Thinking About Birds

July 2022

In addition to my normal birding activities in July, I did a trip north - I was away for two weeks for that.

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NT/Kimberley trip 11-24 July

My normal birding activities were on hold, while I spent a couple of weeks up north - where I was happy to be warm and dry. That was such a nice change!  And I  saw some new species as well!  Plus re-acquainted with many species that I don't see all that often.I flew to Darwin on 11 July, ex-Sydney. The next morning I joined a ten-day tour operated by NT Bird Specialists. We (there were ten of us) visited lots of spots in the Northern Territory (Kakadu, Pine Creek, Katherine, etc) and then we crossed into Western Australia ultimately arriving at Kununurra. I will stay a couple of extra days in Kununurra before returning to Darwin and then flying back to NSW.

11 July

I arrived at Darwin late morning and made my way to my hotel near the airport. I was delighted (also, surprised, as I've not seen them before around Darwin) to see a pair of Black-breasted Buzzards hunting over the airfield paddocks - I saw them while still on the plane, which a great beginning to my trip. Also there were Grey-crowned Babblers just outside the terminal. After I had settled into my hotel near the airport I headed to a nearby monsoon forest (Rapid Creek aka Garumbai).  The place was dominated by honeyeaters especially Brown and White-throated Honeyeater, and several White-gaped Honeyeaters too. Other highlights were Crimson Finch, the black-rumped version of Double-barred Finch, some Orange-footed Scrub-fowl and a Northern Fantail. A pair of Red-collared Lorikeets flew through and my visit finished with a Spangled Drongo. Back at the motel there were some of the white-quilled version of Blue-faced Honeyeater hanging around the pool area (later I realised this was now treated as a separate species).

12 July

This was the first day of the tour and it got away to a cracking start, at Lee Point Dam. We found about 40 species there including a new bird for me, Gouldian Finch. There seemed to only be one bird but I had a good view (a red-faced variant, which is less common). There also were Crimson Finch, Masked Finch and Double-barred Finch plus Chestnut-breasted Mannikins. There were plenty of bush birds including both trillers. Next we went to Buffalo Creek where the first bird I saw was a Chestnut Rail - we all had great views then for quite a while as it strolled the mudflats. Other birds around included Beach Stone-Curlew, Eastern Reef Egret, Aust. Pied Oystercatcher and Striated Heron. I found some Yellow White-eyes, which eluded the others until later in the day. We visited various other spots around Darwin, finding birds such as Green-backed Gerygone, Red-headed Honeyeater, Rufous Owl (pairs at two sites), Mangrove Robin, Torresian Crow, Azure and Forest Kingfisher. On our rounds in the afternoon we several times went past a park that had at least 8 Bush Stone-Curlews roosting. We ended up with about 75 species for the day.

13 July

We left before dawn, to be at Buffalo Creek as the tide dropped. In the gloaming as we arrived, we found a Rainbow Pitta feeding on the roadside verge. The bird was out in the open but it was very poor light. On the beach there were hundreds of shorebirds - mostly Great Knots but also some Red Knots, Greater Sand Plovers, Red-necked Stints, a couple of Sanderlings and one Black-tailed Godwit. The 20-30 terns included a couple of Lesser Crested Terns and many Whiskered Terns.

We went to Lee Point for breakfast, where I saw a Brown-capped Emerald Dove and we all saw an Osprey and a flock of about 50 Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos. Our next stop was Fogg Dam where we spent about 5 hours. There were many highlights here, of which White-browed Crake, Black-necked Stork, Comb-crested Jacana, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove and Little Bronze-cuckoo stood out. However, quite spectacularly, there were about 100 Plumed Egrets and about 300 Pied Herons, the latter at times rising in spectacular large flocks.

We stayed overnight at Mary River Wilderness Retreat, with a Brown Goshawk sitting above the carpark while we unloaded. Not long beforehand I saw my first Nankeen Kestrel and Wedge-tailed Eagle for the trip.

14 July

Early morning we went to some bushland in Mary River NP, along Bird Billabong Road. It was a random stop because there was some bird activity - which turned out to be lots of activity! There were at least 100 Gouldian Finch including red and black variants, females and immature birds. Also a couple of hundred Masked Woodswallows with some White-browed and White-breasted Woodswallows available for comparison. There were Black-tailed Treecreepers including a pair carrying food, and several Varied Lorikeets. We also had brief encounters with Masked Finches, Banded Honeyeater, Weebill and Dusky Myzomela.

After that we headed to Kakadu NP, eventually to lunch beside Jabiru Lake where we found a pair of Barking Owls. We checked into our accommodation at Anbilink Resort - very good rooms with a great front deck and an outdoor shower at the back (it was great). Later in the afternoon we went to Ubirr where there is extensive rock art. En route we patrolled the Jabiru Industrial Area looking for Partridge Pigeons, which eventually we found. That was a new bird for me. The first bird we saw at Ubirr was a Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon - another new bird (and the second in 30 minutes). We mostly looked at the artwork but I did see a Great Bowerbird during my travels. We arrived back at Jabiru well after dark.

15 July

In the morning we went to an area called Kubara about 40 minutes away. A 3km walk brought us to sandstone country where there are a couple of endemics. One of these, Black-banded Fruit-Dove, only offered long-distance views, of a single bird perched several hundred metres away. The other, White-lined Honeyeater, eventually gave great views but that took a long time. For quite a while the glimpses only were tantalising, nothing more. That was two new birds for me taking my tally to 749 and raising my tension accordingly. The third endemic, the sandstone subspecies of the Helmeted Honeyeater, I'd seen before. It was cooperative and I got some photos this time.

We had lunch in shade by a billabong, and along came an Arafura Shrike-thrush. My 750th Australian species! Thankfully I was able to get photos of it as well.

Mid-afternoon we went to Byrrungkuy, another rock art place. There was a Black-necked Stork at a wetland we passed en route. The art work was great but the birding was quiet most of the time. We heard White-lined Honeyeaters several times but had no views. But then we found another Black-banded Fruit-Dove, this one was much closer and we had much better views than in the morning.

16 July

We departed at 5:00am so as to connect with a boat trip at Yellow Water which set off shortly before dawn. It was an amazing two hours on the water! There were so many waterbirds of all sorts of species, also saltwater crocodiles everywhere (and some were rather large) and sightings of feral Buffalos, Pigs and Horses. The most abundant waterbird was Plumed Whistling-Duck - I estimated 5000-10,000 birds. There also were Wandering Whistling-Ducks amongst them (mostly closer to the water). We had flocks of Magpie Geese and Glossy Ibis regularly flying past, mostly becoming obscured after landing. Comb-crested Jacanas were everywhere and there were many young ones too; it was a similar story for Nankeen Night-Herons although their overall numbers were lower. Several times we saw some Brolga in paddocks, in groups of 2-3 birds each time. We had amazingly close-up encounters with both Azure Kingfisher and Sacred Kingfisher - almost too close to photograph.

It seemed a pity to leave but we had breakfast near Cooinda where I found a Bush Stone-curlew and the group found a Pacific Baza. It had caught a plump phasmid which it ate right in front of us. Amongst the honeyeaters we had some Rufous-throated Honeyeaters.

We had lunch at Mary River Ranger Station with a stop shortly before to look at a Red Goshawk. At lunch we had a Silver-backed Butcherbird for company - another new bird for me. We arrived at Pine Creek mid-afternoon - there were Great Bowerbirds near the entrance to the caravan park, with a large bower evident. A walk later produced several dozen Hooded Parrots and one Northern Rosella.

