Thinking About Birds

December 2017

31 December

After recent reports of a Common Gull-billed Tern at Stockton Sandspit, I went there this morning coinciding with the high tide. I had just over an hour available between family commitments and I had a really great time for my entire visit  – there were well over a thousand birds roosting there (eg Eastern Curlew, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits, Curlew Sandpipers, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers) and it was just fantastic! Unfortunately, there were no Gull-billed Terns of any type anywhere to be seen. The best I could do was a distant view of one bird perched on oyster racks over in Fern Bay, and it flew off up-river before I could get anywhere near it for a better look. I’m pretty sure though that it was an Aussie Gull-billed Tern . I went back at about 5pm – the tide was rising but there was still some exposed beach, which was just covered in birds. There were six Gull-billed Terns resting on the beach and I looked at them all very closely. All were Aussies, three were in breeding plumage and three were not. At about 6pm they all flew off and landed in the lagoon. That’s it, I thought, and I started to get ready to leave. And then a 7th bird flew in from up-river, going straight to the lagoon where it joined the other birds. In flight I could see that it had a whiter head (i.e. less black) and I felt quite sure that old mate arrived. I hurried around to the viewing area near the car park and was able to have a decent look at it. A Common Gull-billed Tern! Although I’ve been in northern Australia several times, I’d never seen one before so it was a lifer for me, not just a Hunter tick. What a great way to finish the year!

17 December

In the morning I went on the HBOC outing, which was a gentle amble around the swamps of Pambalong/Leneghans.  We found some Latham's Snipe (5+ birds) at Pambalong Nature Reserve, and had a very good look at a Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo perched in a tree-top plus we saw two adult White-bellied Sea-Eagles. Around at Leneghans the Tawny Grassbirds were calling vigorously and we found some more raptors - Swamp Harrier and Whistling Kite. It is all so very overgrown there now, and most of the wetlands are obscured by reeds.

16 December

It was the Hunter estuary survey day and I went to Ash Island with Nev and Curtis. The day started well, with a Brush Cuckoo and Mangrove Gerygones calling from near the car park where we met. Towards the end of the survey, we had 3 Aust. Spotted Crakes at Bittern Corner Pond. However, the in-between was not so great, as there was no water to speak of on Swan or Wader Ponds and consequently, no birds. We did find a group of Red-capped Plovers with two runners at Fish Fry Creek, and a Whiskered Tern on Deep Pond (which is not part of our official survey route).

15 December

I went up to the Manning Valley with another birder, Curtis Hayne, primarily to look for the incredibly rare Aleutian Terns which were found at Old Bar (Mudbishops Point) at the beginning of this week. There were at least 14 birds - they have never before been recorded in Australia. I went at low tide, the suggested best time although I'm not sure if anyone really knows. I've never before been there except at or near high tide and I was amazed at how much sand there is when the water is low! Also seen there - a Double-banded Plover, a Lesser Sand Plover, a Sanderling and lots of Little Terns (at least 80 birds). Prior to that, we went to Cattai Wetlands and then to Harrington Rainforest. At Cattai I was pleased to find 5 Comb-crested Jacanas, these having been elusive on my two previous visits, and there were at least two Pallid Cuckoos (an addition to my Cattai list). Also, probably 3 Brush Cuckoos and about 300 Pacific Black Ducks - a huge increase in numbers for them. At Harrington, we had both species of monarch (Black-faced, Spectacled Monarch) and some Regent Bowerbirds (which e also saw at Cattai).

14 December

There was a lunch today at Riverside Park Ash Island, hosted by NCIG for people who had been involved in ecological projects on Ash Island in 2017 (mainly, shorebirds and bell frogs). I enjoyed catching up with some people that I don't see often nowadays. But it was 42C, so not the ideal day for it!

13 December

I finished the first draft of a paper about altitudinal variations in the birds on the Gloucester Tops and sent it to co-author Mike Newman for his inputs. Then I got ready for the HBOC December meeting, which I chaired plus gave a short talk at. That's two presentations I had to prepare!

12 December

I went up to Port Stephens, firstly to do my monthly radio interview on Port Stephens FM, and then I met up with Lois Wooding and the two of us visited the sites that Lois monitors in her monthly Fingal-Birubi coastal surveys (around Boat Harbour etc). We failed to find the Reef Egret but we did find several Sooty Oystercatchers and lots of Great and Pied Cormorants, and just for something quite different, some Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos flew through. Finally, we checked out Soldiers Point and Salamander Bay for Grey-tailed Tattlers - we found one bird at Salamander and none at Soldiers Point but there was a pair of Striated Herons there, fishing about 30m from one another. Also some Eastern Curlews and Bar-tailed Godwits, and a single Aust. Pied Oystercatcher.

8 December

I was on a pelagic trip out of Swansea today. It was quite birdy with several species of shearwater (including Sooty and Fluttering Shearwater; there also was a Buller's but it had become just a tiny dot when I finally got onto it) and three species of albatross.  We had a few Grey-faced Petrels around the boat (and a distant unidentified cookilaria petrel). The highlight for me though was the storm-petrels - for the final hour (at least) at the shelf we had 15-20 Wilson's Storm-Petrel dancing on our slick and 3 or 4 White-faced Storm-Petrels as well. It was great to be able to contrast the two species.

7 December

I did a 1-day visit to the Manning Valley as I wanted to get the shorebird surveys done while the tides were very favourable and couldn't find a 2-day window. It was hard work - I must have walked about 10km mainly in sand on a hot sunny day and carrying binoculars, telescope & tripod, and camera. I was tired by the end! My first stop was Saltwater NP where there were probably 10 Regent Bowerbirds including at least 3 fully coloured males, and a Green Catbird was feeding a dependent fledged youngster. Pairs of both Aust. Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers were present, and a flock of ~15 White-throated Needletails were foraging overhead for most of my time there. Then I did the southern and northern sides of the estuary (Old Bar and Harrington). It's now difficult to survey properly at Old Bar because of the way that sand has built up, pushing birds to quite distant shorelines that I can't reach. However, there were plenty of birds including several hundred Little Terns and some Common Terns and a group of five Sanderlings (as well as all the usual shorebirds). At Harrington there was a roosting flock of Little Black Cormorants - I counted 380 of them!

6 December

A quiet day (making progress on a paper about altitudinal variations in bird populations in the Gloucester Tops) and then I went to the HBOC Management Committee meeting (which I chaired).

5 December

It was the final HBOC mid-weekers outing for the year - we went to the Tiligherry Habitat at Tanilba Bay where the highlights were several species on nests - Eastern Yellow Robin (in an area recently burnt out but the Robin still carried on), Satin Bowerbird and Leaden Flycatcher. The latter had two chicks in the nest. It also was quite interesting to watch the Silver Gulls taking cicadas on the wing.  Prior to lunch at the Lemon Tree Passage bowling club, we made a brief stop at the waterfront where there were six Grey-tailed Tattlers roosting, and then visited the (abandoned) Brahminy Kite nest that Lois Wooding had monitored in spring.

4 December

I went up to the Gloucester Tops to re-install two Song Meters. Unfortunately one of them was malfunctioning but I set up the other one in the middle of a Rufous Scrub-bird territory. The bird started squawking from less than 10m away while I was fiddling with the padlock! So, there should be some good recordings coming out of it. I visited a few scrub-bird territories - some birds were quite active but others were silent. Olive Whistlers were calling at many spots as were Rose Robins, but once again I did not see any Flame Robins or Red-browed Treecreepers. On my way back I visited the wetlands on Wenham Cox Rd, where once again I found a small group of Hoary-headed Grebes. They are proving very faithful to this site!

November 2017

28 November

In the evening there was a coordinated survey for Australasian Bitterns in the lower Hunter Valley. I and two others were assigned to cover Pambalong Nature Reserve. This proved a difficult task as the site is very close to the main freeway and there was constant traffic noise making it almost impossible (I think) to hear a calling bittern. Any any event, we did not see nor hear any of them. A nice compensation though was to have good views of a Baillon's Crake foraging at the edge of a patch of reeds. Later, one of my co-surveyors also saw some Spotless Crakes doing much the same thing. I missed out on that, being positioned elsewhere - but I did enjoy the views I had of a perched White-bellied Sea-Eagle.

24 November

We stopped at the Cassilis rest area mid morning: it still has a long recovery ahead after last summer's bushfire. However, I found a couple of Varied Sittellas and a pair of Musk Lorikeets whizzed through. Also a small flock of woodswallows flew over; I could only see White-browed Woodswallows but I didn't see all of the flock. I could hear a Cockatiel which I thought would be a good record to confirm so I marched around for a while looking for it and becoming more and more puzzled. Eventually I realised that the calls were coming from inside a Winnebago parked about 50m from me! For lunch we stopped at Battery Rocks rest area which was very quiet. The highlight was to have a Wedge-tailed Eagle fly over.

23 November

We spent a big chunk of the day cycling around Dubbo's Western Plains Zoo. I ended up with a surprisingly large bird list (38 species, not including any ones on exhibit). There were lots and lots of Apostlebirds - they were just everywhere! There also were some White-winged Choughs, occupying a similar ecological niche. I saw one interaction between groups; in that instance the Choughs were the dominant species hence it's intriguing that overall there were so many more Apostlebirds. I was also interested that both miners (Noisy Miner, Yellow-throated Miner) were present. This must be the transitional area fr them. I also found both friarbird species (Noisy Friarbird, Little Friarbird). Waterfowl were especially plentiful because of the many waterholes for the animals.

22 November

Another long drive today, initially north-east across the Hay Plain towards West Wyalong. At a rest area near Rankins Springs I found my first Cockatiels for the trip and a very noisy group of Apostlebirds. At another stop late morning, the White-winged Choughs had a dependent young and I found my first Blue-faced Honeyeaters for the trip, and a Rufous Songlark was calling and eventually seen. At Forbes, I visited Gum Swamp yet again - it was quieter than on my occasional previous visits. The highlights included Yellow-billed Spoonbills, Red-kneed Dotterel and Little Grassbird.

21 November

We had a late start, not leaving Waikerie until after I'd done my Port Stephens radio interview. By then it had become a hot day and stops for birding were not appealing. At Balranald, we sought out a birding trail that had been under water when we came through in January. This time it was as dry as a bone, and not very active. The highlights were a mixed flock of White-browed and Masked Woodswallows flying over and several Little Friarbirds. Later, we stopped at a desolate rest area 50km or so before Hay. To my surprise there was a male White-winged Triller there - despite there being only a few trees in the rest area and no others within kilometres! Also present was a pair of Nankeen Kestrels. From Hay, I tried to find some birding spots but that became a lot of driving for little reward.

20 November

I had a fairly quiet day bird-wise; sightseeing and lazing in Waikerie for much of the day and escaping the heat. Late in the afternoon I went to some places on the Waikerie Birdwatching Trail brochure. Unfortunately I couldn't find one of them (Hogwash Bend) that was mentioned in the brochure as being good for Regent Parrots. It's decades since I've seen one of those! The other two spots were lagoons and had nothing special although I did find Australasian Shelducks, Red-necked Avocets, Grey Teal, Red-kneed Dotterel etc. But I arrived back at the cabin feeling somewhat deflated.

19 November

I headed off early, to Gluepot Reserve. I was disconcerted to encounter a "road closed" sign at the turn-off (it had rained on Wednesday) but I called the rangers and they said they were re-opening. As usual, Gluepot was in great condition and had many birds (especially Spiny-cheeked and Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters; both have had good seasons). At the house dam I found a pair of Major Mitchell Cockatoos (ten more birds later, at Old Gluepot) and there were White-winged Fairy-wrens nearby as well. In a one-day visit I didn't expect to find all the Gluepot specialties, and I didn't. But, I did find White-browed Treecreepers and Gilbert's Whistlers and, when I was half-way back, a White-backed Swallow. I also found a Jacky Winter attending a newly fledged youngster - the resemblance to a robin chick was remarkable.

18 November

It was a cool wet windy day for our return to the mainland and we made no birding stops all morning. After we left the Adelaide Hills it became drier and warmer but there weren't any good stopping places until we reached the Brookfield Conservation Park (which was established for Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats). I found a group of Southern Whitefaces and, at the same time, a female Hooded Robin attending to a recently fledged chick (with almost no tail). I was torn as to which species to point my camera at! The place looks good for a future longer visit. We checked in at our cabin in Waikerie and then I headed out for some spots I'd found in previous visits. Hart Lagoon once gain was very good, with Yellow Rosellas in the trees, Red-kneed Dotterels on the shoreline and many hundreds of ducks on the water. I found several Pink-eared Ducks and a pair of Australasian Shelducks, and one pair of Grey Teal (of many hundreds!) had a tiny duckling in tow.  Alas though, the Waikerie sewage ponds obviously no longer receive offerings, and have become grassed over.

