Category Archives: Uni


2013 – a super late review

As they say – better late than never! In my defence, I have recently become a father, and up until his birth most of this year was spent preparing for the arrival, and now he’s here, most of the time is spent feeding, changing, or sleeping. there has been some birding, but not as much as usual!

So, as far as 2013 went, it was a pretty solid year. 274 species seen, a graduate Certificate of Ornithology obtained (to be upgraded to a Graduate Diploma at a future juncture), and… well that’s about it birdwise. I’m quite happy with that total of birds seen as there weren’t any huge trips last year – 3 trips to Victoria, with 1 all but rained out, only the 1 pelagic and only a few shortish trips around Sydney and down the coast, as evidenced in the Google earth image below. (to follow!)

Birding highlights included:

  • repeated Freckled Duck sightings at several localities – they’ve obviously had a good breeding season;
  • some amazing close views of various raptors, including Osprey, Square-tailed Kite, Collared Sparrowhawk and Spotted Harrier, among others;
  • a good year for shorebirds, with Oriental Plover, Ruff, Pectoral Sandpiper, Sanderling, Long-toed Stint, and Broad-billed Sandpiper making an appearance at different times – also dipping on another Oriental Plover, Asian Dowitcher, another BbS etc;
  • photographing and spending some time with nesting Turquoise Parrots;
  • leading a group of Ornithology students on a great days birding around north-eastern Victoria, and getting just about everyone a tick or 6; and…
  • getting to spend close to 3 weeks birding in and around Chiltern, which included my patented “spend 7-10 nights out looking for Barking Owls and only find Boobooks” – once again, that plan came to fruition.

So this year – seeing as I’m now a new dad, I’m hoping to get to about 200 birds this year, with no interstate travel planned, and pretty much all my birding to happen in and around Sydney, although we are looking at a trip down the coast later in the year. I’m also hoping to keep things here updated more regularly, which theoretically should be more possible as I’m pinned to the house more.

Happy birding everyone.


Victoria Trip, August 2013

In late August 2013, I had another residential school for my course, again down at Albury. Once again, I camped in much better birding areas nearby, this time staying at the Rutherglen Caravan Park, as Chiltern Caravan Park was flooded. I wasn’t planning on any trip after the study this time, unlike every other time I’ve headed down for a residential school, so I had to make the most of the birding while I was there.

So I did. And it was glorious.

There were 2 main highlights – having one of the most amazing Turquoise Parrot experiences of my life, and getting reasonable views of a banded Regent Honeyeater.

Male Turquoise Parrot

Male Turquoise Parrot at Bartley’s Block

Bartley’s Block is easily my favourite, and probably one of the best, spots within the Chiltern-Mt. Pilot National Park. I never fail to have a good time there, and quite often, I also manage to see a boat load of birds, and the odd mammal. This trip was no different, and I managed to get down to Bartley’s on just about every morning, including taking a group of birders from the course out for a morning, as well as a few random birders who tagged along for the morning. One of the highlights of Bartley’s is that it is a pretty reliable site for Turquoise Parrot, unless you’re taking people along with the promise of Turquoise Parrot. To be fair, I had photographed a pair checking out a hollow 2 days earlier (male above, female below), so that promise wasn’t entirely misguided. And one of the party saw a pair when he went back to the cars for a rest as we went chasing more birds, so they were around.

Female Turquoise Parrot - Bartley's Block

Female Turquoise Parrot at Bartley’s Block

Anyway – when I managed these photos, I was recording the squabbling of the resident White-browed Babblers, and as I was crouched down in the tussock grass recording, an explosion of colour came up from my right. It took a few seconds for me to register what had happened – it was a pair of Turq’s that had flown up to check out the old hollow fence post/tree stump in front of me, about 10 meters away! Needless to say, I dropped my audio recording gear, grabbed the camera, and slowly made my way around to get a better shot of the entry to the hollow, which is what the male is sitting at in the shot above. They were initially aware I was there, but sitting quietly watching them, they went about their business and eventually disregarded me, before flying off to have a look at some other hollow. The whole experience lasted about 10 minutes, and is up there as one of the best wildlife/birding experiences I’ve had. Awesome stuff.

The other highlight was getting good views of a banded and radio tagged Regent Honeyeater near the intersection of Donchi Hill Road and the Chiltern-Rutherglen Road. Sure – it is kind of cheating a bit because they had tracked it there, and essentially we just got off the bus, stood around listening to Johnno from the recovery team talk about the program, and then the bird turned up, but it’s always nice to see such a great bird. My previous photographic efforts involved pouring rain, and this one involved a howling gale that meant we had to wear hard-hats (there’s probably not many sights nerdier than 20-odd birders standing around in the bush wearing hard-hats!), but I’m fairly happy with the results. This is a banded female that was released in April, when I was also down in the Chiltern area. Then I heard the birds flying around out near Magenta Mine, but couldn’t see any.

