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.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dodgy Drongos 2010 Twitchathon Report...pt 2

We made good time as we headed across the Liverpool Plain and into the Hunter, swinging north as we hit Singleton. At this stage we still hadn't recorded a single night bird except for a very early Owlet-nightjar calling in Leard . It wasn't until a few kilometres south of Greford that we saw our only Barn Owl for the night flying beside the road. At my usual pit stop in Gresford we heard a distant Boobook calling and a bit further up the road we saw our first Frogmouth. Our final night bird was a real hoot, a Powerful Owl calling from the hills. What a successful night run!
The next day we awoke to a some what subdued dawn chorus in the rainforest. Black-faced and Spectacled Monarch started early with Golden Whistler, Brush Cuckoo, Rose Robin, Superb Lyrebird and Yellow Robin soon kicking in. Russet-tailed Thrush and Noisy Pitta called close to where we slept. Trudging through the now very overgrown track, with leeches marching up our legs like battalions on the warpath, we ticked White-browed Scrubwren, Topknot Pigeon, Brown Cuckoo-dove, Satin Bowerbird and Crested Shrike-tit.
Heading towards Barrington we ticked Bassian Thrush on the road and at our 'hill top' spot we bagged our only Brown Thornbill and Eastern Spinebill for the race! We also found one of our highlight species, a single Red-browed Treecreeper. Brush Turkey, Bell Miner and Yellow-faced Honeyeater made the list as we hit the old guest house. Yellow-throated Scrubwren and Grey Goshawk were added as we avoided 2 other twitching teams, busy spot!
Leaving with rainforest we were a little disappointed to miss so many pigeons and doves but still pleased overall. This stretch of road to Dungog is generally pretty slow bird wise but Torresian Crow, Pheasant Coucal and Tawny Grassbird kept spirits high. Dungog revealed Red Wattlebird and Rainbow Lorikeet....where have those White-headed Pigeons gone!!!Our Clarence Town spot was alive with bird noise. White-naped and Scarlet Honeyeaters in the canopy and a distant Shining Bronze were great finds. Seaham was next and besides the initial rush of Blue-faced Honeyeater, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet and Spotted Dove not much was happening, no night herons or snipe.
Things were really starting to slow up now with no new species being added at Green Wattle Creek. Banded Lapwing and Cisticola were on the flood plain and Goldfinches called on the Maitland back roads. Walka was deadsville for us. A few Great-crested Grebe, the common waterfowl and Reed Warbler....hmmm probably should have oiled that a bit better.
We added Yellow-tufted and White-cheeked Honeyeater, Buff-rumped Thornbill and Variegated Fairy-wren at Kurri. It was at this stage our race fell to bits a little. A complete lack of oiling in the lower wetlands saw us heading east. In hindsight a trip to more bush/rainforest would have been more productive. Live and learn I guess.
From our vantage point on Lenaghan's Drive we could see Straw-necked Ibis, Great Egret, Whistling Kite and two Chestnut-breasted Mannikins as they whizzed past us. Little Grassbird and Brown Goshawk at Pambalong.We dipped on Brahminy Kite at Raymond Terrace but did see Caspian Tern, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Mallard, White-breasted Woodswallow, Nankeen Night Heron and Little Wattlebird. Hexham Swamp was a complete waste of time with no birds added, although Rob did get his best looks of Sea-eagle and Great Egret. Ash Island was a one bird wonder with Mangrove Gerygone calling from the.....mangroves.
Newcastle was next and what a wonderful 15min we had. Short-tailed, Wedge-tailed and Fluttering Shearwater were all very close to shore. Crested, Common and Little Terns patrolled and roosted on the rockshelf. Turnstones and a Whimbrel camouflaged themselves beautifully in amongst the rocks, unlike the ' I don't give a toss' Sooty Oystercatchers.Off to Stocko with team moral very high. Unlike last year we actually had something to look at on the spit despite the constant disturbance from fishermen. Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits dominated with Red Knot and Curlew Sandpiper in lesser numbers. Eastern Curlew, Red-capped Plover, a Golden Plover and Pied Oystercatchers all sat in the lagoon. Two non-breeding Gull-billed Terns gave a wonderful flyby show. Tereks and Tattlers in Fern Bay.
Now this is really where we fell to pieces. Off we went to Awabakal (why!) where our only tick were New Holland Honeyeater *slaps forehead*.
With 45min to spare we arrived at the Wetlands Centre, ticked off Wandering Whistling-duck and Magpie Goose, and commenced looking for any number of unlikely last minute species to add to our list. Unfortunately the Little Bitterns and Garganey didn't show.
Our final tally was a good one, 219. Little did we think it would bag us 2nd place, tied with the Brewers! (who did 300km less then us mere mortals!). So after 24hrs (really 3 days), 800+km and very little sleep, 4 Drongos were very tired, satisfied and fired up for next year.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dodgy Drongos 2010 Twitchathon report...the western run

The lead up to the big race was nothing but stress with many species vacating their usual haunts for greener pastures out west in the channel country. We had talked ourselves down to the point where a 190 species count sounded the most likely outcome, one of our worst results ever. But we kept our chins relatively high as we made our way up to Manilla a day before the race to get some last minute oiling in and to do a proper dumby run that afternoon.
