Hunter Big Year - The Awful Gusts of August

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Hunter Big Year - The Awful Gusts of August
From: Mick Roderick <>
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 2010 05:54:14 -0700 (PDT)
Hi all,
Not much to report from August...still, a little write-up below on my Big 
I know I shouldn’t blame the weather again, but I can’t help myself. Bemoaning 
the inland rains has gotten me nowhere but August was defined by costly and 
untimely gusting winds that saw me very nearly go a month without adding a new 
bird…well, without having to dip into my very modest “bank” of residents that I 
have intentionally evaded thus far. 

As the organiser of the pelagics that run off Port Stephens I take a great deal 
of interest in sea conditions in the prelude to a planned trip. This month I 
a date set for Sun 15th, with a back-up date for Sun 29th. Needless to say, 
dates were “blown out” and even more needless-to-say the 8th and 22nd were 
picture-perfect days for ocean venturing! This really hurt as I am still 
some ‘regular’ winter pelagic birds, most notably the Giant-Petrels. I’ll be 
skating on thin waves looking for these birds when we (hopefully) head out on 
the 19th September.
August is often a difficult month for pelagics due to fierce westerly winds 
invariably blow within it. These westerlies put pay to one of the pelagics 
(southerlies to the other) but they also made birding in general very difficult 
indeed. I have been consoling myself thinking that they might blow some of 
inland deserters back to the coast! In reality I did actually think that the 
westerlies could blow some White-browed and Masked Woodswallows my way, as 
when a strong westerly hits in spring we find these birds in the woodlands of 
the Lower Hunter. It remains to be seen what these guys do in 2010 with life 
being so good west of the hill. 

As it turned out I only added one species to my July tally. How appropriate 
month that the only species I added in my tally-room was in the form of a 
Tasmanian” – a Swift Parrot. Chris Tzaros had informed me earlier in the year 
that we’d be struggling to find Swifties in NSW in 2010 due to conditions in 
Victoria being so good. He wasn't kidding! It appears that at least 90% of the 
Swiftie population never got north of Mexico this year, so I had to shift from 
my theory of “checking regular sites” to having to go twitch Swifties that had 
been reported from a site. 

The best oil was from a caravan park near Tuncurry where about 6 birds had been 
reported over several weeks. When I arrived at the spot, a single Swiftie was 
one of the first birds I saw as it flushed from a flowering Red Gum. Despite 
hearing other birds calling private properties I was not able to get visuals on 
another Swift Parrot, having to wade through zillions of Scaly-breasted 
Lorikeets that were clearly running this party. This was during the first week 
of the month and subsequent searches both at this location and elsewhere 
(including with Chris himself) were fruitless. I think I was very fortunate to 
see this bird at all and it was certainly one that I had taken for granted in 

Now that spring is ‘officially’ here, migrants are returning, westerlies are 
turning more northerly and the ocean water temp is still cold, I’m very much 
looking forward to putting August behind me and moving into the business end of 
the year. I require 14 species in 16 weeks to reach my target of 333 – lets 
the weather is as appealing as the maths! 

Mick Roderick

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