Thinking About Birds

February 2023

12-13 February

On Sunday afternoon I went for a bit of an explore around Umina Beach and Pearl Beach, finding very little by way of birds but I did find the Arboretum at Pearl Beach which I enjoyed walking through. There were a couple of begging young Channel-billed Cuckoos there, and I heard Pied Currawongs which I assume were the host species. The next day, I took Margaret there to show her the Arboretum. It's impressive. The birds were much more active this time and I found considerably more species than on Sunday - including I saw two Superb Lyrebirds foraging together - they looked to be a mother and juvenile. Later we walked the beach and I found 20+ Welcome Swallows foraging over the lagoon plus saw an Australian Brush-turkey nearby (later, I saw another at Patonga). Earlier today I saw a large group of Mallards (30-35 birds) in the water off Ettalong, so it was a day of large counts. At Patonga, a female Mallard and 8 ducklings were walking through the campground, and a Whistling Kite was flying over.

8-9 February

On Wednesday I attended the HBOC Annual General Meeting (at which I was the Returning Officer). The meeting was OK and was then followed by a wonderful presentaion by Milly Formby about her Micro-Light travels around Australia to publicise shorebird migration. I was delighted to see some Magpie-Geese at the Wetlands Centre prior to the HBOC meeting. On my way home next morning, I stopped off at the Wyong Wetlands - where I saw two Pied Stilts (the first sightings for me on the coast for 12-18 months). I also has great encounters with a Brown Cuckoo-Dove and there were 20 or so Australasian Figbirds present.

3-5 February

Seven of us spent three days on Broughton Island - doing the quarterly surveys plus continuing the banding project. The weather was perfect and it was great to be out there, even though the bird numbers weren't high. The banders had a Buff-banded Rail (which I dropped by to see them process) and some Brown Quail, as well as the usual mix of small bush birds. There were two Gould's Petrel chicks in nest boxes, plus two adults in each of two other boxes. Another nest box had a Wedge-tailed Shearwater chick in a side tunnel from it. Providence Beach had 18 Red-capped Plovers plus a solitary Grey-tailed Tattler, and we saw Eastern Reef Egrets many times (often as a pair together). There were many different types of raptor, but all were in small numbers. We found Red-browed Finches at many locations around the island - they have colonised it quite well in less than two years since first arriving!

January 2023

26-27 January

I joined the Hunter Bird Observers Club camp at Smiths Lake for a while. On my way there I stopped at O'Sullivans Gap and The Grandis, both places are in Myall Lakes National Park. I didn't find much at either spot, alas - some Yellow-throated Scrubwrens were the highlight. At the Smiths Lake field station where we stayed, there was a Brown-capped Emerald-Dove on the lawn when I arrived!  The bird came and went several times during my visit but it was a very wary bird.  There was a pair of Forest Ravens at the site, and another pair back at the start of Horse Point Rd. I found some Large-billed Scrubwrens and my other good sightings included Leaden Flycatcher, Rainbow Bee-eater, and Variegated Fairy-wren. There were considerable numbers of Red-browed Finches feeding on grass seeds all along the track. I heard Lewin's Rail several times (there were at least two of them) but I was unable to see one.

23 January

I went to Brisbane Water National Park in the morning - to the area around Warrah Trig. I have decided to try to do regular surveys there - either monthly or quarterly ones (I'm still deciding about that). I have picked out four 2ha sites within a 5km radius survey area. It's mostly coastal heath so the birdlife won't have massive diversity. But it's very nice heath and a pleasure to be in. The morning got away to a great start - I heard then tracked down a Chestnut-rumped Heathwren. There were many New Holland Honeyeaters and Little Wattlebirds, and I also saw several White-eared Honeyeaters, plus Variegated Fairy-wren, Red-browed Finch and miscellaneous other things. I finished my morning at Patonga where an Australian Hobby whizzed through at one point, causing great alarm amongst the Little Corellas.

21 January

Ross and I did the Ash Island survey in the morning. Although bird numbers weren't high, it was an eventful day. The only shorebirds we found were six Far Eastern Curlews. These were some of the other highlights:  86 Great Egrets feeding together in Wader Pond, along with 16 Royal Spoonbills, a few Silver Gulls and one Little Egret. The ponds are drying out and the egrets were catching fish regularly; a group of 25-30 Royal Spoonbills out of sight in a reedy wetland suddenly rising up when a White-bellied Sea-Eagle flew overhead; four Buff-banded Rails (possibly 5 birds) wandering in the open on the drying mud of the south-western side of Bellfrog Wetland; an Australasian Bittern which flew in front of the car late morning as we drove along Ramsar Rd. Our good deed for the day was to rescue an Australian Reed-warbler that had become caught in a spider's web. The spider was probably wondering how on earth it was going to be rid of its accidental capture.

18-20 January

After lunch I packed up and relocated to McCullys Gap (near Muswelbrook) to join the quarterly surveys there. It had become quite hot (it was 40C at Muswellbrook) and I had a swim at the Muswellbrook pool before I did my shopping - which included to buy an air mattress and pump at Big W. Overnight, the weather conditions changed - it became rainy and windy for the next two days. But the six of us managed to get all the surveys done, doging showers especially on Thursday morning. We found Speckled Warblers at several sites, and also a pair of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters with fledged dependent young. The highlight was a gully site adjoing native bushland - it was buzzing with smal birds including 15 or so Buff-rumped Thornbills and also Yellow Thornbills and Yellow-rumped Thornbills plus Red-browed Finches and Double-barred Finches. Elsewhere, we found a very young Fan-tailed Cuckoo and I heard a distant Brush Cuckoo too. I recorded 65 species for my personal list.

16-18 January

I took part in the Martindale surveys, arriving late afternoon on the Monday. I stopped at Jerrys Plains en route, where I found some Grey-crowned Babblers but not much else. The surveys were productive, despite it being warm conditions.  I recorded 84 species for my personal list, and collectively the five of us found just over 100 species. We found a male Hooded Robin at one site, also (elsewhere) a Black Falcon as well as Brown and Peregrine Falcon.  A group of Wandering Whistling-Ducks at one wetland was unusual (out of their normal range) while at another wetland, which was dry the previous time I was there, we found 30-40 Golden-headed Cisticolas and a pair of out-of-range Tawny Grassbirds. The Cisticolas were erupting from vegetation all the time as I walked through it - it was an amazing experience! Overnight I heard Aust. Owlet-nightjar and Southern Boobook, and a post-dawn White-throated Nightjar. My stretcher tent suffered a major rip on the Monday night and I had to sleep in the car on Tuesday night without a mattress. Two uncomfortable nights!