Friends of Williamstown Wetlands Inc
President’s Report 2019
The twelve months to July 2019 have been filled with activity as we continue to play our role in looking after the Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve and the Paisley-Challis Wetlands, in conjunction with Hobsons Bay City Council and Parks Victoria.
We began the year noting the contributions of Helen Tregear, who died in July 2018, aged 99. Helen was a founder of the group in the late 1980s and our Secretary until 2001. She remained active for years after that and became an honorary member in 2009.
In another significant change, our Treasurer for almost a decade, Marilyn Olliff, stepped down at the Annual General Meeting so as to have more time for her latest project, the Hobsons Bay Wetlands centre. So we began the year with a new Treasurer, Vesna Djuric, and after twelve months I am happy to say that the books are still in excellent order.
Our seasonal programme of planting in the cooler, wetter months, and bird walks in the drier months, continued, with maintenance and ground preparation taking place whenever it was necessary and volunteers were available to work. Our planting has been more concentrated this year on the area to the south of the lake, for which the responsible authority is Parks Victoria. Peter Smith again arranged and supervised our Clean Up Australia Day effort at the Paisley Challis Wetland in March. We also participated in Council’s World Environment Day event at the beginning of June.
A group from the Ford Motor Company, workers from their proving ground north of Geelong, had two Volunteer Activity Days working on our patch. On the first of these activity days, in September 2018, the volunteers removed old fencing and associated rubbish and watered our recent plantings on the south side of the lakes. On the second day, in June 2019, they planted 1500 plants in the area near the shallow section of the eastern lake. Staff from Hobsons Bay City Council and Parks Victoria were in attendance, and site preparation for the plantings was carried out by Richard Leppitt and Andrew Thornton. Their use of an auger to prepare holes has become a standard feature of our planting routines.
We have been accustomed to seeing tiger snakes as we work at the Jawbone and the Paisley Challis Wetland, but we have become aware that there are other snakes in the area, notably the white lipped snake (seen on the goat track). The little whip snake is also reported as having been sighted in this region, although we have not seen any on our patch.
The stormwater lakes and their surrounds continue to attract a rich birdlife and our summer bird walks attract other twitchers in addition to regular members of our Friends group. We continue to receive reports of fox sightings, which is probably why there are not so many rabbits around. Domestic dogs are, however, still causing problems on the coastal flats and Council officers have responded to our suggestions for better communication with dog walkers and their pets that harass migratory and other birds.
The great increase in sporting activity at the J. T. Gray Reserve is the cause of parking congestion on our workdays at Paisley Challis. Some other activity there has caught our attention and we forwarded our comments to the working group of Hobsons Bay City Council. This group, which also includes Melbourne Water, Parks Victoria, Aboriginal Victoria, and VCictoria’s Department of Environment, Lands, Water and Planning (DELWP)
have been reviewing the status of the fishing club rooms on the bank of the Kororoit Creek. At the time of writing it seems that the disused building of the Deaf Anglers Club will be removed because it is derelict. Plans to close the car park at the foot of Maddox Road and incorporate the area into the Wetland Reserve are also under consideration.
By August 2018 we noticed that the eastern storm water lake seemed to be shallowing. There was excessive growth of the shallow water reed, Typha, the lake had receded from its original shoreline, and a shallow section of the lake had become almost dry land. It seemed that that device at the western end of the lake, near the causeway, that was supposed to maintain the water level in the lake, had failed. This was confirmed by an inspection by an environmental engineering consultant, and we pitched our case to Council for inclusion of the necessary action in their 2019-2020 budget of remediation works. This approach was successful, and Council has approved a three- stage work programme to restore the lake to something more like its original form and remove the overgrown vegetation.
Associated with the inflow of storm water to the lakes, Nick Olliff has investigated the gross litter traps and found that some of them have not been receiving regular attention. Council staff have rectified this oversight.
Governance and Organization
The committee has continued to function well, with major contributions from Secretary Sandra Thorn, good attendance at meetings, and activity planning by Vice president Richard Leppitt. Publicity for our activities, through our website and FaceBook, has been aided by graphic design by Peter Cross and, of course, new volunteers are always welcome.
Ian D. Rae
Friends of Williamstown Wetlands Inc
President’s Report 2018
We have had another successful year of planting and maintenance in the areas under our care, cooperating with (and supported by) Hobsons Bay City Council and parks Victoria, and participating in state and national environment programmes. Attendance at our workdays has increased and we have signed up some new members.
We continue to get valuable support from Hobsons Bay rangers for activities carried out in their area of responsibility – that is north of the lakes and in the Paisley-Challis Wetland. Parks Victoria staff have also been helping us to plant on the south side of the second lake. While these may seem like random events, they are part of the five-year planting schedule drawn up by Richard Leppitt, nominating species and locations where we can plant typically 300 plants on a Sunday morning workday. Students at North Williamstown Primary School showed interest in what we are doing at Jawbone and I was happy to meet with them – it’s my old school! – and to welcome some of them (with parents) to a recent workday. Parks Victoria are also providing funding for replacement of the signs on the boardwalk, something being done in conjunction with cooperation of the Jawbone Marine Sanctuary Care Group.
