Sunday, November 14, 2010

Werribee, Victoria


Well, I had an excellent day today.† I slept well in my very comfy bed and was up at about 6.† I had my brekkie and made my humble lunch, and I took care of my internet stuff.† I had a local birder lined up to take me out today, and I had delayed our departure until 9, because of the weather forecast.


As it turned out, the rain stopped during the night, and we didnít get any more at all, until a couple of afternoon showers, very light and brief.† Leaving at 9 was fine, though, for this kind of birding.† The point was to visit the Western Treatment Plant (WTP), which is a vast area of ponds, fields, and beaches.† It is a couple of miles across in one direction and several miles long in the other.† Normally at this time of year, it would be teeming with ducks and shorebirds (which they call waders over here), but the unusual weather this year has changed that completely, as the ducks and waders are in the interior, where there has been so much rain this year.† To get in to the WTP, you need a key and a permit, though.


My guide for the day, local birder Brett, was supposed to have a mate along with him, but the mate bailed out at the last minute, so it was just Brett and me.† He is a young guy, in his 20ís, I would guess, possibly early 30ís.† We went in my rental car, for various reasons, which was nice for me in a way, as I had a gate-opener, and there were several gates, for which Brett had the key.


Despite the reports of how dead it was at the WTP, it was still a very ďbirdyĒ place, with lots of small birds and a few ducks and waders.† I ended up adding 11 birds to my trip list, which exceeded my expectations and leaves me just one short of my original goal of 243 trip birds.† I got one lifer (Fairy Tern) and another one for my Australia list as well (Ruff, which I saw in Britain this year).† Other ďgoodĒ birds were Blue-billed Duck (just one), Striated Fieldwren (just one), and Golden-headed Cisticola (two).† There were a lot of Skylarks, and that was one I needed, too.† Brett spotted one Australasian Gannet, too, for very close views, and that was another one I needed.


I picked up my first trip bird before we had gone a block Ė Tree Sparrow.† I knew they lived here in Werribee, and there one was, before we had even really started.† Both sexes look like male House Sparrows, except the top of their heads are reddish-brown, instead of gray.† I had expected to see them, and I did, first thing.† They are greatly outnumbered by the House Sparrows, though, and that first one is the only one I have seen so far.


It had rained heavily yesterday afternoon and evening, and there were a lot of puddles on the unpaved roads at the WTP, but we only came to one place that I was unwilling to try to get through.† It was near the start of a road, and I was able to back out again, fortunately.† This rental car is very low clearance, not suited to this kind of driving at all.† There were places where there was grass growing in between the wheels ruts of the road, and it was long enough that it dragged against the bottom of the car, sometimes seriously, so I could really feel it.† Later, when we would stop, I could smell the burned grass from under the car.† It made me nervous, imagining some oil under there catching fire or something.† The car is splashed pretty well with mud now, and I suppose I ought to take it to a car wash before I leave, or hose it off well myself.† There is a lot of mud caked behind the wheels, and I imagine the underside is also very mud caked.† Did I mention that my contract says I wonít take the car onto unpaved roads?† Hmm, it is going to be pretty obvious, Iím afraid, that I did go on dirt roads, even if I try to clean it.


Anyway, we had a great time, looking for birds, and even though it was nothing like it usually would be, the WTP still delivered a great birding day.† We saw between 55 and 60 species, overall.† We saw five raptors Ė Black-shouldered Kite, Brown Falcon, Whistling Kite, White-bellied Sea-eagle, and Swamp Harrier.† I have pictures of three of them, and when I get around to processing them, Iíll post them.† I didnít take pictures of anything but birds today.† I already have a lot of good pictures of the Western Treatment Plant from earlier years (2004 and 2006), and I just didnít feel like bothering today.† Iím getting tired of the whole Ramblings and Photos thing, and will be glad to be shut of the feeling of obligation I have every day to do them.


So, tonight I think I have this whole house to myself.† Last night I had a woman for a room mate, but I didnít see her much.† She came in late, had her dinner in the living room, and went into the bathroom for about an hour and a half.† I guess she was taking a long, hot bath.† I think she was in town for an event at the nearby equestrian center, and she had been out in the rain all afternoon.† Supposedly, there is no one else booked for the next four nights, though.


Tomorrow I have another local birder with a permit and key to the WTP, and our plan was to go there.† After being there today, I would really just as soon skip it, though, or only do a part of it, and try other places around here.† Iíll see what this guy feels about that in the morning, when I meet him.† He doesnít drive, and I need to drive for a half hour (one way) to pick him up, and then take him back at the end of the day, so that will add two hours of driving to my day (two round trips).† Weíll see how it goes.† Iím not too enthused about going out on the WTP dirt roads again, at this point, given the lack of ducks and shorebirds there at the moment.


I guess Iíll heat up one of my prepared meals now.† Iíll put this up tonight, but I donít know when a Photos will go up again.