Werribee Wagtails: Bird Count at Mt Rothwell

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Werribee Wagtails have been in much of a hiatus due to that ‘c’ word.

One of the activities of that we have always enjoyed are the quarterly bird counts at several local sites.

It is good to be able to see the effects of changing seasons at each of the locations.  And of course to see the variation in the bird activity through the year.

We started 2021 with a day out at Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre

The weather was kind, coolish and a tad of sunshine to keep things pleasant.
Good bird action in some areas, and of course a few areas that were a bit barren for birds.
All in all a good start for Wagtails for 2021

Scarlet Robin female Photo Courtesy of EE
Red-browed Finch Juvenile Photo Courtesy EE
Varied Sittella Photo Courtesy EE
Rainbow Bee-eater
Rufous Whistler female. Carrying a snack. Try as we might we didn’t discover the secret
Whistling Kite, coming by to see the fuss
Whistling Kite, enjoying the view in the sunshine
Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby. Showing off its its best asset
Dusky Woodswallow

Werribee Wag-Tales: The Baker’s Dozen + Two

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EE and I were on our way down the Bellarine Peninsula for a spot of R&R, not sure what R&R meant in this decision, but rest and relaxation were never going to be high on the list.

On the way down we decided to visit a couple of places along the way and Fyansford Common was a good place for an early start.
Imagine if you will, our surprise when we spotted Mr An Onymous in the carpark.  How co-incidental.  And not long after, we were joined by others of the now, non-affiliated Former Werribee Wagtails.  Isn’t life just full of those serendipitous moments.

So, as a Non-group, we set off our our individual paths around the Common.
A Pied Currawong, a tree full  of Brown Thornbills, and some Red-browed Finches were a good start to the day.

EE and I then set off for Balyang Sanctuary on the Barwon River.  Ideal spot of a cup of the Earl’s finest. Again we were fortunate to find our birding friends had also decided on morning tea here, and Kathy’s sultana cakes provide by husband, Mark, were are welcome treat.
Balyang area proved to be quiet, (nearly wrote quite quiet, but on re-reading_), a few Australasian Darters, and various cormorants with young.  A  rather handsome Sulphur-crested Cockatoo was happy to pose for photographers and watched our meanderings with interest.

Then we drove on to Drysdale Railway Station for lunch, stopping, as usual at the Cinnabar Bakery and Pie Shop in Drysdale and a choice of fine pie delights.  Some might wonder if we go birding and stop for pies, or go for Pies and do the odd bit of birding while we’re out.   You, alone dear reader have all the evidence needed for a conviction.
So our non-group settled in around the steps and seats at the railway station, and enjoyed the some great food, I had the Plain Meatpie (traditionalist that I am), while others had a range of Chicken and Leek, Beef and Mushroom, and Curry.  Great pastry makes a great pie.

The main reason for EE and I to go to Lake Lorne, next to the station, is that it has a good reputation for Freckled Duck, Blue-billed Duck, and Latham’s Snipe.

We began to circumnavigate the lake,  and I dropped off the track into an area near the water’s edge, then with a sharp, “SCHHRAARKH”, the first Latham’s Snipe for the day, exploded out of the grassy edge of the lake, rocketed down about 300 metres and dropped into the edge of the grass.  It was easy to spot as it worked its way, feeding along the edge.
I moved 50m along the edge, and One, then Two, then Three more flushed.  Now it was getting serious.

An area that I’d had some success previously was bare of snipe, so Mr An and I moved further along the edge of the lake until we came to a jumble of branches that required careful negotiation.  Almost across the last one, and Wham!!! Four Snipe were in the air in front of us.  And we were off-balance, so only managed a couple of grab shots.  By the time I was stable of foot, they were across the lake.

We flushed another three and the total for the circuit was a creditable 15, not counting the ones we might have counted twice.
So Baker’s Dozen folk walking the lake, and two extra snipe—actually I’m reliably informed that there was only 12 of us out and about, but as I don’t count birds, I’m hardly likely to number people. 🙂
Especially those who just ‘happen’ to turn up to go pieing/birding with us.

A few fond farewells, and EE and I were off on the next part of the trip.  Gannets and Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, being our targets.

