Thinking About Birds

December 2015

31 December

I did more birding at new locations in the Chiltern / Mt Pilot NP, in general finding pretty much the same species as on the day before. A pair of Dusky Woodswallows was nice to find, and later at a place called Bartleys Block there were many Striated Pardalotes foraging together and a very young Olive-backed Oriole which threw me for a while. I spent a fair amount of time at a site called Green Hill, where a small dam was attracting lots of honeyeaters and I tried to get some photos. My final stop was Chiltern Park, a rest area on the Hume Highway with a very nice loop walk and probably offering good birding at the right time of the year (i.e. when there would be blossom). My highlight was a very young, only recently fledged, Superb Fairy-wren (in company with its parents).

Chiltern / Mt Pilot NP

30 December

I spent a terrific morning at various locations within the Chiltern / Mt Pilot NP. I started at Cyanide Dam, where I quickly got onto Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters. It turned out that these were very common throughout the NP and over the 2 days in the area I saw lots and lots of them. Fuscous Honeyeaters were also very common (throughout the NP), and Brown-headed Honeyeaters moderately so as well. I found some Speckled Warblers (described as uncommon in the NP), and also a young male Scarlet Robin that was just coming into colour. A pair of Turquoise Parrots came in to the dam for a drink in the early morning, and later on the same or another pair turned up for a drink again. Elsewhere, I had White-throated and Brown Treecreepers foraging on adjoining tree trunks, and also picked up Leaden and Restless Flycatchers during my travels. At a remote dam ("Dam #2") there were many Straw-necked and Aust. White Ibis (and apparently in spring these birds breed colonially there).


28-29 December

On the Sunday, Margaret and I drove to Canberra via a lunch in Sydney. It was a distinctly un-birdy day in the main, with no bush stops and the "highlight" being the Common Blackbirds in the backyard of the place where we were staying in Canberra. Next day we went on to Chiltern; it was very hot by the time we arrived and I confined my birding to a late afternoon walk around Lake Anderson, a small man-made structure on the edge of the caravan park where we were staying. This had the usual assortment of ducks and other waterfowl, and not a lot else. For something to do, I took some pictures of Pacific Black Ducks with youngsters, and Superb Fairy-wrens. It was that sort of place!

23 December

My daughter Sally was doing a 20km section of the Great North Walk - Heaton Lookout to Teralba - and I decided to keep her company. Most of the walk was through rainforest or damp eucalyptus forest (plenty of leeches!). There was a good diversity of birdlife although in general I didn't have time to look for them, merely to listen. At one point we heard a Superb Lyrebird calling quite close to the track and went in for a look at it - we finally found it a few metres off the ground,
standing standing standing on a fallen tree trunk. Later we encountered a group of three Glossy Black-Cockatoos (1F, 2M) feeding down low in an allo-casuarina.

20 December

HBOC's outing was to the Minmi area and I went along. We found more than 60 species in about 3 hours of checking out the local wetlands - it was never "full on" but was always steady going. At one stage we had a Black Falcon fly over us, and later on we saw a Black Kite. Another (perched) dark-looking falcon had us debating for a while before we eventually were able to confirm it to be a Brown Falcon. We saw 10-15 Latham's Snipe in the wetland at Lenaghan's Flat - there could easily have been many more as it is private property and we could only look for flushing birds from the wrong side of the fence.

16-17 December

I did my final set of Manning Valley surveys for the year - checking out shorebirds at Harrington and Old Bar, bush birds at Saltwater NP, waterbirds and bush birds at Cattai Wetlands, etc. For the second month in succession, I found a Great Knot at Harrington along with some Sanderlings, Red-necked Stints etc. Around at Old Bar, there were many Bar-tailed Godwits and Pacific Golden Plovers - birds I couldn't find many of in November. There were some Wandering Whistling-Ducks at Cattai Wetlands - the first time I've found them there in well over a year. The Cattle Egret colony at Cundletown was in full swing, with probably 300+ pairs breeding there, and 50+ pairs of Fairy Martins at their nearby colony.

15 December

After an overnighter in Sydney we raced back, in time for me to attend a meeting of CHEMP (relating to NCIG's Hunter Estuary Management Plan). The main item of interest for me was the plan to remove the mangroves from Fish Fry Flats (on Ash Island) and re-establish salt marsh habitat. This will restore Fish Fry Flats as shorebird habitat, which it used to be. I've watched the mangroves growing into a forest over the past 20 or so years, and will happily watch them disappear again!

11-13 December

Margaret and I flew to Perth in the morning and went straight down to Mandurah (~90km to the south) for a Stuart siblings get-together. Although the birding opportunities were limited, we were on the water (one of the Dawesville canals) and near the beach/coastal heath so I was able to get a bit in, particularly to try to take some photos. There were many Silvereyes about and several Brown Honeyeaters in the coastal heath as well as some other honeyeater species. I saw the WA form of the White-browed Scrubwren but failed in my attempts to take a photo of one (they were fairly secretive).

10 December

I went on a pelagic trip departing from Swansea. It was a 'quiet day at sea" for most of the time, with not many species seen and almost no pterodroma petrels at all; however, this was compensated for by having two Black Petrels come close to the boat. We also had small numbers each of Wilson's and White-faced Storm-petrels, and the occasional Arctic and Pomarine Jaeger flew by.

9 December

It was the HBOC December (Christmas) meeting where there is a bang-up supper preceded by some members giving short talks. I showed some slides of Danish birds taken during my trip there in April this year.

4 December

In the early evening there was a meeting about Bush Stone-curlews, held at the Wetlands Centre. Two visitors from the Riverina spoke about the captive breeding program they are part of, and also there were presentations about the birds at Brisbane Waters and those in the Hunter Region (the latter was by me). There are preliminary moves afoot to make the Wetlands Centre a release site for captive-bred birds.

1 December

It was the mid-week HBOC group's final outing for the year, held at the Hunter Wetlands Centre. We walked around the site for the morning, getting all the way to Ironbark Creek and the rainforest there (plus views across to Hexham Swamp). Then, we had lunch at the cafe, sitting on the deck looking out over the ponds in front. Early on we found 60+ Wandering Whistling-Ducks on the first pond and later, on one of the other ponds, a pair of Pink-eared Ducks and an Australasian Shoveler. Some Nankeen Night-Herons flew over, probably disturbed from their roost site. There is a large breeding colony of all 4 egret species (primarily Cattle Egrets) and Australian White Ibis - it was a very impressive sight.

November 2015

26 November

In the morning I was a guide at Stockton Sandspit for a group of Green Corps workers having a morning off normal duties. The conditions were unpleasant (40C, very strong winds) so it wasn't ideal for us, but we found many birds including 4,000+ Red-necked Avocets and lots of other shorebirds. Many of them were uncooperative, being in the salt marsh and keeping their heads down for a lot of the time - it was not easy to point out the smaller birds, that's for sure. Before they arrived, I had been seeing a Beach Stone-curlew (which until this season has been very rare in the Hunter Estuary) but then it sat down and was no longer visible.


It was a tattler study day today. I checked out the northern side of Port Stephens, finding a group of 24 birds at Pindimar but none elsewhere (however, there is disturbance happening near the Winda Woppa roost site due to dredging work). Then, Lois and I met at Lemon Tree Passage where a group of 7 birds was roosting. Unfortunately, when they left to start foraging, 6 of them disappeared up the creek. We made do with the one remaining bird (a juvenile) and watched its behaviour for a few hours plus made a few pecking rate measurements.


Early morning I did the loop walk at O'Sullivans Gap with the absolute highlight being a pair of Australian Logrunners seen up close. A leech came even closer, unfortunately! Over the 2 days (Tues-Wed) I surveyed all my usual sites plus went to Brimbin Nature Reserve which sadly is recovering from a recent fire and didn't have a lot of birds (BTW I saw a Black Bittern there several years ago). At Cattai Wetlands (highlights: Comb-crested Jacanas, Brush Cuckoos, a young Shining Bronze-cuckoo) I was talking with a Council worker who then took me on a tour of The Big Swamp, which is a new initiative by Greater Taree Council aimed at dealing with acid sulfate soil problems. It will become terrific habitat when it's rehabilitated (unfortunately, it won't have public access).

In general, it was 'the usual suspects" from my birding. I found a single Latham's Snipe at the Cattai Creek wetlands (these are not Cattai Wetlands). I don't record them often in the Manning Estuary. Also, I found a young Black-fronted Dotterel at the Coopernook Wetlands, so they possibly bred there (or else nearby).

16 November

I had a non-birding function to attend in the afternoon, then later I loaded up the car and headed north. I stayed the night at O'Sullivans Gap Rest Area, mainly because I was keen to find out what owl species were around. Answer - none! However, I heard a Noisy Pitta calling just on dusk and a pair of Green Catbirds was putting on a concert for the half hour or so before that.


In the morning I went to Green Wattle Creek near Woodville for HBOC's Sunday outing. We were rained on a few times but had some good birding amongst it all, starting with a group of Fuscous Honeyeaters near the carpark and including several groups of Speckled Warblers plus a Brush Cuckoo which seemed to follow us around. Also, a pair of Jacky Winters had a juvenile bird with them so they probably bred in the area.