17 November

We did some sightseeing around Kangaroo Island today, including a visit to American River where I found the wrong sort of cockatoos - a flock of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos flew through but alas I found no Glossies. However, I added two species to my KI list - Aust. Pied Oystercatcher and Royal Spoonbill. And later, at Nepean Bay I added two more - Common Greenshank (9 birds) and Red-necked Stint (17 birds).

16 November

No birding today but I still managed to do some birdwatching. We went to Raptor Domain for their free-flight show but I also found there some nesting Striated Pardalotes (sub-species ornatus) and several very vocal Crescent Honeyeaters. Later, at Seal Bay where there is a colony of Australian Sea-lions, I found my first Sooty Oystercatcher for Kangaroo Island and there were a couple of Pacific Gulls around and a Grey Currawong, plus oodles of Silvereyes.

15 November

In the early morning I drove to Remarkable Rocks, at the far end of Kangaroo Island. It was very wet all the way, but I did stop once after I found a gaggle of Cape Barren Geese just near the entrance to Flinders Chase NP. Fortunately the rain had eased when I got there, but it still was showery and with a bitterly cold wind. After searching for a while, I had a brief view of two Western Whipbirds (and later heard two separate birds calling from elsewhere in the area, both from some distance away in dense and impenetrable-looking heath). Whilst looking, I saw a pair of Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters and later, a Purple-gaped Honeyeater (my first sighting of one of these for about 15 years!) and (to my surprise as there were no trees) a group of three Tree Martins also flew over (twice). Next I went to the Murray Lagoon which had Black-tailed Native-Hens, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilts, White-fronted Chats and some very vocal Brown Thornbills, also about 20 Cape Barren Geese. After that I tried to visit a couple of other lagoons, but they had access problems so I finished off my outing with a visit to Emu Bay. Here I found several Australian Pelicans, a large group of Crested Terns (with copulation taking place) and a young Pacific Gull. The big surprise was to find nine Wild Turkey alongside the road about 10km before Kingscote - these definitely seemed to be wild birds and while I watched, a pair of them crossed the road and kept on going.

14 November

After breakfast I walked around Granite Island. By day there was no trace of the Little Penguins (apart from much signage) and I heard bit could not see Buff-banded Rails. It was a nice walk though, highlighted by a couple of Caspian Terns. After checking out from our motel, we went to the Nangawooka Flora Reserve, a place I found in our previous visit. This was quite good - lots of blossom, plenty of honeyeaters (e.g. New Holland, White-plumed and White-naped Honeyeaters), some Adelaide Rosellas, Grey Shrike-thrush, etc. I spent some time taking photos at a bird hide - I got OK shots of the ornatus sub-species of Striated Pardalote amongst other things. Mid-afternoon we took the car ferry across to Kangaroo Island then drove to Kingscote where we will be staying for 4 nights.  By the time we arrived, a change had come through, and it was cold and windy (with rain later). My birding was limited to the drive from Penneshaw, with Grey Currawong and Pacific Gull being the highlights. Around our apartment there are many New Holland Honeyeaters.

13 November

Another very hot day (38C) and we drove to Victor Harbor with no long stops except at Pink Lake (where there were very few birds) and a rest area at the border (where there were Musk Lorikeets). At about 4:30pm, when it had cooled off a bit in Victor Harbor, I went looking for Hooded Plovers, eventually finding a pair with a nest and eggs along Encounter Bay. Their area was fenced off and signed, a good thing as there were so many people walking dogs along the beach, often off-lead. I also found a few Pacific Gulls during my exploring.

12 November

It was very hot (37C) for our drive from Geelong to Dimboola and we only made one "bush" stop, at a rest area near Beaufort. Here I found two Pallid Cuckoos and a couple of rarities for which I was challenged when I put my data into Birdata - a White-throated Gerygone and a group of four Scarlet Honeyeaters. Both species were at the extremes of their range. We had lunch at Stawell, visiting the Stawell Gift museum and no birding (but there were many Silvereyes in the main street). At Dimboola, after checking in I didn't waste much time getting to the Little Desert NP where I found Emu, White-browed Woodswallow, White-browed Babbler and Hooded Robin amongst other things. I also went to the Snape Reserve, which was disappointing and I didn't stay long.

11 November

As part of AOC, there was a tour organised to the Western Treatment Plant (aka Werribee Sewage Works). I've been there twice before and I was so pleased to have a third opportunity. Werribee did not disappoint - there were many tens of thousands of birds including 5,000 or so Whiskered Terns, and large numbers also of many species of ducks and shorebirds (especially Sharp-tailed Sandpipers). Plus there were several birds I don't get to see all that often including Baillon's Crake and Aust. Spotted Crake, Cape Barren Geese, Australasian Shelduck and Banded Stilt. We also saw several Black-tailed Native-Hens.

8-10 November

I spent 3 days at the Australasian Ornithological Conference (AOC) at Deakin University in Geelong. Most of the sessions were very interesting (some were a bit too academic for me, and/or werein fields way outside of my ken or desire to know) and there were many great talks. I also enjoyed the networking opportunities both in catching up with people I'd met elsewhere and in making new contacts.  The latter included people who might be able to help me in future in my Rufous Scrub-bird studies. On the Friday afternoon I presented a paper about birds of the Gloucester Tops and Mike Newman one about Rufous Scrub-birds in the Gloucester Tops: both of us were co-authors for both papers.

7 November

It was a cold bleak day, not pleasant for stopping so we mainly just pushed on to Geelong. We stopped at Maldon and did a short walk in a bitterly cold wind; birds seen included Rainbow Lorikeet and Crimson Rosella. After checking in at our accommodation, I went off to Deakin University and collected my registration materials for the forthcoming Australasian Ornithological Conference. On my way back to where I was staying, I stopped to look at Balyang Sanctuary. This turned out to be quite good and I spent about an hour there. The highlight was the breeding cormorant colony: Little Pied Cormorants on nests, Great Cormorant chicks which were very interesting to see, and some juvenile Little Black Cormorants as well. And I enjoyed having a close look at a Long-billed Corella.

6 November

I crossed back into NSW, through Barham to the reported site for Ostrich. There, I found a group of 4 birds, quite some distance from view but unmistakable. It didn't feel like a real tick though - I'm not convinced that they were wild birds although many others have ticked them there. After that, I went to the Middle Lake / Reedy Lake complex where there was a large rookery for Straw-necked Ibis, with many young birds. Also, good numbers of Aust. Pelicans and Australasian Shelducks, no signs of breeding activity for them.  I flushed a Black-tailed Native-Hen but a bit later I snuck up on a group of 6-7 of them. I also stopped at Kerang Regional Park, where Fairy Martins and Welcome Swallows were collecting mud for nests and some very young Superb Fairy-wrens had no tails yet.

5 November

Our first stop for the day was at Lockhart, where there is a delightful sculpture walk. Birds seen while doing the walk included Apostlebirds and Red-rumped Parrots.  We later had lunch by the river at Deniliquin where the behaviour of the Aust. Magpies (adults with fledged young) kept me entertained. There were Weebills, Dollarbirds and Sacred Kingfishers along the river walk. From Kerang, where we were to stay, I ventured out to Lake Bael Bael - but it was impossible to get close to the lake which had hundreds of Grey Teal and many Hoary-headed Grebes. There was a Bar-shouldered Dove at the tourist park (well out of range) and a Southern Boobook called often during the night.

4 November

After a tedious drive from Newcastle to Gundagai I wanted to fit in some birdwatching. There weren't too many options though - I drove for quite a lot more before finding a nice spit by the river. The best bird here was a Little Friarbird - not a species that I see very often in the Hunter.

2 November

It was leisurely birding today - a gentle stroll around the Wetlands Centre with my wife and sister-in-law followed by lunch there. It's a very birdy place though, and so I saw and heard many birds during the walk (and their egret colony is also getting into full swing). A couple of pairs of Dusky Moorhens had chicks (one pair was with 7 chicks) and the Olive-backed Orioles and Shining Bronze-cuckoos were very vocal. We bumped into the Centre's CEO Stuart Blanch, who was about to feed the Freckled Ducks - a female with 2 ducklings in one enclosure, 12 adult birds in another. He invited us in and so we had some wonderful close-up views of these strange-looking prehistoric birds.

1 November

I caught the early morning high tide at Old Bar. There are huge expanses of sand accumulated there now, even with it being a reasonably high tide (1.55m). Once again I found plenty of Bar-tailed Godwits and also some Eastern Curlews and a single Beach Stone-curlew. There weren't many small waders but amongst them was a solitary Lesser Sand Plover. I had a pleasant surprise back at the carpark - I saw a Striated Pardalote and was able to confirm it to probably be the sub-species melanocephalus (there were some anomalies about it though). That's a very rare bird for the Hunter Region! Later in the morning I went to Saltwater National Park where I finally found some monarchs (Black-faced Monarchs) and saw three pairs of Yellow-throated Scrub-wrens. After lunch I visited two breeding colonies - of Fairy Martins at Cundletown and Cattle Egrets at Nulama; things were into full swing at both sites. I then had to race home to be in time for the HBOC Committee meeting (which, at late notice, I ended up chairing).

October 2017

31 October

I spent the day in the area around Harrington / Coopernook. In the morning I went to Cattai Wetlands after a brief visit to the Coopernook Corner wetlands where I saw a Latham's Snipe (uncommon there) and heard a Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo (a first for me in the Manning).  At Cattai though, there were two of them calling, one of which came down to investigate me after I played its call. There were hardly any ducks on the main lagoon and I could not find any Jacanas. At my next stop, a small wetlands near Cattai Creek, a male Ruff took to the air not long after I arrived, did a couple of laps then landed in telescope view (albeit that the views were poor). I went on to a couple of other of my regular sites, finding nothing special. The final birding for the day was to do my high tide survey at Harrington. This was unpleasant as the wind was extremely strong and the birds mostly were at the far end of the sandbank. I found a flock of 67 Pacific Golden Plovers and also 50+ Bar-tailed Godwits, and there were moderate numbers of both Little Terns and Common Terns also present.

23-26 October

Margaret and I spent four days in the Gloucester Tops, staying each night in a cottage in the foothills. The purpose mainly was to work on Rufous Scrub-birds. I confirmed that 9 territories were occupied (out of 13 that I visited)and collected more data for a study of territory usage. One long-occupied territory (occupied since at least 2010) now seems to be vacant - maybe the bird has died? There were quite a few Olive Whistlers in the area, also some Crescent Honeyeaters, but other high altitude specialists seemed to be missing. I didn't spend long at the Sharpes Creek site but I did have a nice view of a pair of Superb Lyrebirds one morning, foraging on the lawn (and thereby wrecking it!)

21 October

Neville McNaughton and I did the Ash Island survey this morning, in a bitterly cold wind for most of the time. There were almost 500 Grey Teal on the main ponds along with a couple of hundred each of Black-winged Stilts and Red-necked Avocets. We also had great views of three Red Knots (one with a fair bit of red retained in the breast) and a flock of 14 foraging Whiskered Terns. Also, an unidentified wader with quite long legs - we think it was a Ruff but our views were limited and then it flushed and unfortunately we couldn't relocate it again.

13-15 October

A group of five of us spent 3 days on Broughton Island to do bird surveys and bird banding. As always, it was a delight to be there (except perhaps when it was raining and very windy on late Saturday afternoon/evening) and the birding was chock-full of interest.  Perhaps the highlight came when I and Dave White were on Pinkatop checking out the artificial nests that have been installed for Gould’s Petrels and White-faced Storm-Petrels. In one of the Storm-Petrel nest boxes, we found a feather. Great excitement! The feather is now with NPWS and we will eventually find out from DNA testing if it belongs to a White-faced Storm-Petrel. It’s hard to imagine any other species that a) would want to walk into a burrow and b) be small enough to walk through the narrow burrow used at that type of nest box.

We added some species to the Broughton Island bird list – Scarlet Honeyeater, Olive-backed Oriole (apparently only present for one day) and Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo. There were at least four of the latter and they were calling all the time. What they were doing on Broughton Island seemed somewhat of a mystery to me.  According to HANZAB, their main hosts are fairy-wrens, thornbills and Petroica robins – none of which occur on Broughton!  However, buried in a long list in HANZAB of other recorded hosts there are listed Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Golden-headed Cisticola and Silvereye. There are only a handful of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters on the island but there are lots of Cisticolas, and as for Silvereyes … well, their numbers are increasing with every visit we make to Broughton. We banded about 100 Silvereyes over the three days of this latest visit, and had only a few re-traps. The results suggest at least 500 of them were on the island, and quite easily there could have been 1,000 or more of them.  In our first survey on Broughton (in 2012) we estimated about 50 or so Silvereyes were present!  This visit, we had one westernensis sub-species bird in a net, and all the rest were cornwalli birds.

