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.
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.
Werribee Wagtails bus day out was a trip to several Melton Parks. Geraldine and Brian had worked out some good spots, and it was all looking well until the weather took a turn for the worse (which is dear reader, a euphemism for went belly up big time)
What with the incessant rain, the chilling squally winds and little real shelter, it meant. Stay in car, or put on Drizabone. Of which I settled for the latter.
Besides not only wanted to see birds, but had a new lens to try out, and after taking fodoze of the inside moisture of the car, it was obviously time to get out. As luck would have it the rain eased and we could walk around the Caroline Springs water feature without having to paddle through a water feature on the footpath.
Morning tea at Melton Hannah Watts Park, and then a stroll around…
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.
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.