Wonderful day out with some great people, good birds, fine discussions and great food.  Werribee Wagtails Lives On



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Werribee Wagtails: A Monthly Walk


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Werribee Wagtails existed as an active bird watching group in the western suburbs for 25 years or so. With the formation of BirdLife Australia, Wagtails merged to become BirdLife Werribee, and essentially continued to run business as usual.

Change is, as they say, inevitable, and many of the core of the group, found themselves at the Jawbone Reserve yesterday, co-incidentally, 😉 , looking for birds.

Surprise, Surprise!

So too, of course, were  members of the old group 😉
Perhaps it was a ‘re-birthing’ of Werribee Wagtails? Stranger things have happened.

So after the usual good natured greeting and discussion we all set off with the same intent, looking for birds.  And Jawbone didn’t disappoint.
Another surprise, or co-incidence, we all ended up at Newport Lakes for morning tea. And some of Cathy Buckby’s wonderful cake creation, thanks to Mark for just happening to be there with cake on supply. 😉

We walked the lake, finding the birds very quiet and furtive, so it was soon time for lunch. The merry chatter of (former?) Wagtails enjoying the day out resounded from under the picnic shelter.
Then on to the mouth of Kororoit Creek and Paisley Drain outflow among the fishermen’s huts. Should that be fisherperson’s ??
Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Mr An Onymous, EE and I went on to Altona to have a coffee in the sunshine and watch the activities on the beach.

We might meet up again 😉

Catch you Along the Track.


Great Crested Grebe
Hoary-headed Grebe
Little Black Cormorant
Great Egret drops in with looking for a space
Pied Stilt Juvenile
Hardhead, Male
Black Swan Cygnet
Several of the Common Greenshanks near the creek causeway

Counting Birds at Mt Rothwell

My local bird group, BirdLife Werribee, or more affectionately known by the previous name, “Werribee Wagtails” has for many years been doing  bird surveys once a quarter at various sites.
This weekend we surveyed the Mt Rothwell Conservation and Research Centre just to the north of the You Yangs range.
To quote Peter Sellers from “Balham Gateway to the South”,
It is exciting work and my forefathers have been engaged upon it since 1957—

The previous few days of rain had managed to get past the You Yangs rainshadow and give the area decent drink. As we assembled, we were joined by a group from BirdLife Australia, Ovens and Murray.

And the bush seemed to respond to our enthusiastic banter as we walked over the various tracks that lead through the park.


Continue reading “Counting Birds at Mt Rothwell”

Wagtails visit Western Treatment Plant

Ahhh,   a tour update and trip report.

The Werribee BirdLife group had their monthly outing yesterday and visited the Western Treatment Plant.
The weather has been predicted to be sunny and hot, so it was with a touch of bemusement that we headed off down the highway in the fog!

But it did give us a lovely cool morning, so the sulking photographer in me just had to make do for awhile.

Travelling with the Wagtails (Werribee Birdlife in a former name), is a fun experience.  There is a great deal of knowledge of the birds, and the area, and the social activity makes for a fun filled and well fed day.

We went down to the T Section, an area that is fast taking on hero status as a Red Phalarope has come down to visit over.  Perhaps to the uninitiated a bit hard to spot, but once seen the frenetic activity of the bird makes it reasonably easy to locate. And especially if the tour leader. (D Torr esq.) lines it up in the spotting scope at the start of the activity.

Here is a quick take from some of the events.

Black-shouldered Kite, in pursuit of a really annoying Raven
Black-shouldered Kite, in pursuit of a really annoying Raven
A Welcome Swallow decided to join in the chase.
A Welcome Swallow decided to join in the chase.
Down at the beach, the Red-necked Stints are really putting on the weight now.
Down at the beach, the Red-necked Stints are really putting on the weight now.
White-fronted Chat: Female
White-fronted Chat: Female
Whistling Kites at play
Whistling Kites at play
Whistling Kites at Play
Whistling Kites at Play
Whistling Kite
Whistling Kite
A nice find. Banded Stilt
A nice find. Banded Stilt
The amazing T Section ponds. Spot the Red Phalarope for extra points!
The amazing T Section ponds. Spot the Red Phalarope for extra points!
Sharp-trailed Sandpiper. Trialling the travelling equipment.
Sharp-trailed Sandpiper. Trialling the travelling equipment.

