Thinking About Birds

March 2024

27 March

I left Nelson Bay pre-dawn and went to Minimbah Nature Reserve, on the hunt for Eastern Ground Parrots. I was dismayed to find workers and earthmoving equipment there - any parrots present would have shot through quite quickly when they arrived. However, I was lucky enough to flush a group of three of them from the roadside not far away. There were lots of Red-browed Finches and White-cheeked Honeyeaters in the area, and a Musk Lorikeet flew through. On my way in to the Nature Reserve I came upon a group of Brown Quail with a small young one amongst them.

26 March

I was on a pelagic trip off Port Stephens. The sea conditions were mild and the winds were light - surprisingly, given that, we did OK for birds. We had two Arctic Jaegers, one offering good views as likewise did a Pomarine Jaeger. There was one Shy-type Albatross (maybe two) and one Buller’s Albatross. A Providence Petrel was around briefly. Wilson’s Storm-Petrels were plentiful - we could see about 30 of them foraging on our slick and there probably was turnover. We also had six types of shearwater (but, dominated by Wedge-tailed Shearwaters).

It was a day for cetaceans too - we saw 5 or 6 different types, with the highlight for me being a pod of Pygmy Killer Whales.

25 March

In the morning Margaret and I went to Tomaree National Park and walked there for a while. There were no special birding highlights, alas, but I did have a later highlight down near the Nelson Bay marina - an adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle being mobbed by a large flock of Little Corellas. Also, at a cafe alongside the Marine Rescue Station, many Australian Magpies were on the prowl to pinch food, and we were given a water spray to help deter them from coming too near to our table!

22-24 March

I and 7 others spent three days on Broughton Island for the autumn visit. Although it was quiet out there (no doubt because of how dry it was) we did get some interesting birds including first time records of Black-faced Monarch and Rufous Fantail, and uncommon records of Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike and Spangled Drongo. I saw Eastern Reef Egrets a couple of times, and some other highlights for me included a Black-shouldered Kite and a Brown Falcon. A few of us visited the Gould’s Petrel nest boxes, where we found three healthy chicks and banded them. I reckon that two of those chicks will leave their nests within the next couple of weeks.

20 March

I completed my March surveys in Brisbane Water National Park by doing the two sites in the Curra Swamp area. Once again there were no surprises anywhere, although I was interested that there were three Australian Brush-turkeys together when I called in later at Patonga. On Monday when I was there, I had seennone. I also heard a Superb Lyrebird, briefly.

19 March

I did my monthly surveys of the Warrah Trig area of Brisbane Water National Park. The Little Wattlebirds were in good numbers and they were very active and noisy, and there were good numbers of New Holland Honeyeaters as well.

18 March

In the afternoon I surveyed a couple of sites in Brisbane Water National Park, then went to Patonga. There were no surprises anywhere. The honeyeater activity has dropped off a bit because the blossom event is winding down.

13-14 March

Mid-afternoon Bob Stewart and I met with the uni student who was wanting to do a 2024 placement with HBOC. We sorted out a plan and started the paperwork. That evening I attended the HBOC meeting. To my surprise I chaired the meeting! The club President was a late withdrawal and the VP was away. Next day on my way home I stopped at the RTA Reserve at Ourimbah where one of the highlights was the considerable number of Yellow-throated Scrubwrens, all of them active and noisy.

9 March

I did the Ash Island monthly survey, with Ross and James. We found ten Far Eastern Curlews, one of which had leg tags. It took us quite a while to get a decent enough view of it that allowed us to read the tag and report the sighting. There were 14 Pacific Golden Plovers around too. Rapotors included an adult Brahminy Kite and two Ospreys at/near their nest. One of those birds was photographed yesterday and able to be identified as a 15 year old bird banded near Port Innes in 2009.

7 March

We took our two Canadian visitors to Pearl Beach - we did the walk to the Pearl Cave and then around the arboretum. The birding was quiet and unfortunatelythere were some noisy arborists working in the arboretum. A highlight was that some Scarlet Honeyeaters were back.

6 March

I took a visiting Canadian birder to the Central Coast Wetlands near Wyong in the morning. Almost the first species we saw was Long-billed Corella: there were two of them near the carpark. And not long afterwards I found a female Black-winged Stork on the far side of the water. She didn’t stay long, but we had great views for a while. A Black-shouldered Kite came in, and we saw it regularly over the remainder of our visit. The birds after that were fairly standard (for me; there were plenty of ticks for my visitor) but we capped things off with a family of Variegated Fairy-wrens. On our way back we stopped at the Ourimbah Rest Area but it was the middle of the day and things were quiet.

5 March

I took two Canadian visitors to the Curra Swamp area in Brisbane Water National Park for a while in the morning, before we did an expedition by ferry to Palm Beach (which was interesting although not for birds). There was quite a bit of blossom at Curra and as a result there was good birding to be had. As well as all the usual honeyeater types we found about a half-dozen Brown-headed Honeyeaters plus there was a Musk Lorikeet. There were two Chestnut-rumped Heathwrens (with us having long up-close views of one of them) and we also saw Mistletoebirds well.

February 2024

27 February

On my way to the Central Coast bird group's evening meeting, I stopped firstly at the Tuggerah Lake salt marsh area, and then at the Central Coast Wetlands near Wyong. The mosquitoes were ferocious at my first stop but I was compensated by great views of a pair of Black-necked Storks foraging in the water. There also were five Little Egrets and two Great Egrets. At the wetlands there were two Buff-banded Rails on sight occasionally, and also a couple of Black-fronted Dotterels.  There were some White-breasted Woodswallows on the power lines, and a Whistling Kite and a White-bellied Sea-Eagle came through from time to time.

23 February

Before the heat kicked in, I went to my final regular set of sites in Brisbane Water National Park. The first section of my walk had a lot of bird activity - Grey Fantails, Eastern Yellow Robins, White-browed Scrubwrens, etc were flitting about all the time. But the remainder of my time there was quiet. Afterwards I went around to Patonga where I saw an Australian Brush-turkey and there were a dozen Little Black Cormorants (and two Great Pied Cormorants) roosting on the rigging of a couple of moored boats. Late that afternoon Margaret and I checked in at a motel near Belmont. Just before the thunderstorm arrived, I saw a Striated Heron foraging by the water's edge right in front of me, also "with it" were a Great Egret and a White-faced Heron.

22 February

I went to Pearl Beach in the early morning, doing the Caves Walk and then visiting the Arboretum. The birding was slow at both spots although I heard a Rockwarbler near the caves - I tried for a while to see it but it wouldn't cooperate. Afterwards I went to the Curra Swamp section of Brisbane Water National Park. There were lots of honeyeaters including 30 or so White-cheeked Honeyeaters and a group of four Brown-headed Honeyeaters. There was quite a bit of fresh blossom around, which was attracting them - and also lorikeets including a oouple of Musk Lorikeets and several Rainbow Lorikeets.

20 February

I did my Brisbane Water walk today, in gradually deteriorating weather (I was drenched by the end of it). There was no sign of any migratory shorebirds but on the sandbar there were at least eight Australian Pied Oystercatchers (possibly more: there were many obsuring Australian Pelicans and Black Swans). I also found three more oystercatchers sitting on jetties. Mallards were present in big numbers - I counted a total of 126 birds (in four main groups).

19 February

I did my surveys of the Warrah Trig area of Brisbane Water National Park. It was quiet (especially in comparison to the exciting birding I'd had daily for the preceding two weeks!). I did hear a Superb Lyrebird and get fairly close to it, and I also heard a Chestnut-rumped Heathwren. There were good numbers of White-eared Honeyeaters around.


