Terns and others at Kirk Point, Western Treatment Plant, Port Phillip Ba

To: "Birding Aus" <>
Subject: Terns and others at Kirk Point, Western Treatment Plant, Port Phillip Bay
From: "J & C Krohn" <>
Date: Fri, 2 Jan 2004 22:33:30 +1100
Dad and I had a good couple of hours at the Western Treatment Plant on New Year's Eve, early in the morning - 63 species from just after 7 am until about 9:50 am.  Mostly as you would expect, with highlights being great views of Golden-headed Cisticolas (from within a couple of metres), Freckled Ducks including a couple of males with breeding colour on the base of the bill and several very approachable roosts of Red-necked Stints, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Curlew-Sandpipers.  Also several Royal Spoonbills in breeding plumage at Lake Borrie and a pair of Cape Barren Geese at paradise Road (where the water level was a bit higher than usual so a different mix of species - eg no Avocets).  Several Great Crested Grebes along the portion of Little River below the ford; the tide was right up so no exposed mud at the river mouth or along the banks.
Among the birds on the rocks at Kirk Point were about forty medium-sized Terns, markedly smaller than the Crested Terns and Silver Gulls, but larger than the Whiskered terns that were also present in numbers.  These "mystery" terns (to me, anyway) were pale silvery on the wings with a distinct darker oblong or shallow crescent running horizontally along the "shoulder", or forward angle of the wing.  The legs were dark reddish and the bill was black and relatively fine in shape.  There was a black cap with white nape and neck, and white in front of the eye and on the forehead, although there seemed to be a variable extension of the black cap forward around the eye.  they had a slightly peevish, rasping call given when disputing a perch with a conspecific or another species - I saw a couple of individuals successfully dislodge Crested Terns from what were obviously favoured rocks.  Wingtips seemed to be around the same length as tail-feather tips, but again slightly variable from one bird to another.
I have tentatively identified these birds as Common Terns.  My queries relate to the shoulder marking, which none of the books that I've consulted shows as clearly as we saw it (for any of the "Commic" Terns), and the numbers - I understand that Common Terns are not generally common in Port Phillip Bay and wondered whether such a large group could be plausible.  If anything, the birds looked more like the pictures of White-fronted Terns, but summer seems to be the wrong time to be seeing them in this part of the world.  Seabirds are far from my speciality, and I would be most grateful for any guidance any birding-ausers more familiar with these birds than me could offer.
Crested Pigeons and Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets still present in Glen Waverley - nice to see one of the Pigeons holding its ground on a roosting perch against a bad-tempered Noisy Miner.
    Jack Krohn
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