The Eastern Reef Egret was a bit elusive this visit, with only a couple of brief sightings.  Also, although we heard some Lewin’s Rails, there don’t seem to be as many around as there were up until a couple of years ago. Conversely, the Buff-banded Rail seems to have become more common.

10-12 October

Margaret and I spent a couple of nights in a cottage in the foothills to the Gloucester Tops. It was a very birdy place to stay, with a pair of Sacred Kingfishers around all the time, a highly territorial pair of Superb Fairy-wrens (they kept attacking our car windows and mirrors, we spent ages trying to cover everything!), Dollarbirds, Tree Martins etc. In the national park (around the camping area) there were Spectacled Monarchs, Rose Robins, a Superb Lyrebird, Black-faced Monarchs and much more. Unfortunately, the road up to the Tops was closed and we weren't able to do any work on Rufous Scrub-birds. Fingers crossed for when we go back there later this month. (Sad footnote - the road to the Tops was re-opened about an hour after we left to head home!)

9 October

Neil Fraser and I re-did last Wednesday's boat survey. Once again there were two nests of Aust. Pied Oystercatchers, with one and three eggs in them respectively. However, the Beach Stone-Curlew nest was deserted though - no egg, no eggshell, no chick, no adult. So, we don't know if the egg hatched or if it was predated. Once again we saw a large flock of Bar-tailed Godwits (they were too flighty to get a proper count but at least 150 birds) and 40+ Eastern Curlews. Also there were about 90 Black Swans in the lagoon behind the beach. The number of Grey-tailed Tattlers at the Winda Woppa roost has risen to six birds. It was a tough day on the water, battling the wind and very high tide and a boat that had fuel-line problems (we had to get towed back). Later in the afternoon Rob Kyte and I had a very useful phone call with a woman in Perth involved in Noisy Scrub-bird research & conservation. We hope some of that knowledge can be applied to Rufous Scrub-birds .

4 October

Neil Fraser and I rented a boat at Tea Gardens and did a survey of the shorebirds of the northern side of Port Stephens focussed on Winda Woppa and Corrie Island. We found two nests of Aust. Pied Oystercatchers, with one and three eggs in them respectively. A third nest had us uncertain for a while - it turned out to be that of a Beach Stone-Curlew. We saw what presumably was the parent bird nearby (there was also a pair of oystercatchers just as nearby, which is what caused our initial confusion).  Other birds of interest included 164 Bar-tailed Godwits, 52 Eastern Curlews, 23 Whimbrels and three Great Knots.

1-2 October

This was the ongoing HBOC camp. I managed to find the Red-backed Kingfisher again on Sunday and take some photos of it this time. Both days (we left late morning on the Monday after rain interrupted proceedings) had many noisy flocks of White-browed and Masked Woodswallows flying around all the time. On Sunday I found Inland Thornbills, Western Gerygones, Red-capped Robins (many), nesting Tree Martins, and heaps more! Then, late in the afternoon I joined others at a water trough, where we had a Black-eared Cuckoo and a group of four Black Honeyeaters. What a day!

September 2017

30 September

Margaret and I went off to the HBOC camp, on a property near Willow Tree/Quirindi. It was my birthday and I received two nice presents - these both being Hunter Region ticks! On my afternoon walk, I found a Red-backed Kingfisher - normally a very rare bird for us but an influx is occurring into the west of the Region. That evening I also saw a Barn Owl - this is not at all rare but I've never gone chasing for owls at night. About ten of us had an excellent long look at a perching bird. Probably the highlight though were the massive flocks of White-browed and Masked Woodswallows swarming all over the area.

29 September

I did the chumming on a boat trip off Swansea. We didn't go to the shelf (the trip was for photographers), instead staying within a few kilometres of the coast. The diversity wasn't high - apart from a thousand or so Silver Gulls and perhaps a few hundred Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, there wasn't much and what there was, didn't show any interest on the boat. There probably were 40 or so Fluttering-type Shearwaters seen, and a group of three Australasian Gannets.

27 September

I went to the Gloucester Tops although it wasn't quite the visit I planned. When I arrived at the National Park, I found the gate was locked - apparently that had only happened an hour or so before my arrival. The reason was that the fire which had prevented my August visit had re-ignited. My mission was to reactivate the Song Meters that I've set up on two Rufous Scrub-bird territories. Fortunately, after about half an hour I found two NPWS staff; after I explained my plight they escorted me through the fire zone and I was able to do what I needed - but, I didn't have time to do anything more than that as they were waiting for me. I did hear an Olive Whistler as I drove around. On my way home, I detoured to visit the Wenham Cox wetland again, near Strathfield. Once again it had Hoary-headed Grebes and White-cheeked Honeyeaters, also Brown-headed Honeyeaters and many other interesting birds.

The Sri Lanka Trip (3-24 September)

23-24 September

A big chunk of this period was spent in airports or on airplanes. Driving to the airport at Negombo, we passed many Spot-billed Pelicans (and also egrets) at various wetlands we drove past, and I saw the final new bird for my Sri Lanka list - an Osprey - from the motorway as we sped along.  Arriving home, I was immediately back into local birds via advising a caller of what/where to look for in the Gloucester Tops.

22 September

I did very little birding today but it was interesting to note that there were more than just House Crows in the general area of the hotel.  A White-throated Kingfisher was bathing in the hotel pool in the morning, I saw some Rose-ringed Parakeets fly by and I heard an Asian Koel calling from a tree opposite the hotel.

21 September

The main event for today was to drive to Colombo, involving increasingly dense traffic and urbanisation. However, we stopped at the Madu River (a Ramsar site) to do a boat trip and saw several Brahminy Kites, Grey Heron, Little Cormorant. And, nearing the end of the ride, we found some Blue-tailed Bee-eaters - these migrate from India and apparently are just now starting to arrive back into Sri Lanka. In Colombo our hotel was near the coast and a late afternoon walk yielded several egret species and two Common Sandpipers.

20 September

We visited a lowland rainforest at Hiyare (near Galle). Here I saw Alexandrine Parakeets for the first time (in Sri Lanka, that is) and there were several Black-capped Bulbuls in the area, also Jerdon's Leafbird and Pale-billed Flowerpecker. A few Asian Palm Swifts were flying foraging over the lake etc - another new bird for me. Then, some major excitement - some Spurfowl (a very cryptic Sri Lanka endemic) were heard calling from not far into the jungle. I was with two other birdwatchers at the time and we immediately took off in pursuit. Alas, they are very wary birds and we never got close to them.

19 September

We drove descended the mountains, eventually to Galle on the coast. I had hopes of seeing some seabirds or shorebirds in Galle but there was very little to be seen apart from oodles of House Crows. Before we got to Galle though we stopped at a lagoon which had 20-plus Lesser Whistling-Ducks (these being the only ducks I saw in all my time in Sri Lanka). A little bit further on there were several Sri Lanka Swallows perched on power lines (I saw one bird very briefly near Habarana on the 8th - it was great to get a longer look today).

18 September

An early morning walk along the entrance road yielded a group of three perched Sri Lanka Mynas, another Malabar Trogon, several Dark-fronted Babblers and some Yellow-browed Bulbuls. I did the same walk two more times, once at around lunch time and then in the late afternoon. I saw a Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher both times, and in the afternoon walk there was a Black-naped Monarch and a young Sri Lanka Crested Drongo, also a fully coloured up male Malabar Trogon (what a stunner!).

17 September

In the morning we visited the Elephant Transit Centre, where we found an Indian Scops Owl roosting in a tree near the main buildings, and several Barn Swallows were collecting insects disturbed by the elephants. Then we drove on to the Sinharaja Rainforest, going in via Deniyaya to reach our accommodation in a very remote Eco-lodge. We saw some White-rumped Munias just as we started our climb. Not long after reaching the rainforest, we flushed a Sri Lanka Blue Magpie from the road; we stopped and soon realised there was a pair of them present. About another kilometre further on, we found a foraging flock of birds which included some Sri Lanka Laughing-thrushes and at least two Malabar Trogons. It was a good beginning to the visit to this famous patch of rainforest! Rain set in for a few hours but late afternoon I was able to do a walk along the entrance road. I found a noisy group of Orange-billed Babblers which stayed in view for quite a while. Then, just on dusk there was enough light remaining for me to confirm that the bird perched in a distant dead tree was a Sri Lanka Myna - my third endemic bird for the afternoon!

16 September

We spent the morning re-locating from 2000m altitude to 200m; our new hotel is near the Udawalawe National Park. The hotel itself is quite birdy, and from our room I saw White-browed Fantail as a new species for me. In the afternoon we did a safari trek into the National Park (along with 50 or so other vehicles!). It was a wonderful afternoon of birding! (Margaret was bored with it though). I added many species to my Sri Lanka bird list and quite a few to my life list too. The absolute highlights were Yellow-wattled Lapwing (a pair, female sitting on eggs) and Pied Kingfisher including seeing the pair hovering over the water just like a tern does. At a drying waterhole there were many shorebirds on the mudflat including Mongolian Plover (aka Lesser Sand Plover), Little Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper and White-headed Stilt. I was particularly keen to see a Grey-headed Fish-eagle and late in the afternoon we did finally find one, perching very obligingly for us (although I did wish it had been a little bit closer).

15 September

Chameera and I went to the Horton Plains National Park, about 80 minutes drive from the hotel. At a waterhole just before the Park entrance, we had very good views of Yellow-eared Bulbuls and a fleeting view of Sri Lanka Whistling-thrush (an endemic). We did the walk to World's End, where there is an 870m drop and no safety railing. I can't confirm how far the drop, as I wouldn't go anywhere near the edge. During the walk, we found a Black Bulbul lurking deep within the undergrowth and saw Hill Swallows. Also there were many views of Sri Lanka White-eyes.

14 September

We went up into the hill country, eventually arriving at our hotel near Kandapola in time for lunch. There wasn't much opportunity for birding en route - the roads were winding and busy. Some Scaly-breasted Munias were nest-building at a tea factory where we were stopped for a while. After we'd settled in at the hotel I went for a walk along the road into the place (there was nowhere else to go really). This turned out well, with new birds for me being Pied Bush-chat (the male and female are quite different, which toook me a while to work out), Dull Blue Flycatcher (a Sri Lanka endemic) and Ashy Prinia. I also had brief views of Sri Lankan Scimitar-babblers.

13 September

We went back to the Botanical Gardens again, for a few hours in the morning. Margaret wandered alone and I went with Chameera - before long I had managed quite reasonable photos of the Jerdon's Leafbird which had been evasive for me the day before. We saw several of them overall. Also, just after a brief shower of rain we found about 20 Sri Lanka Small Barbets (an endemic species) foraging in a tree. Later on, I saw a flash of red and tracked it down - it became a pair of Red-backed Woodpeckers. Rain and thick fog in the afternoon put paid to any thoughts of additional birding.

12 September

Kalanna picked us up early morning and we went to the Kandy Botanical Gardens. These are on a large acreage and were established a very long time ago, hence there are many mature trees from all round the world. There was also a large colony of fruit-bats (and very large ones at that). The birding was steady, and I got good photos of Yellow-billed Babbler and Jungle Crow. I saw a group of three Scarlet Minivets but they disappeared before I could get close. However, later on I encountered a male and managed some very ordinary photographs of it in the undergrowth. This was when I was chasing down a Jerdon's Leafbird - my only new bird for the day. It was so difficult to photograph in the foliage as it blended in amazingly well. Late morning I also found a Purple-backed Sunbird. There was a thunderstorm in the afternoon which put paid to any thoughts of additional birding.

11 September

Much of the day was spent on touristy things with a friend of ours (Kalanna) in Kandy. Late afternoon I walked the grounds of our hotel for a while, finding one new species for the trip (and for my life list) - the Lesser Hill Myna. I also managed great photos of a Rose-Ringed Parakeet feeding in a low shrub. There were some small swallows flying around, which seemed to have red on their underparts (and not especially forked tails) and which presumably therefore were Sri Lankan Swallows. However, we will never really know! There was a lot of discussion (for professional reasons) about snakes in the morning; in the afternoon I almost trod on a 1.5-2m snake hence it was a frightening experience. However, judging by how rapidly the snake took off, I think it received just as big a fright as I did.

