Hunter Big Year - End of Financial Birding

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Hunter Big Year - End of Financial Birding
From: Mick Roderick <>
Date: Wed, 30 Jun 2010 19:15:04 -0700 (PDT)
Hi all,
Here's the latest monthly wrap-up for my Hunter Big Year in which I'm 
to see 333 species within the confines of the Hunter Region in one year. Please 
excuse the subliminal (and somewhat awful) pun towards the end of the piece.
The onset of winter was always going to see the skids being put down for the 
Hunter Big Year, apart (I had hoped) from winter pelagics and a trickle of 
winter migrants. Before an attempt was made at oceanic birds however, I did 
a brief window of opportunity to try for some western species early on in June. 
My 4th visit to the Cassilis Rest Area finally paid dividends as 3 Red-winged 
Parrots flew literally along the Golden Highway, as if on their way to Dubbo 
(from whence I had indeed just come). I felt an enormous relief at bagging this 
species, as it is not generally “targetable” – you really just have to rely on 
them flying over and they are far from common here, being right on the eastern 
extremity of their range in this area. It was also pleasing because it meant I 
did not have to return to this god-forsaken spot, which I have always found 
ordinary for birding. 

Later that day I was sussing out one of the only semi-reliable sites for 
Plum-headed Finch – O’Brien Crossing, on the Goulburn River, which forms the 
southern boundary of the Hunter Region. When looking for birds at this site one 
has to keep one’s self within the Hunter or look for birds that are within the 
Hunter themselves. That is, it is rated as fair game if you see birds on the 
northern bank of the river whilst standing on the southern bank and equally as 
much, it is considered fair game if you see birds on the southern bank whilst 
you are standing on the northern bank. As it turned out, I managed to find a 
flock of 12 Plum-heads and made sure of proceedings by crossing over onto the 
northern bank where they milling about. 

A smattering of local Swift Parrot reports had come my way during June as well, 
including one from my brewing brother who was working at Paxton when a small 
group of Swifties flew over. I was never actually concerned about this species, 
especially as they had also been previously reported from one of their 
Hunter haunts at Galgabba Point. Despite several visits to both locations I 
not been able to locate any and with the Spotted Gums not flowering this winter 
I am thinking I might be lucky to pull a Swiftie after all.
A Bassian Thrush calling at Pelton went down as a heard-only...I may need to 
visit Barrington House in spring for this one. My other heard-onlys (I'm sure 
that aint a word) are my two remaining gimmes, being Spotted Pardalote and 
Southern Boobook. Despite the best efforts of dozens of calling, pesky little 
Spotteds I still haven't locked my bins onto one yet. There have been some 
mighty close calls (in both senses) but for now it remains up my sleeve.
Little else was really on the horizon this month – apart from birds that are 
usually seen flying over the horizon. A seabird survey off Port Stephens that 
happened mid-month took me over that horizon and it was to be a day of mixed 
fortunes. Remarkably quiet, we only managed to see 6 species at the shelf, with 
no sign of several common winter birds. Fairy Prions were in good numbers but 
generally it was the same group of birds behind the slick. That was until a 
that resembled one of the Solander’s Petrels that we’d been seeing came up over 
the horizon. Clearly a Pterodroma, it was very pale, almost white, and 
I shouted “White-headed Petrel” – my pelagic bogey-bird. I was hoping that I 
hadn't ‘gone off too early’ but then Alan Stuart got his bins onto it, 
confirming the ID. It was an exhilarating moment as it zoomed past, arcing high 
over the stern, seemingly oblivious to the boat. A brilliant bird to have on my 
Big Year and a reminder that even the quietest days at sea can produce special 
Alas the pelagic that I had organised for the following weekend was cancelled 
due to a nasty southerly, but I was philosophical and after that Pterodroma 
lesson I, well I was still flying high!
312 at the half-way mark and I’m feeling much more confident of reaching 333 
the year. It’s going to be quite an effort to peg back those last 21 birds – 
boy it will be fun. 

Mick Roderick

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