Thinking About Birds

I only update the gallery photos occasionally. Sorry about that, too busy. See my Sri Lanka gallery though and also  the latest additions to my UK and Denmark galleries.

October 2020

25-27 October

Margaret and I went to the Gloucester Tops, arriving at lunchtime; we stayed at a cabin in the commercial caravan park for two nights. It was a rather wet few days, and I was soaked through by the end of each day. I spent several hours per day in three different Rufous Scrub-bird territories, scoring some sightings of two different birds but failing to see a band linking things back to the bird banded in late September. We put a radio tracker onto it during the banding process, but we have not been getting a signal since two days after that. I think that the transmitter has failed.

There were Olive Whistlers wherever I went in the high country, also some Satin Flycatchers. Lower down, there were Leaden Flycatchers. I heard Rufous Whistlers at a few places -  normally that's a very uncommon bird in the Tops. On Tuesday morning during the ascent, we saw a Koala - which the Ranger was very interested to know the details about. We saw many Superb Lyrebirds including where we were staying, also several Australian Brush-turkeys.

18-21 October

On Sunday afternoon I set out for a 4-day trip into the Upper Hunter. I rearranged my original plans and went to the Durridgere Rd / Smedes Rd area because of a report the day before of Ground Cuckoo-shrikes. I didn't find them that day but I was onto two birds late on Monday morning. However, my searching on Sunday led me to a site on Smedes Rd where I found a group of 15 or so Apostlebirds. That's a drop-dead Hunter Region rarity and a regional tick for me. I posted the news, and since then many others have found those birds. That sighting was a highlight, but so too were the many Brown Songlarks in that area plus I had great views (and managed photos) of Horsfield's Bushlarks. Later I found Rufous Songlarks, White-winged Trillers, Hooded Robins with dependent young, Dusky Woodswallows, Little Ravens etc.

I joined the Martindale crew late on Monday and we spent Tuesday and Wednesday doing our usual surveys. We found about 100 species, although nothing out of the ordinary and no inland woodswallows (White-browed or Masked), and also we found no White-backed Swallows. Around the campsite there were pairs (?) of Australian Owlet-nightjar, White-throated Nightjar and Southern Boobook. We found Brown Songlarks and Rufous Songlarks at a few sites and I was delighted to get (brief) sightings of Stubble Quail at one site (plus I heard them at another).

17 October

I did the monthly Ash Island survey in the morning. It was an enjoyable day and I found lots of great birds, starting with some Far Eastern Curlews at Milhams Pond and Pacific Golden Plovers (31 birds) at Phoenix Flats. At Teal Waters, the White-breasted Woodswallows were fighting off a visiting Australian Hobby. Out at the main ponds, there were small numbers of Sharp-tailed and Curlew Sandpipers, also Red-necked Avocets, Red-capped Plovers and Black-fronted Dotterels. The 30 or so Pied Stilts included two very young birds - they could fly, but probably they had hatched from not all that far away. Swan Pond had 700 or so teal, the majority of which (564 birds) were Grey Teal. Fairy Martins were collecting mud at Fish Fry Flats. My final bird for the day was a Buff-banded Rail, which darted across Cabbage Tree Rd as I drove out.

14 October

In the evening it was the HBOC meeting, for which I was the guest speaker, talking about Broughton Island. That's the first time I've been a Zoom speaker (not that it was a challenge, but I suppose it is a milestone). The talk seemed to go alright.

12 October

I went up to the Gloucester Tops again, with my main aim being to survey a 3km stretch of Gloucester Tops Rd for which we have had no Rufous Scrub-bird records in 2020 (and nor did we have in 2019). I return-walked it slowly twice (ie 12 km covered) and never heard a peep out of one. However, as consolation I did find a pair of Satin Flycatchers, presumably newly-returned. There was a very vocal male Rufous Whistler, which is an uncommon species at high altitude, and many (and vocal) Golden Whistlers. There also were Black-faced Monarchs, Olive Whistlers, Red-browed Treecreepers, Flame Robins and Crescent Honeyeaters up there. I recorded all three Whistler species within a couple of hundred metres of each other; now that's not an every-day event!

7 October

I went to Ash Island for a few hours, firstly doing the boardwalk/rainforest track and then going out to Area E. There were 43 Latham's Snipe at the boardwalk wetlands, all of which flushed before I was anywhere near to them, but I was able to track some down later and have better views. There were several Purple Swamphen chicks, and an Intermediate Egret in breeding plumage. I also saw my first Rufous Fantail for the season. At the Area E ponds there were a few Red-necked Avocets and 30-40 Pied Stilts, plus plenty of teal (mostly Chestnut Teal) and a single Aust. Gull-billed Tern. The highlight for me was to see a juvenile Black-fronted Dotterel with its parents, and later two lots of Red-capped Plovers each had runner.

