Despite the shorter days and colder weather, there is plenty to keep the birding interesting here in the deep south of Australia. This photo of the beautifully cryptic Bassian Thrush found near Melbourne this week proves that a winter walk can be very rewarding. Albatross numbers reach their peak off the coast in winter and may be readily seen from land. The occasional Brown Skua and Giant-Petrel can add some spice.
A beach-washed Prion found near Barwon heads started another round of prion identification meanderings. Latericorns, maxillary unguis and lamellae were discussed, and with prion taxonomy very complicated, the suggestions fluctuated between Antarctic, Salvins and MacGillvray's.
Salvins and MacGillvrays came out on top without a final confirmation!
Aussie Bitterns continue to pop up here and there, and there has been a run of winter records of birds which if they had more sense would be up in warmer climes. Western Gerygone, Black Honeyeater, Pallid Cuckoo and Azure Kingfishers have been appearing around the traps.
On the Orange-bellied Parrot front the recently released birds continue to mix it with a handful of wild birds in the Werribee area, Incredible news. Blue Black F, the oldest OBP in the wild population, has completed his 19th crossing of Bass Strait! He turned up at the Western Treatment Plant and found the captive-bred, released birds.
Captive bred Regent Honeyeaters are also hanging around the Chiltern area, and one of last year's releases has reappeared after making a long journey to Gippsland and back plus who knows where inbetween.
Swift Parrots have typically dispersed widely across the landscape. Some have taken up residence again in the outer Melbourne suburbs, whilst possibly the best flowering of Ironbark trees for many a year has enticed many to remain in Victoria. Even Red Ironbarks on the coast are flowering well and attracting some large concentrations of Honeyeaters. A winter feast for sure.
The duck shooting season has finally come to an end, with unnecessary carnage inflicted on our native waterbirds. Thankfully this activity is declining. Some wetlands where shooting is not allowed have seen bird numbers increase, with many hundreds of Freckled Duck seen at Lake Cooper in northern Vic and Lake Lorne in the south.
Last but not least, a duo of mega rarities have been hanging around the same area of Westernport Bay south-east of Melbourne. A South Island Pied Oystercatcher was located there and the ensuing throngs of visitors lead to the finding of another national rarity , a Little Stint showing significant breeding plumage. A decent antidote to the winter blues !