Wednesday, 5 June 2013

An Autumn morning birding at Jones Bay


An early morning view from the Eagle Point Bluff across the Mitchell River to Jones Bay
Swans on Jones Bay - looking north to foothills north east of Bairnsdale.

Jones Bay is one of my favorite local birding spots. Located on the Gippsland Lakes just south east of Bairnsdale the diversity and abundance of water birds here can be very high at times. For example BirdLife East Gippsland Important bird Area survey have recorded for a single count between two and three thousand Black Swans and Eurasian Coot numbers in excess of 8,000 birds. Also large numbers of cormorants, ducks, grebes (all three Australian species), gulls, terns and pelicans are usually present. And of course with this many meal opportunities raptors are often about, including Whistling Kites, Swamp Harriers, Little Eagles and White-bellied Sea-Eagles.

The Gippsland Lakes, and some of the adjoining wetlands, is a designated Ramsar wetland and the area is also and Important Bird Area (IBA). Jones Bay, and Macleod Morass immediately to the west, is a State Game Reserve.  

Jones Bay was formed by the Mitchell River silt jetty, one of the longest silt jetties in the world. The east bank of the silt jetty, just east of Eagle Point Bluff, was breached by a flood and now a new silt jetty is forming in Jones Bay. A series of about six low lying sandy silty islands has formed which are ideal water bird habitat both for feeding and resting/roosting, In addition floods have deposited a large number of dead trees in the shallow bay which are well used by many water birds.

On the autumn morning in question I was targeting waders on the sand islands, which I accessed by foot, using waders to cross the shallow water between islands. The waders included Bar-tailed Godwits and Red-necked Stints (both migratory species - the ones I saw were birds that have not flown north to the Arctic Tundra to breed), Red-capped and Double-banded Plovers and Red-kneed and Black-fronted Dotterels. The Double-banded Plovers breed in New Zealand and the South Island race come over to Australia for the winter. 

The following photos were taken one morning on the sand islands and include a number of flight shots. A few of the photos were taken on another morning a couple of weeks earlier. I have set out the photos in species groups and added comments and observations as captions to some of the photos.

I think the photos illustrate what a great spot the sand islands are for birding, especially for waders. This was autumn - there should be a greater diversity of species about over the summer period when the migrants have returned from breeding.

Bar-tailed Godwit 

This lone Bar-tailed Godwit flew in while I was photographing some Crested Terns and seemed happy with our company, giving me some opportunities to take some close shots including this sequence of flight shots.

With a barred tail and slightly upturned pink bill with dark tip this is definitely a Bar-tailed Godwit.

This shot of the bird preening shows the barred tail for which the bird is named.

Red-necked Stint

There were about 30 Red-necked Stints on the islands. They were mostly busy feeding however they are a very confiding wader allowing close approach for photos. Given the time of year I assumed these birds were not flying north to breed this winter.

These small waders are very active feeders along the shore line. They mostly feed on the shore however sometimes they feed in the water - see shots below. This bird was feeding along the shore towards me however when it reached the limit of its comfort zone it had to run past me.

Synchronized wading.

Feeding in the water.

Lots of flight shots were required to get a few in focus.

Red-capped Plover

There were about 30 Red-capped Plovers on the sand island in company with the other small waders.

Male Red-capped Plover

Juvenile Red-capped Plover

Male Red-capped Plover.

Two males.

Double-banded Plovers

There were about 20 Double-banded Plovers in their drab non breeding plumage.

This is a male Double-banded plover in breeding plumage taken at Byron Bay in late July 2012.

Most of the birds on the sand islands in Jones Bay were non breeding plumage birds, a few still had a little colour.

Double-banded Plover

Black-fronted Dotterel

There were two Black-fronted Dotterels on the sand island. This very attractive small wader is mostly found along fresh water shore lines so I was a little surprised to find a pair in Jones Bay which is usually salty though it can be fresh for a short time following major floods.

The Black-fronted Dotterels, and the Red-kneed, were very nervous and hard to get close enough for good photos.

Red-kneed Dotterel

There were also a pair of Red-kneed Dotterels present and like the Black-fronted these birds are also generally found in freshwater wetlands. They too were also very nervous and hard to approach, which may have been due in part to the lack of cover on these exposed sand islands and of course my presence.

Not a great photo but included as it shows the Red-kneed in flight.


  1. Congratulations John, a brilliant start. Welcome to the blogosphere.
    Best regards,

  2. Gouldiae said it all John, you'll be a hard act to follow.....

  3. Congratulations and Welcome to blogworld.