Thinking About Birds

December 2016

31 December

We left Victor Harbor, to drive to Renmark. First though, a detour to Hindmarsh Island (near Goolwa) and out to where there were views to be had of the Coorong complex (at Murray Mouth). There were lots of birds about, in limited diversity it must be said. Right in front of the viewing area were 300-400 Red-necked Stints feeding furiously along with 50 or so Red-capped Plovers. Several hundred each of Grey Teal and Great Cormorant added to the highlights, and there was a group of 20 or so Red-necked Avocets too. Many terns were around, including 60-80 Caspian Terns and also 4-5 Fairy Terns. I only saw the latter in flight at a distance and I must admit that I didn't feel completely positive about the ID. Later in the day we stopped (for lunch) at Sunnyside Reserve, near Murray Bridge, which was far busier than I expected it would be and that impacted the birding; the highlight was a fly-by by a Black Kite. After checking in at Renmark, I went to Paringa Paddock which unfortunately was under water and didn't yield many birds.

30 December

A rather indolent day, which I spent watching the cricket, was turned into a good day after a late afternoon walk along the beach at Victor Harbor, which turned up a Hooded Plover. It was all by itself and presumably therefore was a different bird to the pair with chicks that are a bit further around on Encounter Bay.

29 December

I went around to the Hooded Plover breeding site first; there still were three chicks (now more than a week old) but the pair had moved them a bit further along the beach from where they were hatched. I was very pleased to see some wonderful signs had been put up, warning the public to stay clear (and good explanations as to why). There was massive traffic along the beach, including many dogs off-leash. It is almost impossible to comprehend how the Plovers can successfully raise chicks under these conditions.After that, I went to the Mount Billy Conservation Park; it was quiet except for lots of New Holland Honeyeaters and a nice encounter with a pair of Brown Thornbills. Also, a small flock of European Goldfinch flew over not long after I arrived. I went then to the nearby Hindmarsh Falls - more or less dead although I did see some interesting beetles.

28 December

First thing, I went to the Kessell Road Ponds near Goolwa, which probably is a good spot in normal years but was fairly quiet this visit.  A pair of Black Swans had 6-7 chicks and I found several New Holland Honeyeaters and various bits and pieces, but nothing out of the ordinary. After that I went to the Tokuremoar Reserve which we had cycled through the other day. Here I found several new birds for my trip, including a Brush Bronzewing, four Common Greenshanks, a Hoary-headed Grebe with a chick and a pair of Black-fronted Dotterels.

27 December

The rain eased for a while in the late afternoon and I headed out to a couple of spots on the northern outskirts of Victor Harbor. Firstly to a Flora Reserve (Nangawooka) which was very pleasant to walk around although not tremendously birdy. I saw an adult and juvenile Brown-headed Honeyeater together but the rain became heavy just at that moment and I had to leave the scene to seek shelter. A bit further on  I found a very young House Sparrow, with its agitated parents chirruping away in the background. Afterwards I went to a small wetland nearby (Stan Farquhar Wetland) which had several breeding species including Common Starling, Australasian Grebe and Eurasian Coot. Also breeding there were Fairy Martins - which became a fascinating highlight when a Silver Gull landed in front of me with a Martin it had captured (I assumed it was a young bird). To my amazement, the Gull swallowed the entire bird, after first spending several minutes bashing it around to kill it and then tenderise it. I took lots of photos - I'm looking forward to processing them and seeing what I was able to capture of the event.

26 December

After a wet night and in a drizzly morning, we headed over to Granite Island and walked around it. About half way around, we suddenly found ourselves in a purple patch of Buff-banded Rails. There were five of them seen within a 100m interval plus I could hear calls presumably of additional birds. I later saw another of them, a long way further on. Some of them were quite habituated to by-passers, it seemed. In particular, one pair was on the track in front of us and they only moved about a metre off the track for us to go past. Also seen were Pacific Gull and Caspian Tern, amongst (not many) others.

25 December

A hot day (35C+). I went birding all morning, initially to the Victor Harbor sewage treatment works. Unfortunately, this has been upgraded since the website info I found was published, and there were no ponds to check out. However, it was good birding in any case. I got onto some Purple-crowned Lorikeets (heard many more in the distance) and a pair of the Fleurieu sub-species of the Crimson Rosella (it's part-way in plumage colour between the Adelaide sub-species and the nominate sub-species). Also some European Goldfinches and Red-browed Finches (which is also a local sub-species, I believe). Next I went to the Newland Head Conservation Park, where I found a pair of Hooded Plovers on the beach plus many Silver Gulls (which were giving the Plovers a really hard time) and Crested Terns, and a flock of 100-150 Common Starlings moving around in the heath. I also stopped at the camping area, where there was a pair of very wary Grey Currawongs and some Brown-headed Honeyeaters, and I had good looks at another pair of Fleurieu sub-species Crimson Rosellas.

Late afternoon, Margaret and I went around to the Goolwa Barrage and thence into the Coorong NP (as far as we could get by car). This was a bit disappointing bird-wise, but just downstream of the barrage some 30 or so Great Cormorants were fishing productively, and many more were roosting around the area as were 5-6 Black-faced Cormorants (I would have liked to get closer to these).

24 December

The morning was spent settling in, including to collect our rental bikes, which later we rode out to Rosetta Bluff. I saw a pair of Sooty Oystercatchers on the way out, somehow overlooking the Hooded Plover nesting area but we found this on the way back. I was delighted to find that the pair had 3 small chicks with them. At one stage, an adult did a broken-wing display in front of a Silver Gull that was getting too close. Later, I went back with my camera to take some shots.

23 December

We only had to drive a bit over 400km today (Mildura to Victor Harbor), so first thing in the morning we went to the Inland Botanical Gardens (which are back in NSW, but only just) and spent a couple of hours there.  I found some Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, yet more (Yellow) Crimson Rosellas, Australasian Grebes with dependent young, Zebra Finches, and a White-plumed Honeyeater on a nest. Also, a Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo was calling but I was unable to track it down. After that, the day deteriorated - in that it became very hot (40-41C) and our route to Victor Harbor took us through barren farmland where the only interesting feature bird-wise was the very large flocks of Common Starlings, of which we saw many examples. That evening, a notable feature was the several hundred Little Corellas coming in to roost in trees around the caravan park (which happened every subsequent evening).

22 December

We travelled from Wagga to Mildura today, with our first stop being a new constructed wetlands at Narrandera (for dealing with stormwater run-off). Here I found more of the Yellow sub-species of Crimson Rosella, also Sacred Kingfishers, Little Friarbirds and Noisy Friarbirds. It became a very hot day, so our later stops were brief; the highlight was at the Prungle Mail Rest Stop where there were six Mulga Parrots resting in trees there. After settling in at Mildura, I went to Etiwanda Wetlands - another constructed wetlands for stormwater). These were quite good, although not high in bird numbers on this visit. I saw a Little Grassbird, also several Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters and some Common Bronzewings. There were patches of Bluebush in adjoining paddocks, but the only Fairy-wrens I was able to find were Superb and Variegated.

21 December

We drove from Newcastle to Wagga Wagga today, with the day becoming increasingly hotter as we headed west. Apart from a lunch stop at Gunning (where I saw House Sparrows carrying food into a dense shrub, probably they had a nest there), our other stops were brief ones. After settling in at our Wagga motel, I headed off initially to the Botanic Gardens (Yellow form of Crimson Rosella was the highlight) then to Winans Hill Reserve (dead) and finally to the Murrumbidgee River where I did a walk alongside it. I found a group of Brown Treecreepers (probably a pair plus a juvenile but I couldn't confirm that). Also I saw a very greenish Sacred Kingfisher - it was quite a contrast to the very blue one I saw just a few days earlier.

20 December

I did my radio slot in the morning (Port Stephens FM) and then went on to Nelson Bay to look for the Red-whiskered Bulbuls that recently were reported there. No luck! (but I did see a Koala).

12-14 December

Margaret and I went to the Gloucester Tops for three days. This time the road up was open, unlike two weeks earlier. We stayed at Roseleigh Cottage, a few km before the National Park. I saw many of the high altitude specialists (e.g. Red-browed Treecreeper, Olive Whistler - both of which I got photos of, and Flame Robin). Remarkably there were almost no honeyeaters. My main mission was the Rufous Scrub-bird, but I was disappointed to find that the recent fire had burnt out a newly established territory. I was also disappointed to discover that I had lost the keys for the padlock from one of the Song Meters I was up there to retrieve. I met the local ranger though, and he promised to go back within a few days with some bolt cutters and rescue it for me. I visited 4 scrub-bird territories several times, obtaining data for a study I'm doing. During that process, I had reasonable views of one of the birds.

Raced home in the afternoon in order to get ready for the HBOC December meeting, which I was chairing. It was a fun meeting, with about 100 or so people attending and a pretty good supper afterwards.

11 December

I had no plans to go birding but then I received a phone call - Rob Kyte had just found a Noisy Pitta nest in Blackbutt Reserve. I was there within 15 minutes and we spent considerably over an hour watching the events from a vantage point 15-20m away (across a small gully i.e. at almost nest height). The parents were bringing food (worms mostly) and we saw one take off from the nest with a foecal sac. Very interestingly, we also saw an immature bird come almost to the nest and hang around the area for a considerable time. It was not chased away, hence we suspect it might have been a youngster from an earlier clutch they'd had. Rob is keen about this opportunity to study the breeding biology of the Noisy Pitta.

10 December

It was another Hunter estuary survey, with a very early start (6:00am). I did Ash Island, which was very quiet - we had four Eastern Curlews on Milhams Pond which was the only highlight really. Hardly any waterbirds are in the estuary currently.

9 December

In the morning I went to Green Wattle Creek (near Woodville). It was very windy and in the end I cut my visit short as the birds were few and far between. The highlight was a Crested Shrike-tit but I only heard it. On my way back I stopped at Seaham Swamp (highlight - close views of a Royal Spoonbill) and Irrawang Swamp (highlights - Fairy Martins feeding over the water, nice views of an Australasian Darter).

6 December

The HBOC mid-weekers group outing was to the Tenambit/Morpeth area. We started at Earthcare Park, which is an area that is improving as the habitat rehabilitation program proceeds. We found a pair of Long-billed Corellas (along with many of their close relatives) but there also were several honeyeater types in small numbers, including Brown-headed and Fuscous Honeyeaters.  At one point a very large flock of White-throated Needletails (perhaps of 400 birds) drifted over us - they were quite high up and in glary conditions due to the cloud cover so we couldn't easily check them out for more exotic co-travellers. We then went around to Ray Lawler Reserve in Morpeth here the highlight was to find an Olive-backed Oriole nest with one chick still in it and a second chick on a branch not far away. It was very punk-like and many photos were taken. We finished with an end-of-year lunch at the Regal Hotel in Tenambit.

2 December

We checked out from the cabin and then went to Woko National Park where I wandered about for a couple of hours. There were many Brown Cuckoo-doves but these were almost the only pigeon-types about. Also, there weren't many true rainforest birds either (the forest was very dry actually). Some Brush Cuckoos were calling (and also Fan-tailed Cuckoos) and I also heard a Cicadabird. In terms of birds seen, it's hard to think of any real highlights. The day had become very hot by mid-morning and we more or less headed for home, with a brief lunch stop at Stroud (where birds also were few and far between).

