Wellard Wetlands Walk

Kwinana, Rockingham Mandurah Branch, 22nd May 2022

A group of eight members attended our Field Outing at the Alcoa Wellard Wetlands. The weather gods were kind to us, providing a pleasant morning and holding off on the rainfall until later in the afternoon.

The Wellard Wetlands are a series of lakes that resulted from the extraction of clay for use as an impermeable liner material for Alcoa’s Alumina Refinery residue ponds. They now provide habitat for an extensive range of wetland birds and woodland birds that take advantage of Alcoa’s trees and shrubs planted around the lakes. Black Swan Lake, the large lake closest to the car park, had very few birds present, so we decided to head out to Egret Lake, which typically holds the greatest number of water birds.

We saw a few small fungi (Mycena sp.) at the edge of the track. We stopped at Cormorant Lake and saw Pacific Black Ducks, Eurasian Coots and Australasian Grebes close to our vantage point. Birds further out were difficult to identify as we faced the sun. A flock of six Black Swans flew over as we headed back along the track, probably having taken off from Egret Lake.

On our way, we noticed lots of large spider webs, though only a few had a resident spider present. One Golden Orb-weaver (Trichonephila edulis) was spotted in a web above head height with a tiny Dew Drop Spider (Argyrodes antipodianus) at the upper edge of the web.

As expected, we found better numbers of birds at Egret Lake, with Little Pied Cormorants, Little Black Cormorants, Australasian Darter and Musk Ducks out on the lake. The lake’s eastern half had a very large number (more than 40) of Pelicans out on the exposed sand islands as water levels had dropped over summer. We spotted six Yellow-billed Spoonbills among the Pelicans, resting and preening their plumage. Pied Stilts were also foraging in the shallows surrounding these islands and would frequently take to the wing to evade Whistling Kites that soared overhead at regular intervals. I saw a juvenile White-bellied Sea-Eagle harassing the Pied Stilts during a quick exploratory walk before our scheduled meeting. Unfortunately, it did not return during the group’s walk.

Black-fronted Dotterels were seen on a couple of the sandy islands. Little Egrets, White-faced Herons and a Great Egret foraged in the shallows at the lake’s margin. As we walked along the track at the southern side of Egret Lake, several Grey Fantails, waiting to chase any insects we disturbed, accompanied us. Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Splendid Fairy Wrens and Willie Wagtails were also among the lower shrubbery. Up in the larger trees’ canopy were Red Wattlebirds, Australian Ringnecks and Red-capped Parrots, while Grey Butcherbirds were frequently heard singing their melodious songs.

Looking towards the south across Cormorant Lake, we spotted a Swamp Harrier gliding low above the lake in search of prey while a Purple Swamphen walked along the shoreline. Hardhead Ducks and Grey Teal were also present on this lake. As well as watching out for birds, we had Daniel try out the new butterfly nets bought with the recent grant. Daniel reported finding a tiny Simaetha/Simaethula Jumping Spider, various Orb-weaver Spiders and Cymbacha Crab Spiders. However, very few airborne insects were seen, which probably explained the lack of swallows and martins in our list of bird species.

With clouds starting to build threateningly, we decided to make our way back to the car park for morning tea. As we sat down near the bird hide on Black Swan Lake to enjoy a cuppa, a flock of Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos flew noisily by while Silvereyes foraged through the shrubs. These species brought the total number of species in the list submitted to Birdata to 42 (including the ever-present flock of 17 domestic geese). It had been a good morning.

Colin Prickett

All images by Colin Prickett