14 November

Under very wet conditions, we did the Hunter Estuary waterbirds survey in the morning. On Ash Island, the highlight was to find about 70 Pacific Golden Plovers at Phoenix Flats along with some Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. All of the avocets and stilts had gone. I raced home, changed out of my wet clothes, then Margaret and I headed to Wollombi for a talk about Pied Butcherbirds by Hollis Taylor. This was very interesting - she is a musician and academic and she is studying their calls and songs from a musical perspective.


At HBOC's meeting in the evening, Lois Wooding as guest speaker presented about our Grey-tailed Tattler project. It seemed to go over quite well. My minor role for the night was to present a 300 Club badge to Jean Tucker.


Associated with the visiting Japanese delegation, I went to the Wetlands Centre in the morning and the group of us was taken by coach to Newcastle Harbour for a boat cruise down the Hunter River to Ash Island. We saw Osprey and White-bellied Sea-Eagle from the boat, also various waders and waterfowl (a highlight was a Striated Heron). There was a tree-planting ceremony at the Ash Island schoolhouse (with a Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo calling in the background) and then eventually it was back onto the coach and returned to the Wetlands Centre.


In the morning I attended a function at the Newcastle Town Hall, representing HBOC (some other members were there too). It was a reaffirmation of an agreement between Newcastle and Port Stephens councils and the city of Kushiro (north-eastern Hokkaido). The original agreement was signed 21 years before, and had lapsed from corporate memory especially on the Australian side. It's main driver was that Latham's Snipe migrate between the two locations. That evening, there was also a cocktail party at the Crowne Plaza hotel, hosted by the Japanese Mayor.

28 October - 4 November

On Wednesday morning (28 Oct) I flew to Mt Isa (via Brisbane) with 3 friends (Jim Smart, Lorna Mee, Margaret Clarke) for a week of birding. Our two main targets were Kalkadoon Grasswren and Carpentarian Grasswren. We found a party of 4 x Kalkadoons early on the Thursday morning (and I managed some reasonably good photos). The Carpentarians took longer - four days, actually - but eventually we had great views (and, I had a sensational view, of one bird standing on a log in the sun). In the meantime, whilst wandering through the spinifex, I saw Black-tailed Treecreepers, Crested Bellbirds, Grey-fronted Honeyeaters, Rufous-throated Honeyeaters ... and much, much more. We also visited the local sewage treatment works several times (Mt Isa has a very progressive policy wrt visitors) where the highlights included a couple of Wood Sandpipers, several Australian Pratincoles, 100+ Pink-eared Ducks, and lots more.The other main site we visited was Lake Moondarra, including a local birder, Rex Whitehead, took us to some out-of-the-way places at the far side of it. Birds seen at the Lake included Diamond Dove (also seen at lots of other spots), Glossy Ibis, Green Pygmy-Goose, Crimson Chat, Black-necked Stork. It was a pretty good week away and we recorded 130 species overall. I especially enjoyed re-connecting with Varied Lorikeets, a species I hadn't seen since mid-2000.

October 2015

28 October - 4 November

On Wednesday morning (28 Oct) I flew to Mt Isa (via Brisbane) with 3 friends (Jim Smart, Lorna Mee, Margaret Clarke) for a week of birding. Our two main targets were Kalkadoon Grasswren and Carpentarian Grasswren. We found a party of 4 x Kalkadoons early on the Thursday morning (and I managed some reasonably good photos). The Carpentarians took longer - four days, actually - but eventually we had great views (and, I had a sensational view, of one bird standing on a log in the sun). In the meantime, whilst wandering through the spinifex, I saw Black-tailed Treecreepers, Crested Bellbirds, Grey-fronted Honeyeaters, Rufous-throated Honeyeaters ... and much, much more. We also visited the local sewage treatment works several times (Mt Isa has a very progressive policy wrt visitors) where the highlights included a couple of Wood Sandpipers, several Australian Pratincoles, 100+ Pink-eared Ducks, and lots more.The other main site we visited was Lake Moondarra, including a local birder, Rex Whitehead, took us to some out-of-the-way places at the far side of it. Birds seen at the Lake included Diamond Dove (also seen at lots of other spots), Glossy Ibis, Green Pygmy-Goose, Crimson Chat, Black-necked Stork. It was a pretty good week away and we recorded 130 species overall. I especially enjoyed re-connecting with Varied Lorikeets, a species I hadn't seen since mid-2000.


I went up to the northern side of Myall Lakes NP, mainly to check out sites around Seal Rocks where HBOC might have its June 2016 camp. I stopped in at O'Sullivans Gap Rest Area first, where Black-faced and Spectacled Monarchs were both active and I heard, later saw, a pair of Green Catbirds. Next stop was Yagon, a beach campsite, where there were Shining and Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoos around the camp (the latter was in the dunes area). At Seal Rocks, the Forest Ravens were very vocal, as were the Figbirds, and I found a pair of Leaden Flycatchers building a nest. My final serious stop was at Neranie campsite, where I found Lewin's Honeyeaters with a nest with young.

18 October

I joined the HBOC outing to the Tomalpin Woodlands near Kurri Kurri (much of this area is also known as HEZ). We found 70 species overall (I would have missed at least 20 of those). My highlights included to see Pallid Cuckoo and Black-chinned Honeyeater, both of which I hadn't seen for a while. I found a Jacky Winter on a nest and later a Variegated Fairy-wren's nest. We (collectively) also found several other breeding species, including Dusky Woodswallow and Fuscous Honeyeater.

16 October

I spent the early morning at Saltwater National Park, always a delight. At the start there
was a pair of Pied Oystercatchers loafing on a sandbank and two Whistling Kites perched overlooking the creek. Some of the fig trees were in fruit, attended by many Figbirds and a pair of Green Catbirds with a dependent youngster. Then a Wompoo Fruit-Dove came in too, landing right in front of me. Elsewhere around the Park there were a couple each of Spectacled Monarchs and Shining Bronze-cuckoos plus all the usual birds that I find there. After that I did my shorebirds survey at Old Bar (Mudbishops Point) - that was tough especially paddling the kayak into a strong wind plus strong current. Coming back was a lot easier! The highlight was when some nesting Red-capped Plovers put on a broken wing act for me. Finally, I diverted into Mungo Brush (in Myall Lakes NP) on my way home, to check on the Rose-crowned Fruit-Doves recently reported there. They were calling from virtually when I first arrived, and at one point I was surrounded by at least five calling birds. It was very hard to see one though, and I had to be satisfied with a very brief view of one bird flying.

15 October

I went north, surveying at Harrington during the mid-morning high tide. That was quite good, with all the expected birds and a few unexpected ones as well.  There was a Double-banded Plover (with almost no breeding plumage), a Great Knot and a White-winged Black Tern. All of the other DB Plovers have been back in New Zealand for a while now. It was my first record of Great Knot for the Manning Estuary and only my second ever record of the Tern. During the afternoon I visited several other places, not finding anything out of the ordinary though. There was a pair of Comb-crested Jacanas at Cattai Wetlands but that's normal for there. What was less "normal" was the almost total absence of any other waterbirds there.

14 October

No birding today but I presented the Bird of the Evening at HBOC's meeting and also started distribution of the new (2014) bird reports. For my talk I chose Double-barred Finch, which was the topic for my first ever Bird of the Evening approximately 30 years ago. I think I did it better this time around! I included some data from the BirdLife Atlas showing that there has been a significant decline, most likely associated with the 2006 drought.

11 October

A pelagic trip was on today's schedule but it was cancelled due to the high winds and heavy swell forecast for the afternoon. It seemed a very nice day all day though, at least until around dusk when rains started. Anyhow, I took advantage of the sudden availability of three key people and we got together in the afternoon to review the distribution maps that Dan Williams and I have been working on.

10 October

In the morning it was the Hunter Estuary waterbirds survey, with me and Nev McNaughton surveying Ash Island. It's always great to find migratory shorebirds, which we did - some Pacific Golden Plovers on Phoenix Flats and Marsh Sandpipers, Greenshanks and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers at the main ponds. There were approx 800 Red-necked Avocets there too. Elsewhere during the survey we saw a pair of Buff-banded Rails and a pair of European Goldfinch.

9 October

I went to the Gloucester Tops with Rob Kyte, partly so as to retrieve the two recording devices I had left set up at some Rufous Scrub-bird territories. We also tracked down several birds and recorded their exact positions within their territories. I had a brief view of one of them but we didn't try very hard to see them. At one stage an Olive Whistler landed in front of us and put on quite a singing performance (unaware that we were nearby). We heard a Scarlet Robin and a Satin Flycatcher too.

3-5 October

The bird club had a camp at a property called "Witjweri", near Martindale. On my way there with Margaret I stopped at the nearby Medhurst Bridge site (and I went there a couple of more times over the weekend). A Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo was calling although I never managed to see it, but I saw a couple of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters and some Mistletoebirds, and a group of nine White-browed Woodswallows flew over just as I was about to leave. At the campsite and around the property more widely, I found lots of birds (the Club recorded 104 species) including Common Bronzewings and Peaceful Doves, Striped Honeyeaters (including a pair with a nest), Speckled Warblers, a White-winged Triller and much much more. I also visited a few other local spots particularly on the Sunday afternoon, and was able to find Horsfield's Bushlark, some White-backed Swallows and several Rufous Songlarks. There were also Black Kites at several places where I stopped on Sunday and Monday.