Chile and Costa Rica: January-February 2024

Margaret and I flew to Santiago on 24 January, and stayed there for a week with some one-day excursions spread over that week. I found 26 species (from limited opportunities) including six that were lifers for mw. Then we flew north to Costa Rica - we spent a couple of nights in San Jose at the beginning and end of our visit to that country, and did a  12-day self-drive trip around the middle third of the country with Sally and Tom, who joined us from the beginning of February. The birding in Costa Rica was sensational - I saw 282 species of which only ten or so were not lifers for me.

24 January

This was a day of travel including a 14-hour time shift, I spent the afternoon walking around Santiago - I only saw one species, Rock Dove. And there were plenty of those!

25 January

Margaret and I walked to San Cristobal Hill in the middle of Santiago, and did the long walk up it. I only saw ten species but three of those were new for my Chile list (which is now at about 100 species). The new species were California Quail (which is not new for my world list), Grassland Yellow-finch and Common Dicua-finch. I had great views of Chilean Elaenias, Austral Thrushes and Austral Blackbirds too, and managed to get photos of all three of those plus the three new species,

26 January

We went on a tour, which took us eventually to Laguna del Incas at 3000m altitude in the Andes. On the way we stopped at a winery in the village of San Esteban - here were stacks of West Peruvian Doves and a brief view of a Cinereous Harrier flying past. The lake had five bird species in the area (no birds on the lake itself). I identified Greater Yellow Finch, Puna Miner, Cinereous Ground Tyrant, Grey-hooded Sierra Finch and Rufous-collared Sparrow, On the way back I saw an American Kestrel.

27-28 January

The weekend was spent quietly in Santiago, some walks interspersed with just relaxing. I spent a fair bit of time in shady parks, so I saw Rock Doves and Austral Thrushes in abundance. There was variety sometimes - a few Kelp Gulls by the river, Monk Parakeets occasionally, Eared Doves occasionally, and Austral Blackbird once.

29 January

We spent the day on a tour to Vino del Mar and Valparaiso. It was not a birdwatching trip but at the beach at Vino del Mar there were several Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures and numerous Kelp Gulls (which were in big numbers everywhere that we went, until we left the coast). I also saw a Band-tailed Gull (just the one) and there were some Neotropic Cormorants perched on a jetty (at quite some distance). En route I saw several raptors - some I couldn't identify from the brief views at 120km/h but I did see Variable Hawks and Chimango Caracaras, and an American Kestrel.

30 January

Another quiet day spent in warm muggy Santiago. I've given up trying to find new places to go. I was in the riverside park a few times - the Austral Thrushes were plentiful and actually they have a really nice song as well.

31 January

This was a travel day, from Santiago to San Jose in Costa Rica. We arrived late afternoon - I saw Great-tailed Grackles and White-winged Doves from the taxi as we headed to our hotel, At the hotel, with only about 10-15 minutes of daylight remaining. I hit the garden, finding some Lesson's Motmots and Clay-coloured Thrushes (taking my Day 1 Costa Rica bird list to four species).

1 February

I spent the day in the hotel gardens - it was great birding ! Over the day I saw about 25 species, only two of which weren’t new ones for me (Rufous-Collared Sparrow, Black Vulture). There were many Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, also Lesson’s Motmots, Great Kiskadees, Crimson-fronted Parakeets, etc. In the post-lunch visit I found Lineated Woodpecker and Montezuma Oropendola simultaneously - it was so difficult to decide which of those to concentrate upon. I jumped from one to the other and I later found the Oropendola again, with some Brown Jays. Another highlight was a pair of Crested Caracaras chasing away a Black Vulture. In my pre-breakfast visit, I met a Canadian bird watcher who took me to a dense clump of bamboo, in the midst of which a pair of Mottled Owls were roosting. Just before dusk I went back to the owl roost. En route I had fantastic views of a Montezuma Oropendola. I’d seen one earlier in the afternoon but often partially obscured. This time it was out in the open, and calling - a weird sound which invoked the tropics There also was a foraging party of Brown Jays. The Canadian chap was also at the owl roost and we watched together as they preened and stretched their wings for several minutes and then flew out. I saw 22 species today.

