Category Archives: Birding



I’ve been pretty slack with updating this blog hey. I have no excuses except I’ve been busy with a new job, raising a kid, making music, and birding locally. 

I have, however, started guiding birders and photographers on a semi-professional basis. Contact me for rates. Multiple people works out cheaper per person – I can comfortably carry 3 people in my car, 4 slightly less comfortably, but doable.

My area of guiding is typically southern Sydney to about Barren Grounds NR/Jervis Bay area, specialising in the Royal National Park and the Northern Illawarra, although I can go further afield if need be.

I am currently offering 3 packages – 2 hour spotlighting, half day (dawn to 1ish pm) and full day (sunrise to sunset). If you have target species let me know and I can tailor a trip. I have many years of experience birding in this area and on an average half day trip I would expect to see 60-80 species, a full day up to 100. On a spotlighting trip I can pretty much guarantee Boobook, and hearing Sooty Owl, but it’s quite variable what we’ll find. It’s a good way to see mammals though. 



2 Birds, 1 Tank

Getting 2 new ticks on the first day of the year is always a good way to kick things off. So is seeing 76 species for the day – if I can keep up this rate, I’ll have seen all of the Australian species within a couple of weeks! If only it was that easy…

Aaanyway – late 2015, an old mate from my Ornithology degree, Demetris Bertzeletos, found a female Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica), at Lake Wollumboola in the Shoalhaven area of NSW. This is the 7th record for Australia, and his second find – nice work! I had planned to go down immediately after christmas, but life got in the way, so I wasn’t able to make it down.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, however, as on the 30/12, reports emerged of a male Paradise Shelduck which had been first seen (but passed off as a dark Australian Shelduck) from the 27/12, but positively ID’d as stoinking rarity on 30/12. It appears that this endemic NZ bird is a wild bird – it was certainly not keen on me being anywhere near it this morning! This record is the first since there were about 5 birds on Lord Howe Island in 1950 – so a while between drinks.

Once it became increasingly looking like it’s a wild bird, the decision to head down on New Years Day and kick off the year in style with a couple of vagrants was locked in. So at 4am this morning, the alarm went off, cereal was eaten, and off I went.

Grey Plover - Pluvialis squatarola

Grey Plover – Pluvialis squatarola

There were a couple of people there when I rocked up at 6.30, 2 on boards taking photos of the Godwit’s in the middle of the lake, and 1 with a scope on land, so I went and chatted to him. He’d just arrived so couldn’t confirm if the Hudwit was seen or not, so I decided to go and get onto the Shelduck before the heat really kicked in. It was about 1.5-2 km to the last reported location of the bird, so off I trudged. On the way there was a Whimbrel, a Marsh Sandpiper, both Knots, a Ruddy Turnstone, 2 Grey Plover, a PGP, a Curlew Sandpiper, more Sharpies than you could shake a stick at, lots of Red-necked Stints, and a good assortment of terns – took me a while to get down there! I put the scope up, located the bird, and then headed over to it and took some photos. Tick! If the bird is accepted as a legit wild bird, that’s bird #534 on the list. Had my fill of the Shelduck, who was getting increasingly upset at my presence, and having noted a number of other birders turning up, I decided to not chase the bird away, but to head back and share the good news that it was there, and find out if the Hudwit had been located.

Paradise Shelduck

Paradise Shelduck – Tadorna variegata

The news wasn’t great – no-one had located the Hudwit, and the dudes out on the board taking photos hadn’t managed to find it there either – the bird has been associating closely with the Black-tailed Godwits that were roosting in the middle of the lake. If you don’t look though, you don’t find, so off I went to have a look at the Godwits and see if I could make it appear. There was a group of birds – probably 6-7 Blackwits, 8 or so Barwits and 1 possible Hudwit, standing on a submerged sand bar, about 100 meters off shore. I was looking at one on the edge that looked different, when some others turned up, and we got a wing-lift! I thought I saw black (this being diagnostic for Hudwit) and the guy with the bazooka lens got a photo and said “that’s it!” (or words to that effect). He was satisfied and headed off to see the Shelduck, I texted my mate who had gone down to find the Hudwit that we’d found it, and the long wait for a better view began. 2.5 hours later, we got it, as we (about 4 or 5 of us at this stage I think…) were sorting through the 2 birds that we thought were probably candidates for Hudwit, willing it to lift it’s wings and show us the black “arm-pits”, when a bird landed at the back of the pack with a flourish of black armpits and we all were very happy that we’d finally got the bird. It proceeded to lift it’s wings at least 3 more times, and I even managed a dodgy record/ID shot that you can see below.

