Category Archives: 2010

2010 in review

Just a quick summary of last 2010 in terms of birding. I had a fairly solid year, given that I didn’t get up to Queensland this year – highlights were many:

* 2x pelagic trips, with 6 lifers coming out of that,

* FINALLY getting on to Ground Parrot

* Plainswanderer would’ve been bird of the year, but then I went to Leeton, and managed to get a Grey Falcon. Easily bird of the year, and probably bird of the life list!

Tallies are: 299 for the year (just shy of my target of 300), and the life list is at 490.

*** EDIT *** Actually saw 299 for the year – I discovered while entering records on the weekend that I had missed entering data for all of october into the database, which included seeing Rockwarbler. So that has me even more agonizingly close to 300… oh well.

Targets for 2011: 350 for the year, and to crack the 500. I’m going to South Australia and Tasmania, so should easily get past 500. Also aiming to go on at least 4 pelagics, so should probably get to 515ish.

Anyway – happy birding all!

(belated) November 2010 Pelagic Report

After putting it off for a long time, I managed to pop my pelagic cherry back in July, and had such a fun time, I basically started planning my next trip straight away – looking at my assessment schedule, to see when I was free. I wasn’t free much, so planned it as an end of degree pelagic instead, which meant November. This time round, I went out with Mr Bernhard, who unfortunately didn’t quite get on with the conditions as well as he’d like.

Conditions were fairly brutal. 2-3 meter swell with 1-2 meter waves, with a NE wind providing some nice chop and sideways roll on top of that. Significantly different conditions from the July trip, which had a bit of bounce, but nothing too much. Again, I didn’t get sick, so I’ll start planning that Antarctic trip soon ;) haha!

Anyway – I met Bernhard at Rose Bay Wharf, and shortly after boarding, Hal gave us the “it’s going to be rough out there, so hold on to something whenever you move anywhere” talk. And as soon as we got in the open water, we started to bounce around. A lot.

First couple of birds seen were some shearwaters, and a couple of Jaegars, but nothing particularly close to the boat, so we powered out to 12 Mile Reef (I think). We actually stopped for a fur seal, but in the bouncy conditions, i didn’t really get any good photos of it – got some great shots of waves and general sea shots. In the conditions, there were no recreational fisher-people out, so we kept heading out to Brown’s Mountain without stopping. It was a rough, bouncy, fairly unpleasant trip out, with the first couple of people succumbing to sea sickness. When we got to Brown’s, the engines were cut, and the drift was started, all we needed now were the birds.

2nd year juvenile Black-browed Albatross

and none came. Well, not “none”, but not many.

We bounced, and rose, and fell, and rocked, and rose, and bounced, and tilted, and fell, etc etc, but hardly anything came in. Didn’t look like a good day out. bugger. On the corresponding trip last year, they found a Sperm Whale a few more km out past the shelf, so we decided to head out there to see if that could be repeated.

I’m writing this over a month after the event, so I might have my timing incorrect, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. As we were heading out to the site, we came across something I never thought I’d see – a huuuuge sunfish – I’d never heard of sunfish before, but this was a monster. Basically it’s a huge fin on a huge fish that basks just below the surface. A super cool thing to see!

A Great-winged Petrel flying in for some chum

Anyway – back to the birds. At the Sperm Whale site, we continued to bounce about, and a second drift was started – this time, with much better results. Great-winged Petrels by the bucket load (TICK), a Black Noddy, some Storm-petrels, shearwaters, jaegars, everything I came out for. Top shelf birding, in rough bastard seas. I realised then why I went out again.

Unfortunately we had to head back, and for most of the return trip, we had a handful of Great-winged Petrels flying in the wake of the boat providing some more photo opportunities. Once in the harbour, there was some regatta action going on, so we had to detour via Manly to get back to Rose Bay, where as we approached the wharf, we had a Little Penguin pop up. A year tick for me, and most welcomed.

