Monday, 27 May 2013

Northern Shoveler

There is one male Northern Shoveler at Melbourne's Western Treatment Plant.  He's lost his way from the northern hemisphere and taken up residence amongst our local ducks.  Each winter, thinking that it's the northern hemisphere summer, he dons his breeding plumage, and his white breast stands out amongst the other ducks.  Otherwise, in eclipse plumage, he blends into anonymity.  I first saw him in May 2004, when he appeared at a part of the farm where birders are not allowed to go.  A few keen twitchers were guided into this restricted area by Melbourne Water's resident ornithologist.  And a great day we had too.  (Let's face it, any day you get a lifer is a great day.)  Then in August 2011, he put in another appearance.  That year, I saw him in the sea, from the bird hide.  This year he appeared in Lake Borrie, and sightings of him were sufficiently regular to entice a birdy friend down from Sydney to twitch him.
See the white dot?
So yesterday, we set off for Werribee with our Sydney friend in search of a Northern Shoveler. And this is what we saw on Lake Borrie with the naked eye.  Trust me, there is a white dot in the centre of the photo.  You'd be lucky to see him without a scope.  This is what he really looks like:
Northern Shoveler

No, I didn't take this photo at Werribee.  He is a beautiful bird, well worth a flight down from Sydney. 

There were quite a few people at Werribee yesterday, attracted by the possibility of seeing a Northern Shoveler.  There was some drizzle in the morning, but there was little wind and the birding was great.  Once we'd ticked our target species, all stress had gone and we settled down to enjoy ourselves.

We managed 70 species for the day.  Yes, I know others achieve 100 without any effort, but this is May, and I was quite happy with 70.  As usual, we saw plenty of raptors.  There were lots of Black-shouldered Kites, Swamp Harriers, Brown Falcons and Whistling Kites.  We had wonderful sightings of a Spotted Harrier and a White-bellied Sea-Eagle sat atop the artificial forest, surveying his kingdom.  Banded Stilts have taken up residence at Werribee at the moment and have pushed the Black-winged Stilts into the sea.
Banded Stilts at the Borrow Pits

Banded Stilts are very handsome birds.  I'm delighted to be able to enjoy them at Werribee.  We had great views too of Striated Fieldwren (at the gate near the boat ramp on Beach Road) and Little Grassbirds, which I hear much more often than I see.  We saw a few Australian Spotted Crakes and some sweet Zebra Finches.

We went home very happy with our day's birding, and, needless to say, our Sydney friend was delighted with his tick.

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