Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The Metung Fig Tree

 The Metung Fig Tree

Recently I received a report of a flock of Topknot Pigeons at Metung. Topknot pigeons are not very common in East Gippsland. According to eBird and Birdata, most of the sightings are around Cabbage Tree Reserve and Cape Conran.  The Topknot Pigeon appears to be extending its southern range, though it must have been at least visiting East Gippsland for some time, as according to "The Emu", Topknot Pigeons where known at Marlo in 1919. ( http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MU918265) .

I had only ever seen Topknot once, near Bete Belong in a semi rainforest gully. They were very wary, and I didn't have a camera with me, so I missed a photo opportunity.

So, when I heard of around 30 Topknot pigeons at Metung, along with a Brown Cuckoo Dove and a couple of Koels, I went down as soon as I could. By the time I got there, the cuckoo dove had left, but there were still lots of Topknots.

The birds where feeding in a large Morten Bay Fig Tree. This tree seems to be a focal point for a number of migrants including Channel Billed Cuckoo, Figbird, Koel, and of course, the Topknot Pigeons.

The Fig tree is located on Mairburn Rd, Metung. You can access it by either Stirling Rd or Beach Rd.

Google Maps
The Fig Tree

The Topknots where very approachable, and seeming rather engrossed with their feeding. They were, however, very aggressive towards other birds that attempted to land in "their" fig tree.

On the three occasions I was there, I noticed that a number of Topknots where flying in from the north. Maybe they had another roost or feeding location?

Pacific Koel

Pacific Koel

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Crystal Bay Day Visitor Area

Crystal Bay Day Visitor Area

Crystal Bay Day Visitor Area is located on the western branch of Lake Tyres. It is an excellent birding location, with all the more common East Gippsland bush birds to be seen.

Crystal Bay Day Visitor Area can be accessed from the Princes Hwy via Burnt Bridge Rd. You can get there by driving on the Princes Hwy for 17.2 km from the Lakes Entrance Post office, or 5.2 Km from Nowa Nowa. Follow Burnt Bridge Rd for until you come to Pile Bay Track. Turn onto here, and continue 3.5km where you will find the turning circle for Crystal Bay Day Visitor Area.

Azure Kingfisher

Crystal Bay Day Visitor Area - Google Maps

Great Egret
Birds that can be seen at Crystal Bay are Little Pied Cormorant, Black Swan, Chestnut Teal, Great Egret, Azure Kingfisher, Eastern Yellow Robin, Spotted Quail Thrush, Rufous and Golden Whistler, Grey Shrike Thrush and Silvereyes.


Chestnut Teal
Little Pied Cormorant

Eastern Yellow Robin
Crystal Bay Day Visitor Area

Monday, 25 September 2017

Tambo Bay

Tambo Bay

Tambo Bay is a bay in the Gippsland Lakes. It it located between the mouth of the Tambo River and Metung.

Tambo Bay is accessed from Princes Hwy from Swan Reach. Turn onto the Metung Rd and continue 4.5Km until you come to Punt Rd, on your right. Turn onto Punt Rd, and drive 1.6Km, and turn left onto Reynolds Rd. Continue on Reynolds Rd until you reach Tambo Bay. There are a few houses near the water, most of them holiday dwellings.  You can park on the grass near the bay, and then walk along the sand. 
White Faced Heron

Tambo Bay-Google Maps

Tambo Bay is a favourite spot for Australian Pied Oystercatchers, and occasionally a lone Sooty Oystercatcher. Chestnut Teal, Hoary Headed Grebe and Silver Gull are also common. Australasian Pipit, Straw Necked Ibis and Golden Headed Cisticola inhabit the grass near the bay, while Little and Red Wattlebird feed in the banksias along the shore.

Australian Pied Oystercatcher
Australian Pied Oystercatchers

Australasian Pipit

Monday, 28 August 2017

Lake Bunga and the Lakes Entrance Waste Water Treatment Plant

Lake Bunga and the Lakes Entrance Waste Water Treatment Plant

I have been wanting to write a blog post on the  Lakes Entrance Waste Water Treatment Plant (hereafter referred to as "treatment plant" ) for some time, but there is not enough interesting information for a single post.  However, after Birdlife East Gippslands' outing to Lake Bunga on Monday,  I had the perfect match for the treatment plant. 
Male Scarlet Honeyeater
Lakes Treatment Plant and Lake Bunga

Lake Bunga is a tiny inlet that is fed from Bunga Creek and a few surrounding gullies. The lake is surrounded with pittosporum, banksia and Coast Tea-tree. This habitat is ideal for a wide range of birds, especially Eastern Whipbirds, Bassian Thrush, Eastern Yellow Robin and a variety of honeyeaters.

Lake Bunga, looking "upstream"

Lake Bunga, Looking "downstream"

Lake Bunga is accessed from Princes Hwy, 4.5 Km from Lakes Entrance. Turn right onto the Lake Bunga Beach Rd, and follow it until you come to the car-park. The last few hundred metres is gravel, and quite narrow, but is 2wd accessible. 

Eastern Spinebill

From the car-park, you can either walk to the surf, or through the Tea-tree towards Lakes Entrance. 

The walk towards Lakes Entrance takes you to the Treatment Plant. The Treatment plant is a 3 pond treatment plant that treats waste water from Lakes Entrance, Lake Bunga and Lake Tyers. These ponds are a favourite spot for ducks, teal and grebes. Pink Eared Ducks can often be seen here, as well as Blue Billed and Hardheads. 

A walking track skirts around the southern edge of the treatment plant, from which most of the treatment plant can be viewed from. The vegetation between the walking track and treatment plant often has Eastern Whipbird and Eastern Yellow Robin in it. 