As we have done for many years now in early March, we joined in the national Clean Up Australia programme and centred our activities on the Paisley-Challis Wetland. Thanks again to Peter Smith for the organization. Approximately half a tonne of rubbish, only some of which could be transferred to the skip that Council provided because it was placed in the wrong location and overwhelmed by rubbish dumped by people from the ‘fishing village’ along Kororoit Creek.
Several members joined in the HBCCs annual Spring outing, this time to the sewage treatment works at Altona, and we had a strong presence at Council’s World Environment Day event, held at the old Williamstown Town Hall in June. In May a few of us were guests of Parks Victoria on Herring Island, in the River Yarra, where representatives of environment groups they work with were treated to a day out.
Two local issues that came to the fore in 2016-2017 and continued through the following year were dogs on beaches and tree vandalism on the Jawbone Reserve. Hobsons Bay City Council has a Biodiversity Plan under which these matters can be addressed, but the Plan seldom gets down to the necessary level of detail. Even when it does, the cost of implementing the plan turns out to be prohibitive, although Council hopes to appoint a biodiversity officer.
The disturbance of birds by off-lead dogs running on beaches in our area has long been of concern. It has become clear in several meetings we have had with Hobsons Bay City Council staff that Council does not have the funding that would be needed to patrol beaches and enforce local regulations. Signage has little effect, and the designation as dog-off-lead areas in parks adjacent to the beaches just makes things worse.
Damage to trees near the playground at the foot of the north-south open space has almost certainly been caused by residents wishing to have unimpeded views from nearby houses. It’s impossible to prove who dunnit, of course. Council have installed notices and agreed to leave damaged and dying trees in place, but enforcement action is not possible. There was damage to our notice board – close to but probably unrelated to the damaged trees – and we appreciated the assistance of Hobsons Bay staff in repairing it, with the final touches being added by Bill Kuhse.
The Wader Beach project (Birds Not Litter), in which Marilyn Olliff and Peter Smith have invested so much time, came to end with all monies accounted for and a final report provided to Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group that funded the project. As well as making a substantial dent in the accumulated litter on Wader Beach and carefully analyzing what was there, the project brought contact with other like-minded groups in the area and received strong support from the Port Phillip Eco Centre.
The Committee of Management kept things on-track, with major contributions from Sandra Thorn (Secretary) and Marilyn Olliff (Treasurer). After seven years of keeping track of our finances, Marilyn will step down at this year’s Annual General Meeting so as to make time for other ventures that she is associated with, and I thank her for her excellent service.
Ian D. Rae
This beautiful little bird can be found at the Williamstown Wetlands during spring and summer. When sunlit at the right angle you will see a wonderful iridescent glittering green on its wings. This contrasts against the barring on the chest and side. When shaded the bird appears duller.
Mature birds will typically perch in a prominent position to call and look for insects. The call is a descending whistle that can be heard persistently and from a long way off.
The Juvenile Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo is duller than the adult and also lack the barring on the underparts. Look closely at the below picture and you can see the diagnostic white eyebrow and dark eye stripe just starting to show.
Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo’s are brood or nest parasites, in other words they lay their eggs in another species nest and let them incubate the eggs and raise the young.
Foster dad (Superb Fairy-Wren) feeding a juvenile cuckoo. Host species include fairy-wrens and thornbills.
For more information about this bird, see http://www.birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/horsfields-bronze-cuckoo.
Did you know red foxes roam the Williamstown wetlands both by day and night? They can be found anywhere from the mouth of the Kororoit Creek, all the way down the Rifle Range and Jawbone Reserves to the Bayview Street fishing harbour.
The above fox was stalking a blue–billed duck on the edge of the western lake; the duck was swimming back and forth less than a metre in front of the fox. Seconds prior to the fox revealing itself an Australian Spotted Crake walked along the edge of the lake in this very spot.
The above fox was spotted working it's way along Wader Beach looking for an easy meal. Ironically this particular fox was observing three bird watchers at the Paisley Challis bird hide. A classic case of the watched being watched! The photo was taken by Len Towerzey.
Can you spot the fox in the above photo? Look just to the right of the Little-pied Cormorant, sitting on the rock. This well camouflaged fox swam to the island in the Arboretum Lake to ambush an unsuspecting Little-pied Cormorant. It was commonly thought that the islands in the reserve were a safe roosting place for birds; unfortunately the foxes have discovered a smorgasbord!
