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.

August 2022

12 August

Ross and I did the Ash Island monthly survey in the morning - in slight drizzle for much of it. We found a Far Eastern Curlew - our first one for several months - but otherwise shorebirds were in limited supply. However, there were plenty of waterbirds to compensate for that, including 70 or so Purple Swamphens and about 25 Royal Spoonbills, also many ducks of various species. We also heard a Buff-banded Rail, and we were within 10m of it for a while. We had several vocal and showy Tawny Grassbirds as we moved around the various sites. Near Scotts Point there was a Jacky Winter - the first time ever that I've seen one on Ash Island (and there are hardly any reports from anyone else either).

In the afternoon I was at the Wetlands Centre for another planning meeting in relation to the proposed trip to Jap in 2023. It's looking like May will be the timing for that.

2-3 August

I went to the Gloucester Tops, primarily to service my trail cameras at Rufous Scrub-bird territories. At Booral I saw Tree Martins collecting nesting material, which I thought was an early sign of spring. But then, up in the Tops I saw a Flame Robin (a breeding plumage male) which seemed to me to be a remarkably early record. I visited three scrub-bird territories but only one bird was vocalising. It did so intermittently for about two hours. After I'd serviced the cameras I went towards the bird - I got close but never had any opportunity to see if it had a band on. There were Crescent Honeyeaters at a couple of sites and a Superb Lyrebird darted across the road on my way back down. I stayed in Gloucester overnight, and next morning returned to the scrub-bird territory. I had decided overnight to move the cameras closer to where the bird had been calling. However, aklthough there wasn't much vocalising by the bird that morning, it clearly was closer to where I had put the cameras. In the end I compromised - moved three cameras, and left three others where they had been. Once again there were Crescent Honeyeaters around (several, actually).

July 2022

In addition to my normal birding activities in July, I did a trip north - I was away for two weeks for that.

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NT/Kimberley trip 11-24 July

My normal birding activities were on hold, while I spent a couple of weeks up north - where I was happy to be warm and dry. That was such a nice change!  And I  saw some new species as well!  Plus re-acquainted with many species that I don't see all that often.I flew to Darwin on 11 July, ex-Sydney. The next morning I joined a ten-day tour operated by NT Bird Specialists. We (there were ten of us) visited lots of spots in the Northern Territory (Kakadu, Pine Creek, Katherine, etc) and then we crossed into Western Australia ultimately arriving at Kununurra. I will stay a couple of extra days in Kununurra before returning to Darwin and then flying back to NSW.

11 July

I arrived at Darwin late morning and made my way to my hotel near the airport. I was delighted (also, surprised, as I've not seen them before around Darwin) to see a pair of Black-breasted Buzzards hunting over the airfield paddocks - I saw them while still on the plane, which a great beginning to my trip. Also there were Grey-crowned Babblers just outside the terminal. After I had settled into my hotel near the airport I headed to a nearby monsoon forest (Rapid Creek aka Garumbai).  The place was dominated by honeyeaters especially Brown and White-throated Honeyeater, and several White-gaped Honeyeaters too. Other highlights were Crimson Finch, the black-rumped version of Double-barred Finch, some Orange-footed Scrub-fowl and a Northern Fantail. A pair of Red-collared Lorikeets flew through and my visit finished with a Spangled Drongo. Back at the motel there were some of the white-quilled version of Blue-faced Honeyeater hanging around the pool area (later I realised this was now treated as a separate species).

12 July

This was the first day of the tour and it got away to a cracking start, at Lee Point Dam. We found about 40 species there including a new bird for me, Gouldian Finch. There seemed to only be one bird but I had a good view (a red-faced variant, which is less common). There also were Crimson Finch, Masked Finch and Double-barred Finch plus Chestnut-breasted Mannikins. There were plenty of bush birds including both trillers. Next we went to Buffalo Creek where the first bird I saw was a Chestnut Rail - we all had great views then for quite a while as it strolled the mudflats. Other birds around included Beach Stone-Curlew, Eastern Reef Egret, Aust. Pied Oystercatcher and Striated Heron. I found some Yellow White-eyes, which eluded the others until later in the day. We visited various other spots around Darwin, finding birds such as Green-backed Gerygone, Red-headed Honeyeater, Rufous Owl (pairs at two sites), Mangrove Robin, Torresian Crow, Azure and Forest Kingfisher. On our rounds in the afternoon we several times went past a park that had at least 8 Bush Stone-Curlews roosting. We ended up with about 75 species for the day.

13 July

We left before dawn, to be at Buffalo Creek as the tide dropped. In the gloaming as we arrived, we found a Rainbow Pitta feeding on the roadside verge. The bird was out in the open but it was very poor light. On the beach there were hundreds of shorebirds - mostly Great Knots but also some Red Knots, Greater Sand Plovers, Red-necked Stints, a couple of Sanderlings and one Black-tailed Godwit. The 20-30 terns included a couple of Lesser Crested Terns and many Whiskered Terns.

