We are nearing the end of the first month of spring and there certainly is a hint of winter still in the air. Some pretty average weather, strong coastal winds and the occasional Cape Paterson squall (with some hail) has certainly curtailed photo expeditions, but there has still been lots to observe … and ponder. Oh, and throw an earthquake into the mix as well! Early season nesting has begun both with land based birds and those very hardy ones down on the exposed surf beaches and rocky platforms, but the weather may have interrupted some start-ups.
The last issue of Cape Chatter focused on some of the work being done by the Development Team and The Cape community in making a positive contribution to the natural world within the estate through bio-diverse sensitive urban design and citizen science projects. Last Saturday, just over 30 owners and residents gathered throughout the day (in accordance with COVID restrictions) to complete the first phase of Project KOALA with 600 plantings in 12 plots toward habitat restoration. And, right on cue, today, the first reported koala sighting in The Cape occurred with a healthy and beautiful looking animal on the roam in some Coastal Banksia trees in the north east corner of the estate. Makes all those sore joints and achy muscles worthwhile—we just need this Koala to head toward the habitat areas!
When I first devised the idea of the Cape Chatter website and blog over a year ago, my aim, along with like-minded fellow residents, was to observe and record The Cape’s growing diversity of fauna and flora over time. Starting with a blank canvas, by sharing stories and pictures, I hoped to raise awareness and understanding, contribute to restoring the environment, for residents and visitors to better appreciate what is around us, and enjoy living harmoniously with this special part of the natural world. Using bio-diverse sensitive urban design principles, extensive areas of The Cape estate area have been set aside to re-establish native fauna and indigenous flora habitat on once degraded farmland co-existing with housing and community infrastructure. This issue of Cape Chatter looks at some of the fantastic work that has been achieved in bringing together the restoration of landscapes, the benefits of connecting with nature and some wonderful citizen science projects helping us as a community and our relationship with the natural world.
Well, you can tell spring is in the air. While the frenetic bird activity has not quite hit a peak yet, there are plenty of indications spring is around the corner. Over the past week, some of our local mammals have started to emerge in larger numbers. On dusk, wombats can be seen coming out of the coastal bush to feed, echidna have been sighted moving about, and the Eastern Grey Kangaroo mob appears to have sprung into life and becoming more present in their favoured haunts. On the bird front, the Eastern Rosellas have begun investigating the nesting boxes in the creek line, the local honeyeaters are becoming much more active and territorial, the male Superb Fairy-wrens have coloured up in their blue livery … and my old mate, Darcy the Australian Magpie, has begun swooping me!! The numbers are down on last year, but there are still a few Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos wandering through The Cape on occasions—absolutely stunning birds. While we all love to see the positive sides of nature, sometimes we come face to face with the downside, and these past couple of weeks we have seen the effect bad weather can have on small seabirds in the wild Bass Strait, and the devastating impact mange can have on our wombats.
Since arriving at The Cape two years ago, I have always hoped there would be some rarely seen and secretive waterbirds residing in the wet, swamp paperbark areas of our retained habitat and adjoining coastal park. Well you can imagine my excitement when I thought I heard some unusual calls on one of my recent photographic strolls in the south of the estate. Knowing the camera would be of no use in this situation, I grabbed out my trusty old i-phone and managed to record the call of a Lewin’s Rail which has been verified by fellow resident Joe Spano. What a great find, and just shows how wonderful our sensitive habitat areas are working in housing our fragile native wildlife. The Kangaroo mob are appearing in rising numbers and becoming increasingly active. I managed to have a nice engagement with a young male who was inside the central wetland fence and was quite unperturbed with my presence and the camera clicking before ‘hopping’ off slowly. And to top it all off, another highlight was a Black-shouldered Kite devouring a very tasty mouse on a stag in the creek line. More proof not to use rodenticides to control rodents!
There is a hint of seasonal change in the air. Several days of prevailing north westerly winds also brought a couple of surprising sightings high up in the sky. Resident Joe Spano reported the first seasonal calls of the stunning songster, the Olive Whistler in the area and I heard the calls of Pied Currawong on the eastern edge of The Cape—an uncommon observation. Joe also saw a small flock of about a dozen of these Currawongs in established Cape Paterson. And a couple of days ago with a strong wind blowing, a flock of about 10 Pacific Gulls was seen flying over The Cape—single birds are seen occasionally—and another uncommon sighting (despite us living on the coast) of an Australian Pelican high overhead. There is also indications of nest building—a pair of Eastern Rosella were seen checking out the northern nesting box in the creek line and Australian Magpies have been seen gathering materials at either end of the creek line. Be warned!
Cape Chatter 50 comes to you as us Victorians endure COVID Lockdown 5.0. The lockdown has coincided with some pretty average weather so opportunities to get out and undertake some exercise with the camera has been limited. So again, nature in the home garden habitat has kept me engaged. I did manage one decent stroll with the camera and came away with a few snaps of some of our resident small birds, and living near the wetlands and creek line has allowed me to keep an eye on the comings and goings amongst our freshwater birds. Fellow resident Joe Spano has also been fine-tuning his photographic skills in The Cape garden habitats, and passed on to me for inclusion in this Chatter some lovely shots of the territorial Little Wattlebird among some grevillea.
Well, we are pretty much in the dead of winter here at The Cape and bird observations have been limited … as has the photography opportunities given the wind and showery weather. It is really only those hardy souls of the avian world that are about … our permanent dwellers so to speak … with the occasional visitor re-appearing. Since last Chatter, there are signs of a pick up in activity with some “duck-after-duck activity’ going on, some Grey Fantails returning, and just to prove me wrong, ‘Gabi’s Grebe’ moved back to the big central wetland despite the presence of the waterfowl. There goes my theory! One highlight of the past week was another sighting of a beautiful pair of Black-shouldered Kite, on the stags in the creek line, this time juveniles. And to top it all off, thanks to an alert by resident Richard Keech, an uncommon sighting of a Southern Right Whale lounging just off Cape Paterson for an hour or so.
The end of the 2020-21 FY (EOFY) coincides nicely with the period of The Cape fauna observation list which was started in late July 2019. A lot has changed in that time with further areas of the estate developed for housing and extensive habitat areas developed which are now beginning to provide shelter and food for our local fauna. Our bird list is up to 111 species, we have 8 frog species identified and all the well known Australian mammals are about in varying numbers, including identified bandicoot diggings. They are positive signs for the expansion of habitat of The Cape’s natural world—a world that was previously degraded farming land.
This very small honeyeater has eluded me since starting Cape Chatter, but yesterday I managed to get a few decent photos of it feeding in my home garden. It is the stunning Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorynchus tenuirostris). The spinebill is a winter visitor from the high country to the established gardens of Cape Paterson and has been observed along the boundary of established Cape and The Cape estate. I was particularly pleased not only to see and photograph it but also because of the fact it travelled some distance to our garden to feed on the nectar from a couple of flowering Grevillea Mount Tambaritha we planted just a few months back. This is another great sign that the garden habitats at The Cape are going to provide great food and shelter for small birds and animals as they develop.