Mornington Peninsula Birdlife







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Mornington Peninsula


Volume 2 Number 2 June 2013


It has been a most distressing period for our branch with the sad loss of our committee person Wes Barton (see obituary) and the sudden serious illness to David Reid. We send our sympathy to Wes’s family and for David a speedy and healthy return to full fitness, David is also a board member of BirdLife Australia.

Our outings have been well attended and the program is being finalised for the rest of 2013.

The AGM will see the committee with new members and we are always on the lookout for people to help run the branch. The branch is only as strong as its committee and for all to enjoy our birding activities members need to get involved. For instance we need people to lead our outings, not a hard task, a little bit of pre walk investigation of the site and be there on the day, you will be well supported by the committee and the members.

Max Burrows


The committee has received a request for a bird survey project at a new site Elgee Park at Merricks North. This, combined with Sunshine Reserve, Balcombe Estuary, Waterfall Gully, Tootgarook Wetlands, Langwarrin South

sites, means we have a pretty full book and our coordinator David Ap-Thomas is keen to have many members involved so please contact us if you would like to participate. “What Bird is That” at The Briars will be held again this year on 27 October and assistance is required to facilitate the event. We are required to have an Occupational Health and Safety Officer as part of our branch structure and if any member is suitably qualified please let me know. I will be attending a Branch Forum on the May in which funding arrangements will be finalised as well as a range of topics that will be crucial to the smooth operation of the new BirdLife Australia


Max Burrows


1. President's report and branch news 4. Habitat for wildlife

6. Outings program and reports 9. Gone fishing

10. ETP, Boggy Creek and Banyan Wetland 11. Seabird paradise

12. Dealing with introduced birds 13. Observations


Branch news

2 Mornington Peninsula Birdlife Obituary


27 December1947 – 23 March 2013

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of our friend and colleague Wes Barton. Wes was a passionate supporter of our branch, Wes’s love of our Australian birds and their environment was evident with the roles he fulfilled with BirdLife Mornington Peninsula.

He was an enthusiastic committee person, outing sub-committee member, rare bird project member with his specialties being Scarlet Robin and Australian King-Parrot, maintained and updated our database and he was up until his health intervened our conservation officer. And above all that, a true gentleman and good friend.

Wes will be sorely missed. We deeply regret his passing and to Anne and the Barton family we extend our deepest

sympathy and we know we were very privileged to be a small part of his life.

Max Burrows


Mark Lethlean

Lives: Have lived on the Mornington Peninsula all my life and have lived in the Red Hill/Main Ridge area for the past twenty five years.

How I started birding: I was born and raised on a turkey breeding farm. My father was one of the leading farmers in Australia on turkey husbandry and so my interest in birds has always been there. However the real spark came in 2000 when my wife and I took our two daughters on an eight month exploration of Western Australia and the Northern Territory in a 4-wheel drive plus camper trailer. We had a pair of binoculars and a copy of Simpson & Day and kept a project book of all the different bird species we sighted. It actually got everyone hooked. We only recorded 199 species which in hindsight was pretty poor but the girls were only four and seven years old. We repeated the experience in 2004 but this time over five months to Cape York. On this trip I started to dabble in bird photography which is now my real passion.

Mark photographing on Lord Howe Island

Favourite birding spots on the Peninsula: I have spent a lot of time in Greens Bush particularly away from the main tracks. I love Coolart, when there is water. I love the back beaches particularly around Fingal. But my favourite spot for bird photography on the Mornington Peninsula is probably the Kangerong Flora Reserve on Mcllroys Road. It's pretty small but I have never seen another person in there and it's very close to home.

Other favourite birding spots: I have three. The surrounds of Kunnanurra, we have been back a few times and it never ceases to amaze. From Lake Argyle, the Upper and Lower Ord Rivers and the Keep River area. Iron Range National Park but next time I'll get a guide as there is so much you miss on your own.

Lord Howe Island, with hundreds of Sooty Terns nesting on the beaches. White Terns with their chicks balanced precariously in the branches of trees and the unique Lord Howe Woodhen. Everywhere you looked it was birding paradise. It certainly gave you a feel for what mainland beaches may have once been like. It also makes you think that the word pristine is a little overused to describe our beaches now days.

Some memorable birding moments: Parry's Lagoon and Marglu Billabong near Wyndham has a brilliant birdhide and observation area which we found by luck in 2000 and revisited in 2010. Just pull up a chair and you can sit for hours.

It never ceases to amaze me that on your walks you will often see so many different species from afar but that every now and then you get that close up photographic

opportunity. For instance a White-naped Honeyeater and a White-throated Treecreeper that flew down to look at me. But the best was certainly a Collared Sparrowhawk that had just made a kill in our front yard at Red Hill. The car made a brilliant birdhide while I photographed it devouring its kill, a Spotted Dove.

Birding ambitions: I am yet to photograph a Gouldian Finch although have tried on four separate trips.

Other interests: I am a keen runner (a couple of half marathons under my belt), swimmer and am a member of the Point Leo Surf life saving Club. Currently I spend a lot of time monitoring Hooded Plovers at Rye and Gunnamatta.


Branch news


Sustainability Festival entertainment

As part of the Sustainability Festival held at The Briars, Mt Martha on 17 March 2013, David Ap-Thomas and myself set up our BirdLife Mornington Peninsula display together with telescopes and binoculars in the Chechingurk bird hide. Conditions in the morning were rather dull and overcast with intermittent light showers. The net result of this was that until about midday we had the sum total of one visitor!! We were, however, entertained by a Swamp Harrier which parked itself in a nearby dead tree for at least an hour and was shortly afterwards joined by a juvenile Brown Goshawk. These two raptors ensured that all birdlife smaller than the Chestnut Teals promptly disappeared including the four Black-fronted Dotterels sighted earlier and which never returned for the rest of the day!

Whatever prompted the Brown Goshawk to take off and fly straight into one of the bird hide windows we will never know but, it momentarily sat on the ground in front of the hide looking rather stunned, just long enough for me to take a shot with my pocket camera.

A stunned juvenile Brown Goshawk. Photo by Danny Vits By noon the day had brightened up and as David and myself were about to set off in search of lunch, all hell broke loose! For the next three hours we had an uninterrupted stream of children with parents invading the hide. Furthermore as if by appointment and right on cue two Emus emerged from the south side and paraded to and fro the hide for the next hour or so to the delight of all the visitors. David was amazed that they seemed totally oblivious to the enormous noise

emanating from all the children.

At the end of the day we all had a good time and according to staff members over 1000 visitors turned up on the day!

Danny Vits, Mornington

Contacting BirdLife Mornington Peninsula

President Max Burrows; 9789 0224 PO Box 2262 Rosebud Plaza, Vic 3939


Environment Week at The Briars: 18-19

March 2013

As in the past few years, our Mornington Peninsula branch was asked to present a Wetlands program at The Briars. We only did two days this year, as some schools’ industrial action meant less participants.

After a minor personnel problem, Susan Clark stepped in to fill the breech, helping the children identify birds in the Wetland using the Scope. We had each group divided into two; I took a discussion on potential problems experienced by Waterbirds (using an activity with cards devised by Annette Cook from National Office), and we swapped over halfway. Hectic and noisy, but the children responded very enthusiastically, and were very well-behaved (a credit to their teachers, I believe).

The birds also co-operated- there was a constant ‘changing-of the-guard’, with various ducks, Eurasian Coots and Purple Swamphens, Black-fronted and Red-kneed Dotterels, Eastern Great Egrets, a Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Superb Fairy-wrens, and a distant Black-shouldered Kite. Enough to keep all interested!