10 September

Chameera and I set out to visit The Knuckles, a large (and high altitude) national park, the turn-off to it is about 40km from Kandy. At the main lake at Kandy there were some Black-crowned Night-Herons - my first new bird for the day. I was to score 14 more new birds by the end! The road from the turn-off was very bad; we managed to drive a couple of km then parked and walked. The birding at times was great as we were about at eye-level with the tree-tops on the downhill side. Some of the endemic species I saw included Yellow-fronted Barbet (seen several times), Sri Lanka Hanging-Parrot (eventually I managed some great photos), Sri Lanka White-eye (some so-so photos) and Sri Lanka Scimitar-Babbler (very happy just to have seen them!). Other species seen included Small Minivet, Flame Minivet, Yellow-eared Bulbul (another endemic), Tickell's Blue Flycatcher. It was such a great day! I did get a minor leech bite (I brushed it off before it did much damage, also brushed off 3 others) but that was a small price to pay.

9 September

I didn't see any new species today - the first time for the trip (but probably not the last). We drove to Kandy via Dambulla and Mitale, seeing only the usual suspects (Red-vented Bulbuls, Ceylon Black Robins, Oriental Magpie Robins, etc) for the most part. There was heavy traffic from Mitale onward, and when we arrived in Kandy mid-afternoon it rained (sometimes heavily) for much of the afternoon. I did get in a short walk, but apart from a Crested Serpent Eagle in flight there wasn't much happening.

8 September

I spent the morning wandering the extensive grounds of the hotel in Kandalama. However, bird-wise it was fairly quiet although I had a wonderful and lengthy encounter with a Grey Hornbill. Then after talking with some Dutch birdwatchers and receiving their advice, I sat in a chair on a deck at tree-top level, and saw lots of birds! They usually were fast-moving saw I wasn't able to identify them all but I saw Tailorbird, Long-billed Sunbird and Black-capped Bulbul, also Brown-headed Barbets at a far more convenient viewing position. After lunch Chameera collected us and we went to a lagoon near Habarana where we did a boat trip plus made a short visit to a farm where (amongst other things) they made Roti for us to eat. Birds on the lagoon included Little Grebe, Purple Heron and Pheasant-tailed Jacana. On land we found Plain Prinia, Grey-breasted Prinia, Purple-backed Sunbird, nesting Scaly-breasted Munia (and 400-500 of them in the rice paddies) and Tri-coloured Munia. And towards the end of the day, some White-browed Bulbuls emerged from hiding and allowed me a good look.

7 September

We left Anuradhapura with our first stop being the ancient citadel at Sigiriya. This was for tourism rather than birds (an ancient king lived on the top of a large bare rock) but I re-saw Ceylon Black Robin and Red-vented Bulbul amongst a handful of others. After lunch we went to Kaudulla National Park. The main reason for everyone to go there at this time of the year is the annual gathering of elephants - we saw several hundred including many very young ones. New birds for me included Green Sandpiper, Little Swift, and Paradise Flycatcher; I also saw a Common Kingfisher alongside a creek. On the way to our hotel in Kandalama (a very fancy hotel alongside a lake) we stopped saw that I could photograph some Openbill Storks roosting in a tree. A pair of Malabar Pied Hornbills just happened to fly in at that time, perching for  few seconds in a tree right alongside the road. You can be lucky sometimes!

6 September

Today was to be a cultural day (visits to some of old Anuradhapura especially some Buddhist temples). We did that and it was good; however I also had some successful birding there - including Indian Roller, Common Iora, Ashy Woodswallow and Woolly-necked Stork as new species for me. Late afternoon I wandered around the grounds of our hotel, finding many great birds e.g. Indian Pond Heron, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Large-billed Sunbird and Coppersmith Barbet. Many of these birds were coming to a dead or bare tree near the drivers' quarters, and I spent an hour or so there along with our driver/guide  Chameera and another of the drivers who was another a keen birdwatcher. Also, I had great look (and got photos) of the Grey Hornbill, a Sri Lankan endemic. I had managed a couple of brief sightings previously so I was very pleased finally to have a much better look at it

5 September

We made an early start to be at Wilpattu National Park at its 6:30am opening time. I had such a great morning of birding there seeing many new birds including Great Thick-knee, Oriental Magpie Robin, Brown Fish Owl, Ceylon Black Robin, Crested Serpent Eagle, Ceylon Hawk Eagle, .... The list goes on and on (by day's end I am up to 54 species seen in Sri Lanka in two days).  I should also mention three stork species - Lesser Adjutant, Openbill Stork, Painted Stork - I had great views of them all. Although we didn't succeed in seeing either of the two "big-name" wildlife i.e. Leopard and Sloth Bear, we had great encounters with Elephant, Spotted Deer, Three-striped Palm Squirrel, Crocodile, Water Buffalo, Land Monitor, Colourful Gecko. A terrific morning! There was a big thunderstorm in the afternoon so we couldn't do much. In the evening we went to dinner with friends (a former colleague of Margaret's).

4 September

Looking out the window in bed when I first woke, the first bird I saw in Colombo (at Negombo, a beach-side suburb) was a House Crow; within 15 minutes I had seen about 50 of them! But there wasn't much else around. Late morning our driver/guide (Chameera)collected us and we drove northwards along the coast to Pattalam then turned inland. Best bird before the turning was White-throated Kingfisher, perched on a wire. The drive to Anuradhapura was through more-rural countryside and the opportunities for birding (and other wildlife) increased accordingly. At one spot we had Paddyfield Pipit and Oriental Skylark simultaneously. Several other new birds on this approx one-hour drive, but that was nothing compared to when I was at my hotel on the outskirts of town. I only had about an hour to wonder before the light became too dark (a thunderstorm was building) but I added species such as Red-wattled Lapwing, Scaly-breasted Munia, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Black-hooded Oriole, Brown-headed Barbet and Pale-billed Flowerpecker to my life list plus some species seen before elsewhere (e.g. Red-vented Bulbul, egrets).

3 September: start of the Sri Lanka Trip

1 September

I managed to make it up to the Gloucester Tops today, with the road having opened late yesterday afternoon. My mission was attend to the Song Meters - new batteries and SD cards. I heard three Rufous Scrub-birds calling and managed to track down two of them to get a precise position for them. One of those birds popped up for a while in front of me! I found Flame Robins at several places and similarly for Crescent Honeyeaters. At the campsite on my way up, a Russet-tailed Thrush briefly showed, and two Superb Lyrebirds darted across the road on my way down. I was forced to stop for a while behind a broken-down NPWS truck - this gave me the opportunity to see a male Rose Robin so it wasn't all bad!.

August 2017

30 August

I attempted a trip to the Gloucester Tops to attend to the Song Meters - I made it as far as the NPWS campsite at the bottom of the hill and then encountered a road-closed sign! They were doing some hazard reduction burns higher up. There was a Bassian Thrush at the campsite where I also heard Rose Robin. On my way home I detoured down Wenham Cox Rd where I again found several Hoary-headed Grebes at a small wetland there. A big surprise (at least for me!) was a pair of White-cheeked Honeyeaters. Also, I heard a White-throated Gerygone - my first one for the season..

27 August

In the morning I was down on Stockton Bight for a couple of hours looking for the very rare Ringed Plover that had been seen there on Friday. Unfortunately, no-one has been able to find it subsequently. There weren't many birds at all, but I was very interested to see that amongst a group of four Aust. Pied Oystercatchers there was a young bird with no feet! In the afternoon I walked around Walka Water Works with Margaret - it wasn't serious birdwatching but I saw lots of species including some Great Crested Grebes and many Hoary-headed Grebes, and I was able to show Margaret a close-up view of a male Rose Robin.

26 August

No serious birdwatching today - instead I was at Olympic Park in Sydney to help run another workshop on how to use Birdata. I was the co-presenter, we had 40 attendees, it all seemed to go very well and the feedback was very positive.

25 August

I did the monthly survey of Ash Island this morning, with a couple of other people. The weather wasn't great especially early on, but we found lots of birds - probably about 2,000 all up. There were nearly 800 Red-necked Avocets, and a similar number of Grey Teal. Some migratory shorebirds were back in the estuary including we found eight Curlew Sandpipers, a couple of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and seven Eastern Curlews. It was nice to also see some Red-kneed Dotterels and several Australian Gull-billed Terns today.

20 August

I went to the HBOC outing which was at Tahlee, a private property on the western side of Port Stephens. It was a cold and windy morning and we had a few light showers as we walked around - but we achieved a good bird list overall (74 species) despite the conditions being a bit unfavourable. Highlights included Osprey, Whistling Kite and White-bellied Sea-Eagle all at nests (but not confirmed to be breeding), also Varied Sittellas and a Crested Shrike-tit, and many Olive-backed Orioles. After lunch and with the tide well on its way out, we started working on shorebirds (e.g. Sooty and Aust. Pied Oystercatchers) but the rain picked up and we eventually abandoned things for the day.

16-17 August

On Tuesday morning I did my interview on Port Stephens community radio then caught up for a while with Lois Wooding about our Grey-tailed Tattler website (it's almost ready!). Then, I drove to the Gloucester Tops, via a short stop at the Stroud rest area for some birding. I spent the afternoon and night and a couple of hours next morning at the campsite area, mainly seeking a displaying Superb Lyrebird. I heard them call briefly a couple of times but that was it. As I wandered around I encountered Bassian and Russet-tailed Thrush and heard Rose Robins and a Green Catbird. I went up to the high country where it turned out to be very windy (and at times it felt a bit dangerous). I installed three Song Meters at Rufous Scrub-bird territories (I heard a couple of them calling but they don't like windy days very much). To my surprise (because it seemed early in the season) I found Flame Robins a couple of times. I also had a group of three Crescent Honeyeaters on Kerripit Road.

9 August

During the day I put together a brief summary report about the KBA workshop's field day, and in the evening it was the HBOC club night which I chaired. 

4-8 August

We relocated from Nowra to Huskisson on Friday, driving via St Georges Basin with birding stops at Basin View and Hyams Beach (with just the "usual suspects" at both sites). In the afternoon I went with two locals to the Booderee Botanic Gardens for planning for the field day which I will be leading there on Sunday. It was terribly windy but many honeyeaters were very active, notable White-cheeked and New Holland Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills.

On Saturday I helped run a workshop on KBA (Key Biodiversity Area) monitoring and unfortunately there were no actual birding opportunities. However, on Sunday before the field day (arranged so that people could practice using Birdata) I went into the National Park, to the Cape St George lighthouse where I was able to have a wonderful close encounter with a pair of Eastern Bristlebirds. And then after the field day I stopped for a while at a site recommended to me for Ground Parrots. It was too early in the afternoon for them but I found some Fuscous Honeyeaters amongst the various honeyeater types there. Closer to dusk I went back to the site again. As night fell, I could hear three Ground Parrots calling but it was windy and none of them rose above the heath vegetation. Just as I was about to leave, I heard the distinctive kek-kek-kek call of a Lewin's Rail.

On Monday I went back into the national park, partly to show Margaret and Sally how pretty it was there. Interestingly, on the lake in the Botanic Gardens there was a Great Cormorant and a group of six Hardheads - neither species had been present on Sunday. I couldn't find the bristlebirds at the lighthouse but we had great views of breaching whales. On Tuesday Margaret and I drove back to Newcastle via Kiama and the Sea Cliff Bridge; the birding was nothing special but the scenery was marvellous.

1-3 August

Margaret and I drove down to Nowra on Monday 31 July (which was very wet - no birding!) and then Tuesday-Thursday we went to various "local" places including several from the Shoalhaven Birding Walks pamphlet.   On Tuesday morning we visited Lake Wollumboola where I found eight Caspian Terns (one with a leg flag) and a Double-banded Plover, another highlight was a fly-by from an Australian Hobby. At Penguin Head I found an Eastern Reef Egret and I also birded at Crookhaven Heads (where it was just the "usual suspects" seen).

The main activity next day was to go to Comerong Island Nature Reserve where there were many Scarlet Honeyeaters and a small flock of Topknot Pigeons, and at least nine Aust. Pied Oystercatchers flew through. The highlight of the day though occurred as we were approaching the ferry wharf - a Lewin's Rail flew up from a ditch and quickly dropped into some ranker vegetation nearby. It was a brief view but a nice one. Mid-afternoon we did part of the Bens Walk at Nowra, which goes alongside a side-creek of the Shoalhaven River. here I saw an Azure Kingfisher and some Common Blackbirds, and I heard a Wonga Pigeon.

On Thursday we started at Shoalhaven Heads, which had some great information signs about migratory shorebirds but not many of the actual thing (wrong time of the year). However, there were about a dozen Double-banded Plovers, all starting to colour up into their breeding plumage, and there was a solitary Eastern Curlew on the same sandbank. Later we went to Gerroa, where there was a pair of Aust. Pied Oystercatchers and a couple of Little Egrets were fishing.

