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.

July 2019

18 July

It was what one could call a quiet day. I spent it a) dealing with some papers submitted for The Whistler, b) dealing with a request from NPWS about Osprey nests, and c) sorting out the Port Stephens waterbirds survey. It was scheduled for tomorrow but had become an on/off proposition, because of weather. It is now  re-scheduled to happen on Monday. I spent much of the afternoon chasing down the volunteers and sorting out about Monday.

17 July

I went to the Gloucester Tops, my first trip there in about 6 weeks.  My main purpose was to replenish some camera traps I set up in early May in two Rufous Scrub-bird territories. Both birds were calling but irregularly and I couldn't track them down (ditto in two other territories that I visited). It was quiet up there (winter!!) and also the honeyeater influx is pretty much over - I found some New Holland Honeyeaters near the Falls carpark and that was it.

15 July

I called in at Hexham Swamp for a couple of hours late morning. It was rather quiet out there, and a stiff cold wind blowing. I saw two pairs of White-fronted Chats, and on the mudflats there was a mixed flock of Red-capped Plovers and Black-fronted Dotterels. At a pond on the approach road there were 48 White-faced Herons together, although they began to disperse almost as soon as I pulled up to count them. A Mangrove Gerygone was singing in the mangroves at the far end of the Pipeline Track but I was unable to get any glimpse of it.

12 July

I went to Myall Lakes NP for the morning, my mission being to find the Regent Honeyeaters that had been found there recently. Success! I had a bird almost as soon as I was out of the car, and eventually saw at least six birds. They were very mobile and so it was hard to know for sure how many of them were there. Interestingly, they were feeding on insect swarms quite often, as well as on the blossom. A Brown-capped Emerald Dove flew through at one stage, and also a pair of Little Lorikeets came in briefly for the blossom. I tried several other spots in and around the National Park, with the highlights including a Crested Shrike-Tit and Brown Gerygone, and various honeyeaters such as White-cheeked and Scarlet Honeyeater.

11 July

It was the HBOC meeting in the evening and I really enjoyed it. The main talk was very interesting (Matt Herring, speaking on Australasian Bitterns in the rice-growing areas around Leeton etc) and I caught up with lots of people afterwards.

June-July 2019

Summary: Margaret and I flew to Darwin on 22 June, picked up our rental car and drove to Katherine which we used as a base for a week-long stay. Then, we went back to Darwin for a week (via a one-night stop at Pine Creek). My main activity in Darwin was to attend the Australasian Ornithological Conference (AOC) and its associated activities. I also managed to fit in some birdwatching time, of course.

8 July

On our last morning in Darwin we stopped at the Botanic Gardens for a couple of hours. I saw a very interesting interaction between two Spangled Drongos (seemingly a dominance/submission thing, at one stage they were both on the ground and one standing on the other). I also had excellent views of a Grey Goshawk - initially it was being pursued by a White-gaped Honeyeater across a clearing in front of me, and then it landed in a nearby tree. But the highlight was to find a pair of Rufous Owls. They were roosting in a spindly tree only 3-4 metres above the ground, although tricky to photograph because of the angle of the sun.  However, I did my best!

7 July

I went back to East Point this morning, hoping the tide would be more favourable for doing the mangrove boardwalk. Partial success! I got to ~20m from the end of it, bit the tide was coming in fast and I had to retreat. En route I had nice views of a Black Butcherbird, also a female or young Mangrove Golden Whistler. and several Shining Flycatchers. I saw a pair of Forest Kingfishers somewhat distantly but back at the carpark Margaret found one perched quite close and quite placidly - I took many photos!  From there we went to Bayview, where I hoped the tide would have pushed in the Chestnut Rails. Alas, this time there was too much water. However, I did get great views of a male Red-headed Honeyeater.  In the late afternoon I went to Knuckey Lagoon, where there were several Pied Herons, a Comb-crested Jacana, some Green Pygmy-geese and some Magpie Geese.

