This year has been a good one for migratory waders in our wetlands.
The usual suspects, sharp-tailed sandpipers and red-necked stints have been observed in good numbers. Some of the rarer visitors included great knots, curlew sandpipers, common greenshanks, common sandpipers, eastern curlews, the whimbrel, and grey plover.
Common greenshank (l) and Eastern curlew (r)
Over the summer we’ve also had Bar-tailed Godwits feeding on soldier crabs and sand-worms at Wader Beach and on the sandbar.
Red-necked Stints have been observed in good number this summer. The conservative count of these birds was 2000 plus, feeding out of the mudflats and roosting down at the Battery Rd rocks. A small number of juvenile red-necked stints have also been recorded overwintering here.
Red-necked Stint (l) and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (r)
We have had three highlights this year, the overwintering whimbrel, sightings of eastern curlews and the grey plover. All three events caused a massive influx of keen birders hoping to catch a glimpse of these interesting migratory waders.
Friends of Williamstown Wetlands Inc.
President’s Report 2021
As the number of reported infections with the Covid-19 virus rose and fell, so our activities—like most aspects of life in Melbourne—waxed and waned. We responded by emerging to meet and to work when we could, and restricting contact to email when we couldn’t venture out.
This meant that committee meetings were less frequent, with more decisions taken after consultation by email and news distributed that way, too, as it was to the wider membership through newsletters and the forwarding of, for example, Council notices. Workdays had to be fitted into the revised calendar, too, but we were able to add to our Sunday morning efforts with some ‘pop up’ mid-week planting session on land controlled by Council and Parks Victoria for those who could be available. Fortunately, the Clean Up Australia event fell within one of the windows between lockdowns, and our effort, organised as usual by Peter Smith, was able to go ahead.
Despite the lockdowns, the Rotary Club of Williamstown went ahead with their project to mark one hundred years of Rotary in Australia—the construction of a new bird hide on the south side of the eastern lake. The view from the first bird hide, on the northern shore, has been largely obscured by rampant growth of aquatic vegetation, but the new hide is on higher ground and from it the view is panoramic. It’s on Crown Land managed by Parks Victoria, and permission had to be obtained from that body. The fence at the end of the Arboretum will be realigned and a new path is in place to facilitate access to the hide.
With assistance of Council, a group of students from the Bayview Campus of Williamstown High School devoted some of their ‘service’ time to working in the Jawbone Reserve in May. On four afternoons they planted indigenous plants on a patch near the school; weeded a patch near the causeway and then planted there, too; and removed stakes and guards from a site where corporate volunteers had planted in 2019.
Over the years we have expressed to Council and to Parks Victoria our concerns that people and dogs, travelling along the sandbars at low tide, were disturbing migratory waders and shore birds feeding there in the warmer months. We are pleased to note that both authorities have installed signage and made other changes to access to deter such intrusions.
The device that maintains the level in the eastern lake has been repaired, and with persistent rain (especially in 2020) we have seen the lake rise to something more like its original level. Planning for stage two of the project to renovate the lake, Council engaged Practical Ecology last year to conduct an impact assessment on proposed control of over-abundant vegetation (Typha sp.) and possible desilting of that part of the lake.
The investigation completed in April 2021 identified several significant fauna species and made the following recommendations:
- Develop a removal plan that limits removal of Typha and silt to those areas of the wetland cells that are strictly needed to meet the objectives of the project minimising impacts to other parts of the wetland accounting for access for machinery
- Incorporate a fauna salvage strategy into the removal plan based on a zoologist being present to salvage and relocate any native animals or euthanise any exotic animals recovered
- Consider the desired post-removal conditions and ensure the works achieve those conditions through creating acceptable water depths and installing new wetland plants to take up the ecological space created by Typha removal
- Investigate and determine if the works require a planning permit in consultation with Council planners
Within the report it recommends restricting works between August and March, due to migratory birds and frog breeding, which leaves the period April to July to do any significant on site works. Council intends over the coming months to develop a removal plan that will better define areas of works and methods of removal to minimise any potential impact. This means there won’t be much change over the next six months or so but it should be possible to begin any works from April 2022.
Governance and Organisation
We were well served by our office-bearers, especially Secretary Sandra Thorn and Treasurer Vesna Djuric, and the organisation of work days by Vice-President Richard Leppitt who, together with Andrew Thornton, prepared sites for planting by auguring-out the holes! Our peripatetic efforts were supported by Andrew Webster and Suzette Rodoreda from Hobsons Bay City Council, and by Shaun Davis from Parks Victoria. We are lucky to have such people to work with.
Ian D. Rae
Foxes Day Out at the Beach
Early in the morning at low tide these foxes were scavenging out on the sandbar and were observed from a hidden location.
Initially they were about a kilometre away and had no idea they were being watched. As soon as they got within 30 metres they could sense something was wrong! (A big lens sticking out of a saltbush will do that). The image of the fox starring directly into the camera lens was the exact time of dicovery! Net result, foxes exited stage right at a great rate of knots.
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.
Foxes in the Wetlands - update
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: