Good birding in the Lower Hunter Region NSW - 21st September 2003

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Subject: Good birding in the Lower Hunter Region NSW - 21st September 2003
From: "Edwin Vella" <>
Date: Sun, 21 Sep 2003 02:42:39 +1000


Today I spent the morning and the early afternoon visiting a number of my favourite spots in the lower Hunter region of NSW (near Newcastle). The locations and some of the interesting bird were as follows


ASH ISLAND, Hunter Estuary (approx 160km north of Sydney CBD or 10-15km west of Newcastle)


Here I easily found the adult (and nicely plumaged) Australian Pratincole that has been present for at least a week. It was great to see this smart and elegant looking wader again after a number of years, and I had some great views as close as 5-10 metres from this bird. I was surprised how approachable the pratincole was, and at one time it flew and landed very close to me. The pratincole spent quite a fair bit of time just staying in one spot on the dry mud on the shores of Swan Pond catching and feasting on the abundance of small insects flying around it. Swan Pond (beside Wagtail Way) and the other swamps on Ash Island also had many other waders including 150 plus Red-necked stints, 300 plus Sharp-tailed and 200 plus Marsh Sandpipers, 80 plus Curlew Sandpipers, 3 Red Knot, 4 Eastern Curlews, at least 6 Greenshanks, 20 plus Red-capped Plovers, 2 Red-kneed Dotterels, 8 Pied Stilts and  200 plus Red-necked Avocets (many of the migratory waders were seen coming out of breeding plumage and 1 saw 2 red flagged waders ? a Sharp-tailed and a Curlew Sandpiper). Other birds seen included 14 Hoary-headed Grebes (on the deeper pond on the other side of the railway line), 2 Little Egrets, a Pacific Heron, a male Swamp Harrier, 1-2 Whistling Kites, 35 Whiskered Terns (most if not all were in very smart breeding plumage), atleast 10 White-fronted Chats, White-breasted Woodswallows, Reed Warblers, Tawny Grassbirds and Mangrove Gerygones (which were common).


I also met fellow Newcastle and Birding Aus birdo Jim Smart while at Ash Island. It is great to put a face to a name.



I must comment that they are doing a very good job with the tree planting on Ash Island and one day there will be new areas of forest. A big pat on the back for all those volunteers!


EAST MAITLAND (approx 160km north of Sydney CBD)


At mid morning, I then drove to East Maitland to find the access to the back of the tip. From what I have heard on NSW birdline, due to public liability reasons, it is no longer freely accessible to birdos. I have now found a track which runs from the end of Kimberly Close (in the suburb of Green Hills) and goes along the back of the East Maitland tip (only a 200-300 metre walk from the end of this cul-de sac). >From this side of the fence, there is still a good vantage point to see the raptors over the tip and the surrounds, and I recommend that birdos to try this area (as just described) as the raptors do fly over to this side of the fence and quite often (and it is where a pair of Black Falcons were displaying a few weeks ago). From this side of the fence today, I had two Black Kites circling low over me and saw another 4 Black Kites over the tip as well as a Brown Goshawk and one or two Brown Falcons for the 20 or so minutes I was there. This area is also potentially good for bush birds in the Spotted Gum Forest (where I heard White-throated Gerygones calling) and the Acacia scrub.


MORPETH STW (approx 170km north of Sydney CBD)


I made a brief visit here and there appears now to be much less water birds than there were a month or so ago. I did see 200 Hardheads, over a hundred Pink-eared Ducks, a few Australasian Shoveler, many Grey Teal (the most common duck there) and 5 Darter. Where I was standing I had some very good looks at both Tawny and Little Grassbirds and Reed Warblers all together in small patches of weed growing beside one of the sewerage ponds. I heard a Brown Quail call nearby and I thought I heard the distinctive ?chiff iff iff? calls of a Wood Sandpiper on the other side of the pond but I could not see the bird.


Yes it?s been a great weekend visiting rubbish tips and sewerage ponds!


SEAHAM (approx. 200km north of Sydney CBD)


During a brief but pleasant stop here for lunch, I watched for a while a Latham?s Snipe stand on the edge of one of the freshwater swamps. I also saw some Satin Bowerbirds (including one or two brilliant adult males) flying into the trees on the edge of Seaham Swamp NR where I also saw a few Olive-backed Orioles and heard both Striped and Brown-headed Honeyeaters calling. Both Blue-faced Honeyeaters and Grey-crowned Babblers were fossicking in peoples gardens nearby (yes these Babblers are garden birds here).


I also saw a Channel-billed Cuckoo fly over the road when driving through nearby Eagleton.



STOCKTON, Hunter Estuary (approx 180km north of Sydney CBD or 5km north of Newcastle)


I managed to arrive at the right time to see quite a number of waders utilising the new high tide roosting area below Stockton bridge. I managed to have good and fairly close views (with the aid of my scope and mainly from the car park so as to not disturb the birds) of a variety of waders with many also moulting out of breeding plumage. There were about 150 Curlew and a few Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, 200 plus Red and 1 Great Knots, 200 plus Bar-tailed and 35 Black-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel, 150 plus Eastern Curlew, a Grey Plover, a few Red-capped Plovers, a Pied Oystercatchers and 1000 plus (though many were still arriving) Red-necked Avocets. Further down stream, I saw 5 Grey-tailed Tattlers roosting on a wreck beside the Hunter River.


Edwin Vella

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