3-5 October

Margaret and I went on the HBOC camp at Goulburn River National Park (to the area which I have named as Fossickers). That is a known Barking Owl territory and one of the highlights of the weekend was to have daily sightings of one of the pair reliably at its roost site; also to hear the pair each evening/night. I found nests of Dusky Woodswallows, Eastern Yellow Robins and Restless Flycatchers, and others found various other species with nests or with recently fledged young. It has been a good season out there (finally!). I walked the creek line, the highlight being to find a group of four Rockwarblers, which came in quite close. I also saw several Diamond Firetails, lots of Speckled Warblers, and one brief glimpse of a male Hooded Robin. There was at least one Black-eared Cuckoo around (others saw two birds together). I also saw a Shining Bronze-cuckoo (and heard several more). Other noteworthy sightings for me included Diamond Firetail, Red-winged Parrot, many Rufous Songlarks and also plenty of White-winged Trillers.

September 2020

27-30 September

Margaret and I were back to the Gloucester Tops again, this time staying in a cabin in the commercial park and doing day trips from there up to the Tops. Part of my mission was to track the bird we'd recently banded; also I was recording some more Rufous Scrub-birds in their territories. I'm amazed at the variety of calls that they make. And on Wednesday morning I believe that I recorded a female as well as a male. Fantastic!

We saw a pair of Glossy Black-Cockatoos one morning on the ascent, also many Superb Lyrebirds (from all over the place). I had very close views of an Olive Whistler on Tuesday morning (while I was chasing a scrub-bird).

24-25 September

I headed back to the Gloucester Tops late morning, having re-provisioned during my brief return home. I got to the scrub-bird site mid-afternoon and spent the rest of the day tracking it, not that it ever moved very far. I slept in my car overnight, directly opposite the territory, and early morning I was back out there with the radio tracker. However, although the bird was calling and I could get its location easily, I couldn't pick up any signal with the antenna and receiver. I wasn't sure what was happening, and eventually gave up and headed back home. Later, Rob Kyte came around and we were able to pick up a signal from the second transmitter that we have, so it wasn't an equipment problem (apparently). I'll be trying again up there soon.

On my way home, I checked my emails and thus diverted onto Ash Island to chase down the Lesser Yellowlegs that had been seen the day before (it probably was the bird we had called a Marsh Sandpiper on Saturday). I found the bird and managed some reasonable photos although they are not great (the wind was awesome and it was very difficult to hold the camera steady). There were a couple of Whiskered Terns out there as well, my first sighting of them for the year. The Yellowlegs was not a new bird for me as I also saw the one that visited in 2001 (plus I have seen them in Argentina, where they belong), but now I have photos of it for my collection.

21-23 September

I led a team of eight people doing the annual Rufous Scrub-bird surveys in the Gloucester Tops, and the three scrub-bird banders came along as well. Monday afternoon was wet (mostly only drizzly and we got all the scheduled surveys done) but Tuesday and Wednesday were fine albeit a bit too windy at times especially in the afternoons. We found 20 different individuals in the 21 km of transects, which was quite an improvement on the 2019 result (when there was a drought on). Several of the surveyors actually got to see a bird (I saw two birds but one sighting was very brief; the other one was quite good). All the usual other Gloucester Tops species were present as well, and it was a lovely three days. The highlight though was the news that the banders had succeeded in trapping a Scrub-bird and fitting a radio transmitter to the bird! That's been my dream for several years and it has finally happened!

19 September

Ross, Milly and I did the Ash Island survey in the morning. We only found three migratory shorebirds (one each of Far Eastern Curlew, Red-necked Stint and Marsh Sandpiper) but there were three Red-necked Avocets on Swan Pond and 50+ Pied Stilt scattered across various ponds; the first time in ages that we've had avocets or stilts on Ash Island. One of the stilts was on a nest - that's the first time ever that I've seen a stilt's nest! We found 15 Red-capped Plovers and 3 Black-fronted Dotterels too, and a pair of Chestnut Teal with 10 ducklings.

16-18 September

On Wednesday I did another day-trip to the Gloucester Tops, on a gorgeous spring day. My main mission was to record some Rufous Scrub-bird calls, which went well; however, after I got home I spent two days editing the calls ! It's a time-consuming task. I visited three scrub-bird territories, and all three birds were actively calling for much of the time. At one territory I saw the bird twice - once it was up in a shrub, singing, and once it was at my feet. That time the bird popped out to have a look at me! When I went through the recordings I realised that there had been two birds in the territory, one presumably was the female. I was within half a metre of that bird for more than five minutes; it was making lots of clicks and softish whistles, but I never saw it. At the third territory, I followed the bird for well over an hour, eventually obtaining a very clear look at it. It had a yellow band on its right leg! It was the bird we banded in November 2018, still in the same territory.

13 September

I was on a pelagic trip from Nelson Bay to the shelf today. Conditions were fair (only a light breeze, but at least there was some air movement unlike on my previous pelagic trip). We had lots of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters with us all day, hungry birds which had probably only just arrived back. We had occasional, brief views of Fluttering and Hutton's Shearwaters but they ignored the boat, similarly for some Providence Petrels. Before long though, we had White-faced Storm-petrels come in, perhaps 10-12 birds in total. They often came in very close and I got some reasonable photos. Then, a real highlight - a Soft-plumaged Petrel which briefly investigated the boat. It was a Hunter Region tick for me!  We had a Common Tern around for a while, which I hadn't seen at sea before (but, plenty of times from land) and, on our way back in, a Southern Giant-Petrel was briefly seen plus we had the unusual sighting of a Bar-tailed Godwit several km out at sea.

