After very recent heavy rainfall (48 mm on 9 April) water levels in all lakes, smaller water bodies and the dam have risen significantly. The large freshwater lake is providing favorable habitat for diving feeders including Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants, Australasian Grebes and Hardheads, all in increased numbers compared to last month. This especially applies to the two species of cormorants comprising a total of 41 birds, by far the largest number ever recorded in this lake since these surveys commenced in March 2007.
The saltwater lake is now pink, but supporting very few birds.
The abnormally low number of land based birds encountered during the survey, such as Superb Fairy-wrens and White-plumed Honeyeaters was most likely due to the strong south west wind.
- In mid March on the Large Freshwater Lake George saw a large circle of Little Black Cormorants feeding together, with a number of Silver Gulls picking up food in the centre. The prey was considered to be Mosquito Fish
- An estimated 10 to 15 Fairy and Tree Martins were seen flying around the western end of the Large Freshwater Lake with the 150 Welcome Swallows in very windy conditions. The majority were Fairy Martins, identified by their light brown heads as they flew rapidly by, but a small minority had black heads. This is by far the most martins ever seen in the park. Previous sightings, last recorded in October 2016 (a single Tree Martin) were of single or two to three birds.
- A pair of Flame Robins seen today in the new area along the Yarra River. One bird was a female, and the other appeared to be an immature male in the very early stages of developing adult plumage.
Water quality in the large freshwater lake appears to be good as diving feeders comprising Little Pied Cormorants, Australasian Grebes and Hardheads were recorded. Also, four Australian Pelicans were present, with one demonstrating some feeding activity on the lake. This indicates that the lake is possibly supporting some aquatic life, most likely Mosquito Fish Gambusa sp.
k Bird Survey 13 February 2017
- Hardheads have returned, but so far in low numbers with 3 recorded today. They were last recorded on January 2016.
- A single Noisy Miner was seen at Lorimer Street today, and another sighting of possibly the same bird was recorded by George on 29 January. This is only the second record of this not so welcomed species in the park since these bird surveys commenced in March 2007. The last sighting was in March 2008.
- Also seen were the Common or Eastern Blue Tongue Lizard and a Dingy Swallowtail
Although levels in the main lakes and dam remain high, of the small freshwater wetlands, only those opposite the Friends compound and the chain of ponds along the HWT boundary currently have water.
Chestnut Teal and Pacific Black Duck numbers have grown from a very low base over the last months. Wetland species comprise mostly Chestnut Teal (five broods) and Dusky Moorhens (three broods), but also Pacific Black Ducks, Eurasian Coots and Black-winged Stilts are breeding in and around the large freshwater lake.
The number of small resident land-based birds, such as Superb Fairy-wrens and White-plumed Honeyeaters, was higher than usual, probably because favourable weather conditions encouraged more birds to leave cover.
Interesting/notable sightings: For the second time since our surveys began in 2007 a single Diamond Dove has appeared, remaining along the northern boundary almost a month. (The first was May 2009.) George reported it to Birdline on 11 December, and again on 6 January. The dove eluded us this survey. Moreover, one of the survey team observed a Sacred Kingfisher, always a delight.
Note: For several years now an aquatic plant or filamentous algae has appeared on the freshwater lake in late spring/early summer. This month – January – it has again disappeared but is making the lake smelly in some areas, probably due to its natural decomposition. It is not the toxic blue green algae and does not appear to be harmful to birds – indeed the swans have been seen eating it. We are trying to determine what species it is and whether controls are needed. If you can help, let us know.
Water levels in the two main lakes and dam remain high, but most other small freshwater wetlands are now dry except Compound Lagoon, where many Common Froglets were calling. Numbers and diversity of waterbirds currently at Westgate Park are at an all-time low. For the first time since our surveys began no Eurasian Coots were recorded, although the number had been down to one in May 2009.
The number of small land-based birds recorded this survey, such as Superb Fairy-wrens and White-plumed Honeyeaters, was much lower than usual, due to the very strong winds rather than any change in habitat conditions.
– The three Australasian Pipits observed along Howe Parade Extension, plus a possible fourth beside the saltwater lake, indicate conditions remain suitable for this species in Westgate Park despite extensive car storage replacing weedy grassland south of the park.
– The Nankeen Kestrel observed on 14 October captured a Welcome Swallow in flight.