There has been a “blocking high” sitting over south-eastern Australia for
just on a week now. Every morning has been clear and cold enough that ice
forms on the windscreen of the car and ones breath rises white into the
morning air. The cold west to south-west winds of winter are flowing south
of Victoria and are battering Tasmania. These calm, blue-sky conditions
just scream for a person to go birding.
Werribee was perfect on Tuesday. In spring and summer the place is
shimmering with waders but now all that are around are a few Red-necked
Stints, a couple of Greenshanks, and a hundred or so Double-banded Plover
wintering over from New Zealand. Some surprises do exist though, like
finding a lone Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in full breeding plumage and seven
Bar-tailed Godwits on the sand flats at low tide. They shouldn’t be here;
they should be in Siberia somewhere. I didn't look for the Northern
Shoveler so I don't know if it is still around or not.
Wader watching requires hours of scanning mud flats and ones eyes are
looking down and out. And the frustration, oh the frustration; could that
be a Little Stint? Or over there, is that a Broad-billed? Damn!, that kite
just flushed the flock, I am sure that was a mega White-rumped Sandpiper I
saw just before they flew!
Right now though, in the middle of winter, all the action is in the air.
Raptors are everywhere. On a good day 12 or 13 species can be seen and when
the sky is azure blue and there is no wind, as it was last Tuesday, they
are a sublime joy to watch. I saw a Hobby sunning above Beach Road, a pair
of Black Falcon stealing something small from a Black-shouldered Kite at
the gate before the Little River ford, a gorgeous Kestrel on Paradise Rd, a
Whistling Kite devouring the last of its dinner on the Ryan’s Swamp road,
Swamp Harriers everywhere and both dark and pale Brown Falcons
One thing at WTP that has me intrigued at the moment though is just how far
out low tide takes the water now. I am sure there is at least twice the
amount of exposed sand between Beach Rd and the hide, and some rocks
further out that used to be islands at low tide are now joined to the coast
by sandbars. The seagulls and avocets are enjoying it now and I am sure the
waders will love it when they get back. I wonder if this change has been
caused by the deepening of The Heads? Maybe more water can get out of the
bay each tide?
I can hardly wait for the waders to return but for now, raptor watching is
a more than adequate alternative.
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