A Fantastic Day Birding in The Hunter Region NSW 14th July 2002
"Edwin Vella" <>
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 (approx5-10km 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
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
adjacentSpottedGumForest. 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 , 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
HexhamSwamp. 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