17 July

We spent the morning in Witmiluk NP, firstly at a spot along Edith Falls Rd and then at Edith Falls. Our first spot was because our guide, Luke, had previously found Chestnut-backed Button-quail there. But not today! We worked hard on them and did find a roost site (with breast feathers) but no sight or sound of them. Alongside a creek we had many finches coming in - mostly Masked Finch and Long-tailed Finch also some Gouldian Finch. We had Black-faced Woodswallows and Cockatiels here, both for the first time for the trip.. A flock of Varied Lorikeets flew through, and there were some Hooded Parrots. A Salmon Gum in blossom was attracting many honeyeaters including Banded Honeyeater, also White-winged Triller. At Edith Falls, where the group had late breakfast, there were photogenic Northern Fantails and Leaden Flycatchers, also Shining Flycatcher.

We had lunch at an outdoor cafe in Katherine, where we found our first Apostlebirds for the trip. After checking in at the Beagle Motel (WiFi at last!) we rested for a while then went birding at roadside stops along the first 10km of the Central Arnhem Highway. The target was Northern Shrike-Tit but no luck there. We found more Hooded Parrots and Black-faced Woodswallows, and our first Jacky Winters and Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters for the trip. There were many Banded Honeyeaters including several immature birds.

18 July

We went back to the Central Arnhem Highway sites in the early morning, finding much the same as yesterday and again dipping on the Northern Shrike-tit. However, we did find the Golden-backed Honeyeater. It's a spectacular subspecies of the Black-chinned Honeyeater. One area we visited had many Black Kites and Whistling Kites - we found out why when we discovered at least 5 dead Donkeys there, presumably they had been shot.

After a brief stop in Katherine we headed west on the Victoria Highway, which was new country for me. We saw a Black-breasted Buzzard but unfortunately not at a safe place to stop. At a waterhole later we had a pair of Black-necked Storks, a large flock of Apostlebirds (about 40 of them) and an uncooperative group of 50-60 finches. They didn't give us great views. I saw Masked Finch and Long-tailed Finch but missed the Star Finches that some others saw.

We searched for Purple-crowned Fairy-wren at some sites by the Victoria River, without success. En route from there to our overnight stop at Timber Creek we had two unplanned stops. The first was for some Brown Quail which had crossed the road. There was a Horsfield's Bushlark there too. The second stop was not much further along - for a group of 3 Chestnut-backed Button-quail! They were resting in shade right beside the road. It was my turn today to be in the front seat and so I had fantastic views. Two birds walked off when a large truck went past, but the third (a male) continued to sit while we snuck up for photos. It was an amazing finish to the day.

19 July

We went pre-dawn to a waterhole a few kilometres out of town. What a fantastic morning it was! Ten different finch species came in to drink, and about two hundred Budgerigars as well (these took at least an hour to land and drink). Birds came in waves, starting with Crimson Finch and Double-barred Finch, later Masked, Long-tailed and Gouldian Finch. Next came Pictorella Mannikins (a new bird for me), then Chestnut-breasted Mannikins and Yellow-rumped Mannikins (my second new bird for the day). Lastly were 3 Zebra Finches (the other 9 finch types numbered in the 50-100+, except for Yellow-rumped Mannikin which was more like 20-30 birds). We also had a wave of Peaceful Doves and Diamond Doves coming in to drink. Every so often a Brown Goshawk came through, and caused pandemonium. We got 43 species at and around the waterhole.

Late morning we visited Big Horse Creek where we found a Tawny Frogmouth, and a Great Bowerbird at its bower. The highlight though was a pair of Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens, which we all saw and I watched them allopreening. A great 3rd new bird for the day for me!

We went back to Timber Creek for lunch at the caravan park - where there was a Barking Owl roosting, and a pair of cooperative Buff-sided Robins (my fourth tick for the day).  Late afternoon we went to a couple of lookouts near Timber Creek. At the first of those we found three Grey-fronted Honeyeaters - a new bird for the trip. At Policemans Point Road (and lookout) we had a large flock of Star Finches with a few Gouldian Finches accompanying them. The tide was rushing up the Victoria River despite us being 50 km from the coast. A Caspian Tern flew by, presumably it had followed the tidal surge.

20 July

Another well-before-dawn start with big plans for the day, and the possibility of two new birds for me. Alas, things did not go to plan as the vehicle developed a mechanical problem about an hour after we left. We limped along doing about 60km/h and could not go into Keep River NP, where those birds were waiting for me.

A stop at The Saddle rest area yielded Little Friarbirds and Silver-crowned Friarbirds, and a Bustard flew across in front of the vehicle. Luke dropped us at Lake Argyle Resort at about 10:00 local time, with many hours to fill before we could get into our cabins. There were plenty of Great Bowerbirds around. Many of us went for a walk along the entrance road, where we found some Spinifex Pigeons. Initially we had 8 birds - I stayed on to photograph them and the others flushed 50-80 birds as they walked back. There also were Long-tailed Finches resting on the power lines.

The repaired vehicle returned from Kununurra mid-afternoon and a bit later some of us went around to look at the Ord River Dam and do some birding. We found a Pied Cormorant downstream from the dam - first one for the trip. And then, perched on a rock very high up, there was a White-quilled Rock-Pigeon! Luke got the telescope onto it - a new bird for me. The views were frustratingly distant, but then, on our way back we found four birds right beside the road. Great views, including eventually of a bird in flight and the white wing panels clearly visible.

21 July

We had yet another pre-dawn departure, for a boat trip on Lake Argyle. We had two main stops - one for breakfast at about 8am and the other a couple of hours later at an island. We spent almost two hours at the first spot including to go ashore. We saw a couple of White-browed Crakes, Comb-crested Jacanas and Pied Heron by the lake margins. Gouldian Finches and Pictorella Mannikins flew through and we saw many other species as well.

The island had Yellow Chats, of which we saw several, and a breeding colony of Caspian Terns with many runners. We had some other firsts for the trip, such as Red-kneed Dotterel, Brown Songlark and Australian Pipit. There were several Australian Pratincoles. On our way back we found more White-quilled Rock-Pigeons but, alas, no Sandstone Shrike-thrush which is my key missing target for the trip. We had a pair of Black-breasted Buzzards along Lake Argyle Rd, and a Pallid Cuckoo in Kununurra. We wrapped up with some time in Mirima NP - it seems to have great habitat for the shrike-thrush but we found none. I'm staying at the Kununurra Country Club for 3 nights.

22 July

I walked back to Mirima NP just after dawn and spent most of the morning there, including to do the 2.5 hour circuit over the sandstone formations. It was a rough going at times. I was searching for the Sandstone Shrike-thrush but without success. I found a large group (20+ birds) of White-quilled Rock-Pigeons foraging together and had many more sightings of lesser numbers of them.  That's a bird that I thought would be hard to find and I had it on my list of possibilities not probabilities for this trip. There were Masked Woodswallows soaring overhead and Little Woodswallows sallying from treetops, and I had a nice close-up view of a Pheasant Coucal.

I spent most of the afternoon loafing at the hotel - editing my photos and the occasional swim. During a leg-stretch walk around the premises I found a Buff-sided Robin. Overnight there was a Southern Boobook calling.

23 July

In the morning I walked to Lily Creek Lagoon and then alongside it until encountering private property barriers. There were Whiskered Terns hunting over the water and Comb-crested Jacanas on the lily pads. Various honeyeaters (Brown, Rufous-throated and Yellow-tinted) were bathing in a sprinkler puddle and returning to a nearby tree. I spent some time there taking photos, and of the many Crimson Finches moving between the grass and the reeds. I also found a White-browed Crake foraging, for a brief moment it provided good views. I spent the afternoon editing photos - it's a tedious job. It's much more fun to be taking them!