Werribee Wag Tales April 2015

Formerly called Werribee Wagtails, Birdlife Werribee had a day at the Western Treatment Plant.  Stories about that event and a few others are available in the Werribee Wag Tales Newsletter for download here, or from the Wagtails tab on the front page.

WER Wag Tales April 2015

Werribee Wagtails Bus Tour

Werribee Wagtails meet once a month on the first Tuesday of said months.  They are a really dedicated group of birdwatchers and we find ourselves well pleased to have become part of the mob.

For March the trip was by Community Bus down to Geelong and beyond. So we arrived at the meeting spot ready to go.  Now the bus had been booked out  and we had chosen instead to convey down in the traditional spirit of motoring.   However some bookees had not taken up the opportunity and so we found ourselves loading food, chairs, cameras and bodies onto the bus.

The first stop was to be Queen’s Park, and a walk along the River to the Balyang Sanctuary.   Last seasons, thanks to me mate Helmut of Flickr fame, we had a couple of trips down there to find the Darters nesting next to the bridge.  Our original plan, sans bus, was to go directly there and wait for the walkers to turn up.  So we sat on the bus as everyone unloaded and despite clever arguments about Tawny Frogmouth, and Gang-Gangs, we stuck to the plan.  With a “swish” the door closed and our driver took us to the next carpark.

The weather was offering  some good sunshine so it was likely that we’d get some great shots; and we did.  Top must be for the mother Darter, whose first two young had just hatched.  These scrawny looking featherless creatures had her full attention, and while the nest is quite large, one can only imagine the complexity of moving those big webbed feet of hers around without damaging her newly hatched and yet to be hatched off -spring.

Not knowing much about the habits of Darters, I was pretty amazed to find that both male and female incubate and feed the young. But the male is the hard worker on building the nest.  At least to providing all the necessary sticks and things to make the nest.  As it turned out on this trip, one male was busy on the apartment above, moving sticks in to position.

Where all this happens is within a stone’s throw, (probably OHS insensitive), so 26.498 metres from the edge of the main traffic bridge over the Barwon River.  This bridge carries a flow of heavy duty vehicles and the bridge moves as they thunder over it,  it also has a constant stream of joggers, cyclists, walkers, babystollers and group exercisers. Which all means that the poor old stationary photographer is being jostled and ‘ding’ed at on the narrow walkway.   But, the birds don’t seem to care.

Pointing the lens at the darters on their nests brings comments such as “Oh, what are they?”  “How long have they been there?”  “I’ve lived in the area for x years and I’ve never seen them before”. “What are you going to use the pictures for?”  “That’s a big lens, do you need  a permit for it?” and of course the inevitable, “What do you think you’re doing?”   But the best of the day was from the groupathon bike riders. “We’re  strange birds, take our picture!”

Just as the bus driver was warming up the bus, a mother Darter came in with a snack for one of the kids.  Lots of wing waving and head bobbing as she positioned herself and the lucky young chick to receive the treat.   And then it was back on the bus, and Hi Ho Silver, away.  We went on toward Barwon Heads to look for waders and water birds.

After a lunch under a spreading tree with the breeze pleasingly  blowing through the shade it was a bit hard to get going for an afternoon foray for birds.  And then.  A bird count of 63 for the day, and we were back in the bus on the way home.

Coffee at the local and a pleasant day drew to a close.

Female Darter preening among the autumn colours
Female Darter preening among the autumn colours
Such a big bird and such delicate looking young
Such a big bird and such delicate looking young
The two little ones must have hatched that morning.
The two little ones must have hatched that morning.
Not only Darters, but a range of Cormorants as well.
Not only Darters, but a range of Cormorants as well.
Male Australasian Darter hard at work on the next nest.
Male Australasian Darter hard at work on the next nest.
Two juveniles waiting patiently in the sunshine for breakfast.
Two juveniles waiting patiently in the sunshine for breakfast.
"Look there's Mum!  She's got something for me.  Patience has deserted them.
“Look there’s Mum! She’s got something for me. Patience has deserted them.


You want me to put my head in your mouth!
You want me to put my head in your mouth!
It looks dangerous, but the species has managed to survive.
It looks dangerous, but the species has managed to survive.
There's got to be a fish down here somewhere.
There’s got to be a fish down here somewhere.