Over the two days, I must also thank Ray Pentland, Neil Shelley and Danny Vits for assisting with their expertise. The following week, Susan attended a thank-you Afternoon Tea at Josephine’s, where Certificates were presented to Volunteers from the organising committee.

Susan Clark in action at the Chechingurk Hide. Photo by Pam Hearn

Other Presentations pending:

Women’s Shed, Mt Martha Red Hill Consolidated School

U3A Birdwatching Course Frankston Council Staff training Readers may contact us if they know of any groups/schools

who would like a free presentation on birds.

Pam Hearn, Education Officer


Thanks for your fantastic articles and photos; keep sharing your sightings, observation, bird photos, daily birding activities, surveys and tips on bird identification. Send to Val Ford; 5984 0039 & Deadline for September edition: 19 July. Earlier articles appreciated.


Habitat for wildlife

4 Mornington Peninsula Birdlife


Kelp Gulls at Tootgarook wetland

On the Tootgarook wetland survey on 9 April 2013 eight people assisted and fifty-three species were recorded. The lakes are shrinking but still hold an interesting mix of waterbirds. The bush areas were quiet but we found Red-browed Finches in three different places.

The highlight was the flock of Kelp Gulls. We saw some flying and assumed they were Pacific Gulls but we also heard the call of a Kelp Gull (it always sounds like the Herring Gull that I grew up with). So we went to the area where the birds had landed and found 37 Kelp Gulls plus three immature Pacific Gulls. The Kelp Gulls were roughly 50/50 adults and

immatures. Standing on the side of the lake we could see the bills clearly with orange/red on the lower bill. We could also compare the bill size with the immature Pacific gulls. When they flew off we could see the pure white tails of the adults. Whilst they are seen on the ocean and Port Phillip Bay beaches we were surprised to see them at this site, 2.5km from the bay and quite a distance from Bass Strait.

If you would like to be involved with surveying at Tootgarook wetland and/or other sites please contact me; 9787 6691 or

David Ap-Thomas, Survey coordinator

Feral animal exclusion fence

Almost completed in December is the nearly five kilometre feral animal exclusion fence around The Briars Wildlife Sanctuary. Working alongside staff, volunteers and members of the Rotary Club of Mount Martha have replaced the old, rusty game fence mesh with new chicken mesh and three specially aligned electric wires. These are positioned to make it very difficult for cats and foxes to climb the fence and if they manage to get past the hot wires they are thwarted by the ‘floppy top', a loose arc of mesh which causes the animal to fall back to ground. The inside of the fence lacks these obstacles and therefore the feral cats and foxes can climb out and hopefully not return. The remaining work includes newly designed swing gates for the Balcombe Creek crossings and metal plating of all gates. This has all been made possible with a generous grant from the R E Ross Trust and

sponsorship from Waratah Fencing and BlueScope Steel and of course the huge amount of voluntary labour.

Once completed there will be a concerted campaign to eradicate foxes and cats from the Sanctuary to enable the reintroduction of Red-bellied Pademelons, Southern Brown Bandicoots, Long-nosed Potoroos and Eastern Bettongs, all of which were once common on the Peninsula but are now either extinct or endangered. The Briars team is working closely with Zoos Victoria and a number of Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Swamp Wallabies have been relocated from Healesville Sanctuary along with three Emus from Werribee Open Range Zoo. Perhaps prematurely two Red-bellied Pademelons have already arrived and are living in the isolation facility used for new arrivals.

Steve Yorke, Friends of The Briars newsletter, Jan/Feb 2013

Hastings Powerful Owl pellet analysis

After the discovery of the Powerful Owl pair and young in the Hastings area we decided to collect the owl pellets and have them analysed to gain an insight to what the owl’s diet consisted of. We also thought this would be a good way to see what mammals were present in the reserve. The majority of the pellets were collected from under the roost site of the juvenile owl.

Hans Brunner conducted the owl pellet analysis. The analysis involves teasing the pellets apart to separate the hairs. The diagnostic features of the hairs are then analysed to identify which species the hairs belong to. These features include hair length, hair colour and shape of the cross section of the hair which is observed through a microscope.

The results of the Powerful Owl pellet analysis is as follows. Of 27 pellets analysed, 96% contained Ringtail Possum and 9% contained Brushtail Possum. There were also some feathers and insect remains found in some.

After a little further investigation on the Powerful Owl diet I discovered that these results align with their average diet. Arboreal mammals make up over 90 percent of the Powerful Owls diet, of this, Ringtail Possum is the greatest component consisting of between 65 and 90%. The Greater Glider is next, then Sugar Glider and Brushtail Possum respectively. In areas where Greater Gliders are not present the

component of Ringtail Possum in the diet is at its highest. In urban areas or those which are greatly disturbed, Brushtail Possum may make up a greater component of the diet which is most likely to be due to a greater abundance. In many cases it is the juvenile Brushtail Possums that are targeted by being plucked from the backs of their parents.

As well as their usual diet of possum and gliders, Powerful Owls are also less frequently known to take a variety of species including juvenile koala, flying fox, antechinus, rats, rabbits, invertebrates and a wide variety of birds.

The Hastings Powerful Owls have thought to have been in the area for at least two years with reports from

neighbouring residents seeing them in their backyards. Whether they just use this area for breeding or are permanent residents of the reserve is unknown. Future monitoring will hopefully give us a better idea of how this area is used by the owls and their breeding success.

Josh Gunn, Conservation Ranger, Mornington Peninsula Shire


If you have an email address and are not receiving BirdLife Australia e-news and notifications about BirdLife

Mornington Peninsula events, it probably means that either you have not given BirdLife your email address or

what they have on file is incorrect.


Habitat for wildlife

Cat guilty of a triple murder

An email query from Val Curtis resulted in many emails, conversations and finally an answer.

"My name is Val Curtis and years ago, when I lived in Frankston, I used to be involved in Penboc. I have a friend who lives in Balnarring and she has recently told me about what I think may be a Powerful Owl predating Ringtail Possums in her area. She has found several Ringtail Possums with their heads ripped off near her house and I seem to remember that this is one of the habits of the Powerful Owl. When I imitated the Powerful Owl call she said she had heard this once near her home".

Decapitated Ringtail Possum. Photo by Sonya Dobson Brian Thomas met with owl expert Ed McNabb and others and discussed whether a Powerful Owl could be the culprit. They were all of the opinion that a Powerful Owl would have taken the whole body away especially as there were a few of them over a few days. The opinion was that it was a cat who did the dastardly deed.

An interesting bit of detective work with the jury finding the cat guilty of a triple murder but sadly getting away with it.

Brian Thomas & Val Ford

Warringine Wetland Biolink

The Friends of Warringine Park (FOWP) were recently awarded a PPWCMA Community Grant for the Warringine Wetland in Bittern. The aim of the project is to maximize the habitat potential of the wetland by increasing its

effectiveness as a biolink and as an animal refuge. The Warringine Wetland lies within Warringine Park and largely consists of two dams partially fed by a natural spring. This wetland is an important freshwater resource and, at certain times of the year, is home to a variety of bird species including Eastern Great Egret, White-faced Heron, Nankeen Night Heron and Latham's Snipe.

The Warringine Wetland also forms an important biolink between the Bittern Coastal Wetlands, a significant

Westernport RAMSAR site, and Warringine Park Woodlands. Warringine Park rangers in conjunction with FOWP, local community groups and training organisations, will be undertaking weed management, erosion control and fence construction. The area has also been incorporated into the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council's feral animal

management program.