Shooting horizontally from the boat - this is how big the waves were

Anyway – we got off the boat, and I journeyed home to have a well-earned beer. Great day out, and I’ll definitely be back. Of the nearly 1000 photos I took in the 9-10 hours we were at sea, after an initial cull of getting rid of sea and part wing shots, and out of focus shots, I was down to around 200 shots, and of them, only 14 made the cut, and 3 of those were record shots! Good thing I’m first and fore-most a birder and not a photographer, or I’d be pretty not happy with the days proceedings.

Sorry about the belated report, but better late than never.

You can also read Roger McGovern’s report here. That’s got  species list, and more details. I’d probably read that one now if I was you.

Until next time.

Round Hill NR via Chiltern

Perhaps not the most direct route, but it had to be done. ~2500 km, probably 100ml of rain, and 152 birds (full list in the comments).

Google Earth with all my survey sites overlayed.

Day 1-4 was Sydney -> Chiltern with some uni work thrown in. It was cold, wet and windy. Not a lot of birding to be done. See earlier posts for the highlights.

Day 5 involved driving to Lake Cargelligo, which was to be my HQ for the following 3ish days. I firstly tried to re-create my last trip to Leeton and crossed fingers hoping for another Grey Falcon, but it wasn’t to be. I did manage to get photos of a Hobby eating a White-breasted Woodswallow though, so that’s pretty cool. The lake was super full! Last time we were there it was probably 60% full, and earlier in the year, there was footage on ABC news of the lake totally empty, so it was good to see it with some water in there.

A view of the lake

Between Chiltern and Lake Cargelligo, the first inland birds started to make an appearance – Blue Bonnet being my marker bird – when I start seeing them, I know I’m inland. There were more Blue Bonnets on this trip than any previous.

Blue Bonnet. This was taken at Whoey Tank, Round Hill NR, but you get the idea :)

Day 6 was a trip to Round Hill and Nombinnie NR’s, and a visit to Lake Cargelligo STW. First up was “Chat Alley”, which was devoid of Chats, but did produce White-winged Fairy-wren and Rufous Songlark. Whoey Tank at Round Hill was fantastic. The usual suspects were there (Spotted Bowerbird, Hooded Robin etc). Unfortunately the rain meant that I couldn’t get in to Nombinnie, although as the day was looking sunny and windy, so I had hopes that it would dry out a bit over the afternoon. The STW was, as always, fantastic. I ended up with about 30 species in 30 minutes, including Yellow-billed Spoonbill and Red-necked Avocet, both birds I’ve struggled with this year. They’re now safely on the year list. I also managed to see a pair of Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos and got a dodgy record shot of them.

Day 7 – had a planned trip again to Round Hill and Nombinnie, as well as going out to Mt. Hope. Unfortunately there was no power into Lake Cargelligo until 1 pm, so I had my half tank of petrol and around a 200km round trip… I decided to risk it, but as soon as the fuel meter got below 1/4 full, I would turn around. Fortunately the trip passed without event, and I was able to get into Nombinnie and the fabled “Old Wheat Paddock”. There was, however, a lake in the middle of the road, so I couldn’t get very far along the track, so no Red-lored Whistler for me, but I did manage Southern Scrub-robin, Shy Heathwren, Grey-fronted, White-fronted, Brown-headed and Black-chinned Honeyeaters, and a pair of Splendid Fairy-wren! Not a bad morning. At Whoey Tank I seemed to spend more time taking photos of plants than birds, although the highlight would have to be an obliging Mulga Parrot.

Mulga Parrot - this male had me running around trying to get a clear shot.

Day 8 – Up early for sunrise, and an uneventful trip home via Grenfell. I was going to camp at Weddin Mountains on the way home, but I’d ran out of food and was making good time, so home it was.

The Lake at freezing oclock

All of the images are being a bit cropped on the right – I’ll try to sort that out tonight on the late shift at work.

