Hunter Home Brewers 2010 Twitchathon wrap-up

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Hunter Home Brewers 2010 Twitchathon wrap-up
From: Mick Roderick <>
Date: Sun, 7 Nov 2010 21:53:42 -0800 (PST)
Hi all,

Herewith the Hunter Home Brewers' 2010 Twitchathon tale from the desk of 
Jacqueline Winter. Although our score was very respectable, again entirely from 
a coastal catchment, I do wonder about how we always seem to fall apart in the 
last 3 hours of a Twitchathon!




Hunter Home Brewers Twitchathon 2010 – Sticking to One’s Routes 

After a very successful Twitchathon done solely in the Hunter Valley in 2009, 
the temptation was there for the Hunter Home Brewers to again “stick their 
routes” by spending the entire 24 hours in the Hunter catchment. There was 
however, a major spanner thrown into the works – the effects of the inland 

Mick Brew was already 10 months into his ‘Hunter Big Year’ and was as aware as 
anyone of the mass exodus of waterbirds, shorebirds and some passerines from 
Hunter that had occurred during 2010. A key event in the decision to stay in 
Hunter once again was receiving news (via Grant Drongo) that things on the 
Liverpool Plains close to Gunnedah weren’t that crash-hot (even the Painted 
Honeyeaters hadn’t shown). The Brewers decided to concentrate on the 
woodland birding in the west of the Hunter and to try and gain the advantage 
there. Mick Brew had also researched a more efficient rainforest run for the 
Sunday morning, so the Brewers had adopted a heavy emphasis on ‘bush birds’ for 
the 2010 event. 

For the first time, the lads set off for a Hunter run on a Friday, enabling 
to garner good oil on their Dummy Run. It also saw them sleeping right at the 
top of the Hunter Valley, in the far reaches of the Goulburn River. The 
were right on the edge of the Hunter Region (literally 15m south of it) so when 
a pair of Little Friarbirds arrived not only was it good oil for the Twitch, 
gave Mick a well sought-after species for his big year. Following a promising 
Dummy Run, a feed at the Chinese corner of the Merriwa razzle-dazzle, a good 
‘squelch’ (equivalent to ‘twitch’ but for frogs), the brewers settled in for 
Cracker’s Disco in truly luxurious settings. 

After a vain attempt to find Geordies at their 2009 starting point, they moved 
north to a new, but well-oiled starting site. This was the new promised land of 
the Hunter – Durridgere Road. Two species that they always thought only 
on a Gunnedah run live a couple of hundred metres apart here – Singing 
Honeyeater and Southern Whiteface. Needless to say, as 4pm rolled over these 
were the two key targets, along with one of their traditional nemesis birds – 
the Pallid Cuckoo – which was to go down as numero uno as 4pm ticked over. 
Durridgere Road produced the goods with these western niceties, as well as some 
other very handy birds such as Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Rufous Songlark and 
Red-capped Robin. A quick detour into the Little Friarbird site found these 
birds easily along with Rock Warbler, Western Gerygone and Brush Cuckoo.
After ticking Emus at 80-clicks (always satisfying to tick without stopping) 
moving along quite nicely, they turned onto their gun woodland stretch – 
Ringwood Road. 

A quick scout for the Plum-heads at O’Brien Crossing had them dipping, but a 
very worthy replacement came in the form of White-backed Swallow. There are 
generally 4 key sites along Ringwood Road and I can guarantee you that the mood 
became extremely sombre after the first two failed to produce anything more 
Martins and Choughs. It was a tense time as they approached the better of the 
two remaining sites, but fortune was on their side as a flurry of mops were had 
– White-browed Babbler, Turquoise Parrot, Red-winged Parrot, Diamond Firetail 
and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater all fell in succession. A calling pair of Eastern 
Whipbirds had them thinking that there wouldn’t be too many places in NSW where 
Red-wings and Whipbirds live together. 

Leaving the wooded habitat behind, they picked up calling Brown and Stubble 
Quails in the crops before moving on to Merriwa to catch the late-calling 
Blackbird and roosting Musk Lori’s. The nightshift kicked in at the start of 
Yarrawa Rd and it wasn’t long before Barn Owl and Tawny Frogmouth were seen. 
Nightjars were heard at virtually every stop they made to listen for Boobooks, 
but none of the latter could be heard. 