Regent Honeyeater

Regent Honeyeater

Other birding highlights included a guided tour of several old Barking Owl nest sites that Iain Taylor monitored during a study he conducted several years ago, so now I know where to go looking for this species that I’ve put in many yards for down there, but despite hearing one once, never seeing them, lots of frog action, some good spotlighting, and the networking opportunities of meeting like-minded birders. I’m having the next year or 2 off from the course to pursue another couple of things, but I’ll be back to complete the Diploma, after (hopefully) graduating with the Certificate in a few weeks time. As I said a couple of months ago, the Graduate Certificate/Diploma of Ornithology is a really good course, and while I’ve enjoyed it greatly, I’m really, really enjoying being able to go birding instead of reading about birds. There’s still a chance I’ll be Doctor Troy at some point. I’m also now able to write blog posts and catch up on processing photos, so that’s also a big plus.

I’m still entering all my data, but I must’ve seen close to 160 species over the 10 days I was away. I’ll update this when I’ve got the numbers, and post a list.

You can see some more images on Flickr.

Over halfway through the year already!

Where does the time go…?

Last time I wrote, I’d just got back from the Oriental Plover twitch. Since then, I’ve been to Melbourne twice (only to Western Treatment Plant once though), done the Princes Highway in driving rain, and apart from that, flat out with uni and not processing photos. However, with uni finished for semester (kick-off for semester 2 is next week), I’ve been going birding when possible (pelagic this Sunday), and giving the website a slight makeover. That is all backend at the moment, but stay tuned for all new galleries as I move away from flickr to hosting everything locally.

So let’s start at the start – Victoria in mid-February, mostly to see My Bloody Valentine (a band in case you’re wondering), but the camera came along and a small bit of birding was squeezed in. The highlights were: Western Treatment Plant – once again, an awesome place. Nothing amazingly unexpected – there had been a Broad-billed Sandpiper around, but I didn’t see it, and probably the highlight was a flock of 6 Brolga, which was a new bird for my Victorian list. I managed close to 80 birds in 4 hours, got some good photos (yet to be processed), and saw a fantastic band. That was a good day.

Shortly after that, uni started. I am seriously loving this degree, but its quite hard to study birds, when that same study reduces the time available to go birding! To be fair, one assignment did involve spending heaps of time in the field, surveying birds at one of my favourite spots, Mt. Bass Firetrail in the Royal NP, and the residential school involved a full day in the field birding, and I saw over 150 birds while on residential school, including the trip there and back, but I missed out on some truly amazing Sydney Pelagic trips, most stingingly the one where they got the Barau’s Petrel… gragh! aaaanyway… apart from birding, one of the hghlights of the residential school was the taxidermy. I am absolutely terrible at it, and am quite happy to never have to prepare a skin again, but to literally get my hands inside a Boobook and a Crested Pigeon and see just how fragile these organisms I love to chase are, gives a new dimension to birding.

Marks come out for semester 1 in a couple of days, and looking at my unscaled marks I’ve spanked one subject and belted the other one, so hopefully scaling is favourable to me and I destroy it. Looking at the assignments for this coming semester, one appears to have me conducting silly amounts of time in the field birding again… did I mention that I love this degree?

Drs Dave Watson and Melanie Massaro know their stuff, and to anyone reading who is thinking of doing the Graduate Diploma (or Certificate) in Ornithology at CSU – I encourage you to give it a crack. I’ve got a different lecturer this semester, but he’s been an ornithologist for years and years, so I’m excited to learn from him too.

Ayeay – the birding! I camped in Chiltern as I usually do, so managed to get out each morning and get out most nights. Bartley’s Block was amazing, as usual, and despite the Regent Honeyeater captive bred birds being released, and hearing them at the release sight, I couldn’t see any. There were also some very late Fork-tailed Swifts around, and some White-browed Woodswallows,along with the usual suspects. Loads of Scarlet Robins as well. After that, I swung down to Melbourne to visit the nephew, and share a bottle of wine with the parents of said nephew, I then came back to Sydney via the Princes Highway. Unfortunately, the weather was absolute pants. I only managed to bird Sale Common in between rain squalls (good numbers of raptors though) and Lake Wallacoot (wallagoot?) in Bournda NP on the NSW South Coast, again in between rain (highlight being 5 species of raptor in the air at once, including calling Sea-Eagles!). It utterly hosed down for the rest of the trip, so I aborted a trip to Barren Grounds.

In actual birding news, we went spotlighting in the Royal for Sooty Owl on saturday, but apart from hearing a Tawny Frogmouth and an Owlet-nightjar, and seeing an Eastern Wallaroo, the bush was very quiet. Im looking forward to getting out on the boat off Port Stephens this Sunday.