24 July

I walked to Lily Creek Lagoon again In the morning. I saw pretty much the same birds as yesterday but the numbers for some were a bit different eg there was a noisy flock of about 20 White-quilled Honeyeaters and also a huddle of 15-20 White-breasted Woodswallows. A White-browed Crake foraged in the open for ages but it was distant and the reeds right in front of me inhibited my views especially for me to take photographs. Then, it was time to go back to the hotel, pack and get ready for my travels.

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7 July

Finally, a day without rain! Dodging several flooded streets, I went to Norah Head mid-morning, where the most interesting observation was 30-40 Yellow-faced Honeyeaters foraging around the rocks at the base of the cliff, right by the tide line. A couple of Lewin's Honeyeaters were doing likewise. I couldn't see what they were catching but it seemed to be small insects. There was a pair of Sooty Oystercatchers on the rockshelf, and some cormorants roosting. From the carpark I found a nature trail which led to Bush St Reserve. It was a pleasant walk and had some bird diversity although nothing exceptional (apart from an Australian Brush-turkey). I then went to Soldiers Point, which was a first for me. It looks an interesting spot for seeing offshore seabirds but nothing much was happening there today.

3 July

In the afternoon, during a break in the rain, I checked out Pearl Beach and Patonga as birding destinations. Neither was great! I found six species at Pearl Beach in a 45 minute visit. I did slightly better at Patonga although that included a heard-only Superb Lyrebird from across the water. However, it was nice to see a Whistling Kite flying over me, towards the end of my visit.

1 July

I visited Grahamstown Dam first thing, in drizzly conditions. There were several Great Crested Grebes although all bar one of them were a long way out. Following that, I went to Ross Wallbridge Reserve back in Raymond Terrace. Here were several hundred Australian White Ibis, many of them on nests, and also at least a dozen Nankeen Night-Herons including three immature birds. I dropped the Ash Island keys off to Ross (in my absence he will do the July survey alone) then met with Rob and Greg to plan our Rufous Scrub-bird activities for later in the year. In the afternoon I was at a meeting to plan next year's visit to Japan (the Kushiro Wetlands etc).

June 2022

30 June

I set out for the Gloucester Tops intending to refresh my Rufous Scrub-bird trail cameras. However, at the turn-off from the Bucketts Way I discovered a sign stating that Gloucester Tops Road was closed! When I checked the Alerts website (it was a poor decision not to have looked beforehand!) there are major roadworks happening. Instead I went to Copeland State Conservation Area and spent some hours there. In trees near the carpark there were some Australasian Figbirds posing high up. The park was rather quiet but I heard a Wompoo Fruit-Dove and later flushed one which landed such as to give me excellent though distant views. Small birds were scarce, apart from the Brown Gerygones. However, I did get onto some Large-billed Scrubwrens later on. I also stopped at Barrington Reserve, where Torresian Crows were a feature but otherwise it was quiet there. I stayed overnight in Raymond Terrace.

29 June

For my morning walk I ventured up to the top of Blackwall Mountain, which is my nearest patch of native bush. There were plenty of the larger, very visible species - Rainbow Lorikeets, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, etc - but not much by way of smaller birds. All I could find of those were a few Golden Whistlers.

28 June

In the afternoon I visited the Pioneer Dairy near Wyong. It was a cold day and drizzling, which progressively became heavier rainand I pulled the plug after just over an hour. There was a pair of Black-shouldered Kites, often actively hunting. Other raptors present were one each of White-bellied Sea-Eagle and Swamp Harrier. The most common bird was the Purple Swamphen - at least 40 of them, they were scattered all over the place. In the evening I went to the Birding NSW Central Coast group's monthly meeting, which featured an interesting talk about the birds of Melanesia. So many island-endemic species!

24 June

I was in Sydney for three days on babysitting duties with the grandkids. There's not much birdlife in Sydney's Inner West and so I was amazed to see a flock of about thirty Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos flying over in the early morming (about 8am). I wonder where they had come from, and where they were heading?

20 June

My morning walk around Ettalong added three species to my rather short list of birds in the local area - Little Black Cormorant, Australian King-Parrot and Silvereye. I just need to have some of those species visiting my garden! Currently it's not a garden designed for birds.

18 June

Ross, Michael and I did the monthly Ash Island survey. Early on we were excited to see a Black-tailed Godwit (at Milhams Pond) although it disappeared before we could get our telescopes onto it. There were fewer birds than in May but we still found several hundred Chestnut Teal , some Grey Teal, and a dozen or so Australasian Shovelers. There were three Pink-eared Ducks, which was a pleasant surprise for us. The Purple Swamphen count was high again, although the total numbers were a decrease on May (and so also for the Australasian Grebes).

15 June

I attended a meeting of the Hunter/Port Stephens Shorebirds Working Group in the afternoon. The meeting was at the Wetlands Centre and I diid a brief walk-round before it started. There were not many birds around - highlights were a calling Shining Bronze-cuckoo and some roosting Royal Spoonbills.

13 June

After 3 days of being house-bound at Ettalong Beach, doing the unpacking etc, I ventured out for a walk this morning - just within the local area but I added a new species to my very short list of local birds. I found a group of four Little Wattlebirds feeding in a bottlebrush near the beach. I'm now into double figures for my local list. I don't expect my list to grow dramatically - I didn't move here for the birdlife.

9 June

I did a dash to the Gloucester Tops, where I set up four new trail cameras in two Rufous Scrub-bird territories. That makes a total of 13 cameras currently deployed there.  No scrub-birds were calling and there wan't much other bird activity (it was rather cold up there). My highlight for the day was a recently-harvested paddock on the way, which had 88 Australian Wood Ducks feeding or resting between feeds. There also were various ther species tucking in, including about 20 Pied Currawongs. That count was an estimate, but I counted the Wood Ducks carefully.

8 June

Life has been very disrupted recently due to an impending change of house (it's a major relocation). I haven't been out in the field much, but I've been able to snatch some time on the computer in this past week to a) prepare a new crossword, b) amend a paper about gulls and terns in the Hunter estuary, post-feedback from the referee and c) draft a new paper about Rufous Scrub-birds - the colour-banding work. And tonight I went to the HBOC meeting, which as always was a lot of fun.


May 2022

30 May

I went up to Port Stephens in the morning - partly to do some errands and also to catch up with Lois Wooding - we worked on Grey-tailed Tattlers together for quite a while. Afterwards I visited Salamander Wetlands, which were quiet apart from a large group of noisy and active Rainbow Lorikeets, feeding on the eucalypt blossom. Then I went to Sunset Beach, where the highlight was a group of ten Australian Pied Oystercatchers. On my way home I stopped at Stockton Sandspit. The tide was already well out but there still were three Bar-tailed Godwits feeding plus some Pied Stilts and many Australian Pelicans. There also were four Caspian Terns resting on a mudflat, and an Osprey was circling overhead.

28 May

Ross and I did the Ash Island survey in the morning. It was still dark when we met at the carpark at 6:25 , but the sun rose not long afterwards. Well, we didn’t actually see the sun until a couple of hours later, but the conditions became lighter not very long after we started. We had some dramas – firstly with a new gate that had sagged after installation and therefore we couldn’t get it to close properly. Eventually we had to contact NPWS about it – it’s now OK but only as a temporary fix and they will have to do more work on it. The second drama was almost getting bogged when we tried to get out to Phoenix Flat. There is a lot of water on Ash Island at the moment! We had only driven a few metres in from the carpark before deciding it was a bad idea – but getting back out again to the carpark took a while!

