It was brought to my attention that I tend to go birdwatching alot. So here is my attempt to document my outings and sightings. I also hope to show photos of as many of my ticks as possible.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wollongong Pelagic

Dave and I drove down to Gong harbour early Saturday morning and boarded the Sandra K with the other keen pelagic goers. It was built up as being a great day for ocean birds and everyone was quite excited with the endless possibilities being mentioned. We set off at 7am in overcast conditions and into a fair chop.
It wasn't long before we had an endless stream of Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters behind the boat and they followed us for most of the day. A few Short-tailed Shearwaters joined in and a single Hutton's Shearwater circled the boat, my first tick for the day.
It was at this point I commenced vomiting and didn't stop for the rest of the day. Being sea sick is a terrible feeling and I really struggled to lift my head at times. I did manage great views of Pomarine Jaeger (including birds in breeding plumage), Yellow-nosed, Campbell and Shy Albatross, Solander's Petrel and my two other ticks for the day, Great-winged Petrel and Wilson's Storm-petrel.
So at the end of the day I managed 3 new species but had a completely miserable time. I hate being sea sick!!!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bird of the Week: Chestnut-breasted Mannikin

Lonchura castaneothorax
This species ranges from the Kimberely to the south coast of NSW and is reasonably common within its range, particularly in the north. They are a very social species and it is not unusual for flocks of over 100 birds to congregate at certain times of the year. They are generally associated with areas of tall grasses and reeds in which they love to feed and breed.
The sexes are visually identical and young birds are predominately brown with some adult markings sometimes visible eg. breast bar or black face. Their call is best described as a sweet 'plink'.
My first encounter with these guys occurred in the tall seeding grasses behind Redhead Beach, Lake Macquarie. They are generally seen around many of the lower Hunter wetlands and surrounding farmland but can be hard to find at times and appear to be very nomadic.
Watching large flocks associating with other finches in the NT and Nth Qld is a must for all birders.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Year tickin near Cessnock

Spent an enjoyable day birding around the Cessnock area with Nick and Liz. Our aim was to clean up a few woodland species missed on previous trips and to see the Regent Honeyeaters that have just arrived.
We hit Kitchener early and immediately found Black-chinned Honeyeater and Regents in the carpark. Musk and Little Lorikeets were common and gave great views. Both Pardalotes and White-throated Gerygone could be heard.
We walked further up the track and heard Spotted Quail-thrush calling down the slope so off we went and after much searching located the pair. At one stage the male was calling high in a eucalypt.
We left Kitchener and headed into the North Cessnock section of the Werakata NP. Here we found Yellow-tufted, Brown-headed, White-naped, Scarlet, Black-chinned and Fuscous Honeyeaters. A Shining Bronze-cuckoo was heard and Dusky Woodswallows were common.
Having scored all our year ticks early we then decided to go for a drive around Wollombi and Laguna. We travelled along this small country road scoring some good birds as we went: Crested Shrike-tit, Golden Whistler, Spinebill, Sittella and Little Raven.
Failed to see Goldfinch in Maitland on the way home.
Great day out with 93 species recorded.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

SW WA Trip Part 3: The last leg

We left Cheynes Beach on a high, and with 15 ticks already under our belt we felt confident that our desired 20 was very achievable. We made our way north west through the back roads heading towards the Porongurup NP. On the way we saw heaps of Western Rosella and Red-capped Parrot, and came across a flock of Red-tailed Black-cockatoo.
The carpark in the national park turned out to be a great spot with two ticks easily seen, Purple-crowned Lorikeet and Western Yellow Robin. The Lorikeets stuck high to the tree tops and were hard to see properly but the Robin was very tame and allowed close approach. Also in the area were Tawny-crowned Honeyeater (weird habitat to see them in), Western Rosella, Red-winged Fairy-wren, White-breasted Robin and Red-eared Firetail. We also spent some time photographing the western race of the common Australian Magpie.
We then pushed on north through the dry farmlands that dominate this region. We had the best chicken burgers ever in Kojonup (no birds) and did several laps of Narrogin before finding the road to Dryandra. This conservation area is litterally an oasis in a cleared desert. With various eucalypt communities present it is home to a wide range of birds and a few well known marsupials like the Numbat. It is well worth a visit.
On arrival we went straight out to the Old Mill Dam site and had a ball. Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters were pretty common and it didn't take long to tick off one of the many Rufous Treecreepers in the open woodland. Western Yellow and Red-capped Robins were seen and we eventually tracked down some Blue-breasted Fairy-wrens in the thicker scrub. We heard Regent Parrots but didn't see them...another dip.
As we walked out into the edge habitat we found a great little flock of birds comprising of Inland and Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Weebill, Blue-breasted Fairy-wren, Golden Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush and several Western Thornbills, our 20th tick for the trip! We got excellent views and they proved easy to identify. As we watched the flock, five Elegant Parrots flew in and perched in the eucalypts above us. What an afternoon, three ticks in the one spot.
This was our last real birding for the trip. We saw a Bush Stone-curlew that night in front of our cabin and more Twenty-eight Parrot, Red-tailed Black-cockatoo and Rufous Treecreepers the next day on our way to the airport for our flight home.
All up we saw 20 ticks, 35 year ticks and 118 species.
I can strongly recommend the south west corner too any keen birder/photographer.