We went to Lee Point for breakfast, where I saw a Brown-capped Emerald Dove and we all saw an Osprey and a flock of about 50 Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos. Our next stop was Fogg Dam where we spent about 5 hours. There were many highlights here, of which White-browed Crake, Black-necked Stork, Comb-crested Jacana, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove and Little Bronze-cuckoo stood out. However, quite spectacularly, there were about 100 Plumed Egrets and about 300 Pied Herons, the latter at times rising in spectacular large flocks.

We stayed overnight at Mary River Wilderness Retreat, with a Brown Goshawk sitting above the carpark while we unloaded. Not long beforehand I saw my first Nankeen Kestrel and Wedge-tailed Eagle for the trip.

14 July

Early morning we went to some bushland in Mary River NP, along Bird Billabong Road. It was a random stop because there was some bird activity - which turned out to be lots of activity! There were at least 100 Gouldian Finch including red and black variants, females and immature birds. Also a couple of hundred Masked Woodswallows with some White-browed and White-breasted Woodswallows available for comparison. There were Black-tailed Treecreepers including a pair carrying food, and several Varied Lorikeets. We also had brief encounters with Masked Finches, Banded Honeyeater, Weebill and Dusky Myzomela.

After that we headed to Kakadu NP, eventually to lunch beside Jabiru Lake where we found a pair of Barking Owls. We checked into our accommodation at Anbilink Resort - very good rooms with a great front deck and an outdoor shower at the back (it was great). Later in the afternoon we went to Ubirr where there is extensive rock art. En route we patrolled the Jabiru Industrial Area looking for Partridge Pigeons, which eventually we found. That was a new bird for me. The first bird we saw at Ubirr was a Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon - another new bird (and the second in 30 minutes). We mostly looked at the artwork but I did see a Great Bowerbird during my travels. We arrived back at Jabiru well after dark.

15 July

In the morning we went to an area called Kubara about 40 minutes away. A 3km walk brought us to sandstone country where there are a couple of endemics. One of these, Black-banded Fruit-Dove, only offered long-distance views, of a single bird perched several hundred metres away. The other, White-lined Honeyeater, eventually gave great views but that took a long time. For quite a while the glimpses only were tantalising, nothing more. That was two new birds for me taking my tally to 749 and raising my tension accordingly. The third endemic, the sandstone subspecies of the Helmeted Honeyeater, I'd seen before. It was cooperative and I got some photos this time.

We had lunch in shade by a billabong, and along came an Arafura Shrike-thrush. My 750th Australian species! Thankfully I was able to get photos of it as well.

Mid-afternoon we went to Byrrungkuy, another rock art place. There was a Black-necked Stork at a wetland we passed en route. The art work was great but the birding was quiet most of the time. We heard White-lined Honeyeaters several times but had no views. But then we found another Black-banded Fruit-Dove, this one was much closer and we had much better views than in the morning.

16 July

We departed at 5:00am so as to connect with a boat trip at Yellow Water which set off shortly before dawn. It was an amazing two hours on the water! There were so many waterbirds of all sorts of species, also saltwater crocodiles everywhere (and some were rather large) and sightings of feral Buffalos, Pigs and Horses. The most abundant waterbird was Plumed Whistling-Duck - I estimated 5000-10,000 birds. There also were Wandering Whistling-Ducks amongst them (mostly closer to the water). We had flocks of Magpie Geese and Glossy Ibis regularly flying past, mostly becoming obscured after landing. Comb-crested Jacanas were everywhere and there were many young ones too; it was a similar story for Nankeen Night-Herons although their overall numbers were lower. Several times we saw some Brolga in paddocks, in groups of 2-3 birds each time. We had amazingly close-up encounters with both Azure Kingfisher and Sacred Kingfisher - almost too close to photograph.

It seemed a pity to leave but we had breakfast near Cooinda where I found a Bush Stone-curlew and the group found a Pacific Baza. It had caught a plump phasmid which it ate right in front of us. Amongst the honeyeaters we had some Rufous-throated Honeyeaters.

We had lunch at Mary River Ranger Station with a stop shortly before to look at a Red Goshawk. At lunch we had a Silver-backed Butcherbird for company - another new bird for me. We arrived at Pine Creek mid-afternoon - there were Great Bowerbirds near the entrance to the caravan park, with a large bower evident. A walk later produced several dozen Hooded Parrots and one Northern Rosella.

