Twelve keen, or curious, field nats, left Ballarat quite early to get to the Werribee Treatment Plant. Our small convoy drove via the Brisbane ranges and after a quick stop at Lara we began navigating the grid of roads that defines the treatment plant.
Our first stop at the Austin Road Ponds gave us a group of 18 Cape Barren Geese happily grazing and way across a wide lagoon a mixed mob of spoonbills were a shining highlight. With their heads tucked in identification was difficult, even with the two telescopes out.
A very important sighting was a group of cars a few lagoons over. Unfortunately by the time we found the spot, whatever really exciting birds had been sighted were there no longer. Never mind, a brief pause along the way stretched out to a long stay as we were attracted by a bunch of white fronted chats mucking about in the mud And then, those of us new to the birding watching game, had the pleasure of seeing more experienced observers gradually narrow down the identity of an anonymous bird hiding in the reeds from a rail to a crake and then the Australian Spotted Crake!
A great start and locking and unlocking gates as we went, we wove our way amongst a chequer board of lagoons. Each stop resulted in new birds to add to the days tally. Repeated sightings of birds met earlier in the day gave some of us a chance to test our ability to recognise them. We were hampered though by the sad fact that on any given lagoon most birds will prefer the far side!
We had lunch at the Borrow Pit, where we spread out to exploit the few scraps of shade around a clump of trees. It was hot, but blue wrens sang from within the copse and the water and its birds not too far away. Our last stop of the day caused our veteran observers a small disappointment. The presence of other trippers down at the Point meant that most of the birds we had been expecting to see had flown the coop. However amongst the few left was our last identification exercise for the day. Wandering along the furthest shore (of course) and popping in and out of the concealment of a line of boulders we confirmed a sighting of …a not so common…greenshank. A great end to the day.
The sheer number of water birds was a constant marvel to those of us there for the first time. As we travelled the flat, mostly treeless, geometric landscape, the result of such inauspicious beginnings, picture after picture was came into view. Minor variations were played on a theme of blues, greens, and the dull browns blacks and greys of mud, rocks and birds with occasional highlights of white. It was all a delight.
Thank you to Greg and Ken for sharing their telescopes and to the experienced bird observers for sharing their knowledge so generously.