Over the many years that I have done voluntary work I have corresponded with many people regarding shorebirds and some of these people I have met in person. One such friend we have met only in Broome when he visited to help with some shorebird surveys. When he offered to show me the abundant Banded Stilt and Red-necked Avocet currently at Avalon Saltworks to the south-west of Melbourne I was eager to join him. It is easy enough to get a train from Southern Cross Station to Lara and only takes 40 minutes and offered birding opportunities en route. I observed my first Black-shouldered Kite for Victoria and then a Swamp Harrier, so it was good to be out in the open country. It was a bitterly cold day on Friday compared to what I am used to, so I wrapped up warm. He joked that he had never seen me in so many clothes, because in Broome you rarely need much more than shorts and a T-shirt. Actually, the last time I saw Banded Stilt was in Karratha and it was over 35c!

We were soon at the Avalon Saltworks with the You Yangs Regional Park as a backdrop and it is somewhere that I hope to visit with him another Friday. The hills in the photo above are part of the You Yangs Regional Park and the saltworks were busy with birds roosting and feeding. We moved forward slowly and my friend is substantially taller than me, so harder to be invisible, but the shorebirds are tolerant and we were soon sat watching all of the activity.

Banded Stilt,Black-winged Stilt & Red-necked Avocet

Banded Stilt and Red-necked Avocet

Generally the Banded Stilt were in the foreground and the Red-necked Avocet behind them, but there was a small group of Red-necked Avocet on their own. Red-necked Avocets visit Broome during our winter months, which are July to September, but do not visit every year and the numbers vary greatly.

Red-necked Avocet

 Red-necked Avocets

There were Black-winged Stilt interspersed among the Banded Stilt and the Red-necked Avocets, but in much smaller numbers. They are a smaller, more delicate looking shorebird and all three species are heavily reliant on water and extremely nomadic. There are a pair of Black-winged Stilt on the island behind the Red-necked Avocets below.

Banded Stilt,Black-winged Stilt & Red-necked Avocet (2)

Black-winged Stilt, Red-necked Avocet and Banded Stilt

The spectacle of so many Banded Stilt and Red-necked Avocet in one place is truly special and there was some disturbance from nearby, but the shorebirds soon landed back near us and we could continue to enjoy their company.

Banded Stilt & Red-necked Avocet (2)

Banded Stilt & Red-necked Avocet

Banded Stilt & Red-necked Avocet (6)

Banded Stilt & Red-necked Avocet (5)

Banded Stilt & Red-necked Avocet (4)

Banded Stilt & Red-necked Avocet (3)

 Banded Stilt and Red-necked Avocet roosting and feeding

Grant is deeply jealous of my outing, but hopefully one day as his work permits he may get a chance. He has actually visited the area without me on a work trip in 2009, so that does mean he knows exactly how great it is! If you are in the Melbourne area then it is definitely worth a trip to visit the Avalon Saltworks to enjoy these nomadic shorebirds!


Written by Clare M
Clare and her husband, Grant, have lived permanently in Broome, Western Australia since 1999 after living in various outback locations around Western Australia and Darwin. She has lived in the Middle East and the United States and traveled extensively in Europe. She monitors Pied Oystercatchers breeding along a 23km stretch of Broome's coastline by bicycle and on foot. She chooses not to participate in social media, but rather wander off into the bush for peace and tranquility. Thankfully she can write posts in advance and get away from technology!