Category Archives: Victoria

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.

Troy

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!
Troy

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

Cheers
Troy

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’reĀ  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.

Continue reading

Victoria trip, days 5-14ish

I’m writing from the Bowral of Victoria – Daylesford – in misty, drizzly rain. Yep – Victoria has really turned it on for us weather wise. That said, the birding has been spectacular, although it looks like im going to be robbed of my pilgrimage to Chiltern again, as the forecast is for more craptacular weather for the coming days when I’ll be there. The Internet is as atrocious as I’ve ever seen, so no photos until we get home in a few days, but I’ve seen 190 species of bird, 10ish mammals, but only 3 reptiles, over the past 2 weeks, and that’s a cracking return really. The Grampians were open this time around (much of the park was shut when we were there in 2011 following flood related damage) and if not for terribly hot conditions, more walks would have been done, but what we saw made me keen to get back.

I also think I’m ready to move to Port Fairy. That place shits on most other coastal towns in terms of awesome, plus it’s got 2 huge shearwater colonies and pelagic birding trips run out of it – what more can you ask for. Deakin University have got a campus at Warrnambool so I can get a job there, commute, and go birding at Tower Hill on the way back. Oh yeah – Tower Hill Reserve is awesome as well. Went there without expecting much, and came back about 3 hours later with a list of 50 odd birds. Gotta be happy with that. And the best pizza I’ve had in years was from some joint in the main strip in Port Fairy… Get down there.

Anyway – back in Sydney in … 4 more days? So in 5-6, expect a more well written, composed, and picture filled post, complete with a bird list for all you bird nerds who want to see a list of what I’ve seen.

Cheers
T

Victoria 2012 update – days 1-4

Hello thrill seekers – a quick update on the trip thus far. I’m writing from Ocean Grove, down on the Bellarine Peninsula, and sitting back with a glass of red. Happy days.

We’ve had some terrible weather with strong winds and rain for the first 2.5 days, shocking traffic coming out of Melbourne yesterday, and today’s been really nice. Tomorrow is meant to be about 37 or something, so I’m planning on being in rainforest near waterfalls, or at the pub. Or both. Probably in that order, actually.

As the weather has been poorly, birding opportunities have been limited. Down here, really I’ve only been able to have a look at the Rutherglen swamps (was going to hit up the usual Chiltern spots, but sleetish rain, 50+ kmh winds and being really cold kept me in the car), Lake Eildon, Badgers Weir in Healesville, and spent the day today at the Western Treatment Plant. The WTP was typically awesome, Badgers Weir was a surprisingly excellent spot, and Lake Eildon was also really nice, despite the strong winds.

Not counting today’s birds, we’ve seen about 90odd species, and after today, I reckon we’d be up to about 130-140ish birds. Tomorrow we head off to the Great Ocean Road, staying at Apollo Bay and hitting about 20 spots in the Otways. It will be awesome.

Until next time.

2011 – a review

What a year… Orange-bellied Parrot, Grey-backed Storm-petrel, Painted Snipe, Mallee Emu-wren, Short-tailed Grasswren, and Mallee Whipbird being some of the more awesome lifers I managed to pick up. I saw 340 species over the 12 month period, which included a few large trips: most notably the big one – Sydney->Wagga Wagga -> Hattah-Kulkyne NP -> Gluepot Reserve -> Flinders Ranges -> Kangaroo Island -> Grampians NP -> Sydney; and a counter-clockwise trip around Tasmania. Visiting 4 states picks up a large amount of different habitat, which in turn equals a large amount of birds. I’m still entering all my old records into the excellent Wildlife Recorder program, so I’m not 100% certain of my current lifer count, but I think I’m at 515 or 516.

Where I birded in 2011

Oh and I got my 300/2.8, which is a sexy beast of a lens. Shame that due to the tsunami delivery was delayed and I didn’t have it in time for the South Australia trip, but it came to Tasmania with me.

Anyway – what does 2012 have in store? First up, a trip to Ash Island tomorrow to get the Yellow Wagtails. Then around mid-year I’m thinking of a 35th birthday present to myself of a week round trip to Bowra Station. End of year will be either Christmas/Cocos-Keeling Islands (a week on each) or Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands (a week on each) – I’m still tossing up which trip to do… I’ll get good numbers (30+) lifers on either trip, but one involves about 18 hours in a plane to get there, the other one about 4… and it’s a couple of grand cheaper, which means I can get a new camera body and buy other new toys that I probably don’t need… ahhh first world problems…

So – the target for next year is a year list of 300, but more importantly, I am hoping to crack the 560 life list tally. If I get out on a few boats, get over to one set of islands and up to Bowra – no worries.

Good birding everyone!

Day 7, all is well in the world

Still no interwebs, but jeez the trip has been fun!

Spent most of yesterday at Gluepot, and I can’t wait to get back there. The first 2 birds I saw were lifers, and it doesn’t get much better than that. I managed to get lost in the mallee (again), but I managed to find new birds then, so all is good. Not sure where im at in terms of numbers, it’s either 496 or 497 – I need to check the records to see if I have a record of Little Crow – I don’t recall having seen one, but it seems unusual to have not given where I’ve birded over the years.

Anyway – currently kickin back in Clare, a lovely town in the Clare Valley. Off to a couple of CP’s tomorrow which will hopefully make up for some closed ones we tried to visit today (closed for feral animal control). That said, the birding isn’t the focus for tomorrow, but it’ll be back in a large way in about 36 hours time!

Cheers!

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 :)

Cheers

Troy

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