Numbers of waterbird species (16) were lower than expected despite higher water levels but the highlight for this survey was an immature White-naped Honeyeater. Also notable was the sight of a dolphin in the Yarra near the Punt – seen by two of our volunteers planting on the river bank on the day of the survey.
This project will help us discover more about the important ecological interaction between pollinators and plants and assist in identifying and mapping the native (and non-native) insects doing the pollinating.
The project started with a workshop in May in which we learned how to identify targeted pollinators and record observations. We then moved to the autumn observatories in the Park. The 15 observatories (see map below) were chosen for
- their mass displays of flowers for particular plant species and
- the timing of peak flowering so at least one site will be active every month, e.g. Correa reflexa var. speciosa – Eastern Correa, is at observatory 2 for May:
Luis Mata, a Research Fellow at RMIT is our project leader. See his bio below.
The Providing for Pollinators Project is a research and community engagement collaboration between the Friends of Westgate Park and the National Environmental Science Programme – Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub, funded by the City of Melbourne.
All species in this planet are delicately interlinked in a beautifully complex network of ecological interactions. Our project will make visible some of the most important ecological interactions that are taking place in Westgate Park. Through this project we hope you will learn about Australian native pollinators (and the few non-native pollinators) that are frequently seen visiting the flowers of Westgate Park.
We will give you a research-oriented citizen science protocol to document the ecological interactions between plants and insect pollinators, at timed intervals, at a network of 15 pollinators observatories established in the Park. You will also receive training and a ‘Visual field guide for the identification of targeted pollinators’. Following this session, you will be provided a questionnaire to test your capacity to successfully complete the field protocol and accurately identify the targeted insects, including the very charismatic Blue-banded bees and Yellow Admiral butterfly, and the plants with which they interact.
With your help and that of other engaged citizens, community groups, indigenous groups and all levels of government, this and other similar projects across Australia are addressing critical issues in urban biodiversity conservation. They will demonstrate the importance of urban green spaces for biodiversity – including threatened species and ecological communities – and by demonstrating the value of biodiversity for urban-dwelling humans.
Dr Luis Mata
Luis is a Research Fellow with RMIT University’s Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group. He works as part of the National Environmental Science Programme – Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub, where he is contributing to The Shared Urban Habitat, a research project looking at addressing the broad question of how humans can effectively share the urban habitat with other species. He is particularly interested in developing a protocol for bringing nature back into cities through reintroductions and ecological replacements. He is also conducting research for The Little Things that Run The City, an insect ecology and conservation project exploring how Melbourne’s green spaces support insect biodiversity and ecosystem health. He is researcher in RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research and an Associate Member of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions.
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.