From PPWCMA Enewsletter, April 2013

Adult Southern Boobook and young. Photo by Jim Peake,

Boobooks using nestbox

Currently we have two owl nest boxes put up in the creek section of Warringine Park.

The friends of Warringine Park have been building and putting up nest boxes for the last eight years at least. Then one of them attended a talk by Jim Greenwood about some Powerful Owl nest boxes that he constructed and erected in Balwyn. Knowing that we have Powerful Owls in the Hastings catchment we thought it would be a great chance to

hopefully give some young floaters a home. So Dave Hunt from the friends group got in touch with Jim and before we knew it we had two owl boxes, which are the size of a large dog kennel, erected in the park.

During some maintenance on the boxes our tree climber was swooped by a Southern Boobook so we waited and watched and we had three Southern Boobooks successfully fledge. They are located in the creek section in the very large Manna and Swamp gums around the midpoint of the track and can be just seen from the track on the south side.

We may not have got Powerful Owls but great to see any bird that needs hollows utilising them. We are currently looking at adding them to all sections of the park.

Gerard Cook, Senior Ranger, Warringine Park

I was aware there were Southern Boobooks using a nestbox in the park but not the exact location. I had gone there for a walk and on the return leg decided to check out an area with large gum trees off track. I found a nestbox in one of those trees with a boobook perched at the opening.

I returned a few days later before sunset with my camera to wait for nightfall and observe their behaviour. Just on twilight the parent on the nest left the box and shortly after a second owl came in and began repeatedly hawking for food, taking its catches to the hungry chicks in the nestbox. I have been keen to go back to try for some shots of the chicks before they disperse but have been unable to do so as yet.



6 Mornington Peninsula Birdlife


Outings are held on the 2nd Wednesday and 3rd Sunday of the month, except in January, and are cancelled on total fire ban days.

Newcomers, beginners and visitors are welcome and members will help you with the birds. Binoculars for casual use are available on every outing. Bring lunch (optional) and folding chair for bird call and chat.

For more information about an outing contact Max Burrows on 0429947893 or the leader listed.

Max Burrows, Outings Coordinator



Presentation by Roger Standen Wednesday 10 July, 10am Coolart Wetlands, Somers

Hear about and see where 100,000 Banded Stilt move to across the inland. Find out what birds they share their secret places with. This informative talk will be supported with images

of a spectacular wildlife experience.

Date Time Locality Meeting place and other information Leader Phone

Wed 12 Jun 10.00 HMAS Cerberus, Crib Point Meet 10.00am in car park on the south side of Stony Point Road (between Park and Point Road). We will convoy from there into HMAS Cerberus. Mel 195 B3.

Larry Wakefield 5988 4593

Sun 16 Jun 10.00 Peninsula Gardens Bushland

Reserve, Rosebud Meet 10am at entrance in Jetty Road. Mel 170 H10. Ray Pentland 5986 4717

Wed 10 Jul 10.00 Coolart Wetlands Somers.

Presentation by Roger Standen Meet 10am at carpark; enter via Lord Somers Road. Mel 193 H9. Max Burrows 0429 947 893 Sun 21 Jul 10.00 Mt Martha Scout Camp Meet 10.00am at Scout camp entry in Hearn Road off Esplanade or

Forest Drive via Nepean Hwy. Mel 150 H7. Joan Peters 5981 2078 Wed 14 Aug 10.00 Mt Martha Water Treatment Plant Meet 10.00am in car park (near Baptist Church) on access road off

Craigie Road near corner of Moorooduc Hwy. Mel 146 B11. TBA Sun 18 Aug 10.00 Pt Leo foreshore Meet at general store Point Leo Road off Frankston/Flinders road.

Mel 257 C4. TBA

Wed 11 Sep 9.30 McKellar Flora & Flora, Seawinds

Arthurs Seat Meet 9.30am at picnic area in Seawinds. Mel 171 D1. Bill Bygott 5982 3241 Sun 15 Sep 9.30 Blind Bight Meet 9.30am at car park opposite Fishermans Drive in Blind Bight

Road accessed via Baxter/Tooradin Road into Warneet Road then turn into Blind Bight Road.


Wed 9 Oct 9.00 Flinders Beach Stuart Cousland 5988 6228 Sun 27 Oct 9.00 What Bird is That, The Briars Mt

Martha Max Burrows 0429947893

Wed 13 Nov 9.00 Langwarrin Retarding

Basin/Stringybark Reserve Max Burrows 0429 947893 Sun 17 Nov 9.00 Bus Trip to You Yangs TBA

Wed 11 Dec 9.00 Buckleys Reserve Susan Clark 5975 7409

Sun 15 Dec 9.00 Xmas Break-up Sages Cottage Baxter Max Burrows 0429 947893


Pam Hearn: Wednesday 13 February

Species recorded:55

Twenty-six enthusiasts (including new members and

interstate visitors) gathered at Coolart for our first outing for 2013. Sunny and clear, with no wind - excellent conditions for birdwatching, bird hearing and enjoying the walking tracks, vistas and garden surrounds of the homestead. After obtaining a nice view of an obliging male Common Bronzewing on a leafy mound near the car park, we walked down to the Observatory to see what was happening immediately in front of the observation window. In and over the reeds (there was no visible water) we had close views of Purple Swamphens and Magpie-lark.

Back up past the homestead and en route to the Antechinus Hide we walked through a nice mix of vegetation, including eucalypts and sheoaks. Along this winding path we saw Grey Butcherbird, Grey Shrike-thrush, a Peregrine Falcon quickly circled close by. Also Grey Fantail, Brown and Striated Thornbills, White-browed Scrubwren, Golden Whistler, Laughing Kookaburra, a single Red-browed Finch, Rainbow and Musk Lorikeet, Eastern Rosella, Little and Red

Wattlebird, Spotted Pardalote, Superb Fairy-wren, Silvereye, Eastern Yellow Robin, Mistletoebird and Australian Magpie. At the Antechinus Hide, whilst there was a good amount of water, we also had a nice muddy shoreline. Here there were Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebe, Hardhead, Purple Swamphen, Common Blackbirds (adult and juvenile), Pacific Black Duck, Australasian Shovelers (very smart with their bright orange legs, white spots on rump) Dusky Moorhen, Masked Lapwing, Eurasian Coot, Australian Wood Duck, Blue-billed Duck, Hardhead, Grey and Chestnut Teal.



A single Freckled Duck posed for some minutes on a log and several busy little Australian Spotted Crakes with their lime green beaks and legs, red eyes and little flicking tails pottered along the muddy shore, flipping over wet leaves. At the Minsmere Hide, with largely the same variety as at Antechinus, there were also three little Black-fronted Dotterels fossicking.

At various times, flying past or overhead, were Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Little Raven.

Other honeyeaters observed along the way were Yellow-faced, White-eared, New Holland and Eastern Spinebill. Thank you Pam for leading this first walk of the year.

Susan Clark, Mornington



Danny Vits: Sunday 17 February

Species recorded: 31

The morning started out fine and sunny with a slight breeze but we were prepared for a very hot day later. Thirteen members and visitors attended with Danny as our leader. We took the track to the south, which gave us shade for most of the morning, very thoughtful!

The whole reserve appeared to be alive with Spotted Pardalotes with their sweet calls heard at all points, equally numerous were Grey Fantails. Dusky Woodswallows were seen at a number of locations and Welcome Swallows were about. Brown-headed Honeyeaters were seen together with White-naped, Yellow-faced, New Holland and White-eared, Eastern Spinebill, Noisy Miner and Red Wattlebird.

