Wetlands are still dry

Kevin''s image of a pied oystercatcher.

It’s nearly May and Begola Wetland is still dry, so the situation is pretty dire.

My rain dance routines have completely failed to gain a decent response, so I might have to recruit some more participants. Gosh I hope the heavens open soon and stay open.

Despite the dry conditions I’ve had a lovely few weeks, mainly in an area a mere 50 metres from my house.

There’s an oasis in Ocean Grove in the area behind Safeway, and I’ve seen many yellow-faced honeyeaters, white-naped honeyeaters (three), New Holland honeyeaters, little wattlebirds (two), eastern spinebills (five), red wattlebirds, and heard a few spiny-cheeked honeyeaters.

I also noticed in the same area a flock of 20 to 30 silvereyes. They have a rich brown flank colour to their plumage, so they are the Tasmanian ‘lateralis’ subspecies that fly to Victoria from Flinders Island and Tasmania at this time of the year, when the weather starts to become cooler in southern regions.

Most of the Tasmanian population of silvereyes cross the Bass Strait and then disperse as far north as Queensland, which is amazing considering the size of the bird.

I did drive to Anglesea one day to look for an owlet nightjar (which true to form I did not see). I had a walk through the Angelsea Heath, off Forest Rd, and I saw nothing.

Did not hear a bird, did not see a bird, hardly saw an insect. I think for the last 18 months I have not seen much at all at Anglesea Heath, so either I am going to the wrong places or I’ve just been unlucky, as it is a gem of a place.

I had an exciting moment a few days ago when I saw a new bird or a ‘lifer’, in Curlewis. I was driving (fortunately slowly) down Coriyule Road when a quail walked in front of the car, causing me to brake suddenly.

I was relieved when the bird made it to the opposite side of the road without being squashed. I spent a few minutes (after parking the car) trying to see the bird, and I eventually located it sitting in the grass – and they are so well camouflaged.

It was so hard to take a photo in between the grass, and I took a quick snap so I wouldn’t scare the bird too much. I identified the bird as being a stubble quail, which is a game bird in Victoria.

I was horrified to read in the last edition of ‘Australian Birdlife’ magazine that an estimated 148,500 stubble quail were killed by hunters in Victoria last year, and with no actual data on the numbers of birds to start with, it’s impossible to know how shooting effects the population of the birds (especially when drought conditions are taken into account).

I was thrilled to see a Stubble Quail but feel very sad about how I live in a ‘progressive’ state of Australia where the shooting of such defenceless, vulnerable creatures is allowed.

On a brighter note, I sat down in my lounge room after coming home from work on Easter Monday, to watch the Geelong Vs Hawthorn clash at the MCG. My TV watching was short-lived when out the window I glimpsed the shadow of a large bird flying over the courtyard. I grabbed the camera and crept out into the backyard, where I saw a hawk in the next door neighbour’s gum tree.

As soon as it saw me it flew off, and I thought ‘well that’s the end of that’, however to my amazement the bird did a U-turn and flew straight back towards me. This all happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to set the camera, and I just hoped that the settings would enable me to take a decent image. The settings were not great for the available light, but I did manage an image which allowed the identification of a collared sparrowhawk, due to the obviously square tail and long middle talons.

I thought that Hawthorn might thrash the Cats at the ‘G’ after the appearance of a hawk in my garden, but it was not to be, which was most pleasant.

I received an email from Kevin, who spotted a dozen pied oystercatchers at Queenscliff, around the old jetty that leads to the life-boat shed.

Two of the oystercatchers were tagged (one was K5 and another L7).


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