Category Archives: NSW

Oriental Plover

I tried to hold out for next weekend to check out the Oriental Plover that turned up at Shoalhaven Heads, on the NSW South Coast. I planned initially to go down on Sunday, but waking up at 5.30 and checking the radar which showed torrential rain up and down the coast changed my mind. Then the forecasts for the rest of the week indicated that it was only going to get worse – I had about a 4 hour window from dawn today to try. And try I did. And the window shut at around the predicted time.

Anyway – I got the Oriental Plover – bird #527. Took about 2 hours of scanning through the large flock of PGP’s, and there were 5 very pale birds, including 1 that I reckon is a fair candidate for Grey Plover, but in atrocious light, sea haze and light fog, I saw the beast. Initially I scoped it from about 250 meters and was very satisfied that it was it, but I needed better views, so I went around the NE side of the roost to get closer, while not heading directly for the birds. Then I couldn’t relocate it (it was windy, and all the birds were roosting/hiding/sheltering). Over the next hour, I met a lovely couple and we were looking at them, the Little Terns, the Red-capped Plovers, and trying to work out what these lighter PGP’s were. I was fairly convinced that one, which steadfastly refused to move its head for the best part of the time I was there, was the Oriental Plover. After a while, the couple who turned up left, and I decided to head even further around to the east of the flock to get a bit closer (ninja commando style all the way), I put the scope on them again, and there it was – it was the very pale bird that had been sleeping/resting for the whole time all along.

So anyway – didn’t manage shots apart from distant shots of the whole flock, but I managed to see the bird, and get back to the car about 5 seconds after the rain started, and which has only slightly abated in the last half hour – before being predicted to pick up and be mental all night.

And isn’t that what birding is about? Getting out and about, cold, wet and tired, to see a bird that looks pretty similar to all the others?

Happy birding!

2012 – a review

What a year! and what a belated summary!

A beautiful Olive-backed Oriole at Bowra

A beautiful Olive-backed Oriole at Bowra

2012 saw me go on 2 big trips, 2 smaller ones, and many, many day trips around Sydney. The big trips were – as regular readers of this blog no doubt remember with great warmth and fondness ;) – up to Bowra in September, and SW Victoria in December. The shorter trips were down the south coast of NSW. I managed 4 pelagic trips out of Sydney (March, May, July and October), each one giving me a lifer – the highlight no doubt being Cooks Petrel. I saw 352 species last for the year, taking the life list up to 526. Not too shabby an effort at all.

All the spots I recorded birds at in 2012

All the spots I recorded birds at in 2012

2013 promises to be a touch quieter. I’m going back to Uni to do more study, and while that will stop me getting out as much as I’ll be working, it also has 2 lots of residential schools that have got a day off in between lab work. So, weather being kind, I’ll have a full day in Autumn and Spring to kick about the Chiltern area in between learning about birds. woo. I’m going to be visiting Werribee STW at least 3 times this year – which isn’t bad for a Sydney birder. The first trip there will be a brief visit to the T Section ponds in a couple of weeks time, then again in mid April (which is when the OBP’s are around – I don’t expect to see any though) and again in late August/early September. We’re planning a trip to Northern NSW, an area I haven’t visited in many years, and there’ll be the usual end of year trip to somewhere as yet undecided. Who knows how many birds I’ll manage this year, but I’d expect somewhere around the 300 mark.

Fairy Prion

Fairy Prion

Anyway – all the best to everyone for 2013 birding. My first “big” trip will be tomorrow next week when I head down to Shoalhaven Heads to try for this Oriental Plover, and then swing back via Shellharbour swamps to get Painted Snipe and Pectoral Sandpiper on the year list. I might even try to get to Barren Grounds – why not try for Ground Parrot eh? It was going to be today (Sunday) but the rain has thwarted my plans. Let’s hope the OP sticks around!

Here’s a few more highlight shots from 2012.

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo

Buller's Albatross being ridiculously photogenic

Buller’s Albatross being ridiculously photogenic

This White Chinned Petrel got everyone quite excited

This White Chinned Petrel got everyone quite excited

Red-capped Plover on the beach at Shoalhaven Heads

Red-capped Plover on the beach at Shoalhaven Heads


Bowra star trails - the only clear night of the trip!

Bowra star trails – the only clear night of the trip!

Victoria Trip, December 2012

212 birds, ~4400 km driven, 1 new nephew visited – all round a bloody good time. It was the annual end of year holiday, and holiday we did! The trip was essentially Sydney -> Melbourne -> Great Ocean Road -> Grampians -> Sydney.

Full photo set here. And I’ll add images to this shortly as well – they’re  currently uploading and I’m about to go and see some bands!