6 July

In the morning I had a very early start, at 5 am joining an AOC-associated excursion to the Mary River NP.  After a long coach ride to get there, we did a longish walk which included a visit to a lake, where there were hundreds of Wandering Whistling-Ducks, a few tens of Plumed Whistling-Ducks, several Pied Herons, some Glossy Ibis, some Radjah Shelducks, and many other waterbirds. We found Silver-crowned Friarbirds and Little Friarbirds, and many honeyeater species including Rufous-throated Honeyeater and Bar-breasted Honeyeater. Two "rarities" were Dusky Moorhen and Grey-fronted Honeyeater; both birds ween well by many people but both well out of range. Late in the morning a Square-tailed Kite flew over us. Later in the afternoon I went to Bayview where in 2006 I saw a Chestnut Rail. No such luck this time (NB the tide was wrong) but I found a pair of Torresian Imperial-Pigeons for my troubles, and later a very vocal Helmeted Friarbird, at the nearby Dinah Beach.

3-5 July

Most of these three days have been consumed by my attendance at the Australasian Ornithological Conference (AOC), during which (on the Friday) I gave a talk about Rufous Scrub-birds (click here to see it). There were some good birds on campus including a roosting Tawny Frogmouth (and a Frill-necked Lizard just alongside), an Osprey, Dusky Honeyeaters. On Thursday morning I joined the AOC excursion to East Point,where we found Brahminy Kite, Spangled Drongo, Black Butcherbird, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher and Striated Heron, amongst many others. I picked up lots of great information about the options for bird tracking during AOC.

2 July

I went to a couple of workshops today, associated with the AOC program. In the morning it was about radio tracking, all aspects, and in the afternoon it was about Motus, a technology I'm interested in for its possibilities on Broughton Island. Lots of learnings today! On my way back I stopped at Sunset Park, where there was a white phase Eastern Reef Egret and a Sacred Kingfisher, both of them foraging on the rock platform.

1 July

I started my morning at Buffalo Creek on the eastern outskirts of Darwin. First bird today was a Rufous-banded Honeyeater! Followed soon after by a female Red-headed Honeyeater (later I managed photos of a male). Several Brown-headed Emerald Doves were calling (but not seen) but that was compensated for by sightings of 20+ White-breasted Woodswallows, 3 Grey Whistlers, a Collared Kingfisher and an Eastern Reef Egret. Next stop was Lee Point , where there were 50+ Red-tailduring which I ed Black-Cockatoos and similar numbers of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins, also a pair of Forest Kingfishers, two White-winged Trillers and a Little Bronze-cuckoo. I visited some sites at East Point, generally quiet except for a Black Butcherbird whilst doing the mangrove walk. Mid-afternoon, I went with Margaret to the Darwin Botanic Gardens; I dipped on the Rufous Owl but I saw and photographed a Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove and a Torresian Imperial-Pigeon

30 June

I went out right on dawn to see whether the Hooded Parrots had stayed overnight. You betcha! Their numbers kept rising, and eventually I has 48 of them feeding on the lawn and another 10-15 birds still in the trees. A White-winged Triller joined them on the lawn at one point, and there was a Dusky Honeyeater hanging around too. From there we headed north, stopping at Berry Springs for birding (me) and eventually for lunch. It was quite crowded but only at the waterholes, and I had a very peaceful walk through the monsoon forest with bonuses of finding Orange-footed Scrub-fowl, Varied Triller, Arafura Fantail, Northern Fantail and Grey Whistler. After that we headed to Fogg Dam, where on the dam walk I found 50+ Immediate Egrets, a Comb-crested Jacana, pair of Black-necked Stork and numerous terns. The latter caused me some research, but I eventually decided were a mixture of Whiskered Terns and White-winged Black Terns (all in non-breeding plumage). Then I did the boardwalk/forest walk with highlights including Grey Whistler and some Broad-billed Flycatchers (with photos!).

29 June

We left Katherine in the early morning and headed to Edith Falls. I tried to find the site for Gouldian Finches that Ray McLean had tipped me off about - no luck there! I had pretty much the same birds at Edith Falls as on my visit there earlier in the week, including another fly-by from the Brown Goshawk. I also found the Crimson Finches again. We pressed on to Pine Creek where we had booked a cabin for th night. After settling in I was immediately out wandering - fruitlessly for a bit over an hour (apart from birds such as Yellow Oriole and various honeyeaters) and then, shortly before 4pm, a flock of 10 Hooded Parrots flew in! Another new species for me! My views were ordinary at first but became increasingly better and I managed some decent photos eventually. Also had a happy chat with to other birders there (we'd been looking at the same birds for half an hour).