September 2015

28-29 September

I led HBOC's Rufous Scrub-bird surveys in the Gloucester Tops - there were eight other surveyors plus a couple of others camped with us. On my way there on Monday morning I detoured into Gloucester to brief the NPWS Ranger about what we were up to, etc. This year (and next) we are not surveying the entire area - instead we targeted 11 reliable and reasonably accessible scrub-bird territories as a cut-down program to give us an overview of the overall status without having to do all the hard work. On Monday afternoon we completed the bulk of the program, needing just a few hours on Tuesday morning to mop up. I also saw two pairs of Bassian Thrush at the Tops plus there were lots of Olive Whistlers and Crescent Honeyeaters, also Lyrebirds, Yellow-throated and Large-billed Scrub-wrens, and much more. Down around the campsite, a male Rose Robin posed for me and we heard Russet-tailed Thrush and Green Catbird.

On Tuesday afternoon, with a couple of helpers, we tracked several scrub-birds around within their territories, recording their positions. All three of us had good views (one person had very good ones) of Rufous Scrub-birds during this activity.

27 September

In the morning I went with Rob Kyte to visit his survey site in the Sugarloaf State Conservation Area. It had been very wet for several days before and unfortunately that had an impact as it was a rather quiet morning for us. We had good looks at some birds e.g. Grey Shrike-thrush, Wonga Pigeon, White-throated Treecreeper, but overall we had a lean morning.

21 September

I went back to the Gloucester Tops to retrieve the two Song Meters installed at a couple of Rufous Scrub-bird territories. I also trialled an idea I've had about mapping a scrub-bird's movements (by following it around with a GPS unit and taking readings). It seemed to work well enough and I managed about 45 minutes of data to prove it. Next week when a group of us go back to the Tops for HBOC's official scrub-bird surveys I will do some more of it plus try to enlist some others to help. In the meantime I've been fiddling with how to map the data. I saw the scrub-bird whilst following it around, but only briefly while it scurried across a small gap in the vegetation. Other good birds today were a pair of Flame Robins and a Bassian Thrush.

15 September

I joined the group which surveys all of Tomago Wetlands once per month (they're also surveyed in part during the monthly Saturday estuary surveys). We didn't find a lot of birds today but some interesting sightings nevertheless. A pair of Red-kneed Dotterels were with a juvenile bird and a pair of White-fronted Chats were carrying food repeatedly to a nest with young. We also had great views of a party of three Southern Emu-wrens. Later, by the Hunter River we had a pair of Azure Kingfishers several Mistletoebirds, and then a group of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins on our way out.

12 September

It was the scheduled Hunter Estuary waterbirds survey this morning and I covered Ash Island as usual. A highlight was approx 500 Red-necked Avocets on Swan Pond, also a pair of Black-fronted Dotterels had a nest with three eggs and we found two Pacific Golden Plovers roosting in salt marsh. There were hardly any ducks anywhere and very few migratory shorebirds overall. Towards the finish of the survey, a Brown Falcon landed not far in front of us, chasing some prey item in the grasses. It then flew right by us as it departed the scene.

11 September

I went up to the Gloucester Tops mainly to install remote recording devices (Song Meters) at two Rufous Scrub-bird territories. Both birds were calling (as were birds at several other territories) and I managed to see both of them - the first bird three times and the second bird twice. They were too quick for my camera though! I saw Flame Robins at several locations, and Rose Robins were calling everywhere (also Crescent Honeyeater and Olive Whistlers at a couple of spots). Also, a Bassian Thrush was calling almost constantly over near the Gloucester Falls walking track all the time I was in the area (which was nearly an hour and a half, all up).

8 September

In the morning I went to Galgabba Point (Swansea) to assist with a honeyeater survey. There was almost no blossom remaining and hence hardly any honeyeaters. However, amongst some other great birds we saw an Azure Kingfisher by the creek, both Regent and Satin Bowerbirds, several hundred Black Swans, and a Bassian Thrush foraging along one of the tracks. In the afternoon, at home, there was a thud which turned out to be a young Brown Cuckoo-Dove that had crashed into my kitchen window. It looked not to be in great shape (and Magpies had attacked it) so I called the Native Animal Trust Fund. Fingers crossed!

6 September

I attended the BIGnet meeting (a get-together for NSW/ACT bird clubs) today at the Old Pioneer Dairy wetlands site on the central coast. Did some birding before the meeting started, with a big surprise being to see an Australian Shelduck, which is quite a rare bird in our parts. It was a female, that apparently turned up a couple of days before. A largish flock of Hardheads flew in and I was interested to see a Welcome Swallow giving serious chase to a Black-fronted Dotterel. On my way home, I called in to the Wallsend Wetlands where there were about 15 Magpie Geese and 50+ Hardheads.

3 September

Rob Kyte and I went to a property between Clarencetown and Dungog in the morning. Rob has met the property owner a few times and been told it had great birds there. It turned out to be very remote and difficult to access, very overgrown, and not many birds at all! The highlights were to have a Topknot Pigeon fly by (very brief views) and to admire all the Grey Fantails. Eventually we gave up and went to Columbey National Park but it was late morning when we arrived and most birds had gone quiet. We saw several Eastern Yellow Robins and heard some Scarlet Honeyeaters.

2 September

I visited Awabakal Nature Reserve to see if the spring blossom was out on the heath and what honeyeaters were utilising it.  I found quite a few New Holland Honeyeaters but everything else was in short supply (and the blossom was not full on, as yet). Towards the end of my walk I upset a Shining Bronze-cuckoo when I played a call of its relative the Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo . It emerged rapidly from the shrubbery, calling profusely as it flew by, then landed in a nearby tree from where it continued to call for several minutes.

August 2015

31 August

In the morning we drove round to Mudbishops Point where I launched the kayak and paddled around the lagoon, eventually to the northern side of the river mouth. Getting over to there was important as that was where all the small shorebirds were roosting - including two Sanderlings, standing for easy comparison alongside the smaller Red-necked Stints. Quite a few Eastern Curlew have returned already, and the Double-banded Plovers are yet to leave. After the kayaking, I walked around the Spit although that was rather quiet (and with almost no additional shorebirds seen).

After lunch I birded at Saltwater NP and also walked the adjacent Nature Trail (not always accessible due to high water levels when the Creek's mouth is sanded over). There was a noisy pair of Forest Ravens and I flushed a Nankeen Night-Heron from trees at the edge of the swamp, but general the birding was quiet (except for the Brown Gerygones, which were busy and noisy everywhere).

30 August

The high tide was early morning and I surveyed at Harrington. A White-fronted Tern was fishing alongside the breakwater and another roosting on a sandbank. The birding was quiet (not many shorebirds are back yet) and my highlight was to watch a Black-shouldered Kite swooping at a roosting Whistling Kite. Mid morning Margaret and I went to Cattai Wetlands. Almost the first bird I saw was a Southern Emu-wren, so it was a good start! Many of the migrants were back - Rufous Whistler (several), White-breasted Woodswallow, White-throated Gerygone, Sacred Kingfisher. A pair of foraging Varied Sittellas came down quite close to me at one stage, and a Spangled Drongo posed beautifully for my camera. In the afternoon I checked out some more places, the highlight being at the Harrington rainforest where I heard a Spectacled Monarch calling in the forest and heard a Lewin's Rail grunting from the middle of some dense undergrowth. Everywhere that I went, Australian Figbirds were very vocal and very obvious - clearly they are preparing for the coming breeding season.

29 August

Starting today I spent 3 days up in the north of the Hunter Region (with Margaret, so not birding all the time). We stopped at O'Sullivans Gap near Bulahdelah on Friday morning, where I found a pair of Pale-yellow Robins. They seemed to be doing some courtship interactions.  Next stop was Black Head (north of Forster) where I walked through the rainforest then down to the beach. A Noisy Pitta was calling - I stalked it and eventually had stunning views of it. There were a few Brush Turkeys, and a pair of Sooty Oystercatchers on the rocks. Later in the day I found a group of four more Sooty Oystercatchers at the Crowdy Head rock platform but generally the birding was quiet in the afternoon at the various places I called in.

24 August

I joined Grahame Felletti for his weekly survey of Belmont Lagoon. A pair of newly returned White-breasted Woodswallows greeted us not long after we started, and at virtually the same spot I heard a Lewin's Rail calling. White-cheeked Honeyeaters were very prominent and other highlights included to briefly see a Pheasant Coucal and a perching Nankeen Kestrel.

19 August

No birding today (arrived back from Perth late the night before), but in the evening I met with the HBOC Records Appraisal Committee to review the draft 2014 Hunter Region Bird Report. The changes will be minimal and it will soon go off for layout and production. I proposed some changes in approach for the 2015 Report, which were endorsed (with some reservations).

