Yesterday was a glorious autumn day in Melbourne. The sun was out, there
was very little wind and the temperature was low so heat haze was a minimal
problem. In fact visibility was so good that from the Spit track with my 45
X scope I could clearly see gannets landing on the platform at the end of
the Point Wilson explosives jetty - and Google Earth tells me that is a
distance of about 5.9 km!
I didn't rush to the WTP because I wanted to see the Northern Shoveler so I
waited and got there at about 1000. This technique usually works well with
a rarity at WTP because you don't need to look for the bird. All you need
to do is drive in and look for the congregation of cars. And Sunday's
congregation was up there with the largest, and it was at the first pond on
the right as you come down Paradise Rd. There were cars, scopes, camera and
binoculars everywhere and, sitting on the water in the sun with the other
shovelers was the Northern. It seems that it likes this spot because it has
been there for a few days. One problem with it though is, if it turns its
back on you it instantly turns into "just another Aus Shoveler" and
binoculars and scopes scan over it as though it had Harry Potter's
invisibility cloak on. To add excitement to the morning of watching the NS
a Peregrine came in low and fast across the pond on a harassment run (not a
hunting run) and scattered the Pink-ears in all directions.
As it was getting toward lunch time when I left the NS I headed toward the
Borrow Pits. This place is so well recognised by WTP regulars as "the"
place to have lunch that I remember a discussion with some friends there
one day who wanted to set up a concession stand selling coffee and
sandwiches to passing birders (smile). Anyway, I pulled in and one of the
lunch group called out "quick, over here, there is a Bittern" so I walked
over, looked in the scope, and added Aus Bittern to my day list. Gorgeous.
On the basis that all birds are special there were plenty of other special
birds around and I spent the rest of the day watching, amongst others,
Red-kneed Dotterels, Musk Ducks, Swans, Brolga, a Great Egret with the
start of its breeding plumage coming in and a Cattle Egret with just a
touch of colour on the top of its head. It was a special day with one of my
lowest WTP species counts (71) because it was more fun watching the visible
birds than looking for the difficult ones.
I also had an interesting session with a Whistling Kite. I was heading
toward the Beach Rd gate when I saw the kite and it had a long, red,
unravelling "rope", about a metre long, hanging from its feet. "HA!" I
thought, "an obvious case of a bird tangled up in man made rubbish -
AGAIN!" With my "high horse" well up and running I took some photos and
then thought "wait a minute, maybe it has just picked up this rope to add
to its nest" and I climbed down off my "high horse" for a moment and zoomed
in the photo on the back of the camera. It was then that I could see that
the metre +/- of "red rope" was actually the long, red, fleshy strands of
the entrails etc of a bird and that it ended in a pair of feet and legs
that looked like they might have belonged to a Purple Swamp-hen. It was a
bit of a gruesome sight but quite spectacular. The WTP is a wonderful place
for birding, you never know what you will find.
I will put up a blog tonight, including the kite photos, so please take
this as a "slightly gruesome photo alert".
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