Needs less rain

Rain. The locals love it, the bush needs it, and generally I don’t mind it, unless it’s coupled with <10C temps that become ~3C when you factor in wind-chill. Then I'm not so keen. And then when you have to be in the bush doing transects counting trees and ground cover for uni, I get seriously pissed off about it. Anyway – that's over now. Woohoo!

For the last 4 days I've been in Chiltern, the birding Mecca of northern Victoria, but I haven't been able to do anywhere near as much birding as I'd like to. I've managed to find Turquoise Parrot, and some sort of native marsupial (photo of it to come – I need help with identifying this one) at the Honeyeater Picnic area, an apparently resident group of Diamond Firetails on Lancashire Gap Road, King Parrot at Bartleys Block (apparently rare in the area – they responded to pishing!), and Australasian Shoveler at Chiltern Dam #1 (also unusual for the area).

Anyway, I'm off to Lake Cargellico shortly, heading up via Leeton and Cocoparra NP. Should be cracking.

Sydney – Chiltern – 23AUG2010

Howdy.

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!

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

Sydney pelagic – July 2010

Pelagic birding is something I’d always put off – fear of being sick, unwell, eaten by sharks, hit by a wayward asteroid etc – all very real and kept me off the boats.

Until yesterday.

Conditions were good – 1-1.5m swell with 1m waves, light winds that dropped over the course of the day.

And shit loads of birds.

7 species of albatross, 2 petrels, both giant petrels, fairy prion, fluttering shearwaters, and basically a top shelf day.

Full set of pics here, and a few favourites below.

Anyway – I’m definitely going back and doing another one. Probably November – finished uni and all.

Happy birding!

Cape Petrel - Bird #483

Campbell Albatross

Black-browed Albatross

Coonabarabran/Pilliga Trip Report – 19-24/6/2010

Hello Readers!

Photos are on flickr atm here

Usually I go away for my birthday, even if it’s only for an overnighter someplace. This year, due to exams, I wasn’t able to, so we planned a more significant trip after exams and when we could both get leave. Keryn hasn’t been to the Warrumbungles before, and I hadn’t for a few years, so we aimed for that, and to hit up the southern part of the Pilliga, having previously explored a lot of the northern part a few years earlier with my dad. So without further adue, here we go. As Keryn was along, it wasn’t exclusively birding, but there was a fair bit of it to be had.

Day 1 – Sydney -> Mudgee via Katoomba

Didn’t realise that the winter magic festival was on, but certainly did once we hit the mountains. Bah. Would’ve taken Bell’s Line of Roads and probably gone to Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens if we’d realised before, but anyway. First birding stop was Lithgow STW, which is a must visit. They’re doing work there – a lot of the trees that obscured views are now pulled down. Nothing too exciting to be seen however, certainly nothing unusual. Next stop Mudgee STW, where the highlight was some great big dogs in the cement (?) works. The settlement ponds could have potential, but they didn’t show any to me.

Bird of the day – Blue-billed Duck at Lithgow.

Day 2 – Mudgee -> Coonabarabran, with detours to Munghorn Gap and The Drip

Headed out early to have a dawn bird at Munghorn Gap. About 20 km from Munghorn Gap, I hit the fog. About 10 km from Munghorn Gap, I could just see past the bonnet. I was driving at about 5 km/h, and realised that while I might be able to hear something call, and the 2 meter visibility could work in my favour by allowing me to sneak up on birds, it was pretty pointless to persist. So I turned around. Driving back to Mudgee, I found Barn Owl roadkill and it had ice crystals all over it. it was pretty, but somewhat macarbre. Further down the road, I saw a bit of activity by the roadside, and then watched a Peregrine bust through and take a Galah – this is about the 4th time I’ve seen this happen, and it never ceases to blow me away. Anyway – spot of hot, proper breakfast down in the park, with Macro photography of a Willie Wagtail happening, then it was back out to Munghorn Gap. The place looks to have some potential, I was just there at the wrong time of day, and wrong part of the year. Same deal with The Drip, although there were White-naped and Brown-headed Honeyeaters to get me going there. We were at the Drip even later in the day, making it even worse for birding. And the wind had picked up at this point as well. Nothing for it, but to head off to Coonabarabran and find a place to stay. Just our luck that there’s some conference on at the time, so we had to get a motel out on the outskirts of town. Ended up being quite a nice place, but it was more of a hike into town for food etc, and it didn’t have any interwebs.