The birds were appearing in feeding groups and a male Golden Whistler took everyone’s attention and later the same for a male Rufous Whistler. Eastern Yellow Robins called from the nearby scrub and eventually showed themselves. Coming back via the Centre Break a Brown Goshawk circled

effortlessly overhead and gave all a great sight.

With the morning heat now oppressive we headed back for lunch and bird call, thanks to Danny for leading a very enjoyable morning's birding.

Max Burrows, Langwarrin

Balbirooroo wetlands outing birdlist

Freckled Duck at Coolart. Photo by Rab Siddhi



Danny Vits: Wednesday 13 March

Species recorded:57

To everyone’s delight we were greeted with cooler weather after an eight day heat wave. Thirteen including a couple (Linda & Terry) visiting the Peninsula from London started at the entrance to the Balbirooroo Wetlands. The first section of the track is quite bushy so only a few sightings, Noisy Miners heard in nearby paddocks. Further on the view opens up with a small viewing platform over the wetlands on right hand side, a White-necked Heron seen along with three sleeping Australasian Grebes amongst the reeds only visible through a telescope. Considerable interest is generated viewing the large private dam on the left hand side.

Highlights were Freckled Ducks, Australian Shelducks, Black fronted and Red-kneed Dotterel, and an elusive Blue-billed Duck (female) diving amongst the grebes. A Swamp Harrier swooped down to water level stirring up ducks and Eurasian Coots below. Other interesting sightings were a Brown Goshawk and Wedge-tailed Eagle seen high in the sky. We walked along the board walk through a thicket of Swamp Paperbarks through to the Pun Pun Wetlands where Chestnut Teal, Eurasian Coot, Purple Swamphen and Pacific Black Duck were seen.

In a bushy area a Golden Whistler is heard not seen and a Grey Fantail flits around. Approaching the opposite side of Balbirooroo Wetlands an Eastern Great Egret landed. Just before exiting the treed part of the wetlands reserve the

Freckled Duck Black Swan Australian Shelduck Australian Wood Duck Australasian Shoveler Grey Teal Chestnut Teal Pacific Black Duck Blue-billed Duck Australasian Grebe Hoary-headed Grebe Spotted Dove

Common Bronzewing Little Black Cormorant White-necked Heron Eastern Great Egret White-faced Heron Australian White Ibis Straw-necked Ibis Brown Goshawk Swamp Harrier Wedge-tailed Eagle Purple Swamphen Dusky Moorhen Eurasian Coot Black-fronted Dotterel Red-kneed Dotterel Masked Lapwing Silver Gull Galah Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Rainbow Lorikeet Superb Fairy-wren Striated Thornbill Brown Thornbill Spotted Pardalote White-eared Honeyeater White-plumed Honeyeater Noisy Miner Red Wattlebird New Holland Honeyeater Golden Whistler Grey Shrike-thrush Grey Butcherbird Australian Magpie Grey Fantail Willie Wagtail Little Raven Magpie-lark Eastern Yellow Robin Silvereye Welcome Swallow Common Blackbird Common Starling Common Myna Red-browed Finch European Goldfinch



8 Mornington Peninsula Birdlife

bush was alive with Eastern Yellow Robin, Spotted

Pardalotes, White-eared Honeyeater and Red Wattlebirds. We bid our English visitors farewell who thanked the group. A remarkable bird list of fifty-seven species is achieved for a morning of bird watching. Six of us headed to Balnarring Beach picnic area for lunch. A great outing many thanks to leader Danny and co-leader David.

Malcolm Shapcott, Bittern


Neil Shelley: Sunday 17 March

Species recorded:42

At 9.00am there was a strong sense of community at the estuary car park as thirteen keen bird watchers gathered. The Balcombe Estuary Rehabilitation Group (BERG)

volunteers were also organising a working bee. Wearing our warm wet weather jackets we followed the walk leader Neil Shelley. The black clouds slowly dispersed to allow us to explore the estuary. The temperature was chilly. The initial short periods of rain eased off to allow us to stroll in the open air without the threat of getting wet!

The meandering walk way provides a ‘bird’s eye’ view of the estuary environment. Along this part we spotted Eurasian Coot, Chestnut Teal, Dusky Moorhen, Great, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorant, and Pacific Black Duck. Also wading in the mouth of the estuary was an Eastern Great Egret, Australasian Gannet, Silver Gull, Crested Tern and Masked Lapwing. Further on, the Spotted Pardalote was flitting around the foliage. Also an Eastern Spinebill was foraging for the day’s catch.

As we continued further on, we trained our binoculars upwards to focus on the rich estuary canopy. Here we unconsciously broke away into a few small groups to view the plethora of bird specifies. The Laughing Kookaburra was heard in the distance before being seen. Next appeared Golden Whistler, Eastern Yellow Robin, Little and Red Wattlebird, Grey Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Grey Shrike-thrush and Pacific Black Duck. The Rufous Whistler was also heard and seen during the walk.

We then sauntered along to the end of the wooden walk way that becomes a gravel path leading to the Balcombe Park. At times, all was quiet and not a bird to be seen at this

destination. We agreed that the chilly overcast weather condition was the extraneous variable. Having said that, a lone Wedge-tailed Eagle was soon spotted soaring high above.

Returning to the car park we stopped intermittently and saw the usual suspects; Superb Fairy-wren, White-browed Scrubwren, Brown Thornbill, Willie Wagtails, Silvereye, Noisy Miner, White-eared Honeyeater and Brown Thornbills in various modes of dance. It was an entertaining sideshow within the foliage. The Grey Fantails were the stars of the impromptu performance. Common Starling, Spotted Dove, Galah, Common Myna, Crested Pigeon, Eastern Rosella, Common Blackbird, Rainbow Lorikeet, Sulphur- crested Cockatoo and the Little Raven all put in an appearance during the bird watching walk.

Time to move on at Balbirooroo. Photo by Pam Hearn

We finished the walk with a bird call and the majority stayed for a chat and lunch. Thank you to Neil for leading the enjoyable outing.

Claire Rowan, Mt Martha


Joan Peters: Wednesday 10 April

Species recorded:42

Twenty-four eager birders gathered at the end of Wallaces Road adjacent to a winery. The weather initially was comfortably cool with mist hanging on the far hills, but as the day progressed it became warm. Our viewing followed a very linear path along Wallaces Road, under the leadership of Joan, who prior to departure outlined our expectations. Looking across the vines immediately to our right we observed a small flock of Welcome Swallows. There was some discussion as to what swallows they were as the morning haze affected our viewing. An early highlight was a sighting of a flock of Australian Wood Ducks grazing on the pasture. A Grey Butcherbird followed us for a hundred metres and entertained us by eating his carrion in the tree. Several sightings of Rainbow Lorikeets and Eastern Rosellas took place, along with two very obliging Galahs. In the distance a Black-shouldered Kite was identified. A Hoary-headed Grebe and a Black Swan was observed on a lake in the distance.

Joan called about face and we turned back along the trail. On our return amongst other sightings we observed Common Bronzewing and Striated Pardalote. We continued past the cars onto another lake with a small island and saw, White-faced Heron, Australasian Grebes, and another Black Swan. While eating after the bird count the group spotted two Tawny Frogmouths above their heads and two Australian Pelicans flying over. Lunch was enjoyed in a beautiful roadside setting.




