ASH AND KOORAGANG ISLAND, NEWCASTLE
22ND FEBRUARY 1998
Yesterday, I had some wonderful birding in the Ash Island/ Kooragang
Island Areas. One Yellow Wagtail of race simillima (in full breeding
plumage, with underparts as yellow as that of a Canary) was still there.
The bird had yellow under parts from the base of bill to the tail
(although the throat look a bit pale in some lights), a blue-grey crown
with white eye-brow, olive-green back, rump and shoulders, grey-black
wings and black tail with white margins. It also had black legs and bill.
I saw the bird 3 times that morning at intervals from 10 to 15 minutes.
The bird was preening itself and feeding (among White-fronted Chats) on
the ground (at times, right out in the open but mainly on the edge or
hidden amongst the samphire and tussocks). I saw the bird walking about
with its backwards and forwards head movement and jerking its tail
up-and-down, every now and then (as with all Wagtails). The bird also
gave its shrill "zweep" call in its strong undulating flight (at times to
great heights). This is my 3rd sighting of this beautiful bird since
seeing it for the first time, over a month ago at a Sandgate swamp near
the cemetery. Although this has been a new bird for me then, it has
become one of my favourite birds since the Painted Snipe at Bushells
Lagoon. Like the Snipe, it deserves more than a tick in my book, but a
detailed study. Also present within the area was a Mangrove Heron,
Pectoral Sandpiper, a Double-banded Plover and several Greenshanks and
Another highlight was a Ruff (among half a dozen or so Sharp-tailed
Sandpipers) at Kooragang Island. The bird was at the large swamp beside
the main road (yes, at the same swamp were the Banded Stilts were present
a few years ago and where also a Ruff was present). This was probably
the bird that was present a couple of weeks ago on Ash Island, given the
relative close proximity of the place. The bird can be described as
basically having a long neck with a smallish head and having a pale face
(unlike the Sharp-tails close by) around the base of the bill and a fine
black streak through its eyes (as Pizzey refers to the "Oriental look".
The upper parts were a greyish-brown colour with scaly feathers
particularly in the wings with darker centres to the feathers. The breast
was whitish (not streaked in any way with a grey-brown wash, particularly
at the sides of the breast. The vent was clear- white with no arrow marks
like the other sandpipers. The bird had a slightly down-curved black bill
which was slightly longer then the head but not as fine pointed as for
the Curlew Sandpiper. In its short brief easy flight (No, I did not
disturb the bird), the bird showed a thin-white wingbar, and large white
oval patches on each side of the dark black centre of the rump, Its
olive-brown legs protruded also beyond the tail tip in flight. The bird
was observed for about half an hour and was feeding, up to leg deep with
the Sharp-tails and didn't even appear to be bothered by my presence even
within a distance of within 10 metres (as it continued to feed. When the
bird was seen on the shore with the Sharp-tails it was about a third
larger in size and when it stood upright it had this pot-belly appearance
(I noticed this even at a distance).
There were many waders in this swamp, mainly Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and
Red-necked Stints but there were also Lesser Golden and Red-capped
Plovers, Curlew Sandpipers, Greenshanks and some White-fronted Chats.
I also visited Stockton thereafter, and saw several Terek Sandpipers and
Grey-tailed Tattlers feeding against the up-coming tide amongst the
mangroves. Two Mangrove Warblers were also quite showy.
That is all for now