There weren’t many shorebirds on Ash Island this morning – about 30 Pied Stilts plus some Masked Lapwings. But there were plenty of waterbirds including almost 500 Chestnut Teal, 40+ Australasian Shovelers and almost 60 Australasian Grebes. It’s not all that long ago that there were no grebes in the estuary – things have changed! These three mentioned species were mainly on Swan Pond but there were teal and grebes elsewhere around the island. A couple of “specials” for Swan Pond were a male Black-necked Stork flying through, and two Great Crested Grebes (in non-breeding plumage). I’ve never recorded the latter on Ash Island before but there have been records from time to time from Deep Pond which is just across the railway line.

The other noteworthy waterbird was the Purple Swamphen. We had about 90 of them , which is easily the highest count of them from the monthly surveys. The majority of them were at the north-east wetlands, a newish body of water that La Nina has helped create. We could see swamphens galore as we approached those wetlands – perhaps 30 or so birds. But then a White-bellied Sea-Eagle came through and a flock of about 70 birds rose out of the reeds and flew to safety. Many of them quickly disappeared again but we could still see at least 30 birds quite readily.

18 May

Late afternoon I joined about 30 others on Ash Island to see if we could find any owls that evening(the targets were Eastern Grass Owl and Barn Owl). We dipped on both of those but we did hear a Buff-banded Rail and a Masked Lapwing.

12-15 May

I was on Broughton Island 13-15 May but with a fair bit of preparation work on the Thursday and that night two students from Oxford University (Andrea and Sarah) stayed the night with us. On Friday morning the three of us went to Nelson Bay and joined 5 people from HBOC for the trip over. It was a delayed and rough crossing and a damp day ensued, but we got to work (Tom and I doing surveys, the others doing bird banding and the two students doing sampling of Silvereyes - collecting blood for genetics studies and poo for parasite studies).  There were lots of abandoned Wedge-tailed Shearwater chicks - unable to fly and their parents gone - and the White-bellied Sea-Eagles were feasting upon them. We saw at least eight different individuals. On Saturday two NPWS staff joined us and we collected sightings for the Global Big Bird Day (for which Team NSW National Parks was an entrant). There aren't many bird species on Broughton Island but some of them are hard to get anywhere else. My understanding is that we had five species which weren't recorded anywhere else in the NSW parks estate - Eastern Reef Egret, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Lewin's Rail, Buff-banded Rail and Little Penguin. The ten of us came back late Sunday, thankfully a much smoother trip that the one going over.

11 May

I went to the Gloucester Tops where I installed two new trail cameras at Rufous Scrub-bird territories. These cameras have a much faster response time (0.2 seconds compared with ~2 seconds with the other cameras I have been using). They also are able to be programmed to keep recording if there is an ongoing trigger, instead of recording for a fixed time. Both of those are important improvements for the study I'm doing. Things were quiet up there (it was a cool damp day) but I heard Red-browed Treecreepers and Crescent Honeyeaters. The scrub-birds were quiet too, but I had a magic few minutes when I had two birds duetting. They were 10-15m apart and I was sitting right between them!

I saw a couple of late -departing or potentially over-wintering Fairy Martins en route. That night I went to the HBOC meeting - there were two good talks.

10 May

I made a quick visit to the Hunter Wetlands Centre to renew my membership and then I did a one hour walk. Waterbirds weren't present in big numbers but the diversity was OK and I recorded 31 species. The highlight was to see a Grey Goshawk come in and perch not far from me. It also was terrific to have a Great Egret and a Plumed Egret almost side by side and be able to compare them. There were at least 100 Australian White Ibis and some of them were sitting on nests (and many others were standing alongside nests).

4 May

Ann Lindsey and I submitted a manuscript about small waterbirds in the Hunter Estuary (based on the results from the HBOC surveys spanning 23 years) and then I immediately started working on a new paper - this one will be about colour banding of Rufous Scrub-birds. In the evening I went to the HBOC Committee Meeting.

1 May

I was a volunteer at HBOC's stand at the Tocal Field Days event. I spent all day there but was not officially on duty until 11:30. We had a steady stream of people coming through and it was fun to be talking about birds all day.

April 2022

30 April

Ross and I did the Ash Island survey - there were plenty of birds to count including more than 250 Black Swans (some with cygnets), several hundred teal (about two-thirds were Chestnut Teal) and a few Australasian Shovelers. We found 156 Pied Stilts - easily our highest count for them in about a year. The only migratory shorebird was a solitary Black-tailed Godwit in partial breeding plumage and there was also a juvenile Whiskered Tern (and one Caspian Tern). There were plenty of egrets - mainly as 43 Great Egrets and 21 Little Egrets, and we found 45 Royal Spoonbills. There were seven Black-fronted Dotterels at Fish Fry Flats. We finished just before the rain started.

April 2022: Western NSW trip

This was a 10-day trip which began with me attending the HBOC camp at Durridgerie State Conservation Area near Ulan. Then I met Margaret in Dubbo where we spent two nights before driving to Louth and thence to Trilby Station. We had three nights at Trilby and then made our way back to Newcastle.

15-18 April

I was at the HBOC camp at Durridgerie SCA for three nights. My only birding stop on the way was at Battery Rocks near Merriwa, where the highlight probably was a Fan-tailed Cuckoo (not a major highlight I will concede). The camp was very good - we had wonderful sunny days and lots of birds around, and then great campfires in the evenings.  The nights were cold though, and heavy dews saturated my fly and tent every night . I saw Speckled Warblers as I drove in, and White-browed Babblers during my late afternoon walk (I saw some of them every day). The first evening a pair of Glossy Black-Cockatoos flew through just as we were gathering for Happy Hour. Over the three days I recorded 62 species (the collective result was about 90 species). There were many honeyeaters including 10+ Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters (two decades ago they were rarities in the Hunter) and plenty each of Brown-headed, Blue-faced, White-plumed and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. Other interesting sightings of mine included Rose Robin, Variegated Fairy-wren, Dusky Woodswallow, Tree Martin and Brown Treecreeper.

19 April

We were in Dubbo and it was Margaret's birthday, so my biriding was limited. We went to the Dubbo Botanic Gardens, which was small and not very birdy but had Double-barred Finches, Brown Honeyeaters and Common Blackbirds amongst the handful of species present. I tried a couple other places (Egret Park, Devils Hole Reserve) but they were low quality habitat and rather unproductive.

20-22 April

On Wednesday morning we shopped in Dubbo then drove via Nyngan, Cobar and Louth to Trilby Station on the Darling River, arriving around 3pm. There were no birding stops along the way but I was often seeing inland species such as Emu, Apostlebird, Black Kite, Red-winged Parrot and Cockatiel as we drove along. A bit out of Cobar a female Red-chested Button-quail crossed the road!

That afternoon I birded around the homestead and then I spent the following two days touring the large property. Overall I found 85 species with the highlights including Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, Chestnut-crowned Babbler, Southern Whiteface, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Red-backed Kingfisher, Little Woodswallow and Red-backed Kingfisher. That's some set of highlights! And lots of Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos around the homestead.

23 April

We left Trilby about 9am, to the sounds of Restless FlycatchersWestern Gerygones etc. We stopped at Gundabooka SCA Yanda campsite, a place I've birded at before but this time there was plenty of water in the river. Here I found 30 species including Mulga Parrots, White-breasted and Little Woodswallows, Red-capped Robins, Chestnut-rumped Thornbills and Australian Ringnecks.

We had lunch by the river at Bourke with a large flock of noisy Little Corellas around, plus several Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos. Then we drove to our motel at Nyngan. Not long afterwards I was down at the Bogan River Weir where there were Blue-faced Honeyeaters and Red-winged Parrots plus several Apostlebirds and an Olive-backed Oriole.