It reminded me a little of synchronised swimming, everybody diving together, disappearing and then bobbing up again, heads tilted upwards, everyone looking in the same direction and then diving again. Well, it wasn’t really perfectly

synchronised and if the Little Black Cormorants were hoping for a place at the Olympics they still had a lot of practice to do - but the elements were there. They were in fact cooperatively fishing, driving their prey before them and snapping them up. The fish as far as I could tell, were about 75mm to 125mm long - maybe a little longer, and there seemed to be a heck of a lot of them because the cormorants had no trouble catching them.

The cormorants as I say were fishing cooperatively, often all diving simultaneously, but the synchronisation was broken when two or three of them would catch a fish each and would pause to swallow or manoeuvre the fish into the correct position to swallow it, sometimes tossing it and deftly

catching it again or dodging one of its team mates who would try to snatch it from its beak. This is something that can be unexpectedly traumatic as watching them at rest later in the day I noticed that one of the cormorants was bleeding from near its eye, a wound probably caused by another

cormorant’s hooked beak as it tried to snatch a fish.

It wasn’t only the cormorants that were making a meal of the fish. An Eastern Great Egret was taking advantage of the cormorants as they zigzagged their way up and down the wetland, it followed them along the water’s edge, flying from one side of the wetlands to the other as the cormorants herded the fish from bank to bank. The egret, with its bright orange, dagger-like bill picked off the ones that were driven into the shallows.

A Little Pied Cormorant swam in behind the little blacks – a little self consciously it seemed, as if it felt it shouldn’t be there – and the little blacks might have felt the same, for when it managed to catch a fish for itself it was chased, flying, up the wetlands by one of the little blacks trying to get it to drop its prize.

A Hoary-headed Grebe gave me the opportunity to have a closer look at the prey. Diving and reappearing right in front of the hide, it was having some fishing success and it was close enough for me to get a fleeting look at the silvery catch, almost see-through in the sunlight, before the grebe, with a bit of juggling swallowed it head first - quite a big catch for small bird, a few of those and it could sit back and digest for the rest of the day. It was however frustratingly difficult to get a really good look at the fish before it was swallowed.

After they had eaten their fill or grown tired chasing the fish, the cormorants all retired to a dead tree poking out of the water, clambered up and hung their wings out to dry. During the long drought of the late nineties and noughties, the wetlands well and truly dried out, even the gambusia (a persistent pest fish) had been unable to survive (so the drought did have its positive aspects), unfortunately, the Short -finned Eels were not able to withstand the extreme conditions either. So it was something of a surprise to see what was obviously an abundance of fish in the wetlands. But thinking back to last winter and the fantastic floods that we had I recall that the wetlands were well connected to the creek system with overflowing water, giving fish a great

Eastern Great Egret with Common Galaxia. Little Black Cormorant struggles to keep its catch.

Little Black Cormorants preparing to dive together. Photos taken at Coolart by Mick Douglas

opportunity to make their way up into the wetlands.

When I first saw the cormorants fishing I thought that I may have been witnessing a migration of young eels returning from the Coral Sea where they had been spawned, but a splendid photograph taken by Mick Douglas - a fellow ranger from French Island - showed the Eastern Great Egret with what looked to me like a Common Galaxia in its beak. This prompted me to take a look at a photo I had taken during the flood last June of an egret with prey that it had caught just below the overflowing spillway of the wetland. The photo is in no way as good as Mick’s and to see the fish one has to zoom in quite a bit, but although blurry one can see the cleft tail of a fish and not the long tapering tail of an eel which I originally thought it was. If only I’d had the presence of mind to take a closer look at what was in the water then, I may have seen the fish moving up the stream.

Fish identification not being my forte I’m hoping to set a fish trap to make a positive identification and to see if any other species have made their way up the creek and into the wetlands. Although the wetlands have always had a good population of eels (apart from the drought) this is the first time that I have seen fish migrating into the wetlands from the creek.


ETP, Boggy Creek & Banyan Wetlands

10 Mornington Peninsula Birdlife



On 27 January 2013 cool weather, less water, fewer water-bodies and a more efficient circuit enabled us to survey the whole Plant in one day. Eighty-six bird species (58 wetland dependant & raptors + 28 non-wetland), were logged making it an excellent count. Major highlights were the continued presence of Freckled Duck (92) and Latham's Snipe (16), another record high for Pink-eared Duck (4600), Shoveler (163), Blue-billed Duck (118). Nankeen Night-Heron numbers continue to increase (now 23) but crake numbers are falling, although the Black-tailed Native-hen remains. Also seen were a male Spotted Harrier and 12 species of shorebird, including a Pectoral Sandpiper. The first Cattle Egret of the winter is already back.

On 24 February 87 bird species, (55 wetland dependant & raptors + 32 non-wetland) were logged making it another excellent count. Waterfowl numbers were generally down. Pink-eared Ducks now number 3200 and only 7 Freckled Duck remain but Australasian Shoveler (260) and Chestnut Teal (955) were up. Major highlights included a record high count of Australasian Darters (27) and the continued presence of the Spotted Harrier. Twelve species of shorebird included single Wood and Pectoral Sandpipers and three Common Sandpipers. The autumn movement of Australian land birds continues with the departure of most Fairy Martins but passage migrants or nomads seen included Blue-winged Parrots (2), Red Wattlebirds, New Holland Honeyeater, Grey Fantail, and our first ever Red-capped Robin.

On 24 March only 76 Bird species, (45 wetland dependant & raptors + 31 non-wetland) were logged. Waterfowl and other waterbird numbers have plummeted indicating a general exodus of birds from the Plant. The drop in diversity is normal for autumn although perhaps a little earlier than expected this year. All of the Nankeen Night-Herons and Freckled Duck have gone although some remain on other wetlands in the district. Major highlights included a good number of several raptor species and the arrival of 40 Double-banded Plovers (a record high count) having flown back across the Tasman Sea to winter in Australia. The continued presence of the Spotted Harrier and Stubble Quail into autumn is a surprise.



On 13 January 2013 we saw thirty-nine species (28 wetland dependant & raptors) and 836 birds (661 wetland dependant & raptors and 175 non-wetland). There was excellent density & diversity. Highlights included proof that Dusky Moorhens bred and the large number of crakes.

On 10 February we found that the autumn exodus had commenced leaving us with 27 species (18 wetland dependant & raptors). Four hundred and ninety-nine birds were seen; 410 wetland dependent & raptors + 89 non-wetland. The highlight was the first record of Magpie Goose. On 17 March we observed that as it is autumn birds are on the move. The highlight was the first record of Horsfield’s Bushlark. Thirty-three species were recorded (20 wetland dependant & raptors) and 523 birds seen; 261 wetland dependent & raptors + 262 non-wetland.

The Southern Effluent Holding Basin at ETP on 24 February 2013. Photo by Alison Kuiter

Spotted Harrier at ETP. Photo by Alison Kuiter



On 13 January 2013 we recorded fifty-two species (30 wetland dependant & raptors) and 1,304 birds (991 wetland dependant & raptors +313 non-wetland). The area is drying rapidly so better for waders but less attractive towaterfowl. Highlights today included the first record of Pink-eared Duck and the first Red-capped Plover for many years.

On 10 February we found that evaporation and dry weather had reducing diversity but overall abundance remained good; 1,671 birds (990 wetland & raptors & 681 non-wetland) were seen. Forty-four species were recorded of which 25 were wetland dependent or raptors. Shorebird highlights include our first Marsh Sandpipers (3) since December 2004 although there was a record from a nearby wetland in 2007; the largest ever flock of Red-necked Stints (195), a good number of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers (440) and 12 Red-necked Avocets. Waterfowl numbers are down but included the first Freckled Duck at this wetland, a rare and endangered species.