SW WA Trip Part 2: Cheynes Beach area

We left Tony's early the next morning and headed east into the drier parts of the region. The birding was pretty slow during the drive and we dipped on our one target species, Western Corella. We did see Swamp Harrier, Square-tailed Kite, Scarlet Robin, White-breasted Robin, White-naped Honeyeater and Western Wattlebird (another tick). We stopped in Albany for lunch and a look around, nice place but few birds. Blue-billed and Musk Duck were added to the list and we scored more Red-winged Fairy-wrens.
The wind of previous days was still blowing strongly which made birding impossible around Two Peoples Bay. The scenery around this part of the world is breathtaking, and we stopped to take some nice landscape pics. Flesh-footed Shearwaters were seen in the bay.
Heading back to the highway an unusual parrot was spotted and we quickly found several Red-caps feeding quietly in the low eucalypts. Unfortunetly no male wasn't seen.
A little further up the road and we spotted some more parrots, this time Elegants. We watched a male and 3 uncoloured birds for some time before they flew off never to be seen again. The yellow on the belly really stood out in the late afternoon light.

Arriving at Cheynes Beach we were greeted by a mass of honeyeaters in the surrounding heath. New Hollands, White-cheeked, Western Wattlebird and Western Spinebill were all common. This turned out to be our last birding for the day and we settled into our cabin for the night.
Another early start saw us standing on the main road in the gloom waiting for the scrub-bird to appear. According to the information provided too us by the caravan park, the Noisy Scrub-bird has a set routine every morning and can be seen crossing the road at certain times during the day.....which it did....but only for me. I saw the bird twice that morning and Dave missed it both times.

We headed back to the caravan park and found Brush Bronzewing, White-breasted Robin, Red-capped Parrots and a juvenile Red-eared Firetail among the campers. We then spent a conciderable amount of time chasing Western Whipbirds through the heath to no avail. Damn birds!!!
The afternoon was spent snapping away in the caravan park. The birds were very approachable and excellent shots of Brush Bronzewing, Western White-browed Scrubwren and Western Spinebill were obtained, much too the amusement of the park residents.

Our last morning at Cheynes was spent chasing rarities. We headed back to the Scrub-bird spot and within 5min had a male hopping across the road in front of us, stopping briefly in the middle to check us out. He would have been roughly 5m away from us and Dave scored a reasonable record shot.
Up into the heath behind the caravan park again and another scrub-bird was spotted crossing the track. These guys were pretty common once the call was learnt. Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters were fairly common but kept out of sight of the cameras, unlike the stunning male Red-eared Firetail who couldn't resist our charms.
A Western Bristlebird was heard several times but failed to come out into the open. So frustrating! This turned out to be our second endemic dip for the trip. However, hearing and then flushing a Western Whipbird from besides the track certainly made up for this and we left Cheynes very happy with our efforts.

SW WA Trip Part 1: Margaret River area

Its long been a dream of mine to bird around the south west corner of Western Australia, ticking off all the endemic species that can be found there. Luckily for me, Mr Stowe scored a gig over there and offered me the opportunity to go. Sweet!
We flew into Perth airport late Saturday morning after a hairy landing in strong easterly winds. After we picked up the hire car we made the decision to trawl the suburban streets on the look out for Laughing Turtle-dove. It took us all of 5min to find a pair sitting on the electricity wires and out we jumped with binos and cameras in hand. First tick for the trip!

We made our way south along what would have to be one of the most boring roads in the world. As we drove we added heaps of WA state ticks like Welcome Swallow, Aust. Magpie and Wood Duck. Black-faced Woodswallow was probably the highlight.
We stopped at an inlet south of Perth (the name escapes me) and what a great spot!! We quickly ticked off Twenty-eight Parrots, Splendid Fairy-wren, Singing Honeyeater and Inland Thornbill in the shrubbery and in the water, Aust. Shelduck, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Caspian Tern and lots of Banded Stilt, a new bird for Dave.
We pushed on further south and eventually made it to the Cape Naturaliste area where Dave had some business to attend too. While waiting, I walked the grounds of the vineyard and glimpsed three Purple-crowned Lorikeets shooting across the sky. The views were lousy and not tickable. However, the views we got of a male Western Rosella were excellent and that was my second tick for the day!

Next stop was Cape Naturaliste lighthouse which is surrounded by heath. To our excitement there were several Carnaby's Black-cockatoo feeding at eye height in a banksia beside the track. We got wonderful photos and this was the highlight of the day for me. Common Bronzewing and Western Rosella were also seen in the heath.