All the places that I recorded birds on the trip

Highlights are too many to go into, but I’ll have a crack ;)

  • Broad-billed Sandpiper at the Western Treatment Plant in the Western Lagoons section – another birder said he couldn’t find it the day before, but I managed to scope it and get good views, but was unable to relocate it when I got the camera out – it was in with more waders than you could shake a stick at, and I must say I was quite disappointed to not get shots. My only other BbS was at Cairns a few years ago, and that bird was too far away for photos, so yet again – it eludes my camera…
  • Budgies in the Riverina – I managed to see 2 birds at Wonga Wetlands (Albury), which is the first time I’ve seen them anywhere near the SW slopes in all my years of visiting those areas. There were other reports from them in the area (Yackandandah etc) so I’m confident it’s some sort of dispersal rather than escapees.
  • Western Treatment Plant – that place deserves a medal for awesome. I’m so glad I’ve got the key… I should really do the induction so I can get into the other areas. Birding highlights were Broad-billed Sandpiper (obviously), Grey Plover, breeding plumaged Curlew Sandpiper, Freckled Duck, loads of shorebirds that had my ever patient partner not complaining while I spent hours sorting through them, a great big bastard of a tiger snake, and seeing 77 species in 4.5ish hours of driving around.
Curlew Sandpiper - Werribee

Curlew Sandpiper – Werribee

  • Surprise birding spots – places that look good on the map that I’d not heard of before but decided to give them a shot – spots like Tower Hill Reserve near Warrnambool, Badgers Weir near Healesville, Ocean Grove NR near… Ocean Grove. Get out there – go to new spots, see new birds, or see the same birds you’ve seen before in new places.
  • The amount of water around Chiltern – I only got to Chiltern Dam #1, and managed 45 species in about 45 minutes, including Latham’s Snipe. When I first visited Chiltern back in 2006, I was able to walk around the dam in about 4 minutes – you can’t now as it’s totally full. The plus side is that there are ephemeral wetlands all around it, that were full of birds – Snipe, Night-herons, White-necked Herons, woodswallows, ducks, spoonbills, parrots, pelicans, finches, etc etc etc. Get amongst it – it’s great down there at the moment.
  • White-necked Herons – looking at the stats, I recorded 110 individuals at 24 locations. I usually average 5-10 WnH’s a year, so I’ve done well this trip. I saw loads up on the way to Bowra as well earlier in the year, so I guess they’ve had a few good years of breeding.
  • Mammals! I saw at least 10 species of mammal including Koalas in the Otways, Australian Fur-seal surfing in Port Phillip Bay, Brushtail and Ringtailed Possums at Dunkeld, kangaroos and wallabies all over the shop, Echidnas were quite common – and not much road kill.
Swamp Harrier at Tower Hill NR near Warrnambool

Swamp Harrier at Tower Hill NR near Warrnambool

If you want to see the big list of birds seen, click on the more button below.

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Curracurrang Cove, Royal National Park

Spent a pleasant enough spring morning on Sunday doing the Wattamolla to Curracurrang Cove walk at the Royal NP this morning – further training for my trip to Bowra in … not very long at all!

The highlights were several – a pod of around 30 Bottlenosed Dolphin, Tawny Crowned Honeyeaters a-plenty, a Peregrine Falcon buzzing a small group of feeding Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, and around 30 other bird species. Not much in the way of landscape shots, as it appears that half of Sydney was also enjoying the sunshine, but I hope you enjoy this Tawny-crowned Honeyeater sans right foot. I’ll upload some more if I get a chance to process them before I go away.

Tawny-crowned Honeyeater – Gliciphila melanops

Deer Pool, Royal National Park, 26 August 2012

Royal National Park heath, with Little Marley beach on the horizon.

With some lovely late winter sunshine and some nice weather, we decided to go down to the Royal National Park and do the walk to Deer Pool. Highlights were the wildflowers in full show, and bird wise was a Little Eagle, and a Brown Goshawk (record shots below).

Little Eagle, top and bottom – even from >1km away, he was looking at us.

All in all a lovely walk, and one I can recommend to everyone.

I’ll upload some more images later on.

South Coast Trip, 26-29 May, 2012

Just back from a relaxing trip down to Kioloa, which is about halfway between Ulladulla and Bateman’s Bay, on the NSW South Coast.

Merry Beach, Kioloa

The weather was pretty good, the birding relaxing, and the sightings fairly reasonable. Funnily enough, the best birding was actually had around the caravan park, near a very degraded, stinky drain/creek. 68 species were seen over the 4 days we were away, with the highlights being looking down on a Peregrine Falcon as it cruised along the cliffs at Snapper Point; having a pair of Sea-eagles fly low over me while I surfed at Merry Beach, before they settled in the trees on the head-land above me watching me be awesome (haha!); three Hooded Plovers (2 adults, 1 juvenile) at Racecourse Beach at Ulladulla; and some of the most cooperative thornbills and robins I’ve met. Here’s a few shots from the trip for your enjoyment.

