NSW Twitchathon - WOW report (Saturday)

Subject: NSW Twitchathon - WOW report (Saturday)
Date: Tue, 1 Nov 2005 12:15:27 +1100

Well, as Alan Morris has already indicated, the NSW Twitchathon has been run and, at least preliminarily, won for yet another year.

I was asked a very interesting question at the post-twitchathon BBQ - what was the most memorable moment of this year's twichathon?  I couldn't pick one at the time but I can now with great confidence say it was the very moment that it was announced that the Hunter Home Brewers had tallied 227 species, just short of the Whacked-out Woodswallows (WOW) total of 229.

WOW (Carol Probets, Clive Meadows and myself) pretty much stuck to their tried and true route with some minor modifications - we removed a section from both the Saturday and Sunday runs thus allowing us a bit more time at certain locations.  This worked well as we weren't as stressed about time and were afforded the luxury of spending more time adding a couple extra "now or never" species to the list.

Obviously, to get 229 species in 24 hours requires good habitat diversity, and being in different bioregions on the two days doesn't hurt!

2.55PM Saturday afternoon and we have a Budgerigar sitting out in the open.  We decided we may as well start with the Budgie.  10 seconds to start time and the bird in question launches from the tree and heads away from us at standard Budgie pace.  3.00PM ticks over just before it disappears into some distant trees.  Reassuringly, this was only one of many Budgies seen that afternoon.  Crimson Chat, Restless Flycatcher, Masked & White-browed Woodswallow and Zebra Finch are quickly ticked off as are Spiny-cheeked and Striped Honeyeater.  Southern White-face were exactly where they were the previous year.  The tally builds rapidly until we realise that we had everything (except the Olive-backed Oriole) that we had found in the 40 minute lead-up to the start.  Time to move but not far, only 500 hundred metres or so down the road we encounter birds on the roadside.  More Southern White-face but C! hestnut-rumped Thornbill were new while Diamond Doves were in good numbers.  Then excitement as the distinctive call of a Black Honeyeater is heard.  Unable to locate the bird we are distracted by more distinctive calls - this time Chestnut-crowned Babblers.  These birds are more obliging as they move from shrub to shrub.  A Blue-faced Honeyeater flying over is gleefully accepted onto the list.  

Pushing on we then stop at our designated Spotted Bowerbird site.  Sure enough, it is quickly located as is Crested Bellbird, Bar-shoulder Dove and Singing Honeyeater.  The Hooded Robins we had seen there an hour or so earlier were, however, more elusive.  Opting to cut our losses were decide to head back to the car only to locate the robins as we neared the car.  Acutely aware that the Painted Honeyeater we knew were present had been unusually quiet we set out inspecting the mistletoe laden Myall.  A male is seen flying between trees, and a few whistles entices him to fly straight towards us and perch where he is admired before being added to the list.

The continued drive eastward produced the western birds that we hoped would give us a competitive edge - White-winged Fairy-wren, Blue Bonnet, Cockatiel, Aust. Ringneck, Emu, Western Gerygone, Red-capped Robin, Brown Songlark.  A woodland walk was not terribly productive, due to our species list already swelling with species, but White-browed Babbler was one that I had considered no more than a very welcome outside chance.  It also yielded one of the most attractive Bar-shouldered Doves I have ever seen.  

Waterbirds were hard to find but a pair of Marsh Harrier were welcome as were Pacific Heron and Intermediate Egret, several Pink-eared Duck and Black-tailed Native-hen.  In the overcast conditions it was starting to prematurely darken but a V formation approaching from the west obligingly turn into Glossy Ibis coming into roost.  Given the generally dry conditions this was an unexpected bonus.

The long night driving leg started, punctuated by unsuccessful attempts to tempt Barking Owls into calling (although Owlet Nightjars did voice their protests).  This year we changed tactics a little, deciding to overnight (?) at a site short of our morning starting point.  The logic to this approach was that we are very tired by the time we approach the final hours driving on a difficult windy and gravel road.  Instead we simply bunked down in a covered shelter and set the alarm for 3.00AM.  This gave us a potential 1 hour 20 minutes sleep - or would have had this not been punctuated by Channel-billed Cuckoos, Boobook Owls and Barn Owls calling.  The mosquitoes also played their part in trying to deprive us of sleep.  

To be continued ...

David Geering
Regent Honeyeater Recovery Coordinator
Department of Environment & Conservation
P.O. Box 2111
Dubbo  NSW  2830
Ph: 02 6883 5335 or Freecall 1800 621 056
Fax: 02 6884 9382

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