A HIGHLY recommended site near Melbourne - to visit soon!

To: "Messages Birding-aus" <>
Subject: A HIGHLY recommended site near Melbourne - to visit soon!
From: Dr Richard Nowotny <>
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 01:11:48 +1000
Dear Birding-aussers
Those of you living in, or near, Melbourne, or likely to visit over the next month or two (or three?) should, in my humble opinion, seriously consider scheduling a visit to Point Cook (Spectacle Lake and the Coastal Park) sometime soon.  I have visited three times over the past few weeks, most recently on Saturday morning (13th Oct), with very rewarding results.  Regular readers of this list may recall recent postings by other correspondents reporting some pretty impressive sightings (both quality and quantity) - for example the following from Lawrie Conole on 18 September:
<A delayed report on a pleasant 90 minutes spent at Point Cook on Sunday
9/9/2001. Highlights - Spotted Crake, Pectoral Sandpiper and Black-tailed
Native-hens at Spectacle Lake; Orange-bellied (2) and Blue-winged (10)
Parrots sitting in dead Kangaroo Apples (Solanum laciniatum) with a Pallid
Cuckoo - nice scope views - at Point Cook beach carpark.>
The key to the current very high quality birding is the combination of spring and the flooding of Spectacle Lake and surrounding low-lying fields, which apparently occurred during the winter and is now starting to recede, leaving some spectacular muddy edges, some of it amongst shrubs and bushes - prime crake/rail/native hen/wader habitat.
A few basic directions:  Westgate Bridge to the Geelong Freeway.  Take the Point Cook turn-off east towards Point Cook.  Shortly before reaching the Point Cook RAAF Base turn left (north) into Point Cook Homestead Rd (unsealed) and drive to where Spectacle Lake now extends on both sides of the road (shallow on the left, deep on the right).  Bird here from the car (plus keeping a watch over the surrounding fields), then do a U-turn and retrace your steps a short distance to the road now on your left which takes you towards the Spectacle Lake bird-hide (currently inaccessible due to the flooding, but with some excellent birding from the path and surrounding dry land).  Continuing on the road to Point Cook Coastal Park check out the wetlands on the left (north side of the road) and walk around the Coastal Park (a surprisingly lovely spot - especially in the morning before visitors arrive - very well maintained and with excellent facilities).
And what's excited me so much?  The number of uncommon and interesting species, and the extraordinarily high quality views obtained of many of them - close, clear and confiding.
Following is an annotated list of the more significant and interesting species I have seen (I haven't listed all the locally common species):

Australian Gannet - regular over Port Phillip Bay, usually at some distance.
Great Egret - one seen (generally uncommon on the western shores of the Bay).
White-necked (Pacific) Heron - 12 birds in flooded fields on my first visit, now smaller numbers.
Both Spoonbills - in small numbers at several sites.
White-eyed Duck (Hardhead) - good numbers on Spectacle Lake.
Australasian Shoveler - both Spectacle and Point Cook Lakes.
Both Chestnut and Grey Teal - in good numbers.
Blue-billed Duck - many on Spectacle Lake, with close views possible.
Mixed raptors - Swamp Harriers, Brown Falcon, Hobby, Collared Sparrowhawk, Black-shouldered Kite, Whistling Kite.
Stubble Quail - a covey in clear view in the shadow of bushes on the edge of Spectacle Lake.
Australian (Spotted) Crake - many, often in the open, sometimes within only a few metres.  On Saturday from the path in front of the bird-hide I had 5 in view simultaneously within a 180* arc, three of which were within 10 metres.
Baillon's Crake - one foraging in the open for 5 minutes or more in the last shallow swamp on the left before entering Point Cook Coastal Park (1/2 km or so past the bird-hide).
Buff-banded Rail - seen out in the open on the lake edge (from the path to the bird-hide).
Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen and Coot - the three common gallinules.
Black-tailed Native-hen - many, in the bushes, on the margins of Spectacle Lake, crossing the road near the bird-hide (25 or so) - some excellent close views from the car.
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper - many, with some extremely close views from Point Cook Homestead Rd.
Marsh Sandpiper - several in the shallow lake on the left of Point Cook Homestead Rd.
Japanese (Latham's) Snipe - prolonged close views from Point Cook Homestead Rd.
Black-winged Stilt - a few here and there.
Whiskered Tern - hawking over many of the lakes and flooded fields, and loafing on a small "mudbank" at the rear of the shallow lake on the left of Point Cook Homestead Rd.
Common Bronzewing - a pair at Point Cook Coastal Park.
Blue-winged Parrot - up to a dozen (or more?) around Point Cook Coastal Park.  Excellent views of birds perched in bushes and trees and feeding on the ground.
Pallid Cuckoo - 3-5 birds, both adult and juvenile - along Point Cook Homestead Rd and at Point Cook Coastal Park.  Calling around Point Cook Coastal Park.
Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo - calling and perched around Point Cook Coastal Park and nearby fields.
Welcome Swallow - collecting mud for nest-building from alongside Point Cook Homestead Rd.
Fairy Martin - many over Spectacle Lake and perched in trees.
Skylark and Richard's Pipit - both present, the latter in small numbers.
Brown Songlark - several seen flying and perched on fences and bushes in the fields behind the shallow lake on the left of Point Cook Homestead Rd (scope views best).
Leaden Flycatcher - a pair at Point Cook Coastal Park (near the south-western edge of their range).
Little Grassbird - many calling and flying between bushes at Spectacle Lake and environs.  (Good views have to be earned.)
Singing Honeyeater - regular in small numbers at Point Cook Coastal Park (a reliable site close to Melbourne).
Goldfinch & Greenfinch - both seen regularly.  Greenfinch calling from overhead wires and bushes in the early morning.

 Cheers.     Richard Nowotny

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