Please help a novice birder!

To: "'Catherine Sheedy'" <>, <>
Subject: Please help a novice birder!
From: "Steve" <>
Date: Mon, 7 Jan 2008 09:10:37 +1000
Catherine....if they were similar size to Moorhen then they are certainly
not Spotless Crakes, which are less than half the size. Upright tail is
characteristic of Black-tailed Native Hen, as Chris Corben has suggested,
and the size would fit better.\Steve Murray

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Catherine Sheedy
Sent: Sunday, 6 January 2008 4:23 PM
Subject: Please help a novice birder!

Dear all...
I am very much in need of help in solving an identification problem!
I live in Warrnambool, Victoria, where my house is settled directly opposite
the Merri Wetlands, nearer to the Levy's Point section of the Merri River.
Facing my backyard is open farmland, which is subjected to yearly flooding
when the rain falls. There is the 'official' Merri River cutting below our
backyard, whereas at the back of the farmland, there is an 'unofficial'
Merri River below the coastal shrublands. 
It is here that I have recently been focusing my binoculars on over the past
12 years we have lived, but more enthusiastically over the past year or two.
Today, at approx. 3:15pm, I was taking in all of the fascinating birds
resting in the lazy summer sun (Little Pied Cormorants, Pacific Black Ducks,
a Great Egret and a Great Cormorant) when I caught a flash of movement in
and around the base of a isolated tree near the river's edge.
What I saw were 5 birds that bore the resemblance of a moorhen, yet I
couldn't say that that was what they were. I'm used to seeing Dusky Moorhens
occupying this area, but these seemed slightly different. Through the
binoculars, they were a similar size to a moorhen; their tails seemed to
stand completely upright. There were no discernable white markings on the
birds, as when they scuttled back under the tree, they were a slate-grey
colour up top, and maybe a ruddish colour? Their legs were reddish, and
their beak appeared to be a grey, black, with no additional markings on
their face. They were feeding as a group on the ground, and seemed to move
as one unit. They were only out for maybe 5 minutes before heading back out
of view under the tree.
I couldn't locate my camera at home, so I'm presently searching for it, and
hope that they may appear again. I'm not holding my breath as I have never
spotted them before.
Could anyone offer some suggestions? I don't want to jump ahead of myself
and proclaim to be Spotless Crakes, but if someone is familiar with the area
and could lend a hand, all answers would be more than welcome!
I turned 25 in Dec last year, and have decided to take my birdwatching more
seriously considering I have a most wonderful backdrop as my backyard and
would love to know the ins and outs of my wetland lot!
Thanks so much in advance, Catherine Sheedy
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