17 August

Unfortunately it was raining in the morning which affected my birding somewhat, until it began to clear at around 10:00 am. I tried a few spots around the Dryandra Woodlands, finding Red-capped and Scarlet Robins at a couple of places and a Swan River Honeyeater at one spot. My most productive stop there was at the Old Mill Dam, just past the Lions Village. Here I had great views of some Rufous Treecreepers, also Tree Martins, Dusky Woodswallows and Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters, amongst many other good birds.

My next stop was at a rest area on the Albany Highway, ~10km north of the North Bannister roadhouse. It's where the Balmoral Walking Track starts. I've stopped there before and found Red-tailed Black-cockatoos and White-breasted Robins - same thing this time! I has extended looks at an Inland Thornbill and a flock of ~50 Carnaby's Black-cockatoos dropped in for a brief stop.

My final target was the Eric Singleton Wildlife Sanctuary in Bayswater near the airport. I was devastated to find that it has been destroyed for development!

16 August

I headed south from Perth stopping firstly at the Alfred Cove Nature Reserve. This was not as quiet a spot as on all my previous visits, as there was kids sport happening in the adjacent Troy Park. A pair of Ospreys were very prominent, also several Musk Ducks sleeping in the lagoon and lots of Black Swans. I chased down a Striated Pardalote and managed some acceptable pictures of it. My next stop was Thompsons Lake Nature Reserve. It was full of water but I couldn't see many birds (but, access is a bit restricted with all the reeds). In the woodland, I found several pairs of Splendid Fairy-wren, a family of Varied Sittellas (the Black-capped race pileata) and a Red-capped Parrot.

I was targeting to stop overnight in Narrogin so I headed south and to the Fox's Lair Nature Park on the outskirts of the town where I wandered for a couple of hours. The heath was very good for honeyeaters, with White-cheeked and Brown-headed Honeyeaters and I found a pair of nesting Brown Honeyeaters (with one nestling).  There were several Red-capped Parrots and a Common Bronzewing was calling.

14 August

I'm in WA on a quick trip for a family matter. This morning I went for a walk at Quinns Beach on the north side of Perth.  Amidst the heath I found two types of fairy-wren essentially side by side - White-breasted Fairy-wrens (which I wasn't expecting) and Red-winged Fairy-wrens. The latter must be on about the southern limit of their range. There was an artificial tower for Ospreys to use for nesting - not in use but there was one perching on rocks overlooking the coast and later, flying over us.

11 August

I joined Jack Adams and co to do a honeyeater survey at Galgabba Point (Swansea). The blossom is almost gone and so are the honeyeaters! Only small numbers remain and they are pretty much down to just the Galgabba regulars. As we were about to leave, we encountered a Bassian Thrush on the path near where our cars were parked, and we were fortunate to have prolonged views of it as it foraged in the shadows.

5 August

Seven of us did the Port Stephens survey today entirely by land after two attempts at boat-based surveys had to be cancelled in the preceding ~2 weeks. It was a very blustery day and I abandoned plans to paddle my kayak around some of the islands off Soldiers Point. We found less than 100 Pied Oystercatchers which I think reflects the limitations of surveying from land. However, we had a good count (for winter) of Eastern Curlews - 67 birds, most of them roosting at Gir-um-bit NP.

4 August

HBOC had it's August mid-week outing to Werakata NP,  near Kitchener. We explored the Kearsley Fire Trail for a few hours then later walked around Poppethead Park (in Kitchener). The highlight was to find 2 (maybe there were 3) Scarlet Robins foraging down low in a clearing along with 4 Jacky Winters; also we found various honeyeater species such as Yellow-tufted, White-naped, Brown-headed Honeyeater.

3 August

In the end, nothing happened today, although I put a fair bit of effort into preparing for it.  Today was scheduled to be the HBOC survey of Port Stephens waterbirds. At shortly after 8:00 am it was cancelled due to strong winds (second cancellation for this winter).

July 2015

31 July

In the morning I joined an excursion to inspect the buffer lands of the mothballed Kurri Kurri aluminium smelter. The area includes the historically important Wentworth Swamp plus some quite good woodlands (and also lots of cleared grazing land) - overall, it has been off limits to the public for the past 30 or so years. Potentially it is an asset that the community will love to have access to. Didn't see a lot of birds today, the highlights being some Grey-crowned Babblers, ~150 Grey Teal and 30+ Black-winged Stilts.

22-23 July

I had two days in the Manning Valley. On Wednesday I did my survey at Mudbishops Point - solely from land as the tide was only 1.35m, which is too shallow for kayaking. I found a family of three Beach Stone-curlews; other highlights were three White-fronted Terns, and a Little Tern (they're not often around in winter). Also, I found the Double-banded Plovers that I must have missed in June. The spit is disappearing (due to erosion) and there is no way that Little Terns can breed in the area that they used to.  In the afternoon I visited Saltwater NP, where I saw a pair of Pied Oystercatchers copulating and also there were five White-headed Pigeons feeding on berries in a single tree, and some Nankeen Night-herons in the swamp.

On Thursday I spent the entire morning at Cattai Wetlands. I did my survey, finding 4 x Comb-crested Jacanas and ~20 Hardheads, and a new bird for my Cattai list: Grey Goshawk. Mid-morning, there was a meeting of interested parties, organised by Greater Taree City Council, to sort out where best to instal a bird hide at Cattai. We investigated several sites and eventually came to a consensus. Expectations are that the hide will be built later this year, but first Council will need permission to remove a small number of trees. In the afternoon I surveyed the waterbirds at Harrington (not many are around) plus in the rainforest, then finally at Crowdy Head where a pair of Brahminy Kites was my highlight.

18 July

I did the Ash Island section of the Hunter Estuary survey in the morning. I did most of it by myself - it didn't start out that way but we had a major mishap whereby our vehicle ended up in one of the ponds. I walked back to my car and did the survey while Nev waited for the tow-truck to come! Bird-wise it was rather quiet with only a couple of hundred Red-necked Avocets present and handfuls of other birds. I found two pairs of Masked Lapwings with chicks, one of which was quite advanced. They've started breeding very early!

17 July

Today was supposed to be the Port Stephens waterbirds survey.  I had everything sorted out but an East Coast Low came through and the survey was cancelled. It was a cold wet windy day so it was the right decision but left me at a loose end. I headed to a couple of spots to try some birding but encountered heavy rain each time I tried. Eventually I went to Fort Drive Newcastle to look for seabirds coming in close to shore. I saw a few Australasian Gannets and a White-fronted Tern plus miscellaneous gulls, cormorants and terns but nothing else (much later in the afternoon others were seeing Fairy Prions).

16 July

It's not birdwatching but it's noteworthy - today I finished the draft of the the 2014 Hunter Region Bird Report and sent it out for review. It is 120 pages long and has details for 369 species recorded during the year. And it has been consuming large amounts of my time for the past couple of months and especially the past 3-4 weeks.

14 July

I went to Galgabba Point (near Swansea) to help Jack Adams and co with a honeyeater survey. There wasn't much blossom remaining (Swamp Mahogany had been in flower the previous few months) and so honeyeaters were few and far between. A group of 6 Scarlet Honeyeaters towards the end of the morning was a nice way to finish it, and we earlier had good views of a pair of Crested Shrike-Tits and saw a White-bellied Sea-Eagle at its nest.

11 July

A week or so before today, I was approached about helping to set up some bird surveys on a private property (~50ha, and mostly undeveloped) near Carrington on Port Stephens. It was a sunny Saturday (a beautiful winter's day) so Margaret and I made a day of it including a walk in the morning at Winda Woppa Reserve (where it was quiet for birds) and some general sight-seeing. After lunch we went to the property, to be greeted by a pair of Ospreys at their nest directly in front of the building we were meeting at. At one point there was a copulation at the nest. Later in the afternoon a group of us walked around the property. No sooner had I remarked that the place looked prospective for Glossy Black-Cockatoos when we found some chewed up casuarina cones and almost at the same time heard some birds calling. And the next minute, we tracked down a group of four birds. They weren't al that cooperative for good looks but everyone managed to see them (there were some non birders in the group, struggling to see anything else we'd come upon). Then, just on dusk as we finished the walk, we saw a pair of Bush Stone-curlews; initially they were roosting in a grassy paddock near the main buildings but took off when we got nearer to them. Apparently they roost there all the time - it's great that this knowledge is now more widely known!

9 July

A group of Central Coast birders organised a pelagic for today, departing from Swansea. Several of us local birder were invited to join them. It was a strange sort of day - we had many albatrosses all day, and some Fairy Prions, but not much else by way of seabirds (although a Brown Skua came close to the boat many times). The majority of the albatrosses were Black-browed, a complete contrast to the June pelagic when we had hardly any of them (and many Campbell Albatross instead). We had 4 other albatross species, the highlight being a couple of Buller's Albatross (rare locally, until about 3 years ago).

7 July

HBOC's outing today was to Walka Waterworks near Maitland. As usual for the mid-week group, it was very well attended - approx 25 people. On the ponds we had some Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes, but no Great Crested (usually they are a Walka specialty). There were 100+ Hardheads and a female Musk Duck. A surprise was a Fairy Martin - not many stay here in winter. It almost seemed to swoop at us a few times (I think it was chasing the insects that we had disturbed). I saw a male Blackbird, which caused quite a stir as many people had never seen on before in the Hunter Region. It wasn't cooperative, but about half the group eventually managed to have views of it.