Bird of the day – Peregrine catching a Galah.

Day 3 – Warrumbungle NP

I haven’t been to the Warrumbungles for quite a few years, and I had a few targets. First was Red-winged Parrot. I have records of them from 1994 when I was there, but I haven’t managed to get photos of them. Next up was Turquoise Parrots. I just love these birds and love seeing them. and thirdly – Spotted Quail-thrush. I’ve also managed to see these elsewhere, but haven’t been able to photograph them.

I also left my map at the motel, assuming that we would just pick up a more detailed one at the visitor centre – afterall it opens at 9, and we left Coona at about 8, so we’d be there shortly before it opened – all good. Turns out they had a staff meeting that morning, so they weren’t opening until 12 or 1 or something… grrr. What’s worse is that they don’t actually have any decent topo maps for sale in the visitor center, so I should’ve just brought the little foldout one anyway. There’s also been some flood damage and that closed a walk as well.

At the Warrumbungles, we did about 7-8 km of walks, took some photos, I pissed off an emu, all good. Best for birds was the Woolshed – mostly because there was 7-8 Turqs as we got out of the car, and down by the river there were all sorts of birds about. Best walk was the Burbie Gorge walk – it was fairly quiet, and then we came across one of the mixed feeding flocks you get in that type of dry sclerophyll, and it was on for young and old. Come the early afternoon, it was time to go back to Coona for a beer and a feed, but I was planning on going to Siding Springs Observatory to have a look for Spotted Quail-thrush. On the drive out of the park, and just near the White-gum lookout, I see 2 birds fly across the road and one run off the side of the road – “did those look like quail-thrush to you?” I ask the beloved. “I’ve got no idea what quail-thrush look like” is the response. Pull the car off into a road siding a couple of hundred meters up the hill, grab the camera and bins and walk down to the spot, whhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr – follow the noise – there it is – female SQT. Walk a little bit further down, and I spot the male in the bushes. Dodgy record shot (see below) and a happy Troy.

Bird of the day – tie between Turquoise Parrots, Speckled Warbler and Spotted Quail-thrush.

Day 4 – Pilliga birding

There’s a pamphlet you can get from the visitor centers in the area called Bird Routes of Barradine (or similar – I’ll check that and amend it) – alas it isn’t available online. Get it, and get on it. We did routes 2, 3 6, 7 and started doing 8, but recent rains meant we couldn’t actually cross the creek – far, far too much sand about. The birding on some of the routes can be a bit slow, but similar to any bush birding from a car anywhere – drive along slowlyish, pull over when you see some activity, and investigate. We had lunch at The Aloes – an old sheep shearing place seriously in the middle of the bush, where there is a largeish planting of crazy growing Aloe Vera. It is also allegedly a good spot to see Koala in the wild, but we could only find tracks in the sand. It was possibly the best place to go birding though as well.

After that, we checked out the poorly signposted Sandstone Caves to look at the engravings and rock art – very nice indeed. Unfortunately there’s total dickheads out there who have vandalised the site, so the sites are fenced off. Anyway – worth a look, not much birdwise, but it’s always good to have a look at what the original owners of the country have been up to.

Bird of the day – Spotted Bowerbird on bird route #4.

Day 5 – Coonabarabran -> Hunter Valley

Before beginning the journey home, staying in the Hunter “somewhere”, I headed out early to try and find these bloody Red-winged Parrots. The ranger at the Pilliga Forest Information Center said she had them in her yard in Coonabarabran and while they were lovely to have, she wanted more variety – I hadn’t seen any over the previous few days. So I drove around Coonabarabran for about an hour in the early morning, seeing more parrots than I had over the previous 5 days, including 3 Red-winged Parrots. Yeeeehaw. I could now leave, mission accomplished.