28 June

I spent most of my day birding in the Katherine environs, at first on foot and then in the mid-afternoon heading back out to Nitmiluk NP (Katherine Gorge). Most of the time I found no special birds although there was a large mixed flock of Apostlebirds and Grey-crowned Babblers at a spot near the river and I also found some White-breasted Woodswallows at a small lagoon on the way towards the Gorge. The highlight for sure was when I came upon an Australian Bustard marching purposefully across a paddock towards the roadside. I took lots of photos!

27 June

I drove to the Mataranka area today, my first stop being Bitter Springs in the Elsey National Park. At first it was quiet (for birds, there were many noisy bathers) but I found a Lemon-bellied Flycatcher and a Restless Flycatcher to keep me occupied.Then, to my delight, a new bird - Arafura Fantail. There was a pair of them and I spent 20 minutes or so trying to get a decent photo. I also saw a male Shining Flycatcher during this period. Next I went to the Mataranka Thermal Pool which is just outside the NP. This was very noisy from people bathing in the pool (it was Yobbo Central, basically) so I didn't stay long. Best birds here was a very noisy squabbling group of 30-35 Apostlebirds (they appeared to be fighting over access to a small puddle formed from a tyre rut, despite there being plenty of other water opportunities in the general area). I left and went to dothe Botanic Walk back in the NP. That was great; it circumnavigated a small creek and had Northern Fantails and more Arafura Fantails; also a pair of Shining Flycatchers.  And then I got onto a pair of Pacific Bazas, having wonderful views and even managing some decent photos for the first time ever for me for this species. It was also the first time I'd ever recorded them in Birdata. And just as I got back to the car, a Grey Goshawk flew over.

26 June

We went to the Cutta Cutta Caves in the morning. We did the guided tour of the caves (which was very interesting) and also some short walks on or near the property. I found Singing Honeyeaters a couple of times, and also had good views of some White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes.  There were Weebills on the property too. In the afternoon I tried some more sites around Katherine, with the highlights including Restless Flycatcher and Black-faced Woodswallow.

25 June

I headed for Edith Falls today, after receiving a tip that Gouldian Finches had been seen at a waterhole off the road in. I found the waterhole but all that was using it were some Red-winged Parrots. However, further along, at where the road crosses the Edith River, I had very good birding. Almost immediately I found some Crimson Finches and then a Lemon-bellied Flycatcher that was feeding a fledged young.  In addition to the "usual" honeyeaters I found a few Banded Honeyeaters, some Varied Lorikeets, a Northern Fantail and a female Shining Flycatcher. There were Little Woodswallows flying overhead and a Sacred Kingfisher perched on a stump in the river. I also flushed a Bush Stone-curlew, which gave me brief views as it quickly disappeared around a bend. At Edith Falls itself (a beautiful spot) I managed some good photos of a Northern Fantail. In the late afternoon I explored more places around Katherine, not very productively except at the sewage treatment works. Although the main evaporation pond was some distance in and behind a locked gate, I could make out several dozen Radjah Shelducks, also a Common Greenshank, several to many of Black-winged Stilt, Red-kneed Dotterel and Black-fronted Dotterel, and also miscellaneous other waterbirds. 

24 June

We went to Nitmiluk NP (aka Katherine Gorge) for the day.  The highlight for me was to find a group of Crimson Finch (I've since found them a few times). As well as the common honeyeaters (such as Yellow-tinted, White-gaped, Dusky, Brown and White-throated Honeyeater), I found the Sandstone form of Silver-crowned Friarbird, some Masked Woodswallows, a female White-winged Triller and a White-bellied Sea-Eagle. In the afternoon we did a boat tour down two sections of the gorge ("Two Gorge Tour") - very pretty country which didn't yield many birds (but then there was a Peregrine Falcon at a roost high on a cliff).

