Wildlife highlights of Port Phillip in 2013
Gio Fitzpatrick, Port Phillip EcoCentre’s Youth Wildlife Ambassador, reported to a full house on some of the wildlife he had seen in Port Phillip this year. The most remarkable sighting was a marine spider in the inter-tidal zone off Elwood – the first report of this spider in this location. The last such spider was observed in San Remo in 1902.
Some bird species such as the grey fantail bred in Port Phillip for the first time since records have been kept. Gannets fed on the the shoaling anchovy. The tawny frogmouth successfully reared young. The migratory Arctic Jaeger was sighted on Port Melbourne Beach. Short finned eels made their way through stormwater drains into Port Phillip Bay. A sacred kingfisher was observed at Elwood Canal – and that’s just the briefest snapshot.
Several possible explanations for the increase in wildlife sightings were offered: deterioration of home habitats, the wetter conditions this year, or the maturing of revegetation in Port Phillip.
Deb Lustig devotes herself to raising awareness about the Orange Bellied Parrot. She observed that while we find the possible loss of pandas and tigers unbearable, we seem to tolerate that the orange bellied parrot (or OBP as she referred to it), is critically endangered – down to less than 50 individuals in the wild. Its hard to fathom. Each year these beautiful parrots make the journey from southern Tasmania to the coast of south eastern Victoria. The best place to see them is at the Western Treatment Plant at Werribee.
Saltmarsh vegetation is the OBP’s preferred food. An area of saltmarsh vegetation is to be cleared shortly for the Port of Melbourne expansion project at Webb Dock. The St Kilda Indigenous Nursery with Friends of Westgate Park have taken many cuttings and plants from the soon to be cleared area. Frankenia pauciflora, known to be popular with the OBP, is abundant there, as is beaded glasswort.
Victoria’s State of the Environment Report was released last month. In relation to threatened species, the Land and Biodiversity (Chapter 2) says that ‘expert advice indicates that there is an overall decline in threatened species and populations because of habitat loss and fragmentation, and ongoing degradation of remaining habitat.’ The report highlights inconsistent data sets, data gaps and poor monitoring which make accurate reporting impossible.
Citizens close observations of their local environment become very important in this context. Gio leads regular bird surveys on Elster Creek that have introduced new people to close observation of their local environment. He invites people to report observations through Port Phillip Naturewatch.
While Port Phillip’s ecosystem is far from pristine, we may be blind to amazing sightings simply through lack of knowledge.
Another group monitoring the local environment is Friends of Westgate Park. Each month a bird survey is conducted. The highlight of December’s survey was a sighting of the male Satin Flycatcher. Past bird surveys and photos can be found on the Friends of Westgate Park website.