Dodgy record shot of the Hudwit

Dodgy record shot of the Hudwit

Bird seen, I headed home. All plans of a big day derailed by having to wait for nearly 3 hours to see a bird, but this one is an absolute definite, so assuming the Paradise Shelduck goes through, bird #535 it is. 77 birds seen for the day (both down there, en route, and at home) with 50-odd at Lake Wollumboola itself, is a pretty bloody good day out birding. So yeah – 2 cracking rarities, 1 tank of fuel. Facebook is full of people saying “argh – gotta go back now”, so I’ve managed to use up a fair lash of petrol, but only once. Almost environmentally ethical twitching.

I’m doing Bird-a-day this year as well (track my progress here!) and, without question, Hudsonian Godwit is the bird for day #1. Ideally I’ll do better than last time, which was rudely interrupted by the birth of Jr. A good reason to not continue though, hey.

Good times.


Sooty Owl - Tyto tenebricosa A bloody good looking bird.

Sooty Owl – Tyto tenebricosa
A bloody good looking bird, I think you’ll agree!

One thing I’ve discovered is that trying to go birding with a little person in your life is … difficult. So that best remedy for that is to do it at night when he’s asleep! Unfortunately, that restricts my options to owls, frogmouths and I’ve had to expand into frogs. Now I’ll never be a frogger, but they’re pretty cool to track down. There’s a bit of a swampy wetland near me, and I headed down there the other night. Saw 3 frog species and heard another one, and thanks to some advice from a frog person I know who lives nearby, I’ve been put on the straight and narrow for ID – my frog book is still in a box somewhere, and while the ebook version is good – well, it’s the exact same text and images – but it doesn’t work with my brain the same as the book. So enjoy a Peron’s Tree Frog – Litoria peroni.

Peron's Tree Frog - Litoria peronii

Peron’s Tree Frog – Litoria peronii

One of the main perks of living at Helensburgh is the proximity to the Sooty Owls that you can find in the Royal National Park. I’ve looked on at least 20 occasions for these owls, and heard them quite a lot. Often at a great distance, but occasionally so close that they’re doing the trill/insect noise that they do when they’re on top of you, like Predator, yet I’ve not seen the nominate race (I saw the northern Queensland subspecies – Lesser Sooty Owl – back in 2006, but that has now been elevated to full species, and the NSW Sooty’s are now a seperate species, depending on your taxonomy), let alone photographed it. It is a frustrating thing spotlighting for owls in tall, dense wet eucalypt rainforest – you can’t see anything, there’s leeches, and even though you can hear them, you know that the chances are slim to see them. The worst part of all my prior houses was that it was a 2 hour round trip driving to dip on them every time. Now it would only be a 30 minute round trip drive to dip on them! Awesome!

Mountain Brushtail Possum

Mountain Brushtail Possum – Trichosurus cunninghami

Last nights trip followed the usual script – I could hear Sooty calls off in the distance, could hear Boobooks much closer (although equally invisible to my eyes and torch), and all I could find were microbats and a couple of possums – including the above Mountain Brushtail Possum – a first for me. Given Sooty Owls will eat possums, and there were good numbers of possums out, seemingly without a care in the world, and the Sooty Owl/s had stopped calling and weren’t responding to my amazing impersonation of their call, I decided to pack it in for the night, and try again later. Walking out from Bola Creek and heading back out to the carpark, I felt something behind me, and turned to my left to see the dark wings of a Sooty Owl pass behind me and land in some dense low growth. I was super happy with that, and although I didn’t get a photo, I saw a Sooty Owl! Anyway I chucked the torch on the bush, had the bins and scoured that growth and couldn’t see anything. put the bins down, and then it flew up into a high tree about 10-15 meters above the ground, and 10-15 meters away from me! Camera up, click, click – check back, great, decreased the shutter speed and got one more photo off, and then it was gone. I was super stoked, and here are the other 2 photos for your enjoyment. I’m a big fan of their feathery pant legs.

