The Puny Twitch checks out the night-life in St Kilda

To: Birding_aus <>
Subject: The Puny Twitch checks out the night-life in St Kilda
From: J and A Flack <>
Date: Wed, 17 Sep 2003 08:18:39 +1000 (EST)
G'day everyone,

Early on in the Puny Twitch(1) I realised that I had a
tick right under my nose (no, not literally - wouldn't
find it in the moustache anyway!). Each day I pass by
Victoria Dock (opposite the Docklands Stadium) where
there is a sign advertising sunset cruises to see the
Little Penguin colony at the St Kilda breakwater. I
figured that if they could be seen from the boat I
would have a good chance from the breakwater. Several
birding-ausers also suggested this as a good site for
the penguins so I was feeling quite confident. As the
best time to catch the penguins is dusk, I left my
visit to later in the year so I wouldn't have to kill
too much time after finishing work.

St Kilda is a bayside suburb about 5 km south of
Melbourne CBD. It has long had a dubious reputation as
a centre for sex and drugs (that's the humans, not the
penguins!) but is actually very cosmopolitan. There is
a nice restored pier that had an historic 1900s tea
house at the end. Unfortunately the tea house was
burnt down last week. From there a breakwater curves
to the right to be parallel to the shore, forming a
sheltered mooring. The total length is more than half
a kilometre. The breakwater is about 6 metres wide and
4 high with a flat walking track on top. Being formed
from large bluestone rocks it has plenty of nooks and
crannies for the penguins to shelter in. Access to
about the last 100 metres or so is excluded by a chain
mesh fence so I wasn't sure if I would be able to see
them well enough especially in the dark.

My visit coincided with a beautiful balmy evening and
I was surprised by the number of people that I naively
thought were there to see the penguins. It soon became
obvious that they were there to enjoy the lovely
sunset, as I was soon left on my own while the
daylight faded away. Only the gentle lapping of the
waves and the distant pup-like yap of the penguins

As the yapping was out on the bay side of the
breakwater I concentrated my efforts there. It soon
became quite dark without any actual sightings. I
suddenly realised that I was not alone when I heard
the gravel path crunching as someone approached from
behind. Half expecting to be mugged for my 40 year old
binocs I turned to discover a woman looking down at
the rocks on the lee side of the breakwater. Relieved,
I asked if she was looking for the penguins, realising
too late that this sounded like a silly 'pick-up'
line. To my suprise she said that she had seen them
the previous night and had returned for another look.
As we searched together she explained that she was
holidaying here from Ireland and although not a true
birdwatcher was quite taken by these penguins.
Eventually we could make out some movement near the
water line just under the exclusion fence, only a few
metres away. Aiming my bike headlight we were rewarded
with fine views of two very dapper looking pengins who
didn't seem at all fussed by our presence. Well
pleased with our sighting we walked back to the shore
discussing penguins, Ireland and all that is right
with the world.

On the way home my headlight battery went flat at the
start of the darkest section of the Moonee Ponds Creek
track, but that was a small price to pay for seeing
those great little characters so well. It slowed me
down a bit but this meant that I arrived at a point
where the creek is bathed in bright light fron an
adjacent station just in time to see four Nankeen
Night-herons arrive for an evening feast. It was a
fine end to a very pleasant evening's birding.



(1) For those who are new to the list, the Puny Twitch
is my quest to see as many species as possible within
6 km of Melbourne's centre, while cycling to and from
work during 2003. - Yahoo! Search
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