9 September

I did another day-trip to the Gloucester Tops. It was a drizzly cold day and I spent most of it deep in the bush tracking Rufous Scrub-birds to record them. I was soaked through by the time I had finished. However, I got recordings of various calls from three different individuals. I spent about 4 hours within <20m distance of a scrub-bird, but didn't ever see one!

I got home just in time for the HBOC Zoom meeting, which as usual was a very good meeting.

5 September

Margaret, Sally and I went to the Botanic Gardens for the morning. I covered a lot of ground but didn't find much really. There were quite a few Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and one of the White-cheeked Honeyeaters had a yellow crown from all the pollen it had accidentally collected.

4 September

I met with the bird banders (Judy, Greg and Rob) for a couple of hours and we sorted out dates for the next few months for the Broughton Island project work and the Rufous Scrub-bird project work.

3 September

I went to the Gloucester Tops today, visiting five Rufous Scrub-bird territories. Scrub-birds were calling at  two of them. The first was at what I believe is a new territory, about 200m from a long-occupied one where now there is no evidence of a bird being present. There has also been a bird at this new location on my past two visits. I made some recordings of it for a new project, but was never able to get close enough to see it. The second singing bird I also recorded, and saw it five times including once in the open as it ran across a log. However, I wasn't able to see if it had a colour band (which it almost certainly should have). There's always next time!

I saw my first Flame Robin for this season, and there were several Rose Robins around, also Red-browed Treecreepers, Crescent Honeyeaters and Olive Whistlers. Overall, it was a very pleasant day.

August 2020

22 August

Ross and I did the monthly Ash Island survey in the morning. With the wind chill factor, it was bitterly cold (and wet, at times) but we soldiered on. The best birding was had at Fish Fry Flats where we found the usual 15 or so Black-fronted Dotterels and 30+ Red-capped Plovers, also three Far Eastern Curlews which I’m guessing were newly returned birds. There were 22 Aust. Gull-billed Terns and six Caspian Terns there as well. We had close views of a dark phase Brown Falcon.

14-16 August

A group of six of us went to Broughton Island for the quarterly project visit. We had some COVID restrictions to follow, and it was windier than we wanted; however, we got a lot done. My camera at the Eastern Reef Egret nest was ruined by weather events post-installation, but we got some good images on the second camera (and we saw several of the birds over the three days). Coming back from visiting the nest, I found a Beach Stone-curlew - which is Broughton's first everrecord! And on Sunday there were two birds together. We had a young (sub-adult) Brahminy Kite at Esmeralda Cove the entire visit, with many great views of it, and seven other raptor species were seen during the three days (including the banders caught a Brown Goshawk). Neil, Bruce and I went to Pinkatop where we did some gardening to clear the White-faced Storm-petrel burrows and nests, and I made a plan for where to place cameras at the Gould's Petrel nest boxes. We heard Lewin's Rails several times and I had a brief view of one crossing a track. Also, we heard Pheasant Coucals several times - they have been missing on many of our recent visits so perhaps the wetter conditions have favoured them.

12 August

I went up to the Gloucester Tops for the day, visiting the two Rufous Scrub-bird territories where we previously have put bands onto birds. Both birds were only singing sporadically (for one bird, I had to wait for more than an hour for it to begin to call) and therefore I didn't have any success in getting close enough to them to see if either was banded. There were several Crescent Honeyeaters calling during the day. In the evening I attended HBOC's Zoom meeting, where there was an interesting talk given about avian paleontology.

11 August

In the afternoon I took part in a phone discussion about Rufous Scrub-bird monitoring/planning, chaired by Sam Vine from BirdLife Australia. The intent is to achieve a national approach and start to make things happen especially on the species recovery front. There were some good points raised; the issue is lack of funding but BLA and the various Local Land Services groups have ideas for dealing with that.

9 August

Greg, Judy and I met at Rob's place for a few hours, to sort out our thoughts about radio tracking equipment for Rufous Scrub-birds and various other species. We decided to replace our very old, borrowed equipment by new state-of-the-art items and made our choices. We'll have all the new gear by the time the scrub-birds start getting serious about breeding.

5 August

I attended the HBOC Zoom committee meeting in the evening, having spent all of the day's spare time (when not child-minding) generating more of my Penta Puzzles. They're still going onto the Australian Birdlife website to help get people through their days of lockdown.

3 August

I was in a Zoom meeting in the afternoon, to discuss options for regular Manning estuary surveys. It looks like they will be starting up, replicating my older surveys which were done mainly by land, but also incorporating a boat to allow access to parts of the estuary that I was never able to get to. Later in the afternoon, I reviewed my draft Broughton Island report with the ranger, Susanne Callaghan, and we decided to postpone the scheduled visit by a week on account of the lousy weather forecast for this Friday-Sunday.