1 December

We went out to Copeland SCA in the morning; it was drizzly and a thunderstorm was rampaging around so I waited for a while before setting out for my walk. I got onto a pair of Australian Logrunners early on; had only poor views of them but later on I had very close and prolonged look at another pair. I heard Russet-tailed Thrushes calling a few times and managed to have brief views of two separate birds. Other good birds included (not all were seen): Paradise Riflebird, Noisy Pitta, Pale-yellow Robin, and Spectacled Monarch. In the afternoon I went to some spots recommended in a birdwatching brochure from the Tourist Information Centre - mostly these were pretty ordinary but I found a group of 11 Grey-crowned Babblers not far from where they were supposed to be, and spent some time admiring them.

November 2016

30 November

I had plans for 3 days of Rufous Scrub-bird studies in the Gloucester Tops and had enlisted Margaret's help (she took a few days off work). However, we discovered that the road into the Tops was closed due to bridge repair work, and would be closed for about another week. So, a different plan was required! We went into Gloucester and took a cabin in the local caravan park, and in the afternoon I did some local birding; firstly in the park/river area nearby and then I went out to Barrington Reserve and Copeland Common. Nowhere was it great but always it was OK. A highlight was to have a family of three Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos down low in front of me at Copeland, also lots of Little Ravens at Barrington.

27 November

I went on a pelagic trip out from Port Stephens. Bird-wise it was rather good - a storm-front hit us not long after we arrived at the shelf, bringing strong winds and rain nut also many seabirds including lots and lots of Grey-faced Petrels, several Gould's Petrels and 1 or probably 2 Cook's Petrels (which are still treated as a rarity in Australia). We also had several Wilson's Storm-Petrels and a couple of White-faced Storm-Petrels. It was a good trip for marine critters too, with a pair of Sei Whales (new for me) sighed along with dolphins and some sort of Eagle-Ray. I didn't have a good spot on the boat though - i was on the wrong side of it for all the action, had nothing to hang onto when trying to look at the rare birds, and was exposed to the sun initially (and it was a hot day until the storm-front came) and then exposed to all the wind and rain.  I arrived home with quite mixed feelings about the day.

23 November

Rob Kyte and I went over to Broughton Island for the day, to meet the ranger and discuss with her about starting a bird banding project on the island. She (Susanne) was receptive to the idea and offered help with resources. This relates to the study we're doing of terrestrial birds on Broughton Island. As we wandered around the potential trapping sites, we found Little Wattlebirds and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, two of the key birds for potential banding. I heard a Buff-banded Rail and it turned out that the day before, Suse had seen and photographed one with 3 chicks in tow. A new breeding record for the island! Back at Nelson Bay, we searched briefly for the Red-whiskered Bulbul recently reported there, but it was very windy and we didn't succeed in finding it.

22 November

I did my radio slot on Port Stephens FM (it seemed to go OK) and then went around to Salamander Wetland for a while. However, there weren't many birds and it had become quite hot, so I cut my losses and went home.

21 November

I spent the afternoon visiting Grey-tailed Tattler roost sites on the northern & western sides of Port Stephens, while my co-researcher Lois Wooding did the other two sides. We haven't been able to find many tattlers through opportunistic searches so we decided to do a systematic one. The result: only 11 birds found! Previous summer counts have been of the order of 100 of them. Something has gone wrong, I wonder what?

20 November

I went on the HBOC outing, which was to the Broke area. A male Mistletoebird came down low into a shrub near where we were assembling, so we had good looks at that. A bit later I found a pair of Brown-headed Honeyeaters which were new for some of the group. A Sacred Kingfisher landed in front of me and had a Huntsman spider in its bill, which I was lucky enough to photograph. After morning tea we went to Fordwich, also on the Wollombi Brook, and here we saw a pair of Crested Shrike-tits and distant views of two White-backed Swallows. Also, a dark distant falcon which initially confused us, we later looked at some grainy snaps of it and confirmed it had been a Peregrine Falcon.

16 November

I went to the Gloucester Tops, mainly to re-install two Song Meters at Rufous Scrub-bird territories. It was a bit of a mixed day wrt scrub-birds: some of them were calling but the main ones that I am studying were silent or nearly so. I couldn't generate all the data I was wanting to. However, I was able to confirm three new territories, as a follow-up to when the team found calling birds in the surveys in October. So, all was not lost. I heard Olive Whistlers at many spots, and there was a pair of Red-browed Treecreepers at the first scrub-bird site where I stopped.

15 November

In the morning I met with Lois Wooding and we talked about our work on Grey-tailed Tattlers. They're proving hard to find this season so our studies of them have ground to a halt. We decided we'd write up a paper about all that we've found, while there is a bit of time to do that.  Also, I showed Lois my photos of a tattler I found at Crowdy Head a couple of weeks previously, we decided that it was a very young Grey-tailed (some of the features matched with it being a young Wandering Tattler, but not enough of them).

12 November

It was bucketting down with rain (and a very early start, 6:30am) for the waterbirds survey on Ash Island. I was saturated by the time I got home. Almost all birds have gone inland currently, so we didn't find a lot. The highlight was a group of 25 Pacific Golden Plovers on Phoenix Flat, also a couple of Eastern Curlews on an area (Fish Fry Flats) which has recently been cleared of mangroves. An instant response by the birds, it seems.

10-11 November

I found my Korean visitors (it's been a saga!) and in the afternoon took them out to Ash Island (where we met Ann Lindsey) and then to Stockton Sandspit. It turned out that they were wanting to find out about management strategies for the Hunter estuary (no prior warning about this!) so I hastily arranged meetings for them on Friday morning with the local land managers in NPWS and Hunter LLS. We did do some birding as well, including to find some Black-tailed Godwits in amongst all the Bar-tailed Godwits at the Sandspit plus a few Red Knot, and four Terek Sandpipers at the Fern Bay roost site on Friday morning. We finished up with a lunch at the Wetlands Centre (so that I could show them the Magpie Geese, really).

9 November

I chaired the HBOC meeting tonight, with a very good talk given by Carol Probets (on honeyeater migration) and lots of subsequent discussion.

2 November

I'd spent a few days writing papers (e.g. about the Broughton Island study) and chasing some missing Korean visitors (did not find them) so I was feeling a bit frustrated until I went along to the HBOC committee meeting in the evening. There, I was delighted to find that the 2016 issue of The Whistler is published. I have 4 articles in it (great!) but also photos of mine were used on the front and back cover (doubly great!).

October 2016

31 October

I went back to the Gloucester Tops to retrieve the two Song Meters plus continue my investigations of Rufous Scrub-bird territories. I found many calling scrub-birds i.e. they're still quite active up there. At one of the sites, there was also a Paradise Riflebird calling, and a Bassian Thrush at another one. Also, Olive Whistlers were calling at several spots.

27-28 October

I spent 2 days at my sites in the Manning Valley, encountering Spectacled Monarchs and Rufous Fantails at several places and many other goodies. There was a Beach Stone-curlew and a Sanderling at Harrington plus lots of "standard" shorebirds, and I had great views of a pair of Green Catbirds at Black Head. At Crowdy Head, there was a tattler foraging on the rock platform - after close investigation I decided it was a Wandering Tattler. That's a rare species locally (it's not common anywhere in Australia actually) and I'll have to fill out some paperwork about it. The Fairy Martin colony at Cundletown is already active, and the Cattle Egret colony at Nulama is heading that way (many birds around but not yet nesting).

25 October

I took Mike Newman (back for a visit) out to the Upper Hunter for the day. Mostly we birded along Giants Creek Rd, finding many dry woodland birds (which Mike now living in Tasmania had been sorely missing). Some of the birds we found included White-browed Babbler, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Musk Lorikeet, Striped Honeyeater. I found Speckled Warblers with some juveniles, and we had a sensational look up close at a Cicadabird. On our way back, we stopped for a while at Hobdens TSR, which was better than its reputation although Grey-crowned Babblers were the only real highlight.

19-21 October

On Wednesday afternoon I headed for the Gloucester Tops where I was organising the 2016 Rufous Scrub-bird surveys (to start on Thursday).  I went to two territories and installed Song Meters. At the first territory, I realised that the bird was quite close so I went over to it and was rewarded with several minutes of close views as the bird foraged within a metre or two of me.

The next morning we surveyed 4km of transects plus I checked the exact positions of four birds - with another sighting, this time a brief view of a bird hopping along a log. I also heard Olive Whistlers several times. In the afternoon, I surveyed a 1km transect where there is a scrub-bird territory right at the end of it. The bird was calling when we arrived, and then after a while it moved into a fern about 15m in front of us (Allan Richardson and me) where we had a clear view of it. We watched it calling for a couple of minutes and Allan was able to get a photo (not high quality, because of the conditions and our limited field of view). On this transect we had great views of a pair of Red-browed Treecreepers and some Large-billed Scrub-wrens. On our way back to the campsite, we stopped where some of the other surveyors had heard some Paradise Riflebirds; we didn't get onto them but while we were waiting we heard a Lewin's Rail calling from somewhere behind us.

On Friday morning, I was in a team to survey 3km of Gloucester Tops Road. The first km had lots of birds although the next two were rather quieter. We heard Paradise Riflebirds at a couple of locations (later in the morning I saw one, lower down the hill). We had good views of a pair of Crested Shrike-Tits and also heard Noisy Pittas some distance from the track. In the afternoon I was back at the Tops for a couple of hours, finding more Rufous Scrub-bird territories and finally hearing Crescent Honeyeaters which had been in somewhat short supply this week.

18 October

I did my radio slot (Port Stephens FM, 100.9) in the morning (I talked about Black-faced Monarchs and White-throated Gerygones). Afterwards, I went around to Barry Park in Fingal Bay. To my amazement, there was a humpback whale not far offshore, which I watched for a couple of minutes but then an Eastern Reef Egret flew through my view and so I switched over to watching it instead. Later, I walked along the coastal track for a while, enjoying close encounters with various birds such as Variegated Fairy-wrens, White-cheeked Honeyeaters, etc. In the evening, a few of us went out to dinner with Mike Newman, who is visiting for a few days including to join the Rufous Scrub-bird surveys.

16 October

The bird club's October outing was to the Watagans. We visited Boarding House Dam (which was fairly quiet apart from a couple of Superb Lyrebirds) and Gap Creek which had some vocal Leaden Flycatchers and sundry other birds, none in big numbers. Our best stop was at a patch of rainforest before Gap Creek; here we found four flamboyant Black-faced Monarchs and a small party of Large-billed Scrubwrens (both were new birds for some of our group). It was very dry everywhere that we went, which probably impacted on bird numbers, and our list for the day was only 41 species.

15 October

It was the Hunter estuary monthly survey date and as usual I went out to Ash Island with Nev McNaughton. There were hardly any waterbirds! All the inland rain has taken them away. However, we found a group of 28 Pacific Golden Plovers on Phoenix Flats,also some Eastern Curlews and a pair of Red-capped Plovers - but not much else really, by way of waterbirds. A nice highlight though was to find a Striped Honeyeater on a nest - which had an egg and 2 chicks in it. A pair of Grey Butcherbirds was also breeding nearby so let's hope that the twain don't meet.

10-12 October

A group of us went to Broughton Island for 3 days to do the spring bird surveys there. It was windier than we wanted, which probably affected the surveys somewhat. However, we saw all the usual suspects and had the usual delightful encounters with many of them. A pair of Silvereyes were nesting right alongside our hut and several pairs of Silver Gulls on the rocks in front of the hut. We heard Lewin's Rails a few times (less often than in our previous spring visits); we also heard the Buff-banded Rail at several locations - this is a species for which we have not had many prior records. We also saw an Eastern Reef Egret (a one-off) and Sooty Oystercatchers (many birds). On Tuesday evening we waited at a penguin rookery and an hour or so after dusk we saw 11 Little Penguins come ashore and head for their burrows.