On our 17 March count we recorded 1,142 birds (772 wetland & raptors + 370 non-wetland). Forty-three species were recorded of which 32 are wetland dependent or raptors. Waders, also known as shorebirds, were much in evidence with six species of migrant from the northern hemisphere (2 Marsh Sandpipers, a Common Greenshank, 57 Red-necked Stints, 2 Pectoral Sandpipers, 25 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers & 5 Curlew Sandpipers) and six that breed in Australia including 9 Red-necked Avocets. Waterfowl of note were 87 Australasian Shoveler and a Freckled Duck.


Norfolk Island


During November 2012 my wife Sue and I visited Norfolk Island for six days to enjoy the local bird life and scenery. The climate at this time of the year is idyllic with low humidity and breeding seabirds. The island is approximately eight kilometres long by five kilometres wide which is a very small area. It is littered with remains of convict buildings which in itself is full of Australian history.

Our introduction to the island and its people was a wonderful experience with many descendants from the Bounty mutiny who were settled on Norfolk from the Pitcairn Island. The region had become too small due to the increase in the number of descendants over many years.

We started with a bird tour conducted by a local woman, Margaret Christian. The tour took about four hours and Margaret is indeed an expert on local birdlife and the tour finishes with tea and cake in her front garden overlooking the ocean and with Masked Booby’s nesting on the cliffs in front of her property. During our tour with Margaret we were lucky enough to see the endangered Green Parrot high in some Norfolk Pines.

Accompanying us on the tour was The Honourable Neil Pope and his lovely wife Jen. Neil is the Island Administrator and a keen bird watcher who was delighted to see the Green Parrots and we luckily enough to be invited to Government House to view birds in their large manicured gardens. (Neil has a house in Sorrento and is in Norfolk for a few years). Several days later Sue and I returned at dusk to the area where we saw the Green Parrots and were very lucky to photograph a parrot only a matter of metres away feeding on local Kentia Palm nuts. The bird completely ignored us and continued to feed for a long time.

A trip was arranged for us to visit Phillip Island which is approximately six kilometres from Norfolk Island. The island had been denuded by feral animals, rabbits, pigs, goats over many years which lead to the deforestation of practically all vegetation on the island. This was disastrous to the seabirds breeding on the island. Eradication of feral animals has now been completed and replanting of native vegetation is well underway. A book, Phillip Island South Pacific written by Peter Coyne describes the history of the island.

Our guided tour was fantastic in which many rare birds breeding were observed. The tour is definitely not for people who are unfit, as landing is by boat on to rocks and to reach the island scaling up steep tracks with ropes as support is not an easy task. However the tour was a highlight of our trip to Norfolk.

We also met a wonderful woman, Beryl Evans, who with her late husband Owen spent many months on the island over a long period tagging seabirds and recording many changes to the island.

Birds observed on Norfolk and Phillip Islands

Black Noddies

Green Parrot feeding on Kentia Palm nuts. Photos by Bob Dunball Whilst on Norfolk including Phillip Island we were lucky enough to observe thirty-six species and thoroughly recommend Norfolk Island as a birding destination.

Bob Dunball, Blairgowrie

Norfolk Island information

The Norfolk Island visitor information centre website at has excellent information.

For information on what other bird watchers saw, a Google search ‘Birding on Norfolk island’. A number of interesting trip reports will result.

Black-winged Petrel Kermadec Petrel Red-tailed Tropicbird White-tailed Tropicbird Masked Booby White-necked Heron Great Egret Nankeen Kestrel

Pacific Black Duck Mallard California Quail Purple Swamphen Masked Lapwing Lesser Golden Plover Ruddy turnstone Bar-tailed Godwit Sooty Tern Common Noddy Black Noddy White Tern Emerald Dove Crimson Rosella Green Parrot Sacred Kingfisher Grey Gerygone Scarlet Robin Golden Whistler Grey Fantail Welcome Swallow Silvereye Long-billed White-eye Common Blackbird Song Thrush Common Starling House Sparrow European Goldfinch


Dealing with introduced birds

12 Mornington Peninsula Birdlife


I'm often asked why I have such a "thing" about blackbirds and why I actively remove their nests. The answer is they are not an Australian species and they displace native birds in suburban gardens, parks, farmland throughout Victoria, N.S.W., Tasmania and parts of South Australia.

In the 19th Century many Europeans at first felt uneasy in their new land. They spoke of 'the savage silence" of the bush and so they introduced plants and animals to make the alien environment feel more like home, to beautify their gardens, provide sport for hunters and 'aggrandise' the colony.

Thomas Austin, a member of the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, helped to introduce many species from England. In 1861 he wrote that he had introduced hares, blackbirds and thrushes, and that he was breeding English wild rabbits and partridges. He introduced 24 breeding rabbits in October 1859 as game for shooting parties. While his efforts were praised at the time, he has borne the brunt of blame for introducing this pest to Australia.

By googling "Acclimatisation Society" you can read about some of the extraordinary animals, bird, fish etc that early settlers introduced into Australia. It is claimed that "there was never a body of eminent men so foolishly, so vigorously, and so disastrously wrong" as the members of

acclimatisation societies.

The following species are among those introduced from Europe: Eurasian Skylark, Common Blackbird, Song Thrush, Common Starling, House Sparrow, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, European Goldfinch and Common Greenfinch.

Introductions from Asia include the Rock Dove, Spotted Dove, Common or Indian Mynah, Red-whiskered Bulbul; some of these may have "hitched" a ride on sailing ships. The bulbul has probably disappeared from Melbourne; thirty-five years ago we sometimes saw one or two in our North Balwyn garden; it is still occasionally seen in Sydney. The Barbary Dove was introduced from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Celia Browne, West Rosebud


Like Val Ford and David Reid I had not realised Australian Magpies would actually kill Common Blackbirds, though I saw a magpie severely peck a young boy who came too near the nest.

I quote from a notebook in which, for the last three years, I've recorded notes on flora and fauna in my garden. 1998 -20 September: An Australian Magpie chased a (young male) Common Blackbird from my front yard and killed it in the gutter outside the house two doors down."

While on the subject of "bird homicide", two more notes from my book: 1997 -10 February: Believe a Grey Butcherbird killed a young (female) blackbird in backyard this morning. Certainly, it dragged the carcass 2 m across the yard. 1998 -13 January: A juvenile blackbird almost certainly killed near bird bath by butcherbird. Saw it feeding on the carcass and dragging it about 4 m.

Robyn Campbell, Nunawading First reported in The Bird Observer, November 1999


Collared Sparrowhawk devouring a Spotted Dove. Photo by Mark Lethlean


Brown Goshawk plucking a Spotted Dove. Photo by Cath Cousland


Accurate recording of Common Blackbirds and Spotted Doves in our garden for the Garden Bird Survey has been

continually frustrated by the actions of our resident pair of Australian Magpies. Whist guarding their eight-houseblock territory they are able to detect blackbirds and doves at distances of up to 100 metres away and immediately chase them out. They show no aggression to us and only

indifference to other birds.

Recently we heard a commotion in the garden and found one magpie standing on a blackbird and pecking at its head with the other magpie alongside urging it on. Our approaching caused them to move away from the blackbird, which was still alive but died about 15 minutes later. If we hadn't disturbed them we don't know what the outcome would have been, however they showed no interest in the dead bird when feeding in the garden later in the day.

Although aware of their intense dislike of blackbirds we had not realised that they would actually kill them. Maybe we could rent out our magpies as a solution to the feral bird population problem.