July 2017

26 July

I went to the Gloucester River campsite in Barrington Tops NP, with the aim of finding a Superb Lyrebird display mound for future installation of remote monitoring equipment. Although I did find one bird, it was not displaying, so ... hoping for better luck next time! There was a Bassian Thrush foraging on the grass and I had Superb Fairy-wrens hopping over my table at lunch-time (plus a Laughing Kookaburra trying to steal my lunch). On my way there, a Pheasant Coucal darted across the road, in habitat that surprised me somewhat (just grassy roadside habitat). I stopped and the bird flushed, to the top of a very tall tree nearby (this also was an unusual place for one to be). Late afternoon I met with the Ranger in the NPWS Gloucester office, to go through with him about my thoughts about future work on Rufous Scrub-birds especially to place more focus onto studying individual birds. He seems to be on board with it all!

25 July

After a week or so of umm-ing and ah-ing, Mike Newman and I submitted two abstracts today for the Australasian Ornithological Conference, which will be held in Geelong in November. One paper will be on the Rufous Scrub-bird, the other a general overview of birds of the Gloucester Tops (with a focus on high altitude specialists such as scrub-birds, Crescent Honeyeater and Olive Whistler).  In the evening, the members of HBOC's Records Appraisal Committee came around and we spent the night going through the draft 2016 Bird Report.

24 July

Today was intended to be the Port Stephens waterbirds survey but that was cancelled on Sunday (because of the forecast for strong winds). So, I spent a chunk of my day sorting out arrangements around the re-scheduling of it (for which I won't even be here!)

22 July

I had a very early start on a bitterly cold morning, to do the waterbirds survey on Ash Island with Nev McNaughton. There was a lot of surface water everywhere but not a lot of birds. Highlights included a group of 30 Red-necked Avocets and a total of 19 Black-fronted Dotterels, but there were no migratory shorebirds at all. The bird of the day was a Black Kite, which flew over us quite low down (as if it was checking us out).

21 July

I spent most of the day with researchers at the University of Western Sydney's Richmond campus. They are studying lyrebirds (very close relative to scrub-birds) and using remote recording devices just like I am. the good news is that they know a lot more about the data analysis side of things and we agreed to collaborate in future. That will include that I set up some monitoring equipment at a Superb Lyrebird display mound in the Gloucester Tops. The birds there are a different sub-species to those in the Blue Mountains so they are happy to have the earlier-than-planned opportunity to extend their program. We will also try to get a Masters student onto scrub-bird studies in 2018.

20 July

I drove to Windsor via the Putty Rd. My first stop was Doughboy Hollow near Singleton, where there was a very large group of Plumed Whistling-Ducks. I could see about 400 birds and it seemed very likely that there were many more tucked away on banks out of my line of view. It is a well-known spot for them. My birding stops along the Putty Rd were not so fruitful, although I had nice interactions with White-naped Honeyeaters and Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters at one spot and also heard Gang-Gang Cockatoo and Superb Lyrebird at other stops.

18 July

Once again I did my radio interview at Port Stephens FM (I talked about Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, and how they have arrived on Broughton Island). Then I went around to Karuah Wetlands - which was a major disappointment!  There were very few birds, the water levels were low and the tracks are not being maintained. In the evening Dan Williams came around and I showed him various things to do with annual bird report production. There is a retirement plan in place now! - Dan will take over from me for the 2018 ABR.

16 July

The HBOC outing was initially to a property near Millfield, and then later to the Pelton side of Werakata National Park. It was a day with many honeyeaters (about 15 species of them). At the Millfield property the dominant species was the Fuscous Honeyeater, also there were many Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters. We had both White-throated and Brown Treecreepers, and a large flock of Grey-crowned Babblers. Around at Pelton we had four Black-chinned Honeyeaters, and the highlight for everyone was a group of four Swift Parrots. A Spotted Quail-thrush was heard too. Amazingly, we did not see a raptor all morning, until a Nankeen Kestrel flew over us at our lunch spot overlooking Ellalong Lagoon.

12 July

It was the HBOC meeting in the evening (which I found myself chairing). I gave the bird-of-the-evening talk, about Red-necked Avocets in the Hunter Estuary. The main talk was about shorebird habitat restoration work (given by Tom Clarke) and we had a fund-raiser to support that work, raising over $500. It was a good night (although I was disappointed in the supper offerings, of which hardly any were savoury!)

11 July

I went to Galgabba near Swansea to help Jack Adams and co. with the monthly honeyeater survey. The blossom is winding down and the numbers of honeyeaters have dropped right away but there still were a good range of species of them. An Australian Hobby perched out near the Point gave us great views. We bush-bashed our way in to look at a White-bellied Sea-Eagle nest - it was unoccupied but soon afterwards I found an adult perched on a nearby tree. Just before our walk finished we crossed paths with a couple of Varied Sittellas - I always love seeing them!

7 July

I went on the pelagic trip from Swansea, organised by Allan Benson. The water temperature is still quite high (the reports were of it being 18-19C) and that may have been the reason for a general dearth of birds and low overall diversity. Nonetheless it was an OK day and we had excellent views of firstly a Southern Giant-Petrel and then a Northern Giant-Petrel. It was nice to be able to compare the two species (the differences, especially with juveniles, are extremely subtle!).  There was just a single prion seen (a Fairy Prion) and as we were coming heading back in, a single Fluttering Shearwater flew by (I happened to be in the right spot and had a great view of it).

4 July

I went along to the HBOC outing at Belmont Lagoon / Cold Tea Creek. It was a gorgeous day and we saw lots of birds (68 species). Many egrets/herons were fishing in the creek, including 10+ each of Great Egret and Little Egret and a couple of Striated Herons. There were 11 Bar-tailed Godwits foraging at the nearby Lake Macquarie shoreline and a group of Blue-faced Honeyeaters including some juvenile birds (with green faces). Several Eastern Whipbirds were exhibiting themselves too - unusual to find them so much out in the open.

June 2017

26-30 June

On Monday afternoon Margaret and I drove up to Harrington where we spent 4 nights. The extended stay allowed me to do all my usual surveys plus a bit of R&R type activity. The birding was quiet (it is winter after all) but I did see a Beach Stone-curlew, numerous Brahminy Kites and several Striated Herons plus I heard a Varied Triller in the Harrington rainforest. At Cattai Wetlands there were a couple of Wompoo Fruit-Doves calling (but I didn't plunge into the forest to track them down) and 3 x Comb-crested Jacanas out on the lilies. I had sensational views of three Humpback Whales off Crowdy Head - they were breaching for a prolonged period of time.

23-25 June

I spent 3 days on Broughton Island with the Ranger, Susanne Callaghan, and a group of 3 bird banders (Greg, Judy, Rob), to launch a new banding project that I have pushed for some time to get going. It follows on from the monitoring program that I established on the island in 2012: we want to understand about movement of birds between Broughton Island and the mainland, also population dynamics on the island. It was an interesting 3 days, including we established that 3 sub-species of Silvereye were on the island (cornwalli, westernensis and lateralis sub-species). There were lots of Sooty Oystercatchers during our visit and also a pair of Pied Oystercatchers. We saw Eastern Reef Egrets daily with a maximum count of 3 birds, and heard Lewin's Rail and Buff-banded Rail several times but didn't ever see any of them.

20 June

In the morning I did my regular monthly radio interview on Port Stephens Community FM. I talked about Silvereyes, linking this with the Broughton Island project work and the impending trip over there to start banding. Subsequently I went around to Barry Park near Fingal Bay and did the coastal walk. At sea I saw a couple of Australasian Gannets, also had fly-bys from Brahminy Kite, Osprey and White-bellied Sea-Eagle.  Further out to sea a Grey-faced Petrel put in a brief appearance plus there was a bird sitting on the water which I could not identify. I had lunch with Margaret at the marina with some Blue-faced Honeyeaters calling in the background.

19 June

I went to a property off Congewai Rd (with Rob Kyte and Bob Stewart). We were slightly side-tracked on the way there, which resulted in sightings of six Grey-Crowned Babblers and ~150 Pacific Black Ducks on a smallish pond. The property had no blossom unfortunately, so hopes of exotic nectivores came to naught. I saw a Superb Lyrebird and we found many of their scratchings as we walked around. We had several honeyeaters including we had great views of some Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills . Late in the visit, a Wedge-tailed Eagle drifted over - our only raptor for the day. A highlight for me was to find some native bees at a Grass Tree stalk, and to identify one as a Blue-banded Bee (based on a hopeful photo that I took).

18 June

Today was HBOC New Members day and in the absence of other candidates I was the leader for the bird walk. The weather was patchy and we had to dodge some showers but in between those people seemed to enjoy themselves. We found a Black Swan on a nest with three small cygnets under-wing and had great views of things such as Golden Whistlers and Eastern Spinebills. There were several hundred Eurasian Coots, a pair of Australian Ravens on nest, and 50-60 Magpie-Geese on the front pond.

13 June

I went to Galgabba in the morning to help with the monthly honeyeater survey there plus the group of us then did the extended survey out to the Point. There is still lots of Swamp Mahogany in blossom and many honeyeaters were using the blossom (especially Yellow-faced Honeyeaters). But it was a pretty quiet day really!

10 June

Margaret and I were intending to go on HBOC's camp at Sandy Hollow, for which I was the designated leader. She was off-colour overnight though and we didn't go; however I went there on a day trip partly because I needed to hand over information to someone about the plans for Sunday. I stopped at the Denman and Battery Rocks rest areas (there was a Restless Flycatcher at the Denman one) then joined the large group of campers at Sandy Hollow after lunch. We went to a property on Giants Creek Rd that I had arranged permission to visit. My highlights were a group of five White-browed Babblers, and a Painted Button-quail which I flushed and had only brief views. Others did well too, with Hooded Robin and Scarlet Robin amongst the many sightings (46 species were recorded).

6 June

I went on HBOC's mid-week outing which was to Green Point on Lake Macquarie. Although we recorded 52 species it was a quiet day - birds were not present in numbers and they didn't cooperate much in terms of allowing us to have views of them. My highlight was when an adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle did a fly-by: it happened twice actually, the second time as I was driving out from the site.

May 2017

25-26 May

I did my usual surveys of the Manning Estuary and my other sites in the lower Manning Valley. On Thursday it was very quiet and the nearest thing to a highlight was to hear a Varied Triller in the Harrington rainforest. Friday was better as Cattai Wetlands was back to its best - I saw three Comb-crested Jacanas and there were lots of waterbirds including 10 or so Australasian Shovelers plus I found a group of 3 Red-backed Fairy-wrens.

24 May

On my way to Harrington to do my regular surveys I stopped in at the King Quail site at Minimbah hoping I might manage a photo this time. No such luck - they were too cryptic and then too quick for me! I flushed a pair twice (probably not the same pair) and then a single male bird from near where the second pair had been. So, probably five birds. It was approaching dusk (which was my plan) and I waited until the sun went down then played an Eastern Grass Owl call. A few minutes later, a bird appeared! It did two fly-bys then disappeared into the dark. About 5 minutes later I played the call again and got another fly-by. This is a new site for Grass Owls.

23 May

In my radio program (Port Stephens Community FM) I talked about Bush Stone-Curlews and asked people to let me know about any sites where they had seen them. Somewhat to my surprise I received two tips - both from the Soldiers Point/Salamander Bay area. I went and checked them straightaway, one was a bit surprising and maybe a bird had just dropped in for a brief visit. However, the other site looked quite prospective I thought. I wandered around for a while checking all the groves of trees etc without finding any but it is worth a night time visit I think.

21 May

After a week spent on "other things" I went up to Nabiac to join the HBOC outing to the nearby Minimbah Sand Plain. Although I've been through Nabiac umpteen times and have birded at a spot near the river a couple of times, I had never before ventured to the east of it until today. There is stacks of high quality heath and also the Swamp Mahogany was in flower. As a result we found lots of honeyeaters especially White-cheeked Honeyeater, Little Wattlebird, Noisy Friarbird and Scarlet Honeyeater. For a while the highlight was the Peaceful Doves we had found at a couple of spots, but they dropped to second best after I flushed a group of three King Quail. Only one other person saw them that time but half an hour later we were back at the spot and this time had two birds, seen by many. An hour later we stopped there again and once again there were two birds, both males this time.

13 May

I did the Ash Island waterbirds survey in the morning, with Nev McNaughton. We found 24 Red-kneed Dotterels on Swan Pond, and 650+ Grey Teal too along with 300+ Chestnut Teal. There were Red-necked Avocets scattered over many ponds, probably around 200 of them in total (I will eventually have the exact counts, there's no hurry!). There also were Aust. Gull-billed Terns at many ponds, probably around 20 birds in total although it was not easy to be sure that we weren't double-counting any of them.