While I can’t promise that I’ll make more regular posts and whatnot this semester, I’ll try to try. And with that in mind, I’ll try to post a report of the pelagic next week!

Good birding!

No longer a graduand…

Well, it’s done. I’m officially a graduate, not a graduand. Stupid word that my phone spellcheck says is spelt wrong, by when the chancellor of a uni says that’s what you are, that’s what you are.

Anyway – birds! Haven’t done loads of birding yet, that all kicks off tomorrow. That said, I was out at Berry Jerry SF this morning, and saw stubble quail, superb parrot and the usual suspects, saw white-necked heron out near CSU, and when you add the peregrine falconfrom tumut yesterday, it’s been pretty good thus far.

Tomorrow we’re off to Swan Hill via Leeton and Moama where I hope to see some crakes and feral ostrich respectively. I also am hoping to see grey falcon at Leeton- same as last year, but I very much doubt I’ll manage that. Even though it’s the same time of year at the same place, I don’t expect to see one.

Anyhoo – more tomorrow maybe from sunny Swan Hill!

South Australian Adventure Ahoy!

Howdy all,

As some of you know, we’re about to head off to South Australia for a couple of weeks of intensive birding. I’ll be trying to update this blog whenever I have access to the interwebs, which will be sporadic, but regular.

We head off next week, and after graduating at sunny Wagga Wagga, we head out into western Victoria to try again for Mallee Emu-wren at Hattah, then out to Gluepot via Ned’s Corner to try for everything that you find there. From there, off to Port Augusta and Lake Gilles NP to get a few WA birds on the eastern edge of their range, then up to the Flinders Ranges for a bit. After stooging around there for a week or thereabouts, it’s off to Adelaide for some plastics (well, Barbary Dove) and to check out the Pandas. Then off to Kangaroo Island, and back to Sydney via Mt Gambier and the Grampians. About 4 and a bit weeks and 9000km all up.

We were going to get up to Mt Lyndhurst, but recent rains have seen the road open and closed to 4wd only, and as much as I’d like to take the un-4wd up the Strzlecki, I don’t really want to risk it and the fines. At the moment it’s open to 4wd, but it was closed to all traffic last week. So I figure I’ll go back in a couple of years and spend proper time looking for Chestnut-breasted Whiteface, and instead spend an extra day in the Flinders.

Keryn will be doing a photo blog on my flickr in a new set, and I’ll be doing landscape, birds, flowers and insects as I find them. Not expecting too much in the way of reptiles, but will put anything from those groups up as well.

Anyway – should be a corker of a trip – I’m aiming for 15 lifers on it, and there’s a possibility (albeit slim!) for plenty more than that. Although that requires things to be well out of range, and me to be very lucky.

And for any budding thieves out there, there will be people staying in our house, so don’t bother :)



ps: unfortunately due to the earthquake and tsunami, my lens was held up :( so no shiny new lens for this trip…

Sydney – Chiltern – 23AUG2010


Shirking electoral shenanigans, I embrace my inner nerd and go birding. Well, I have to come here for uni. Actually, Albury – well Thurgoona is where the uni is, although I don’t rate either place, so I’m writing from Chiltern, Vic. And there’s no embracing my inner nerd – I love it.

Aaaanyway, mostly travel today – around 600km worth. Still managed to pick up 33 birds, inc 9 raptors! Stupid amounts of Black-shouldered Kites around Albury. Makes it tricky to look for the Letter-winged Kite reported here around a month ago – particularly at 110km/h, but anyways.

Probable highlight was Turquoise Parrots at the Honeyeater picnic area at Chiltern – I usually have to go to the nearby Bartley’s Block for that. Was going to go spotlighting for owls tonight, but decided to drink goon instead. WOO.

Uni fires up tomorrow, so birding becomes limited, but stay tuned- the next 8 days should see some gold!

Updates are via phone, so no photos until I get back to Sydney, or hi-jack someones wireless.

Residential school is OVAR!!

Well. That was full on. 3 days of 8 hour labs with an exam. Didn’t leave much time for birding (had about an hour in the mornings, and it was dark by the time I got back) but that all changes tomorrow.

I’m heading off to Pyramid Hill to go spotlighting for Plainswanderer with Simon Starr and will be birding for about 6 hours on the way there, with 4 hours of guided birding after that. Should be champion.

I also just saw on ABC news Victoria that there’s a plague of locusts in the area I’m heading too. Should be lots of fun. There was a shot of the highway, and you couldn’t see the road for the locusts!! I’ll put something up here or on flickr when I get back to Sydney.

So yeah – there’ll be a report on some actual birds tomorrow. I promise.