It was getting late in the day so we made tracks to Margaret River where we were staying with Dave's mate Tony. On the way we spotted more Black-cockatoos feeding on the ground. I swung the car around and to our amazement they turned out to be Baudin's!! We got excellent views and photographs of these as well and we finished the day on a high.

The next morning we were up bright and early and heading further south to Cape Leeuwin lighthouse. We stopped to snap Twenty-eights and Rosellas along the way. It was blowing a gale on the cape and birding was difficult. After a long wait we eventually located a beautiful Rock Parrot feeding quietly among the rocks. We slowly crepted up on him and he slowly started to walk towards us and in the end we were within 3m of the little fella. Great experience!
I finally managed to tick off a tropical Tern in the form of Bridled, and as we headed back to Margaret River, White-breasted Robin and Red-winged Fairy-wren made appearances. Another 4 tick day.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tales of a Twitcher: 2009 campaign

WARNING!! Long and boring! ;)

As many of you are aware I’m quite the twitcher. Any free time available is spent travelling to all parts of the state (and country) chasing my year list. A year list is simple, the number of species seen between the 1st of Jan and the 31st of Dec. Yes maybe this is a sign of desperation or maybe an acknowledgement of how nerdy my life is, but for me its a great way of keeping an interest in birding and seeing as much of this beautiful country, and its birds, as possible.
My previous highest year total was set last year when I saw 415 species. This was certainly helped by an extremely successful trip to Mackay/Townsville and a trip through western QLD to the coast. Great effort I thought.
Below is my year in review. Obviously I cant tell every story or describe every species seen but hopefully by breaking it up into monthly segments and just picking through the highlights you’ll get some idea of how hard and how much fun my year was.

If you really want to impress your non birding friends start the year strong. “Hey I scored 186 species this month, at this rate I’ll get 2232 species by New Years!” Of course it doesn’t work like that, as like Twitchathon its all about diminishing returns.
So at 12:00:01am on the 1st as two Masked Lapwings flew above my head I started my race. The next morning I was off to Capertee with Stowie and the Big Man and by days end I had 94 species on the list. Highlights that day included Regent Honeyeater, Square-tailed Kite, Painted Button-quail, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Whiteface, Plum-headed Finch and Horsfield’s Bushlark.
The rest of the month was spent around the Lower Hunter wetlands ticking up hard to get species like Wood and Pectoral Sandpiper, Painted Snipe, Lewin’s Rail, Black-necked Stork and Brush Bronzewing.
Total: 186
Milestone species: 50- White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, 100- Royal Spoonbill, 150- Osprey

Very much a Maitland month. Checking out my local patches rewarded me with Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Spotless Crake, Grey-crowned Babbler, Speckled Warbler and Black-faced Monarch. A trip out to Munghorn Gap cleaned up the rest of those woodland birds I missed in Capertee like Emu, White-throated Nightjar, Cicadabird, Turquoise Parrot, Little Friarbird and Rock Warbler.
Aust. Pratincole, Fork-tailed Swift, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren and Black Bittern were all ticked up in the Hunter during Feb. Great to knock off some rarities early.
Total: 234
Milestone: 200- Golden Whistler

A month of rarities started when a Black Kite was seen circling near home. A trip to Seal Rocks revealed two major Hunter rarities in Yellow-throated Miner and Common Noddy. Arctic Jaeger, Eastern Reef Egret, Short-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwater and Little Penguin capped off a great day.
Down to Boat Harbour to tick another corker when the now famous American Golden Plover turned up.
Total: 249

Go west young man! And that I did. HBOC held their Easter Camp out at Willies Retreat (Macquarie Marshes) and Bowra Station, Cunnamulla Qld. What a great opportunity to see a whole swag of western birds in various habitats. Highlights around the Marshes: Budgerigar, Painted Honeyeater, Chestnut-crowned Babbler, Spotted Bowerbird, Stubble Quail, Ground Cuckoo-shrike, Mulga Parrot, Diamond Dove, Crested Bellbird and Black Falcon. Most of these birds were found around Willies Retreat owned by Phil and Myra Tolhurst. For those of you who may not have heard, Phil sadly passed away a few weeks ago which was a great shock to HBOC members who had fond memories of Phil and his yarns during our stay. A true friend of conservation and birds.
Bowra was brilliant as usual with 20 year ticks seen in 3 days. The first morning out in the Stoney Hill country bagged me White-browed Treecreeper, Hall’s Babbler, Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush, Grey-headed Honeyeater and Aust. Bustard. Other birds seen around the property included Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, Little Woodswallow, Brolga, Redthroat, Bourke’s Parrot, Banded Lapwing, Little Button-quail, Crimson Chat and Spotted Nightjar.
After 3 days back at work I was ready for another holiday so off I trotted up the Blue Mountains and scored 6 ticks: Beautiful Firetail, Red-browed Treecreeper, Scarlet Robin, Grey Currawong, Glossy Black-cockatoo and Gang-gang Cockatoo.
Total: 306
Milestones: 250- Cockatiel, 300- Grey Currawong