2 February

I did a brief walk in the hotel gardens before breakfast - I saw many of yesterday’s birds again plus Blue-grey Tanagers which were new for me. Later that morning we met Sally and Tom in San Jose, got the rental car, checked out, and soon were off across the mountains heading north-east to La Selva Biological Station.We had lunch there, then set out on a walk through the rainforest. That turned out to be a magical three hours. We saw birds are plenty – starting with a Yellow-throated Toucan (which had us very excited), and then a Keel-billed Toucan not long afterwards. By the end, we had seen a dozen or so of both of those species. We saw several Crested Guans, a couple of different tinamous (a Little Tinamou and a Slaty-breasted Tinamou), a Semi-plumbeous Hawk, a Russet-tailed Jacamar, a Slaty-tailed Trogon, and the list went on. I reckon about 30 species with great views of most of them. Also, we saw Howler Monkeys, a Sloth, Leaf-eating Ants, a couple of Agouti and a White-nosed Coatimundi. I saw 24 species today.

3 February

Tom and I did a guided bird walk in the early morning, starting at 5:45 am in the gloaming). Our guide was Wilson, a local who knew his birds well. We spent almost 2 1/2 hours with him, and finding probably around 60 species in that time. For the first 20 or so minutes, we scarcely moved 20 m from where we started. (and we were within a 500 meter radius for the entire tour). The species we found are too numerous to mention, but the highlights included Rufous Motmot and Broad-billed Motmot, Broad-winged Hawk (perched not far off), Blue-throated Goldentail, Double-toothed Kite, Summer Tanager, Sociable and Piratic Flycatchers. Later, I crossed the suspension bridge to where the main research station buildings were located. The best birding (in this area) was around a fig tree opposite the herbarium – here were many species (and many birders). Numerous Great Green Macaws flew over, and an Osprey as well as several other raptors.

Late morning we checked out, and drove north-east to Medio Queso, a massive freshwater wetlands. Here we boarded a punt for a 2 1/2 hour cruise. This was fantastic!  There were waterbirds galore, for example, a couple of hundred Northern Jacanas, five species of herons, and three of egrets, all in solid numbers. We also saw about 10 Pinnated Bitterns (great views, often), Black-bellied Whistling-ducks, the list goes on! We had brief views of a Yellow-breasted Crake and two close-in Roseate Spoonbills (others were flying in the distance). That completed my world spoonbill list! There were lots of Wood Storks including 40+ birds standing together. Endemics included Nicaraguan Grackle and Nicaraguan Seed-Finch, and raptors included Snail Kite, Black-collared Hawk, Northern Harrier and Harris’s Hawk. Our trip finished at 5:30 pm and then we had a 45 minute drive to our accommodation at Cano Negro – I had a brief view of a Lesser Nighthawk en route. I saw 90 species today.

4 February

Sally, Tom and I did a four-hour river cruise at Cano Negro. Our tour started and ended with sightings of Russet-naped Wood Rail, and there was a Pacific Screech-owl just before we finished. As per yesterday, there were birds galore – there was quite a bit in common with yesterday, but also quite a lot was different – including we were picking up bush birds in the trees and shrubs alongside the river much more than yesterday. They also were some shorebirds in moderate numbers: Spotted Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Semi-palmated Plover, Black-winged Stilt. The stilts looked a bit different to our ones (which are now a separate species), but their behaviour was similar. We had sensational views, often, of various kingfisher types including Green Kingfisher. Plus, we saw a Black-collared Hawk up close. The shrubs and trees had flycatchers, orioles and much more, and we saw Northern Water Thrushes and Sungrebes around the water’s edge. The Wood Storks were present in big numbers and we saw 100+ of them in the air at one stage, similarly the Western Cattle Egrets and White Ibis. I saw 76 species today.

