Birding at the Hunter Estuary (Newcastle, NSW) - 24th Jan 2004

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Subject: Birding at the Hunter Estuary (Newcastle, NSW) - 24th Jan 2004
From: "Edwin Vella" <>
Date: Sat, 24 Jan 2004 01:56:04 +1100

I spent a good part of yesterday (24th January 2004) birding in the Hunter estuary with a focus on the shorebirds, terns and gulls (I?m ready for a Sabine?s, Franklins or Laughing Gull any time!).


The first point of call was Ash Island where the water was quite high as tide was coming up towards the 2 metre mark. Here I saw 3 Lesser Sand and 15 Red-capped Plovers; 12 Red-necked Stints; 80 plus Sharp-tailed and 18 Marsh Sandpipers; 12 Greenshank; 12 Eastern Curlews; 100 plus Pied Stilts and 8 Red-necked Avocets. A few raptors were also about including 2 White-bellied Sea-eagles, 4 Whistling Kites, a Black-shouldered Kite (making/fixing its nest?) and an Australian Kestrel. Also present were Little and Great Egrets, White-fronted Chats, Tawny Grassbirds, Bar-shouldered Dove and Mangrove Gerygones briefly mimicking the calls of other birds such as Willy Wagtails.


I then moved on at the high tide roost below Stockton bridge where I counted (as rounded conservative estimates, while the birds were roosting at high tide and then starting to feed on the adjoining mudflats during the first two hours after high tide) 13 Red-capped Plovers; 20 Red-necked Stints; 2-3 Broad-billed, 50 Sharp-tailed,100 Curlew and 5 Terek Sandpipers (many I believe where still roosting); 8 Red and 4 Great Knot; 500 Bar-tailed and 140 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Whimbrel, 250 Eastern Curlew, a Greenshank, 20 Pied Stilts and 500 plus Red-necked Avocets. Numbers of shorebirds present here are certainly well down from their usual umbers but many do I believe are feeding elsewhere including Whimbrel, Grey-tailed Tattler, Terek Sandpipers and hopefully Pacific Golden Plover (I have not seen these Plovers at Newcastle this season where I used to see about 400 of them!). It looks too that there are less Sharp-tailed than last time but many could be at either the nearby Woodberry or Irrawong swamps or at the Morpeth STW with other waders.  The only Terns seen on these mudflats were a single Gull-billed and a few Crested Terns.


At Stockton mudflats, I bumped into a few member of the Hunter Bird Observers Club before I left for home ? Ann Linsey, Alan Stuart et al and I left them to enjoy observing all the above.   


Off Stockton beach during high tide, there were about 16 White-winged Black Tern and a number of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, and inside the Newcastle Harbour, I counted 85 Common Terns resting on the buoys.


I departed Newcastle as a big storm was just about to hit the area.


Edwin Vella

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