Report of 'The Muruks' 1996 Victoria Twitchathon

To: ausbird <>
Subject: Report of 'The Muruks' 1996 Victoria Twitchathon
From: "Hicks, Roger" <>
Date: Wed, 06 Nov 96 16:35:00 EST
Report of 'THE MURUKS' 1996 Twitchathon

'THE MURUKS', also known as the Hicks Family, (Roger , Jenny, Andrew (aged 
81/2) and Matthew (aged 7)), being relative newcomers to the Melbourne area 
(having only arrived in March this year) were taking part in their first 
RAOU twitchathon. Our preparation time had been limited (by among other 
things holidays and a seventh birthday party) so we decided to stick to 
areas we knew, reckoning we should notch up between 120 and 150 species. We 
did not expect to challenge the big guns but hoped for a good 24 hours 
birding and a reasonable score. We also decided that as Andrew and Matthew 
were not too hot on bird calls, and mum and dad were no better, that to 
count a species at least three of us, in line with Twitchathon rules, would 
have to SEE it.

Access to Laverton Salt Works was arranged. We met the ranger, Bernie 
McCarrick, at 14:00 and he treated us to a guided tour. This proved 
invaluable for locating birds once the race had begun. Half of the old 
saltworks have been sold for a residential development including an 
exclusive golf course, designed by Greg Norman, and an extensive freshwater 
lake. The remainder, the salt pans closest to the sea, will be maintained as 
a nature reserve. Many of the pans are currently drier than normal as 
vandals had wrecked the pump, a replacement is due next week. This was 
possibly to our advantage as it concentrated the birds on the few ponds 
where some water remained.

Shortly after 15:00 we were back at our car and ready to begin the 
Twitchathon. First bird was a Welcome Swallow soon followed by a Willie 
Wagtail. No surprises there. New birds came rapidly as we drove into the 
salt works; Common Starling, Australian Magpie, Little Raven etc. As on the 
junior twitchathon the previous weekend, Skeleton Creek was disappointingly 
devoid of wildfowl, the only duck were a pair of Pacific Blacks, presumably 
indicative of the wet conditions inland. By way of compensation a Swamp 
Harrier drifted low over a reed bed while 3 Whiskered Terns patrolled along 
the edge of the reeds. Our visit coincided with high tide in Port Phillip 
Bay and we estimated 5000 waders were roosting on the salt pans. By far the 
most numerous were Red-necked Stints; at least 3 were wearing orange leg 
flags, followed by Curlew Sandpipers and then fewer Sharp-tailed Sandpipers 
and Red Knot, including one of the latter still retaining the vestiges of 
its breeding plumage - made it much easier for the boys to pick up through 
the 'scope. A pair of Masked Lapwing were seen with  a full grown young 
while the behaviour of a Red-capped Plover suggested it might be breeding 
nearby. Greenshank and Marsh Sandpiper were seen where the water levels were 
higher while on the ponds closest to the sea, where the water was deepest, 
were Red-necked Avocet and White-headed Stilt plus numerous Black Swan and 
Australian Shelduck. An Australian Kestrel seen as we left the salt works 
was particularly pleasing as we had contrived to miss this species entirely 
on the junior twitchathon. We felt we had done quite well to reach 43 
species although we had probably spent half-an-hour longer than intended. 
Many thanks to Bernie for allowing us into the saltworks - it got our 
twitchathon off to a good start.

It was a short drive down the road to Point Cook Metropolitan Park. 
Unfortunately, the track leading to the homestead was closed off  so we had 
to double back to the picnic area adding common species such as Greenfinch, 
New Holland Honeyeater, Blackbird and Spotted Turtle Dove. Singing
Honeyeater became our 50th species at 17:00. Spectacle Lakes provided the 
highlight of the twitchathon, not for waterbirds, although we saw 
Black-tailed Native Hen and Chestnut Teal but for a small party of Blue-wing 
Parrots, probably 3 pairs, feeding on the small white flowers of the common 
bushes near the hide (sorry, I do not know what they are). This was a LIFER 
and it was extremely difficult to tick and move on besides Matthew was 
trying his hardest to turn them into OBPs. We couldn't be that lucky!!