Fortunately on Wednesday afternoon the wind died down and we were able to be picked up per schedule; thus we made it back for the HBOC meeting the guest speaker for which was Tim Low - I did not want to miss that!

8 October

Our daughter Sally was visiting and in the morning the three of us decided to visit Awabakal Nature Reserve (which Sally claimed never to have been before). The wildflowers were still in bloom and I saw lots of New Holland Honeyeaters plus sundry other honeyeaters. We found a path to a clifftop view of the rock platform below, where there was a pair of Sooty Oystercatchers plus some gulls and terns. We also could pick out 3-4 whales at sea. A Dollarbird was calling from the woodland but I couldn't lay eyes upon it.

7 October

I joined a boat trip out of Swansea, for a bird photography course but my role was to do the chumming (and thus get a free ride). We went as far south as the mis-named Bird Rock, never more than ~2km from shore and often a lot closer. Despite that, we had plenty of birds about the boat (great work with the chumming Alan!). Near Moon Island we had 700-1,000 Silver Gulls join us (they breed on the island) and many of these stayed with us for the bulk of the day. A bit later on, we started to pick up shearwaters, mainly Wedge-tailed Shearwaters which came to the boat, and some Short-tailed Shearwaters (which mostly ignored the boat).  The group (most of which were relatively new to birds) were delighted when a young Shy-type Albatross dropped in - it then stayed with us for quite a while. Then, two immature Black-browed Albatross took its place and they were with us on and off for a couple of hours. Lots of photos were taken!  We also had several Australasian Gannets investigate the boat but none of them stayed for long.

5-6 October

I seem to have spent much of my time in organisational mode these 2 days. Coming up later this month are surveys on Broughton Island and at the Gloucester Tops, and on Wed night at the HBOC committee meeting (which I chaired) we did the program planning for 2017. There was a lot of preparation work associated with all of that, and also a bit to do as follow-up to the committee meeting. Mid-afternoon on Thursday, I rebelled. I had to pick up the ingredients for tomorrow's chum and I then continued on to Hexham Swamp where I spent a couple of hours. On my way in (and on my way out) I intersected with a flock of ~30 Chestnut-breasted Mannikins; they are an uncommon species for us and it's always a delight to see them. Further along, there were 40 or so Sharp-tailed Sandpipers - this is a drop in the ocean compared with the 6,000-7,000 of them we've had in the Hunter Estuary the previous 3 seasons. The difference this time is that there has been a lot of inland rain in recent months.

4 October

The HBOC mid-week group had an outing to a property on Sandy Creek Rd Mt Vincent and I went along for the bulk of it. I didn't see all the birds and I missed a couple of the highlight species. However, I had terrific looks at a Black-faced Monarch and several pairs of White-cheeked Honeyeaters (which don't go much further to the west, in our region). Also, at one point a pair of Brown Goshawks soared above us. A bit later, a White-bellied Sea-Eagle drifted through - on its way to some water body no doubt (there was nothing suitable on the property).

I had to leave early because I was attending the Hunter Region Volunteer of the Year awards in the afternoon, as HBOC's representative. We had been nominated in the Teams category. We didn't win (which was not a surprise) but we did receive a nice certificate.

1-2 October

Although the weather remained unpleasant, especially on Saturday, I decided to put some effort into Grey-tailed Tattlers in the Hunter Estuary. I found 22 of them at the high tide roost in Fern Bay on Saturday morning, with a single Terek Sandpiper keeping them company, and I also flushed a Common Sandpiper from nearby. It was too miserable to stay for long, but I went back on Sunday late morning to be there for the falling tide. Overnight, three additional Grey-tailed Tattlers had arrived, now there are 25 birds. I waited by the beach where I hoped to be able to watch them feeding on the mudflats, but they decided to go elsewhere, alas! However, in the almost 3 hours that I was there, I was kept well-occupied looking at all the other shorebirds that had flown down onto the mudflats. There were 45 Red Knots and 134 Curlew Sandpipers (that's the most numbers of these I have seen in several years). Amid the hundreds of Bar-tailed Godwits, I found a single Black-tailed Godwit (presumably these are just beginning to arrive back in the estuary).

September 2016

30 September

The weather forecast was not encouraging so Margaret and I made an early morning visit to Awabakal Nature Reserve, before the predicted winds became too strong. The honeyeaters were keeping a low profile but I saw several New Holland Honeyeaters and a couple of White-cheeked Honeyeaters. I heard a Brush Bronzewing calling from 20-30m off the track but the heath was impenetrable so I had no chance of seeing it. And then, some distance off, a Tawny-crowned Honeyeater popped up briefly. I was beginning to think that they had died out in Awabakal but they must still be holding on.

29 September

On my way to the Gloucester Tops to retrieve the Song Meters, I detoured to a property near Wards River. The people there had contacted me a couple of days earlier, about a Wedge-tailed Eagle nest they had found. Sure enough, there was an active nest with a fluffy white chick of 2-3 weeks age in the nest. Driving back from the nest tree, we flushed a Stubble Quail. At the homestead, there was a magnificent fig tree which was hosting a Topknot Pigeon and several Satin Bowerbirds. Later, I stopped at Sharpes Creek where a Shining Bronze-cuckoo was calling and there were several more Satin Bowerbirds. Unfortunately, as I then drove up to the Tops, the weather turned - rain, strong winds. I didn't do much birding, although I did visit four Rufous Scrub-bird territories (two birds were calling, one only briefly). I was able to get an exact location on one bird though.

28 September

I went out to Hexham Swamp for the morning. It wasn't exactly jumping with birds but I saw two Long-billed Corellas and a flock of ~30 Chestnut-breasted Mannikins on the way in, while a Black Kite and ~10 White-fronted Chats were the highlights within the National Park itself. The Golden-headed Cisticolas were very vocal and easy to see.

22 September

I went to the Gloucester Tops, primarily to install Song Meters at two Rufous Scrub-bird territories. I also visited two additional scrub-bird territories that I am monitoring. All four birds were calling, although some were having breaks of 5-15 minutes between calling bouts. Conditions up there were not great (cold, and very windy), which didn't make for great birding. However, I had Crescent Honeyeaters at a couple of spots, also Olive Whistler, some Rose Robins and one pair of Flame Robins. Down at the campsite at Sharpes Creek, the predominant birds were Satin Bowerbirds - with perhaps half a dozen of them on the grass including two adult male birds.

20 September

On my way to Port Stephens for my radio spot (Port Stephens FM 100.9 on the dial!) I detoured first to Lemon Tree Passage to check out the Brahminy Kite nest. I was there for 25 minutes with no sign of the youngster but an adult bird was perched a few metres from the nest all the time I was there. So, I am guessing that the chick is still in the nest (and that it was having a sleep). The radio chat went well I think (and it was also my first foray into generating clippings of bird calls to play on air). On my way home, I stopped in at Stockton Sandspit - it was close on high tide with about 110 Eastern Curlews roosting and 140+ Bar-tailed Godwits, and not much else.

19 September

This morning I filled in as one of the surveyors for the monthly survey of the Worimi Conservation Lands (Newcastle Bight, basically). There was a cold brisk wind blowing and that might have affected things, as we didn't find a great many birds. We had 3 scattered pairs of Pied Oystercatchers plus a larger group of them (~20 birds). The highlight was a group of 15 Bar-tailed Godwits together, and when we got closer we discovered there were two Red Knots and a Great Knot keeping company with them. All of these (including the oystercatchers) are threatened species so it is great to have these records of them.

18 September

Sunday was the HBOC outing, this month to the Glenrock SCA. Not long after we'd set out, we had the highlight - a family of Powerful Owls (an adult and 2 juveniles). They were roosting about 20m off the track, and we had wonderfully prolonged views, as did all the passers-by who stopped to ask what we were up to. Elsewhere on the walk, we encountered a few Regent Bowerbirds, and also several Brown Cuckoo-Doves. About 11am, the rain began to set in and we called it all off.

17 September

It was the day of the monthly Hunter Estuary waterbirds survey and I headed out to Ash Island once again, with a couple of others. It was quiet out there though, with 3 x Eastern Curlews and 11 Pacific Golden Plovers being the standout. However, part way through it I received a phone call - an Australian Pratincole had been found at Hexham Swamp by another of the surveyors. As soon as the three of us were done on Ash Island, we headed for Hexham! The bird was quickly located, and it had begun to draw a large crowd by the time we left. It's only the 4th record locally for this species.

16 September

Margaret and I went to the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens for a walk in the morning - not birdwatching really but I had y eyes and ears open all the same. There were lots of Eastern Spinebills flitting about and the usual wrens etc. A Wedge-tailed Eagle flew over, which was a bit of a surprise as they are relatively uncommon so close to the coast (although I have seen them on several occasions).

15 September

I was out in the Martindale area today, partly to check out what spring migrants were back and partly in a failed attempt to avoid the strong winds which were happening on the coast. At Bureen I found one or possibly two pairs of Plum-headed Finches (it's been a while since I've seen any of them locally) and some White-backed Swallows. Elsewhere in the area I had Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters at a few places, also Fairy Martins and a Spotted Harrier. But the highlight was to find at least four Painted Honeyeaters at Medhurst Bridge. It's a well-known site for them, but these appear to be the first returning birds for this spring. 

13 September

I joined Jack Adams and the rest of his crew for the final survey of Galgabba Point (near Swansea) for 2016. We found Satin Bowerbirds and Regent Bowerbirds in close proximity, also a Spangled Drongo in the denser scrub and a Striated Heron in the lagoon (mangroves).  There was very little blossom about and consequently there were only small numbers of honeyeaters. We found a pellet from an owl of some sort but we weren't sure which species. There was some speculation about it being from a Powerful Owl, which is known to be in the area, but I think the pellet was too small.

12 September

Lois Wooding and I spent most of the day scouring Port Stephens for Grey-tailed Tattlers at their normal sites. We found a total of 11 birds, all of them seeming to be immature ones which had over-wintered i.e. adult birds are not back yet from the breeding grounds. It can't be long now before they do tart to turn up. Between visits to the sites, Lois showed me the Brahminy Kite nest which she has been monitoring - there is an ~40 days-old chick in the nest. It will fledge in late September, we think. Also seen on nests today - Osprey, Tawny Frogmouth and Crested Pigeon. Highlights amongst the general observations were a Nankeen Night-Heron and a pair of Striated Herons flying together (and therefore, most likely a pair with breeding intentions as it is usually a very solitary species.

8-9 September

I spent 2 days visiting my main sites in the Manning Valley. I had a great time, and seeing lots of good birds. Highlights were many, and included Nankeen Night-Heron, Regent Bowerbirds and Spangled Drongos at Saltwater National Park, Comb-crested Jacanas and an Azure Kingfisher at Cattai Wetlands, an  Eastern Reef Egret at Crowdy Head, Crested Shrike-Tit, Spangled Drongos and Black-faced Monarchs at Harrington rainforest (I also heard Spectacled Monarchs) and a Beach Stone-curlew in the Harrington estuary.

6 September

Hunter Bird Observers Club had an outing to Blackbutt Reserve, which is only ~300m from my place so I went along. We walked down to Richley Reserve finding lots of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (many of which were exploring hollows) and various other birds. The highlight was a pair of Buff-banded Rails, skulking on an island in the middle of one of the lakes. Everyone eventually was able to get a decent look at them.  Later in the walk, we intersected with several parties of Variegated Fairy-wrens, all with coloured-up males amongst them.  There were also several Australian King-Parrots, especially during our morning tea break when they were hanging around in some bushes close by to us.

5 September

I decided to make another attempt at finding the Hooded Plover which was reported from south of Birubi Beach for much of August. This time I targeted to be there on a rising tide - but to no better avail! I think the bird has gone. Highlight for my morning was to see 35 Australian Pied Oystercatchers along the beach, including one group of 20 birds together.