24 April

We had a long journey home today and so there were limited stops for birding, apart from at Warren where I walked around the Tiger Bay Wetlands (another place I've birded at before). Waterbird numbers were down because its been so wet everywhere, but I obtained a reasonable list. The highlight was a group of three Spotless Crakes. I didn't see any of them even though they were close to the track. I heard one bird just 2-3m off the track and I then spent 10-15 minutes around that spot. After a while I tried call-playback, which elicited responses from the bird and then from a bird behind me as well (on the other side of the track). And soon after that, there were two birds calling from the original side of the track, a couple of metres apart. It was all a very wonderful experience although seeing any of the three of them would have put cream on the cake.

April 2022

13 April

Tonight it was the HBOC club night, and I was the guest speaker. My talk was about the Hunter Estuary and was based upon the work that Ann Lindsey and I have been doing to analyse all the data from the monthly surveys. The talk seemed to go over well, and also it was a great meeting because it was a full house (socally well-speced) and everyone was in a convivial mood. Two years of COVID caution might finally be beginning to recede.Here's a link for the talk.

11 April

Finally the bridge into the Gloucester Tops is re-built and I could get up there! It was a 7-month unexpected interlude. Three of my trail cameras didn't survive that amount of time in the field - it has been very wet for several months and the batteries leaked into the camera electronics. But happily, the four other cameras were still OK. I visited two Rufous Scrub-bird territories - I heard both birds but they were not particularly active and I didn't go chasing them. I refreshed the four cameras at one territory and installed three new ones at the second territory. I had great views of Red-browed Treecreepers a couple of times, and also saw a Bassian Thrush plus heard an Olive Whistler and a Crescent Honeyeater. The autumn honeyeater influx is underway - there were lots of New Holland Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebills and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, and I also saw a Scarlet Honeyeater and some White-cheeked Honeyeaters.

6 April

In the afternoon I worked some more on a paper about small waterbirds in the Hunter Estuary; it's proving a difficult paper to write. I went to the HBOC Committee meeting in the evening.

5 April

I headed to the Watagans for the morning, partly because that area will be included into a new birding route brouchure and I wanted to check it out. I made a random stop along Watagan Forest Road, finding Green Catbird, Brown Gerygone and good views of Brown Cuckoo-doves feeding on the tracks. At Boarding House Dam there wasn't much but a Superb Lyrebird was calling often (I heard them at some other stops too). I visited several lookouts, at one of which I saw a Peregrine Falcon whizz past below me. After lunch I went to Boys Walk at Cooranbong, which was quiet but there were lots of Red-browed Finches feeding beside the track.


March 2022

27 March

I went on a pelagic trip departing from Nelson Bay. It was fairly rough heading out but at the shelf, and for the remainder of the day, the sea conditions eased (somewhat) although we also had some rain at times. We saw a Wilson's Storm-petrel about halfway out to the shelf (it's unusual to have one so close in) and there were many more of them seen during our drift at the shelf. The dominant shearwaters were Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwater, with other types in low numbers. We also had several each of Providence Petrel and Grey-faced Petrel around the boat. A White-capped Albatross arrived, and hung around the boat for about an hour. Not far into us making our way back to Port Stephens, we stopped for a Buller's Albatross and then discovered there also were two Long-tailed Jaegers flying around. We had great views of both species.

22 March

I delivered some copies of my new book (Broughton Island Birds) in Port Stephens in the afternoon and on my way back I stopped in at Stockton Sandspit for a while. The migratory shorebirds have started to leave for the northern hemisphere but there still were about 150 Bar-tailed Godwits present, and a small number of Whimbrels and Far Eastern Curlews. Also there were 15 Caspian Terns in the lagoon.

21 March

I went to Swansea and visited some spots there, around the heads and the channel. I saw a pair of Sooty Oystercatchers at Swansea Heads, while at the Pirrita Island Nature Reserve there was a Striated Heron and a Spangled Drongo (my first for the year). Overall, birds were not plentiful but I had some nice views of varioushoneyeaters including New Holland and Brown Honeyeater.

19 March

The day started with a female Powerful Owl calling from not far from our house. She called for almost an hour, on and off.Then I went to Ash Island where Ross and I did the monthly survey. There weren't many shorebirds (apart from Masked Lapwings). but we found three Pacific Golden Plovers at Phoenix Flats and two Far Eastern Curlews at Fish Fry Flats. Once again we had some Chestnut-breasted Mannikins feeding near the track alongside the railway line (for the third month in a row). Interestingly, there were lots of Great Egrets including a group of 22 of them roosting on the opposite side of the river, along with some Royal Spoonbills and Australian White Ibis.

17 March

I went to some spots around Lake Macquarie - firstly to Rocky Point, which was dead (so far as birds were concerned), and then to Green Point, which was only marginally better. I didn't find many birds. and I the highlight was a Rainbow Lorikeet excavaing a hollow.

February-March 2022: Victoria trip

Part of the reason for this travel was for me to walk sections of the western Victoria coastline, between Port Fairy and somewhere to the east of that, eg Apollo Bay. But I hadn't gone birding in that neck of the woods since at least 15 years previously and so that was a big attraction too. Plus, we had been unable to leave NSW for the past couple of years (March 2020 was the most recent time I was out of the state), so just getting to any other Australian state was another motivation.

The trip started with me giving a talk in Tuggerah to the Central Coast group of Birding NSW (a talk about Broughton Island). Then we headed south-west, eventually to Warrnambool and the start of the targeted activities. We had three nights each in Warrnambool, Port Campbell, Apollo Bay and Geelong (camping, except at Geelong where we were in an apartment as it had become quite rainy for a while). Then we went up to Daylesford for a couple of nights, before heading homewards again.

22 February

We set out mid-morning with our first stop being the lighthouse at Norah Head. There was a storm approaching and I saw a flock of about 150 White-throated Needletails at the front of it, with many of them hovering into the face of the wind. The storm brought lots of rain, which impacted my birding opportunities for several hours. Mid-afternoon I left Margaret at our motel in Gosford and went to the Pioneer Dairy Wetlands at Wyong. There I found several Long-billed Corellas, and also saw two Latham's Snipe. Overall I found 34 species. Some of the many Purple Swamphens had chicks and I saw a Black-shouldered Kite perched in a dead tree.

 I visited the Tuggerah Nature Reserve late afternoon but that was quiet and I also tried to find somewhere in South Tacoma for birding, unsuccessfully. Eventually I went to Tuggerah where that evening I gave a talk (about the Broughton Island study) to the Central Coast branch of Birding NSW. It seemed to go OK. I had a very wet drive afterwards back to Gosford.

23 February

We had a very early start, driving in the dark and pouring rain plus traffic jams due to accidents, in order to arrive at Petersham for breakfast with the grandkids. We stayed until mid-morning then headed south-west, destination Wagga Wagga. It still was bucketing down but after about 2 hours of that we became far enough inland to be out of it at last. There was a lot of rain on the coast in the preceding 24h and many flooding problems.

Because of the late start we didn't make any prolonged stops, apart from lunch at Gunning in a park alongside the creek (Australian Reed-warbler and House Sparrow). After we had checked in at Wagga I went to the Marrambidya Wetlands alongside the Murrrumbidgee. These were well laid out but the birding was nothing special. There were some Long-billed Corellas around, other highlights were a group of ten Pacific Black ducklings and I heard Sacred Kingfisher and Little Friarbird.  I then tried Wiradjuri Reserve but that turned out to be right next door, crowded with people (fishing, dog-walking etc) and the habitat very similar to where I'd just been. And so I called it a day.

24 February

We took back roads from Wagga, via Lockhart and Urana. Frustratingly there was no access to the nearby lake (Lake Urana), which looked like it had good habitat for shorebirds. Our first decent stop was at a rest area near Berrigan, which had some Tree Martins and lots of White-plumed Honeyeaters. Another stop not long afterwards was at Quicks Beach, on the Murray River near Barooga. There were large numbers of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Little Corellas present but not much else.

