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.