4 September

Margaret and I went out to Awabakal Nature Reserve, where the wildflowers are out in full. The main birds present were honeyeaters, especially Little Wattlebirds and New Holland Honeyeaters. There were 50+ of the latter, by my estimation. I also heard Shining Bronze-Cuckoo and Fan-tailed Cuckoo.

1 September

I went up to Birubi Beach in the morning - it's at the northern end of Newcastle Bight. My target was to find a Hooded Plover which had been reported from a few km south of Birubi. It's a very rare bird for our area (no prior confirmed records) and its range is generally considered to end somewhere about Nowra.I walked 6km along the beach (and 6km back again! I'm exhausted tonight) but I dipped on the bird. I did see a Double-banded Plover though (they usually have all gone back to NZ by now), also some Red-capped Plovers and a group of about 20 Pied Oystercatchers flying together (as well as some groups of 1-2 of them).

August 2016

16 August

I spent the day at some spots near Barrow-in-Furness. The first of these was the South Walney Nature Reserve, an area of salt marsh a few km to the south of B-in-F. it wasn't great birding there unfortunately (not helped by there being poor access to the salt marsh). A small pond on the outskirts of the Reserve had Lapwings and some Greater Scaup, and there were lots of Goldfinch in the vicinity too. And nearby I found a Pied Oystercatcher with two dependent fledged young. A bit later on I was at Roanhead, about 10 km north of B-in-F. Here there were many gulls, especially Great Black-backed Gulls. And, on an exposed sandbank in the vicinity, there were at least 200 Pied Oystercatchers (some feeding and some roosting). 

15 August

In England now, and I went to Lake Windermere mainly for some sightseeing with my wife and sister-in-law. At Bowness, as well as all the tourists, there were plenty of Canada Geese and Black-headed Gulls, also many Mute Swans. Later, walking from Rydal to Grasmere, I had a nice view of a young Robin. It wasn't a big birding day!

12 August

I started off by going to Lake Tjornin on the outskirts of the Reykjavik CBD. This turned out to be an ornamental lake with not a lot of birds; however I did find a few Greater Scaup there - this was a new bird for me. After that I walked to the Grotta Nature Reserve (it was further away than I was expecting!). The birding here was terrific, especially at Lake Bakkatjorn on the mainland. There were considerable numbers of Dunlin, which I have only before seen in Japan (and I think that's a different sub-species actually). Then, amidst all of them, I found some Purple Sandpipers, which was quite a thrill (and another tick for me). There also were several Ringed Plovers, both adults and juveniles, Eurasian Teal, various gulls up close, etc. I spent quite a long time there. On my way back to the apartment, I had close-up views of a male Black Guillemot and a couple of Ruddy Turnstones too.

11 August

On a rainy morning, we departed Grundarfjordir to head for Reykjavik that night. We meandered our way eventually to Bogarnes for a lunch stop. By then the sun had emerged and so I was able to spend an hour wandering the waterfront. I was thrilled to find three Great Northern Divers with two of them sometimes coming close to shore. I'd seen one bird several days before but it was a long way off-shore and it was all I could do just to come up with an identification for it. Also, I flushed a Common Snipe from some long grass right alongside the path. I thought I had worked out whereabouts it landed but my search of that area and all around it was fruitless. I did see some Meadow Pipits during this time.

9-10 August

We drove out to the Snaefellsnes Peninsular, staying for 2 nights at Grundarfjordir village on the north-western side of the peninsular. This was just sensational! Not only bird-wise - the scenery etc was really great too - but I was in birding heaven basically Too many new species to list in full, the highlights of day one included Red-throated Diver, Northern Fulmar, (actually, there were 100+ of these), Redwing (one of which buzzed me repetitively!), Black Guillemot, Glaucous and Common Gulls. And, the high high highlight was to see some Atlantic Puffins, during on a twilight cruise which we did from the local port. Day two was less adventurous, and less distance covered, but with yet more highlights including Dunlins, Ringed Plovers, lots of Meadow Pipits, and a pair of Arctic Jaegers hunting over land (I think that they were predating tern chicks).

8 August

We did the "Golden Circle" drive into central Iceland. Birdwatching was not the main game today but I did alright I reckon! At Pingvillar (site of the ancient Iceland parliament) I saw Meadow Pipit and Northern Wheatear, also a couple of Australian shorebirds (Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit) behaving very differently to what I'm accustomed i.e. doing thing in fields rather than on mudflats. At Geysir, a Eurasian Golden Plover was standing amidst the hot springs and teems of people, totally oblivious to everything. I also saw a large group of European Pied Oystercatchers (including several juvenile birds) in a paddock on our way back to Reykjavik.

7 August

The four of us flew to Iceland, a 3 hour flight from Copenhagen. By the time we finally were settled into our apartment, I had only about an hour available, which I filled with a walk around the harbour inlet near to where we are staying (on the outskirts of Reykjavik). I was delighted to find a trio of Arctic Terns just nearby (a pair plus their youngster) but later I was less than delighted when another pair further on was really aggressive to me while I tried to look at what other birds were around. I found limited numbers of birds but I was pleased that amongst those were some Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a new species for me. And, in the nearby park, I had fantastic views of a Common Redshank!

4-6 August

We took a train back to Copenhagen on Thursday morning. By the time we were re-settled etc it was late afternoon before I could get out for a walk. I first went down to The Volds, where there were a handful of waterbirds including a Grey Heron and several Herring Gulls, and also many semi-domesticated ducks. After that I walked to a large forest area (Amager Faelled) which I thought might be promising but the forest generally was quiet of birdsong and there were myriads of people around (on the cycle paths). Just as I was about to leave though, I had a terrific close encounter with a Wren, which from my previous visit I had decided was my favourite bird in Denmark.

The following two days were mostly devoted to touristy things with Margaret and our daughters Robyn and Sally, so birding was very opportunistic. My best moment was when we were on the deck of the cafe at Louisiana Museum (enjoying a wine) with a Greenfinch coming in for a drink at a puddle below us and a House Martin briefly flying around with all the swallows.

1-3 August

On Monday morning we took a train (it turned out to be several trains!) from Copenhagen to Aalborg. By the time we had re-settled, there was only time for a late afternoon walk down by the waterfront. As usual, there were plenty of gulls about (Herring and Black-headed Gulls) - and then I saw a tern roosting on a jetty. Eventually I was close enough to identify it as an Arctic Tern in breeding plumage. Very happy about that! Then, towards evening some Swifts came through - they're quite noisy, this local species.

On Tuesday we did a day-excursion to Skagen, which is world-famous for its migratory bird sightings. It was quiet for us though (as it's not the migration period). We hired bikes and rode around. I found a pair of Kestrels hunting over a paddock (and saw several more of them during my travels) and in a nearby wood there was a group of Robins, of which I was only ever able to obtain limited views. I also flushed some kind of Lark from the ground but I had almost no opportunity to try to identify it. We ended up at Grenen, which is right on the northern tip of Denmark. Most people go there to see two oceans simultaneously. I was more drawn by the large numbers of gulls, and mostly they were young birds, feeding in a nearby cove. They turned out to be Black-headed Gulls and Greater Black-backed Gulls with an occasional Herring Gull thrown into the mix. I had quite a job sorting things out, as the plumage patterns on gulls changes a lot as they age. It did help that I saw an adult Greater Black-backed Gull (albeit briefly) and that gave me a pointer for where to start looking in the field guide.

Wednesday was mainly a non-birding day; sightseeing with Margaret in the morning and a rainy afternoon. Later, the rain eased for a while and I went down to the waterfront to attempt to find the Arctic Tern again, but had no luck and then the rain started again.

July 2016

31 July

Margaret and I borrowed push-bikes and headed out to the nature sanctuary at West Amager. It was probably about 35km round-trip, all of it on quiet roads or within the nature reserve. Unfortunately, many of the waterbirds were too far away for me to have good viewing of them (except for grebes, of which I saw three species - Little, Great Crested and Red-necked Grebe). A pair of Lapwings were reasonably close to the cycle track for a while, as was a Pheasant and a Reed Warbler. Several flocks of geese (Egyptian Goose, Canada Goose) flew in, and a Little Tern went by giving me close views. Barn Swallows were very active and some posed for me for long enough that I could get a decent photo. On the sea-side of the seawall there were many Black-headed Gulls (adults and juveniles) and a couple of pairs of Pied Wagtails, which were very uncooperative so far as obtaining a decent look at them.

29-30 July

The start of our trip to northern Europe. Margaret and I went to Sydney by train then flew via Singapore and Helsinki to Copenhagen. At Helsinki, I tried to add to my Finland birdlist, without leaving the airport. However, the only bird I could find was a raptor, as we were taxiing to leave, and unfortunately I couldn't identify it. So, my list stays at two species! Things were more productive in Copenhagen; despite rainy weather and not specifically going birding, I was able to find plenty of European Magpies, Hooded Crows, Jackdaws etc as Margaret and I walked around Copenhagen tourist-town with Robyn and Nick. And just on dusk, a large group of Swifts came through, often at head-height from our 6th story "loft". This is a new species for me.

25-28 July

I've spent quite a lot of time "wrapping up" some projects this week, ahead of Margaret and my trip to northern Europe. I'm co-author for an intended paper on threatened species in the Hunter Region (with Mick Roderick) and I worked on that for a few days - it was submitted on Wednesday night. I also finished fine-tuning the content of the 2015 bird report, and have now handed that document over to Rob Kyte, the production manager. 

22 July

A group of us from HBOC did the Port Stephens waterbirds survey - we were incredibly lucky with the weather really as it was the only day within about a fortnight when the winds didn't blow (it was sunny and I wore shorts!). Most other days we would not have been able to get out. The survey went well although organising felt a bit fraught at times, and we found 127 Eastern Curlews which is an exceptionally good winter count for recent years. These were young birds (the adults are back at the breeding grounds). We also had the highest count for winter of Sooty Oystercatchers (37 birds) and I found a group of Double-banded Dotterels on Corrie Island, with several of them already brightly coloured up for their breeding season in NZ later in the year.

21 July

I did a pelagic trip to the continental shelf today, departing from Swansea. It was an overcast day (for much of it), with a bit of drizzle from time to time but also sometimes some sunshine. On the way out, we passed through large flocks of Fluttering Shearwaters, and also the occasional Fairy Prion (of which we later had 30+ at the shelf). As we got out further, we started picking up albatrosses, particularly Black-browed Albatross and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross (lots, of both). We also had a Buller's Albatross and a handful of Shy-type Albatross. Just before we were due to start heading back, a Northern Giant-Petrel came in, and we had excellent and prolonged views of it.

19-20 July

I was in Perth for a few days on a family matter (Sat-Mon) then raced to be back home Tuesday mid-morning in time to prepare for a meeting on Tuesday night to review the draft 2015 Bird Report. That meeting went well, and then I spent all of Wednesday fixing up the various things that had been raised at the meeting or that I had previously noted to change. Finally, just in time for bed, I sent out the amended document for a sanity check. It is almost ready to go into the pre-production phase!

11-15 July

No birding this week, just lots of consolidating after my trip. One of the main tasks I did was to review the new BirdLife taxonomy (Working List V2) following which I converted the 2015 bird report into the new taxonomy plus made the same changes to some other documents (e.g. the HBOC record sheet). It's all very time-consuming! A nice break was to go to the HBOC meeting on Wed night, where I could enjoy the talks and not have to do anything serious. Conversely, next morning it was the funeral service for Max Maddock, a prominent local ecologist and ornithologist with who I had collaborated on some things in the past.