>From Point Cook we drove to the You Yangs picking up Crested Pigeon and four 
species of parrot en route. The Tawny Frogmouth was sat on its nest near the 
park gate and Purple-crowned Lorikeets were zitting through the tree tops. 
Fan-tailed Cuckoos were calling incessantly and we eventually managed to 
locate one perched so we could all see it. A gang of White-winged Choughs 
were feeding by the track side and were feeding young in their mud bowl 
nest. We could have done with being at You Yangs half-an-hour earlier (the 
time we had lost at the salt works) as dusk came all too quickly. We failed 
to locate any night birds on a cross-country route back to Altona and so 
finished the first day on 71 species.

The next morning we were on the road by 05:45 (remember daylight saving came 
into effect overnight) heading for the Brisbane Ranges. It was already too 
light for any chance of an owl but we had a wait before finding our first 
new bird, a Eurasian Coot seen at a roadside dam where there
was also a Grey Teal. Other roadside sightings included Long-billed Corella, 
Singing Bushlark and Laughing Kookaburra. By 07:00 we were at Stony Creek 
picnic ground enjoying a cup of coffee and the Brown Treecreepers which 
foraged around the picnic tables like sparrows in suburbia. A pair of 
Crested Shrike-Tits were nesting in the top of a small tree by the car park 
while another White-winged Chough nest was located near the road. Twenty 
species were added before 09:30 with a Red-browed Firetail being number 100. 
Scarlet Robin, Buff-rumped Thornbill and Yellow Thornbill were seen on the 
drive up to the main road.

I now made a tactical blunder deciding to chase down to Lake Gherang for 
birds I hoped might be there rather than going to sites we knew. In the last 
seven hours of the race we only added a further 17 species seeing relatively 
few new birds while travelling. This decision probably cost us 10-
15 species and I am still kicking myself.  We did see both Yellow-billed and 
Royal Spoonbill at Lake Gherang while on the Lake to the east were our only 
Pelicans of the race plus a pair of Caspian Terns. An Australasian Gannet 
was eventually seen by the required majority from Point Addis
but it was tricky. We were late setting out for Melbourne, not even leaving 
ourselves enough time to visit our local patch in Altona so we were a little 
bit down as we approached the zoological gardens. Tree Sparrow and Rainbow 
Lorikeet were our last birds, taking our total to 120 species.

Before I finish here are some suggestions for twitchathon novices (so you do 
not fall into the same traps as us):- 1) Have a game plan including route, 
sites and latest departure times AND stick to it;  2) Go where you know 
there are birds NOT where you hope they might be; 3) For night birds 
especially, but diurnal species too, known sites where you can tick and run 
are invaluable; 4) Some knowledge of bird calls is similarly invaluable, 
even if like us you intend seeing every species, knowing what you are 
looking for helps. I just hope we can follow our own advice.

Finally, it was great to unwind at the post-race barbecue, and to listen to 
the other racers stories.  Andrew and Matthew really liked the idea of 
spot-lighting for waterfowl but I am not sure Jenny or I have the stamina. 
It was even better to realise we had not disgraced ourselves and were not 
even last. And last but by no means least a very big THANK YOU to all those 
who sponsored 'The Muruks'

Now, we are off to plan 'The Muruks' assault on the 1997 twitchathon......