Our team was considerably younger then last years with Max Breckenridge (15) and Rob Kilkelly (21) joining the Drongos. The co-pilot Nick was still on board and was stressing as much as I. We booked into the Manilla caravan park, stopped for supplies and then headed west towards our starting spot.
On route as we stopped to show Max his first ever White-winged Fairy-wrens, several Stubble Quail could be heard calling in the paddocks, a much sort after race bird. We couldn't afford to add the extra km to the Saturday leg so me prayed for closer birds. Luckily further on we found more birds calling in a field on our route....hazzah! What more there was a male Brown Songlark displaying overhead! Another cracking bird.
We rocked up at Borah and slowly wandered around until we got to our Hooded Robin spot. This is where we had decided to start the race and at 4pm we ticked the robin, our dumby run was under way. I wont go through all the species we saw but some highlights included Spotted Harrier, Plum-headed Finch, Little Raven, Southern Whiteface, Singing Honeyeater and Blue Bonnet. As the sun sunk behind the hills Rob did the count and we had seen 93 species. Not a bad effort we thought, hoping we'd get the same the next day.
A great sleep was had before leaving the caravan park at 9:30 and making our way west to Boggabri. The Plum-heads were still on the dam we had seen them at the day before. We located a great spot for Yellow-throated Miner and beyond our Leard SF turnoff we found Yellow-billed Spoonbills loafing in the River Gums. We refueled the car and grabbed some fuel in town, listening to Musk Lorikeets, Blackbird and Brown Honeyeaters.
We headed back to Borah TSR where we had lunch and readied ourselves for the race. Clouds started rolling in and the wind was quite gusty.....my stress levels had now entered the red zone. Rob, Max and I headed off to the starting point as Nick continued to rest. A Black-eared Cuckoo was heard but couldn't be found but seeing a female Turquoise Parrot fly into her hollow was nearly as good. At the starting point the Hooded Robins were still there but constantly moving around so I followed them for a good 20min until at 4pm we had ticked off the robin as our first bird again. Max yells out White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike and that was our second bird for the race. White-throated Gerygone, Brown Treecreeper, Dusky Woodswallow and Diamond Firetail fell quickly and down by the creek we bagged 3 common ducks, Black-fronted Dotterel and Dollarbird. Fuscous, White-plumed and Black-chinned Honeyeaters called from the canopy as a Painted Button-quail was flushed from underfoot. High above the eucalypts Tree Martin and White-backed Swallow danced, but where were the Bee-eaters!!! Little Frairbird called, Little Lorikeets zoomed past, and Red-winged Parrots could be heard in the distance. What couldn't be heard was the Rufous Songlark quietly sitting on an old stump, our last bird for Borah. We sped off towards Leard ticking Apostlebird, Wedge-tailed Eagle and Pipit on the way.
There was silence at our songlark/quail spot...stress!!! A Brown Falcon, Little Raven and Horsfield's Bushlark were seen and just as we were giving up......a Stubble Quail called.....HAZZAH again.
Back on the road and finally ticking off Rainbow Bee-eater. At the Plum-headed Finch spot we totally dipped on Plum-heads (Grrrrr) but did get 2 Southern Whiteface for our troubles. Singing Honeyeater, Double-barred Finch, Weebill, Western Gerygone and White-throated Treecreeper were recorded in the bushier areas. Fairy Martins flushed from a road culvert.Our Yellow-throated Miner spot was true, bagging us a much needed western bird. White-winged Fairy-wren called nearby but the Brown Quail were silent. Large flocks of Cockatiel greeted us as we turned off towards Leard but the flock of 20 odd Plumed Whistling-ducks standing at our farm dam was a true highlight as we'd never seen this species here before. Grey-crowned Babbler crossed the road as we entered Leard which was alive with bird calls. Striped Honeyeater, Leaden Flycatcher, Speckled Warbler, Inland Thornbill, Channel-billed Cuckoo and Varied Sittella were ticked in quick succession. A little further on we finally got White-browed Babbler onto our Twitchathon list.
As we passed out the other side of Leard our options for new birds were slim and we still had so much daylight. Blue Bonnets were feeding in the same spot as the previous day and Bar-shouldered Doves were heard but the Spotted Bowerbirds failed to show so we turned the car around and headed towards Boggabri. What a great move that turned out to be.
As we were talking about how good it would be if a Mallee Ringneck was to be seen a Mallee Ringneck flew across the road in front of us. In unison 3 of our members called the bird and commenced a very load ' UP THE DRONGOS!" .
As we passed through some flooded paddocks we bagged our Yellow-billed Spoonbill and in a road side ditch Max spotted a brilliant White-necked Heron. These two species had deserted the east so we were glad to tick them up.
In Boggs we drove the streets hearing Musk Lorikeets, Blackbird, Sparrows and Brown Honeyeater. I glimpsed a Hobby zoom past out of the corner of my eye so 10min was spent patrolling the streets until Nick spotted him (her?) plucking its freshly caught prey in a roadside tree.
As Rob counted up our final score we looked for Blue-faced Honeyeater to no avail. Itching for a score we huddled around him to hear the news that we had scored the same as our dummy run, 93 species. We were quietly pleased until Rob cracked a smile and told us he was kidding, we had actually scored 110 species! our highest ever western run score, and all in 3.5hrs. Alot of cheering and laughter followed as we left Boggabri and made our way to Gunnedah for tea.
Night drive and Sunday run coming soon..........