12 May

Today was the Birdata workshop, which I am proud to have been the organiser for. Andrew Silcocks and I co-led it and ~50 people attended.  Everything went very well (after a brief technical hurdle was overcome - we were still able to start on time though).  There was lots of good discussion, I learnt a few things and most attendees seemed to learn a lot. The feedback forms were incredibly positive.

11 May

In the afternoon a few of us met with Andrew Silcocks mainly to go through aspects involved with administration of the new Birdata portal. That was good and I look forward to when the vetting capability does actually become available. I also had a very useful discussion with Andrew about the possibilities using banding and maybe also radio tracking for Rufous Scrub-birds. He has lots of experience applying these techniques to other species.

10 May

I collected Andrew Silcocks from the airport in the early afternoon and we went birding for a few hours, with Ann Lindsey joining us at about 3:30.  We went to a couple of wetlands in Wallsend first; these had lots of Aust. White Ibis and sundry other birds with the highlight being a pair of Pink-eared Ducks. Thence to a wetland in Maryland, on the edge of Hexham Swamp. This had several Red-kneed Dotterels, at least one Red-necked Avocet and lots of Grey Teal and Purple Swamphens, plus many other species. From here, way off in the distance at least a kilometre away in Hexham Swamp, we could see a young Black-necked Stork. Finally we went around to Ash Island, where I was surprised to see three Double-banded Plovers. Several hundreds of Red-necked Avocet and Grey Teal were here and we had a distant view of a Spotted Harrier too. Later it was the HBOC meeting where Andrew spoke about the research he and others are doing on Australasian Bitterns - it was a very interesting talk.

9 May

I joined Jack Adams and a largish group to do a survey at Galgabba this morning. It is the peak migration time for Silvereyes and various honeyeaters and we had lots of them (with Yellow-faced and Scarlet Honeyeater dominating the honeyeater mix). As usual there was a large list by the end of the walk, but it was pretty much the standard list for that site. Perhaps the highlight (apart from the migration event) was a brief view of a Crested Shrike-tit.

5 May

It was Day One of the three days of the Tocal Field Days and I was rostered on duty at HBOC's display. It was a very enjoyable day; we had lots of people coming by, and many interesting conversations. I really enjoyed it (although I was very tired by the end of the day). Reports of the next two days from our volunteers were equally positive. All the planning paid off!

2-3 May

After I had updated the records for my Manning Valley sites, I decided it was about time I took a closer look at the big picture for some of them. To my surprise, I discovered that the differences I was finding at two wetlands that are just a few kilometres from one another, were statistically significant. That motivated me to quickly put together a short note about them, which I submitted to HBOC's journal The Whistler for consideration.

April 2017

27-28 April

I visited my Manning Valley sites starting off at Mudbishops Point (Old Bar) to coincide with the high tide on Thursday morning. I saw a probable White-fronted Tern resting with many Crested Terns on a sand bank, also 30+ Bar-tailed Godwits. There weren't many small waders, but briefly I had a flock of ~35 Double-banded Plovers (and another ~25 at Harrington the next day). Otherwise it was quiet there, as it was at Saltwater NP my next stop. I did better at Crowdy Head where the absolute first species I saw was an Eastern Reef Egret! There was a juvenile Australasian Gannet fishing offshore too, and an Osprey over the marina. And at a small ephemeral wetland near Cattai Creek, pairs of Australian Shoveler and Pink-eared Duck (both new for me for that site) plus 53 Royal Spoonbills. There were no migratory honeyeaters in Crowdy Bay NP.

Next day I started at the Harrington rainforest where the highlight was a Wompoo Fruit-Dove. After that, with the high tide I surveyed the estuary, finding 3 Sanderlings and there were 50+ Little Terns present too. Coopernook Corner Wetlands had 18 Black-fronted Dotterels and 3 Red-kneed Dotterels - there was plenty of water and the birds were back! However, Cattai Wetlands was quiet (and I found no Jacanas). On my way home I stopped at O'Sullivans Gap rest area in the Myall Lakes NP but it too was quiet.

23 April

A group of four of us went over to Broughton Island along with the Ranger, Susanne Callaghan (and a bunch of NPWS field workers on other missions). Our purpose was to firm up and finalise plans for a 5-year bird banding study targeting land birds on the island. We chose three banding sites, worked out the mist-net lengths that could be used, etc. We've now set a date for the first official banding visit (3 days in late June) and have started ordering bands and nets.  We didn't have a lot of time for birdwatching today but there was a great view of an Eastern Reef Egret flying across Esmeralda Cove not long after we arrived, and Silvereyes were present in big numbers and very active. There were dead and dying Wedge-tailed Shearwater chicks too, quite a lot of them actually (we would have seen at least 20). It's the tail-end of the breeding season and the adults have departed; the chicks we saw were late hatchers that hadn't fully fledged and now will starve to death.

20 April

I retrieved the two Song Meters from the Gloucester Tops Rufous Scrub-bird territories where I'd placed them in early March. Only one RSB was calling, and that was only a very brief burst. However, there were lots and lots of honeyeaters, which I've also noticed to influx in autumn visits in other years. The main ones were Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills, both present in big numbers everywhere that I stopped (I later extrapolated, to there being ~25,000 Spinebills and ~50,000 YFHE within my 5000 ha study area up there). At the Gloucester Falls carpark I also found New Holland, White-naped and White-cheeked Honeyeaters. I've not recorded either of the latter two species in the Gloucester Tops before, and the New Holland Honeyeaters had recently fledged young with them (they were begging, but I didn't see them being fed).

18 April

I went up to Port Stephens, initially to do my radio slot. We changed the format a bit; it was essentially unstructured with the topic being the two leg-flagged Grey-tailed Tattlers currently in Port Stephens and their links with Russia and Russian researchers. Apparently there was some good feedback about it afterwards. Afterwards I went around to Barry Park (Fingal Bay) and had a pleasant one hour wander, the highlights being a Spangled Drongo and a pair of Sooty Oystercatchers.

14-16 April

It was HBOC's Easter camp (at the Durridgere State Conservation Area) although we were only able to be there for the first three days because of other commitments. There was a very good roll up of people, and good birding too (which for me started with a Glossy Black-Cockatoo on the drive in to the campsite). Honeyeaters were plentiful including uncommon ones for our region e.g. Black-chinned Honeyeaters (of which I saw a couple of juveniles plus adults) and 20+ Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters. I heard Chestnut-rumped Heathwren a couple of times and eventually was able to get a decent look at one.

13 April

On my way to Maitland for a mid-morning meeting (a planning session for HBOC's Tocal display), I stopped in at Hexham Swamp for a couple of hours. I was half-hoping to see the Blue-winged Parrot which someone photographed there on Wednesday but there was no sign of it today. There were lots of birds though, including at least 1,000 Grey Teal and several hundred Chestnut Teal. I saw one sub-adult Black-necked Stork; apparently not long after I departed a group of four of them turned up. I saw several raptors in the morning including a pair of Australian Hobby.

12 April

I met Lois Wooding at Salamander Bay and we did firstly did some planning for our new website, and then we went around to Lemon Tree Passage where we found a group of 15 Grey-tailed Tattlers roosting on a jetty. Most exciting was that there was a juvenile bird amongst them, which had been banded in Chukotka (in Russia) at an unknown date (but, it must have been in June or July 2016). I (and Lois) took lots of photos, in the hope that we might be able to read the band. The bird has been at Lemon Tree for a week or so.

11 April

I joined Jack Adams and various others for the first of this year's surveys at Galgabba Point. There was a moderate amount of blossom and we found lots of honeyeaters some of which (the Scarlet Honeyeaters) were definitely on migration passage; we found 100+ of them overall, moving about in small groups. It was a similar story with Silvereyes, probably 200 or so of them overall and mostly (if not all) being the southern subspecies. A pair of Ospreys flew over a couple of times (they nest not far away)and also, a Brahminy Kite, this being somewhat of a rarity so far to the south.

7 April

I had a couple of longish phone discussions today. The first was about beach-nesting birds along the mid-north coast (the area between Port Stephens and Crowdy Head). I have some potentially useful data as does HBOC but I encouraged my caller to chase up what NPWS has first, and then come to us to fill any gaps. The second call was with some researchers at UWS, who are studying Superb Lyrebird vocalisation (and, now starting to work on Albert's Lyrebird). These species are closely related to the Rufous Scrub-bird and we compared notes plus discussed opportunities to collaborate. There are some interesting possibilities.

6 April

In the morning I went down to the Central Coast. This was a follow-up to a recent contact from an elderly birdwatcher from down there who believed he had Rufous Scrub-birds in an area locally. Although this was counter to all that is known about scrub-birds, I decided it warranted a courtesy visit and that maybe I could tell him what species he really was hearing. Unfortunately we didn't hear whatever it was that he thought was a scrub-bird. I explained to him how the habitat where they occur in the Gloucester Tops  is very different from the habitat we were at today. It wasn't an especially birdy area either; the highlight was a fly-through by a group of three Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos.

In the early afternoon I went out to Ash Island from where there had been recent reports of an immature Oriental Cuckoo. I was able to locate the bird but it was very wary and I was unable to get a photograph, which is what I really wanted. Also in the area was a Striated Heron and a noisy group of 13 Masked Lapwings (plus a pair at their usual spot).

5 April

I'm working on a new website dedicated to Grey-tailed Tattlers and I spent a reasonable chunk of the day developing text for it. In the evening there was the HBOC management committee meeting, which I chaired. The first half-hour was spent on a new project aimed at restoring salt marsh habitat for Eastern Curlews - HBOC has just received a $20k grant for this. That was the fun part, the rest of the meeting was much more mundane.

1 April

In the morning was the field trip associated with my presentation about Waterbirds of Port Stephens to the participants in the Coastal Habitat Awareness Program. The group went to Pearson Park at Soldiers Point. It was a fairly wet start and then we had some more squalls during the morning. Despite that about 15 people turned up plus my two helpers, Lois Wooding and Graeme Stevens. The birding was steady and not a lot of action happening, but the group seemed to enjoy it and we had plenty of opportunities to talk about birds when there were none to look at. Early on there was a group of Grey-tailed Tattlers but they didn't stay for long enough and the late-comers missed out on them. However, we had Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers and some Bar-tailed Godwits, and miscellaneous other waterbird species were also around. We had some nice fly-bys from at least two different White-bellied Sea-Eagles as well.

March 2017

24-26 March

I went up to Harrington on Thursday, leaving with Margaret after work so it was too gloomy/darkening for any birding on the way there. Next morning I surveyed the estuary in an early start - high tide was at 6:30am but it wasn't decent light until nearly 7:00am and by that time it was raining fairly steadily. I got drenched! And there weren't a lot of birds out there either. The highlight was two Sanderlings doing their usual dance with the waves, also a few Little Terns were still around. I took the remainder of the morning off, and watched the rain coming down. It eased off in the afternoon and I went around to Crowdy Head, which was pretty exciting, with an Eastern Reef Egret hunting in front of me, two Sooty Oystercatchers, a Brahminy Kite and an Osprey amongst the highlights, plus a group of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters in close. Later I went to my site in Crowdy Bay NP (quiet) and then to Harrington rainforest, where a couple of Spectacled Monarchs were still present plus Rufous Fantails.

On Saturday I went around firstly to Mudbishops Point for part 2 of the shorebird surveying. There were quite good numbers of Pacific Golden Plover and Bar-tailed Godwits, also around 20 Double-banded Plovers (some were at Harrington on Friday too) and 18 Little Terns. My next stop was Saltwater NP which was rather quiet overall; the highlight was a pair of Green Catbirds. I also surveyed two small wetlands that I often visit - Coopernook Corner and Cattai Bridge. Both have water in them agian - last month they were completely dry.

On Sunday morning before making our way back to Newcastle, we went to Cattai Wetlands. The mosquitoes were ferocious and they made the visit unpleasant -  although I was plastered in Bushman's which meant they weren't actually attacking me, I had a dense swarm of them following me the entire time and many of them favouring the eyepiece of my telescope as a resting spot! The main lagoon is full of water again, which was good, but much of the water lilies had been removed - which meant there were no Comb-crested Jacanas. Lots of Scarlet Honeyeaters were calling as I walked around.

22 March

In the evening I did a presentation about Waterbirds of Port Stephens to the participants in this year's Coastal Habitat Awareness Program. I've done it every year since 2014, with minor updating each year.

21 March

I did my radio slot on Port Stephens FM in the morning (I talked about Grey Shrike-thrushes) and then went around to meet Lois Wooding (my partner in Grey-tailed Tattler research). The tide was right out and we couldn't find any tattlers so we went over to Pearson Park in Soldiers Point to do some planning for a field trip we'll be running there in early April for the Coastal Habitat Awareness Program. There was a group of 17 Pied Oystercatchers on the mudflats and some Bar-tailed Godwits, also a Striated Heron was out there. Later, two Sooty Oystercatchers flew through. We also tried Salamander Wetlands,which had very few waterbirds but there were some vocal honeyeaters around (Scarlet, Brown and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters).

