NSW Twitchathon 25-26 October 2003

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Subject: NSW Twitchathon 25-26 October 2003
From: "Alan Morris" <>
Date: Tue, 28 Oct 2003 15:39:46 +1100
New South Wales Twitchathon 25-26 October 2003
The Tenth NSW Twitchathon was celebrated with a field of ten entries in the Main Race, 16 entries in the Champagne Race and ten teams in the Childrens events (almost a record number of teams), and the Wacked-out Woodswallows won with a very convincing win and highest score yet of 221 species. Congratulations to David Geering, Carol Probets and Co for a very convincing win! Alas, the Central Coast Champions had a pretty unsuccessful time due mainly to thunderstorms on the Saturday afternoon and general and heavy rain from sunrise to 1000 hrs on the Sunday morning - we definately were in the wrong place at the wrong time but we did have a good time despite the wet conditions.
We started our race from Trapyrad Dam, in Merrewindi SF near Baradine, hoping to find the usual Painted Honeyeaters living around the dam in the Pilliga Box trees but not so this year. The storms had commenced in the Coonabaraban-Baradine area about 1430 hrs but we did not get rained on after we commenced at 1600 hrs although the storms were all around  us. The sky went  very dark and unfortunately stayed that way so that night came atleast half an hour earlier than expected and viewing conditions before them were appalling. However about half an hour before the race commenced we came across a small group of Turquoise Parrots so we returned to that spot about 10 minutes before the start and stayed with them until the race commenced! We birded here for half an hour and then moved onto The Paddock where the target species were Southern Whiteface and Double-banded Finches, which we quickly found, along with an unexpected Red-winged Parrot, Ringneck Parrots, and large flocks of White-browed and Masked Woodswallows. We checked out Stumpy Lane where the Spotted Bowerbird's bower is located and while there were plenty of common birds to add, neither the Bowerbird nor Emu were found! Neither bird was seen during the race!
We moved onto a small lagoon which had flooded due to a heavy local downpour in July where we located a lone Plumed Whistling Duck, Pinkear, Bluebonnets, breeding Grey Teal, 5 Black-tailed Native-hens, White-necked Heron, Red-kneed Dotterels, and in the fading light, Robin located a party of a female and three male Painted Snipe, Wow! Robin had only ever seen one Painted Snipe before and that was at Pambalong Swamp in 2000 - where I had seen my last one too! Presumably the birds had come out a dusk to feed, one great compensation for the poor light! This would have to be a candidate for the "Rarest Bird"!  We the visited Terridgerie Lagoon and in the fading light managed to find a pair of Red-kneed Dotterels with a chick, more Black-tailed Native-hens and a apir of Whistling Kites!. Night settled in and as we drove carefully throufgh to Muswellbrook where we were staying the night, we stopped off at three pieces of woodlands to check for night birds. Alas no nightbirds called, none were seen with the spotlight and none were seen as we were driving along, perhaps their absence could be explained by the continuing drought, and the low level of bird populations because of the drought.
Next morning we woke to the sound of rain and as we drove to own first spot for the day, at Quorrobolong, there was little to see because of the rain. Alas, once we were parked down on this private property, well known for its woodland birds, the rain fell heavier and only after a short time we had to return to the car for shelter. Fuscous & Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, White-bellied Cuckoo- Shrikes & Jacky Winters were found here despite the rain but not much else! We relocated to the Wattagan Mountains to check out the rainforests at Boarding House Dam and Gap Creek, and were rewarded with four seperate views of male Lyrebirds, running along, up and across the roads, on two occasions three males and two males respectively involved in the chases. It was lovely to see in the mist and drizzle. We dipped on the Red-browed Treecreeper & the Rufous Fantail but managed to get Wonga Pigeons, Brown Cuckoo-Doves & Black-faced Monarchs. It was not until we reached Pambalong Swamp at 10.30 am that the rain stopped! (The only conforting thought about the rain was that the farmers and our gardens at Bateau Bay & Narara needed it but alas when we arrived home, we had only received 2 mm of rain, although other places had good falls). Here we collected Tawny & Little Grassbirds and Cisticolas, none of the raptors that can usually be found here materialised! Our late morning tea stop was Stockton sandspit and we did get most of the waders here including Common & Terek Sandpipers, Lesser & Greater Knots, and thousands of Avocets. We moved onto Ash island to find the obligatory White-faced Chat, and managed to located many Marsh Sandpipers and Sharpies hiding over the railway line! We lunched at Shortland WC and found the Wandering Whistle-Ducks and Magpie Geese as we expected and then headed for the Central Coast.
It was very windy at Soldiers Point (Norah Head) and hard to hold binoculars and telescopes still, but we did manage Fluttering, Wedge-tailed & Short-tailed Shearwater, Common & Crested Tern, Turnstones & Golden Plover. There was only half an hour to go by the time we got to The Entrance where we picked up Red-capped Plover and Little Tern and finally a Red Wattlebird & Caspain Tern at Picnic Point. The finish line for the "Off The Rails " and "Central Coast Champions"  was Bateau Bay and we arrive there with 5 minutes to spare and hoping (successfully) that the Musk Lorikeest would be there. We finished with 179 birds! A long way short of 201 which we managed in 2001. The Morris, Benson, Pointer & Horwood families all enjoyed a BBQ tea at Bateau Bay and exchanged stories and adventures of the trip.A big thankyou to all our sponsors and congrats to all who took part to ensure that funds are available for some surveys of woodland birds in the Murray Region.
Alan Morris & Robin Benson
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