9-10 July

I was heading for home after my 3-week trip away. On Saturday I didn't do much birding, as I made my way from Bowra to Dubbo where I stopped overnight. In paddocks alongside the highway between Cunnamulla and Bourke, there were lots of Emus, often in groups of 8-12 birds, and also many Black Kites, which were feasting on the fresh roadkill (kangaroos mainly). As I progressed further towards less arid areas, I started picking up new birds for my trip e.g. several flocks of Cockatiels, White-winged Choughs, and a Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo at my roadside lunch stop

From Dubbo, I was positioned for a final day spent birding in the Hunter Region. My first stop was the Cassilis rest area, which was blanketed in fog and had only reached 8C by mid-morning. However, I saw a pair of Red-winged Parrots (they flew over the top of me) and several Musk Lorikeets also were present. My lunch stop was Battery Rock rest area near Merriwa, where a flock of ~20 Brown-headed Honeyeaters kept me engrossed as they foraged in trees around the site, sometimes in company with Striated and Spotted Pardalotes. My final stop was at Giants Creek Rd, where I ended up having wonderful views of a group of four White-browed Babblers; another highlight was a pair of Speckled Warblers.

6-8 July

On Wednesday I headed westwards from Cunnamulla, to Eulo where I birded for a while at a spot near the Paroo River. It was very boggy underfoot which limited what I could do (apparently it rained very heavily in SW Qld about 3 or so weeks ago, and there is water everywhere, from Charleville southwards). There were many Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters around, and some Little Friarbirds. Then, I went to the famous Eulo Bore, about 15km east of town. Here I had several Major Mitchell Cockatoos, and a group of eight Bourke's Parrots. The former were in a tree feeding on melons, the latter were on the ground foraging for seeds. I had brief views of some Chestnut-crowned Babblers, and extended views of several Chestnut-rumped Thornbills.

The next morning (Thursday) I went into Bowra where I was booked in for two nights. There were many highlights from my two days there, including really great views of a party of 7 Hall's Babblers, also some Crimson Chats, Red-browed Pardalotes, Blue Bonnets, Spotted Bowerbirds, Peaceful Doves. What I also appreciated at Bowra was that there were other birdwatchers around, and so I could talk about birds and related topics in the evening, and also sometimes bump into people around the property and know they were birders and so be able to discuss with them about the sightings we all had made.

2-5 July

I made a late departure from South Mission Beach and began heading southwards. After a brief and unproductive stop at Cardwell, I was back again at Tyto Wetlands for lunch and then a couple of hours of birding. I re-found many of the great birds from my visit a few days before, with of course some missing but then there were some terrific replacements - including a Little Bronze-cuckoo (seen up close) and a Varied Triller, and at least one Rufous-throated Honeyeater. I then headed for Charters Towers (I was so pleased to turn off the busy Bruce Highway!) with not a lot of time available for birding (I wanted to arrive before it got dark). However, some excitement en route included a pair of Brolgas and a group of three Australian Bustards walking together on the road verge, and Pale-headed Rosellas.

The next day I drove to Emerald. There didn't seem to be many places where I could stop for birding. I tried some spots (Cape River, Blackwood NP) which proved to be very quiet. At about 60km north of Clermont, I saw 3 x Brolgas (a pair and a juvenile) in a paddock alongside the road, and stopped for a look. I soon realised there were many more; I counted 341 birds but then just a few hundred metres along there were twice that many, on the opposite side of the road. Easily 1000 birds in total, and probably more. At Clermont, a dam near the roadhouse had ~500 Plumed Whistling-Ducks. My final stop for the day was the Botanic Gardens at Emerald, where I had my best looks at Pale-headed Rosellas for the trip.

On Monday I made my way to Roma, with several stops along the way. The longest detour was into Freds Gorge on Mt Zamia (in Minerva NP) - this turned out to be a very unproductive detour! (although Mt Zamia is quite impressive). Of the other stops, the most interesting was Albinia NP (a passer-by told me it was a recently created NP based on its native grasses). Here I had a pair of Striated Pardalotes down low to the ground and clearly they were of the race melanocephalus. Unfortunately my photos didn't work out but I got some great visuals on them.

I headed west from Roma, towards Charleville (an Australian Bustard not far out of town caught my attention but it didn't cooperate for a photo). I had a terrific lunch stop at "Rock Pool", not far before Charleville. Here I had wonderful views of Grey-crowned Babblers and Inland Thornbills, and very clearly the local corvid was an Australian Raven. I'm not so sure though about the large groups I saw often feasting on roadkill along the highway (I think they were Little Crows). On the south side of Charleville I encountered the first (of many) roadside waterholes, and stopped there for a while. Highlights were Major Mitchell Cockatoos and a Yellow-billed Spoonbill. I later realised there was water everywhere (too much water i.e. birds were highly dispersed and were hard to find). Eventually I arrived into Cunnamulla and found a motel; later I went to the town's rather embryonic botanic gardens where I saw a flock of ~40 Zebra Finches, and not much else.

June 2016

30 June - 1 July

On my way to South Mission Beach, I stopped in at Tyto Wetlands at Ingham. It was developed into a public resource in 2007, long after my previous visit to that area, and it is sensational. I thought I'd stop for an hour or so - which turned into approx 4 hours. Almost the first birds I saw were some Crimson Finches, which I hadn't seen in ages, and later I found several more groups of them, also many groups of Red-backed Fairy-wrens. A Brush Cuckoo posed very obligingly for me, as did a Brown-backed Honeyeater. There were many Cotton Pygmy-Geese on a large lagoon and also several Wandering Whistling-Ducks. I had a marvellous encounter with a pair of White-browed Robins and good views of Great Bowerbird and Yellow Oriole. And to top off my visit, a Grey Goshawk flew over just as I was about back at my car.

I pushed on then, to South Mission Beach. The receptionist told me that Southern Cassowaries regularly wandered through holiday park, including that morning, but it was very crowded there (school holidays) so I felt pessimistic about my prospects. I spent mid to late afternoon trying various spots for birding, not finding much, and then sat at the camp kitchen for ~90 minutes hoping that a Cassowary would wander through - none did. Next morning, I got serious about it - but again without success. I drove around and walked through various bits of National Park and/or Cassowary Conservation Area. Highlights of the morning included close views of a Black Butcherbird, Spangled Drongo and Varied Honeyeater. And then, on my way back for lunch, I found a Southern Cassowary. It was wandering alongside the road, with seemingly not a care in the world. I had such wonderful prolonged views! And, it was another new bird for my Australian list. After lunch and some recovery time (I had done quite a bit of walking today) I set out again, to Djiru National Park. Here I had great views of Emerald DoveSpectacled Monarch and Graceful Honeyeater, amongst others (not many others; it was a tough place for birding).

28-29 June

From Eungella I made my way to Townsville. En route there weren't many places to stop for birding but near Mt Gordon I found a lagoon accessible from a side road and stopped there for a while. I found some great birds - including Olive-backed Sunbird, Plumed Whistling-Duck, Forest Kingfisher and a group of three interacting Varied Trillers. It almost seemed a pity to leave! Lunch was at a park on the outskirts of Ayr, with about a dozen Aust. White Ibis lurking for any windfalls. Ayr is a lot larger than when we were there in 1997! Thence, to Townsville where I rented a cabin and then headed straight to the Common. This was just brilliant! I reckon I saw about 15 Comb-crested Jacanas, with some great photos taken. Also, a Black-necked Stork (got a photo in flight), confiding views of some Forest Kingfishers, Dusky Honeyeater, etc.

On Wednesday I went to Paluma/Mt Spec. I spent a couple of hours birding around the village, finding Chowchillas, Pale-yellow and Grey-headed Robins, and a male Victoria's Riflebird. I also drove some of the roads through the National Park, hoping that a Cassowary would leap out in front of me (no such luck). Passing through Paluma again I noticed that the Ivy Cottage was back in business as a cafe - I have very fond memories of my initial visit there in 1997 with Margaret, Robyn and Sally eating there and having all sorts of birds landing on our table to pinch food (and also in 2001 when I went there). It was great to see the Macleay's Honeyeaters doing exactly as before (or was it? perhaps it's not ecologically sustainable) and I think I got some good photos. Also, many views of male and female Victoria's Riflebirds, with some of the males doing displays (some of which involved hanging upside-down, wings outspread: I was impressed but I'm not sure if the females were).

26-27 June

On Sunday morning I spent several hours birding along Dalrymple Rd, acting on research from the birding-aus archives. I subsequently realised that the archives were somewhat confusing, due to some very sloppy posts in terms of how people had described where they were. At every spot where I stopped, flocks of 30-40 Topknot Pigeons would flush: there must be hundreds upon hundreds of them in Eungella National Park! I found a female Cotton Pygmy-Goose in a farm dam, and later had a nice view of a Platypus hunting in another dam (which I was looking down onto from an elevated spot on the road. Eventually, about 10:30, I arrived at a spot in the National Park, at the end of Chelmans Rd. Within 50m from the car, I was hearing my target species - the Eungella Honeyeater! And before much longer, I had a stunning view of one: it was another new bird for my Australian list. I reckon there were at least 10 birds at the site (in the ~500m that I walked through). Also, al the while as I walked through the Park, Wompoo Fruit-Doves were flushing from the trees above me. It took me a while to work out what the species was, as often all I got was the "heard" of them flushing, and no or almost no visual. However, eventually I was able to put the case together. There had to have been 20+ of them in just that section of the Park. Also here, I had my first Little Shrike-thrushes of the trip.

I went back for lunch, and in the afternoon went around to another section of the National Park, at Broken River. I had more (and even better) views of Platypus here, and found some birds (but not many really); the highlight probably was a great view of a pair of Grey Shrike-thrush. First thing on Monday morning I went back to the Chelmans Rd site - where there were NO Eungella Honeyeaters! I walked almost a kilometre along the track, hearing nothing of them on the way in or the way out. All the Wompoo Fruit-Doves were still around though. For the remainder of the morning I tried other ways into the National Park, unsuccessfully (they all ended at private property with no access into the NP). The weather by now was turning, and eventually I went back to to Chalet where I spent the afternoon musing on whether I had been really unlucky today, or really lucky on Sunday. Probably the latter.

23-25 June

I left Binna Burra on Thursday morning, heading north. I wanted to avoid the Brisbane mega-lane highways with no birds, so I took a round-about route that led past the Wivenhoe and Somerset Dams. The roads were winding and with not many opportunities for stopping, so maybe my decision wasn't an ideal one. Eventually I reached Noosa, where originally I had been thinking I would stay the night (camping in the National Park). However, Noosa was very crowded, as was the NP and I didn't have great birding there (to many noisy groups of people kept coming along). So, I decided to push on, and eventually stayed overnight in a motel at Tiaro. The next morning I found a rest area about an hour or so to the north. It was quiet for birds as most of the other rest areas have been; however, I found some White-throated Honeyeaters which I was pleased about - and then a Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike did something to disturb them high up in the foliage, and I realised there were about 20 of them up there!

I went in to Gladstone where I met fellow HBOC members Chris Herbert and Liz Crawford. They are stranded there for a few weeks while their yacht is repaired. We had lunch together and then I pushed on, spending the night in my rough bivouac at a rest area near Yaamba. There were lots of people staying there, as there have been at every rest area I've gone past. Almost all were caravanners; they probably had a more comfortable night than me as it was very noisy (from passing traffic) and far from being warm.