Eastern Yellow Robin

Brown Thornbill

Until next time.

Sydney Pelagic – 12 May 2012

Roger McGovern’s trip report is here, and my Flickr gallery here.

Habitat shot of a Providence Petrel

Went out on the May pelagic trip on board the Halicat with Bernhard (some of his shots here) on the weekend. It was a fairly quiet, but good trip. Highlights bird wise was easily Black-bellied Storm-petrel (which I didn’t get a photo of, but Raja did), finally getting some photos Providence Petrel, and sea-monster wise was quite easily the False Killer Whales. I’ve never seen them before apart from in the books, and they were awesome (some photos taken by Rohit here).

Campbell Island Albatross

Apart from that, there wasn’t much in the way of numbers of birds or diversity of species – I only took 750ish photos (down from my normal pelagic rate of ~2000) and after getting rid of all the overexposed, out of focus and blurred shots of ocean and wingtips, I have only got about 170ish shots to choose from – further evidence of the quiet nature of the trip. Plus it was quite rough on the way out – a fact not lost on the 4-5 people who were violently ill for much of the voyage. Fortunately I am yet to be sea-sick, and having now survived a couple of fairly rough trips, I think I’ll be right as long as I keep dosing up on the meds!

I’ll be back out on the July trip, which will be full of hot albatross action.

Youngish Black-browed Albatross

South coast of NSW

On the weekend, we had a quick trip down to the south coast of NSW to see how many northbound migrants were still around in breeding plumage (none in breeding plumage, not many that look to be staying for winter) and how many of our NZ friends have arrived to not freeze for their winter (plenty of Double-banded Plovers and a few White-fronted Tern). It also gave me a chance to give the new camera a whirl, and I think I’m in love with it. That’s probably for the best given it costs lots, hey?

Lake Conjola - Hooded Plover country

Fairly early Saturday morning we loaded up the car and drove out – destination being the very lovely Milton Country Cottages at Yattah Yattah. This was our second stay at this place, but unfortunately it was to be probably 1 or 2 days too short. If you go, you should really try and stay for at least 2 nights. We/I get no monetary reward for plugging the cottages – they’re just a very nice place to stay in a very nice part of the world run by very nice people.

Red-capped Plover - Charadrius ruficapillus

We headed down by the coast, and came back via the Southern Highlands. The paces I wanted to check out included Shoalhaven Heads, Lake Conjola and Burrill Lake. I saw 69 species over the weekend, with the high lights being Osprey, Lesser Sand Plover, Hooded Plover and a close encounter with a very tame Eastern Reef Egret, before it got scared away by a dog wielding person, who was intent on seeing what I was up to. Way to go, champ…

All in all, a very pleasant way to spend a weekend. We’re going down again in a few weeks time, but even further south, so this was a recon trip, if you will.

Until next time.

Eastern Reef Egret - Egretta sacra

Wises Track, Royal National Park

Spent the morning walking the southern part of the Wises Track in the Royal NP, checking out Colbee Knob, and then heading out to the end of the track that looks over the rainforest at Lady Carrington Drive.

The view from 34° 8' 1"S 151° 2' 38"E

Didn’t take the big glass, just some record keeping lenses – it was refreshing to go birding again, and not with photography as the main purpose. Needless to say, no bird shots, but I did manage this rather nice photo of a Copper-tailed Skink.

Copper-tailed Skink - Ctenotus taeniolatus

Boat Harbour – 20 March 2012

One of the things I love about my job is flexi time. Being the busy start of the year, I accrue silly amounts of the stuff, and I have to take it, particularly when the tide is right, and the weather is all good. So it was, that I left work at about 1ish on a Tuesday afternoon and headed down to Boat Harbour at Kurnell, with a view to seeing how many more Double-banded Plovers have arrived, and to see if anything interesting was about.

Double-banded Plover - one of 13 individuals

There were plenty of Double-banded Plovers, well up on the 2 or 3 I’d seen a few weeks ago. The Stints are also starting to colour up, and there was a Sanderling about as well. I didn’t manage to photograph the Sanderling, but I did get this shot of a very, very pale Stint that has me thinking Sanderling – have a look and let me know what you think.

The other highlight was this Nankeen Kestrel which posed nicely on a fence post for me. In the fairly harsh direct sunlight it was hard to get a nicely balanced image, but it’s ok I think.

Nankeen Kestrel

More shots of the trip are in the gallery.