Another month confined to the Hunter with another quick visit to the Blue Mountains and Capertee.
The winter migrants were honing in on Newie with Northern Giant Petrel, Black-browed Albatross and Fluttering Shearwater seen. A Brahminy Kite was seen above Seal Rocks and the old faithful Radjah Shelduck was still wandering the streets of Bulahdelah. Thanks to Lucky I also managed to find Southern Emu-wren and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater around Lake Macquarie.
In the mountains a Pilotbird was a welcome sight and Swift Parrots were fluked in the valley.
Total: 318

Where else does one go in the winter but south!! Nick and I had a fabulous 3 days on the south coast (based in Eden) birding around Ben Boyd NP. On the way down we stopped in Canberra and ticked off Skylark, Greenfinch and Flame Robin. The next morning we were standing in the heath on Green Cape where I bagged a lifer, Striated Fieldwren. The rest of the day was spent seawatching from the lighthouse, one of the best vantage points in NSW. That afternoon I saw 2 more ticks, Shy and Buller’s Albatross and good year ticks like Yellow-nosed Albatross, Brown Skua, Black-faced Cormorant and Pacific Gull.
Two weeks later Dave, Nick and I were jetting off to Melbourne for the now famous Hudsonian Godwit twitch. Luckily for us we found the bird and added Aust. Shelduck, Eurasian Tree Sparrow and Hooded Plover to the list. Downer was dipping on some much needed ticks (not a past foreign affairs mister I might add).
Total: 334

May as well have dropped this month from the calender! Only three year ticks seen: Glossy Ibis, Spotted Quail-thrush and Pacific Baza.

Back in the ball game with lots of highly desirable birds seen. Barn, Sooty and Boobook Owls were ticked making it a very successful month for night time birding. Mangrove Gerygone and an early Common Sandpiper were on Ash Island and a very successful pelagic off Wollongong (lots of ticks and vomit) added Wandering Albatross, Solander’s Petrel, Cape Petrel and Southern Giant Petrel. I must say that even though I was ill for most of the day, the trip out and the blokes onboard made this one of my birding highlights for the year.
Back in the Hunter and off to Stockton Sandspit for my most embarrassing moment of the year, forgetting what was and wasn’t on my list. As we looked over the mass of waders I could only see one year tick.....until I got home and referred to my notes....one tick turned into four...oops. Red and Great Knot, Black-tailed Godwit and Curlew Sandpiper.
Total: 350
Milestones: 350- Great Knot

Spring had arrived!! Around the Hunter migrants had started to return and breeding was well under way. Australasian Bittern, Baillon’s Crake and Leaden Flycatcher were seen close to home and a quick twitch down to Sydney one night after work had Stowie showing me my first Powerful Owls in 9 years. I repaid him a couple of days later with an extremely successful trip to Gloucester Tops where we nailed two toughies, Olive Whistler and Rufous Scrub-bird.
Then came the year list saviour, two weeks in the Top End. On the first morning I recorded 30 ticks around Darwin and Buffalo Creek and all up I saw 83 year ticks and 40 lifers. We then travelled through Katherine, Timber Creek, Kununurra, Kakadu and back to Darwin. Highlights included: Red Goshawk, all the northern finches, Hooded Parrot, 8 species of pigeon , Chestnut-backed Button-quail, 12 honeyeaters, Chestnut Rail, Little Stint, 2 Owls and so many other corkers.
We arrived back in Newcastle just in time to participate in the NSW Twitchathon. Up in the rainforest we saw Wompoo Fruit-dove, Noisy Pitta and Spectacled Monarch. Our starting point at Borah added a beauty in Black-eared Cuckoo.
Total: 443 species!
Milestones: 400- Black-tailed Treecreeper

After such a successful start to the year I soon realised how hard it was going to be to add to my list in the Hunter. It had been years since my last trip to the mallee country out near Lake Cargelligo so Stowie, Nick and I jumped in Bel and headed west. Superb Parrots put on a great show near Cowra and at the LCarg STW later that afternoon Spotted Crake and Orange Chat made appearances. Next morning we were out in the mallee in appalling conditions but the birds were magnificent. Southern Scrub-robin, Shy Heathwren, Grey-fronted Honeyeater, Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush and Gilbert’s Whistler all gave lengthy views and were very welcomed additions the list. Yellow-plumed Honeyeater and Freckled Duck were also added.
Total: 453 species
Milestone: 450- Grey-fronted Honeyeater

I wanted to end the year on a nice round number so 460 became my new target. Luck was on my side when a Black Honeyeater rocked up at Walka Water Works in Maitland.
With six ticks needed and no chance of getting those in the Hunter I decided to head north up the NSW coast aiming for those “southern Qld” species I had missed. Near Kempsey I was delighted to find Pale-yellow Robin, Brush Cuckoo and Barred Cuckoo-shrike. Across the road to Jerseyville and Yellowlegs was on the list. Just two more birds need.....a breeze I thought especially after adding White-eared Monarch at Illuka. Night fell and I nodded off feeling confident in easily passing my target the next day, but as all you birders now, birding can be a bitch of a hobby. Mangrove Honeyeater = dipped, Ground Parrot = dipped, Beach Stone-curlew = dipped, Paradise Riflebird = dipped, Logrunner = dipped. Panic stations had set in as I marched around the rainforest of Copeland. Hearing a soft thrush like call in a thick tangle of vines I decided to play the call back and out popped a Russet-tailed Thrush, bird 460!!

