A Fantastic Day Birding in The Hunter Region NSW 14th July 2002

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Subject: A Fantastic Day Birding in The Hunter Region NSW 14th July 2002
From: "Edwin Vella" <>
Date: Mon, 15 Jul 2002 20:15:22 +1000

On Sunday 14th July 2002, David Mitford and I enjoyed a fantastic day?s birding in the Hunter region (approx 170 km north of Sydney CBD) with the aim to get a few lifers on the list for David. The weather was superb for this purpose being calm, warm and sunny ? Perfect! Most importantly, there were plenty of birds, esp. raptors (11 species) and water birds (including 2 rare species of duck).


Our first stop was at Shortland Wetland Centre (approx  5-10km west of Newcastle CBD) where David got any easy tick ? 60 of the more so resident Magpie Geese. Other birds seen included several Hardhead, Australasian Shovelers, a Swamp Harrier on nest (?), a Fantail Cuckoo, 2 Spangled Drongos (constantly disputing each other) and lots of White-cheeked and Brown Honeyeaters feeding on the assortment of flowering Grevilleas. Although not a new bird for both of us, we would have liked to see the family of 3 Black-necked Storks seen in the water ribbon pond the day before. Later on we also saw a pair of Whistling Kites displaying in the air with one upside down and underneath the other bird.


We then moved to the East Maitland rubbish tip (approx 20-25 km west of Newcastle CBD) to find 6 BLACK KITES patrolling the area. One worker at the tip thinks he has seen up to 60 Black Kites here at one time! There were many other birds feeding on the rubbish esp. Silver Gulls, Pelicans, Magpie-larks, Indian Mynas and both Sacred and Straw-necked Ibis. There was a brief commotion at one stage when a Whistling Kite joined the Black Kites and an Australian Hobby flew over. What was also a surprise was an excellent view of a BLACK FALCON perched on a tall aerial wire adjacent to the tip. A White-throated Gerygone also briefly called.


Later in the morning we visited Collieroy Dam at Richmond Vale (and a few km south of Maitland) where to our disbelief, none of the usual Comb-crested Jacanas were seen. In the past, I have easily seeing a dozen or so these nice critters over the last decade here (thinking that they were always a reliable breeding resident) and with its still sufficient water-lily cover, one must ask the question where have they gone? Also another water bird usually present here, the Musk Duck was also absent. However despite this, we did have an unexpected find, a beautiful adult SPOTTED HARRIER flying low over the paddock and then soaring very high over the adjacent  Spotted Gum Forest. I have never seen a Spotted Harrier soar so high before. Hardheads were very numerous (1000-1500 present) but other birds seen included a Little Egret (all 4 species of White Egrets were seen on Sunday), a White-bellied Sea-eagle, a male Swamp Harrier, Grey-crowned Babblers and several Tree Martins (perhaps the first migrant returns).


Before noon, we decided to check out the COTTON PYGMY-GOOSE at Minmi (approx 10-15km south-west of Newcastle CBD) which was very easy to find. One female Pygmy-goose was amongst 20 or so Hardheads in a small dam. It was quite approachable and we had very good views indeed for some photos. This is my second sighting and location of a Cotton Pygmy Goose in NSW. At Minmi, we also saw a Brown Goshawk, our only Australian Kestrel for the day and heard a Rose Robin briefly call.


Before lunch we drove a few km north to Lenaghan and visited a swamp full of ducks south-west of Hexham Swamp. Amongst the large numbers of Grey Teal were 11 FRECKLED DUCKS, 100 or more Pink-eared Ducks, 100 or so Hardheads and also quite a number of Australasian Shoveler. The Freckled Ducks have been present here since last December and the population here has slightly grown. Overlooking Hexham swamp, we spotted several Swamp Harriers, Whistling Kites, 2 White-bellied Sea-eagles, Black-shouldered Kites, 2 Yellow-billed Spoonbills and atleast 13 Glossy Ibis. There were thousands of other ducks present on this very large swamp but many too far away to identify.


We picked up our final raptor for the day at Wallsend being 2 light-phase Little Eagles.


Before heading home in Sydney, we decided to pull through Woy Woy and then onto St Hubert?s Island (approx 70-80 km north of Sydney CBD) where with a bit of searching spotted 3 BUSH STONE-CURLEWS in the mangroves. They were as expected standing motionless being not dark yet. I have never seen more than 3 Stone-curlews here at a time and was wondering if anyone out there has seen more? If they are not roosting in the mangroves they are usually seen roosting in nearby peoples gardens, where we saw a Bar-shouldered Dove and heard Scaly-breasted Lorikeets. Around the oyster racks atleast 6 Pied Oystercatchers and 2 Caspian Terns were seen.


Apart from seabirds, this is probably one of the best winter seasons for birding. If the drought continues, I think we will be seeing lots of other interesting birds till the end of the summer season!!


A good day?s birding indeed!



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