The White-breasted Woodswalow in the Sydney region, NSW

To: "Alan Morris" <>, <>
Subject: The White-breasted Woodswalow in the Sydney region, NSW
From: "Ricki Coughlan" <>
Date: Tue, 21 Sep 2004 22:32:36 +1000
Hi Alan
I departed from Sydney on August 31 and arrived here in Broome on September 8 - a quick run, but not without many joys which I will report upon in due course. Whilst on Woodswallows, I witnessed an absolutely enormous flock of Masked and White-browed Woodswallows about 150kms south of Bourke at around 8:00am on September 1. We're talking flocks along 30 kilometers of road, at least, with numbers building up to the thousands of Woodswallows on either side as I journeyed along. I would not be surprised to find that the numbers were over 100,000. When I finally pulled over to the roadside, mostly due to stunned amazement, the noise of the birds was incredible. A few kilometers north of where I stopped, the numbers dwindelled, but not the memory of what must have been a fairly significant event. I'll never forget the beautiful imagery of the colourswitching everywhere as the myriad birds kept changing courses.
In the course of my journey, I saw the entire suite of Woodswallows: Duskies near Sydney, Black-faced at Nyngan, White-browed and Masked 100kms north of Nyngan, White-breasted at Katherine and Little near Kununara. Of course, I witnessed these species at other sites too, but these were the first places of sighting in the course of my fantastic journey. One species or another was almost always present, except on the Barkly Tablelands, so they became my friendly travelling companions for the week.
I fulfilled a long held ambition with a stop-over at Victoria River, west of Katherine, where I observed a family of 3 male and 2 female Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens in very tall grass by the river. The whole event was like a beautiful dream. The males were in stunning colour and the entire 10 minutes seemed to pass without a breath from me. I'm not much of a ticker but this is one shared moment with a beautiful creature (not just a meaningless "tick") that my life would have felt incomplete without and I must admit I shed a tear as I never really believed that the moment would come and yet there I was.
It's in the mid to high 30's right now, as I write from my office where I can see my garden full of Grey-crowned Babblers, Great Bowerbirds, Yellow White-eyes, Diamond Doves, Bar-shouldered Doves, Mistletoe Birds, Long-tailed and Double Barred Finches, as well as Rufous Whistlers and Agile Wallabies, to name just a few. Across the bright red dirt road from my home is beautiful Roebuck Bay with its 100's of thousands of waders. My wader list up here includes:
Spotless Crake
Ruddy Turnstone
Asian Dowitcher
Bar-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwit
Eastern Curlew
Common Redshank
Common Greenshank
Marsh Sandpiper (on the lakes of Roebuck Plains)
Wood Sandpiper (on the lakes of Roebuck Plains)
Terek Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (lakes of Roebuck Plains)
Curlew Sandpiper
Great Knot
Red Knot
Broad-billed Sandpiper
Grey-tailed Tattler
Red-necked Stint
Beach Stone-Curlew
Black-winged Stilt
Red-necked Avocet (lakes of Roebuck Plains)
Pied Oystercatcher
Sooty Oystercatcher
Grey Plover
Red-capped Plover
lesser Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Oriental Plover
Black-fronted Dotterel
Silver Gull
Crested Tern
Lesser Crested Tern
Caspian Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Whiskered Tern
Little Tern
Greater Egret
Lesser Egret
Striated Heron
White-faced Heron
White-necked Heron
Royal Spoonbill
Straw-necked Ibis (in the town of Broome)
Brown Booby
Eastern Reef Egret (dark and light forms)
Lesser Frigatebird
I've certainly left several out and of course there are the many passerines which make the mangroves down the road their home. The wonders of nature unspoilt just appear at every moment here and every day brings something new and amazing.
Many of these waders are now back in Australia from their breeding grounds in Siberia and it's not uncommon to see flocks of over 5,000 to 7,000 waders roosting one the side of the Bay at high tide, whilst many thousands gather in huge flocks and fly back and forth above the brilliant aquamarine waters of Roebuck Bay. These are sights never to be forgotten. I'll get a report to you and Birding-Ausers of my trip from Sydney as soon as I've got the time to put my binos aside for a while and of course there's the cannon-netting and flagging of waders which is going on regularly. This sure is a great birding adventure I'm having!
Regards - Ricki
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