After two years out of NSW it was time to return to the fold. However, to
my chagrin, the Hunter Thickheads didn't want me back so a new team was
born, a team reflecting the western nature of its participants, the Whacked
Out Woodswallows. I won't try and outdo Allan Morris's detailed report of
his twitchathon but present one that reflects how our team experienced the
Whacked Out Woodswallows muddle through
Half an hour before the official twitchathon starting time and the Whacked
Out Woodswallows are at the designated top secret starting point, unable to
go any further even had we wanted to as the road is cut by the flooding
creek. The thirty minutes drags as deliciously tickable birds flit or, in
the case of the Cockatiel, whiz by. A booming emanates from the adjacent
reed-beds have the heartbeats quickening. Australasian Bittern! Damn,
that's one bird that we won't get after 4PM. "Keep an eye on that Marsh
Harrier!". Every ten minutes or so the boom comes from the reeds. One
minute to go, eyes on the watch ... Start. "Reed Warbler, Little Grassbird,
Darter, Intermediate Egret". "Up there ... Glossy Ibis". The booms comes
again, "You beauty, got the Bittern!". "What are those small birds on the
road ... White-fronted Chat!". "Times precious, let's move on". "Little
Egret on the causeway". "Over there, behind the cows, Whiskered Tern".
"Listen ... Little Crow". "Let's move!" The 2000 Twitchathon had started
and my fellow, first time, twitchathoners weren't quite sure what they had
got themselves into.
Not to be daunted my fellow "Woodswallows" Carol Probets and Jill Dark soon
got into the swing of the constant stopping and starting as promising birds
leapt into view. "White-winged Fairy-wren. No, just Superbs", then over my
shoulder comes the cry of "Mulga Parrot", "Yes, two of them". I see them
disappearing up the road but Mulgas they were. No time for too much
stopping now, our timing is tight on this section. Blue Bonnet, Ringneck,
Red-rumped Parrots, Cockatiel and pigeons fly off the road. Black-faced
Woodswallows and Singing Honeyeater on the fence and then small birds. We
have to stop. "Zebra Finch". "Look at the fourth post, what's that?".
"Southern White-face!". "Yes!".
Things are going extremely well until the car starts to lose power until we
have a maximum speed of 80 kilometres per hour. This is really stuffing up
our timing. "Ground Cuckoo-shrike". "How far to our woodland site?". As
the maximum speed drops to 40 kilometres an hour I realise that we have a
problem with the automatic transmission. Do we head for town or stop to
pick up the Red-capped Robin and White-browed Babbler? The consensus is
that the birds are more important. What a team!
After many anxious moments and 180 kilometres in second gear we arrive back
at Dubbo. Dumping the gear into Carol's car we are off again at what seems
to be breakneck speed after our previous top of 70kmh. Our overnight stop
modified due to our very late arrival we opt for a comfortable shelter shed
in a recreation reserve. Despite the never ceasing thundering of coal
trucks seeming only metres away we had a refreshing four hours sleep.
Defying Twitchathon logic we hadn't carried out a reconnoitre of the Sunday
route due to lack of time and other commitments. Nevertheless, on we
ventured, our overnight tally of 105 species putting us in the box seat we
thought. At one stage we are apparently shadowed by another Twitchathon
team "stealing" our Fuscous Honeyeaters and at other almost wiping out the
same team on a windy forest road. Onward towards our Newcastle destination
we consistently pick up a few new birds at each stop but many common birds
are eluding us. Where were the White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes, Diamond
Firetails, those Hooded Robins, and where were the Red Wattlebirds, Crimson
Rosellas and King Parrot! Where are the lorikeets? ... twenty four hours
without a lorikeet??
At Newcastle we are thwarted by a tide that seemingly refuses to fall and by
traffic that eventually sees us giving up on four sure things. A quick
tally sees us with only 186 species. It's not good enough. Latham's Snipe,
Wandering Whistleduck, Tawny Grassbird, Red-kneed Dotterel. "Let's try over
here for Banded Rail". "There it is". "Quiet, don't draw attention to it".
There are frenzied Twichathon teams everywhere. The timekeeper declares
"Time" and another Twitchathon is over. A total of 191, a little
disappointing but competitive. Will my team members want to endure all this
again next year? Yes, they declare. The really Whacked Out Woodswallows
are fine-tuning their route already.
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