On Saturday morning, I found a much nicer rest area - at Waverley Creek about 60km further up the highway. It was grassy, and further off the highway. Here I had great views of a pair of Blue-faced Honeyeaters (bird-wise it was on a par with everywhere else i.e. not all that great). Later, I turned off the highway into a little holiday fishing community at Clearview. This was right on the coast and the tide was right out but I didn't spot any shorebirds. However, I found a Mangrove Golden Whistler (in mangroves) and a Yellow Honeyeater in some bush behind the beach - so all was not lost! And then on again I pushed, eventually reaching my target of the Eungella Chalet in the late afternoon. I checked in and then briefly birded along Dalrymple Rd in the late afternoon but didn't find much (it was late and quite cool, and birds were probably already settled for the day).

21-22 June

On Tuesday morning the wind was still quite strong, although it gradually subsided during the morning. I walked all morning along various walking tracks, and then for several more hours in the afternoon, listening carefully for my target species - the Albert's Lyrebird. However, it wasn't until about 4pm that I finally heard one, and it was impossible for me to go after it! I was about 2km from the Lodge, it was getting dark, and the bird was 80-100m off the track. I did make a bit of an effort but after 10m I gave up. The day wasn't one of brilliant birding, but I did see a couple of pairs of Australian Logrunners, a Grey Goshawk, Green Catbird, Brown Cuckoo-Dove, and lots of scrub-wrens.

Next morning the wind had come up very strong again and I didn't fancy my chances of having a more productive day than Tuesday. So, I drove around to O'Reilly's Guest Hose, on the western side of the NP.  In any case I was curious to see what it was like as a place to stay on some future opportunity. The trip up the mountain was "interesting" and needed to be done with care. When I arrived, some people were feeding birds (at a designated feeding station). The next thing I knew, I had an Australian King-Parrot perched on my shoulder! There was a boardwalk through the rainforest, which was quite good as it allowed close approach to some species which normally are hard to get near - for example, Eastern Whipbirds, Australian Logrunners, various scrub-wrens. And then, I heard an Albert's Lyrebird, not far off the track. I went in carefully and soon was rewarded with many great views of one (a female). This was a new bird for my Australian list (in 1997 I heard one at Binna Burra but was unable to track it down). My attempts at photography weren't very successful but I did capture her tail! A little way down the track, on the opposite side, I heard what I think was probably the male. However, he was very uncooperative.

19-20 June

The start of my Queensland trip! But what a start - it poured with rain all day on Sunday as I made my way steadily northwards on the Pacific Highway. It was too miserable to think of any birdwatching, nor of camping that night. Eventually, I turned off to Yamba and took a motel room. It bucketed down for much of the evening and night. However, by Monday morning the sun was shining and I breakfasted outside my room, in the company of a group of Blue-faced Honeyeaters. I then made my way to Iluka Bluff, where the Nature Reserve also is located. Here I saw several parties of Large-billed Scrub-wrens, and also some Yellow-throated Scrub-wrens. There were several raptor species, including Osprey and Brahminy Kite, and a young Australasian Gannet fishing offshore.

Later, heading north, I detoured via Murwillumbah which was less productive than I had hoped; however, there was a Pacific Baza sitting on power lines as I left town, which was a good consolation prize. I arrived at Binna Burra Lodge (in Lamington NP) about 3:30, checked in (for 3 nights) and then went for a walk. There was a really strong wind blowing which made birding difficult, also (as I also found out on subsequent evenings) the birds went very quiet in late afternoon. However, I did get a good look at a male Australian Logrunner, albeit in the gloaming.

18 June

I did the Ash Island section of the Hunter Estuary survey in the morning, with Nev McNaughton and Anthony Gooden. We found some Eastern Curlews and Pacific Golden Plovers at the Milhams Pond/Phoenix Flats area. At the main ponds, there were 17 Black-fronted Dotterels (a large count for Ash Island) and a group of five Gull-billed Terns. It was a cold damp morning and it was good to finish!

17 June

I went to Wyong in the morning to give a talk (Birds and Gardens and Birdwatching) to the Wyong Garden Club. Afterwards, I meandered home, via Catherine Hill Bay, a place which I hadn't been to in quite a long while. It wasn't very good birding though (but a highlight was a group of Variegated Fairy-wrens taking baths in a puddle; I wish I'd had my camera), and the weather had turned to showery, so that was it for me for the day.

14 June

I joined a small group to do a survey at Galgabba Point near Swansea. While I was waiting for the others to arrive, I could hear a Common Blackbird calling from the nearby undergrowth - they are very uncommon so close to the coast. We walked all the way out to the point, with a pair of Crested Shrike-tits being one of the main highlights and a pair of White-bellied Sea-Eagles often heard (they nest annually nearby). Back home later, and a big moment was to send out the draft 2015 Hunter Region bird report. Gosh there's a lot of work for me in preparing these things!

11-13 June

Margaret and I went to the HBOC camp, at Yagon in Myall Lakes National Park near Seal Rocks. I was the leader and a concern I'd had was about how crowded it would be there. However, the local NPWS Ranger assured me that almost nobody went there in winter. How wrong that was! It was crowded and noisy, and we had some thefts of gear on Sunday night. Still, the birding was quite good. Around the campsite we had Forest Ravens, New Holland Honeyeaters, Topknot Pigeons, lots of White-naped Honeyeaters, and many other good things. We also did expeditions to Seal Rocks lighthouse (highlights included Aust. Gannets, Eastern Reef Egret) and Neranie campsite in the NP near Bungwahl (highlights included Emerald Dove, Varied Sittella).

8 June

In the evening it was the HBOC monthly meeting and I gave a talk on Birds of the Gloucester Tops - something I've been working at on and off for several days. I'm pleased to have it over and done with!

7 June

I spent the day in the Martindale area, after learning of reports of large numbers of Plum-headed Finches in the area. Unfortunately I didn't find any of them (but some others visited at different times, and did!). I found several flocks of Zebra Finch and one large flock of Double-barred Finch, in partial compensation. There was a large flock (200+) of Little Corellas near the Bureen Bridge and several groups of 30-50+ Magpie-larks too. And after a long hard look, I found some Plumed Whistling-Ducks at Doughboy Hollow near Singleton on my way home.

2-3 June

I've downloaded a software program called Audacity and have been playing around with it. The package allows me to edit recordings of bird calls - this is something I want to be able to do for my radio interviews and some of the talks I give (e.g. the upcoming one).

1 June

In the evening it was the HBOC June committee meeting.

May 2016

26 May

I was back up at the Gloucester Tops today, main purpose being to collect the Song Meters. It was not a great day weather-wise up there and that impacted upon the birding. I did find a pair of Red-browed Treecreepers (up quite high in the treetops). The area around the Gloucester Falls carpark still had many New Holland Honeyeaters including many juvenile birds. On my way home, I slowed at property where last week I'd seen Tree Martins - this time I found instead a pair of Flame Robins and a pair of Jacky Winters, and a Restless Flycatcher. At one stage, all five birds were perched in a line along the fence.

25 May

Late afternoon I collected Margaret and we headed to Salamander Bay where I was scheduled to give a talk as part of Port Stephens Council's Marine Discovery program. There were about 80 attendees (far more than I was expecting!). My topic was "The importance of Port Stephens for shorebirds" and it seemed to go over well (I even received praise later from Margaret about it!). That's one-down of the talks which I have over-committed to give in this approx 4-week window plus bird report and three papers in preparation. Over-committed!

22 May

Big day today - HBOC's 40th anniversary lunch, held at the Wetlands Centre. About 90 people attended and we had a great time, chatting about birds and reminiscing. A few days earlier, I had put together a media release and that worked - we had NBN News come out and do some interviews plus general footage. That became a several minute item on their Sunday news bulletin, and about the 4th or 5th item i.e. quite prominently positioned. I think we'll all be happy about that (I certainly am).

21 May

With Nev and Paddy, I did the Ash Island survey in the morning (part of the overall Hunter estuary survey). It was a quiet day (it's the time of year) but we found eight Eastern Curlews and three Pacific Golden Plovers at Milhams Pond / Phoenix Flats and 40-50 each of Black-winged Stilts and Red-necked Avocets on Swan Pond. Access was somewhat restricted as the mangrove removal project at Fish Fry Flats is underway and there were a couple of locked gates. 

17 May

I went up to the Gloucester Tops for the day, with my main purpose being to install Song Meters at two Rufous Scrub-bird territories up there. I didn't hear any scrub-birds calling but I'm hoping the recorders will pick up some action from them from time to time. A birding highlight was in the area around the Gloucester Falls carpark, which was teeming with New Holland Honeyeaters including many juvenile birds; they all were feeding on the prolific Banksia blossom there. Some Crescent Honeyeaters were in the area too although not using the Banksias. There were also a small group of Tree Martins flying over, and I saw two larger groups of them later during my drive home. And at the Stroud rest area, towards dusk, several White-headed Pigeons (which possibly were coming in to roost).

12 May

Several of us went to the Happy Wombat cafe (Hunter St Newcastle) in the morning, for a coffee and to present their management (= owner) with a Certificate of Appreciation, for donating $800 towards White-fronted Chat on-ground conservation work. I took some photos of the event but unfortunately due to my incompetence they weren't usable and one of our group, Lucas Grenadier, had to go back next morning and re-do it!

10-11 May

In the morning I did my monthly radio interview at Salamander Bay (Port Stephens community radio). I mainly spoke about the Broughton Island surveys that we did in April. Then I headed up to the Manning Valley, for one and a half days of doing my surveys up there (Harrington, Cattai Wetlands, etc). Some White-fronted Terns have come back (a sign of winter), but nearly 100 Little Terns were still hanging around (a sign of summer). I found all the usual shorebirds etc. At Cattai, I had a new species for my list - a Little Eagle passed overhead; this was while I was looking at a small group of immature Chestnut-breasted Mannikins (another unusual species at Cattai).

I arrived home just in time to hurriedly re-group and the head out to the HBOC meeting, the main part of which was an evening of reminiscence and celebration for the Club's 40th Anniversary. A very good night!

3 May

The HBOC outing was to Green Wattle Creek but we assembled at Seaham Swamp and spent the first hour there. I arrived early and wandered around the back of the swamp - the highlight here was an Osprey. Several Blue-faced Honeyeaters were active around the area where we had gathered, and also a couple of Little Wattlebirds were very obvious. Don't they know they are supposed to just be in the coastal heath in our region? We then went around to Green Wattle Creek where almost the first bird seen was a Pacific Baza, soaring majestically very high above us.There were many honeyeaters around, dominated by Fuscous Honeyeaters (at least 30-40 birds) and quite a few Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. At the edge of a private paddock adjoining the reserve, I predicted Speckled Warblers would be present and then had to spend 15-20 minutes before I could prove my point! We could see a couple of birds on the ground but too far away for us to be completely sure of the ID, until eventually they came out into the sun.

April 2016

28-29 April

The Tocal Field Days started on Friday 29th, with HBOC having a display stand for which I was the co-organiser.  On Thursday afternoon a group of us went out here to set it all up. I was back again on Friday, intermittently at the display in the morning and then rostered on duty in the afternoon. The morning was quite good in terms of visitors to our display, but the afternoon became very quiet after about 2:30pm. Apparently Saturday and Sunday were good days though.

25 April

I visited the HBOC camp at a property near Bulga abutting Wollemi National Park. Most people were beginning to pack up so I went for a 3 hour walk by myself around the area. Honeyeaters were very noticeable, including lots of them (especially Yellow-faced Honeyeaters) apparently passing through on migration.  There were quite a few Mistletoebirds and Grey Shrike-thrushes about, and I had some excellent views of Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters (I think these were non-migratory). Not long before I left to head homewards, I met Ann Lindsey and Judy Westphal on a side road and we watched a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles soaring majestically overhead.

