Conditions report - Mt St Joseph pond, Altona, Vic

To: "Peter Shute" <>, <>
Subject: Conditions report - Mt St Joseph pond, Altona, Vic
From: "Peter Shute" <>
Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2008 01:56:26 +1100
Heaps of mud showing now.  Large groups of people saw at least one Lewin's Rail 
several times on both Saturday and Sunday mornings from the southern platform, 
mostly between 7 and 8am.  The inlet at the northern platform was up a bit 
after last week's rain, but it has now fallen to a good level.

Due to the low water level, birds are now appearing anywhere around the pond.  
Unfortunately at this time of year the sun rises more in line with the east end 
than it did a couple of months ago when they were first spotted, so sightings 
at the east end aren't as good in the mornings.  However, at that distance the 
birds are staying out longer, sometimes for several minutes.

On Sunday morning I draped some shade cloth over the railing of the northern 
platform on the way through to the southern platform.  A lady arriving at the 
southern platform an hour later reported that she'd watched a Lewin's from 
behind the shade cloth for 10 minutes.

I returned to that platform and also soon had a Lewin's in view.  It took off 
when some other birders arrived, but after they left I cut viewing slits in the 
shade cloth and soon had a Lewin's feeding within 8m.  Being hidden I was 
easily able to change over to my camera and get some reasonable shots without 
disturbing the bird.

I returned in the afternoon and between 5 and 6pm with another birder had one 
Lewin's within 6m and another right below us at the foot of the platform for 
several minutes.

Previously I've only recommended the northern platform if the birds didn't show 
at the other one, or for close viewing for photography, but with the shade 
cloth there it seems you only need to wait 15 minutes and they appear nice and 
close.  Could have been a fluke, as they obviously do spend time in the main 

I've left one piece of shade cloth in place to allow the birds to become more 
accustomed to it, but hidden the other half in case someone decides to chuck it 
in or something.  It's underneath the left hand side of the platform if you 
want to use it, but please put it back afterwards.  There are also a couple of 
bits of wood and some bricks under there for a seat, otherwise be prepared to 
kneel or squat if you want to use the slits.

Unfortunately, hiding the second piece means it's difficult to approach the 
platform without disturbing any birds, but you may be able to duck down and 
sneak up the right hand side.

The birds do seem to be disturbed a little by one's shadows moving on the trees 
beside the platform or on the shade cloth, so keep your movements to a minimum.

Plenty of Spotless Crakes were easily visible from the northern platform, plus 
Little Grassbirds (hopping on the mud) and Black-fronted Dotterels.  Only had 
brief views of Spotless Crakes from the northern platform, for some reason.  A 
Blue-winged Parrot was seen and heard circling fairly low from the northern 
platform - thanks for pointing that out Tania, never seen one before.

Location:  Melway ref 54 C10, behind Mt St Joseph Girls' College in Altona, 
north of the railway line.

Peter Shute

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