5 February

After breakfast, Tom and I walked through the rainforest opposite the hotel. Conditions were oppressive, and the track often was muddy – in no time at all we were dripping with sweat. The birding was steady and we ended up with good views of 15-20 species including American Redstart, Cinnamon Becard, White-winged Becard and Chestnut-backed Antbird. I also saw a House Wren at the motel earlier in the morning. Then we had a long drive up into the mountains, to Monteverde. There wasn't much time for birding, but I saw some Grey Martins near a river plus the inevitable vultures (Turkey Vulture and Black Vulture). At our accommodation, a Lesser Violetear called continually all afternoon and into the night, but we never had a sighting of it until the next day. I saw 26 species today.

6 February

I spent much of the day at Curi Cancha Reserve, a pay-for-entry park a few kilometres down the road.  Sally, Tom and I were there at 6:30am, when started a tour they’d booked me in for. It cost US$120 including the $20 park entry fee. They opted to self-guide. My guide was Jorge and I was in a group with two American couples. Jorge was really knowledgeable, about wildlife in general, and it was an excellent 4 1/2 hour walk. Just about everything I saw was new for me, and I saw 50 or so species including five types of hummingbird, numerous warbler and euphonia types, Collared Trogons, Black and Crested Guans, Golden-crowned Chlorophonias, Yellow-faced Grassquits, Slate-breasted Redstarts, White-naped Brush Finches, etc. We went back to Curi Cancha for another 2-hour wander after lunch. I did a birding sortie with Tom - we found a few additional species (such as Mountain Thrush and White-collared Swift) but it was much quieter than in the morning. There was a Prong-tailed Barbet in a bush just off our veranda late that afternoon. I saw 61 species today.

7 February

Early morning, we went to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve, another pay-for-entry park, located on the outskirts of Monteverde. The park opened at 7:00 but there already were long queues when we arrived, five minutes early, and it was close to 7:30 by the time that we were in. It was a chilly, damp morning (with constant drizzle) – we really were in cloud forest. We walked together for a couple of kilometres – it was very pretty forest, but the bird activity was minimal. Eventually I decided to go back to the cafe which I was told had hummingbird feeders. However, my route took me past a female Resplendent Quetzal – which many tour groups were eyeballing. Later, I took the others back to see it, and we also found a male bird nearby although our views of it were obscured. On our way out, we encountered a Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush foraging on the ground in the dimness, not far off the track. We went to the hummingbird feeders near the cafe, where there were stacks of people, but the birds seemed used to that. Six species were coming regularly to feeders, with people often less than a metre away.

Then we headed westwards, crossing the continental divide and descending towards the Pacific Coast. We hit the coast near El Roble – where we saw our first Magnificent Frigatebirds. We saw our first Scarlet Macaws soon after we arrived at Cerro Lodge, and great views of a Streaked Flycatcher from the dining room terrace late afternoon. I saw 18 species today.

8 February

We had great views of a Turquoise-browed Motmot in the hotel garden before we left early morning, and then of a White-fronted Magpie-Jay just down the road a bit. Our main activity for the morning was a boat trip on the Tarcoles River. We went upstream for a while, and then downstream to the river mouth (which seem to be blocked by a sandbar – it was the dry season). There were stacks of Magnificent Frigatebirds near the river mouth. We also saw many raptors including close-up views of Common Black Hawk (there were many) and Grey Hawk, also a Zone-tailed Hawk and some Ospreys plus lots of the inevitable vultures. Our guide became excited by the presence of a pair of Belted Kingfishers, apparently rare in the area. We were excited too, but also by all the other species that we saw, although apart from the Scarlet Macaws there wasn’t much that was new for us. We were close to the coast, so after our tour finished, we visited a nearby beach (on the Pacific Ocean!). There we found Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls. I saw 63 species today.

