Here is a belated trip report from the Werribee Sewage Farm (Western
Treatment Plant) located between Melbourne and Geelong, Victoria.
The trip was organised by the Bird Observers Club and was led by
John Barkla on Sunday 23rd March.
It was low tide when we met so we made our way down to the Little
River where we searched for crakes and rails. En route, birds
of interest included Cattle Egrets which have arrived for the Winter and
Striated Fieldwren. We spent some time scanning the reed bed at the
Little River and were rewarded with excellent views of Buff-banded Rail.
Lewin's Rail is a possibility here but naturally we dipped as there were
about 40 of us. I still haven't seen one of these secretive little so and
so's despite having been shown at least three spots on the farm where they
can occur. However, on a recent visit cattle flushed a rail out of reeds
and it flashed past the front of the car. Although it most likely a
Lewin's, I am not 100% certain. The search goes on . . . .
At the mouth of the river we had five different species of tern: a mixed
flock of about 200 Little and Fairy Terns, Crested Tern, WHITE-WINGED
BLACK TERN (about 40) and Common Tern (2). Several of the White-winged
Blacks were almost fully in breeding plumage- very handsome. I am starting
to form the impression that late March to April is a good time of year to
see terns at Werribee, particularly White-winged Black.
For most of the remainder of the day we concentrated on waders. We found
common species such as Common Greenshank, Red-necked Stint, Sharp-tailed
Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper and Black-fronted Dotterel; less common species
such as Black-tailed Godwit (1), Red-kneed Dotterel (1), Latham's Snipe (1)
and Common Sandpiper (1 - at its usual haunt near the 15E drainage outlet);
and a couple of rarer species. There were 2 WOOD SANDPIPERS in a borrow pit
set aside as bird habitat but the highlight of the day was a small flock of
15 PECTORAL SANDPIPERS. Small numbers turn up at Werribee every year, I
believe, but to see 15 at once was quite something. A possible
Little Stint caused a lot of excitement for a while. The bird was in
breeding plumage and had a lovely orange (rather than rufous) wash to
its plumage about the head, breast and back and a creamy coloured "V" on
its mantle. However, it did not have a noticeable white chin and throat and
it did not show any traces of colour on the tertials. There were no
obvious differences in profile or jizz between it and the Red-necked Stints
it was feeding with. It was concluded that the bird was a
Red-necked Stint but in an unusual plumage-the orange colouration was
quite different. Very educational.
Other birds of note at the borrow pits were Glossy Ibis (1) and Australian
Spotted Crake (1).
My 14th visit to Werribee and definitely one of the best.