Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Project: Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey

Observer: John Porter

Another grey and overcast day dawns as we head southwards from Sydney via the NSW coast. Our first stops are Avon and Cordeaux reservoirs – they are deep with few shallow areas and support very few waterbirds.  Next up is the heavily urbanised Lake Illawarra near Wollongong. We find moderate numbers of Silver gulls, Black Swan and Pied cormorants. Gusty winds pick up and make our job just a bit more difficult as we jolt around at low level. Coomaditchy lagoon is a small freshwater wetlands north east of Lake Illawarra – it has moderate numbers of Pelicans, Black Swans and Silver gulls.

Port Kembla lagoon and steel works (foreground) with few waterbirds and Lake Illawarra in the distance which had moderate numbers of Black Swans, Silver gulls and Great cormorants. Photo: John Porter

We bounce our way southwards into a stiff headwind down the coast to band 2 and Wallaga Lake which has low numbers of waterbirds – we find similarly low numbers in Baragoot, Cuttagee and Wapengo lagoons. After refuelling at Merimbula we push further south to the easternmost extent of band 1, south of Lakes Entrance and near the tiny hamlet of Seaspray. The first wetlands we encounter are usually filled with waterbirds – but not today. Both Lake Denison and Jack Smith Lagoons are dry or almost dry and supporting very few waterbirds – a sign of how dry conditions have been even here in southern coastal districts despite the landscape looking much greener than northern survey bands.

The landscape is green and there is surface water, but rainfall over the last 12 months has generally been lower than average. Photo: Terry Korn

We turn westward as the skies clear and sunshine returns to find moderate numbers of Black Swans in Western port Bay and the coastal fringe of Phillip Island. Rhyll Swamp on Phillip Island has moderate numbers of Straw necked ibis and a small breeding colony of White ibis. We fly past the famous Phillip Island race track (empty today!) and on to a series of small freshwater wetlands supporting hundreds of beautiful Cape Barren Geese.

Rhyll swamp on Port Phillip Island had a small White ibis breeding colony – one of the few we have seen this year. Photo: John Porter

Phillip Island race track – empty today. Photo: Terry Korn

An unnamed freshwater wetland on Port Phillip with Cape Barren geese, Mountain duck (in flight), Black Swans and Grey teal (on the water). Photo: Terry Korn

Our counting complete, we fly along the spectacular sandstone cliffs that jut into the southern ocean before heading into Warrnambool for the night.

Coastal grandeur – sandstone cliffs near Warrnambool. Photo: Terry Korn