Lunch was at a bushy park in Echuca alongside the Campapse River. There were Blue-faced Honeyeaters and Little Ravens present, and several Yellow Rosellas (a local morph of the Crimson). Down at the river I found an Azure Kingfisher hunting. There was a massive storm as we approached Maldon where we had a motel booked. I ventured out later but it had become cool and was drizzling, so I called quits quite early. For my effort I did see two Common Bronzewings and so all was not lost. Plus there were now the white-backed form of the Australian Magpie to admire.

25 February

We drove via back roads to Ararat on a cool windy morning which offered limited stopping options. After morning tea (indoors at a cafe) and some time in the local art gallery the wind had dropped a little although it continued strong all day. We went to Green Hill Lake just out of Ararat. This offered modest birding - some waterbirds, some common bush birds. The highlight was watching three Magpie-larks squabbling over a small fish one of them had caught.

We had lunch at Lake Bolac which had almost no birds apart from Silver Gulls. I did see a New Holland Honeyeater just as we were about to leave, and a Wedge-tailed Eagle not long afterwards. At Mortlake we went to Tea Tree Lake, which was quite pretty and had many ibis (Straw-necked and Australian White Ibis) and a resident pair of noisy Little Ravens.

Finally we arrived at Warrnambool and set up our tent. Later I went for a walk along the beachfront where I found many gulls and terns including two Pacific Gulls, and saw a Singing Honeyeater.

26 February

I walked about 17km today. I set out to walk along the coast to Port Fairy but gave up after covering about 4km as the track was difficult to follow amongst the sand dunes (and the dunes were tough going). It had been good for the first 3km or so. At Stingray Bay I found the Pacific Gulls again plus all the Silver Gulls and Greater Crested Terns. There was a Nankeen Kestrel there too, and I saw several Singing Honeyeaters along the track, plus some Sooty Oystercatchers on the rock platforms. Later in the morning we drove to Port Fairy and walked around Griffiths Island. Here there was a large breeding colony for Short-tailed Shearwaters; we saw several dead birds and there were lots of burrows. Amongst the gulls flying about there were several Kelp Gulls, and also a large roost of Greater Crested Terns plus many flocks of Common Starlings zitting around. The only cormorant I saw all day was a distant Black-faced Cormorant - I hope I get closer views in the days ahead.

27 February

I walked more than 18km today. In the morning I did the walk from Warrnambool to Logans Beach (to the whale watching platform) - it was 12km return. This was a good walk - easy to follow and always close to the coast, and many others were out doing some or all of it. The birding was limited but there were stacks of Singing Honeyeaters and quite a few New Holland Honeyeaters as well. I also had a sweet encounter with a Grey Shrike-thrush.

 Mid-aftrnoon I walked around Lake Pertobe (the undeveloped parts of which are called Johnson Reserve). There was reasonable diversity in bird life including two Musk Ducks amongst the waterbirds (and Dusky Moorhens with chicks). I found a European Goldfinch, which is not a species I see often. A bit later I found a group of Common Greenfinch - another introduced species of course but I hadn't seen one for a couple of decades and so I was pleased to find them.

28 February

I walked 20km today, much of it in hills. We made a slow start, and we packed up a rather moist tent fly because of a heavy dew overnight. We drove to Peterborough only about a half hour away. From there we parted company, with me opting to walk to Port Campbell and Margaret driving there. I did detours (to The Grotto and to London Bridge) eventually arriving at Port Campbell mid afternoon. The birding was quiet but a Brush Bronzewing flashed through and later a Neophema parrot, probably a Blue-winged Parrot.  At one spot I also heard some intriguing calls, involving several birds, but the heath was impenetrable and I have no idea what was the species.

Our campsite at Port Campbell is very pretty but with hardly any native birds around. There have been some very large flocks of Common Starlings zipping around, and not much else. Many rabbits though!

1 March

My first three species for the day all were introduced ones - House Sparrow, Common Starling, Common Blackbird. Such is life at Port Campbell! However, on my walk around the settlement I found various native birds including I had several close-ups with Singing Honeyeaters. Offshore the sole waterbird was a Black-faced Cormorant. I had a good look at it but alas it was too far away for a photo.

Up on the hill on the eastern side of town I found some Rufous Bristlebirds (at least three birds). I spent a long time stalking them for photos as they were quite wary, but eventually I achieved some good shots. It drizzled most of the afternoon (and occasionally heavier) and so I stayed under shelter with brief excursions when possible. About 5:30, after a heavy rain event had cleared, a flock of about 40 White-throated Needletails passed over.

2 March

The day started with the usual set of introduced species at the campsite but then two separate individual Grey Currawongs flew through, which was pleasing. I walked 13km today, a bit over half of that on the Great Ocean Walk between Princetown and the Twelve Apostles.  The first section was on a boardwalk through a wetland at Princetown. Apparently it is an important site for Australasian Bitterns. I didn't find any but I did get a good look at some European Goldfinches (plus I read the signage about bitterns). The main walk was quite hilly and some of it through steepish sand dunes, but I found it very pleasant. I saw several Blue-winged Parrots in the first third of the walk, and heard several Rufous Bristlebirds in the second third of it. After that I started encountering people, and more and more so as I neared the Apostles.

Late in the afternoon I wandered around Port Campbell again, and managed a sighting of a Rufous Bristlebird as it darted across a track. The way they carry their tail is quite characteristic.

3 March

The tent was very wet from a heavy dew overnight so we lingered over the packing up. That was a bit pointless really, as everything still was dripping wet when we packed up. Leaving Port Campbell I heard another Rufous Bristlebird - at a different spot to where I'd found birds in the preceding days. On our way to Apollo Bay we stopped a few times - the most interesting stop was at the Castle Cove lookout  (at Glen Aire) where on the beach below I could see two Hooded Plovers within a roped-off area where presumably there was or had been a nest. I tried to get down to it but it was steep and hard-going and so I gave up considerably less than half-way down. We also detoured in to the Cape Otway Lighthouse and from there walked about 2km of the Great Ocean Walk so as to have longish-distance views of the lighthouse. The birds were in short supply (because of thevery limited habitat available).

Mid-afternoon we reached our stopping place - a swish holiday park on the eastern side of Apollo Bay. A complete wildlife desert unfortunately, but our tent site had majestic views of the Southern Ocean. I found a nice walk at the back of the beach, but it was almost birdless. Too many people and too many dogs! It was a wonderful surprise therefore, back at the campsite towards dusk, to have a Gang-gang Cockatoo pass through and with a brief stop in trees behind our campsite.

4 March

The day started with a Koala in a tree directly behind our campsite, while birdwise it began with a Grey Shrike-thrush hopping across the grass near the amenities block. Later in the morning I walked all availed sides of the harbour, in the hope of finding close-up Black-faced Cormorants. That plan worked and I also had a great look at an immature Pacific Gull which landed on a structure for a while. However, the highlight was to find a group of eight Gang-gang Cockatoos feeding down low right near the car park. I took many photos, some of which will be keepers.

After that I went to Maits Rest, a walk through a section of temperate rainforest in the Otways. Although I didn't find many birds it was a lovely walk - well made and well signposted, and the forest looked terrific (especially all of the 100m-tall Mountain Ash trees). I tried some more beach spots, and found a Sooty Oystercatcher at Skenes Creek but not much else of interest. The weather was turning and I headed back to the tent a bit before 2:00. An hour or so later the rain set in.

