Friday, 27 January 2012

Banded birds at Jack Smith Lake Reserve

Information Board near the entrance
As a volunteer for a Coastal Weeds Project (being jointly undertaken by Birds Australia and Melbourne University), I recently visited my local beach to collect some data, and do a bit of birding whilst there.

wildflower at Jack Smith Lake 
I visited Jack Smith Lake Game Reserve as a result, which is located on the coastline near Woodside beach, part of 90 mile beach-a pristine stretch of beach in Gippsland, Eastern Victoria.

Red-capped Plovers

It was a very hot, sunny day with very little wind, so it was so refreshing to reach the sand and feel the cooling sea breeze. There were few birds on the beach this time, but as the day began to end and the fierce sun started to go down some red-capped plovers were running along the sand some distance away. The photo of them included is terrible but the best I could manage before they took flight, and not wanting to go home without photographing a single bird I didn't delete it!
The Lake in the Reserve was low in water compared to the last time I visited in October, and the birds there were extremely wary. It was impossible to go close enough to the lake to photograph the duck species I could see in my binoculars, so I was not able to identify any of them unfortunately.
Little Black Cormorant on Jack Smith Lake, Black swans, Eurasian Coots and unidentified duck species in the background
 The best I could manage was this pic of a Little Black Cormorant shot from full zoom range while I concealed myself behind a banksia tree.  I also saw some Hoary-headed Grebes in the lake, but being such small birds the photographs of them shot from such a distance were not sharp enough to include here.
The Lake has many nesting boxes and old fence posts for perching in it, but gun shooting is still permitted at this reserve. I observed many spent shell cases on the ground around the foreshore of the lake, so it appeared the bird's wariness was due to this. I personally find duck shooting an absolutely abhorrent practice, so it was distressing to see the shell cases and the fear shooting had caused these peaceful and harmless birds.
 I can understand the shooting of feral animals that cause damage to  the delicate ecological balance of native species of flora and fauna, but other methods of control might be more humane. The shooting of native ducks however is something I can't understand at all....

juvenile Copperhead
Walking back and forth from the lake to the beach throughout the day meant I was lucky enough to spot a baby snake basking in the sun, despite the absence of birds during the hottest part of the afternoon. A young Copperhead was gracefully winding it's way across the sandy path leading through the dunes. It's head size was only that of a small skink, and it's total length was around 35cm. You can bet I was careful to observe the ground very carefully for it's relatives after seeing this beauty!

juvenile Copperhead
Back on the beach early in the evening and there were still very few birds around other than the ubiquitous Silver gulls and the larger Pacific Gulls, the latter of which kept a constant vigil of the tide by flying up and down the beach in search of food.
Pacific Gulls 

I almost missed noticing a group of Crested Terns because of this until I was very close to some Silver gulls hanging around near some fishermen.  When I was only metres away I finally saw that some of these 'gulls' were in fact, Crested Terns.

Crested Terns, some banded

Crested Terns
I was even more surprised when I looked at the photos back home and saw some of the Terns were banded! In contrast to the birds on the lake, these terns were remarkably approachable, allowing us to near them within metres without showing any signs of distress. For me this showed the excellent handling skills of the person(s) involved in banding them, and after the distressing observations of the terrified lake birds it was very encouraging to experience.

2 banded Crested Terns

The sun was setting back at the Lake in the reserve when the sound of many small birds twittering filled the air. Among the branches of a Banksia a family of Silvereyes were busy chorusing. Being on the Southern coast of the mainland directly North of Tasmania, I wondered if they were of the migratory Tasmanian race of Silvereye, however I didn't get enough photos of the fast-flying little beauties to be able to tell with any degree of certainty. Lacking the expertise myself as well I cannot identify their race from the photos here, but I wonder if anyone reading could tell me? It would be great to know if so.
fledgling Silvereye
pair of fledgling Silvereyes

On the subject of reader feedback, if anyone can send me some information on anything I can do to help duck shooting become outlawed in Victoria I would greatly appreciate it.

Crested Terns, some banded

One of my last photos here from Jack Smith Lake Game Reserve is of one of the many Eastern Grey Kangaroos living there. Its wonderful to drive out of the reserve at dusk as this is when they appear in large numbers, happily grazing in family groups on the grass either side of the gravel road in the reserve.

young Eastern Grey Kangaroo
It's also when I have been rewarded every time I've visited with a glimpse of some raptor species, on this particular day it was a Brown Falcon with a swamp rat in it's talons, having just seized it from the road adjacent to a reed bed.

banded Crested Terns

Jack Smith Lake Game Reserve is a beautiful spot to visit for a day, and the coastline is totally superb. There are numerous bird species known to inhabit this spot including Blue-winged and Orange-bellied Parrots. Please click on the enclosure link for more info on this spot should you like to visit it too.

little bird footprints in the sand (sunglasses in shot to give an idea of bird size)

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