21-22 April

I usually only report on my times spent birding in the field but I'll make an exception this time. I've spent two days a) crunching paperwork and writing reports etc as the aftermath to the trip to Broughton Island and b) reviewing shorebirds data for the Hunter Region from BirdLife Australia as part of their efforts to generate new population estimates for the Flyway and then collating all the missing Hunter Region data to send to them. I prefer to be in the field! (but that's wasted time unless the results are used - and used properly).

18-20 April

A group of 8 of us went across to Broughton Island for 3 days of bird surveys. The weather was wonderful after a dampish start and as usual the scenery was magnificent. We added 6 species to the official list. More importantly, it is looking like Little Wattlebirds as well as Yellow-faced Honeyeaters have become permanent features of the island. We found 25-30 Sooty Oystercatchers including several young birds, which probably were born on the island or one of the nearby ones, and a pair of Ospreys have built a nest and were active at it throughout our stay. I had a wonderful close-up view of a Peregrine Falcon as it breezed past me on Pink'onTop mountain, and later of an Osprey out towards the West End.

13 April

In the evening it was the bird club meeting - with a great talk by Hollis Taylor on the songs of the Pied Butcherbird. I'd heard it before but it was just as enjoyable and interesting the second time around.

12 April

I went to the Port Stephens community radio studios for a live interview, and then I met Lois Wooding for some work on our Grey-tailed Tattlers project. We are in the early stages of building a website about tattlers. Also, Lois recently photographed a banded bird and I had some news - it was banded as an adult at a nest in South Chuchotka in 2012 and each year subsequently. I've received information about it from the Russian researcher Pavel Tomkovich. On my way home I stopped at Stockton Sandspit where there were some Black-tailed Godwits in breeding plumage and several Caspian Terns. Also, some Double-barred Finches in the shrubbery (it will be good that these can be Atlassed).

9-10 April

I went to Sydney for the BIGnet meeting (a 6-monthly get together of the combined clubs of NSW and ACT). I thought it was a good meeting overall. On Saturday afternoon there was a seminar program about using/analysing data. I made a presentation about what Hunter Bird Observers Club is doing.

8 April

Nev McNaughton and I did the Ash Island survey (a day early, because of my Sydney commitments on the weekend). As usual there were many hundreds of Black-winged Stilts and Red-necked Avocets, also some Marsh Sandpipers and Eastern Curlews, and various species of duck. But the definite highlight was a group of 95 Black-tailed Godwits, all coloured up into their breeding plumage and looking fantastic. At one point a raptor came through and put them all up, it was spectacular! And, on the power lines just past the bridge onto Ash Island, there was a group of 60-70 White-breasted Woodswallows. Presumably these were birds on migration passage.

7 April

I joined Lois Wooding at Swan Bay on Port Stephens to do some work on our Grey-tailed Tattler project. Unfortunately, the birds weren't all that cooperative for us - as the tide dropped, a group of 25 of them emerged from their shelter (we had not been able to see more than a handful of them to that point). They began to forage almost right in front of us, but within a few minutes they had dispersed. We managed to catch up with 4-5 of them, but only briefly. Most had their breeding plumage well developed, and were very fat and ready for their departure soon to the breeding grounds. During the rest of the day, we went to several other of their sites but the birds were always well dispersed (and e could find hardly any). Not much science done today! However, I quite enjoyed seeing the large mixed flock of Pied Oystercatchers and Sooty Oystercatchers at a roost site at Swan Bay (45-50 and 15-20 birds, respectively).

5 April

HBOC's mid-week outing was to The Old Brush, a property near Brunkerville. We found 63 species (me not quite so many!) including all three of the local scrub-wren species. I ended up having terrific views of a small party of Large-billed Scrub-wrens and even managed some half-decent photos. It was interesting to see a group of 5 Bassian Thrushes foraging on a lawn, and we had a late-departing Rufous Fantail sighting too. There were many of both Scarlet Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills, in both cases lots of juvenile birds were also present.

March 2016

25-27 March

Margaret and I went to HBOC's Easter camp at Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve (~35km from Mudgee). We had to leave on the Sunday afternoon for a family commitment but we had a good time at the camp (along with almost 40 others). We drove there via Cassilis-Ulan so that we could stop at The Drip, an amazingly beautiful spot near Ulan that Margaret had never seen before. After we set up our tent, I had a few hours of birding but it was quite warm and things were slow (the same thing on Saturday afternoon). My best successes were at a spring some 500m from the campsite; many honeyeaters were coming in for a drink or to bathe (White-naped and Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills in particular). Saturday morning was quite successful and I found many great birds including long looks at groups of White-browed Babblers and Speckled Warblers and a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater. Late in the afternoon I set out to find a Rockwarbler - I spent 60-70 minutes searching  in one area of sandstone and boulders, without success. On my way back I decided to try another spot - and instantly I was onto a pair of them!

On Sunday morning I covered much of the same ground as the previous morning, and found many of the same birds plus several that I had missed but others seen e.g. Crested Shrike-Tits, Brown Treecreepers, Collared Sparrowhawk.

23 March

I went with Ann Lindsey, Liz Crawford and Chris Herbert to Curracabundi National Park count for the official opening of the NP and the Karamea homestead which is where visitors to the Park can stay. We'd all been involved in the 3-year program of bird surveys of the Park and have had many stays at Karamea. We did some birding stops on the way there and back, with highlights including a pair of Spotted Quail-thrush, and a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, and many Little Ravens. During the speeches, a Restless Flycatcher came into the Karamea grounds right near us. I dropped the others at Raymond Terrace and raced to Salamander Bay where I was scheduled to deliver a talk (on "Waterbirds of Port Stephens") for the Port Stephens Council's coastal awareness program. Prior to it, I caught up with Lois Wooding to discuss our Grey-tailed Tattler project.

20 March

I did the Ash Island waterbirds survey (with Nev McNaughton), one day late because of having been in Perth on the Saturday. It was an early start (which wasn't easy for me as I was still functioning on WA times). We found a group of 48 Pacific Golden Plovers at Phoenix Flat and some Eastern Curlews too. Around at the main ponds, there were 73 Black-tailed Godwits, with many of them sporting well-developed breeding plumage. They were standing with about 600 Red-necked Avocets and 300+ Black-winged Stilts and it was quite a challenge to get an accurate count with all the group together.

11-19 March

On the Friday Margaret and I drove to Sydney, flew to Perth and then drove to Quindalup on the SW coast near Busselton/Dunsborough. There wasn't a lot of time for birding that day but we did see some Australian Ringnecks (the "28" race) plus Western Magpies and other fairly common birds. Next morning I set out to do some birding, only to discover I had left my binoculars in Newcastle! I took the camera instead. Western Gerygones were calling in lots of places but hard to see (and very hard to photograph). We stayed in the Quindalup area (at my sister's beach house) until Monday morning but with limited birding opportunities due to various family commitments. I saw Osprey at a couple of spots, also a small flock of Carnaby's Black-Cockatoos, and I spent some time attempting to photograph the "striated" western form of the White-browed Scrub-wren.

On Monday we drove to Albany (for more family events). I tried to buy a pair of binoculars in Busselton but the camera shop had disappeared. In Albany I was able to buy a pair of Vanguard 10 x 42s and hence I was back in business. My birding highlight in Albany (limited attempts) was to find at least 1,000 Silver Gulls roosting down near the wharf area at night.On Tuesday morning we went to an exhibition of bird photography in the Albany Town Hall (the photos were excellent) then headed off for Cheynes Beach. I soon found a calling Noisy Scrub-bird and spent about 90 minutes closing in on it and trying to get a look. I saw some blurry movements occasionally, that was all. Next morning though, I was waiting at the road for it to cross - I don't know if it's the same bird from 2006 but the behaviour is the same. Some other interesting birds at Cheynes Beach were Common Sandpiper, Brush Bronzewing, Pacific Gull and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater. I listened intently all the time that I was out birding, but never heard a single indication of Western Bristlebird or Western Whipbird.

On Wednesday late morning we headed back out, detouring first to Waychinicup Inlet. I heard another scrub-bird as we drove through the national park. At the camping grounds I found Western Whistler and Red-winged Fairy-wren. Next we headed for Narrogin, where I spent the late afternoon at the Foxes Lair Nature Park. I had great views here of Red-capped Parrot, also Brush Wattlebird and Western Gerygone, although overall it was quiet for birding.

Thursday morning we spent at the Dryandra Old Mill Dam. This had several Rufous Treecreepers (often foraging in groups of 4-6 birds), several Dusky Woodswallows, some Restless Flycatchers, Grey Currawongs and much more (although I couldn't find any red robins). Closer to Perth, we stopped at Balmoral Track Head, which was quiet almost the whole time apart from a 2-minute flurry which yielded Scarlet Robin (2 males) and a Western Spinebill and a handful of other species. After that, we called in at Lake Monger which had many waterbirds, including Musk Duck and Blue-billed Duck, and a single Mute Swan (apparently it had recently flown in from Northam). I became excited about a raptor briefly seen , which I tried to turn into a rarity but later from my photos it was confirmed as an immature Swamp Harrier.

I spent some of Friday chasing other reported vagrants - a Eurasian Hobby near Bibra Lake, which I saw in flight a couple of times, and an Imperial-Pigeon species at Thornlie, which I dipped on. I also visited Thomsons Lake, which was very quiet. We flew back on Saturday but there was time before the flight for repeat visits to Bibra Lake (where my views of the falcon were no better than Thursday) and Thornlie (yet again dipping).

8 March

I went up to Port Stephens (Salamander Bay) in the morning to do a radio interview about the recent waterbirds survey. It was on Port Stephens community radio (100.9 on the dial). Afterwards I met Lois Wooding and we spent a few hours watching Grey-tailed Tattlers foraging (at Tanilba Bay, the Sunrise Point area). It was quite a high tide so we had to wait a fair while before any birds started doing anything interesting.

6 March

It was Clean-up Australia Day and I went to Stockton Sandspit which (as usual) the bird club had nominated as a site. We collected lots of rubbish, and also had good looks inter alia of the various shorebirds that roost at the Sandspit - for example, Eastern Curlew, Pacific Golden Plover, Red-necked Stint. There also were several Caspian Terns (and some Gull-billed Terns).

4 March

I was on a pelagic trip to the continental shelf departing from Swansea today. A slow trip out (taking 4 and a quarter hours) but we had lots of shearwaters following the boat for most of the time, including a few Hutton's Shearwaters (of which I got so-so photos) and some Fluttering Shearwaters (which all eluded my camera). The day then turned on its head - just as we arrived at the shelf the deckhand had a very serious accident, resulting in the loss of one of his thumbs! So we turned straight back again (to be met after about an hour by a Marine Rescue vessel, and a mid-sea transfer). We arrived back at Swansea ahead of schedule and I spent some time then looking for shorebirds around the Swansea Channel. I found some Eastern Curlews, and a feeding flock of 63 Bar-tailed Godwits.

2 March

No birding today, but in the evening there was the HBOC committee meeting, which I chaired. We seem to have lots of things on the go!

1 March

It was back to Tahlee today, to lead the HBOC mid-weekers outing after last week's recce. Surprisingly, there were quite a few differences to the birds we saw the previous Wednesday. We recorded 66 species over the morning's walk, including nice views of a group of 4 Varied Sittellas and an Osprey obligingly perched by the water's edge when we first arrived.  We added two species to the bird list for the property - a Grey Goshawk which flew by just as we had arrived, and a Common Sandpiper. The latter is decidedly uncommon in Port Stephens and it was also a new bird for several of the attendees, so we spent a fair amount of time on it. Also, after a careful search I found a Bush Stone-Curlew, actually not all that far from where we had it the previous week. The bird was exceptionally wary but eventually I was able to 'scope it from some distance off and most people had good views of it eventually. Again, it was a tick for many.

