Today was the day that Melbourne Water conducted induction sessions for bird watchers to the Western Treatment Plant. Ruth and I were booked into the 11am session along with Peter Shute and Russell Woodford. Ruth and I arrived early and immediately bumped into Joy Tansey and friends – I thought that this day was likely to be a real who’s who of Victorian birding! Sure enough, once inside we met Tom Fletcher and Gordon McCarthy. Looking around there were quite a few other well-known birders too.
It was nice to finally meet Margaret from Melbourne Water – the lady I usually speak to when registering a visit to the WTP. We signed-in, handed over our old key and then moved into the auditorium for the induction. A straightforward affair with a bit of a preamble followed by a video and then a questionaire. Perhaps the most interesting part of the presentation was finding out why the roads and ponds were named. When the farm was originally laid out, with Boundary Road at the northern edge, all measurements were in the old English unit of chains. So 160 South Road is 160 chains south of Boundary Road! East and west numbering is from Farm Road – so 95E Conservation Ponds are 95 chains to the east of Farm Road (or the imaginary extension of Farm Road).
Once the induction was complete we picked up our new passes, duly stamped with “Attended Induction” and our new key, and we were ready to go! Peter headed off to attend the BOCA beginners walk – he’s leading the next one, so wanted to get as much experience in as possible. Russell had a couple of hours, so we thought we’d head into the plant with him for some birding. We’d also arranged to catch up with David Clark later, once he’d completed his induction session at 1pm.
First stop was about 1km down Farm Road where we saw a number of Whistling Kites soaring. We also saw many House Sparrows and other common birds. Ruth noticed a Tree Sparrow – our first for this part of the farm (we have seen them on Point Wilson Road, and also on the track from Beach Road to Kirk Point). With Russell we came in through a gate off 160 South Road (thinking it was Murtcaim Road), and found ourselves in an unfamilar part of the farm. Looking at the map now, it was presumably Walsh’s Road. By the time we’d looked around this area we’d already reached eight raptor species and a collection of others including both Black-fronted and Red-kneed Dotterels and a single Common Greenshank. It was time to take Russell back to his car so after a quick stop at Walsh’s lagoon where we saw a single Cape Barren Goose, we headed off past Paradise Road Lagoon (where we saw very little), then out of the farm along Murtcaim Road. We met David Clark there and arranged to meet him again at the Borrow Pits in half-an-hour or so.
Once we’d dropped Russell off we headed back along Farm Road and almost immediately saw a Black Falcon! Then on 160 South Road we saw a lovely Wedge-tailed Eagle – raptor species count now 10 for the day! This time we reentered the farm through Murtcaim Road and headed along Paradise Road. This time when we stopped at the Paradise Road Lagoon we saw plenty of birds, including two Brolga at the Chirnside Road end. I notice on the official Melbourne Water map that Paradise Road Lagoon isn’t mentioned or marked – I wonder why that is?
Anyway, we crossed the ford and headed along to the north of Walsh’s lagoon, past the Conservation Ponds to the Borrow Pit, where we expected to meet David – but no, he wasn’t there. After a few phone calls we managed to hook up with him and led him back to the Borrow Pits. There’s plenty of water in the pond at the Borrow Pits now, and loads of Red-kneed Dotterels but nothing else of note – certainly no Orange-bellied Parrots! From there we led David back past the Conservation Ponds and Walsh’s Lagoon where we saw a spectacular pair of juvenile Sea Eagles. As we drove a long we flushed them from one side of the road, and they kept on flying a hundred metres or so in front of us. As we approached them again, they flew up and another hundred metres in front – this happened several times – amazing! So our total was 11 raptor species for the day. Probably a record for us at the farm!
We wound our way past Lake Borrie to the Beach Road gate, picking up all the ducks along the way except for Freckled (which we still haven’t seen at the farm). From there a quick visit to the T-Section lagoons where we finally caught up with some spoonbills. All-in-all a good afternoon at the WTP!
Thanks to Ruth Woodrow for allowing me to use her photos in my blog!