My first photo of one

My first photo of a Sooty Owl

Sooty Owl - my second photo of one

Sooty Owl – my second photo of one

Now I’ll get back down there and try for a: better photos and b: to record their calls. I’m 95% certain I’ve got this guy’s territory mapped out now. I’ve got another spot nearby where I think there’s another bird, possibly it’s partner, possibly the same bird, but it’s always good to have a backup location for a species. Anyway – happy birding everyone!

And here we are. Helensburgh!

So yeah – as I alluded to in the last post, shortly before pledging weekly/more frequent updates, we were moving. And now we have – to sunny Helensburgh. About an hour south of where I used to live, and I’ve already utterly smashed my old house list, in terms of quality, and most of that has just been in moving and hanging out.

Best birds seen in/over/from my yard in the 5 days that I’ve had the keys are: Square-tailed Kite, which is obviously hanging out nearby as I’ve seen (what I assume to be) the same bird 3 times now, the nesting Sacred Kingfishers which are just over the fence, Boobooks visiting my front tree (along with duelling Boobooks calling for most of the night) and having Satin Bowerbirds visiting/flying past daily. My old best bird on the house list in 8 years of Outer-Inner Western Sydney was a passing through juvenile Rufous Whistler, and probably next best on the house list was Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike. And prior to that in proper Inner Western Sydney would have been Koel. So not much chop. My old house list as well was around 55 species, which is pretty bloody solid, but here, in 5 days, I’m up to 47 (my total Helensburgh list, for the whole suburb, and a much larger area than just my house block is somewhere in the 70’s). I am very confident that I will have destroyed the old PB for “biggest house list” by the time our lease is up.

And mammal wise, I’ve also killed it. The old house list was Fruit-bats, 1 rat, and a couple of mice. Here I’ve had Fruit-bats, some sort of micro-bat/s buzzing around the street light, and a deer just up the road as we came in on the day the removalists did their sordid task. I’ll take microbats over rats and mice any day of the week, and I’ll quite happily take deer over rats and mice as an introduced species as well. I haven’t gone spotlighting in my patch of bush which is … 20 meters from my back door yet, but I’ll get into that shortly. There are some frogs calling as well, but I’ll get onto them later. No reptiles yet apart from a couple of skinks which were too fast for ID purposes, but if there’s more than just garden skinks, I’ll have more diversity here than in lovely Campsie. The spiders are more different – I’ve seen about 2-3 species I can’t ID and don’t recall having seen anywhere prior, which is good, and the beetles and butterflies make for all new types of bugs and flying things that I’m enjoying having around. Jr is also quite enamoured with the numbers of butterflies… I’ll make a nature dude out of him yet.

Anyway – tomorrow is a rest day, which means I’ll be up at sparrow’s and off to the Royal for a dawn birding trip. I can’t wait to get down to my new local patch, which I have visited near countless times before, but that has always involved at least a 45 minute drive each way. Now it’s a sub-10 minute trip to one of my favourite places in the park. To be fair, I will miss being in close proximity to Olympic Park and Eastlakes Golf-course (easily some of Sydney’s best birding locations), but you know… I won’t miss it as much as I’ll enjoy living here. He says after 1 nights sleep at the new address. ;) hahaha.

Anyway – hopefully I’ll post more regularly, but I’m not making promises anymore. That just breaks hearts.


(tap. tap. tap.) Is this thing on?

Hi everyone, sorry about the absolute lack of posts… it’s been hectic doing this parenting thing! I’ve still been getting out there birding a bit, but not as much as I used to. Anyway – I’m now going to be more pro-active and start posting stuff more regularly. First up will be porting my now long-in-the-tooth-but-still-used guide to birding in Sydney ( to this blog, as in the coming months we’re moving suburbs and I’ll be changing ISP which means that page won’t be live soon. As a plus of the move, I’ll be 15 minutes away from some of my favourite spots in the Royal NP, so going for a sneaky birding mission before Jr. wakes up will be actually doable. And going spotlighting for Sooty Owl also becomes a reality. Anyway – more on that later!
So yeah – strap yourselves in for (weekly? at the very least more regular) updates.