June 2015

21 June

HBOC's outing today was New Members Day at the Wetlands Centre. I went along as did nearly 60 others. Our day started with a large group of Wandering Whistling-Ducks on the pond in front of the main building. Other good birds (72 species were recorded) included Pacific Baza, Grey Goshawk, Pink-eared Duck (350+ birds present), Spangled Drongo and Black Kite. Just as we were about to leave, I spotted a Black-necked Stork flying across a pond - many of the others then went off in search and eventually they found where a female bird had landed.

20 June

It was the Hunter Estuary waterbirds survey and I was once again with the Ash Island team. Early on we found 15 or so Red-kneed Dotterels and a small group of Red-capped Plovers. Later, around at the main ponds, there were 600+ Red-necked Avocets and large numbers of ducks - mainly Grey Teal but there were 70 Pink-eared Ducks as well.

14 June

I went on a pelagic trip from Port Stephens (Nelson Bay) to about 5km beyond the continental shelf.  It was a remarkable day: the conditions were quite mild (nobody became seasick or even got wet) but there were birds aplenty especially albatrosses. The majority of them were Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross but we had 6 albatross species all up, plus some Providence Petrels, 20+ Wilson's Storm-Petrel, Australasian Gannet and much more. Then, not long before we were due to start steaming back to port, an unusual Storm-Petrel showed up. Our initial thoughts were that it was a (very rare) New Zealand Storm-Petrel, however there is a strong possibility that it might have been an even rarer New Caledonia Storm-Petrel. It will take a while before the ID is nailed.

11-12 June

I did my Manning Valley surveys on Thursday and Friday this week. I started at Wingham Brush, a remnant rainforest about 15km from Taree (near the village of Wingham). There were 8-10 Aust. Brush-turkeys and lots of pigeons and doves, including an Emerald Dove which unfortunately flew off before I could get the camera onto it. Later I had close and lengthy views of a pair of Bassian Thrush as they foraged on the forest floor.  My next stop was Saltwater NP, which was quiet although again there were many Brush-turkeys. At one stage 6 of them were following me, presumably in the hope that I might shed some food. As I walked around I flushed some Topknot Pigeons and later, some Nankeen Night-herons, in both cases from high in the treetops. Pied (1) and Sooty Oystercatchers (3) were on the beach. Finally I did my waterbirds survey, initially in the kayak and then a walk around the Mudbishops Point spit. The highlight was to see a Sanderling, which perhaps will over-winter? We'll see if it's there next month.

On Friday I started at Cattai Wetlands. In the three months since I was last there, all the lily flowers have finished - which made it considerably easier to look for waterbirds. At least 5 Comb-crested Jacanas were present - I got that count twice, from two different spots about half an hour apart, on opposite sides of the lagoon.  After next surveying at a couple of smaller wetlands, I went to the Harrington rainforest where I was surprised to hear a Varied Triller calling. My experience with them at Harrington is that they have been silent (hence hard to find; I've only had a few visuals of them). This was the first time I'd heard one calling there.

9 June

In the morning I went to Galgabba Point, near Swansea, to help out with a survey there. Lots of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were in the area, noisy and active, and similarly the Rainbow Lorikeets. We also had good looks at Variegated Fairy-wrens and Scarlet Honeyeaters, amongst many other species (although nothing unexpected/uncommon).

6-8 June

Margaret and I went to HBOC's June long weekend camp at a property called "Wongalee" near Jerrys Plains. The conditions were almost perfect (for a winter camp): bright sunny days and cool evenings made pleasant from sitting around a roaring campfire. Overall, 95 species were recorded - I didn't see all of those (or even close), but I did have great views of Rockwarblers, Speckled Warblers, Varied Sittellas, Brown-headed Honeyeaters etc. There were lot of Double-barred Finches (on the Sunday I counted 95 of them feeding on the ground in an area of approx 5m x 5m). At night I could hear a pair of Powerful Owls calling from a gully across the creek.

2 June

On a clear, sunny but cool morning I joined 20+ HBOC members for an outing to the Rathmines/Myuna Bay area of Lake Macquarie. We started at Styles Point, which has limited habitat but nice views of the Lake and pleasant walking. Several pairs of Scaly-breasted Lorikeets were inspecting hollows and generally doing pair-bonding things. We bumped into 2 "traveling" HBOC members who had their yacht moored at Rathmines; while I was talking with them an Osprey flew by quite close giving me a great look at it. Later in the morning we went around to Myuna Bay where the highlight was to find a group of 5 Varied Sittellas, which foraged in front of us for some 5-10 minutes before disappearing from view. We had a female Golden Whistler come in close too. Around at the power station water outlet, 5 Little Egrets were hunting, along with many gulls and terns, and a single Striated Heron.

May 2015

30 May

I was cycling the Fernleigh Track in the morning. It was a fairly wet old day but there seemed to be plenty of birds about (it's a good birding destination actually especially towards the Belmont end).  Highlights included a White-headed Pigeon and quite a few Satin Bowerbirds (all birds seen were green birds).

28 May

I went to Walka Water Works near Maitland, the first time in months that I've been there.  Woodland birds were fairly quiet and/or in low numbers, but there were plenty of waterbirds including a raft of 57 Hoary-headed Grebes, also 5-10 each of the two other local grebe species. Lots of Hardheads too, probably 70-80 birds present all up.  On the far side, tucked up amongst some reeds, were 12 Freckled Ducks - these birds don't come to our area all that often (although in recent years there have been more sightings of them).

22 May

It was back to Sanbanze first thing in the morning - and the contrast with Thursday was amazing. As the tide dropped many shorebirds came in to forage; probably more than 2,000 birds overall. This included species such as Ruddy Turnstone, Great Knot and Red-necked Stint which were completely absent yesterday.  I saw some aggression between a Grey-tailed Tattler and a Ruddy Turnstone (instigated by the latter), and many other interesting observations. Later we went around to Yatsu-higata again but unfortunately arriving there a little too late. The water levels were already down quite a bit and the tattlers were not chasing blood worms today; they were foraging more like normal, at the water's edge and in ankle-deep water rather than belly-deep as per yesterday's behaviour.

21 May

I met my host Koichi san at 7:00am and we went to Sanbanze, a tidal flat on Tokyo Bay. This site was sensational when I visited it in May 2014. However, today it was a big fizzer: there were very few shorebirds roosting and as the tide dropped, none of them seemed to be interested in feeding on the exposed mudflats. Eventually we gave up and went to Yatsu-higata, a Ramsar site just 1-2 km away as a bird flies (it took us 45 minutes in a car!). Here we found up to 22 Grey-tailed Tattlers foraging and I had some very interesting observations of them as they collected large blood worms which appeared to be swimming. I also saw some aggression including one incident of a Grey-tailed Tattler taking food from a second bird.

20 May

My birding today was restricted to the 3:00-4:30 time period, once again watching night foraging by Grey-tailed Tattlers. After some more sleep, I then traveled to Tokyo, eventually reaching my hotel in Chiba in very late afternoon.

19 May

At 1:00 am we were back at Najima, for the next 90 minutes watching Grey-tailed Tattlers foraging. And then back there again just after noon, to look at their daytime behaviour over the next several hours. Late afternoon we went tot the Tatara River - a tattler site but also present there was a male Gadwall, which was a new bird for me, and a male Tufted Duck - not new as I saw many of them in Denmark, but it was a new bird for my Japanese list. Later on we saw a Japanese Wagtail but dipped on the Grey Wagtail that had been recorded at a mountain stream a few days before. (I've seen both these Wagtails in Japan previously). and finally, at a rice paddy, a pair of Grey-headed Lapwings, which I'd seen as a vagrant in Australia in 2006 but never before in its "right" place.

18 May

I arrived into Fukuoka on Japan's south island (Kyushu) around midday on Sunday 17th and spent a quiet afternoon before being picked up by my colleague Hattori san shortly before midnight. We spent the next 2 hours at Najima Bay, a Grey-tailed Tattler feeding and roosting site when the birds are on migration passage. Our aim was to confirm that the birds foraged at night - which we were duly able to do.  We also checked out a second site, on the Tata River, finding more feeding tattlers while we were there from 2:00-2:30am.

In the morning we returned to Najima at around 11:00 am where I spent more time observing tattlers. However, the weather turned unfavourable, with showers and sometimes heavier rain, such that it wasn't feasible to continue. Instead, we checked out some other birding locations, dodging the rain as best we could. I had some new birds, notably Rock Thrush and Oriental Greenfinch to start with. Then we went to a site overlooking the Japan Sea (everywhere else had been within Hakata Bay).  In winter several thousand Divers come there; they had mostly gone by mid May but we saw 3 x Pacific Divers one of which was not very far off shore and I was able to get a reasonable look at it. It's my first ever sighting of any of this particular guild of birds.