9 February

We checked out after breakfast and drove to Carara National Park, about 15 minutes away. We spent the morning doing a guided walk. We had terrific views of some trogons (Slaty-tailed Trogon and Black-throated Trogon), also Orange-billed Sparrows, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Rufous Piha, Bay-headed Tanager, and much more. The drive to our next accommodation was mostly close to the coast and we saw lots of Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigatebirds. Where we stayed had its own private forest - it was rather dark in there by the time we got to it, which made bird identifications a bit problematic at times. But, we had okay views sometimes of species such as Pale-billed Woodpecker and Chestnut-backed Antwren. I saw 45 species today.

10 February

After breakfast, we set off for an expedition to the Manuel Antonio National park, right on the beach near Quepos. We had terrific views of a pair of Riverside Wrens, nest-building. Earlier, we saw a Bright-rumped Attila carrying food. On our way out, we came upon a large crowd, who were looking at a Common Pauraque (a small nightjar), roosting just 2 m off the track. We had great views of it. Then, we had a long dribve to our accommodation for the next three nights, in Quetzal National Park.  There was a Sooty Thrush waiting onthe driveway when we arrived. Later we walked up to a nearby cafe which had feeders. We had hot chocolates while sitting on the veranda, watching all the different birds coming in for the feeders. There were four species of hummingbird, various types of tanagers, Acorn Woodpeckers, a Northern Emerald Toucanet, a Yellow-thighed Brush Finch, Large-footed Finches, Sooty-capped Chlorospingus, Slaty Flowerpiercer ... The list just kept on growing. I saw 41 species today.

11 February

The bulk of the day was spent on a trip to San Jose to meet Margaret's niece and partner for lunch - with not much by way of birding opportunities. However, in the morning we drove down the valley for several kilometres of winding road, to a private property which was a known spot for the Resplendent Quetzal. After a longish wait we saw our first one, a female, but later we also saw several adult males in flight and then a young male perched.We saw six of them in total. Late afternoon we did a quick visit to the cafe and its bird feeders. We saw most of yesterday‘s birds, and no new ones. However, on our way back, a small group of Spotted Wood-quails crossed the road just in front of us. I saw 19 species today.

12 February

We drove down the valley to the “floor“ of it at about 2000m altitude, where we soon found a walking trail through lovely forest. Initially it was quiet but we saw an American Dipper. After that, the bird activity picked up substantially. At one spot, we scarcely moved for about 45 minutes, with many different birds coming through on a regular basis. We were hearing a strange noise – eventually, we worked out that it was a Resplendent Quetzal, quite close to us. Soon we had fantastic front-on views of an adult male, which was calling all the while that we watched it. Other great birds included Black-cheeked Warbler, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, Tufted Flycatcher, Black-faced Solitaire, Sulphur-winged Parakeet.  The excursion culminated with closed views of a Torrent Tyrannulet hunting by the creek. We had lunch at the cafe, seeing the usual birds plus the Spotted Wood-quails by the roadside (and later they were wandering in the gardens of our cabin). I saw 36 species today.

13 February

Around the cabin in the morning, I saw one new species– a pair of Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrushes and I also managed photos for the first time of two others I'd seen several times: Collared Redstart and Blue-and-white Swallow. After we checked out we went westwards for a while, to a walking trail at  just over 3300 m altitude. The habitat was quite different to anything we encountered before on the trip– there were tiny bamboos everywhere, and no tall vegetation. We found hardly any birds, but the highlight was good views of some Scintillant Hummingbirds. Then we drove to San Jose, and to our accommodation, the Hotel Bougainvillea, where Margaret and I stayed when we first arrived in Costa Rica. We checked in and settled in, then I hit the gardens for an hour so Tom and Sally returned the car. They got back just before nightfall – in the nick of time for me to show them the pair of Mottled Owls, which were in spots where good  no views were available. The owls were just beginning to stir as we watched them.I saw 22 species today.