Didn’t do much birding on the way into the Hunter, but did have the suprise of coming across a sign in Quirindi while stopping for fuel “Quirindi Bird Route #3 – Settlement Ponds”! Everyone loves a suprise STW, especially me. They weren’t much chop, but I didn’t expect anything, so it was all a bonus. Had a very nice Straw-necked Ibis way high up a tree that I could get to eye-level with from the car-park which was a bonus. The ponds themselves are like an oasis, with palm trees growing and all. There’s probably not quite enough rank vegetation along the edges to make them truly great, but they’re worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Anyway – on from Quirindi to the Hunter, eventually settling on Cessnock as the place to stay. Across the road was an Oportos with a Grey Box in full flower! It had all the lorikeets (Little, Musk, Rainbow and Scaly-breasted), but I couldn’t see any Swift Parrots in there… I did see some Swifties down the road in Pelton the year before. Always interesting standing in a drive thru driveway with bins looking at birds though.

Bird of the Day – Red-winged Parrot

Day 6 – and rest…

A quick morning trip to wine and cheese country to get gifts for those who were minding our cats, followed by a visit to the Hunter Wetland Center. Fairly standard winter birding, but I was most suprised to flush 3 Southern Emu-wren from the low grasses near the windmill. Then, on homewards, with a stop at the road-stop with the name I can’t remember at the moment – heaps of people have seen/photographed Regent Bowerbird there, but all I manage to find is Bell Miners. After that, it was back on the freeway, with the next stop being my house. woo.

Bird of the day – Southern Emu-wren

All up I saw 125 species over 6 days/~1800 km. A very enjoyable trip indeed – no lifers (none expected), but about 20 year ticks. I’ll post a full bird list later.

Warrumbungle birding

Spent the day at the Warrumbungles, walke about 6-7 km, saw 47 species. Not bad at all for winter birding.

Highlights: Turquoise Parrot, Speckled Warbler, Striped and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater at The Woolshed; Grey-crowned Babbler at the visitor centre; an awesome mixed feeding party of 3 types of thornbill, Weebill, Speckled Warblers and honeyeaters at Burbie Canyon; and Spotted Quail-thrush on the way out.

Big dip was parrots – the place boasts that it has had 19(?maybe more) parrots recorded in the park (I’ve seen about 10 there). Today I saw 3 types. No Red-winged Parrot for Troy :( maybe tomorrow in the Pilliga!

I’ll add some more info on the park and photos when I get back to the big smoke. At the moment, I’m enjoying wine and not carrying my gear.

Until next time.

Mudgee to Coonabarabran

Morning.

Yesterday, we drove from Mudgee to Coonabarabran via Munghorn Gap and The Drip.

Munghorn Gap is a great spot, but we didn’t get to The Drip early enough – wind had picked up, clouds rolled in = not many birds.

Bird wise, highlights would have to be 8 species of raptor including 3 seperate Peregrine Falcons, the meeting of east and west birds at Munghorn, and Keryn’s well spotted King Parrots. Oh and a ridiculously tame Willie Wagtail that I was able to use the macro lens on! Still no interwebs, so photos when we get back to Sydney or if we get some at the next place we stay.

Today we’re off to the Warrumbungles where my target is Red-winged Parrot, and tomorrow we’re off to the Pillliga. I’ll write some more tomorrow unless we have a cracker today!

Cheers.

Mudgee birding

Hola! Greetings from Mudgee, the … err … wine capital of the central western slopes (perhaps?).
Birding is pretty quiet, highlights being a leucistic Pacific Black Duck and Restless Flycatcher at Lawson Park in the middle of town, a very dark Brown Falcon just outside town, and more Cattle Egrets than you can shake a stick at at the sewage treatment works.

Tomorrow, off to Munghorn Gap and The Drip before continuing on to Coonabarabran.

Photos when I get back to Sydney!