5-6 March

These were two wet and very windy days, with heavy rain especially from late Friday afternoon persisting all night and strong winds commencing on Saturday afternoon and very strong at times overnight. It drizzled or worse all Sunday until we were almost at Geelong but it continued windy after that. As a result I didn't get in a lot of birding on either day. I explored a bit on Saturday morning including a drive alongside the Barham River for 10-15km. That was quite pretty but there was nowhere to stop. I ended up back at the harbour where at least the cormorants proved interesting. There were Black-faced and Little Pied Cormorants and one Great Pied Cormorant roosting together on a structure within the harbour. It was great to be able to compare the three species.

On Sunday we stopped at Wye River and did a walk alongside the river in the drizzle - the highlight was lots of Wood Ducks! We also stopped at Lorne for a while but the conditions were very user-unfriendly.

7 March

I went to three places  - Balyang Sanctuary, Lake Connewarra Game Reserve and Orange Grove Nature Reserve. I'd been to Balyang on a previous visit to Geelong - it's a pretty spot and the birds are habituated to humans, hence more approachable for photos, but they're nothing out of the ordinary. I did see my first Australasian Grebe for the trip, and there were some Long-billed Corellas. The other two spots were flops although Orange Grove NR was nicely laid out and had some Common Bronzewings.

By then I wasn't far from Barwon Heads so I continued on. On the mudflats I found several Pacific Gulls including an immature, and also there was an Australian Pied Oystercatcher.  I gave up mid-afternoon.

8 March

I spent the day at the Western Treatment Plant, after collecting the key from the Werribee Visitor Information Centre as soon as it opened (at 9:30). Almost the first birds I saw were a pair of Brolgas, and then a group of 40 or so Blue-billed Ducks almost immediately afterwards.  There were hundreds of Australian Shelducks in this area as well, and overall for the day I found close on a thousand Chestnut Teal.

Shorebirds were in short supply as were terns - a few Crested Terns and one each of Caspian and Common Tern. There was a small group of Red-necked Stints, two Common Greenshanks and a pair of Red-capped Plovers, plus about five Aust. Pied Oystercatchers, a few Pied Stilts and several Masked Lapwings.

The wind was strong all day which made it hard to find small birds out in the open. The highlight was a brief full-on view of a Striated Fieldwren. I stayed in its area for quite a while, hearing its song sometimes and having very brief views as it moved from one patch of dense vegetation to another. It was frustrating but that's the way things go.

In an area of salt marsh near the Western Lagoons there were at least a hundred White-fronted Chats. As I drove along the track they were lifting off in swarms from just in front of the car, rather like butterflies. Later I managed some photos but they were remarkably wary birds.

9 March

After checking out, we went to the Geelong Botanical Gardens: these are nicely laid out and I was delighted to find a female Satin Flycatcher amongst the handful of species I recorded there. Late morning we departed Geelong and drove to Daylesford on back roads via Ballan. There weren't many stopping opportunities particularly as the passage through Brisbane Ranges NP was affected by roadworks. After Ballan we briefly detoured to the Werribee River in Wombat Forest - here I found White-naped Honeyeaters.

Late afternoon I walked around Lake Daylesford but there were very few birds apart from Mallards (and some other feral ducks) and Pacific Black Ducks. It was a pretty walk though.

10 March

It turned out that the area around the caravan park is a night roost for Little Ravens. The dawn chorus from them was simply amazing! And after they’d quietened down the Little Corellas started up. In the morning I tried to find birding spots, not very successfully but I ended up in a part of Creswick Regional Park. It seemed a rather neglected place but there was a walking track in good condition going through it. I followed the track (both directions) but there weren’t a lot of birds about (I got 14 species in about an hour). The highlight was some Striated Thornbills down low. In the mid afternoon I walked around part of Lake Daylesford again, adding Aust. Wood Duck to a sadly short list of about a dozen species which I recorded around the lake.

11 March

Once again we had the amazing dawn chorus of Little Ravens. We packed up and drove backroads via Malmsbury and Metcalfe (a brief stop here - I saw a White-eared Honeyeater) to Nagambie for lunch (with Blue-faced Honeyeaters). Soon afterwards we were on the Hume Highway and having an unexciting drive to Chiltern. After checking in at our motel, I went to the Chiltern - Mt Pilot National Park, re-finding my old site at Cyanide Dam. I saw a Sacred Kingfisher almost immediately but then there was a long wait before I found anything more of interest. That started with some Brown Treecreepers and then I was into a patch of honeyeaters. Mostly they were high up and difficult to get good views, but eventually I confirmed Black-chinned, Brown-headed, Yellow-tufted and Fuscous Honeyeaters. It was the first time I'd recorded Black-chinned Honeyeaters in Victoria. They called often but I only had a few brief sightings of them. Overall though, it was a good day for honeyeaters!

12-13 March

I did a quick walk around the lake at Chiltern before we set off, not finding much but some Australasian Grebes had chicks. Then it was a long drive to Goulburn, without many stops. I saw several Wedge-tailed Eagles on the way. In Goulburn I walked to the Goulburn Wetland which was about 2km away. It was a lovely walk alongside the Mulwaree River although birds were scarce on the walk (apart from Common Blackbirds). The wetland was full of muddy water - a combination of rain plus a poorly managed nearby housing development (I got this from chatting to a local). But amongst the few waterbirds present there was a Pink-eared Duck and two Hardheads. And, sleeping on a rock by the water's edge, an immature Nankeen Night-heron.  The corvids continue to be Little Ravens.

On Sunday we drove home, via Sydney for a lovely morning tea and catch-up with the family. No birding today.

February 2022

19 February

Ross and I surveyed Ash Island, for the monthly waterbirds survey. A highlight was a group of 35 Black-tailed Godwits at Swan Pond, where there also were nine Pied Stilts (the first time in many months that there have been any). We found ten Far Easten Curlews during the morning's roaming, including five birds at Fish Fry Flats which is the highest number we've had there. Another highlight was a group of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins, in two small flocks. The second group, four birds, kept flying for 1-2 metres and re-landing, as we made our way along the railway line track. There were plenty of photo opportunities.

18 February

It was the summer Port Stephens waterbirds survey today, which I co-organise annually with the Hunter Coast NPWS branch. This was the 19th summer survey! I did Alpha sector with two NPWS Rangers. On the way across the open water, we had a large flock (400-500 birds) of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters which were following a fishing boat. There was lots of disturbance (people, dogs, horses) at Winda Woppa and so we found nothing there. But it was a different story on Corrie Island. The first birds seen were a pair of Beach Stone-curlews. Also in the viciinty were good numbers (for recent times) of Far Eastern Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Australian Pied Oystercatcher and Sooty Oystercatcher. Later I found a group of eleven Red-capped Plovers and five Double-banded Plovers

11-13 February

We finally made it to Broughton Island after so many cancellations in the past 7-8 months (including last weekend). Even this visit was an iffy one. We all had to pass a RA test before we could get onto the boat. The seas were too high on Sunday for the boat to collect us but NPWS organised a helicopter instead, which was an exciting way to travel.

As we arrived, an Eastern Reef Egret was chasing off four White-faced Herons from Esmeralda Cove. We never saw them again. On Friday morning Tom Clarke and I surveyed the eastern third of the island which included an inspection of the Gould's Petrel nest boxes. No adult birds were present but there were three chicks, one of which had some interesting aspects. A pair of Peregrine Falcons was soaring overhead. After lunch I surveyed the southern third of the island, including a scramble up to the Osprey nest (which was inactive although one bird was hunting over the bay for part of the time that I was in the area.). There were plenty of Bar-shouldered Doves around and I had a brief view of a Lewin's Rail. Saturday morning I surveyed Providence Beach, finding a total of 17 Red-capped Plovers as a highlight. It had rained heaviliy overnight and was still too windy for the banders, so all six of us returned to the GP nest boxes in order to take detailed measurments of the chicks. The wind had dropped a bit in the afternoon and I surveyed the western third of the island. On Sunday I once again covered the southern third, where I found a pair of Sooty Oystercatchers with a youngster and another pair behaving as if they had one. A Peregrine Falcon flew through at one stage.

