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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.