Red-necked Phalarope near Melbourne

Subject: Red-necked Phalarope near Melbourne
From: (Dr Richard Nowotny)
Date: Mon, 30 Mar 1998 09:20:50 +1000
Last Thursday (26th March) a Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) was
identified on a settling pond at the Western Treatment Plant (Melbourne
Water sewage farm, Werribee).  Chris Lester and I observed it over a period
of 45 minutes on Saturday afternoon (28th), along with Fred Smith, Fred
Anderson and later Bob Swindley.
On Sunday 29th Diana Bryant and I relocated it with relative ease in almost
the identical location and observed it for a further 30 mins.
According to HANZAB this would be the 5th record for Werribee and around the
16th for Victoria.
For those with key access to the Farm the directions to the bird are:
Enter the Farm at the main entry gate south of the Werribee township (off
the old Geelong Rd), zeroing the odometer at the gate.  Proceed down New
Farm Rd and then Farm Rd.  At 7.4 km turn right into South Rd and at 8.2 km
turn left via the locked gate (? 65 West Rd).  At 9.0 km turn left over the
cattle grid and proceed east between the new ponds.  At 10.7 km turn right
after the cattle grid onto the lower road and drive south.  At 12.1 km
(several hundred metres short of the solar-powered automatic weather
station) turn left (east again) and drive 300 metres along the embankment
roadway.  The Phalarope has been at the eastern end of the pond to your
right, in belly-deep water amongst the dead sticks of the emergent
vegetation, most commonly somewhere approx. mid-way between the northern
edge (which you are above) and the southern edge (which you can also drive
along).  A good landmark on the two occasions I visited was the large burnt
stumps on the far southern bank - the bird was approx. in line with this
The bird does not look much larger than the Red-necked Stints, and is
noticeably less bulky than the Sharp-tailed (and Pectoral) Sandpipers, with
which it is associating.  It has an obvious oval-shaped black eye patch and
some early breeding plumage is appearing on its neck and back.  However, the
best identification feature is its swift, jerky movements as it picks from
the surface of the water.  No other wader is behaving at all similarly.
(Note:  A scope is a very real advantage for the bird is small and often at
some distance.)
For those without key access, I understand this pond can be reached by the
long route down the east side of the Little River to its mouth and then east
along the Bay, turning left at the 15 E Main Drain Outlet and passing to the
left of the previously mentioned automatic weather station (which is clearly
visible as you drive towards the Outlet).  The pond is the first shallow
pond on the right after the weather station and the observation road
referred to above is the road on the farther (or north) side of the pond.

Richard Nowotny

From:  Dr Richard Nowotny
             Melbourne, Australia
             Tel. (w) 61-3-9214.1420

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