Get to know your own backyard

White cabbage butterfly

There’s much to catch up on from when I was away and I have appreciated the emails I have received from people who live on the Bellarine Peninsula regarding bird sightings around the area.

In mid-March, Ocean Grove local Denis Sleep sent an email detailing birds that he and his wife Maree saw when they went on a cruise around New Zealand.

The birds that Denis photographed included wandering albatross, Buller’s albatross, Buller’s shearwater and a white-necked petrel.

Mervyn, who lives in Curlewis near the old rail trail, sent me an email to inform me that he saw quite a number of birds, some 200 to 300 metres from his house, which he initially thought were ravens perched in a gum tree.

When Mervyn moved closer to the birds he got out of the car and soon noticed there were at least 13 or so birds of prey preening their feathers, as it had just rained. Mervyn took photos, but didn’t have the capacity to bring them up clearly, however he thought that the birds looked like brown falcons or something similar.

They tended to be a bit flighty as he ventured closer, and one by one they would take off, fly around a bit and then as he moved away, they would retreat to the same tree and continue preening their feathers.

They were not a large bird, maybe the size of a raven or a tad bigger, darkish brown with what seemed lighter brown on the inside of their wings and their tail feathers in flight were only very slightly forked.

From Mervyn’s description I think the birds were black kites, which along with whistling kites, can occasionally be seen in flocks, especially in the non-breeding season. Young black kites have less of a fork in their tail than mature birds.

I also received an email from Geoff, who sent me a photo of two Pacific gulls that he spotted at the boat ramp in Ocean Grove near the golf club. Geoff described the gulls as “impressive birds”.

I participated in a worldwide City Nature Challenge. Geelong’s nature challenge was organised by the Geelong Field Naturalists.

It was difficult with social distancing laws to work out where to go to observe nature, and participants were encouraged to look around their backyards or places within walking distance.

I did look around my backyard, and saw lots of sparrows, common mynas, spotted doves, New Holland honeyeaters and white cabbage butterflies.

There are a few little ponds where purple swamphens and dusky moorhens have been breeding successfully for a few years now.

I saw white-faced herons, chestnut teals, spotted pardalotes, little wattlebirds and brown thornbills, so I was able to add a few observations to the Geelong collection.

I learned the names of a few butterflies, namely a yellow admiral and meadow argus.

Your first stop before buying a home. View the whole picture.