Thinking About Birds

January 2019

30 January

I had a meeting at the University in the morning, about the Rufous Scrub-bird DNA studies. Afterwards I went to Marathon Swamp in Shortland, where amongst other species there were some Wandering Whistling-Ducks (a first for the year for me). Then I went around to Stockton, where for a few days now a Brown Booby had been reported to be roosting on the breakwater. It had a fish hook stuck into its breast, which was a distressing sight (and probably not at all good for the bird). Walking out on the breakwater, another highlight was to have a Common Tern fly past.

26-28 January

Early morning I went to Chisholm where interesting birds including Australian Painted-snipe had recently been reported. I only had poor views of it (I should have taken my 'scope!) but there were lots of other waterbirds present, such as Latham's Snipe, Pink-eared Duck, Great and Intermediate Egret, Red-kneed Dotterel and a couple of hundred Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. In the afternoon we drove up to Smiths Lake to join the HBOC camp. It was extremely hot and so instead of going birding after pitching the tent, I headed for the lake. There was a pair of Forest Raven on the beach and also some waterbirds about e.g. Black Swan, Australian Pelican. Next morning I walked for a couple of hours, finding many good things including White-breasted Woodswallow, Brown Quail, Dollarbird and Sacred Kingfisher. Again, the afternoon was hot so I didn't do much, but mid-afternoon we went around to the main Smiths Lake settlement where I saw an Australian Hobby and various terns, cormorants etc.  On Monday morning conditions were cooler, thankfully; my walk yielded Cicadabird, Variegated Fairy-wren, a pair of Regent Bowerbird, some Varied Sittella, an adult male Satin Bowerbird, adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle and quite a bit more.

24 January

No birding today, but I went to a longish meeting at the University to discuss the Port Stephens Eastern Curlew project, which is starting to fire up.

21-23 January

I helped do the HBOC surveys in the Martindale valley. On Monday afternoon I stopped at some spots in the Denman/Martindale area, finding several Rufous Songlarks, a Horsfield's Bushlark and good numbers of White-browed Woodswallows - which included many young birds some of which we still being fed. That night there was an Owlet-nightjar around the campsite plus Tawny Frogmouth and Southern Boobook (on the Tuesday night they were joined by a White-throated Nightjar, which did a brief fly-by followed by lots of calling). In the daytime surveys we found more White-browed Woodswallows also Speckled Warblers, a Crested Shrike-tit, Hooded Robins, Rockwarblers and White-winged Trillers.  There was a very demonstrative Brown Songlark in a paddock near the Medhurst Bridge.

19 January

Ross and I did the Ash Island survey today. Conditions were bleak out there - all the ponds were dry or well-advanced in drying, and there had been many fires (resulting in charred landscapes and some fallen power lines). Accordingly, bird numbers and diversity were down but we did find a group of 31 Pacific Golden Plover at Phoenix Flats and 38 Red-capped Plover (including one runner) at Fish Fry Flats. We also found seven Eastern Curlew.

12-14 January

We headed to Ballina via the Gold Coast (to visit relatives) and then from there home to Newcastle. The only highlight of the driving part was to see some Little Terns at Lennox Head. On Sunday I explored Bundjalong National Park near Evans Head (and I tried Broadwater NP as well). I found Brahminy Kite and Osprey around the estuary and  a few shorebirds - Aust. Pied Oystercatcher, Eastern Curlew, Pacific Golden Plover, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit. There was also a Striated Heron hunting. On Broadwater Beach I found a group of seven Pied Oystercatchers together (but overall I did poorly in that NP). Arrived home to find waiting for us the proofs of our Corella paper.

5-12 January

We spent a week at O'Reilly's Guest House in Lemington National Park. I did lots of walks in the area and enjoyed some of the up-close opportunities for what normally are shy rainforest birds - for example, Australian Logrunners and Eastern Whipbirds, which have become habituated to the crowds of people (often noisy) that do the easier walks. It was the same story for the scrub-wrens (White-browed, Yellow-throated and Large-billed Scrub-wren) which were happily foraging right in front of me or at my feet. The forests abounded with the calls of pigeons and doves e.g. White-headed Pigeon, Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Wompoo Fruit-Dove but they were much more difficult to see except by a fluke. The same went for Noisy Pittas and Paradise Riflebirds. Conversely but with similar consequences, the Albert's Lyrebirds were silent and difficult to track down, except to stumble upon one. I saw one lyrebird on Tuesday and then two birds together on Wednesday - in both cases the birds "ran" off as soon as they became aware of my presence. On Monday I did a long walk for the express purpose of getting onto a Rufous Scrub-bird, which eventually I did but it was too far off the track and the terrain too difficult, so I didn't try to see it. On Thursday night on my way to the glow-worm tour I saw a Marbled Frogmouth - my first sighting of one in about two decades!

4 January

Margaret and I were heading north and today was a fair bit of driving (and then in the motel pool). The only stop where there was any birding opportunity was at Woolgoolga where we walked around the headland - the highlight was to find an Eastern Reef Egret hunting on the rock platform.

2 January

On my way back from a shopping expedition I stopped at Stockton Borehole swamp (near Teralba). It was a hot afternoon so I didn't stay for long, but there were plenty of birds including a couple of hundred each of Pied Stilt and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and 30-40 Red-kneed Dotterels including some immature birds. I also found a group of 7 Red-necked Avocets: it's not often these are away from the Hunter estuary.

1 January

I made my first trip for the year to the Gloucester Tops, mainly to service the Song Meters which I have installed up there. Bird-wise it was quiet, perhaps partly because it was rather warm up there (it got to 26C). There was a Satin Flycatcher near the Kerripit Rd car park and and all four Rufous Scrub-bird territories that I visited the male was singing (quietly/intermittently at two of them, rather robustly at the other two). I almost trod on a Highland Copperhead - that's one of the perils of summertime visits to the Gloucester Tops.