17 July

We spent the morning in Witmiluk NP, firstly at a spot along Edith Falls Rd and then at Edith Falls. Our first spot was because our guide, Luke, had previously found Chestnut-backed Button-quail there. But not today! We worked hard on them and did find a roost site (with breast feathers) but no sight or sound of them. Alongside a creek we had many finches coming in - mostly Masked Finch and Long-tailed Finch also some Gouldian Finch. We had Black-faced Woodswallows and Cockatiels here, both for the first time for the trip.. A flock of Varied Lorikeets flew through, and there were some Hooded Parrots. A Salmon Gum in blossom was attracting many honeyeaters including Banded Honeyeater, also White-winged Triller. At Edith Falls, where the group had late breakfast, there were photogenic Northern Fantails and Leaden Flycatchers, also Shining Flycatcher.

We had lunch at an outdoor cafe in Katherine, where we found our first Apostlebirds for the trip. After checking in at the Beagle Motel (WiFi at last!) we rested for a while then went birding at roadside stops along the first 10km of the Central Arnhem Highway. The target was Northern Shrike-Tit but no luck there. We found more Hooded Parrots and Black-faced Woodswallows, and our first Jacky Winters and Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters for the trip. There were many Banded Honeyeaters including several immature birds.

18 July

We went back to the Central Arnhem Highway sites in the early morning, finding much the same as yesterday and again dipping on the Northern Shrike-tit. However, we did find the Golden-backed Honeyeater. It's a spectacular subspecies of the Black-chinned Honeyeater. One area we visited had many Black Kites and Whistling Kites - we found out why when we discovered at least 5 dead Donkeys there, presumably they had been shot.

After a brief stop in Katherine we headed west on the Victoria Highway, which was new country for me. We saw a Black-breasted Buzzard but unfortunately not at a safe place to stop. At a waterhole later we had a pair of Black-necked Storks, a large flock of Apostlebirds (about 40 of them) and an uncooperative group of 50-60 finches. They didn't give us great views. I saw Masked Finch and Long-tailed Finch but missed the Star Finches that some others saw.

We searched for Purple-crowned Fairy-wren at some sites by the Victoria River, without success. En route from there to our overnight stop at Timber Creek we had two unplanned stops. The first was for some Brown Quail which had crossed the road. There was a Horsfield's Bushlark there too. The second stop was not much further along - for a group of 3 Chestnut-backed Button-quail! They were resting in shade right beside the road. It was my turn today to be in the front seat and so I had fantastic views. Two birds walked off when a large truck went past, but the third (a male) continued to sit while we snuck up for photos. It was an amazing finish to the day.

19 July

We went pre-dawn to a waterhole a few kilometres out of town. What a fantastic morning it was! Ten different finch species came in to drink, and about two hundred Budgerigars as well (these took at least an hour to land and drink). Birds came in waves, starting with Crimson Finch and Double-barred Finch, later Masked, Long-tailed and Gouldian Finch. Next came Pictorella Mannikins (a new bird for me), then Chestnut-breasted Mannikins and Yellow-rumped Mannikins (my second new bird for the day). Lastly were 3 Zebra Finches (the other 9 finch types numbered in the 50-100+, except for Yellow-rumped Mannikin which was more like 20-30 birds). We also had a wave of Peaceful Doves and Diamond Doves coming in to drink. Every so often a Brown Goshawk came through, and caused pandemonium. We got 43 species at and around the waterhole.

Late morning we visited Big Horse Creek where we found a Tawny Frogmouth, and a Great Bowerbird at its bower. The highlight though was a pair of Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens, which we all saw and I watched them allopreening. A great 3rd new bird for the day for me!

We went back to Timber Creek for lunch at the caravan park - where there was a Barking Owl roosting, and a pair of cooperative Buff-sided Robins (my fourth tick for the day).  Late afternoon we went to a couple of lookouts near Timber Creek. At the first of those we found three Grey-fronted Honeyeaters - a new bird for the trip. At Policemans Point Road (and lookout) we had a large flock of Star Finches with a few Gouldian Finches accompanying them. The tide was rushing up the Victoria River despite us being 50 km from the coast. A Caspian Tern flew by, presumably it had followed the tidal surge.

20 July

Another well-before-dawn start with big plans for the day, and the possibility of two new birds for me. Alas, things did not go to plan as the vehicle developed a mechanical problem about an hour after we left. We limped along doing about 60km/h and could not go into Keep River NP, where those birds were waiting for me.

A stop at The Saddle rest area yielded Little Friarbirds and Silver-crowned Friarbirds, and a Bustard flew across in front of the vehicle. Luke dropped us at Lake Argyle Resort at about 10:00 local time, with many hours to fill before we could get into our cabins. There were plenty of Great Bowerbirds around. Many of us went for a walk along the entrance road, where we found some Spinifex Pigeons. Initially we had 8 birds - I stayed on to photograph them and the others flushed 50-80 birds as they walked back. There also were Long-tailed Finches resting on the power lines.