19 March

In the afternoon I walked through the eastern side of Blackbutt Reserve. I didn't find many birds (lots of mosquitoes!) and the highlight was a yet-to-depart Rufous Fantail. I am thinking about setting up some study sites in Blackbutt although I'm not yet clear on what I would be trying to achieve by undertaking a bird study there. I did pick out three potential 2ha sites which would offer a range of habitats.

18 March

I was in Sydney for the day (a very wet one!), to attend the BirdLife Southern NSW/ACT branch AGM. There was a symposium before the AGM with several speakers and all the talks were interesting. I gave two presentations - one about the scrub-bird surveys I've been organising in the Gloucester Tops, the other about strategies for monitoring Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) in the Hunter Region. As part of the latter I showed the results for four species going back as far as 1997 in one case (for Latham's Snipe) and 1999 in a couple of other cases.

16 March

I finished and sent off another paper today, quite "unexpectedly".  I only started working it on Monday after I had finished generating some graphs for a talk I'm giving on the 18th (see above). The paper (which I submitted to Stilt) is about Red-necked Avocets in the Hunter Estuary.  Often there are many thousands of them here which are very significant numbers especially at a coastal setting (they mainly are a bird of inland salt lakes).

13 March

I went around to Swansea Heads for a couple of hours in the morning. I didn't find a huge variety of birds but I was pleased to see New Holland Honeyeaters at a couple of spots and I flushed a Peregrine Falcon from its roost near the Marine Rescue Station - I had great views of it in flight and then it perched facing me, a fair way off but I still was able to admire it.

11 March

I did the Ash Island survey today (as part of the Hunter Estuary waterbirds survey). It has been pretty quiet out there for many months but today was great! We found 31 Eastern Curlew together at Phoenix Flats (and a few more scattered elsewhere) and also 53 Pacific Golden Plover and six Sharp-tailed Sandpiper there. Around at the main ponds, there were 600+ Black-winged Stilts including a couple of hundred young ones, and several hundred teal (mixture of Grey and Chestnut Teal). We had a visiting English birder with us and I took him over to Stockton Sandspit afterwards.  We arrived just in time to have a decent session with the shorebirds before they dispersed to Fullerton Cove to feed there. We found 60-80 Curlew Sandpipers and a couple of Red Knot eventually emerged from out of the big flock of Bar-tailed Godwits. There were a couple of hundred Sharp-tailed Sandpipers resting in the shade of a large mangrove (it was very difficult to count how many).

8 March

I went public today with plans for a workshop in May on the use of Birdata for bird records. In the evening I chaired the HBOC club night - it was a pleasant low-key event with two local speakers and a bit of a laid-back feel. Afterwards I adjourned to the nearby pub with a couple of others, to talk about some local initiatives we are planning.

7 March

HBOC had its March mid-week outing to Tahlee on the shores of Port Macquarie. I was the organiser, although I handed over to a local (Stuart Fleming) when we arrived. Conditions initially were squally, but they improved later. Bush Stone-curlews (a pair, although I only saw one) greeted us, and we saw Bar-tailed Godwits and Grey-tailed Tattlers (amongst other species) on the foreshore. Our walk brought yielded us various honeyeaters including nice views (for me) of Scarlet Honeyeaters. A highlight was a Pacific Baza, being harassed by Noisy Miners but remaining stoical in the face of it. We had nice views (eventually). Unfortunately I had to leave early, on account of my breakfast disagreeing with me!

4 March

No birding today, but it was a happy day nevertheless, as I submitted two papers to Australian Field Ornithology (one on Scrub-birds, the other a general overview of birds of the Gloucester Tops). These have occupied my attention for a long time now, and intensively so over the past couple of weeks. I'm so pleased to be done with them for a while.

2 March

I went up to the Gloucester Tops for the day, having postponed a few times earlier in the week because of rain. I got drenched up there! But there was only one heavy shower all day. Only one Rufous Scrub-bird was calling so I wasn't able to collect much data. However, I had Olive Whistlers and Crescent Honeyeaters, and the autumn influx of honeyeaters has begun - there were several New Holland Honeyeaters at the Falls Carpark where I also heard White-naped Honeyeaters. I also found a pair of Scarlet Robins. In the same vicinity were two juvenile robins which I was uncertain initially about the ID but after consulting with others the consensus was that they were Flame Robins.

February 2017

23-24 February

On Thursday I went to Saltwater National Park which started out as a quiet visit but early on I added a new bird for my list there (Common Sandpiper) and the final 30 or so minutes were very exciting, with about 15 species added for the day including some Little Terns and both Black-faced and Spectacled Monarch. I also surveyed the Saltwater Nature Walk (it really was quiet there!) and then I went around to Old Bar / Mudbishops Point. The "high tide" was only about 1.3m so there was a lot of exposed sandbank and what birds there were, were far away. There were reasonable numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits and Pacific Golden Plovers.

Next day I started early at Harrington to catch the high tide. Some of the summer waders were present including a large count of 74 Pacific Golden Plovers but it was a simple count really and I ended up spending some time trying to take a decent photo of a Little Tern in flight. Later in the day I visited my usual sites at Crowdy Head and Harrington rainforest, then went to the egret colony at Cundletown, and finally I stopped in at O'Sullivan's Gap near Bulahdelah on my way home; all were very quiet. It's been too dry for too long. I detoured via Hexham Swamp to try for another look at the Oriental Pratincole, some others were there who told me it had flown off about 10 minutes before I arrived. As a consolation prize, some large (100-200) flocks of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers were often in the air, and I estimated 700-800 of them in total. I also found one Curlew Sandpiper out there.

21 February

In the morning I went to Ash Island and Deep Pond to estimate how many birds were there, commensurate with a team surveying waterbirds at Tomago Wetlands today. I found about 500 Black-winged Stilts, also well over 50 Black-tailed Godwits and 700-1,000 teal (of two species). Then I went over to Hexham Swamp, to do the same. There was a Black-necked Stork in the area and I had just found a smallish group of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers to count (there were 50 or so birds) when suddenly something different whizzed through. It was obviously a Pratincole of some sort, and eventually I was able to track it down - an Oriental Pratincole, the first known record of it for the Hunter Region (and my #402 sighting for the Region). I'm exceedingly pleased to have been the one who found it. I put the word out immediately, and by the time I left there were 15 or so people out there to have a look at it.

19 February

I met 18 other members of HBOC at Cooranbong Park and from there we want around to Avondale College where we did the Boys Walk. This goes through rainforest and alongside Dora Creek and it was very pleasant birding (but, so many Bell Miners!). We found many good birds including Crested Shrike-tit, Regent Bowerbird, Azure Kingfisher and Black-faced Monarch. I caught a glimpse of a probable Black Bittern flying up the creek; about 20 minutes later several of us had good although brief sightings of one (and later, others of the group saw one perched). It's been several years since I last saw a Black Bittern so I was quite chuffed about it. Back later at Cooranbong Park we had a Grey Goshawk and a Southern Emu-wren.

15 February

I went to the Gloucester Tops for the day, principally to set up Song Meters at two Rufous Scrub-bird territories. It was cold and drizzly up there in the morning - quite a change after the heatwaves we've been having in Newcastle. The Scrub-birds weren't calling all the time, and at three territories which I visited I heard nothing at all from them. I saw Flame Robins at several locations, and there were several Olive Whistlers too. It was noticeable that the numbers of Crescent Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills had increased considerably since my last visit (which was in mid December 2016).

11 February

Nev McNaughton and I surveyed Ash Island in the morning (at the start of a stinking hot day). It really was very quiet out there, the highlight being three Common Greenshanks on Swan Pond. although the real highlight for us for the morning was to peer across the railway line at Deep Pond which had masses of birds including many thousands of teal (Chestnut Teal, Grey Teal) and 50-70 Black-tailed Godwits. And, the 400 or so Black-winged Stilts which were on Swan Pond on Tuesday were there on Deep Pond too.

10 February

It was the Port Stephens waterbirds survey today. I had not been at all sure it would be happening, but it did! It was a close-run thing. I surveyed Alpha sector, and we found lots of birds there including 176 Little Terns (and some of them were feeding young) and 20-30 each of Aust. Pied Oystercatchers and Eastern Curlews. At the last minute I also found three Red-necked Stints feeding at the water's edge. Overall though, the counts of shorebirds were down considerably on previous years.

8 February

I finally received confirmation that the Port Stephens survey would be going ahead on Friday, and I spent the morning finalising the arrangements for it. Then in the afternoon I had some follow-up matters from the Urunga workshop plus a couple of abstracts to prepare for talks I will give at the BLA Southern NSW Group AGM in March. The evening was spent at the HBOC meeting, where I was re-elected as Vice-President.

7 February

I had been intending to join the HBOC outing but my start was delayed by a few hours so instead I went around to Ash Island, arriving in the middle of the morning. There were about 350 Black-winged Stilts on the main ponds, including a considerable proportion of juveniles. It's been at least six months since we've had such numbers of them - almost all of the Hunter estuary birds went inland to breed last year. It seems they are starting to come back. I also found two Common Greenshanks amongst the roosting flock, and there were 38 Australian Pelicans too.

6 February

Before leaving Urunga I did another loop around the lagoon. The tide was only just on the turn so it was difficult to see the shorebirds roosting a fair way off and me having to look into the rising sun. As the tide dropped, I had a few flocks of Whimbrels and Bar-tailed Godwits flying over me towards their feeding grounds, and also had better views of feeding Eastern Curlews. Finally, I made out a Grey-tailed Tattler foraging over rocks, and then, a Beach Stone-curlew on a distant beach. As we drove out shortly afterwards, I stopped there again to show it to Margaret - and this time I saw two birds!

We stopped for lunch at Stuarts Point and I walked over to the beach for a look. This was productive spot, with me finding birds such as Red-backed Fairy-wren, Dollarbird and Spangled Drongo on the walk and our lunch spot being surrounded by Striped Honeyeaters, Blue-faced Honeyeaters, and much more.

5 February

A convoy of 15 people in 5 vehicles made an early start (6:30am depart Urunga) to visit the Rufous Scrub-bird core habitat in New England NP (at Mt Killiekrankie). It was a long dusty drive and already very hot when we finally could start some birding. I got people into 3 teams and we surveyed a 1km transect with 5 minute separations between each team. Overall, we found 27 species by doing this; interesting that only 14 species were found by all three teams. My group found a pair of Rose Robins feeding a fledged young and later, a pair of Golden Whistlers doing ditto. In a later survey, we had many White-throated Treecreepers calling/seen but not a lot else. Towards the end, in denser forest, I spent some time stalking a cryptic bird which eventually turned into an Eastern Whipbird. Very hot drive back (40C for a lot of the way) and no interest in doing any birding. In the evening, I heard a Bush Stone-curlew calling from the general direction of where Margaret had seen it, but we couldn't find it when we went to look for it.

4 February

I spent the day at a workshop on KBA monitoring, involving 40+ birdwatchers from northern NSW plus several of us so-called experts. I gave a brief talk about our monitoring programs in the Hunter Region, and then later I did a 40-minute demonstration on the use of Birdata. The latter turned out to be very audience-interactive, which was great. The feedback at the end of the workshop was that my session was far too short. I did no serious birding during he day, but early evening Margaret rushed back from a walk - she had just seen a Bush Stone-curlew. I went back with her - we couldn't find it but had a long chat with a fisherman who said he regularly saw it there when he was setting up for night fishing.

3 February

We stopped at Cattai Wetlands on our way north to Urunga. The main lagoon had the lowest water levels I've ever seen it, and was hosting species such as Aust. Pelican, Latham's Snipe and Royal Spoonbill - these are rare birds usually at Cattai. There also were 168 Chestnut Teal, another species which normally is uncommon there. A highlight for me was to spot a pair of Comb-crested Jacanas with three young chicks in tow. It's great to have re-confirmed that they breed at Cattai. I also saw a small party of Varied Sittellas - only the second time I've found them at Cattai.

After settling in at Urunga, Margaret and I went for a walk around the lagoon and boardwalk. This was pretty good for birds. I saw lots of shorebirds including a largish group of Pacific Golden Plovers roosting near a dunal pond along with some Little Terns and Crested Terns, etc. Mangrove Gerygones were calling at several places, and briefly seen. Pairs both of Sooty Oystercatcher and Aust. Pied Oystercatcher were foraging in the area too. I found a group of birders, all in Urunga for the weekend's workshop, and we scoured the shoreline for the reported Beach Stone-curlews - no luck, but much later that afternoon just before dusk they were seen by others.