And its there my year list ended. My last hope was seeing Nutmeg Mannikins on the BOZ outing in the Hawkesbury but sadly that wasn’t to be.

So there is my story. Yes I’m a mad twitcher and yes I’ll do it again one year but for 2010 I’ve decided to take a break from hardcore year twitching.....instead I’m doing a hardcore Hunter twitch lol. Hopefully this time next year I can report back saying I’ve seen my 300th Hunter species for the year.

Thanks to everyone who made this list possible. To Craig, Stowie, Peter Kyne, Johnny Estberg, Deano, Rob Kavanagh, Geoff Jones, Lucky and the HBOC crew thank you! Of course I wouldn’t have reached 350 if it wasn’t for my birding brother Nick, thanks champ....whens the next trip?
Hope I haven’t bored everyone silly.

North Coast Year Tickin...Dec 09

My intention was to leave Maitland very early Saturday morning and head up the coast mopping up some year ticks I’d missed on previous visits. My plan was shot to pieces when I had a few too many schooners at the work xmas drinkies the night before but by 5am I felt well enough to head off.
After a quick brekkie in Kempsey I headed west up the Macleay Valley to the rainforest clad hills near Willi Willi. What a great spot. I’m usually not a great fan of birding in this habitat but by sticking to the road I managed to see most of my targets utilising the more ‘open’ habitat. First tick was a cute little Pale-yellow Robin who sat up nicely in the forest gloom and gave a few quick calls before darting off again. Also at this patch I saw/heard both Monarch, Large-billed Srubwren, Whipbird and Wompoo Fruit-dove.
A pair of Painted Button-quail crossed my path as I continued further up the road. A Wonga flushed from the side and Regent Bowerbirds were busy in the lantana. A Brush Cuckoo could be heard in the distance and after a quick blast of the playback I soon had my second tick for the day. The poor cuckoo was soon set upon by Bell Miners and made a hasty retreat.
The day was pushing on so I started to make my way back down the hill, stopping at a large fig tree on the way. A bird flew up into a small tree in front of me and thinking it was a figbird I almost didn’t raise my binoculars. Luckily birders instinct kicked in and I was rewarded with lovely views of a Barred Cuckoo-shrike! I’ve only seen this species 3 times before so this was a real highlight. Also at this spot I saw 4 Emerald Dove, Topknot Pigeon, Wonga Pigeon, Wompoo Fruit-dove and heard a Noisy Pitta in the distance. I left Willi Willi a very happy man.
Next stop was Jerseyville near South West Rocks where I ticked up the Lesser Yellowlegs. At first I was only seeing Marsh Sandpipers and some doubt crept into my thoughts about being able to ID the bird but as soon as it was spotted it was obvious. Latham’s Snipe, Mangrove Gerygone and Tawny Grassbird were all common here.
Illuka was my next planned stop as dark storm clouds rolled in and the light started to fail. Its amazing the difference between highland and coastal rainforest. The call of Rose-crowned Fruit-dove filled the air, as did the mozzies, and Varied Triller and Spectacled Monarch showed themselves in the gloom. A familiar little whistle (and my brilliant whistling) lead to my last tick for the day, a White-eared Monarch. Such a chirpy little chap, full of life and not afraid of the big bad birder gazing up at him.
I then jumped in the car and raced around to Yamba hoping for enough light to see a Mangrove Honeyeater but didn’t make it in time so I spent the night in town hoping to tick one off first thing the next morning. Waking up early I found myself gazing out at the same storm I’d fallen asleep too. The clouds were low and dark, the wind was howling and the rain driving. I briefly attempted searching for the honeyeaters but the weather got the best of me and I soon gave up, after seeing Pied Oystercatcher, Whimbrel and Pacific Golden Plover. My first real dip for the trip.
I searched the heath around Red Rock, just north of Coffs, in the vain attempt of flushing a Ground Parrot, which of course failed to show. I did however see Brown Quail, Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo, Southern Emu-wren, and one of the highlights of the trip.....male Superb, Variegated and Red-backed Fairy-wrens all within 200m of each other.
I then decided I’d had enough of north coast birding and made the decision to head back to the Hunter. I dipped on Beach Stone-curlew at Red Rock and Old Bar, and Russet-tailed Thrush at Wingham Brush. The afternoon wasn’t going too well.
It was roughly 3pm when I pulled into Copeland (near Gloucester) with my spirits waning. This location is another rainforest spot which has a good variety of birds with easy walking paths and plenty of open patches for those canopy species. As I wandered around I found more Pale-yellow Robins, scrubwrens, monarchs, Catbird, Wonga Pigeons and an Emerald Dove. A Wompoo Fruit-dove gave great views as it fed in the huge fig tree and Topknot Pigeons circled above the canopy. A quiet little Thrush like call led me to having great views of a Russet-tailed Thrush, my 460th species for the year!! My other target, Logrunner, failed to show but I was rewarded with excellent views of an adult Noisy Pitta on the track and a very cute juvenile perched nearby.
I then called it quits and heading back home. I saw 6 year ticks which I’m stoked about and recorded 141 species during the trip including some I don’t see very often.
Thanks for reading.