The repaired vehicle returned from Kununurra mid-afternoon and a bit later some of us went around to look at the Ord River Dam and do some birding. We found a Pied Cormorant downstream from the dam - first one for the trip. And then, perched on a rock very high up, there was a White-quilled Rock-Pigeon! Luke got the telescope onto it - a new bird for me. The views were frustratingly distant, but then, on our way back we found four birds right beside the road. Great views, including eventually of a bird in flight and the white wing panels clearly visible.

21 July

We had yet another pre-dawn departure, for a boat trip on Lake Argyle. We had two main stops - one for breakfast at about 8am and the other a couple of hours later at an island. We spent almost two hours at the first spot including to go ashore. We saw a couple of White-browed Crakes, Comb-crested Jacanas and Pied Heron by the lake margins. Gouldian Finches and Pictorella Mannikins flew through and we saw many other species as well.

The island had Yellow Chats, of which we saw several, and a breeding colony of Caspian Terns with many runners. We had some other firsts for the trip, such as Red-kneed Dotterel, Brown Songlark and Australian Pipit. There were several Australian Pratincoles. On our way back we found more White-quilled Rock-Pigeons but, alas, no Sandstone Shrike-thrush which is my key missing target for the trip. We had a pair of Black-breasted Buzzards along Lake Argyle Rd, and a Pallid Cuckoo in Kununurra. We wrapped up with some time in Mirima NP - it seems to have great habitat for the shrike-thrush but we found none. I'm staying at the Kununurra Country Club for 3 nights.

22 July

I walked back to Mirima NP just after dawn and spent most of the morning there, including to do the 2.5 hour circuit over the sandstone formations. It was a rough going at times. I was searching for the Sandstone Shrike-thrush but without success. I found a large group (20+ birds) of White-quilled Rock-Pigeons foraging together and had many more sightings of lesser numbers of them.  That's a bird that I thought would be hard to find and I had it on my list of possibilities not probabilities for this trip. There were Masked Woodswallows soaring overhead and Little Woodswallows sallying from treetops, and I had a nice close-up view of a Pheasant Coucal.

I spent most of the afternoon loafing at the hotel - editing my photos and the occasional swim. During a leg-stretch walk around the premises I found a Buff-sided Robin. Overnight there was a Southern Boobook calling.

23 July

In the morning I walked to Lily Creek Lagoon and then alongside it until encountering private property barriers. There were Whiskered Terns hunting over the water and Comb-crested Jacanas on the lily pads. Various honeyeaters (Brown, Rufous-throated and Yellow-tinted) were bathing in a sprinkler puddle and returning to a nearby tree. I spent some time there taking photos, and of the many Crimson Finches moving between the grass and the reeds. I also found a White-browed Crake foraging, for a brief moment it provided good views. I spent the afternoon editing photos - it's a tedious job. It's much more fun to be taking them!

24 July

I walked to Lily Creek Lagoon again In the morning. I saw pretty much the same birds as yesterday but the numbers for some were a bit different eg there was a noisy flock of about 20 White-quilled Honeyeaters and also a huddle of 15-20 White-breasted Woodswallows. A White-browed Crake foraged in the open for ages but it was distant and the reeds right in front of me inhibited my views especially for me to take photographs. Then, it was time to go back to the hotel, pack and get ready for my travels.

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7 July

Finally, a day without rain! Dodging several flooded streets, I went to Norah Head mid-morning, where the most interesting observation was 30-40 Yellow-faced Honeyeaters foraging around the rocks at the base of the cliff, right by the tide line. A couple of Lewin's Honeyeaters were doing likewise. I couldn't see what they were catching but it seemed to be small insects. There was a pair of Sooty Oystercatchers on the rockshelf, and some cormorants roosting. From the carpark I found a nature trail which led to Bush St Reserve. It was a pleasant walk and had some bird diversity although nothing exceptional (apart from an Australian Brush-turkey). I then went to Soldiers Point, which was a first for me. It looks an interesting spot for seeing offshore seabirds but nothing much was happening there today.

3 July

In the afternoon, during a break in the rain, I checked out Pearl Beach and Patonga as birding destinations. Neither was great! I found six species at Pearl Beach in a 45 minute visit. I did slightly better at Patonga although that included a heard-only Superb Lyrebird from across the water. However, it was nice to see a Whistling Kite flying over me, towards the end of my visit.

1 July

I visited Grahamstown Dam first thing, in drizzly conditions. There were several Great Crested Grebes although all bar one of them were a long way out. Following that, I went to Ross Wallbridge Reserve back in Raymond Terrace. Here were several hundred Australian White Ibis, many of them on nests, and also at least a dozen Nankeen Night-Herons including three immature birds. I dropped the Ash Island keys off to Ross (in my absence he will do the July survey alone) then met with Rob and Greg to plan our Rufous Scrub-bird activities for later in the year. In the afternoon I was at a meeting to plan next year's visit to Japan (the Kushiro Wetlands etc).