Please help a novice birder!

To: Catherine Sheedy <>
Subject: Please help a novice birder!
From: Penny Brockman <>
Date: Mon, 07 Jan 2008 12:34:39 +1100
Catherine -  Black-tailed Native-hens is my guess from your description.
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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