studying the GFNC Bird Observations list that allows observers to report any interesting sightings or behaviours, we can see that TEN species of diurnal raptor have been reported and THREE species of owl this quarter. Our majestic Wedge-tailed Eagle, the third largest eagle wingspan in the world, has been seen over the city centre at the Geelong Botanic Gardens, as well as Lake Connewarre and near the Barwon River in Ceres close to where they have been known to nest. The similarly sized and equally imposing White-bellied Sea-Eagle was noted as a pair in the Hospital Swamps area. A light-morph Little Eagle at Corio was a treat as was a nearby Spotted Harrier patrolling the crops towards the You Yangs. A Square-tailed Kite in Highton was a major find and most unusual, with two sightings over several days. Australian Hobbies have been widespread as have Collared Sparrowhawk with several pairs in urban Geelong. A Black Falcon record is always very welcome as they are not often seen locally and so a bird seen at Mt Duneed was noteworthy. Black-shouldered Kites including breeding birds with young have been seen widely as have Nankeen Kestrels.

A Powerful Owl record rom Meredith was a great record from a location we don’t often hear about as were a series of records of Southern Boobook from Wombat State Forest. A ghostly white Barn Owl in headlights on a roadside at Armstrong Creek reminded the observer of the risks our night birds take looking for food.

The anticipation of Spring arrivals has been well documented in the Club observation records. The mallee-woodland Long Forest near Bacchus Marsh has been a hotspot of wonderful spring migrants recently– Western Gerygone, Scarlet Honeyeater, Red-capped Robin and the hard-to-find resident Speckled Warbler. A Jacky Winter there was also a delight. A second male Red-capped Robin for our region at the eastern side of the You Yangs was unexpected and very vocal. Both Rufous Songlark and Brown Songlark have been seen, the former most unexpectedly in a Newtown garden, and the latter in more typical paddock/saltmarsh habitat at Charlemont demonstrating their characteristic song flight. Woodswallows have been seen on multiple occasions right across Geelong this spring, most records predictably being predominantly White-browed Woodswallows and a few records of small numbers of Masked Woodswallows. The related Dusky Woodswallow is a regular on the Geelong list in Spring and Summer but an early Spring record at Queenscliff was interesting. The annual arrival of Pacific Koel is another topic of great interest to local birders and whilst the Highton bird(s) is/are now a regular occurrence, the record of a bird at Meredith was excellent. Pallid Cuckoos are another of the birds that can be few and far between depending on the spring season and so it was great to hear of one at Freshwater at the very end of Winter.

Several records of Rose Robins at the Geelong Botanic Gardens and Barwon River in Highton were significant as were the Forest Ravens at Foxhow, cementing the occurrence of these otherwise coastal corvids right up into the Lismore area of south western Victoria. Gang-gang Cockatoos remain a firm community favourite and it was interesting to get records as far apart as Wombat Forest and Lorne. The familiar and edifying calls of the Australian Reed Warbler have been welcomed calling right across our whole district, a sure marker of Spring. A small flock of seven Blue-winged Parrots at Cargerie was a delight and Musk Lorikeets in a hollow at She Oaks probably represented breeding. A leucistic New Holland Honeyeater at Leopold understandably caught the observer’s attention. A Sacred Kingfisher at a new location in Highton was most interesting.

Spring is a time to start looking for arriving shorebirds and there have already been some great things seen. A Common Sandpiper at Lake Colac was unusual and twelve Latham’s Snipe at Jerringot on the November Snipe Survey was a relief after a very poor year last year. A duo of Bar-tailed Godwits at Sparrovale were a thrill as were six Sooty Oystercatchers seen on Ocean Grove’s spit, a large flock for our local coast.  Banded Lapwings numbering 24 in a paddock in Anakie were most welcome and the thoroughly widespread Masked Lapwing has delighted a local enthusiast with naturestrip young.

Wetlands are beginning to dry somewhat now and so many interesting observations have come in from the far reaches of our district. Six Australian Pelicans were seen at Jerringot, stragglers from the 17 seen earlier. Australian Spotted Crakes have had a wonderful breeding season with good numbers seen across many different habitats. A record of 17 at Sparrovale predominantly hugging the lignum margins was noteworthy as were records of five at Point Henry and seven at Queenscliff. A Spotless Crake at Pt Henry was lovely and three Great Crested Grebes off shore at 13th Beach were unexpected. A nice flock of Hardhead, numbering over 100, at Lake Victoria was a wonderful record and six Kelp Gulls flying past at Black Rock stunning for our coast. Blue-billed Ducks are always a treat and so 50 at Lake Struan was well worth recording. A very large flock of 115 White-faced Herons at Queenscliff was eye catching and three White -necked Herons at Jerringot unexpected together, hunting frogs.