To: <>
From: "Greg and Val Clancy" <>
Date: Tue, 3 Dec 2013 09:34:17 +1100
The Black-necked Stalkers Twitchathon team of Gary Eggins, Russell Jago and me 
(Head Stalker) decided to vary our route this year to take in some of the 
western birds that don’t usually occur in the Clarence Valley.  I had carried 
out some tours for the inaugural Gwydir Bush and Bird Fair at Warialda and 
became acquainted with some local birds that do not occur on the coast.  It 
seemed like a good place to start our twitch.  It isn’t as far west as some 
other teams start but it would, hopefully, give us an advantage that we 
wouldn’t have if we stayed on the coast.  We were keen to better our 2012 tally 
of 209 species, our best to date.

We decided that as we were only going to get three hours sleep on Saturday 
night a sleep in on Saturday morning was the go.  However we didn’t realise 
until just before the big day that the Grafton to Inverell cycle classic was 
being run on the same day and the last thing we needed was to be caught up 
behind hundreds of cyclists and their support vehicles.  So much for the sleep 
in.  Instead of a leisurely 9 AM start we had to be away from Gary’s at 
Waterview Heights no later than 7.30 AM.  We did manage to do it and just beat 
the road closed signs which were being erected as we drove past.  Up the 
Gibraltar Range towards Glen Innes and a circling raptor drew our attention.  
By the time we stopped the vehicle it had gone but we did see three Brown 
Falcons hunting over a recently logged pine forest.  The other raptor was 
almost certainly a Little Eagle but its identity couldn’t be confirmed.  The 
stop was fortuitous as we noticed a very squashed roadkill nearby.   It was a 
Long-nosed Potoroo, a species not seen too often, but known to occur on the 
Gibraltar Range.  We didn’t linger as we had visions of hundreds of sweaty 
cyclists boring down on us.  In reality they would have been a couple of hours 
behind us but we weren’t taking any chances.

We passed through Glen Innes then checked out Lake Inverell for rarities.  A 
Hoary-headed Grebe was the most interesting species observed.  Then on to 
Warialda where we had lunch.  Gary and I wandered over to the showground to do 
a reconnaissance but Russell was missing his sleep in so stayed stretched out 
on the picnic bench.   We found a Pale-headed Rosella and a hybrid that had 
more Eastern Rosella colours inspecting nest hollows in a large eucalypt.  I 
saw a raptor and it turned out to be a Black Kite.  Then there was another and 
another until twelve of these raptors circled over our heads and disappeared 
into thin air.  We had a couple of hours until the official start time of 4 PM 
(16:00 hrs).  Would they return in time?  Would we get them somewhere else?  It 
was, after all a Twitch, and normal conditions don’t exist for 24 hours.  I 
located the Plum-headed Finches, one of the targets at this site so was feeling 
quite confident.   Russell had stirred and joined us along the creek as we 
checked off other birds that we would need after 4 PM.  It was looking good but 
we still had an hour and a half until twitch time.  I located a Black-fronted 
Dotterel and we had Pale-headed Rosella , Fairy Martin, Double-barred Finch and 
Red-browed Finch all in view as we waited.    Just minutes before the start 
time the Dotterel vanished but reappeared just as the clock struck 4.  It was 
our first species for the year.   We added a number of common species and by 
the time we reached the Plum-headed Finch site we had 35 species including 
Red-winged Parrot, Pale-headed Rosella, Common Blackbird, Spiny-cheeked 
Honeyeater and Red-rumped Parrot, all species not occurring on the north coast. 
 But where were the Plum Heads?  Time was flying but then I spotted one on a 
fence wire.  It was checked by Gary and Russell and we were off to Cranky Rock. 
 The Black Kites were nowhere to be found!!

The ‘goodies’ usually found at the Rock were nowhere to be found but we did get 
thirteen species including Cicadabird, Grey-crowned Babbler and White-eared 
Honeyeater.  Then down the Highway to Delungra picking up Common Bronzewing on 
the way.  Remembering that Inverell was likely to be awash with cyclists and 
their entourages we decided to head to Severn River Nature Reserve from 
Delungra via Ashford.  This proved a worthwhile route except that every 
macropod in Australia was lined up along the road.  Most behaved well but one 
small Swamp Wallaby was as determined to get squashed by our tyres as I was not 
to squash him.  The result was a very close shave and some uncharacteristic 
driving by me as I did donuts to avoid him.  My son and son-in-law would have 
been proud of me!!  We did get Turquoise Parrot, Masked and White-browed 
Woodswallows and Rufous Songlark and others along that stretch but arrived at 
Severn River Nature Reserve after dark.  This was a bit disappointing as we had 
a few diurnal species that we were after at this location.  We had to be 
content with Tawny Frogmouth and Southern Boobook.  The neighbour’s barking dog 
almost went down as a Barking Owl but our quality control officer ensured that 
it didn’t.  

