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......
UP THE MIGHTY DRONGOS!!!!!!!!!