17 December 2016
Report by Sally and Paul Bartho
Sally’s son David and his fiancee Katrina went to Cairns for the weekend on business while we were visiting in Melbourne. Their car was at our disposal.
We took the opportunity to visit Phillip Island – about a two hour drive east of the entrance to the harbour.
Our goal was to see the Little Penguins coming in to roost at sunset. As we were there for only one night it was impossible to be at Cape Woolamai at the same time to see the millions of Short-tailed Shearwaters flying in to roost. There was also the opportunity to see Koalas. The brochures also indicated that we should find thousands of waders in the Rhyll estuary, mangroves and mudflats and that Swan lake was worth a visit for birding.
This was our first chance to go birding since we arrived. We wanted to refresh our memory of Australian birds and Phillip Island enabled us to reacquaint ourselves.
Leaving Melbourne at 05h00, we arrived just after seven and went straight to Cape Woolamai on the off chance of seeing late departures of the Short-tailed Shearwaters.
The weather was cold, overcast and very blustery. Unfortunately we were not lucky enough to see any but we did see this Swamp Harrier.
Then we headed to Rhyll and walked to the estuary.
Thousands of waders there might have been but nowhere in the area we hoped to find them. A few different species of water birds were seen in the distance including Silver Gulls, Australian (Sacred) Ibis, Pacific Black Ducks. Some photos taken in the area:
Our next destination was the Penguin Parade to purchase a seat for the evening event. For a little extra we also were able to visit the Koala Reserve. We took a walk down to the beach where the Little Penguins would emerge at sunset to explore the area. On the way down we saw a Swamp Wallaby close-by.
Then at the beach we found three Hooded Plovers – two with rings. We understand that this is a threatened species.
We were hoping to find the odd L Penguin in the daylight so that we could take a photo or two. Photography at night during the parade is forbidden. Again we were not fortunate. However we did find an interesting bird party at the entrance to the car park.
We took a drive round the headland – Nobbies – to get a high point view of coast line.
Leaving Nobbies we headed back to the Koala Reserve. There were two main fenced in boardwalks enclosing Eucalyptus trees in which several Koalas inhabited.
We saw three Koalas in each enclosure – doing what they do best – curled up sleeping.
Walking round the enclosures we saw quite a few different species of birds especially overlooking the wetlands on one of the boardwalks. Even a Swamp Wallaby made an appearance.
While walking between the two enclosures a Forest kingfisher made an appearance.
After dinner we headed for the Penguin Parade – arriving an hour and a half early to get a good seat – sheltered from the wind which made the cool evening a lot colder.
As people arrived so the stands filled and even a cordoned off sand area in front of both stands filled. We waited for sundown and the first penguins were expected at 21h00. Sally and I had our binoculars with us so we were able to scout the sea for sightings of flocks of penguins gathering in groups before they made their dash up the beach.
Then the moment arrived and the first group made a dash. Up they came then one got nervous and started back – the whole lot followed.Up and down they wavered, groups and groups making their charge up the beach. Sometimes the groups were as much as a hundred strong. In total they expected almost a thousand Little Penguins to come ashore.
Several parties came up the beach between the two main grand stands so we were able to get a very close-up view. The temptation was there to take photos but most people resisted.
Then the rain came and there was a mad congested dash for shelter. Fortunately it was not a downpour. Walking back up to the car park you could hear all the youngsters calling for their parents and you could see them standing outside their burrows. The adults were walking up the roads so close you could almost touch them. It was quite an experience and all over by 22h00.
The next day we headed for Churchill Island. The first bird we encountered was a Pied Oystercatcher.
The variety of birds was limited but a few species were in abundance.
Then we headed for Swan Lake near Nobbies. Along the path down to the hides, a bird flew in front of us – calling. At first we thought it was a pigeon but it turned out to be a cuckoo – a Pallid Cuckoo.
There were two hides with shallow wetlands in front of each.
Some of the other birds photographed at Swan Lake:
Altogether we recorded seeing 56 species. Click here to see our bird list.
This was a very pleasant venue for us despite the weather.
Paul and sally Bartho