Red Fox Facts
- Foxes are a major threat to biodiversity
- Foxes indiscriminately kill native animals and birds
- Foxes hunt both by day and night
- Foxes exhibit surplus killing behaviour, well beyond their immediate food requirements
- Foxes will cache surplus food by burying or hiding it for later use
- These animals are highly adaptable omnivores and will eat just about anything including: human refuse, pet food, vertebrates, invertebrates, plant material, carrion, rabbits, rats, mice, insects, lizards, frogs, turtles, birds, grain, fruit, and domestic poultry
- Foxes will take prey up to 3.5 kg in weight, this critical weight range includes ground nesting birds, ducks, cormorants, ibis, spoonbills and even larger birds like swans
- To survive foxes need 500 grams of food daily. This food requirement put a lot of pressure on native animal populations
- Small dogs and other small domestic animals are at risk of fox attack
- Fox densities in urban areas are between 3 to 16 foxes per km2
- A fox may travel up to 10-15 km within their home range
- Foxes are clever and not afraid of humans
- Foxes are known carriers of mange and distemper
- Foxes readily eat plant material including African Boxthorn berries, and will distribute the seeds over a large area. African boxthorn is a declared noxious weed in Victoria
- Foxes roam the streets of Williamstown from dusk to dawn, looking for any opportunity to find an easy meal. Chicken coups and rabbit/guinea pig hutches are often targeted with devastating results
- Did you know foxes can climb trees?
For more information about foxes, click on the following link:
Williamstown Wetlands 29th October 2017
Today’s bird (and lizard) walk started at just after 10.00am. We walked back along the Paisley-Challis path to the drain diversion where we observed a small group of Royal Spoonbills and one well camouflaged Yellow-billed Spoonbill. It wasn’t until the birds took flight we were able to confirm the single Yellow-bill was in fact there.
Just before the second bridge we received word from a cyclist that a tiger snake was in the grass just off the end of the bridge. With some caution we approached the area to find an Eastern blue-tongue Lizard doing his best impersonation of a tiger snake!
Hiding in the drain to the left of the bridge was a Great Egret hunting for prey. In the main lake we saw a good variety of ducks including the above Hardhead (White-eyed Duck), Blue-billed Ducks, Grey Teal, Chestnut Teal and Pink-eared Ducks.
Looking south back towards the bay we saw a large flock of panicking Silver Gulls that were put up by two Whistling Kites.
Along the edge of the Western Lake we heard Australian Reed Warblers, Little Grass Birds and Superb Fairy Wrens all doing their thing.
Other notable birds observed included a couple of Black-tailed Native Hens, Pied and Little Cormorants on Crofton Drive Islands and Little Black Cormorants on three of the four posts in the Quest Lake.
The highlight of the walk was seeing all three of the grebes species. We saw two Great Crested Grebes, one at each end of the main lake. The Australasian Grebes and the more common Hoary-headed Grebe were all swimming close to the reeds.
We were also lucky enough to see a family of swans with five cygnets in tow. These particular cygnets are just over a month old and have had a very fast growth rate. The swans nested in the Arboretum Lake, amongst bull rushes. They moved their brood to larger lake shortly the chicks hatched.
On the way back for refreshments we sighted a Nankeen Kestrel hovering over the soccer fields.
The bird walk was very successful with a total species count of 49. For a full list of birds observed please click here.
Thank you to Andrew Webster and HBCC for organising this event and providing the refreshments, which followed the walk.
Spring is in the air
This season ten pairs of white-headed stilts nested at the Jawbone salt marsh flats. So far a total of 7 chicks have hatched.
Life is certainly precarious for these long legged birds - they have had to deal with a lot this year including storms, king tides, marauding little ravens and the ever present foxes.
At one stage during a high-tide, water breached the nest and was lapping against the then 3 eggs. The stilts worked furiously and eventually saved the nest. The next day there was an extra egg in the nest. Miraculously all 4 eggs hatched from this nest.
Protecting the eggs and chicks
Protecting the eggs and chicks is a team effort for these birds. At the first sign of danger the stilts will start their warning call which is a continuous and excitable yap, until the danger passes. If the danger is not to close a single stilt will do a fly-by all the while making the warning call. If the danger persists in the general area, the stilt will swoop closer and closer to whatever is causing the problem.
If the threat is more direct, like a little raven flying over or near a nest or chick, a squadron of stilts will take off flying low, fast and aggressively attack the threat. Only after the threat has been seen off will the stilts return to the nesting area.
Within hours of the chicks hatching the family of stilts will leave the nesting site to avoid being an easy target for predators.
The day after the chicks hatched the parent birds with chicks in tow headed west from the Jawbone saltmarsh flats to Wader Beach, a distance of 800 metres. It's interesting to note that the group of birds is no longer working as a team to protect the young and that individual parents are doing this job as well as keeping other adult stilts away from their brood.
So the precarious life for these new arrival continues with the added danger of off-leash dogs on the Wader Beach sand bar.
As Malcolm Fraser once said "Life wasn't meant to be easy", and it's certainly true for these little chicks.