The Bogey Busting Lake Cargelligo Trip - Nov 09

Sorry for the belated trip report but we’ve all been flat out after returning from a very successful trip to the mallee region around Lake Cargelligo. To be perfectly honest this was a twitching trip with both lifers and year ticks sought. In saying that, all three of us (Dave, Nick and I) are lovers of western birding and any opportunity to cross the divide is much appreciated.
We le
ft Dave’s Sydney home very early Sunday morning and made our way over the mountains. As the boys slept I was ticking off Crimson Rosella, King Parrot and Channel-bills as the sun poked over the horizon.
Dave did all the organising and gathering of info and did a wonderful job, but as usual I grabbed control of the steering wheel and made my own decisions on which was the best route out there and back, which I am pleased to say payed off. As we turned towards Cowra (not the most direct route out west) we quickly came across our first targeted species, Superb Parrots. We got aweso
me views of several males and later found a large dead tree besides the road which we think contained two nests. We witnessed many quick battles and aggressive behaviour which is so unlike this normally placid species.
Continuing west we started seeing Yellow-throated Miners, Apostlebird and Little Ravens. A young male Brown Songlark was spotted and a dark morph Little Eagle soared above the road. It was at this point my heart sank as I claimed my first casualty for the trip, a newly fledged Western Gerygone.
Lake Cargelligo was hot! 40+ degrees with a scorching westerly blowing across the town. After we booked into our very comfortable accommodation at the caravan park we ventured out and headed towards the sewage works (as is the norm for us guys). What a great place. Purple Variegated Fairy-wrens and Cockatiel greeted us at the gates and several Native-hens ran off the track. Shelducks and Glossy Ibis took flight as Dotterels and Swamphens scurried away. As we drove around the ponds I smashed the brake and called White-fronted Chat. Nick agrees with my ID but Dave in the back is calling Orange Chat! Thinking the air-conditioning mustn’t be working in the backseats I initially chose to ignore his call.....until I noticed the softly coloured orange bird in the shrub behind our bird. Second year tick for the trip. Later that arvo we found Blue Bonnets, Banded Lapwings and Whiskered Terns.

Day 2: The next morn
ing we woke up bright and early and headed towards Nombinnie Nature Reserve, roughly 40min north of town. This well known NR is mallee dominated and is somewhat reminiscent of rainforest.....seemingly birdless! We walked into the scrub and besides from the ever constant Rufous Whistlers it was dead. Then Nick picks up on movement, stalking, stalking.....SCRUB-ROBIN!!! And what great views, cheeky little buggers wandered all around us. This was a huge tick for me as I’d previously seen this species but hadn’t ticked it due to poor views.
That was one to Nick in the spotting score card. Now it was my turn. “Hey Dave, give Heathwren a blast”. Quick playback and in trots two Shy Heathwrens, a tick for Dave. We watched them for ages as they circled us and showed why they are so misnamed.
Crossing into the famous wheat field we soon came across a brilliant male Red-capped Robin. “seeeep”.....hmmm was that the robin or a quail-thrush??? “seeeeeeep”.....QUAIL-THRUSH! The bloody thing ran off as soon as it was spotted and then flushed as we appro
ached. Unsatisfied with our views we continued on as Nick and I pleaded our case as to why Chestnut Quail-thrush was now on our location list but not on our life lists. As we passed through some shrubs Dave spots a male QT and after a nervous wait Nick and I picked up half decent views......we were happy with that view and celebrated accordingly.....until the singing male perched off the ground in the mallee was spotted, now thats a view!
Continuing along the r
oad we stopped for Splendid Fairy-wrens, Little Eagle, more Scrub-robins and a thick clump of trees that had a fair bit of activity around it. Brown-headed Honeyeaters, Inland Thornbill and Rufous Whistler flew out. Dave: “Ummm this Rufous Whistler has a rufous throat.....fellas.....it has a rufous throat!......GILBERT’S!” Nick and I shot over to Dave’s location and in the small cypress pine was a gorgeous male Gilbert’s Whistler.....TICK!! This was a huge relief for all as we had started to doubt the existence of this almost mythical species. We watched him for ages as he sang from his favourite branch and then eventually returned to his shaded roosting spot.
To say we were happy would have been an understatement. Three ticks each for the morning was a great achievement, three bogey ticks even better! We then headed out to the second wheat field in searc
h of honeyeaters. Unfortunetly the flowering of previous weeks had all but finished but we were happy with Grey-fronted, White-eared, Spiny-cheeked and Striped Honeyeaters, as well as a few Mulga Parrots. By now the heat of the day had kicked in so we made tracks back to our room.
That afternoon we headed out to Round Hill NR, literally across the road from Nombinnie. It was hot and the sky thick of dust and flies. Pratincoles were spotted flying across the road and a possible Malleefowl kept us guessing. Mallee Ringneck, Blue Bonnet and Mulga Parrots were common and many Common Bronzewings flew into drink. Southern Whiteface avoided the 500mm and everything else avoided the 400mm. Our last stop for the afternoon was on top a stony ridge as the sun sank below the horizon, giving us a beautiful sunset to end the day.....the Spotted Nightjar circling above us was pretty good also, especially for Dave, his 4th tick for the day.