January 2017

30 January

Ann Lindsey and I went to Tomalpin Woodlands (near Kurri Kurri), making a very early start because of the expected 40C day. We had two missions - I want to set up some Shared Sites for the BirdLife Atlas, and Ann is to become involved in surveys of some sites in the areas burnt in the December fires. We didn't find many birds (especially in the burnt areas but these had some White-winged Choughs and Peaceful Doves). A flock of 8-10 Varied Sittellas passing over us at the Puddles Track was the best highlight.

26-28 January

Margaret and I took the Friday off and had a 3-day weekend at Smiths Lake with the bird club, based at the UNSW Field Station (most of the others stayed the 4 days). Nearby there were two very young Eastern Yellow Robins, one was only very recently fledged but  the other one was not an adult either. They kept close company all the time, but I didn't ever see the older bird feed the younger one. I don;t know what the story behind it all might be.Other highlights for me were a pair of Azure Kingfishers and close encounters with Varied Sittellas and Crested Shrike-tits. Also, I got the Song Meter back!

24 January

I went out to Hexham Swamp in the morning although not for birding per se. Highlights were some Tree Martins roosting on power lines just in the approach area to the national park, a young Black-necked Stork and a hundred or so Masked Lapwings. There is a concept proposal from Newcastle Council to put a cycle-way right through the middle of Hexham Swamp, on the Pipeline Track that we currently drive on to survey the swamp. That would stop us from having access, so we're concerned about that plus we want to be sure that there would be minimal impact to the birds out there, and that's not a given. Anyhow, we made our views known. It developed into a very hot day; Ann Lindsey and I attempted to look for an unconfirmed Yellow Wagtail on Ash Island afterwards but we soon abandoned our efforts.

17 January

I had my radio slot on Port Stephens FM this morning - I talked about the local ibis species (White and Straw-necked Ibis). Afterwards I met with Lois Wooding to talk about our Grey-tailed Tattler project; we're not finding many of them this season and so we're focussing on reviewing all our old data and images.

14 January

It was the first Hunter Estuary waterbirds survey for the year and three of us surveyed Ash Island in incredibly hot conditions. Some waterbirds have started to come back to the coast - we found 100+ Chestnut Teal, ~50 Black-necked Stilts and 60 or so White-faced Herons. There haven't been such numbers around for a lot of months. Because of the tide situation, the survey had a late start so I went to Tarro Sports Ground (it was fairly quiet there) and then to Hexham Swamp. I only visited the front section of it, due to a time constraint. I saw three raptors - Brown Falcon, Black-shouldered Kite and Swamp Harrier and all the usual grassland birds etc. The highlight was 300+ Tree Martins roosting on the wires near the farmhouse.

13 January

Before my flight back to Newcastle, I went to Centenary Lakes for a final visit. It was an extremely muggy morning and the mosquitoes were a problem too. I found a pair of Radjah Shelducks, with seven tiny chicks in tow. There were some Spangled Drongos around, but the nest I'd found on Wednesday was deserted (the birds had been close to fledging on Wednesday). A few Australian Swiftlets flew over and then a group of three Double-eyed Fig-Parrots. These didn't cooperate for me; one landed briefly in a tree near me but took off again very soon afterwards, and the other two birds did not stop. I saw one Bush Stone-curlew where the family of three had been on Wednesday but it had begun to rain and so I didn't investigate further.

12 January

For my last full day in Queensland I headed for Hartley's Crocodile Park as I thought it would give me safe access to mangrove areas. However, it was paperbark swamp and so my plan came unstuck. I found a few species (being careful to discriminate that they weren't captive or domesticated ones - there were quite a few of those!).  The absolute highlight was when I looked up to see why several species were very agitated - they had found a Barking Owl. Later, I found a pair of Brown-backed Honeyeaters building a nest, and I spent a while trying to take an action photo of the event.

11 January

First thing in the morning I went around to the Botanic Gardens which is a lovely spot but not especially birdy. Then I climbed Mt Whitfield, ditto (when will I ever learn; every time I've been there it's been quiet. I did get a nice view of a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike). Salvation came when I went to Centenary Lakes (ignoring all the cane toadlets; however, the Black Butcherbirds were having a major feast on them!). I found lots of great birds, including a pair of Collared Kingfishers, a Large-billed Scrub-wren, and some young Magpie-Geese.; also several encounters with Nutmeg Mannikins (and elsewhere later for these).  I met two American blokes, who were searching for Radjah Shelduck. At the time I couldn't help them, but half an hour later I found three birds - there was no way to contact them though! A bit later, I met another American birder (I helped her with an ID), and very soon afterwards I found a pair of Bush Stone-curlews with a chick. I called her back and we watched them for a while, with me remarking that I had never before seen a BSC chick in 30+ years of birding. However, only some 15-20 minutes later, I found another pair with a chick, this one being a week or so older. In the afternoon I went down to the waterfront (a few times, to deal with the changing tide). At one point I had a group of ~60 Great Knot foraging, later on I found a Greater Sand-plover and then an Osprey flew by. I finished my day at Holloway Beach, where there were 50+ nests of Metallic Starlings in one tree.

10 January

I left Julatten in the morning, originally bound for Ingham; however, amidst heavy rain and with reports that the Bruce Highway was about to be cut off near Tully, I changed plans and headed for Cairns instead. My first stop was at Hasties Swamp near Atherton - this had very few birds except for 50 or so Wandering Whistling-Ducks. A far better stop was had later, at Lake Eacham, where the first bird I saw was a Barred Cuckoo-shrike (only my 3rd ever sighting of one) and I also had close views of the local sub-species of the White-browed Treecreeper and some Pale-yellow Robins. It was wet in Cairns but between heavy showers (well OK, also during heavy showers!) I went down to the waterfront where I found some waders (including six Great Knots) and there were several Torresian Imperial-Pigeons too. And to round out the afternoon, a Collared Kingfisher landed in a mangrove not all that far away from me.

9 January

I drove up Mt Lewis in the morning; the road was in very good condition despite all the recent rain, however I did have to deal with one tree that had fallen across the road. Obviously I was the first car up for the morning. There was a Bassian Thrush (the northern subspecies)by the roadside on the way up. A Bower's Shrike-thrush was waiting at "The Clearing" and not long afterwards I found a Tooth-billed Bowerbird. I searched for quite a while at the clearing for Blue-faced Parrot-finch then decided to do some of the rainforest walk. This yielded some Atherton Scrub-wrens (had good looks) and Spotted Catbird (heard only, but at a couple of spots) and several Grey-headed Robins (such a beautiful call that they have). Eventually I arrived back at the clearing - and there were the Parrot-finches! I tried for photos but the birds were not at all cooperative; however, then some other birders on the scene told me of a site lower down that had them feeding right by the roadside. I went there - and bingo!  I got some great shots!

In the afternoon I went into Mount Malloy, to check out the Great Bowerbird bower at the local school - I found it, and there were a couple of Bowerbirds in the area. As I was about to drive off, I heard then found some Grey-crowned Babblers, and then two Squatter Pigeons. Apparently the entire Mount Malloy population of these is just four birds, so I got a 50% rating. Finally, just on dusk back at Kingfisher Park, a Red-necked Crake came in for a bath at one of the water dishes - the light was extremely poor but I did get some photos of it. I had spent a fair while during the afternoon wandering the rainforest is search of one, so I felt I had earned my sighting.

8 January

Early morning, I wandered around Julatten for a few hours. I had been hoping for a chance to photograph a Pale-vented Bush-hen but there was no inkling of one anywhere, unlike on Saturday. I did confirm that Large-billed Scrub-wrens were around, and that the the Buff-breasted Kingfishers were nesting. I found a few Macleay's Honeyeaters, and an Azure Kingfisher. Later in the morning I went to Churchill Creek, at the base of Mt Lewis, where the highlight was a Bridled Honeyeater and I also saw a Mistletoebird (my only one so far for this trip). I also tried some old favourites - Abattoir Swamp, Lake Mitchell and Big Mitchell Creek. Overall, the birding was not so fantastic but I found a group of Brown-backed Honeyeaters at Abattoir Swamp and also a solitary Australian Swiftlet did a fly-by.  In the afternoon, in heavy rain, I drove along Wetherby Rd (highlight - a Magpie-Goose and four Wandering Whistling-Ducks, also a Comb-crested Jacana). I ended up at Mowbray NP; it was too wet to contemplate doing the walk but I birded for a while near the entry - I could hear some Fairy Gerygones but I could not entice them out (and they could not entice me in). But, the absolute highlight of going to Mowbray NP was that, a few km before arriving there, a Pale-vented Bush-hen was on the road in front of me. I screeched to a halt, and actually got some photos of it. Oh joyousday!

7 January

I was up early and in place by dawn, to resume my Pale-vented Bush-hen searching. It didn't take long before I was close to one of them, listening to its soft calls (somewhat reminiscent of the Lewin's Rail's galloping horse call), but it was at least another half an hour before I got any glimpse of it. As time went by, the glimpses gradually improved and eventually I was able to see one really well - a new bird for me and I'm very pleased about it! And not long after that, a pair of them (I knew that two birds were in there) scurried across the road and I had wonderful views of them both in the sun. No camera - my priority was to see, not to photograph.

I walked for another couple of hours, finding all of yesterday's birds plus additions such as Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Papuan Frogmouth, Noisy Pitta, Azure Kingfisher and Yellow-breasted Boatbill. Later in the morning, I headed to some places closer to Mount Malloy and then northwards from it. At Abattoir Swamp I found a Metallic Starling and a group of Brown-backed Honeyeaters, and an Australian Swiftlet flew over; also there was a female Leaden Flycatcher near the car park. Heading north then from Mount Malloy, I searching for an Australian Bustard, and eventually found one. When I stopped to look at and photograph it, to discover that I was at the entrance to AWC's Brooklyn sanctuary - so I went in, introduced myself and got some background information about how to visit there "formally" in future.

6 January

I flew to Cairns, collected a car and drove to Julatten (Kingfisher Park Lodge) where I am booked in for 4 nights. On my way, I detoured to Cattana Wetlands: here I saw a pair of Green Pygmy-Geese and a couple of solitary Comb-crested Jacanas, also a pair of Orange-footed Scrub-fowl and a Black Butcherbird. Other highlights included Olive-backed Sunbird and Spectacled Monarch; despite all this I left feeling a bit that the site hadn't delivered. There were almost no waterbirds, for example.

After I was settled in at Julatten, I walked around for a couple of hours in the late afternoon. It was a terrific walk, yielding lots of birds and good views of them for the most part. There were lots of Metallic Starlings around including some young birds, and later on I found their nest tree with 50+ nests (my rough estimate; it doesn't do you good to linger around the nest tree for these birds). There were some Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfishers around, also Brown-capped Emerald Doves, Forest Kingfishers, Pale-yellow Robins and much much more. However, my target (the reason I have come here) is the Pale-vented Bush-hen and I only had moderate success with them. I lingered at various likely places, and at one point I heard them calling but from a fair way in. Then, in poor light late in the afternoon, a pair of them (I'm 95% sure of this) ran across the road about 40-50m in front of me. That was all that I got on them!

3 January

There was not a lot of birding done today (family commitments + a longish drive, from Canberra to Newcastle) but the morning started at Jerrabomberra Wetlands near Fyshwick (Canberra), a spot I've been to many times. I had great views of many birds especially from a couple of the hides near the main carpark. There were several Latham's Snipe about, also three Intermediate Egrets were foraging in close and various other common waterbirds.

2 January

After leaving Hay en route for Canberra, we stopped by the river at Darlington Point mid-morning for our first break. A few White-necked Herons were around - I haven't seen too many of these in recent times. Across the plains we had passed by several small parties of Emus, these being an adult (= male) and some chicks in each case. Later, we had a lunch stop alongside the Murrumbidgee at Robinvale, with very few birds obliging us with their present,

1 January

We traveled from Renmark to Hay today, with our first (and main) stop being at the Inland Botanic Gardens near Mildura. Once again, it felt a bit anti-climactic (i.e. fewer birds than I anticipated) but the Australasian Grebe chicks were still there and I hope I also got some photos of the Australian Reed-Warbler; I certainly tried hard enough!. There was a small group of Apostlebirds near the visitor centre - how could I have missed those on my previous visit?  Later, we had a stop, involving a small detour, at the Memorial Birding Trail at Balranald. This looked quite promising for future time; unfortunately the river was slowly subsiding from a recent flood and most of the Trail was impassable on this visit. I found a dozen or so species but nothing outstanding. It was too hot to go birding when we reached Hay; I opted for the pool instead.