Our friends in the Conservation Dept. at Hobson’s Bay City Council, were running a bus tour through the Cheetham Wetlands. An area that is off limits to public use. We, Mr An Onymous and I had secured seats, so rocked up early to be sure we’d not miss a moment.
As I was entering the Point Cook Coastal Park, carpark, I noted a Brown Falcon at rest in a usual lookout spot. It was quite close to where they had nested earlier in the season, so it was good to make a reacquaintance.
The rest of our group turned up, some new faces, and several other friends. I’m beginning to feel like a Serial Event Attender. Open the gates, and I walk on in.
Bernie the local Parks Vic ranger was on hand to guide us about for the day, and to explain lots of the interesting parts of the former Cheetham Salt Works. The need to control the water flow through the old ponds is a major part of his work, and it’s always interesting to learn how he works out the levels.
We also had the chance to meet Cristal from Latrobe Uni who is running a programme with the Red-capped Plovers that not only roost in the area, but in spite of what appears harsh conditions regularly nest on the salt flats over summer. Her programme at present is working out the various calls between the parents and the chick in the egg. Cristal, (hope I got the spelling right), has all sorts of high end recording equipment out with the nest sites across the area. She was happy to announce that several young had been successfully hatched in the past few days.
So we set off. Andrew, our ‘uber driver’ at the wheel
We stopped at the ford that separates the salt water of from the ocean and the freshwater run off from Skeleton Waterholes Creek, (both the Skeleton and Waterholes part of the name have a most interesting history, but for another day) . There had been reports of an Australian Spotted Crake, in the area. Andrew had thoughtfully provided a great Nikon Spotting Scope, and not only was I keen to try it, I was trying to work out a way how to smuggle it home!
I’d set it up, and was just beginning to scan the creek line, and the first thing I saw was THE CRAKE. The image of grown man, leaning over a scope, jumping up and down yelling, THE CRAKE, THE CRAKE, is probably worth forgetting.
Leaving the scope in more capable hands I moved off with the Sigma Sport 150-600 (yes, I still have it) and tried for a photo.(and I noted, that Andrew was quick to retrieve said scope and secure it back in the van, before I left anymore fingerprints for possible Id, should an equipment register review ever be necessary 🙂 Mind Mr An and I did a little preventative maintenance to the tripod attachment so that should count for something in our favour. 🙂
There were, further along a good number of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint and Bernie assured us large number of Curlew Sandpiper, although that must have been yesterday.
A Singing Honeyeater obliged with some good views, and it’s fair to conclude it was feeding young nearby.
Another pass by the creekline and we spotted a wader that took few minutes to id correctly. A Common Sandpiper. The flash of white under the wing being the best id.
Its easy to see how well they blend into the surrounds.
At the beach line Andrew discusses with Rob the finer points of sand distribution by wave action. Interestingly enough Bernie indicated some rocks, now 30-40 metres from the current land edge, that around 30 years ago were on the coastline.
On the return journey we found several pairs of Red-capped Plover with young.This one had called the young into the bushes along side the road and was directing things from the safety of a nearby rock. We admired her babysitting abilities and moved on quickly. This one, I find particularly interesting as neither of the pair were banded
Thanks to Andrew, Bernie, and the team for allowing us to enter this fascinating area. Each trip always brings new insights. Also thanks to the various councils, government groups and such like that made such an event possible. The value of the area, as the housing developments keep getting closer, is even more important for the small birds that call it home.