14 February

There was a Red-legged Honeycreeper in the gardens early morning, and later I saw some Canobis's Wrens - my final two new species for the trip. I also had nice views of some Cinnamon-bellied Saltators and White-eared Ground-sparrows. I found the two Mottled Owls - they had slightly moved from yesterday's roost spots. There were two types of woodpecker - Hoffmann's Woodpecker and Lineated Woodpecker, and lots of Crimson-fronted Parakeets flying around. I spent some time working out how to differentiate Great Kiskadees and Social Flycatchers - they look similar (although have very different calls). I saw 27 species today.

15-17 February

I did a pre-breakfast walk around the hotel grounds, finding most of the regular species including the pair of roosting Mottled Owls. Thence to the airport - where there were some Barn Swallows flying outside the VIP Lounge windows. I saw 19 species on the Thursday morning. And after that, it was just a slog of travel!  We arrived home just on dusk on the Saturday - and I heard a Southern Boobook a few hours later.


January 2024

22 January

I walked alongside Brisbane Water, from Blackwall to Woy Woy, at high tide. The species diversity was down a bit - I only found 28 species this time and there were no migratory shorebirds. However, out on the island along with all the usual Australian Pelicans and Black Swans, there were 14 Australian Pied Oystercatchers! I've never seen that many locally before! And there were two more of them roosting on a jetty later on. Mallards "won" the duck count, with a bit over 100 of them seen (one group was of 75-80 birds)and all other ducks rather scarce.

17-19 January

I joined the HBOC surveys at McCullys Gap, arriving mid-afternoon. I scrambled to set up my camp as it was evident that rain was coming. It rained heavily for about 4 hours starting from not long afterwards but we spent much of that time on the veranda of the homestead. There were some Dusky Woodswallows about, two roosting Tawny Frogmouths and a brief visit from a Sacred Kingfisher. Over the 3 days I recorded 78 species, with another 20 or so on the club’s overall list.  Highlights for me included some Little Ravens, big assemblies of Australian Ravens, Tree Martins and Rainbow Bee-eaters, some Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, a Black-faced Monarch, nest-building Golden Whistler, Zebra Finches, Varied Sittellas, Speckled Warblers, Nankeen Kestrel feeding two youngsters, and a Brown Songlark was heard. On my way home I stopped at Doughboy Hollow where there were about 100 Plumed Whistling-Ducks visible (and no doubt more were out of sight).

15-17 January

I joined the HBOC surveys at Martindale arriving late afternoon (I spent the morning editing Whistler papers). On my way in I saw two Australian Hobbies and heard a Stubble Quail calling from across the creek. We saw a couple of them the next day. There were Common Cicadabirds at most of the sites we visited over the Tuesday and Wednesday, and Brush Cuckoos at many of them. Overall I recorded 81 species (the club’s list was a bit over 100 species). There were plenty of highlights but probably the best ones were at a small wetland that we survey each quarter. We had Golden-headed Cisticolas and Australian Reed-warblers as almost-regulars, 3-4 Tawny Grassbirds as second-time records and at least 4 Little Grassbirds as first-time records (and carrying food thus probably breeding). One team found 3 species of crake - I went back later and had wonderful views of a Baillon’s Crake plus heard a Spotless Crake.

Elsewhere I saw Horsfield’s Bushlark, Varied Sittella, Grey-crowned Babbler, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Leaden Flycatcher, Restless Flycatcher, and the raptors included Brown Goshawk and Collared Sparrowhawk (plus 4 other species). I packed up after lunch and relocated to McCullys Gap after a swim and shower at Denman and re-provisioning in Muswellbrook

14 January

I went to Cockle Bay Nature Reserve for a while in the morning but the mozzies were quite bad (also there were some cicadas) and so I didn’t stay long. The highlight from my short visit was a pair of Brown Cuckoo-Doves. I detoured to Empire Bay after that, where I found a group of 13 Australian Wood Ducks and a half dozen Mallards. A Willie Wagtail followed me around, presumably taking insects as I flushed them. Mid-afternoon there was a Square-tailed Kite again, hunting over my neighbourhood.

