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 2020

14 July

The Silvereyes paper in Corella was officially out today (ie it's now on the Corella website) so I did some admin work around that plus I reviewed a manuscript on shorebirds that had been submitted for Stilt. Quite time-consuming stuff!

8 July

In the evening it was the HBOC meeting, which once again was done by Zoom and went smoothly. There was quite a lot made of my Hobbs Medal award, perhaps too much (but, I did enjoy it). 

7 July

I went along to the HBOC mid-week outing, which started at Ray Lawler Park in Morpeth. There were at least eight Nankeen Night-Herons in their usual roost; it was the first time I've seen that species this year. Everything else there was fairly standard. Later we went around to Earthcare Park, where we were greeted by large numbers of Musk Lorikeets plus lesser numbers of at least two other lorikeet species. Down at the wetlands a group of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins flew over me, and I heard a probably Australian Spotted Crake but not for long enough to be completely confident about it.

5 July

I finally finished the Broughton Island report (at least, the draft of it) and sent it to the NPWS Ranger Susanne Callaghan for her comments. It's been taking up a lot of my time this past week or more!

June 2020

29 June

I joined a group inspection of "Curlew Point", an area on Kooragang Island which is being restored to shorebird habitat by removal of mangroves and other weeds. I told the group that I reckon I saw my first ever shorebirds there, back in the 1980s when I was newly arrived in Newcastle (the site then was called Fluoride Spit, because of a nearby factory, and it was all shelly sand and mud ie no mangroves). The mangrove removal was still happening and hence not many birds, but I reckon it will be great in future years. A Little Eagle flew over us while we were out there, and two European Goldfinch flew across in front of my car as I drove to the meeting spot.

28 June

Rob Kyte and I went to the Gloucester Tops (as did lots of other people!). We focussed on two Rufous Scrub-bird territories. One bird was calling when I arrived and for 15-20 minutes after that, but then went quiet for the day. The other bird, it was calling more often but we're not sure if it was the normal bird as it was more than 200m from its usual area. Unfortunately we couldn't get a view of it to see if it had a colour band. Other birds were quiet too but we recorded Red-browed Treecreeper, Crescent Honeyeater, Superb Lyrebird, Olive Whistler etc. Very cold day up there, maximum of 6C.

25-26 June

I'm working on a report covering the first 3 years of phase 2 of the Broughton Island and I finally have begun to make some decent progress on it. Also, I have received the proofs for the Corella paper about Broughton Island Silvereyes i.e. that one is almost done and dusted now.

22-24 June

Margaret and I went up to Seal Rocks for a few days, which gave me some birding opportunities. On the way there we stopped at Neranie, in Myall Lakes NP.  There was no blossom hence hardly any nectivores, but I had a nice encounter with a small group of Varied Sittellas. After we'd settled in at Seal Rocks I walked to the lighthouse, finding about 30 species, nothing out of the ordinary but I had nice views of some species e.g. New Holland Honeyeater. Next day I tried more sites in the National Park, where I found Forest Ravens a couple of times and a pair of Brahminy Kites. I also tried at Smiths Lake, which was full of water and no waterbirds, but I had several species of honeyeater (in small numbers, on the track to Horse Point). Back in the area around the lighthouse I found a couple of Topknot Pigeons and a pair of Aust. Pied Oystercatchers on a beach.

Next morning, on a different beach there was a Sooty Oystercatcher and about 30 Topknot Pigeons around the village, also many Australasian Figbirds - they were far more vocal than they had been before. We went home via the Bombah Point ferry and a walk at Dees Corner/Mungo Brush.

21 June

I was on a pelagic out of Port Stephens all day, feeling fortunate to do so since fewer people than normal were allowed on board because of COVID restrictions. It was a cold rainy day though, which took a bit of the edge off things. The bird diversity was low for most of the time, dominated by Australasian Gannets and Providence Petrels both in big numbers, and plenty of Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, but very little else around. A couple of other albatross species came by briefly. However, late in the drift, things picked up considerably. I saw a storm-petrel, which turned out to be a Black-bellied Storm-Petrel and eventually it gave us very good views. Then we had a handful of Grey-faced Petrels come through, followed by a Cape Petrel, followed by a Brown Skua, followed by a Northern Giant-Petrel. The day was saved! We also had a pair of Orcas (at times, right at the boat), a large pod of dolphins, and several Humpback Whales in the inshore waters.

19 June

Ross and I surveyed Ash Island this morning, because of a double-booking for tomorrow. After the fog lifted it was a nice day. There were reasonable numbers of small shorebirds on Fish Fry Flats: 29 Red-capped Plovers including an adult with two runners, and also 19 Black-fronted Dotterels. Shining Bronze-cuckoos were heard at three well-separated locations. There were two Pied Stilts on Swan Pond, the first time in several months that there have been any stilts recorded during the surveys. We saw at least three White-bellied Sea-Eagles, and a probable fourth bird, Whistling Kite, Osprey, Swamp Harrier and two Brown Falcons. For a while I thought one of them had a red colour band on its right leg, but closer inspection of a photo revealed it had a wound and that what I was seeing was blood. The two birds seemed to be having a territorial dispute and the wound possibly was from fighting.