Bassian Thrush
Superb Fairy Wren
The Treatment Plant can also be accessed from Lakes Entrance on Golf Links Rd. Follow this road until you come to the treatment plant.

***For those who have asked me where I saw the Scarlet Honeyeaters, here is a map.

The squiggly line is where the Scarlet Honeyeaters were.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Victoria Lagoon

Victoria Lagoon

Victoria Lagoon is a large body of water located just behind Hollands Landing. This lagoon is a popular spot for Red Necked Avocet and Stilts, as well as migratory waders. 

The best way to get to Victoria Lagoon is by parking at Rucker Avenue, off Hollands Landing Rd. You can then either use a spotting scope to scan out over the mud flats and water, or if the water level is low, you could walk around the lagoon. Be aware, that there is private property around the lagoon, so stay out of the fences. 

Victoria Lagoon-Google Maps

I had visited Victoria Lagoon several times in the last 12 months, but I hadn't seen a great deal. However, when checking the lagoon out a few days ago with some fellow Birdlife birders, a good number of birds were sighted. We didn't have much time, so I went back on the Saturday to check it out. 

It was about 1:30 PM when we arrived at Victoria Lagoon. We parked at Rucker Ave, and scoped the opposite shore line. I could faintly make out some small terns and some small shorebirds. 

Victoria Lagoon is notorious for its heat shimmer and glare from an afternoon sun, making it practically impossible to clearly see birds on the water and shore. So, I had to move around the southern end of the lagoon to get the sun behind me, as well as get closer to the terns. 

Trying to photograph birds from a distance of 400 metres with a heat shimmer.

We walked towards the south end of the lagoon, and then turned west. Here, we found a number of small areas of water, surrounded by vegetation. These mini "lagoons" were teeming with shorebirds. At first, I could see Red Necked Stints and Red Capped Plovers. However, I could see a noticeably larger bird, which I moved closer to for a better look. This bird turned out to be a Curlew Sandpiper, and after some searching, I was able to see 7 of them. I was also able to pick up 2 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers.

Red Necked Stint

Red Necked Stints

The Curlew Sandpipers were behaving noticeably different to the Stints. While the Red Necked Stints were feeding on the exposed mud, the Curlew Sandpipers were feeding in the shallow water. While the water would have only been a few centimeters deep, the stints were avoiding it.

Curlew Sandpiper
Sharp Tailed Sandpiper

After photographing the waders, we moved around the edge of Victoria Lagoon some more. Here, we came across a large number of Red Necked Avocets, with a few Banded Stilts. The few days before when I was there, the stilts had far outnumbered the Avocets, but this time if was the opposite. I don't know where the rest of the stilts had gone, perhaps to another part of the lagoon?

Red Necked Avocets and Banded Stilts

After walking another few hundred meters, I was able to get withing photographing distance of the terns. There was a couple of Caspian, 1 Crested and about 17 Little and Fairy Terns. The Caspian took flight while I was a great distance away, but the others were very tolerant of me. 

 One of the terns had an orange leg flag. I have been informed that a Fairy Tern had been photographed with a leg flag similar to this on the Gippsland Lakes last year. Maybe this was the same bird?

Eventually the tern took flight, and I quickly withdrew. They settled back on the mud when I had walked away only a few metres.

My visit to Victoria Lagoon was a great time. It was great to be able to see the shorebirds, particularly the Sharp Tailed and Curlew Sandpipers.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Snowy River Estuary Walk

Snowy River Estuary Walk

The Snowy River Estuary is formed where the Snowy River flows into the Tasman Sea. The lake system that has formed here harbors many types of birds. The beaches and sand-flats are a favourite spot for migrating waders, terns and oystercatchers, while honeyeaters, Eastern Whipbird, Bassian Thrush and thornbills inhabit the gullies around the lakes.

Pelicans in flight

The bird-life around Marlo is well described in the Emu in 1919. "On the points and headlands of these great sands great numbers of water loving birds assemble. Hooded and Red Capped Dotterals and Pied Oyster-catchers patrol them; every submerged bank has its quota of Black Duck and Teal; cormorants and Darter ply ceaselessly to and fro, and Gulls and Terns circle overhead. Curlews cry plaintively along the muddy margins of the river, and the barking of the Little Penguin is hear further out, and at dusk long lines of Black Swan "honk" their way to their feeding-grounds."  [ Dr. Brooke Nicholls , F. Nicholls , W. B. Alexander & Tom Tregellas  (1919) "Down Marlo Way. " Emu-Australian Ornithology, 18:4, 265-272.  http://www.publish.csiro.au/mu/MU918265 ].

Today, some of this wonderful bird-life can be seen from the Snowy River Estuary Walk. This walk starts at Marlo, and ends at Mots Beach Car Park, though you can keep walking until you come to French Narrows. The Walk is 5.1km, and takes around 1 hour 40 minuets one way. (Parks Victoria)

Map of the walk
Imm Pacific Gull

Along the walk, there is a lookout that gives excellent views over the lake and beach. From here you can see many birds feeding and resting on the sands below. 

The lookout

View from the lookout
A good place to start the walk is Sampson Lookout. There you can park your car, and then either head down the steps to the water, or walk along the cliff top on the Snowy River Estuary Walk. This walk soon crosses the Marlo-Conran Rd. You then walk though a stand of Mahogany, Banksia and Wattle. This is a popular location for White Throated Treecreeper, Eastern Spinebill and thornbills. The walking track then crossed over the Marlo-Conran Rd again, and runs along the cliff top again.

The track ends at Motts Beach carpark, but there are steps going down to the lake, and a boardwalk/walking track that continues to French Narrows. This walk is definitely worth doing, as here you can see Egrets, Azure Kingfisher, cormorants and spoonbills.

There are a number of informative signs along the way. 


Great Egrets

Great Egret
Little Egret