Conditions report - Mt St Joseph pond, Altona, Vic

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Subject: Conditions report - Mt St Joseph pond, Altona, Vic
From: "Peter Shute" <>
Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2008 11:41:09 +1100
By yesterday morning (Sunday) there was only a tiny puddle visible from
the southern platform.  Early in the day there were still a couple of
very nervous Spotless Crakes feeding there.  I watched for 3/4 of an
hour, just to be sure no Lewin's Rails appeared there - none did, and
I'm not expecting them to until there's water in there again.  Later in
the day there was nothing but a few miserable looking swamphens there.

After yesterday's heat I assume this puddle is now gone completely - no
idea what the crakes will do now.  There might be some puddles in the
reeds, so they may stay.  Or they might move up the western end or

The small amount of water at the northern platform has now separated
into two small but deepish puddles.  From behind the shadecloth I and
several others had fairly easy, long, close views of Lewin's Rail and
Spotless Crakes over the weekend.  To view through the slits you'll need
to squat or kneel, but one group had success standing when they stood
back far enough that only their heads were visible to the birds over the
top of the cloth.

Mornings and evenings still seem to be the best times for the rails.  I
had a good view of a Spotless Crake around midday yesterday, but no
rails.  There was a bonus appearance of a group of Brown Quail coming
down to drink.  They first appeared from the left beyond the reeds that
partly obscure the back half of the furthest puddle, then reappeared
from the left above the closer puddle and moved towards me till they
were within 4m and disappeared under the edge of the bushes to the left
and behind me.  They appeared while I was standing packing my tripod,
but remained visible as I slowly got my camera ready and I was easily
able to take quite a few photos.

They've always been around, but with probably very little other water
around for them, the quail might be making regular appearances like
this.  But hopefully the rain forecast for tomorrow and Thursday
eventuates.  Otherwise there'll be none left at all and all these
species will depart.

Despite the area being so close and confined, I find it's still possible
for crakes and rails to come out without one realising, and in poor
light I still sometimes don't notice them without binoculars.  It's
interesting that the rails' black and white barring made them hard to
see against the reeds from a distance at the southern platform, and
their brown and black backs make them just as hard to see against the
mud from this high vantage point.  Good design.

The Spotless Crakes seem to generally approach around the little bush
thing on the left of the further puddle.  The rails often come that way
too but several times they've appeared from the right hand side out of a
little tunnel in the very "corner" in the reeds around the nearest
puddle.  Also be aware that the rails often seem to freeze as you
approach, so you may suddenly notice them moving *away* from you when
they start moving again after a few minutes.

Location:  Melway ref 54 C10, behind Mt St Joseph Girls' College in
Altona, north of the railway line. Closest parking to the northern
platform (200m) is at the corner of Galvin St and Civic Pde.

Peter Shute

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