23 June

I spent the day walking and birding in the area around Katherine. It was a pretty good day!  I saw one new species, a Masked Finch - for long enough to be happy with my views of it, but not for long enough to get a photo. I caught up today with many species that I haven't seen often, for example, Yellow-tinted Honeyeater, White-throated Honeyeater, White-gaped Honeyeater, Dusky Honeyeater, Great Bowerbird, Yellow Oriole and the northern form of Grey-crowned Babbler. I had a great view of a female Pheasant Coucal too, managing photos of her with a grasshopper she had caught. And, so many Black Kites today (and also quite a few Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos).

22 June

After flying from Sydney, we collected the rental car at Darwin airport and headed south on the Stuart Highway. There wasn't time for specific stops for birdwatching as we wanted to be in Katherine before the kangaroos came out. I saw well over 100 Black Kites over the 300km journey (perhaps over 200). Several pairs of Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos flew over. In Katherine, there were Red-collared Lorikeets and some White-breasted Woodswallows, and then on dusk hundreds and hundreds of Little Corellas flew over, heading towards the river where presumably they had roosts. I estimated at least 500 birds.

June 2019

16 June

I joined HBOC's New Members' Day function at the Wetlands Centre. We had a pleasant walk for an hour and a half or so, followed by a picnic lunch (i.e it was all very much the usual format). It's still very dry there, with most of the ponds holding no water or very little water.  Consequently waterbird numbers were low, the highlight being 100 or more Grey Teal at the front pond but not much else. We saw some raptors though: Black-shouldered Kite, Brown Goshawk, Swamp Harrier, Whistling Kite.

15 June

Ross Zimmerman and I surveyed Ash Island, which was quiet apart from a group of 15 Red-capped Plover at Fish Fry Flats and a total count of 22 Black-fronted Dotterel. We only saw one raptor all day - a Brown Falcon. Afterwards we hurried up to Birubi Point, for a 4.5km walk along the beach with others. eventually we came to a group of 20 Aust. Pied Oystercatchers, and amongst them was the South Island Pied Oystercatcher that we were seeking!  A new bird (in Australia) for me; I saw hundreds of them when I was in New Zealand. We met many other birds on the beach walk, and passed several pairs of foraging Red-capped Plovers.

13 June

Rob Kyte, Greg & Judy Little and I met for a couple of hours to plan our next activities for the Broughton Island project and the Rufous Scrub-bird project. We have now set dates for all sorts of activities - it will be a busy spring/summer!

12 June

I had a couple of stimulating exchanges with OEH staff today, one was about beach-nesting birds and the other about Rufous Scrub-birds. In the evening I went to the HBOC meeting, where Mick Todd was guest speaker talking about Regent Parrot conservation efforts down near the Murray River. I think that will be my next trip away (after we get back from the Northern Territory trip, that is!).

11 June

Our plans for camping on the long weekend fell through, so this morning I went to the Swansea area for a morning of birding. It was a nice day for it but the birds didn't oblige all that well. The highlights were two pairs of Aust. Pied Oystercatchers and several largish flocks of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters with some White-naped Honeyeaters mixed in. And also there were Brown Honeyeaters at several locations

4 June

It was forecast to be a wet day but I went along to the HBOC scheduled outing at Galgabba (near Swansea) just in case. Unfortunately, just as we came up to a good patch of blossom that was brimming with Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, the heavens opened up ... and that was it for the day. I used the unplanned spare time to finish off a paper about Rufous Scrub-birds, which I have now submitted.

3 June

I went to the Martindale valley for the day. It was cool and blustery and for most of the time the birding was fairly quiet. I found a flock of 40 or so Zebra Finch feeding in a paddock along with some Yellow-rumped Thornbills and Double-barred Finches. At Medhurst Bridge there was a Black Falcon soaring over, just as I arrived. Alas, by the time I got my camera out it was too far away for a photo. However, I did manage some shots of the two Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters that were hanging around. The Square-tailed Kite nest at the H.H. White Bridge is falling into disrepair but right alongside it is a new, similar-looking nest. I didn't see any kites though.