After eating dinner and having a quick cuppa at the gate to the Reserve we 
headed off with high hopes of adding more nocturnal birds to our list.  We 
weren’t disappointed for as we approached Glen Innes an Eastern Barn Owl 
dropped swiftly from a roadside tree and glided across the front of the 
windscreen and pounced on an unsuspecting animal on the roadside.  We were 
lucky to not hit the bird that came out of left field.  Our hopes began to fade 
a little though when we could only add Black Swan, Australian Owlet-nightjar 
and Masked Lapwing to the list before our 3 hour break at Washpool National 
Park.  An Eastern Koel and a Noisy Pitta serenaded us as we tried to get a 
couple of hours of shut-eye, making 95 species, but the Sooty Owl was 
conspicuous by its absence.  The Pitta seemed to call all night and was still 
going strong during the dawn chorus the next morning.  A Pale-yellow Robin was 
contributing to the dawn chorus and had us stumped at first.  We don’t hear 
them all that often.  We ticked off the usual rainforest species such as 
Yellow-throated and Large-billed Scrubwrens, Black-faced Monarch, Logrunner, 
Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Superb Lyrebird and Bassian Thrush.   The Rufous Scrub-bird 
didn’t disappoint calling loudly from its rainforest gully in the granite but 
our usual Twitch individual wouldn’t talk to us.  This is when it pays to have 
more than one bird lined up.  Southern Emu-wren and Scarlet Robin appeared in 
the hanging swamp area along Mulligan Drive making 120 species by 6.30 AM.   
The drive down the Range was productive and we picked up Wompoo Fruit-Dove, 
Red-browed Treecreeper, Bell Miner and Crested Shrike-tit.  At our regular stop 
near Cangai we heard our expected Little Bronze-Cuckoo and had a bonus in the 
form of an adult male White-winged Triller.  The next stop near a farm dam 
produced nine species including Brush Cuckoo, Tawny Grassbird and Restless 
flycatcher.  A Cicadabird was calling vociferously but it was wasted on us as 
we had ticked it off the day before at Cranky Rock, as was the Tawny Frogmouth 
on the nest near Mulligan’s Bluff.  

We finally arrived at South Grafton and were met by a small flock of 
Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos, a species that can be very hard to find on 
Twitch weekend.   We then drove out to Coutts Crossing to get the Brown Falcon 
and Latham’s Snipe that were there a couple of days before, picking up Black 
Kite at the waste depot on the way.  The Falcon was nowhere to be found but the 
Snipe cooperated and we also ticked off Black-necked Stork, Comb-crested 
Jacana, Wedge-tailed Eagle and a very unexpected, solitary, Topknot Pigeon 
flying swiftly northwards.  Next we were off to Lawrence, getting Eastern 
Osprey and Brolga south of the village.  A small deviation resulted in 
Buff-banded Rail, Nankeen Night-Heron, Brahminy Kite and Chestnut-breasted 
Mannikin, the last being missed at Warialda.  The expected Pink-eared and 
Freckled Ducks were still at the egret colony swamp as were a few Whiskered 
Terns, including a bird in non-breeding plumage which warranted a closer 
examination.  We tried, unsuccessfully to make it into a rare species but had 
to give that idea up when we realised it was just a non-breeding Whiskered. 

The Brooms Head-Sandon area was visited next and despite it usually being a 
reliable area for the endangered population of the Coastal Emu none were 
recorded.  We ticked off a number of shorebirds, getting virtually all the 
species that we had hoped for.  The Varied Triller was silent though.  Then off 
to Iluka, picking up Forest Kingfisher on the way.  The Iluka Nature Reserve 
produced every species anticipated except, again, the Varied Triller.  The 
first bird recorded there was the White-eared Monarch.  The Woody Head area was 
reached at 3.15 pm so we had to make the most of the last 45 minutes of the 
Twitch.  We did get Australian Brush-turkey, Australian Pied Oystercatcher, 
Gull-billed tern and Lesser Sand Plover but the Greater Sand Plovers were not 
there.  The Lesser Sand Plover made bird number 221, our best tally ever.

Once the results were tallied we found out that we had come third in the main 
race, again a first for the Stalkers.  We were only three species behind the 
Menacing Monarchs who had been the winners in the past two Twitchathons.  The 
Hunter Home Brewers had won with a staggering 252.  Starting way out west in 
the Mallee certainly gave them the edge.   We recorded 19 threatened species of 
birds and two mammals (Long-nosed Potoroo and Humpback Whale).  

Before the dust had settled our brains were ticking and we were planning how we 
could do better next year.  It will be a challenge as we had a dream run this 
year with no flat tyres, leaking gas bottles or other disruptions that can 
occur.  The weather was also perfect.  So on with the 2014 Twitchathon planning.

Greg Clancy

Head Stalker

Black-necked Stalkers Twitchathon Team


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