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So far this autumn we have seen an abundance of birdlife. Rare avian visitors have been attracted to the Surf Coast and surrounding areas.

A few weeks ago Margaret MacDonald and I sat near the water point at Distillery Creek picnic ground and within a short space of time we had observed many bird species, including immatures, all drinking and bathing in the water hole and socialising noisily in the surrounding trees. Striated Pardalotes and Red-browed Finches would fly into the water then preen and rest among the reeds around the water’s edge.

In late February, there were sightings of a Diamond Firetail in the same area at Distillery Creek. It is so unusual to see these birds in our part of the world. In the past I have seen large numbers of them in the Brisbane Ranges where their presence is not so exceptional.

Another uncommon bird is the Fork-tailed Swift (or Pacific Swift), Apus pacificus. We are more familiar with the White-throated Needletail, an annual visitor during the warmer months. At Eumeralla Flora Reserve, a Fork-tailed Swift was seen flying in a flock with a Tree Martin and some Welcome Swallows. There was another sighting at Distillery Creek, this time flying with White-throated Needletails. Like White-throated Needletails, the Fork-tailed Swift is migratory. It breeds in Siberia, the Himalayas and Japan and spends the northern winter in Southeast Asia and Australia.

Some special small birds were also found at Eumeralla, such as the Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Southern Emu-wrens and Brown Quail.
A sad Brolga story from Birregurra, from a friend of Peter and Chris Forster, who saw a couple of Wedge-tailed Eagles near a lagoon and went to investigate. He found a brolga had caught its legs in the fence on landing and it hadn’t survived.

It has been a bad breeding season for the Hooded Plovers. The last remaining chick at Point Roadknight, who was close to fledging, can no longer be found. The parents have now left and joined the flock. It is likely the young one was taken by a fox.

A Fluttering Shearwater in a very weakened condition and unable to swim properly was rescued from the water by Lyn Bunning. Lyn thought it may have been exhausted and needed to recuperate. Sadly the bird died about two hours later.

On a more positive note, Janet Stephens found a Tiger Snake caught up in the vegetable garden nets. She contacted Ross Beeby from Snakes and Ladders Tree Services and he attended promptly and removed the snake. He offers a free of charge service for snake removal in Aireys Inlet and Anglesea.

Tiger snake

We were surprised to see up to about 20 mainly immature Silver Gulls clambering on a low bush and feasting on the sweet, edible fruit of the Coastal Beard Heath, Leucopogon parviflorus. The beard heath berries will not germinate unless they are passed through the stomach of a bird, so this is their method of seed dispersal.

In another similar occurrence, it was interesting to see Long-billed Corellas feeding on pine cones in the Botanic Gardens in Geelong. They more often feed on the ground finding food such as seeds, roots, and insects etc.

Kaye Traynor