Wednesday 2 October 2013

Victoria, Australia.

Victoria brought us mixed blessings.

We had an unsuccessful trip to the north of the state for Inland Dotterel, Plains Wanderer and Australian Painted Snipe, we saw none of them. There is a commercial company that can take you to look for Plains Wanderer but sadly for us the guide Phil Maher was not available (Australian Ornithological Services) so we had to let that option go. This was a real shame, not just because we didn't get to see the bird, but also as the company and the landowner have done so much to protect this species, it would have been very interesting to see and hear about their work first hand. So we had to try for it ourselves and the result was inevitable. The Inland Dotterel was a better bet, but despite spending the best part of a night looking for them they were not to be found. We also searched many places suitable for Australian Painted Snipe, but we could not find one.

Red-capped Plover Charadrius ruficapillus a common sight on most Australian shores.
Undaunted we returned to Melbourne and found ourselves in the safe hands of Paul Dodd and Ruth Woodrow. Ruth works as a Ranger and sadly had to work the weekend we were there, so it was Paul who was left to babysit the desperate duo! It all started very well with a trip to the Western Treatment Plant. We were surprised to find this was not a collection of settling beds as we had expected, but a vast network of lagoons that are managed for wildlife while the business of sorting out the sewage is all done in a small enclosed plant within the spread. Almost the first birds we came across on the first lagoon were large flock of Red-necked Avocets and, as if this wasn't fantastic in itself, within the group there were one or two Banded Stilts, a bird that Paul had thought may be difficult, but luckily for us a group turned up earlier in the week and decided to stay.

Red-necked Avocet Recurvirostra novaehollandiae and Banded Stilt Cladorhynchus leucocephalus.

The weather wasn't brilliant, it was very windy and every time I exercised my duty as chief gate opener and closer, is seemed to rain too. There were many other waders on these lagoons including, Sharpe-tailed Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints were the most common, but we also saw Curlew Sandpiper and Red Knot.
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea.

Red-necked Stints Calidris ruficollis. These birds were struggling to advance due to the softness of the mud and had to use their wings to lift them from the goo at every step.

Red Knot Calidris canutus: juvenile.
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata.

We also visited a field with a number of Banded Lapwings in it. Why they should choose to all congregate in this particular field I don't know, but at least we got some better views and photos of this species that we managed at Perth Airport!

Banded Lapwing Vanellus tricolor.

The day ended with a trip to the park where Ruth works, Serendipity Sanctuary, where we enjoyed a good look around and saw some interesting birds including Cape Barren Goose.

The next day Paul took us to look for Latham's Snipe. Now our history with snipe has not been great in terms of getting stunning photos of late, and this bird proved just as difficult. We checked out loads of suitable habitat, some of these spots the water was too high, at others there seemed to be too many dog walkers and the like. However, I had noticed on a poster in a hide early in the day that the local golf course was a likely spot to look for them. We were much amused by the less than effective shots of some of the golfers and were absolutely thrilled to flush a Latham's Snipe from one of the water hazards. Incredibly Elis managed to get a record shot of the bird as it flew.

Latham's Snipe Gallinago hardwickii.
So it was then that we went for our main target for the day, the Hooded Plover. On the second beach we searched, Paul came up trumps with two Hoodies and we had a great time watching and, in Elis and Paul's case, photographing them.

Hooded Plover Thinornis rubricollis. Our first Hoodie, KM.

Elis and Paul on commando manoeuvres. Elis's trail looks like that left by a nesting turtle!

Elis and Paul in prone position to take photos of the Hoodies which you may be able to just about make out between them.
Our last stop of the day was to look for Sooty Oystercatchers, these are of a different subspecies to those we saw in Broome and so we were keen to get decent photographs, so keen in fact that in my desperation I fell base over apex in among the black, jagged rocks as I hastened to get the right side of the light to one bird. No permanent damage done, but a few scrapes and grazes, a bruised backside and pride.

Sooty Oystercatcher Himaetopus fuliginosus of the nominate race.
Paul kindly dropped us at our digs for the night. We are truly grateful to Paul and indeed to Ruth for the kindness and generosity they showed us while we were in the wonderful city of Melbourne.

RuthWoodrow and Paul Dood, our genial hosts.


  1. Well done guys! Some amazing birds you're seeing out there.
    You've probably seen this video, but if you haven't, it's great! Lots of schoolkids in different countries on the migration route of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper put together a video about it:

    1. Hi Joe. Thanks for your comment and yes, we have seen the video, it is brilliant isn't it, such a simple idea to involve so many kids and so effective, well worth a watch.

  2. I don't know of anyone who has found Plains Wanderer without a guide who knows EXACTLY where to look.