Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A trip to Reef Island, Westernport

I have been wanting to explore Reef Island for some time at least partly encouraged by this blog post from Wampy and his series of Reef Island Panoramio pictures. However the time or conditions never seemed right. Westernport's Reef Island is an island at high tide but at low tide one can walk across a rocky tidal flat (I elect to call it an isthmus) and the island becomes a narrow peninsula. Melbourne's recent abysmal weather eased for a few hours last weekend aligning with a low tide (and numerous family, social & work commitments) and I was able to pay a visit.

The island has been known to entertain eastern curlew, godwit, tattlers and others. The time may still have not been right for me as I didn't really identify any over-wintering migratory waders or the like. However I enjoyed the experience of visiting this unique sanctuary and still saw things I don't see very often.....

 Above at left - the island can be seen in the distance. At right, a typical mangrove flat scene on Reef Island itself

In this view I am well out along the isthmus of land joining Reef Island with the mainland. We are looking from the island back to the mainland's Bass Hills

Things I don't see very often #1 - Large numbers of spoonbill
I have never seen so many Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia) in one spot. There would have been at least 30.
The bit of exposed tidal flat used to reach the island was narrow at this stage . The spoonbills watched me coming from miles away & I had to walk within 20 metres of them with a predictable result. Fortunately they were quite happy to land only another 30m off where they resumed feeding. Isn't funny how before being a birder you wouldn't think twice if your chosen route meant birds were disturbed? Now I feel ever-so guilty!
Looking south from Reef Island the spoonbills then commenced feeding with the backdrop of the Phillip Island bridge at San Remo. I really enjoyed the 360 degrees views of some of Westernport's nicest landmarks.

Things I don't see very often #2 - Little egret

I always get a buzz when a bird that looks similar to the locals behaves in a way which you immediately recognise as different. Sort of like as a birder you've "come of age" for this location!!? And then, when you check the field guide later, it describes the exact same behaviour that you had just observed. It's like "Hey Mr Pizzey, solidarity brother!!"

You know where this is heading - I had one of those experiences at Reef Island when this Little egret was zipping around the shallows behaving like no other egret I had seen!

Little egret (Egretta garzetta) constantly moving with short bursts. A long way off unfortunately but a pleasure to watch.
Pizzey refers to its bright yellow feet possibly used to disturb prey. I was pleased to see those yellow feet captured in this image. 
Great egret (Ardea alba) I like the two views of those funky neck angles
Great egret landing
White-faced heron (Egretta novaehollandiae)
Great egret as the weather closes in again. It's dull already and it's only 4pm! This view looking north towards French Island.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Pete, you really get to go to all the exotic places don't you! seriously, love the light in the last two shots, and, yes, well done with the yellow feet! Not long now ...