One of the (many) things I like about birding is coming upon the unexpected; and this does not have to mean finding something that is rare. Large numbers of common birds, a common bird in an uncommon place are just as interesting to me (and probably more interesting in a real sense) then some form of storm blown rarity that is likely to soon be dead at the hands of the weather or a passing cat.
So, last week I was pleased to find birds that fitted into both groups - an abundance of birds I had hoped to see, as well as a few birds where I did not expect them.
Lake Victoria is an shallow saline lake that has been expanded by the digging of shell grit. According to sources on the Web it "sometimes holds internationally significant numbers of banded Stilts" - I think I managed to visit it on such a day! I have no real idea how many of these birds were present, but there were 4 very dense flocks just loafing about and many more birds in one area feeding. I find it hard to believe that there were less the 2000 birds there.
The Banded Stilt (Cladorhynchus leucocephalus
) is about 36 - 45 cm long with a fine black bill. It is nomadic within Australia and only breeds when large salt lakes form in parts of central Australia - and given that central Australia is a desert that's not very year - or even most years if the truth be told. The key thing to look for on these birds is the white head - they always have one. Adult birds in breeding plumage also have a chestnut band across the chest.
I have to say I was pretty excited to see these!
So, a few days later I was out in the evening at Lake Lorn - which is about 20 minutes from Point Lonsdale when I found two Black-Winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus). These are an Australian race of a wide spread species - but I was not expecting to see them.
The key difference here is that they have a black back to their heads - and completely black wings if you see them in flight.
As you may well imagine, it was a good way to end a day.
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