16 May

In the morning I did the Ash Island waterbirds survey, in company with 3 others. At the salt marsh area Phoenix Flats, we had 10-12 each of Red-kneed Dotterel and Black-fronted Dotterel, also 7 x Eastern Curlews. Around at the main ponds it was quieter than it had been on Thursday morning but we found a group of 4 x Pink-eared Ducks in amongst the several hundred teals. Then it was time to rush home and pack for my trip to Japan later that afternoon.

14 May

I took Rich Fuller out to Hexham Swamp in the morning. It is still recovering from the very heavy rains of mid/late April and we found almost no ducks there. Highlights included 5 Common Greenshanks (late departing, or perhaps over-wintering) and a solitary Red-kneed Dotterel. We had time to briefly check out Ash Island before his flight, with moderate numbers of Red-necked Avocets and Black-winged Stilts seen, and a look at the Osprey's nest part-built.

13 May

In the afternoon I collected Rich Fuller (UQ shorebirds expert, and the guest speaker at tonight's HBOC meeting) from Williamtown airport. We had time to stop at Stockton Sandspit / Fern Bay for 90 minutes or so, where it was high tide and plenty of shorebirds were roosting - including 1,000+ Red-necked Avocets and several hundred Bar-tailed Godwits. We also found a small flock of Grey-tailed Tattlers at their Fern Bay roost. With a bit of daylight remaining we also checked out the Newcastle Baths rock platform. It was very windy and not many gulls or terns in sight. We did find 14 Sooty Oystercatchers roosting. Rich's talk at the meeting later was very informative and we had 70 or so people rolled up for it.

5 May

I met with Lois Wooding at Lemon Tree Passage for more work on our project on Grey-tailed Tattlers. There was an initial problem, in that we couldn't find any of them! However, later on around at Tanilba Bay we found 4 juvenile (non breeding) birds. It seems that the adult birds have departed now. Viewing conditions were excellent and we were able to conduct several measurements of pecking rate. The results were nicely self-consistent and noticeably slower rate than we had at Pindimar last week. While we were at Lemon Tree Passage a late-departing White-breasted Woodswallow flew over us.

April 2015

28 April

Back in Australia, and finally recovered from the big storm and ensuing blackouts etc, which started while we were in transit, I met with Lois Wooding at Pindimar for our Grey-tailed Tattler project.  We spent several hours watching a group of birds feeding - they seemed frenetic all the time, and also very flighty. Often they were only at a spot for a few minutes before flying to a different spot - not far away, but far enough when we were trying to undertake a careful study of them!

20 April

On my last day in Denmark I only had a bit of spare time in the morning so I went to the shipping area at Northhavn where Black Redstarts had been reported. To my delight, I found a pair of them. I also came upon a migrating flock of Meadow Pipits which had temporarily landed in an area of waste grassland I happened to walk through.

19 April

Margaret and I rode out to a large forest, called Dyrehavn, on the northern side of Copenhagen. It was a marvellous spot! I looked for Black Woodpecker (it is supposedly a known site) but I dipped on those (in 4 hours of searching).  However, I found many nice birds including some new ones for me - Long-tailed Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Buzzard, Mistle Thrush. I was really pleased to get the Short-toed Treecreeper and to be able to sort it from a similar looking species (the "Treecreeper') that also occurs in places around Copenhagen.

17 April

I went out to the Vestamager Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Copenhagen, bordering on the boundary of the airport.  It is a large Reserve and fortunately I took my bike! I found the large wetland area on the far side of it, and had good birding there even though the wind was very strong; also it would have been great to have had a telescope). I had great views of some Pochard; also a couple of flocks of Barnacle Geese flew over (a local later told that there were 3,000+ of them within the Reserve). Later, I spent time in the forest, finding Fieldfares and Garden Warblers and various other interesting  birds. 

10-16 April

Rather than giving a day-by-day account, let the record show that Margaret and I rode all around Denmark's North Zealand over the week, clocking up nearly 500 km. En route, with rather limited opportunities for birding, I found about 60 species, approximately half of them being new for me. Amongst the new species, were Wood Warblers and Blue Tits, Fieldfare, Red-necked Grebe (on a nest + egg, also doing courtship displays), Red-breasted Merganser and Greater Black-backed Gull.  I did find it difficult cycling with my binoculars and camera/big lens in my backpack - the weight was considerable.

9 April

We rode SW from Helsingor, to Hillerod, with our initial stop on the southern side of Lake Gurre (Gurre So) which proved to be much quieter than the northern side yesterday (although I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker). At Fredensborg I saw my first ever Goldeneyes (and more later in the day) and had a pair of White Wagtails foraging close to us for quite a while. Then, closer to Hillerod but still on Esrum So (which is a very big lake) we found a nature reserve where there was a large colony of Cormorants; they were actively nest-building. It is the same species as occurs in Australia, but it looks very different (especially, that it has white flanks).  I had more views of a Wren, this time getting a few photos of it. Several pairs of Great Crested Grebes were doing courtship displays.

8 April

I rode along the coast to Hellebaek/Asgarde (seeing more Eider) then turned inland to eventually find a lake/nature reserve I had targeted. I spent a couple of hours here; not a lot of birds but I had great views of some Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a Robin, and also a Wren (which perched in front of me, calling - wonderful). A few waterbirds came and went, and a Jay dropped by briefly. From there I turned west towards Esrom, stopping first at a forest near Horserod (I had good views here of Chaffinch and Nuthatch, the latter a new bird for me) and then alongside Lake Gurre (had very good views of Robin here, and Great Crested Grebes on the lake).

7 April

We collected our rental pushbikes in the morning, then about 10:00 am we set off to ride from Copenhagen to Helsingor. This was ~47km, mainly alongside the coast and occasionally through forested areas. The forests were relatively quiet (except for the constant call of Great Tits) but the coast had lots of gulls and the occasional bonus - of which the best were a group of 3 Eiders (2 males and a female) and a solitary Oystercatcher. The former was a new species for me, and I was also very happy to see the Oystercatcher - previously I've seen the (rare) eastern sub-species of it in Japan but not this western sub-species before. Later, while walking around Helsingor, I saw some White Wagtails.

6 April

The day was spent sightseeing in Copenhagen and there weren't a great deal of any species around, but nevertheless I saw some new ones (Black-headed Gulls, Tufted Ducks) and also caught up again with some I hadn't seen in quite a while (such as Mute Swan). I was delighted to see the Tufted Ducks - I've wanted to ever since I used them in a crossword a couple of years ago!

4-5 April

Margaret and I travelled to Denmark initially to visit our daughter Robyn and her partner Nick in Copenhagen plus later we will do a cycling trip through North Zealand. We only arrived late afternoon so not much birding opportunity - but I did get a new bird almost as soon as we left the airport - I saw some Hooded Crows as we passed a paddock in the Metro. They weren't too hard to identify - as yet, the local gulls are proving harder (I suspect they are Herring Gulls but I haven't had much chance to look at them).

3 April

Margaret and I took our daughter Sally and her partner Tom out to the Congewai Valley where they were to start a bushwalk. It was drizzly, so not good for birding, but there were small numbers of various waterbirds at the little wetlands scattered along Congewai Road. On our way back I had a longer look at Ellalong Lagoon but it had almost no birds on it.

March 2015

30 March

A group of us went over to Broughton Island for the day. It was a wet, wild morning and the trip over took 2.5 hours on a lumpy sea and in a slow boat. When I've gone there in the past, it's taken approx 40 minutes! Some of the extra time was because we checked out the Gould's Petrel nest boxes on Boondelbah Island which involved a diversion off course. There were lots of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters at sea and we were accompanied often by one or more pods of Common Dolphins, with them coming right alongside the boat (also, I saw a Marlin leap out of the water at one stage). Anyhow, eventually we arrived on Broughton where the rain gradually eased and the afternoon was quite OK. The highlight with the birding was to see a Lewin's Rail (and some others saw a second bird). Also, after finding a single Eastern Reef Egret near Coal Shaft Bay, a group of three of them landed on the rocks at Esmeralda Cove as we were leaving. On Providence Beach we found some shorebirds including four Ruddy Turnstones and also some Australasian Gannets fishing just offshore.  On the trip back, after circumnavigating the Broughton Island Group which was very interesting, we had calm seas. I saw a Little Penguin swimming at sea and two more inside Port Stephens, where we also had a dark phase Arctic Jaeger (which confused me as I had never seen a dark phase bird before).

25 March

I was due to be at Salamander Bay in the evening to give a talk about the waterbirds of Port Stephens for a community study group. On my way there I called in at 3 sites listed in the Southern Port Stephens birding route brochure. At Boat Harbour I found some Sooty Oystercatchers and New Holland Honeyeaters; 10 x Nankeen Night-Herons at the Salamander Bay wetlands and then a large (14 strong) group of Pied Oystercatchers at Soldiers Point.

22-23 March

Not much birding was done over these 2 days, but Margaret and I did a train trip to Moree seeing quite a few Emus in the final hour or so (and lots of surface water; it had rained a lot). On the Sunday morning we went to the Moree thermal baths, from 6:00 am when it was dark still. What was fascinating to me was a wall on one side of the building which had several spotlights, around which many insects (moths etc) had become disoriented and landed. It was fast-food central for several bird species! Four Blue-faced Honeyeaters came in shortly before dawn, and picked off insects at will (for the next 45 minutes or so). They were later joined by some Noisy Friarbirds and Magpie-larks, and then well after dawn some European Starlings also came in for a feast.

