Lake Hamilton: Crakes and rails (and Little Bittern)

Subject: Lake Hamilton: Crakes and rails (and Little Bittern)
From: Steve <>
Date: Sun, 1 Feb 2009 21:19:36 +1100
G'day all

Warning: the following is a shameless attempt to get birders to come to Hamilton to spend money (fuel, accommodation and food) and see some great birds.

Yesterday I mentioned the Little Bittern at Lake Hamilton (sw Victoria). I thought I'd give a bit more info about this lake and the crakes and rails currently to be seen there.

Lake Hamilton is an artificial impoundment of the Grange Burn on the outskirts of Hamilton in SW Victoria. It was created in 1977 and is about 40 ha in area. It is open to various water sports inc. speed boats but has areas of dense phragmites reeds around much of its edge. The eastern, inflow end in particular is largely boat-free and and has some extensive areas of reeds.

We local birders have probably not payed it the attention it deserves but that has changed recently due to the number and variety of crakes and rails being reported. Spotless Crakes have been regularly recorded since 2001. Recently however, due to drought, more regular attention or planetary alignment we have been able to record all the crakes and rails recorded in Victoria (except Black-tailed Native-hen to my knowledge). My records indicate Spotted Crake from 2003, Buff- banded Rail from 2006, Lewin's Rail from 2006.

In the last few months local birders have recorded all three crakes and both rails. Last evening, while waiting for the Little Bittern to call (it started at 8:45 pm) a group of local and visiting birders saw Baillon's Crakes (immature and adult), Lewins Rail (one immature), Spotted Crake (one adult), Spotless Crake (one probable). This is in addition to Buff-banded Rail seen in the past two weeks. Most have been out in the open and easy to identify and photograph. A bonus was the sighting of several water-rats or Rakali.

Add to this three Cormorant species, close-up views of Musk Ducks doing their Bunyip thing, more Reed Warblers per square meter of reeds than anywhere else I've seen, both Spoonbills, Great Egret, a pair of Black-fronted Dotterels, occasional Latham's Snipe, a Hobby and the Little Bittern.

Most dogs are on leads - how good is that?

So, forget about strange Gulls, Hudwits and Dowitchers. Come and visit the sw of Victoria and tick off all the possible Rallidae (even Black-tailed Native-hens are visiting Hamilton at the moment). While in the area check out some of the places I recommend in my web site for more great birding and let me know what you have seen.

Steve Clark

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