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:
Spring Bird Walk
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.
Dogs on Leashes, Birds on Beaches
Wetlands - New Arrivals!
Spring is in the air (2017)
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.
President's Report 2016-2017
On 28th August 2017 we held our AGM after our family day at Paisley-Challis Wetlands.
Our President, Ian Rae, gave a summary of his annual report for 2016-2017, as follows. A full copy of the report is attached.
President's Report 2015-2016
On 24th July 2016 we held our AGM after our family day at Paisley Challis Wetlands. 12 people attended the meeting.
Our President, Ian Rae, gave a summary of his annual report for 2015-2016, as follows. A full copy of the report and the minutes of the AGM are attached.
While planting is confined to the cooler months, there was much to do at other times of the year, and our activities included informative walks, continuation of the water Watch programme in the Jawbone lakes, and the construction and maintenance of paths. Work at the southern end of the Paisley-Challis Wetland has intensified during the year, with improved paths and signage and more planting. Our efforts and those of Council staff have been augmented by energetic groups such as the Conservation Volunteers and the Mobil employees on the ‘Day of Caring’.
Less work has gone into the Arboretum this year as we move from the establishment phase into ongoing management of the area. Some plantings have failed, while others have thrived, sometimes outgrowing the area we had assigned to them. This poses questions about signage and replanting: should we replant? or should we accept that some of the sites were not appropriate, introduce species we think might be more suitable, and face up to the difficult task of replacing signs? Our response has been ‘a bit of both’ as we carry the work forward.
Similar considerations apply to the broader Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, especially along the lake edge where conditions good vegetation was never established. Council has established a vegetation management plan and we have worked with Council staff to take action under the plan in areas where vegetation needs to be adjusted or established. We have worked with Council staff to decide on priorities and to indicate whether they or the Friends should be doing the necessary work.
The Wader Beach litter project, led by Marilyn Olliff, was successful in identifying some sources of the litter and classifying it carefully in selected study area. In addition large quantities of litter, including many tires, were removed. The project has brought together kindred groups such as the Jawbone Marine Sanctuary Care Group, 3016 Beach Patrol, Scab Duty and also Friends of Greenwich Bay who used our methodology in a litter project in their area. Litter was the theme of an Open Day that was held at the Bayview Campus of Williamstown High School in October.
A second grant was obtained from Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery for continuation of the project and Peter Smith has begun to examine locally-caught fish, seeking evidence that small plastic particles have been ingested. An offshoot of our local project has been the formation of the Western Shorelines Alliance that links local groups to those in Altona and Werribee.
Clean Up Australia, in March, organized by Peter Smith, was again hugely successful, with 180 kg of rubbish collected. I July 2015, a number of our members joined in the National Tree Day planting at Harris Reserve on the slope above Lower Kororoit Creek. Our financial situation remained healthy, some expenses being shared with litter grant funding, but we were able to purchase a shelter and flag. A substantial grant was received from Coast Care to support the work of the group.
We saw a small growth in active membership during the year. At Committee level, as we have come to expect, our team worked effectively, keeping on top of secretarial and financial business, circulating notices, and planning planting and maintenance. Secretary Sandra Thorn and Vice-President Richard Leppitt, as well as others mentioned in this report, played important roles. We maintained close liaison with Council and their staff, particularly Libby Rigby and Andrew Webster, did a lot to help us. And Council appreciate us: several members were able to attend the Afternoon Tea provided by the Council in early June 2016 to thank volunteers for their efforts.
President's Report 2014-2015
On 26th July 2015 we held our AGM after the National Tree Day activity at Lower Kororoit Creek. 9 people attended the meeting.
Our President, Ian Rae, gave a summary of his annual report for 2014-2015, as follows. A full copy of the report is attached.
In 2014-2015 we continued to work at two major sites, the Arboretum and its surrounds and the section of the Paisley-Challis wetland accessed from the foot of Maddox Road. Water Watch on the lakes on the lakes continued, and we initiated a research study of litter on an adjacent beach.
Work at the Paisley-Challis Wetlands site included the development of gravel paths looping around the copse with its fox den. The northern leg of the path terminates at the round-the-bay bike path that has been rerouted down Maddox Road, and a line of bollards separates the path from the car-park. The development includes a new seat overlooking the drain outlet and extensive planting along the path. The work was supported by a Coast Care grant that also included funding for planting and mulching along the Goat Track by students from the adjacent campus of Williamstown High School. Students from St Mary’s primary school joined in one workday at the Arboretum and also helped showcase the area to a party of delegates to the national Landcare conference when they visited the Jawbone area in September.
A grant was received from the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group for a study of litter on Wader Beach. Results of monthly waste counts on a series of experimental sites have been compiled by the Port Phillip Ecocentre and a final report has been prepared. The Jawbone Marine Sanctuary Care Group and Friends of Greenwich Bay also participated in this work and volunteers from SCAB Duty and the Beach Patrol group collected quantities of litter from further along the beach. The project was timed so as to cause minimal disturbance to migratory birds and care was taken with sensitive vegetation. Support for this project was also received from Hobsons Bay Council and Parks Victoria. We were please to be able to ‘export’ the methodology developed for Wader Beach to the Yarra River embankment where Friends of Greenwich Bay conducted a litter study. Their data were added to the final report.
The arrangement for Saltwater Flora to operate in the grounds of the Bayview campus of the High School came to an end in the Spring of 2013. Richard Leppitt has arranged alternative sources of indigenous plants for us but we no longer have access to storage space but will be able to meet at the school. Some equipment is stored now at the Parks Victoria site on Nelson Place. Another disappointment, but again one that will not have more widespread impacts, is that we and the Council have been unsuccessful in persuading the Stonehenge Group to restore vegetation they destroyed in the vicinity of the housing development at the far western end of the lakes.
Water Watch activities continue to indicate good water quality in the Jawbone Lakes. Members of our group took part in the National Tree Day activity organized by the Council at Altona Coastal Park. In March our group hosted a Clean Up Australia activity
in the Paisley-Challis Wetland at the western end of the reserve. Less attention was given to the Arboretum area this year but weeding and maintenance in the Spring has kept it in good shape. We continue to lots of wildlife at our sites including blue-tongue lizards (at the Arboretum), numerous bird species and of course the local snake population with which we co-exist in peace.
Once again our group made significant contributions to our local environment, developing new facilities and undertaking research. I compliment the members of the committee for their work, especially the office-bearers, and look forward to interesting developments in 2015-2016.