KRM Branch March Excursion
Our March outing to Lake McLarty was a good follow-up to the presentation at our general meeting. A good turnout of 14 members and visitors met at the southern gate, which had kindly been opened by Bob Paterson (of the Friends of Lake McLarty) allowing us to park our cars off the road.
Excellent rainfall during winter and spring of 2018 had resulted in high water levels at the lake. Those high rainfalls plus a relatively mild summer have meant that the lake still had a reasonable quantity of water for our visit. We made our way down to the lake past the drain where the new barriers had been installed to direct more flow towards the lake.
Coming out of the woodland on to the grassy surrounds of the lake we were treated to the sight of a mass of birds on and around the lake. Overhead, flights of Black Swans came in from the estuary to the west of the lake to join the large number already feeding out in the lake.
Grey Teal were present in very large numbers. We paused for a while to observe the edge of the water. Pied (or Black-winged) Stilts were easily spotted but once we ‘got our eyes in’, small waders were finally spotted feeding in the grass-covered muddy areas. Initially it was Sharp-tailed Sandpipers that were identified but later we would also see critically endangered Curlew Sandpipers, Red-necked Stints, Common Greenshanks, Red-capped Plovers and Marsh Sandpipers. Every now and then these waders would take to the air as one, in response to some perceived threat—usually when a Whistling Kite glided overhead. It was at these times that we got an idea as to how many of the small waders were present. White-fronted chats also hunted for prey along the grassy margins of the lake.
Above our heads large numbers of Tree Martins and Welcome Swallows were feeding. Later we would find them using clumps of reeds or the dried stems of some drowned shrubs as perches while they took a rest from feeding. It was common to see a reed or dried stem bent right over due to the mass of up to ten or more birds.
Bob Goodale pointed out a large flock of white birds flying in; they turned out to be a group of 84 Yellow-billed Spoonbills, a truly wonderful sight. In the shallows near the Spoonbills, a large number of Red-necked Avocets (>500) were busy feeding. Near one large group of these Avocets we spotted a group of four larger, migratory waders. A closer inspection showed them to be Black-tailed Godwits.
Other birds in high numbers on the lake included Australian Shelducks, Pelicans and Silver Gulls. Out on the grassed areas towards the woodland, groups of White-faced Herons were feeding.
After exploring what the south eastern portion of the lake had to offer we headed back to our cars for morning tea. During this time we were able to add some woodland birds to our list for the day, including Splendid Fairy Wrens, Crested Pigeon, Weebill, Inland Thornbill, Willie Wagtail and Australian Ringneck.
After morning tea many people headed home, but four of us went over to the western side of the lake to see if we could spot any other bird species. We were rewarded with sightings of Australian Shovelers, a single Whiskered Tern, a Sacred Kingfisher and a Great Egret. Other woodland birds we saw included Ravens, Grey Butcherbird, Striated Pardalote and Regent Parrot. From the road going around to the western lookout spot, we had seen an Osprey in the dead tree near a nest. We stopped to photograph it on our way out and saw that it was feeding on a large mullet. In total we had spotted 37 species of birds and seen thousands of individual birds using the lake.