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Walker's Lake Bird Survey

Wednesday 20th Feb 2019 saw several members from St Arnaud Field Nats and Avon Plains Banyena Landcare Group leave the boat ramp for a round-the-Lake bird survey. Beautiful clear, sunny and cool weather kept any pesky insects at bay and we spent 2 1/2 hrs watching birds and listing them for Birdlife Australia's online Bird Atlas. Walker's Lake, north-west of St Arnaud, one of the waterbodies in the highly significant Avon Plains Lakes system.

30 species were seen, mostly waterbirds or landbirds that are associated with wetter environments such as Magpie-larks. For first part of our walk, through Black Box Woodland to the western end of the lunette, we were accompanied by a small family of Black-fronted Dotterels, moving like little clockwork toys along the insect-laden edges of the water. Moving with the BF Dots, but staying in front of the pack was a pair of Red-kneed Dotterels. You can see the red knees in this on-the- move long telephoto shot by Prue McAllister (APBLG).

Up onto the lunette( a huge sandbank, formed over thousands of years from pelleted clay blown from the lake bed during dry,cold spells) and the bird assembly changed- Welcome Swallows and White-plumed Honeyeaters foraged busily above or in the massive Redgums, Galahs and Long-billed Corellas defended their nesting areas; the Redgums are full of hollows, indicating their great age (150 year of growth before hollows begin to form). From our vantage point we spied a raft of Australasian Darters, diving and fishing in the shallow waters, almost like a choreographed water ballet- all up, then one after the other, down again! It was hard to count how many there were. Male Darter in breeding array Photo A Hughes StAFNC

Several smallish rafts of ducks were seen a good distance away- photos later revealed Pacific Black Ducks, Grey Teal, one lonely Hardhead, the pretty little Pink-eared Ducks and wonder of wonders, a group of 4 Australasian Shovelers, a protected species during the duck shooting season, and not unlike the Pinkies in profile( strange bills) but larger and with more distinguishing marks- white patch and dark rump. This group included 3 males and one female and the very long shot was taken again, by Prue McAllister.

Coming around to the inlet area, we were escorted along the shoreline by a Sacred Kingfisher, nervous of our presence but reluctant to leave us to our own devices for some reason. Photo by Anne Hughes StAFNC

Moving along the southern shore, through the Redgums and Black Box, we spotted 4 White-breasted Woodswallows using the fenceposts as perches.

They were not interested in posing for the cameras but the photos were good enough for identification purposes. White-breasted Woodswallows are seen at the Lake mostly during Summer.

This pair behaved like juveniles, waiting for parents to return with a meal.

Food was certainly on our minds as we completed the 3km walk and headed for our morning tea- the usual relaxed and enjoyable end to our outings at the lake.

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