'THE MURUKS' 1996 Twitchathon List

Laverton Salt Works - 15:00-16:45
001. Welcome Swallow     n
002. Willie Wagtail
003. *Common Starling
004. Australian Magpie    n
005. Little Raven
006. *Common Myna
007. Yellow-rumped Thornbill
008. White-fronted Chat
009. Magpie Lark
010. Swamp Harrier
011. Whiskered Tern
012. Hoary-headed Grebe
013. Great Egret
014. Pacific Black Duck
015. Purple Swamphen
016. White-faced Heron
017. Silver Gull
018. *House Sparrow       n
019. *Skylark
020. Curlew Sandpiper
021. Red-necked Stint
022. Red Knot
023. Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
024. Red-capped Plover
025. Masked Lapwing      y
026. Greenshank
027. Australian Shelduck y
028. Marsh Sandpiper
029. Sacred Ibis
030. White-headed Stilt
031. Black Swan          ny
032. Red-necked Avocet
033. Pacific Gull
034. Little Grassbird
035. Golden-headed Cisticola
036. Dusky Moorhen       y
037. Little Black Cormorant
038. Little Pied Cormorant
039. Black-shouldered Kite
040. European Goldfinch
041. Silvereye
042. Superb Fairy-Wren
043. Australian Kestrel

Point Cook Metropolitan Park 16:50-17:30
044. *Greenfinch
045. New Holland Honeyeater
046. Pied Cormorant
047. White-plumed Honeyeater
048. Red Wattlebird
049. Crested Tern
050. Singing Honeyeater
051. *Blackbird
052. *Spotted Turtle Dove
053. Blue-winged Parrot *** LIFER ***
054. Black-tailed Native-Hen
055. Chestnut Teal
056. Pallid Cuckoo
057. Crested Pigeon

Point Cook - You Yangs 17:30-18:00
058. Galah
059. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
060. Straw-necked Ibis
061. Red-rumped Parrot
062. Eastern Rosella

You Yangs 18:00-19:00
063. Tawny Frogmouth          n
064. Purple-crowned Lorikeet
065. Noisy Miner
066. Tree Martin
067. Eastern Yellow Robin
068. Dusky Woodswallow
069. White-winged Chough
070. Little Wattlebird
071. Fan-tailed Cuckoo

Altona - Brisbane Ranges 04:45-06:00
072. Eurasian Coot       ny
073. Grey Teal
074. Singing Bushlark
075. Long-billed Corella
076. Australasian Grebe  n
077. Crimson Rosella
078. Grey Shrike-Thrush
079. Grey Currawong
080. Mistletoebird
081. Australian Shoveler
082. Laughing Kookaburra
083. Maned Duck          y

Stony Creek Picnic area, Brisbane Ranges
084. Brown Treecreeper
085. Rufous Whistler
086. Grey Fantail
087. Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike
088. White-browed Scrub-Wren
089. Yellow-tufted Honeyeater
090. Musk Lorikeet
091. Crested Shrike Tit  n
092. Striated Pardalote
093. Olive-backed Oriole
094. White-throated Treecreeper
095. White-naped Honeyeater
096. Striated Thornbill
097. Brown Thornbill
098. Satin Flycatcher
099. Sacred Kingfisher
100. Red-browed Firetail
101. Scarlet Robin
102. Buff-rumped Thornbill
103. Yellow Thornbill    

Brisbane Ranges - Lake Gherang
104. Brown Falcon
105. Whistling Kite
106. *Feral Pigeon

Lake Gherang
107. Royal Spoonbill
108. Yellow-billed Spoonbill
109. Richard's Pipit

Lake Modewarre
110. Australian Pelican
111. Cattle Egret
112. Caspian Tern
113. Brown Goshawk

Point Addis & Ironbark Basin
114. Australasian Gannet
115. Brown-headed Honeyeater

Torquay - Melbourne 15:00-16:10
116. Little Egret
117. Great Cormorant
118. Black Kite
119. *Tree Sparrow
120. Rainbow Lorikeet

Key: * = Introduced Species; n = nesting noted; y = noted with young

Roger Hicks,             Tel : 03-9315-0353 (home)
3 Seaview Crescent,                              03-9865-8613 (work)  
Altona,                  EMail : 
Victoria 3018

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