After yet another vain attempt at spotlighting the Plumed Whistling Ducks at 
Doughboy Hollow, they pushed on to see if their old friend was loitering around 
near Gresford. The Masked Owl is a difficult bird to imitate, and it was 
obviously out of pure curiosity (or ‘pity’ perhaps?) that their old friend did 
indeed come in to investigate Mick and Steve’s attempts at the maniacal 
It was a fitting bird to be their 100th bird and a calling Boobook and Koel 
the icings on the cake. They now had 102 birds on the board but significantly, 
the only waterbirds or waders within that 102 were Wood Ducks and Masked 

The Masked Owl lifted their brewing spirits and as they approached their night 
camp they noticed a vehicle pulled over on the side of the road. Upon closer 
inspection the vehicle was that of the Dodgy Drongo’s and after the initial 
pause for confirmation of who was inside, the Brewers exploded into a raucous 
chorus of “BREWING!!” and various other snorts and sounds before leaving the 
stunned Drongo’s in the wake of Larry Landcruiser. They just shook their heads. 

The dawn chorus was somewhat more ‘pleasing to the ear’, particularly ears that 
are listening for new birds for a Twitchathon list. Russet-tailed Thrush, Noisy 
Pitta and Green Catbird were all part of this chorus and after a Wompoo flew in 
to the tree above their heads, they moved off to their Riflebird site, which 
obliged by calling after only a brief wait. Alas the Logrunner wouldn’t come to 
the party but this was to be one of only two rainforest dips (the other being 
Bassian Thrush). Satisfied, they moved on to Dungog and made the mistake of 
sampling the local bakery, which cost them precious time and taste-buds. 

Not needing to be at the estuary until around midday, the lads had time to 
some of their favourite haunts such as Green Wattle Creek, Walka Water Works, 
Seaham and Raymond Terrace. Although Geoff was present at the latter there was 
no sign of the Night Herons at all and 2010 was to be the first year that they 
would dip on this species (amongst 4 others). Still, they had over 180 species 
as they approached the estuary. A large bird circling over the beach caught 
their eye and it was a Gannet. They decided to do a quick seawatch from 
Beach and easily picked up Wedge and Short –tailed Shearwaters. 

Stockton Sandspit was reasonably kind, considering the unfavourable tides. Both 
Godwits, Curlew Sands, Red Knot, Red-necked Stint and a pair of Little Terns 
were amongst the highlights here and 200 clicked over around a quarter past 
midday – about 90 minutes later than it did in 2009. This was to be expected 
given the dearth of waterbirds in the region. A trawl of the mangroves gained 
them a bonus bird in the form of two Common Sandpipers and Brush Wattlebird was 
gleefully accepted following last year’s unbelievable dip. 

Next it was over to Newcastle Baths to pick up the usual suspects there. Common 
Tern, Ruddy Turnstone and Sooty Oycs all presented themselves nicely, and a few 
“Fluttering-types” came close enough in to be confirmed as Fluttering 
Shearwaters. With 213 under their belt the Brewers were brimming with 
confidence. They knew that scores would be generally down this year due to the 
inland rain and after seeing Magpie Geese en-route to their “mop sites” they 
moved to 214 with two and a half hours to go. It boded well for a score well 
into the 220’s…but this is where the wheels fell off. 

From hereon in, it was a dipfest for the Brewers, starting with a time-costly 
and almost mind-boggling miss on both New Holland and White-cheeked Honeyeaters 
at their “reliable” site near Kurri. They swallowed the New Holland as a dip, 
but remained confident that they would pick up White-cheeked at the wetlands 
centre. Next they moved on to “Poor Man’s Kakadu” to dip on the Jacana and 
Little Egret (the latter being one of the 5 first-time misses) and only gaining 
Grey-crowned Babblers and Black-winged Stilts as they went. Then they scanned 
Hexham Swamp to dip on numerous possibilities, but did pick up Straw-necked 
and Intermediate Egret. 

They had only added 4 species since the Maggie Goose nearly 2 hours earlier, 
had dipped something around ten birds. A Collared Sparrowhawk was the only 
addition to the list as they travelled back to wetlands centre. And it was 
that they faced a monumental dip for the second year running. Last year it was 
the Brush Wattle, this year it was the White-cheeked Honeyeater. And so they 
to settle with 219 as the final whistle blew. 

This was still a very good score from a coastal catchment in a year where 
zillions of birds had departed for western territories, but they knew it wasn’t 
going to be competitive. It was however, enough for equal second, which they 
shared with the Dodgy Drongo’s. The Menacing Monarchs had scored 237, due 
largely to the fact that they had started at the Macquarie Marshes where many 
the absent friends were breeding or present at least. Nonetheless, the Hunter 
Home Brewers had again stayed true to their name and stuck to their “birding 

Jacqueline Winter

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