February 2016

24 February

Ann Lindsey and I went up to Tahlee, on the western side of Port Stephens. They've recently started surveying the birds of their property. We joined the survey leader Stuart Fleming, and walked with him through his usual route (plus some detours). We added Striated Thornbill and Little Lorikeet to the birdlist (which is still probably about 20 species short of its asymptote). Later, we looked hard for the resident Bush Stone-Curlews, eventually finding one of the pair roosting down where the creek flows into Port Stephens. In the heat of late morning, we talked with Stuart and an IT guy about an app they are developing for students to use (it also helped us to stay cool).

20 February

The monthly Hunter Estuary survey was on today. Normally I do Ash Island but we were short of people for Tomago Wetlands so I helped to do that one instead. A lot of it was a very hard slog through soft mud, sinking 20cm or more into it with every step. I was exhausted by the end! However, we had a real highlight, finding a group of at least 4,000 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers in the area called Samphire Flats. We also had about 80 Common Greenshanks, scattered in groups of 10-20 birds in many places.

19 February

Today was the Port Stephens waterbirds survey, which I organise in collaboration with the Hunter Coast NPWS office. My section of the survey was the area around Winda Woppa and Corrie Island. There were shorebirds aplenty including about 60 Eastern Curlews and 48 Pied Oystercatchers. Just as we were about to finish, a saw a large flock of shorebirds go up then settle again. I went over and found several hundred Bar-tailed Godwits, 30 Whimbrels and nearly 90 Little Terns. There are more details (especially about the overall survey) in the section about my research projects.

11 February

At last night's AGM, there was a report of an Oriental Cuckoo at Walka Water Works that morning. So, I headed off early-ish (I had a late night last night!) and spent an hour and a half wandering unsuccessfully. Then, I got a call - some others had found it, just around the corner from where I was. I had some frustrating views of it, and then a brilliant view! My 3rd Hunter tick in 11 days!

10 February

Late afternoon, after a day spent on the computer, I went out to Hexham Swamp. There were lots and lots of waterbirds, but shorebirds were in comparatively short supply. I saw the family of four Black-necked Storks (mostly acting independently of one another), also a Glossy Ibis and 20+ Australasian Shovelers. And just as I was leaving, a Buff-banded Rail darted across the track in front of me.

In the evening, we had the HBOC AGM. I was elected Vice-President, to support incoming President Allan Richardson, Back in the saddle!

7 February

I was on a pelagic trip from Port Stephens (departing from Nelson Bay) today. It wasn't a day for high bird diversity so it helped that was punctuated by views of flying fish, dolphins, and a leaping Blue Marlin. The main species seen today was Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, along with reasonable numbers of Flesh-footed Shearwaters and occasionally some of their cousins. We had one Gould's Petrel approach the boat while a couple of others of them were more circumspect. Several Great-winged Petrels (aka Grey-faced) also were around, though not for long. The highlight for me and probably for everybody else on board occurred about halfway out to the shelf, when two Red-tailed Tropicbirds were spotted. Actually I only saw one of them (they were quite high up) but that was enough for me as it was my 400th species seen in the Hunter Region. It so happened that for Steve Roderick, it was the same milestone event!

1-2 February

It had been a long time since I last went to the western parts of the Hunter Region for some serious birding. On Monday I went to Giants Creek Rd near Sandy Hollow, after 3 brief and not highly productive stops along the way. At my first stop along Giants Creek Rd, three Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters were waiting and I later found a party of ~10 Grey-crowned Babblers and then 2 x White-browed Babblers. I visited 3 other sites along this road (one involving a slight detour onto Stairs Rd) with moderate birding successes. However, at one spot I could hear a Black-eared Cuckoo calling just as I was arriving. I eventually tracked it down, with great views including photos. It was a new bird for my Hunter Region list, taking me "officially" (my URRF will need to be okayed) to 399 species. (Unofficially it's 400, since there's a storm-petrel seen last year on a pelagic, which as yet has no name!) I later stopped at Battery Rock Rest Area and then the Cassilis Rest Area. At the latter I saw a Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo well and later had distant views of a departing Red-winged Parrot. I spent the night at a locked gate within Durridgere SCA, where I found more White-browed Babblers and many Musk Lorikeets were coming in to roost in the evening.

I did some more birding in the SCA on Tuesday morning, not very productively, then headed for The Drip, a reserve nearer to Ulan. My departure was delayed somewhat by a fallen tree across the entrance track into the SCA - eventually I found a back way out. The Drip was beautiful - I had never been there before. Cicadas made the birding difficult, and my best sighting was of a couple of Emus high up above me (on a ridge, above the track I was walking). I then left the Hunter Region for a while, going through Wollar on my way to Goulburn River NP. Just beyond Wollar, and only a few km from being back into the Hunter Region, I saw a pair of Ground Cuckoo-shrikes flying across a paddock. These are locally very rare - I wonder if they will come in?

The birding in Goulburn River NP was wonderful! At my first stop, I had seen 8 species of honeyeater within the first few minutes. There was an adult and a juvenile Pallid Cuckoo, also Speckled Warblers, Diamond Firetails and much more. I had a late lunch here, alongside the car whilst watching a White-plumed Honeyeater making repeat visits to a low shrub/log. Later I looked but could find no evidence of a nest. My second stopping site in the National Parkwas just as good, and I had better views there of White-winged Trillers (a pair) plus there were many Red-rumped Parrots. Finally, on my way home, I made a slight detour to Doughboy Hollow near Singleton, where I found 100+ Plumed Whistling-Ducks.

January 2016

27 January

I went to Ash Island in the morning, where Hunter LLS are starting a project to identify the benthic and water column organisms in Swan Pond and Wader Pond and relate these to the utilisation of the ponds by shorebirds and waterbirds. My task (with Ann Lindsey) was to count the birds present, and explain how I normally do the surveys out there. For once, Swan Pond was living up to its name, with ~230 Black Swans present. Whilst waiting for the others to arrive, I had close views of two Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, and I took lots of photos of them!

23-26 January

Saturday afternoon was the first of the scheduled HBOC activities, starting at Crowdy Head. I'd been there in the morning, finding some Tree Martins (a first for me at this location). Unfortunately, heavy rain set in almost as we started in the afternoon, and after about 45 minutes I called it off. In the meantime, however, we'd had sensational looks at a Buff-banded Rail, happily foraging out in the open in clear view for us.

Next morning we started with a walk through the Harrington rainforest, finding Spectacled Monarchs and Varied Triller amongst other goodies. We also had these species on many of our other visits to the rainforest, plus Crested Shrike-tits, Figbirds, etc. We continued on to the estuary, to look for shorebirds at high tide. Our first highlight was a Striated Heron, fishing unperturbedly in front of us and posing well for our cameras. Out on the sandbank we found some Sanderlings amidst a large group of Pacific Golden Plovers and other shorebirds, and later an early-returning Double-banded Plover. There were hundreds of terns, mainly Little Tern and Common Tern. We had close up views of one of these, being taken by a wildlife carer for release. In the afternoon, we visited more sites around Harrington, finding Brown Quail, Tree Martins and a Striped Honeyeater amongst other good sightings.

Monday morning commenced with a visit to Cattai Wetlands. Early into this, we found a male Red-backed Fairy-wren, setting the scene for a wonderful visit. A Southern Emu-wren was later seen by some people, and both of the more common Fairy-wrens. We found 5 Comb-crested Jacanas, two of them being young birds with their parent. A Square-tailed Kite was seen by some, and both Azure and Sacred Kingfisher were present. A brief stop later at Coopernook Corner turned up a Wood Sandpiper, quite a surprise and a real rarity for our area!  At Wingham Brush after a late lunch, we found a pair of Bassian Thrush and a Yellow-throated Scrub-wren. The final stops were at Cundletown to check the Fairy Martin colony and the waterbird colony; the latter having Little Pied Cormorants and an Intermediate Egret breeding, as well as all the Cattle Egrets.

Tuesday morning we went back into Harrington rainforest, not finding anything new although having close looks at an immature Spectacled Monarch with its parent. Driving home, a highlight was a Wedge-tailed Eagle, uncommon close to the coast.

22 January

HBOC had a camp at Harrington for the Australia Day "long weekend", with me as leader. Margaret and I headed up on Friday, stopping initially at O'Sullivans Gap (in Myall Lakes NP). This was difficult - the cicadas were very loud and the leeches were very aggressive, and as a result I didn't find many birds. The pick of the bunch was a pair of Large-billed Scrub-wrens. Next we went into Forster, where I had information about the location of a waterbird colony. I tracked it down, finding some nesting Little Pied Cormorants and Australasian Darters, and flushing some Latham's Snipe. We set up our campsite at Harrington, and later in the afternoon I headed out again. My main mission was to locate a reported Square-tailed Kite nest in Coopernook State Forest, which I did (the birds were not there). At some of the local wetlands I found Red-kneed and Black-fronted Dotterels, and a male Black-necked Stork.

18 January

I went to Walka Water Works in the morning, for a leisurely stroll around the lake. The Great Crested Grebes were all paired off (I counted 6 pairs); however, the two other grebe species were in short supply. Afterwards, I tried Hands Lagoon (very quiet) and the Louth Park paddocks (flooded, probably will become good for birds in a week or two) before ending up at Hexham Swamp. This also was quiet for most of my visit (there has been so much rain these past couple of weeks, there is water everywhere and there are many many options for a bird to use). Just as I was about to leave, a pair of Baillon's Crakes emerged and I had prolonged views of one of them foraging. And then, a female Black-necked Stork flew over, and my quiet visit suddenly had become interesting!

10 January

I did a pelagic trip on MV Argonaut departing from Port Stephens (Nelson Bay) today. It's a long way to the shelf if you want to rock and roll! Actually it was an amazingly calm day and the seas were their mildest ever, I reckon. The birding was patchy (at times it was exceedingly quiet) but overall it was a very good day as we had some considerable highlights, in particular a Gould's Petrel investigated the boat for a long while, giving us excellent views, and so later did a pale phase Kermadec Petrel and a couple of Grey-faced Petrels. Towards the end of our stay at the shelf, we had 3-4 more Gould's Petrels come by, but not quite as cooperatively as the first bird. Several Flesh-footed Shearwaters followed the boat most of the way out. We also saw many pods of dolphins, often approaching very close to the boat, and had a close encounter with a dolphin-fish (a first for me, it was gorgeous) and a sunfish, seen somewhat more distantly.

9 January

I did the Ash Island survey in the morning, with Nev McNaughton. After almost a week of very heavy rain, there was a lot of surface water around but we were able to get everywhere. Birdwise it was fairly quiet, with the highlights being 18 Australasian Shovelers and ~120 Red-necked Avocets on the main ponds, and also 20 Eastern Curlews at Phoenix Flats.

1-2 January

We drove back from Chiltern via Cootamundra and Cowra, to Orange (for an overnight stop) then Rylstone and Goulburn River NP, and back home to Newcastle. The birding was quiet for most of the way (often through beautiful rolling hills etc but there was not much residual habitat, unfortunately). At Cowra, I enjoyed seeing five Pacific Black Duck ducklings (with a parent in the background) learning how to "duck dive" in a small pond within the complex. In the Goulburn River NP, I found a group of 5-6 White-eared Honeyeaters behaving very flamboyantly near the Lees Pinch lookout and various other honeyeaters also present plus nice looks at some Buff-rumped Thornbills. Just after exiting the NP, there was a flock of 30+ Little Ravens in a cleared paddock.