13 January

I did the Ash Island survey in the morning, with Ross and Gabby. We found some (= 20 birds) Pacific Golden Plovers at Phoenix Flat - for the first time for this season! There also were three Far Eastern Curlews at nearby Milhams Pond. The main ponds at Area E were almost dry, but Swan Pond had residual shallow water and many exposed mud flats. Apparently those conditions really suit Red-capped Plovers - we counted exactly 100 of them, plus 19 Red-necked Stints. It was a good day for raptors - White-bellied Sea-Eagle (4 birds), Osprey (2 birds), Whistling Kite, Swamp Harrier, Australian Hobby and Brown Falcon were seen.

9-11 January

I didn't do any specific birding activities these three days, but nevertheless I had some daily highlights - a Square-tailed Kite hunting over my home on Tuesday afternoon, two Buff-banded Rails at the Reptile Park on Wednesday morning and a Tree Martin was foraging with Welcome Swallows at Ettalong Beach on Thursday morning.

8 January

In the early morning I surveyed my sites around the Warrah Trig area of Brisbane Water NP. It was largely uneventful, and the bird activity level wasn't high. However, a scattered flock of about 80 White-throated Needletails flew through at one point, which was exciting, and I saw a Fork-tailed Swift in amongst them (there might have been more - mostly I couldn't see the birds' rumps very well).  And another highlight, almost at the end of my surveying, was a family group of three Glossy Black-Cockatoos. It's probably the same family that I saw in the same area a few weeks ago. At Patonga later, I saw a few more White-throated Needletails, and there were singles of Whistling Kite and White-bellied Sea-Eagle.

6 January

I went to Pearl Beach, firstly doing the walk to the caves and then around the arboretum. Saturday isn't the best day for the former, I discovered - there were many noisy groups of cyclists riding the fire trail. However, I found some good birds - Leaden Flycatcher, Varied Sitella, and the highlight, two Rockwarblers. That's a new bird for me in the Central Coast - I've been on the lookout for them as the habitat in Brisbane Water National Park often looks great for them. The arboretum was quiet, and I found no small birds except for the usual Brown Gerygones.

5 January

I went to four of my sites in Brisbane Water National Park - around Curra Swamp and Van Dahl’s Trail.There were honeyeaters back! I saw New Holland and White-cheeked Honeyeaters, also Eastern Spinebills and Little Wattlebirds, and I heard a White-eared Honeyeater. I also heard a Pheasant Coucal, and saw some Variegated Fairy-wrens. The highlight was a pair of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos, up close.

4 January

I did the Brisbane Water walk in the morning. As usual there were many Australian Pelicans (approx 250) including some young ones, and stacks of Black Swans (my count was 153 birds). I saw three Australian Pied Oystercatchers and two Far Eastern Curlews (in both cases, my firsts for 2024).  Mallards were present in big numbers (about 75 birds including many immatures) and also there were quite a few Pacific Black Ducks including a pair with 5 ducklings. In one group of ducks there were five Grey Teal as well. Nearer to Woy Woy I encountered a group of ten Long-billed Corellas and another six of them just a bit further along. That’s a significant count of them locally. There also were plenty of Little Corellas around.

1 January

On my morning local walk, I was just seeing all the usual stuff - but then, about a hundred metres from home, there was a Square-tailed Kite! It was hunting low over trees near the Lemon Grove netball courts. It flew directly over me several times and then it slowly made its way northwards. I had marvellous views. And, during that time, a Musk Lorikeet whizzed through (higher overhead). Not a bad start to the year!