In the afternoon I had settled into some desk work when I received a phone call from Paul Sullivan, CEO of BirdLife Australia, to tell me that I had been awarded the 2020 John Hobbs Memorial Medal. What a surprise! My day went to pieces - I just couldn't concentrate at all after that. Instead I made lots of phone calls, and then went for a long walk to calm down a bit.

11-12 June

I spent two days in the Merriwa area, staying in Merriwa overnight. The birding was quiet on Thursday, with the highlight being to hear although not track down an Emu a couple of times. On Friday in Goulburn River National Park, at various locations, I found Hooded Robins, Turquoise Parrots, a RockwarblerSpeckled Warblers, White-eared and Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, and quite a few Diamond Firetails. There were several year-ticks amongst that lot, so I went home happy.

10 June

We had another HBOC meeting by Zoom in the evening. Great meeting and lots of people connected in for it.

6-8 June

Four of us went to Broughton Island for 3 days, to resume the bird studies project. We had to get a special exemption first. Almost immediately on landing, we saw a young Osprey, which had been banded in mid-December as a chick in a nest on the island. We saw the bird regularly all three days, at various locations around the island. We were thinking it was the only Osprey on the island, but just as we were leaving a group of three birds came in (from where??) to join it for a short while. There was a pair of Aust. Pied Oystercatchers on Providence Beach on Saturday afternoon, not seen subsequently, but I counted 25 Sooty Oystercatchers there the next day and there were at least five others of them elsewhere on the island. I had a couple of views of Eastern Reef Egret, and we have set up some camera traps in the cave where they probably nest. On the way across there was a spot with 18 Australasian Gannets fishing. We saw plenty of them around the island too. On our way back, we had an Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross (briefly) and a group of three Hutton's Shearwaters spent a couple of minutes racing the boat, providing great views for most of that time. My camera was stowed in the hatch, alas!

5 June

Three of us did a trip to the Gloucester Tops today; the first time that sort of thing has been permitted in the past several months. It was a very cold day up there and the Rufous Scrub-birds were rather quiet - just a few noises heard, except at one territory when, after we'd been there for more than an hour, suddenly the bird did a couple of minutes of regular calling. I had a brief view of it. There were many Crescent Honeyeaters; they were everywhere that we stopped and at one spot with lots of banksias there were 10+ birds. I saw two Olive Whistlers together, which isn't something that's happened for me before, and we heard Red-browed Treecreepers too. We saw several Superb Lyrebirds overall, and I found a display mound (in on of the scrub-bird territories).

1 June

I went up to Nelson Bay, firstly to the NPWS office to collect a trail camera that I will take to Broughton Island on the trip that is scheduled for next weekend. Then I went around to Barry Park (at Fingal Bay) and did a coastal walk there. I saw 5 Ospreys including an immature bird, also a pair of Sooty Oystercatchers, a Whistling Kite and miscellaneous other species. It wasn't exactly jumping! I also called in at the Gan Gan lookout, which made Barry Park look very good. But, it was great to be out birding again!

May 2020

23 May

Ross and I did the Ash Island survey, on a cold and very windy morning. We didn't find a lot of birds, and no migratory shorebirds. However, we had 24 Black-fronted Dotterels and 35 Red-capped Plovers on Fish Fry Flats, and also saw Chestnut Teal and Brown Quail with young, several Black Swans on nests, a Gull-billed Tern and five species of raptor. So, not a bad morning!

21 May (an update)

I have finally finished the Broughton Island Silvereyes paper and also drafted a paper about the Rufous Scrub-bird study. The daily Penta Puzzles continue to go out (but, I have announced that they will finish on 30 May). I've processed two more notebooks of old records (getting them into Birdata) and am mid-way through the S's in my editing of bird photos.

18 May

I decided to do an outing even though I'm not sure what we're allowed to do or not do. Anyhow, I went to Blacksmiths Nature Reserve for a while in the afternoon, between the showers. There had been reports of Red-whiskered Bulbuls but I  wasn't able to track any of them down. Highlights included a New Holland Honeyeater amongst all the White-cheeked Honeyeaters, and a Spangled Drongo.

13 May

We held the HBOC meeting using Zoom - I had been an advocate for this and so I was quite delighted as to how well it went. The two talks were high quality, which helped.

6 May

Some excitement today - a parcel arrived, bearing two framed certificates (one for Margaret, one for me) and a cheque. This was all for the prize we won for best paper in the journal Corella for 2019. In the evening there was an HBOC management committee meeting, which was done using Zoom. It was great to see some familiar faces for the first time in 6-7 weeks.

5 May

Today I was in another all-day Zoom workshop, this time to develop a Site Action Plan for shorebirds in the Manning estuary. There were fewer participants than for the two preceding workshops but we still had 20 or so people and once again I was quite pleased with the way the day went.

3 May (an update)

I'm still housebound wrt birdwatching, because of the Covid-19 lockdown. I'm continuing to process old photos (although I've lost a lot of enthusiasm for that task!) and I'm also still sending out a daily crossword plus back-entering old records into Birdata. I've also had a couple of Whistler manuscripts to work on (as an editor of the journal). Time passes.