Day 3: We headed back out to Nombinnie in search of the elusive and rare Red-lored Whistler. The weather conditions were much more favourable with a slight southerly breeze blowing but the mallee was eerily quiet, even the Rufous Whistlers had given up. After a fair amount of searching we found Scrub-robin and Heathwren again but the whistler wasn’t to be. We made our way back out to the western wheat field where we found an abundance of Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Splendid Fairy-wren and Grey-fronted Honeyeater, and a solitary Quail-thrush lifted our spirits slightly before it disappeared. We decided to leave the mallee early and concentrate on birding around town, not before stopping at a water trough we had found the previous day. It was here we found several Speckled Warbler, Red-capped Robin and our only Yellow-plumed Honeyeater for the trip.
After our now
standard afternoon break we headed to the lake for some photographic opportunities and we weren’t disappointed. Many Whiskered Tern and a solitary White-winged Black Tern fed over the shoreline, Avocets loafed nearby and many Shelduck could be seen on the far bank.
We then headed t
o “Our Chat Alley”, a location Nick and I found many years ago and not to be confused with the well know “Chat Alley”. Whilst watching White-winged Fairy-wrens, Zebra Finch and more Whiskered Tern a bright Orange ball shot across the road, a splendid male Orange Chat. We sat in the car for ages hoping that the male and several uncoloured birds would land on the nearby fence but it wasn’t to be.

Day 4: Another early start saw us at the sewage works again with cameras at the ready. The light was perfect and the birds very active. We easily found Spotted and Baillon’s Crakes, Red-kneed Dotterel, Latham’s Snipe and Glossy Ibis. Native-hens sprinted in all directions and Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos were spotted in the distance. A pair of Blue Bonnets sunning themselves atop a dead tree finished off our stay nicely.
We then left Lake Cargelligo and made our way east through Condoblin and Forbes. We saw a Spotted Bowerbird perched on a road side marker and every Ground Cuckoo-shrike magically turned into their Black
-faced cousins much to Dave’s disgust. Of course there was a reason for us travelling this route, Gums Swamp, Forbes. This is a great little wetland and we saw the now mandatory Native-hens and Baillon’s Crake, as well as nesting Sea-eagles, hundreds of Pink-eared Duck and our target......2 loafing Freckled Ducks. Not the most exciting behaviour but an excellent way to finish the trip.
All up we saw over 140 species in 4 days. I’d like to thank my two travelling buds for their excellent birding knowledge, their wonderful conversation skills and their terrible sense of humour...especially Nick, never seen Dave blush that like before.
Lake Cargelligo is a wonderful area and I would recommend it to anyone.

Dodgy Drongos Twitchathon Campaign 2009

Well this years race can be summed up with one word, "Pressure!". We were feeling the pressure before the race, and all of the time during the race, whether it be from lack of species or lack of time. In the end the pressure got too much and we started to crack but luckily still managed to hold on to 3rd place with a very respectable 212 species. Below is a run down of our race.

Sat 31st, 3:15pm: Whilst driving to our starting spot we noticed a large flock of finches cross the road so we stopped to check them out. Turns out they were Double-bars but the small creek nearby was alive with birds. White-rumped Miner, Grey-crowned Babbler, Peaceful Dove, Horsfield's Bushlark, Red-winged Parrot and a Black-eared Cuckoo were recorded within 5min of each other. We decided that we should add this spot to our race.

