ASIT Trip to the Lower Hunter Valley 1-2 March 2003

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Subject: ASIT Trip to the Lower Hunter Valley 1-2 March 2003
From: "Alan Morris" <>
Date: Mon, 3 Mar 2003 21:07:33 +1100
Australian Special Interest Tours (ASIT) Trip to the Lower Hunter Estuary 1-2 March 2003
A party of 12 birders from Sydney and the Central Coast spent two delightful days birding in the Lower Hunter Valley and had an enjoyable time and saw plenty of interesting birds. The first stop on trip on Saturday morning was at Pambalong Swamp Nature Reserve at Minmi where recent rains had partly filled the grassy wetalnd and birds were all very active. The highlight was a flock of 12 Glossy Ibis feeding with 3 Yellow-billed Spoonbills amongst all the Grey and Chestnut Teal in the shallow ponds. Black Swans were pairing off and dispolaying to one another and the Shoveler count was 10. A female Leaden Flycatcher was busy on the overhead powerlines while Yellow-rumped Thornbills were busy around the edges of the wetland. An adult Sacred Kingfisher was seen feeding a dragon-fly to an accompanying juvenile and White-breasted Woodswallows swooped over the wetland.
Our next stop was the Ash Island Ponds. Alas no Yellow Wagtails but c. 300 Marsh Sandpipers, 1000+ Sharp-Tailed Sandpipers, 50 Red-necked Stints, 66 Pacific Golden plover, 12 Eastern Curlews and 20+ Greenshanks along with plenty of Avocets and  Black-winged Stilts were a real highlight of the day! White-fronted Chats were new for some participants while a lone Double-banded Plover and 12 Red-capped Plovers were a surprise. Overhead Sea-eagles, Marsh Harriers and Whistling Kites kept the waders changing position regularly! We moved off to nearby Shortland Wetland Centre where we lunched with the Magpie Geese and Rufous Fantails, and we had great close up views of Shovelers and a Latham's Snipe and more distant views of a Baillon's Crake. There were two more Yellow-billed Spoonbills here, feeding with juvenile Cattle Egrets and & Royal Spoonbills.
We went into Newvcastle and walked out to Nobbys Point and on the rocks below the breakwall amongst about 60 Common Tern, were 2 White-winged Balck Tern, 6 Ruddy Turnstone & 8 Sooty Oystercatchers. Wedge-tailed Shearwaters could be seen off the Point. We finshed the day at the Stockton Wreck where near to it, we found 3 Common Sandpipers, 6 Grey-tailed Tattlers and 4 Golden Plovers all roosting together.
An early start on Sunday saw us depart from Queens Wharf at 8.30 am on the ferry Lady Joy for a 3 hour trip up the Hunter River, past the Kooragang Dykes (one of the wader high tide roosts) and into Mosqueto Creek on Kooragang Island and return. Again another 2 White-winged Black Terns were feeding with Common Terns near the dykes and a Striated Heron was roosting near the Bridge. Good numbers of waders were seen along the dyke with atleast 2000 Bar-tailed Godwits, a few Black-tailed Godwits, 20 Pied Oystercatchers, 150 Greenshanks, 60+ Curlew Sandpiper, 50+ Eastern Curlew, 40+ Marsh Sandpipers, many Stilts and 10 Whimbrel being the highlights. 4 adult and one immature Sea-Eagles were seen on the trip along with 4+ Whistling Kites and a Brown Goshawk. One Sea-Eagle made a swoop at the birds on the dykes and departed with one wader struggling in its feet but the species could not be determined. In Moscheto Creek there were 100s of White Ibis to be seen on the saltmarsh flats, a few Royal Spoonbills, 26 Eastern Curlews, 8 Whimbrel and another Common Sandpiper.
Following the boat trip we moved onto the Stockton Sandspit to check up on the waders that were not on the dykes! We estimated 3000 Avocet, 100 Stilts, 350 Eastern Curlew, 800+ Bar-tailed Godwit, 200 Black-tailed Godwit, 20+ Great Knot all looking magnificent in their newly acquired breeding plumage and sundry Curlew Sandpipers & Red Knots. Amongst the waders were 8 Gull-billed Terns, Little Terns, Caspain Terns and Crested Terns! Good viewing of the birds is possible at the Sandspit now that the mangroves have been removed and the weeds removed from the sandy islands.
We lunched at the Newcastle Botanical Gardens at Heatherbrae where we had good views of a variety of bushbirds including nesting Red-browed Finches, a feeding Crested Shrike-tit, Golden & Rufous Whistlers, Musk Lorikeets and Yellow Robins etc. Our final stop on the day was at Leneghans Flat Swamp, Minmi, hoping for one of Edwin Vella's Freckled Ducks but alas we saw nothing new other than some Tree Martins. We finished with 127 species for the weekend, which was a good result for some new birders! (Alan Morris).
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