Bassian Thrush

Recently we had a holiday of the best part of a week at the wonderful Narrawallee Creek Studio. (I’ve posted about a previous trip here). Obviously Jr, who was 6 and a bit months old at the time came along, and that significantly reduced my birding opportunities. Doesn’t he know that this isn’t the way these things are meant to happen??

In all seriousness though, it was a great trip. Tiring, but good. I managed to see some good birds, including 4 Hooded Plover at 2 locations (approximately 8% of the NSW population), the first lot of returning Bar and Black-tailed Godwit, Great Knot, Whimbrel and Eastern Curlew, a couple of late departing Double Banded Plovers. Shoalhaven Heads is open for business – you don’t need to take the ferry across to access the good bird areas, as was the case last year.

One of the other highlights was filming a Bassian Thrush having a good old feed – obviously it has got a mate – or a brood – on the nest. I had a look around for a nest, but couldn’t find anything. (I’ll add a screen cap and make this look better shortly. Trust me – it’s worth a click)

I also managed to get up to Mudgee for a look at the Citrine Wagtail a couple of days before – a lazy 700-odd km fathers day twitch before settling in to drink beer and watch the Swans play some mighty fine football. Shame they didn’t repeat that a couple of weeks later at the Grand Final, but it was a good way to spend my first fathers day. If all my future Fathers Days can be that tops, I’m in a pretty alright place.

Who knows when I’ll get around to uploading more photos and video – it’s taken me this long to get this video uploaded. Babies eh? Stay tuned however – I’ll upload a few shots to Flickr at some point soon.

Anyway – thanks again to Cindy and King for being excellent hosts, and thanks to you for taking the time to read this.



Scaly-breasted Lorikeet

Howdy all,


Well, Jr. is now at the 4.1 month mark, so I’ve celebrated by having the week off. And going to visit Nana on the maternal side, and leaving him with them for a bit while I skyved off down the local park (Deep Water Park, a long time gay beat, past home to Blue Gum Farm, and the Georges River Motor Boat Club or something like that) to see what’s about.

Sca;y-breasted Lorikeet, checking out a nest hollow

Sca;y-breasted Lorikeet, checking out a nest hollow

… is what was about.

There’s also a super reliable Nankeen Night-heron there on the first lake as you drive in. Next to the dead cormorant that has been hanging from a tree for at least 4 weeks.

Still, for a bit of bush in the midst of suburbia, it goes alright. For anyone of my vintage (“mid” 30’s) that grew up around the area and remember it from back in the day, it’s way less dodgy than it used to be. Less of a dump a body vibe than it once had, and the tracks are now sealed. Woo.

And there’s breeding Scaly-breasteds to boot.

Until next time.

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.

South Coast NSW, August 2013

In August we went down the coast again, to just get away from work and relax a bit. Unfortunately the weather was atrocious for most of the time we were away!

We stayed at the magnificent Narrawallee Creek Studios which I can thoroughly recommend to everyone. The place is in the middle of Narrawallee Creek National Park, and the birding in the grounds was pretty good. Brown Cuckoo-dove, Wonga Pigeon, Golden Whistler, Bassian Thrush, Gang-gang Cockatoo and the usual thornbills, robins, fantails, honeyeaters that you’d expect on the South Coast of NSW were all over the place. We’ll be back for sure.

In terms of birds, obviously the proximity of the accommodation to Lake Conjola was an attraction. Particularly as at that time of year, the Double-banded Plovers (below) were starting to colour up before heading back to NZ for summer.

Double-banded Plover, Lake Conjola

Double-banded Plover, Lake Conjola

There was nothing else unusual (not that DB Plover is unusual at Lake Conjola at that time of year) at Lake Conjola, and the persistent rain and wind made birding difficult. We did have one nice day, so we went for a drive down to Bermagui, which is always nice, and at Wallaga Lake there were some cooperative Pied Oystercatchers.

Anyway – with all the rain and wind there wasn’t much else to be done except read books and sit by a fireplace! So we did.