8-10 February

I'm enrolled to attend the Australasian Ornithological Conference which disappointingly is being held on-line rather than face-to-face. I sat in on some of the talks on Tuesday, particularly from the session about threatened species. On Wednesday I joined for one of the keynote addresses (by Ralph MacNally on woodland birds) and that was all. However that night I went to the HBOC AGM, which was followed by an interesting talk by Darryl Jones about the do's and don'ts of feeding birds in your backyard. On the final day of AOC I did a presentation about the HBOC Hunter estuary surveys (available here) in the morning. In the afternoon, slightly chaotically, I was "presented" with my Hobbs Medal and made a very short response.

7 February

I went to Stockton in the afternoon at high tide - firstly checking out "The Wreck" at Stockton Channel, which featured five Pacific Golden Plovers. Then I walked to the end of the breakwater, finding a roosting group of Common Terns and one foraging Little Tern as highlights. Finally I went to the sandspit as the tide was falling. I had briefly looked at Fern Bay earlier and found a group of Grey-tailed Tattlers (23 birds) and Terek Sandpipers (2 birds) on the shoreline. At the sandspit there were a dozen Far Eastern Curlews (a few more flew in later) and some foraging Little Egrets and White-faced Herons. Eventually a large group of Bar-tailed Godwits (c 425 birds) flew over from the dykes - mostly to loaf but some of them started foraging. Two Whimbrels also were present. Things were a lot quieter than a week ago when I previously visited.

January 2022

31 January

I looked at some Hunter estuary sites in the morning at high tide. Firstly I went to the Kooragang dykes and walked out to the first breach - from there I could see groups of Pacific Golden Plovers and Curlew Sandpipers roosting, plus some distant godwits. Then I went to Stockton Sandspit and Fern Bay. I couldn't find any roosting shorebirds at Fern Bay except for four Whimbrels standing in a distant mangrove. At the sandspit there were 112 Far Eastern Curlews - they were very flighty birds, and the situation was not helped by some photographers approaching too close. Raptors also put them up - a White-bellied Sea-Eagle and later a Brahminy Kite. When the tide dropped sufficiently, a large flock of Bar-tailed Godwits flew over from the dykes. I counted 732 birds but there were no other species co-present. After I left I checked out The Wreck in Stockton Channnel but the tide had already gone out a lot and there were no birds present, apart from a solitary Little Black Cormorant.

28-30 January

Margaret and I joined the HBOC camp at the UNSW Smiths Lake field station (the camp hadstarted on the 26th). My three days were a mixture of birding, swimming and socialising. The bird highlights included a pair of nesting Scarlet Honeyeaters, large numbers of White-cheeked Honeyeaters, Variegated Fairy-wren, White-breasted and Dusky Woodswallow, Brown Quail and Pheasant Coucal (seen flying). But the best highlights were on the final morning. On both previous days I had made many searches for the Turquoise Parrots that other had been seeing.  Along Horse Point track I stopped for what turned out to be two Lewin's Rails (a mega highlight!) on the track. After watching them I looked in the tree alongside, and there were three Turqs! Eventiually the number grow to seven birds, feeding on the track althoughvery wary. I had great views though!

24 January

I went to Stockton Borehole swamp this morning - the crossing for traffic at the weir is closed for repairs and so it was wonderfully quiet today! There was a lot of water and hence there were very few muddy margins, but I found eight Black-fronted Dotterels and a solitary Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Three species of honeyeater were present - Striped, Scarlet and Brown Honeyeater - and I also found some Tawny Grassbirds. The highlight for me was to see my first Latham's Snipe for the year.  Afterwards I tried three other spots on the west side of Lake Macquarie - Toronto Wetland (very quiet), Myuna Bay (my highlight: a Striated Heron) and Wangi Point (exceedingly quiet).

17-23 January

Margaret and I sprent a week on the Central Coast with our kids and partners and grandkids, staying at Umina Beach and me not leaving the local area. The birding was quiet and I didn't do any specific birdwatching activities. However, on Wednesday morning en route to Palm Beach by ferry, there were lots of shearwaters around Lion Island (perhaps they breed there?). I saw Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and some Short-tailed Shearwaters too. On Friday morning, two Square-tailed Kites flew over the backyard at Umina Beach and I had wonderful views of them for several minutes. Another noteworthy species was the Mallard - in some places they were in groups of five or more and I saw a female with six ducklings.

15 January

Mattea, Ross and I surveyed Ash Island for the January Hunter estuary waterbird survey. We had some good sightings. Of migratory shorebirds, there were some Far Eastern Curlews at Milhams Pond and at Fish Fry Flats and a group of seven Black-tailed Godwits at Swan Pond. Also at or near Swan Pond we had a male Black-necked Stork, a brief encounter with a flock of 11 Whiskered Terns and a longer encounter with a flock of ~25 Chestnut-breasted Mannikins.  Good numbers of egrets had returned to Ash Island –  we had 37 Great Egrets, 5 Plumed Egrets and ten Little Egrets. About 90% of those egrets were together at Fish Fry Flats. There was a long break between trains and so we had plenty of time to scan Deep Pond. As well as all the swans, we saw two pairs of Musk Ducks and there were some distant Hoary-headed Grebes and Hardheads. During our travels we obtained breeding records for Pacific Black Duck, Chestnut Teal, Black Swan and Purple Swamphen, and we also saw a Tawny Grassbird carrying food.

Afterwards I detoured to Hexham Swamp to successfully track down a Little Curlew which had been reported from there. Not much else was around, but there were large numbers of Masked Lapwings.

10 January

In the morning I visited Pambalong Nature Reserve which is an overgrown shadow of its former self, and then I went to Blue Gum Hills Regional Park which is nearby. Neither visit could be called a highlight but I was pleased to see a Magpie Goose at Pambalong and some White-cheeked Honeyeaters at Blue Gum Hills. I stopped off at Ash Island on my way back, and did two of the boardwalks plus the rainforest section. I heard Mangrove Gerygones but they weren't close to the track.

2-3 January

I spent two days in the Upper Hunter as my first birding activity for the year. I found 105 species (whilst on-survey), so it was a productive trip. I stopped at Jerrys Plains and Battery Rock on my way there, then firstly went to The Drip (which was very crowded - hot day, public holiday). I heard a Brush Cuckoo there but couldn't lay my eyes on it. After that I birded along Durridgerie Rd and Smedes Lane for the afternoon, stopping at all my usual spots. I found some Diamond Firetails and lots of Rufous Songlarks, a pair of Hooded Robins with a youngster not long out of the nest, Dusky Woodswallows, and lots of Tree Martins. Late in the day, at the Smedes Lane far corner, I had great views (and photos) of Brown Songlark and Horsfield's Bushlark. I spent the night at the Cassilis Rest Area, where a Red-winged Parrot flew through as I was packing up in the morning. I spent the morning in Goulburn River NP, where I found more Diamond Firetails also lots of Brown Treecreepers. I had a close look at an Eastern Shrike-tit, which was singing beautifully most of the time I was in its vicinity. I also had nice views of Speckled Warbler. I went home via Muswellbrook Sewage Treatment works, which had some Pink-eared Ducks but not much else. My final stop was at Doughboy Hollow, where I dipped on the Plumed Whistling-Ducks but there were about ten Royal Spoonbills as compensation. It later turned out that nobody has seen the PWD there since early December.