Val Ford & David Reid, Sorrento. First published in The Bird Observer, July 1999




These reports, some from Birdline,, are not authenticated records. Researchers are advised to check with the observers before citing.

Please report your sightings to Val Ford; 5984 0039 or

Date Species Location Comments Observer

23/1/13 Cape Barren Goose (2)

Nankeen Night Heron (1) The Briars, Mt Martha On top of the Chechingurk hide. An immature, flew onto the mud from the window ledge. Sue Brabender 27/1/13 Sacred Kingfisher (3) Langwarrin Two adults & 1 juvenile at Langwarrin Flora & Fauna Reserve. Max & Bev Burrows 28/1/13 Rufous Fantail (1) Langwarrin In reserve near the corner of McClelland Drive & North Road. Max & Bev Burrows 29/1/13 Royal Spoonbill (15)

Swamp Harrier (2) Warringine, Hastings Took off from the creek wetland. Have fledged from the coastal section. Gerard Cook 2/2/13 Cape Barren Goose (4) Peninsula Link Feeding on newly-sown grass near Devilbend Creek. Pam Hearn 2/2/13 Wedge-tailed Eagle (2) Mt Martha At The Briars. Over my home on 3/2. Kevin Conlan 4/2/13 Freckled Duck (10)

Musk Duck (1) Royal Spoonbill (4) Red-kneed Dotterel (1)

Balbirooroo wetland,

Balnarring Forty species of birds seen at the wetland. Cath Cousland

13/2/13 Australian Spotted Crake (4 ) Coolart At the Observatory Wetlands. Outing attendees 20/2/13 Crescent Honeyeater (2) Sorrento A few years since seen in my garden. Mobbed by other birds. Val Ford 23/2/13 Eastern Osprey (2) Point Nepean NP One was feeding on a large fish on rocks below Cheviot Hill. Tania Ireton 3/3/13 Cape Barren Goose (16) Mornington In a field on the corner of Moorooduc and Bungower Roads. Kevin Conlan 4/3/13 Wedge-tailed Eagle (1) Warringine Park, Hastings Flew over the boardwalk near the lookout, from the park side. Simon Westfold 10/3/13 Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike Rosebud In Denholm Street. Ray Pentland 10/3/13 Australian King-Parrot (2) Mt Martha Over our home. Seen regularly, are they breeding locally? Kevin Conlan 13/3/13 Bassian Thrush (1) Main Ridge In our garden. Venetia McMahon 15/3/13 Spotless Crake (3)

Nankeen Night Heron (2)

Black-fronted Dotterel (2) Red-kneed Dotterel (1)

The Briars, Mt Martha Crake & Night Heron at Boonoorong Hide.

Dotterels at Chechingurk Hide.

Danny Vits & Sue Brabender

17/3/13 Australian Spotted Crake (1) The Briars, Mt Martha Under the wooden bridge east of the visitor centre. Kevin Conlan 17/3/13 Pied Currawong (1) Mt Eliza Near the Bellbird Road and Canadian Bay Road intersection. Susie Field 19/3/13 Spotted Pardalote (1) Main Ridge At our bird bath. Venetia McMahon 20/3/13 Freckled Duck (25+) Balbirooroo wetland Roger Standen 21/3/13 Fork-tailed Swift (2) Rye Ocean Beach Feeding along the coast during strong winds. C & I Macartney 21/3/13 Galah (32)

Little Corella (15) Mornington A mixed group, feeding on the roots and seeds of grasses, on road verge outside the Homemaker Centre, Nepean Highway. Ian Dowling 22/3/13 Great Crested Grebe (1) Devilbend Reservoir Seen from the newly installed fishing platform. Danny Vits 25/3/13 Bassian Thrush (1) The Briars, Mt Martha Danny Vits 28/3/13 Australasian Pipit (1) Blairgowrie Feeding on the beach near the Blairgowrie shops. Val Ford 29/3/13 Pacific Black Duck (2) Rosebud Swimming in Port Phillip Bay near the Jetty. Ian Dowling

3/4/13 Peregrine Falcon (1) Mornington Caused panic amongst other birds as it flew over my house. Danny Vits 4/4/13 Grey Currawong (1) Frankston In the eastern section of The Pines Flora & Fauna Reserve. Denis Goss 4/4/13 Southern Boobook (1) The Briars, Mt Martha Found dead in the wildlife sanctuary. Sue Brabender 5/4/13 Banded Lapwing (1) French Island With 44 Masked Lapwing at Overpass Road. Chris Chandler 6/4/13 Little Penguin (1) Mornington Pier Seen under the pier. Joan McDowell 7/4/13 Flame Robin (1,brown bird) Mt Martha Near Harraps Creek, between Nepean Highway and The Briars. Danny Vits 8/4/13 Flame Robin (1,f) Bangholme Seen in a tree with House Sparrows at Banyan Road wetland. Bette Mitchell et al 8/4/13 Australasian Grebe (1) Mornington About 50m out to sea off Mills Beach. Danny Vits 10/4/13 Hoary-headed Grebe (2) Mornington In the water at Shire Hall beach. Joan McDowell 12/4/13 Nankeen Night Heron (9) Stony Point Feeding on intertidal mudflats at 7.45 am. Mick Douglas 19/4/13 Pink Robin (1, brown bird) Sorrento In Haven Avenue. Has returned to this area for many years. Val Ford



14 Mornington Peninsula Birdlife

Magpie attacks model plane

I recently saw an Australian Magpie diving at a model plane. It was obviously frustrated as it kept missing the plane so it flew up very high, turned around and closed its wings and dropped very fast in a dive bombing action towards the plane.

The operator saw it coming and redirected his plane only to have it disappear and crash into the bush somewhere where he had to retrieve it from. I think the magpie won.

Denis Cox, Tecoma

Unusual bird at Gunnamatta

On returning to the 2nd car park at Gunnamatta after

completing our quarterly count in February, we chanced upon a very unusual sighting. Perched in the back of one of the surfers ute's was a large (2.49m), brightly coloured bird, normally only seen in the company of small children.

Photo by Neil Shelley I doubt that it was a threat to any of the five Hooded Plover chicks on the beach at the moment, but I will consult BirdLife Australia to see if there have been any previous sightings of this species in this type of environment.

Neil Shelley, Mt Martha

Mystery bird

A friend has asked for advice about a bird she couldn't identify. I thought you might be interested in her description and my conclusion.

"The bird was seen on a mussel boat at Mornington Pier in mid-March, before the big storm. It had the body the size of a lapwing but shorter legs. The back and wings were browny-grey and the head had a greenish tinge. The front was pale yellowy in colour. There was a white edge to the wings suggestive of white under-wing. It had a beak like a

kingfisher and two yellowy plumes on the back of the head". All I could suggest was Nankeen Night Heron. What do you think?

Joan McDowell, Mt Martha

Immature Nankeen Night Heron at The Briars. Photo by Sue Brabender

Nankeen Night Heron at The Briars

As I walked into the Chechingurk hide I heard a call like that of a heron and saw a bird fly down onto the mud from the window ledge - an immature Nankeen Night Heron. What a gorgeous bird, first time I have seen one at The Briars. So along with the Nankeen Night Heron, Australian Spotted Crakes which have been seen in several areas, Buff-banded Rail and all the regular water birds the wetlands are

‘humming’. With the receding waters of the wetlands, the exposed muddy edges are attracting not only the Black-fronted Dotterels (now a pair with two tiny chicks) but also a pair of Red-kneed Dotterel which have been seen in the last two days from the Chechingurk hide.

