I'm just back at my computer after being away since before Easter.
I'm sorry that I couldn't report earlier that my brother and
sister-in-law saw a Powerful Owl resting in a plane tree in Lygon
Street, Carlton, about mid-afternoon on Tuesday 14 April. They didn't
have time for a long look - they were about to catch a bus - but they
are confident of what they saw from the size of the bird and the
distinct chevron markings on the breast. They said that the bird was
relatively well camouflaged in the dappled shade of the foliage, and
it was the flash of brilliant yellow eyes which they first noticed.
They are not birdos, although my brother did see a Powerful Owl with
me and the rest of the family near Tooborac about 20 years ago, but
they have been through my owl library (including David Fleay and David
Hollands as well as Pizzey & Doyle, Pizzey & Knight and Simpson &
Day), and are quite confident that it could have been nothing else. I
recall that there have been Poweful Owl records from the Melbourne
Botanic Gardens in the past, so the inner suburbs are not totally
impossible, although the setting is a bit incongruous. Might this be
a youngster hatched last year which has just been evicted from its
parents' territory as they prepare for the coming breeding season?
During my break I visited Werribee in search of the Phalarope (last
Wednesday), but were unsuccessful. We did run in to Wally Coles at
the time, so we know we were in the right place, it was the Phalarope
which failed to make the rendezvous. Apropos of Gil Langfield's
Black-tailed Native Hens at the Little River ford, they were still
there, but we can raise the count to four. At Little River mouth,
with the tide starting to ebb, there was a congregation of birds
rossting on a bar a few hundred metress south of the river mouth,
including a flock of about 25-30 small terns - black bills and caps,
white foreheads, short dark legs. Wings seemed to extend beyond tail
tips. My scope wasn't adequate to pick up more detail, especially as
they tended to sit on the far side of the bank, with a shifting flock
of Silver Gulls (much larger bodies than the Terns) constantly getting
in the way. My tentative ID was Common Terns - any suggestions?
Also, I has occasion to travel through part of the lakes district
between Camperdown and Winchelsea early this week, and many of the
lakes are carrying huge aggregations of birds. At Lake Bookaar, north
of Camperdown, there were >1000 Coots, Black Swans and Chestnut Teal,
and >100 Grey Teal, Pink-eared Ducks, Australasian Shoveler, Musk
Duck, Red-necked Stints and Welcome Swallows. There were also dozens
of Curlew Sandpipers, some in breeding plumage, and at least 20
Double-banded Plovers. The highlight, however, was a cruising Black
Falcon which stirred up the Masked Lapwings to good effect.
At Lake Milangil (about 15 km NE of Camperdown) there were also very
large numbers of birds, mostly of the same species as at Lake Bookaar
but including a solitary Avocaet and a pair of Whistling Kites. I
stopped for a coffee break at lake Murdeduke which was almost black
with birds, including huge flocks of Coots and hundreds of Swans, but
lots of other species too including pelicans and both Spoonbills.
There was a moving fringe of Curlew Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints
along as much of the shoreline as I could cover - no way of guessing
what the total might have been. If you are passing through that area,
well worth getting off the main highways and checking out the lakes -
but you'll want good binoculars and preferably a good 'scope to keep
the frustration level under control.