Forde Ponds

Sat 21 January 2017 08:30am

John Harris

Meet at 8.00am.

Directions: Turn off Horse Park Road into Mulligans Flat Road between Forde and Bonner (ignoring any signs saying Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve). Go into the actual, new Mulligans Flat Road). Turn right into Handbury Way. Immediately to your right is the smallish Linear Park. We will meet there. Park in Foy St or Volpato St.


Post event report

The walk to Forde creeks and ponds was surprisingly successful. This creek marks the western boundary of Forde and is a very small tributary of Ginninderra Creek. The choosing of this seemingly insignificant little creek for the walk was to try to observe the smaller water birds which bred there in past years. John Harris, who led the walk, confessed at the start to being a little pessimistic as he had seen far fewer birds in the creek this summer than in previous years. As it transpired the walk exceeded all expectations. Nineteen of us met in Linear Park. Its few small ponds had already provided considerable interest to the early arrivals even before the walk formally started with several species of duck, Australian Reed- Warblers obligingly revealing themselves and Dusky Moorhens with a single chick. We then walked down the convenient cycle path which borders the creek. Forde Creek is essentially a small water course completely full of reeds. However, small pools of water are created by structures such as bridges and concrete barrages. We soon encountered Black-fronted Dotterels, both adults and young. They like to overfly the reeds from pool to pool where they land and fossick on the concrete. This gave plenty of close-up photo opportunities in good light. There were numerous clear sightings of Reed-Warblers, one of which caught a large stick insect, beat it on the concrete and then took it into the reeds, presumably to feed young.  Proceeding down the creek, the most productive pool on that day was at the Hibberd Crescent footbridge, which provides an excellent vantage point. Patience paid off there. While photographing dotterels, a single Buff-banded Rail dashed across the concrete into the next reed bed, a moment which at least one photographer was lucky enough to capture. It was a young bird without full adult plumage. That was our only sighting of a rail although one of the members, Sandra Henderson, saw five before the walk started.  Soon there were glimpses of Australian Spotless Crakes.  Some were seen and heard moving in the reeds and three flew across the pool to disappear in the same reeds. While none showed themselves for any length of time, the group were pleased to have seen them at all, particularly those who had not seen rails or crakes before. Very secretive and elusive birds, it is always good to be able to have such definite sightings.  The Jessie Street overpass did not reveal any crakes or rails on this occasion in the ten minutes we stood there but would certainly reward a patient hour spent there in the shade of the overpass. Fairy Martins were nesting in the nearby culvert and one intrepid member negotiated the grass and shrubbery to get there and be rewarded with excellent photos of their mud nests.

The group then drove the short distance to the eastern side of Forde where well-planned construction involved the creation of a chain of ponds by the damming of another small creek. This feature is now called the Lyell Gillespie Corridor, named after the son of a Gungahlin farming family who became a well-known journalist with an enthusiasm for the history of Canberra and the preservation of its natural heritage.  Numerous waterbirds were seen here including a breeding pair of Eurasian Coots, examples of the few coots which did not depart Canberra. Both parents were busily feeding their single remaining chick. At the lower end of the Corridor, the town planners have fortunately preserved a beautiful stand of old-growth Eucalypts. Red-rumped Parrots and Striated Pardalotes were using some of the many nesting holes in the old trees and a Magpie-lark was feeding two tail-less young birds. It was sad to see that most of the holes had been taken over by Common Mynas, an inevitability, but it was still good to applaud the effort to preserve the trees.

The creek and a cycle path pass under Horse Park Drive, so we extended the walk to follow this path to nearby Yerrabi Pond. The main reason for this was to observe first-hand the return of the Eurasian Coots. Yerrabi Pond was once the home of at least 1,000 coots ALL of which disappeared a few months ago.  After that time, very few coots were observed in the ACT at all and all those observed in Gungahlin were breeding pairs in smaller ponds. Now, interestingly for us, the large numbers of coots had returned to Yerrabi Pond only two days previously. At this concluding part of the walk we decided not to circumnavigate Yerrabi Pond but to restrict ourselves to the small northern basin, technically the water-cleaning basin for the larger pond.  The conscientious people counted 97 Eurasian Coots in the northern basin, aware that there were uncounted hundreds in the proper pond. The small basin provided considerable interest with not only the usual ducks but at least twelve Dusky Moorhen chicks, which appeared to belong to two set of parents.. Interestingly, they were being fed not only by adults but also by immatures As well we saw Australasian Grebes, Little Pied, Little Black and Great Cormorants and all the other ‘usual suspects’ in such ponds.  Altogether the group recorded 48 species of bird. Seeing the crakes and rail(s) was of course the real highlight but there was continual interest including at least ten species breeding.  A truly worthwhile morning showcasing the value of Gungahlin as a birding region.

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