Late spring into early summer is a fantastic time in Victoria. Some breeding birds have fledged young out and about, whilst the later spring arrivals and some more southerly resident birds are in peak breeding mode. Plus the weather is warming, the days are longer, all conditions that make for great birding.
After the significant influx of inland birds that occurred in late September and early October many of these welcome wanderers have lingered into summer. Intrepid birders who were prepared to venture out into the farther reaches of northern Victoria enjoyed plenty of Orange Chats and Black Honeyeaters, with continuing reports of the rarer Red-backed Kingfishers and Pied Honeyeaters.
With a busy tour schedule, being out and about around the state almost continually was a real joy and privilege. On the bay close to Melbourne the Little Penguin colony became more active as young are reared and birds seemed keen on a second breeding event. One recent evening visit to a colony near the city was full of calling, mating and displaying Penguins, at least 70 birds were out and about, plus the occasional Rakali (our native Water Rat).
Powerful Owls are winter breeders, and in late spring their young fledge and family groups may be seen roosting together near their nesting sites. We visited a number of these families during the course of the spring and it’s good to see a new crop of Owls venturing out into the environment.
A wide variety of spring migrants add to our resident birds at this time of year. Later arrivals include Rufous Fantails, Leaden and Satin Flycatchers, Brush Cuckoos, Black-faced Monarchs, White-throated Needletails, Dollarbirds and Rainbow Bee-eaters. The falling leaf songs of the both the Western and the White-throated Gerygone are some of our sweetest sounds, and this is the season when numbers of migratory shorebirds really hit their peak with birds moving between wetlands and seemingly new arrivals occurring every week. A Hudsonian Godwit was a rare find in Westernport Bay, whilst Painted Snipe and Long-toed Stint have appeared in some of the numerous wetlands in western Victoria.
Fruiting fig trees have attracted birders especially in Metung in Gippsland where flocks of Top-knot Pigeons, a pair of Channel-billed Cuckoo, Koels and Figbirds have been visiting. It can feel more like Queensland birding than the southern coast of Victoria.
A run of easterly winds brought some interesting seabird sightings, with Wedge-tailed Shearwaters seen off Cape Conran, a Brown Booby sighted in Port Phillip bay, and most remarkably a Black Noddy also in the bay near Werribee.
When the change finally came and westerly winds returned the state received some significant rainfall especially in the north and north-east. Quite quickly Plumed Whistling Ducks spread out across the plains to take advantage of floodwaters, whilst other wetlands in the north that received environmental watering hold breeding Bitterns and Magpie Geese.
Some of the world’s rarest birds may be found in Victoria. The critically endangered Regent Honeyeater was still being seen occasionally in the Chiltern area, though most of the sightings involved recently released captive bred birds. However two wild bred birds appeared in mid December in East Gippsland, a very exciting find.
The critically endangered Plains-wanderer remains on the northern plains in very small numbers and almost entirely on private land. Occasional sightings have been made on public reserves also, where a new focus on biomass management is slowly returning some areas to suitable habitat. On a recent trip two females were heard calling within close proximity of each other, so hopefully a new crop of youngsters will be appearing in the coming months. Recent tours have included visits into NSW to observe this interesting species.
A big shout out must go to the thriving population of Rufous Bristlebirds down on the western Victorian coastline. Bucking the trend this Bristlebird species seems to be doing well, and with young fledged by October, and plenty of territorial behaviour continuing into summer, this abundance looks like continuing