21 March

With 2 others I surveyed Ash Island as part of the Hunter Estuary waterbirds survey. Once again we found Black-tailed Godwits on the main ponds along with many other shorebirds (predominantly Black-winged Stilts) and lots of teal spp too. Probably the highlight was to find some Marsh Sandpipers at the main ponds (a close second was when two Pacific Golden Plovers poked their heads up, at Phoenix Flats).

20 March

I joined the survey of the Worimi Conservation Lands (= Newcastle Bight). It was the first such survey I've done for several years. Since that time, some restrictions about access have been applied, and it was obvious that this has been beneficial to Pied Oystercatchers - we found 41 of them along the beach today. Also almost 50 Double-banded Plovers and 30+ Red-capped Plovers.

18-19 March

On Wednesday morning I was at Harrington breakwater just on dawn (the high tide was about 7:00 am). I had arranged to meet Brian Hughes of Local Land services and we did the waterbirds survey together. Some shorebirds apparently have already departed but we found a large group (70+) of Pacific Golden Plovers o one sandbank and a total of 19 Pied Oystercatchers. Afterwards we went around to Cattai Wetlands. Although the mosquitoes still are very bad there, we had much better birding than on my previous visit. Waterbirds were back in reasonable numbers including a Pink-eared Duck and an Australasian Shoveler sighted, and two Comb-crested Jacanas. When conditions had cooled off a bit towards late afternoon I visited some of my other sites in the area. Generally it was quiet but at the end of the track through the Harrington rainforest I heard a Lewin's Rail calling from the juncus/salt marsh and at almost the same moment a Varied Triller popped into view in a nearby casuarina. A nice way to end the day!

Thursday morning I went around to Old Bar/Mudbishops Point, and surveyed the waterbirds on foot (around the spit) and then by kayak (around the lagoon). Amongst other birds there, I found a large flock of Whimbrels (30 birds) on a sandbank and a single Sanderling in the northern dunes. Late morning I went to Saltwater NP where I found a couple of Nankeen Night-Herons and also there were two Little Terns present - a few of them sometimes lob in to Saltwater each year after the breeding season is over. Heading homewards, I detoured to O'Sullivans Gap Rest Area on the Wootton Way; here I had wonderful views of a Pale-Yellow Robin (there were 2 birds present) and also saw Spectacled Monarch and Topknot Pigeon.

17 March

Coming up in early May are the Tocal Field Days, at which HBOC will have a display stand. In the morning I met with others to advance our preparations for it. In the afternoon I headed north to Forster/Tuncurry, to find out how may Pied Oystercatchers were present (20 birds). After that I pressed on to Harrington where I stayed a couple of nights. On dusk, I briefly checked out the Cattle Egret colony at Cundletown (breeding essentially is finished) and also did a survey at the Coopernook Wetlands (where I found a late-departing Latham's Snipe).

16 March

I joined Lois Wooding at at Lemon Tree Passage for the late morning and a large chunk of the afternoon to study Grey-tailed Tattlers foraging there at low tide. Things didn't work out entirely well since most of the time there was only a single bird and it would sometimes disappear up Tilligerry Creek. However we did see one interesting act of aggression from that bird when 4 other tattlers came into the same foraging area. we saw it catch and eat many, many crabs (primarily Sentinel Crabs). Lois and I were discussing how we never saw tattlers eating worms (polychaetes) but when I looked through my photos later I discovered I had managed to capture an image of a tattler with a blood-worm. I was very pleased about that!

13 March

On my way out to a meeting at Wallsend I called in at the swamp near the new Bunnings store at Maryland/Wallsend. In the past that spot has been buzzing with interesting birds but it was quiet this time. However I did find Pacific Black Ducks and Australasian Grebes both with some youngsters in tow.

12 March

There were a number of reports of a South Island Pied Oystercatcher around Sydney Harbour in the preceding week or so, and eventually it was reported for several days in a row at Chowder Head, near Mosman. Although I saw this species often when in NZ a few years ago, I eventually decided to try getting it onto my Australian list. I drove down, spent approx 3 hours exploring Chowder Head and nearby, and then drove home with a dip!

3 March

I opted not to join the scheduled HBOC mid-week outing to Hexham Swamp as I expected it would be very crowded (it was) and I'd been there not long before. Instead I went to Awabakal Nature Reserve to look for honeyeaters. There were big numbers of New Holland Honeyeaters and lesser numbers of a range of other honeyeater types. I was keen to see Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters, and eventually succeeded although all the birds I saw (3-4 of them) were juveniles. 

2 March

I took a group of the photographers to Tanilba Bay in the morning, meeting them at Stockton Sandspit (where there were many shorebirds roosting) then driving up in a convoy.  I had arranged to meet some locals at the Tilligerry Habitat, and our group had a pleasant walk around the site seeing and photographing many species. Someone spotted a pair of resting Tawny Frogmouths and we had poses from Variegated Fairy-wrens in a range of plumages. I had plans for taking them elsewhere afterwards but it became showery so they all pulled out. I went on to Lemon Tree Passage (quite close by) to see what the Grey-tailed Tattlers were doing; however it was high tide and they were at their roost.

1 March

Early morning I took a group of photographers to Ash Island where we had reasonable success, getting photographable opportunities with species such as Mangrove Gerygone and White-fronted Chat. The Black-tailed Godwits were still around, and the Red-necked Avocet numbers had swelled to several hundred birds. There were a lot more ducks than in previous days, and that included a few Australasian Shovelers. From mid-morning, I was back at the Photography Conference for the bulk of the day.

February 2015

28 February

I was at the Photography Conference (BirdLIfe Australia's special interest group) all day, learning a few things about how to take a decent photograph of a bird. Easier said than done!

27 February

Not much birding today but between two events at the Wetlands Centre in Shortland (a meeting with the CEO then later the launch of the photography conference), I popped out to Ash Island again to see if the Black-tailed Godwits were still there. They were,  which makes 3 days in a row for them to be present (in about the same numbers each time).

26 February

Today I took a group of 8 visiting bird photographers to Hexham Swamp and Ash Island. They are in town for the BirdLife Australia photographic conference on the weekend. We tried to get close to some of the waterbirds/shorebirds but it was difficult. However, we had better luck with some other species, especially Golden-headed Cisticolas and Tawny Grassbirds, and the group seemed pretty happy with the day.

25 February

Lois Wooding and I spent the morning at Lemon Tree Passage watching the behaviour of some Grey-tailed Tattlers there. We saw some acts of intra-species aggression, apparently focused on one particular bird from the group. Every prey item that we could identify was a crab - and they caught lots of them!  On my way home in the afternoon, I stopped in at Ash Island as I was due to escort a group of photographers there next day. The rainforest area was almost deserted but there were good numbers of shorebirds at the main ponds albeit in limited diversity. The highlight was all the Black-tailed Godwits - I counted 43 of them which appears to be the bulk of the population that currently is in the Hunter Estuary.

23-24 February

I did the surveys of my sites in the Manning Valley, starting off on Monday at Saltwater NP(rainforest birds - it was quiet) then Mudbishops Point (shorebirds & waterbirds - it was about normal although the water levels were lower than I prefer and I had to drag my kayak over several sandbanks).  Later I checked out the Fairy Martin and Cattle Egret colonies at Cundletown. The former is now down to just one active nest. The latter had at least a couple of hundred chicks and I also found nests with young for Australian Darter and Little Black Cormorant. My final stop was at Coopernook Corner where I could hear a Spotless Crake just near the carpark (later I heard a second bird). I was able to be within just a couple of metres of where the first bird was calling but I was completely unable to see it!

Next day I surveyed at Crowdy Head (where lots of Crested Terns were feeding in a frenzy inside the marina) and then Harrington rainforest (heard a Spectacled Monarch) and then went to Cattai Wetlands. It was quiet here too, although I added a species to my list for there (2 Chestnut-breasted Mannikins) and I managed to find one Comb-crested Jacana. The mosquitoes were awesome and I had a big black cloud of them following me around the entire time - I was quite pleased to leave. Most of the rest of my day was spent doing the shorebirds survey at Harrington. It was tricky because there was a second sandbank exposed, due to the lowness of the high tide. This sandbank is not accessible on foot and hence is where many of the shorebirds preferred to be! Eventually I got a count I was happy with - with one of my difficulties being that a group of Pacific Golden Plovers apparently relocated during my survey and I had to do some re-work to make sure I wasn't double-counting any.. 

21 February

It was the monthly Hunter Estuary waterbirds survey. Normally I go to Ash Island but we were short of people this month so I helped out at Tomago Wetlands instead. It was a very interesting morning - we found about 3,000 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers! They are always a very hard species to count as they disperse through the salt marsh / reeds, and often are out of sight or obscured. A couple of times, passing White-bellied Sea-Eagles put up the flock though and I could see a swirling mass of birds and estimate how many were in the flock. While all the birds were on the ground, I found a Pectoral Sandpiper amongst them, and later we saw a male Black-necked Stork and about 20 White-fronted Chats. As we were leaving, a mob of kangaroos was moving off in a big hurry - it turned out they were being chased by a very large wild dog (which turned away and bolted at great speed when it saw us).

