A Mild Winter’s Day at the WTP

Today we had an early start and visited the WTP – our first visit since the induction in May. Winter is usually quiet at “the farm” unless Orange-bellied Parrots (OBPs) have been sighted. There are few waders there at this time of year and the number of species seen in a visit is typically 20-30 less than would be seen in summer. Unfortunately no OBPs have been seen at the WTP this year (I did hear that a small group had been seen in late April, but there are no records of this sighting anywhere).

Just after leaving the freeway at Point Wilson road we saw three Blue-winged Parrots – a wonderful sighting – and with that I thought that today may be a good day’s birding! Further along the road we reached a particularly “tweety” patch – lots of birds calling. At this spot we heard a Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo calling – the first of the season for us. In the same spot was a small group, about two or three, Tree Sparrows – we’ve seen them on Point Wilson Road previously, but not for a long time.
A little further along Point Wilson Road at the Paradise Road intersection we came across the new signage that Melbourne Water have put up for bird watchers. Gates are now clearly identified with bird signs and roads are named and signposted! I was pleased to see these improvements, but part of me was a little disappointed – perhaps it was the Melbourne birder snobbishness in me, but it has always been a source of pride that I knew the WTP so well that I never need a map or signs to find my way around. I should point out that this was after getting hopelessly lost on the first two visits!

We decided to follow our usual route around the farm and headed along Point Wilson Road/Twenty-nine Mile Road to the gate in the restricted area to look for Brolgas and robins. Unfortunately no Brolgas! And also, slightly surprisingly, no robins – especially since they had been reported consistently this winter. However we got great views of a Rufous Songlark – our first for the farm (thanks to Ruth Woodrow for the photo). Morning tea – Paul-made cheese, corn and chilli muffins!

From there to the T-Section Lagoons where we caught up with both Yellow-billed and Royal Spoonbills, but little else of note. Next stop was The Spit – often a location for Orange-bellied Parrots – none of those, but we found a mixed-flock of Red-browed Finches and Goldfinches. There is water in the ponds just inside the gate – there wasn’t when we were last there in May. In these ponds were Red-necked Stint, two or three Double-banded Plovers and a couple of Red-capped Plovers.

We took a drive along the Kirk Point track – it is getting worse – I’m sure it won’t be too long before it is unpassable by two-wheel drive cars! Nothing much was seen there – however as we were leaving, an egret flew past and alighted on the shore. Yellow bill and black legs and feet – could it be an Intermediate? Certainly in flight its neck, whilst folded, didn’t seem long enough to be a Great. We tried to approach to get photos, but unfortunately it flew off before we could get close enough – damn!

The ponds directly inside from the Beach Road gate were all very full – the ducks were happy, but there was far too much water for waders, which is a pity as these ponds have been home to some remarkable birds over the last year. The drive to the bird hide was relatively uneventful, as was the bird hide itself – the tide was in and there were no waders, but more surprisingly, no terns. The bird hide is often a good spot for Little and Fairy Terns, as well as the more usual Crested Terns. Outside the hide we heard a Little Grassbird calling, and with a bit of scanning with the binoculars I caught a quick glimpse. I’m not sure if they migrate during winter – I don’t think so, but they are rarely seen or heard during winter – it seems to me that the call of the Little Grassbird is one of the harbingers of spring in Melbourne.

A drive along Paradise Road alongside the lagoon didn’t yield anything in particular – certainly no Zebra Finches, even though they’d been reported there yesterday. We had seen Zebs there on a couple of occasions before, but no joy today. Back along Paradise Road, over the ford, past Walshes’ Lagoon and we saw an unusual raptor. I was convinced that it was a Spotted Harrier – an unusual visitor to the farm. The body was brown, the underwing patterns were very Spotted Harrier, but I just wasn’t certain. Luckily we managed to get some photos and later on I could see that it was an immature Swamp Harrier. Oh well!

At the Borrow Pits we came across previously reported Banded Stilts in the company of Red-necked Avocets and Black-winged Stilts. The water was quite deep at this location compared to previous visits – certainly too deep for the usual Red-kneed Dotterels that are often seen there. Lunch of roast chicken sandwiches and ginger beer sitting inside the car was pleasant – especially as the wind had picked up and it was too cold and blustery outside! As we were eating lunch a Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo flew in to a nearby tree and called. Spring really has arrived!
A pleasant day at the farm with a tally of 74 species. The full list can be seen at:

http://www.eremaea.com/Lists.aspx?List=44817

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