Thinking About Birds

I only update the gallery photos occasionally. Sorry about that, too busy. See my Sri Lanka gallery though and also  the latest additions to my UK and Denmark galleries.

March 2019

25 March

We did some more drone trials this morning, with four of us going to Tomago Wetlands for a few hours. First we flew the drone over the Black-necked Stork nest (which is not currently in use) so as to get a better view of the platform they had built. Then we went around to the main wetlands. There were at least 1,000 teal present, a mixture of Grey Teal and Chestnut Teal. We were able to fly the drone right over them, by making a low and slow approach and pausing the forward movement if they began to look restless. We also found some Common Greenshanks, eventually at least 80 birds, and there were some small flocks of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper occasionally in the air. The Greenshanks were restless and more easily took to flight than did the teal. However, we were able to fly quite close to them and take photos (which will lead to counts using point-count software).  Raptors seen today included a magnificent young White-bellied Sea-Eagle and a couple of Swamp Harriers.


22 March

This week we received permission from NPWS to trial in some local national parks the use of drones for bird monitoring. Four of us including our local drone expert Bob McDonald went to Hexham Swamp this morning for the first attempt at this. Fortunately there were some Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, one of the species I hope a drone will help us to monitor as they can be very dispersed at times. They are restless at the moment (because they soon will leave for their northern migration), and it was difficult to be sure to what extent the drone was disturbing them vs their natural flightiness. We saw several instances where they flew underneath the drone, having put to air. Not sure how to interpret that!  We were able to approach closely with it to some Grey Teal, with no signs of any reaction from them, but later a large flock took to air as soon as the drone appeared. However, there were some raptors around at the time and they might have been sensitized. Black Swans paid no attention to it. We'll do more trials in the coming weeks.

20 March

Rob Kyte and I were up in the Gloucester Tops today, primarily to investigate a Rufous Scrub-bird nest which Rob discovered earlier this month. We had Flame Robin, Bassian Thrush and Rose Robin in the high country and a couple of Rufous Scrub-birds were calling (and a couple of others were silent).  We didn’t find any of the other “specialists” from up there. The extent of the honeyeater influx had risen since my last visit (which was about 2 weeks ago). There were lots of White-naped, Yellow-faced, New Holland and Scarlet Honeyeaters wherever we went, and ditto for Eastern Spinebill.

19 March

I joined a pelagic trip from Swansea. There was almost no wind all day making for a quiet day at sea - and a slow one too, with more than 8 hours of chugging slowly along in the boat to and from the continental shelf. We had Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters in attendance for most of the day and occasional appearances of various other shearwaters. At the shelf there were a couple each of Grey-faced and Providence Petrel, also one Wilson's Storm-Petrel, and occasional Pomarine Jaegers at sea (plus Arctic Jaegers inshore). I missed a couple of species which did not stay long enough for decent views, e.g. Gould's Petrel.

17 March

I had planned to attend the HBOC outing but it rained heavily through the night and was still pouring down when I first woke, so I chickened out. However, later in the morning the rain stopped and so I went to Hexham Swamp for a couple of hours. Although it was quiet there, I found some White-fronted Chats, about 150 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and seven Common Greenshanks. It was a good morning for raptors, with Swamp Harrier, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Nankeen Kestrel and Black-shouldered Kite seen.

16 March

I gave a talk at the ABSA Conference held in conjunction with their AGM. My talk was on Rufous Scrub-birds in the Gloucester Tops and it seemed to go well. I stayed all day, with there being five other interesting talks. My slides are uploaded onto the website here.

14 March

The Tocal Field Days are coming up (in early May) so this morning a group of us got together to start the detailed planning for HBOC's display stand. We decided to take somewhat of a fresh approach and with a focus on Citizen Science. There is some prep work now to be done!

13 March

At the HBOC club night it was announced that I was the recipient of the 2018 Wilma Barden Memorial Grant, for my Rufous Scrub-bird research. Nice for that to finally be made public! The funds ($2000) will be used to pay for the special nets, call playback system and VHF tracking equipment that we use. I also was given a bottle of very good wine in acknowledgment of my having produced 25 Hunter Region annual bird reports. I figure that works out at 30ml per year! But I appreciate the gesture.

11 March

I spent the morning finalising my Rufous Scrub-bird talk for Saturday (at the ABSA conference in Newcastle). In the afternoon I had two meetings at the University - firstly to deliver some Scrub-bird feathers (for DNA analysis) and chat about next steps, secondly for the Port Stephens Eastern Curlew study.  In preparation, I had dug out a lot of old records.

9 March

Ross and I did the Ash Island survey. It remains very dry out there and bird numbers continue to be low. However, we found 9 Eastern Curlew at Milhams pond and 28 Pacific Golden Plover at Phoenix Flats, also some Red-capped Plovers and one each of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Red-necked Stint at Fish Fry Flats. Not much else of note, except for a group of 5 Common Greenshanks at Teal Waters. It has been a long time since my previous record of those on Ash Island.

8 March

I went up to the Gloucester Tops. There had been rain up there recently so the fords had a bit more water and there were puddles here and there. I visited three Rufous Scrub-bird territories, two of which had very vocal birds. I have recording devices at all three territories, which I was servicing. Rose Robins and Bassian Thrush are still in the high country (and there was a Rose Robin down at the campsite) and along Kerripit Rd I saw two male Scarlet Robins together. The regular autumn influx of honeyeaters to the Tops has begun. There were plenty of them everywhere I went, and including White-naped and Scarlet Honeyeater which normally we hardly ever find in the Tops (except in autumn; in any other season they are uncommon).

I did lots of bush bashing today and at one point came upon a Satin Bowerbird bower. One of its items of decoration was a blue plastic biro, which I’m pretty sure I recognised as one that I lost up there about 6 months ago. I decided to let the bird keep it. Just near Roseleigh Cottage on my way out there were some Dusky Woodswallows which I rarely see in the Gloucester valley. Although, it was my third record of them in the past 12 months. However, no prior records over 2010-2017 (by me). The road has been graded quite recently, from the end of the bitumen all the way up, so it was an easy trip.