Sue Brabender, Mornington

Nankeen Night Heron at Apollo Bay

We arrived at Apollo Bay Recreation Caravan Park on 15 February 2013 for a few days camping. Whilst strolling along the tranquil Barham River at about 5 pm, we flushed a Nankeen Night Heron from our side of the river. It flapped into the bushes on the other side and disappeared. However, next day, at about 8am, in the same spot, in a flurry of squawking and flapping the heron emerged from cover with its three long white plumes extended and its short black head feathers standing up like a crew cut. After balancing on some very spindly twigs over the water, it gradually calmed down, the plumes slowly coming to rest on its back and the head feathers smoothing down.

The cause of the heron's agitation landed in a nearby tree - a Grey Goshawk (white morph). The heron remained perched and it was still there some minutes later when I quietly moved away. These two sightings were the highlights of this very attractive riverside setting.



Village birding in summer & autumn

A simple, inexpensive hanging bird bath can be easily made by attaching a chain in three places to a plastic dish. Suspended from a horizontal branch amid a fair amount of cover/protection, this will soon be found by birds in warm weather when they will appreciate a bath as well as a drink. A small rock placed in the water will prevent the dish from swaying wildly in the wind and afford a foothold for smaller birds. A yellow, plastic flower attached to the chain for a week or so should attract honeyeaters to the new facility. Chain and dish can be purchased for around seven dollars. As the water level in the golf-course stream gets lower, village birding becomes very interesting. The elusive Australian Spotted Crake can be observed some evenings from the timber deck.

Around 8:30pm Nankeen Night-Herons are seen leaving their daytime roosts amid thick melaleuca south of the path; one was reported in trees alongside Chinamans Creek early in January.

On two occasions in January a single Latham's Snipe was seen on the mud bank at the side of the golf course. Startled, it gave a "kek" call before jinking off towards the swamp to the south. This bird breeds in Northern Japan and Siberia and makes the huge journey to Australia each (southern) summer to feed up in readiness for the coming breeding season.

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes are very elegant birds, light grey in colour with a black face, neck and wingtips. Approximately 35 cm long, their undulating flight pattern is a good

diagnostic feature as they swoop from perch to perch, often to quite exposed, high branches. The soft, churring call too is a giveaway, as is their habit of "shuffling" their wings when alighting on a branch. Old timers often called them Blue Jay or "shufflewing". Contemporary birders call them "bifcus", short for B.F.C.S. Found over most of Australia, recently four of these graceful birds were seen several times during March in and over the village.

In autumn, when the breeding season for small bush birds is over, they will often "band together", forming a mixed feeding flock which perhaps deters predators from pouncing on them; safety in numbers! This was the case several times in the village in early May when noisy flocks of New Holland Honeyeaters flew from flowering correas to banksias - and back again. Sometimes other small honeyeaters joined in - a few Eastern Spinebills, Crescent and Singing Honeyeaters - until the 20+ strong group was scattered by aggressive Red and Little Wattlebirds.

During the April walk we spotted a male Mistletoebird high in a melaleuca, a stunningly marked gem of a bird with its scarlet throat, black vertical stripe on white breast and blue-black head and back. Although the Mistletoebird is nomadic and found all over Australia, it is often overlooked due to its small size (only 12 cm) and the fact that it is usually alone, coming together with the female only during the breeding season. As the name implies, this small bird is the main vector for spreading mistletoe throughout Australia.

Celia Browne, Village Glen, West Rosebud

Tailless Superb Fairy-wren

In March we spent three weeks camped adjacent to The Ninety Mile Beach behind the sand dunes in Teatree habitat. Around four times per day we were visited by a group of Superb Fairy-wrens. We noticed that one individual had no tail. This didn't seem to impede the bird’s flight or behaviour at all.

Tailless Superb Fairy-wren; tail regrowth about 5 days later. Photos by Judy Humphreys

Over the next week we observed this bird many times & watched as its new tail developed. After a week it was approximately half grown. We had to depart soon after but at that growth rate it would have been impossible to tell that bird from the rest within another week.

Keith & Judy Humphreys, Mornington

Mating dance

A couple of weeks ago I visited Coolart Wetlands and spotted a few interesting birds, including the Freckled Duck and Hardheads, but the most interesting sighting was two Pied Cormorants doing a mating dance. For the first time I noticed that the back of the neck from the top of the head right down to the base of the neck was frilled out into a full crest. At first the male was showing then after a short time they were both fully erect.

I have never noticed this before and wondered if anyone else has seen and photographed this display.



16 Mornington Peninsula Birdlife

Problem birds in the Village

Some residents are feeding birds which is creating problems. When birds become dependent on people for their food supply, they do not learn to properly forage for themselves: for seed or grain in the case of doves, pigeons and finches or insects, snails, worms, frogs and small reptiles in the case of magpies, kookaburras etc. When the supplier of the "free" food goes away, dependent birds become weak and fall prey to falcons, hawks, eagles as well as to cats, rats and foxes. Encouraging birds to become dependent also causes disturbance to neighbours who may not appreciate a "dawn chorus" at 6:30am when birds clamour to be fed. Uneaten food left on patios, in gardens or around front doors decays which, in turn, encourages cats, rats and foxes - all animals not native to Australia and which do a huge amount of damage to native birds and reptiles.

So again, please do not feed the birds in your garden or around the lakes. Put out water by all means, especially over summer and enjoy watching honeyeaters and wrens come in for a quick sip or a bath.

The large number of Purple Swamphens roaming through clusters are also becoming a nuisance as they dig up lawns and gardens, scatter mulch, eat tomatoes and other vegetables. These are native birds and, therefore, cannot legally be culled. Last winter's rains, followed by a warm, dry spring created optimal breeding conditions around the lakes and Tootgarook Swamp. Swamphens may, in fact, do some good. Their large, strong beaks, capable of pulling up reeds and deep roots, create holes in lawns and gardens which, when the rains come, draw water deeper into the root system, thus creating healthier lawns.

In January there were avian visitors to the Village; a large, white pigeon. This was possibly a "homing" pigeon, maybe someone's pet. It looked healthy despite a damaged wing - it could only flutter. It was caught and put into a box and taken to the local Vet. At last report it was doing well and was released after several days care.

Six Indian Peafowl were reported in a garden; one peacock and five peahens. These large exotic birds roamed happily through the Village for a few days, delighting residents and causing phones to "run hot". It is not known from whence they came, or where they went!

Celia Browne, Village Glen, West Rosebud

Wedge-tailed Eagle with Ringtail Possum at

Tootgarook Swamp

In November I attended a meeting at Tootgarook Swamp and whilst we were there a pair of Wedge-tail Eagles were circling lazily overhead. One of the eagles was seen to be carrying a Ringtail Possum and you could clearly see the long tail with white tip. The eagles slowly gained altitude before gliding away to the south.

David Ap-Thomas, Mt Eliza

Shining Bronze-Cuckoo on my doorstep

This bird was found on the mat at the glass panelled backdoor, deceased, with no apparent injury. I do not have cats. I think it is a juvenile Shining Bronze-Cuckoo with metallic green feathers but nondescript on the underside. It is now in the freezer to show the grandchildren - as you do.

A third external autopsy/investigation was performed with the help of grandsons, aged eight and six who are most interested. There are a few darker feathers underneath but no barring except on the tail.

Jill Phillips, Main Ridge

Feral pigeon at Somers

Feral pigeon/rock dove (Columba livia) would hardly be interesting in the city, but in our village of Somers, far from the madding crowd, it is quite unusual.

This one has been perching on our deck rail, and pecking around the street nature strips for several days. It has no band or other identification, but fairly distinct wing markings.



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