In the afternoon I went to the Maitland Show, primarily to look at the nature photography entered into an International Salon. Some of them were very good.

20 February

Today was the summer survey of Port Stephens waterbirds. Organising this year's survey seemed unusually fraught and for a while the weather forecast wasn't too promising ether. So, I was very pleased that on the day, everything went fine!  I surveyed Alpha sector, where the highlights included to find Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers at Winda Woppa Point and a large mixed flock of Whimbrels and Bar-tailed Godwits on Corrie Island. 

8 February

With 13 others I did a pelagic trip to the continental shelf off Port Stephens. It was a very slow day in every sense - hardly any bird diversity although it is always great to watch up close Wedge-tailed Shearwaters flying; they are masters of highly manoeuvring flight. We had them with us all the way to the shelf, all the time there, and all the way back again. Also we had several (maybe six) Great-winged Petrels around the boat at times and there were good views of them and also of Pomarine Jaegers. There were lots and lots of flying fish bursting out of the water - not something that I see very often. Unfortunately the trip to the shelf took 4 hours and then four and a half hours to get back (it's normally approx 3 hours each way).

3 February

Along with 33 others, I went to the HBOC outing which was at Stockton Sandspit. It was amazing the number of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers - approx 2,000 birds by the time I left (they kept flying in, all morning). There were plenty of other shorebirds in the lagoon area too, notably 50-100 Curlew Sandpipers and 300 or so Red-necked Avocets. Around at the Fern Bay side about 40 Grey-tailed Tattlers flushed from the rocks, before most people had a chance to look at them. However, I was able to find them roosting in a mangrove across the bay, and later to find a small group of Terek Sandpipers on some oyster beds (later they flew to the "tattler tree").

2 February

Early morning i did the second part of my Manning Estuary survey, the Old Bar (Mudbishops Point) side of it. I walked around the Point initially, finding relatively few birds, and then kayaked out into the lagoon. There were more birds here but also I could see lots more on the beach/dunes on the Farquahar Park side of the inlet. I don't usually paddle that far (and it is a choppy and probably somewhat dangerous crossing to get there) but today I did. I hit the jackpot really, finding a group of Sanderlings, many Pacific Golden Plovers and - a couple of Double-banded Plovers, the first returns of this winter-visiting species (they breed in NZ).

Later I was at Saltwater NP, another regular haunt of mine. I found a family group of Sooty Oystercatchers (a pair with a juvenile) and another highlight was that there was a solitary Aust. Brush-turkey hanging around.

1 February

For World Wetlands Day I led a bird walk at Cattai Wetlands, at the request of the local council. About 60 people showed up for the Breakfast with the Birds event scheduled beforehand and I became quite concerned as to how I was going to handle such a large group. Fortunately, Council staff hurriedly organised a second walk, with a general interest focus, and in the end I only had 10-12 starters for my group. That was a lot more manageable. We found the two 2 Comb-crested Jacanas again and some of the group were able to get a brief view of a male Red-backed Fairy-wren. As for Saturday, there weren't lots of birds about but as most of the group were rank beginners they were quite happy seeing birds like Grey Fantails and Superb Fairy-wrens and learning something about them. A woman who lived not far away was absolutely delighted when I identified the strangely-calling bird she keeps hearing (it was a Pheasant Coucal).

January 2015

31 January

High tide was very early and I was at the Harrington breakwater just after dawn to survey for shorebirds. I was surprised to find 39 Pied Oystercatchers on the main sandbank - usually there are only 5-10 of them and sometimes even less. There were good (but normal) numbers of other shorebirds too, such as Pacific Golden PloversEastern Curlews and Bar-tailed Godwits. After that I checked out two ephemeral wetlands that I often visit - both had a lot more water than the last time I visited, and more birds as a consequence. The "Coopernook Corner" wetlands had about 45 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and 18 Black-fronted Dotterels - good numbers for both species for outside of the Hunter Estuary.

I also went to Cattai Wetlands, to do my regular survey plus a reconnoitre for Sunday when I am to lead a bird walk at the request of Greater Taree City Council. To my dismay there were very few birds present! I did find 2 Comb-crested Jacanas but almost no other waterbirds on the lagoon. The bush birds were quiet too, although I heard a couple of Brush Cuckoos and a very large flock (60-80 birds) of White-throated Needletails came through at one stage.

30 January

I spent the day at the Wetlands Centre but mostly not birding - they had a strategic planning day which I helped with. Late afternoon, I collected Margaret and we drove to Harrington to spend a few days. It was nearing dusk when we arrived and limited time left for birds. However, I was very interested to hear a Spectacled Monarch calling from the trees around our group of cabins.  it is my first record of one away from the Harrington rainforest area. There were lots of Figbirds and Little Wattlebirds around too - that's fairly common though.

29 January

Lois wooding and I spent much of the day at sites around Port Stephens trying to study the behaviour of Grey-tailed Tattlers at low tide. Our initial problem though was finding any - they are hard to spot amongst the mangrove pneumatophores and much of their foraging areas are not easily accessible. The wind was quite strong too which probably was driving them to more sheltered area. Eventually we found 3 separate groups of 8, 7 and 5 birds, with the latter (at Upper Pindimar) being the more easily accessed of the 3 groups. We measured some foraging (pecking) rates - not a huge amount of data was obtained for the day though!  I saw/heard Blue-faced Honeyeaters at every place where we stopped.

27 January

With Graeme O'Connor, I went to the Gloucester Tops mainly to retrieve the Song Meters I installed a week before. It was a very wet day, not at all conducive to birdwatching. However, we saw several Flame Robins in the high country including some immature birds, also a Bassian Thrush and a Brown Cuckoo-Dove during the climb. At the Sharpes Creek camping ground we had Aust. Brush-turkeys and Lyrebirds, also some very confiding Superb Fairy-wrens (one male ventured into my car to collect scraps - twice!). Stopping elsewhere on our way back to Newcastle, we found two Nankeen Night-Herons at Seaham Swamp Nature Reserve and 20+ Latham's Snipe at Hexham Swamp (in the Lenaghans Flat area).

24-26 January

Margaret and I joined 25 other HBOC members for the long weekend campout at Smiths Lake. We stayed at the UNSW Field Station, with about 1/3 of the attendees staying in the bunkhouses and the rest of us camping. A highlight for me was to have Azure Kingfishers (which is my favourite bird) regularly in the creek alongside the property and I finally have managed to get a decent photograph of one. Southern Emu-wrens and Rufous Fantails were also great to see. An immature of the latter was found caught in a spider's web - I plunged into the thick bush where it was floundering, and made the rescue. The story had a definite happy ending as it was seen with a parent bird the following day.

On our way back to Newcastle we stopped at the Old Mining Track in Myall Lakes NP (it was very quiet) and then at O'Sullivans Gap Rest Area on the Wootton Way. At the latter there were lots of Rufous Fantails; also I heard Spectacled Monarchs and Green Catbirds

21 January

A small group of us went out to Hexham Swamp for the morning, partly prompted by a discussion between Graeme O'Connor and I yesterday about generating a map of it. The tide was quite high which limits the numbers of birds there; however we still found plenty of shorebirds including >1,000 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers were on the wing at times, and 35-40 Marsh Sandpipers were found roosting amidst many Sharp-taileds along with some stints and other sandpiper species. A pair of Black-necked Storks was perched on top of a distant tree where last year they had a nest (but no confirmed breeding). I've been doing well with Stork sightings this week!

19 January

Armed with the two new Song Meters (TM) and their protective cages, I headed to the Gloucester Tops. It was an exceedingly wet day in Newcastle but relatively dry up in the Tops. However, from around noon very heavy fog (or low cloud) rolled in and visibility became quite poor. At first my plans of placing them at two reliable Rufous Scrub-bird sites seemed thwarted, because Kerripit Rd was closed (a tractor was working along it). I installed one unit at a site along Gloucester Tops Rd, as per my plan. That particular bird was quiet when I first arrived but later began calling vigorously. When I went deep into the forest to install the recorder, I had a brief view of the bird as it scurried between two clumps of vegetation amid the dense understorey. Also, I heard a Crescent Honeyeater calling in the general area, but it never came close enough for me to see it.

I listened for scrub-birds at several other territories but only heard one other bird. eventually, as a plan B (because of the road closure), I decided to install the second Song Meter at a site where the scrub-bird was a less reliable caller. I chose the site and installed the recorder, then began to drive back down - only to notice that as I passed the junction that Kerripit Rd had now been re-opened! So, I raced back, retrieved the Song Meter and put it at the site which I had originally intended. Back to Plan A!  I will leave both units in place until some time next week then retrieve them and start analysing the data.

17 January

Early morning I did the Ash Island survey. It was quiet around most of it, until I reached the main ponds where there were ~850 Red-necked Avocets and several hundred each of Black-winged Stilt