4pm: As the alarm on my mobile went off everyone was glued to the Jacky Winter hunting from an exposed branch, our first bird for the race. Crested Shrike-tit, Leaden Flycatcher and White-throated Gerygone fell within a minute of each other. Soon after a Turk Parrot flew above my head and a Black-fronted Dotterel was seen on the creek. Dusky Woodswallow, Tree Martin, White-backed Swallow and Wedge-tailed Eagle flew over head. Bee-eater and Songlark were heard and Sacred Kingfishers abundant.
We then headed off to our creek crossing spot where Diamond Firetail, Brown Falcon, White-winged Triller and Brown Quail were highlights. There were Zebra Finch on the fence line as we entered the open grazing country. Our new "Black-eared Cuckoo" spot was next and was completely dead. Peaceful Dove and Grey-crowned Babblers were heard in the distance but nothing else showed. We eventually scoped a Bushlark perched on a small shrub miles away and White-winged Fairy-wren and Pipit common.
Already running behind time we flew along the dirt back roads stopping for Black-shouldered Kite, Hooded Robin, Striped Honeyeater and various Thornbills. A chance stop at a nearby homestead resulted in us scoring Blue-faced Honeyeater, Little Friarbird, Pallid Cuckoo and a very cheeky Musk Lorikeet.
Our Painted Honeyeater spot held up to its name. Singing Honeyeater and Red-winged Parrot also seen/heard here. Common Bronzewing flew off the road and a White-rumped Miner perched on the fenceline.
Cockatiel and Apostlebird were classic western birds ticked. Blue Bonnets scattered as we entered the cypress pine country and an Inland Thornbill was only seen by 2 members so wasn't put on the list. A quick dam stop saw Mallee Ringnecks flying off.
We finally entered our last spot before dark (actually we were terribly late and darkness had really started to set in. A Western Gerygone and Brown-headed Honeyeater were our only ticks. It was at this stage, with only 89 species on the list, that we realised a big score was out of the question and we'd only been at it for 3.5hrs.

Our long night time drive was broken up by a nearly road kill roo, 11 Barn Owls, 2 Frogmouths and 2 cheeseburgers at Tamworth Maccas.
We arrived at our rainforest campsite at 2am and after an hour of light snoozing we heard our first Boobook, which conitnued to call for most of the night. Being very moonlit some species started calling very early. Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Noisy Pitta and Spectacled Monarch all started shortly after 4am.
The dawn chorus in the rainforest is just awesome! While we lay on the ground in our sleeping bags we ticked off Russet-tailed Thrush, Black-faced Monarch, Rose Robin and Green Catbird. We started our walk and had Yellow-throated Scrubwrens beside the track, Topknot and White-headed Pigeons flying above the canopy, whilst Lyrebird and Bassian Thrush called up the ridge.
As we drove up onto the mountain road we spotted Regent and Satin Bowerbirds, Bell Miner and Brush Turkey. Brush Cuckoo, Dollarbird, Torresian Crow and Brown Thornbill were our last birds before leaving the rainforest.

We then headed south towards the coast ticking off White-necked Heron, Collared Sparrowhawk, Hobby, Rainbow Lorikeet, Scarlet Honeyeater and Scaly-breasted Lorikeet. It was at this stage that we smacked into an Eastern Grey Kangaroo, killing it instantly and resulting in my new car no longer being new and pretty :-(
Seaham swamp was a great little stop as we saw Latham's Snipe and Night Heron within seconds of each other. 2 Long-billed Corellas flew over. Cicadabird was heard at our eastern woodland spot, but only two members heard the White-naped Honeyeaters.
Mailtand turned up the usual suspects (Goldfinch, Blue-billed Duck, 3 grebes etc) but Blackbird was another species missed. Dipping on many birds on the Saturday saw us heading towards the Kurri Kurri woodland, something we usually don't do. Of course it was quiet! Luckily Yellow-tufted and White-cheeked Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebill, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Brown Goshawk and 2 very cute Painted Button-quail made up for the wasted time.

Lenaghans Drive near Minmi got the race list ticking along with Glossy Ibis, Whiskered Tern, Swamp Harrier, White-bellied Sea-eagle and Intermediate Egret being added.
Hexham Swamp was pretty good with Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit, White-fronted Chat, Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo, Tawny Grassbird and Black-tailed Native-hen all making appearances.
Nobody mention Ash Island.....sore point, not even Mangrove Gerygone made up for the time lost.
Mallard was eventually ticked at Warabrook wetlands. This used to be a very reliable spot for this species but we're guessing some tree huggin, do gooder has had them removed with only one text book female remaining.

We hit Stockton Sandspit at exactly the wrong time, tide was way out and the mud flats covered in fishermen. We scoped a Pied Oystercatcher, Curlew and Whimbrel, and heard Brown Honeyeater in the mangroves.
Next stop was the Newcastle Foreshore which was packed with 'normal' people enjoying a typically beautiful Hunter Valley day. We eventually found a park and while having a great perve managed to see 4 species of Shearwater and Ruddy Turnstones.

Little Wattlebird and New Holland Honeyeater were seen in the heath before we scooted through the afternoon traffic to our finishing point at the Wetland Centre at Shortland. Wandering Whistling-duck was seen across the road, whilst Magpie Goose and Shoveler were our last additions to the list.
We then settled in amongst the other teams and enjoyed some great food and a sit down. Huge congratulations to the Hunter Home Brewers who saw 234 species within the Hunter Valley!!!! Also a big thank you too Alan Morris and Mick Roderick for organising a wonderful race.

Until next year......