NSW Twitchathon - WOW report (Sunday)

Subject: NSW Twitchathon - WOW report (Sunday)
Date: Tue, 1 Nov 2005 12:20:21 +1100

Part 2 - Sunday

We are rudely awakened by the alarm at 3.00AM.  Nothing for it but to drag ourselves from the sleeping bags, quickly pack the car and head off into the dark again.  Several Tawny Frogmouths made the early start worthwhile and, slightly refreshed, the narrow winding road didn't seem so treacherous.  

We arrive at our destination at 4.05AM (or was that 5.05 EDST) to the first Eastern Yellow Robins calling.  Five minutes later these are joined by Golden Whistlers, Bassian Thrush, Black-faced Monarchs, Spotted Catbird, Brush Cuckoo and an assortment of other rainforest birds.  Wompoo and White-headed Pigeons announce their presence as a Russet-tailed Thrush calls from very close by followed by a Noisy Pitta from further up the hill.  Brown Cuckoo-dove, Spectacled Monarch, Regent and Satin Bowerbirds are ticked off along with Rufous Fantail and Large-billed, White-browed and Yellow-throated Scrub-wrens.

Up the hill into the eucalypt forest we drive, stopping at "Riflebird corner".  Despite a longer than usual silence, with only a Wonga Pigeon calling in the distance, a rasping call finally gives him away.  Onward we pick up a variety of expected species including Cicadabird and Fantailed Cuckoo.  A little worried by the absence of our usual pair of Grey Goshawks it was fantastic to come around a corner and see a beautiful grey bird perched on top of a dead tree through a gap in the forest off to the right.  One last rainforest yielded little new although two of us had an unexpected bonus viewing of a Noisy Pitta flying across a creek into the rainforest next to us.  Unfortuneately, one team member (the only one not to have actually seen this species before) had their back to the bird at the time.

Leaving the forest we ventured through farmland picking up our first Eastern Rosella, Torresian Crow and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.  The weather was starting to close in and at 9.30AM so did the rain.  Our luck, however, held with a very obliging Peregrine flying directly over the car while an equally obliging Azure Kingfisher flew under a bridge we stopped on to search for this bird that in previous years did not want to be seen!

Stopping at a patch of forest we hadn't looked at in previous years produced Fuscous Honeyeater, Sitella and Buff-rumped Thornbill in the rain.  This was fortunate as our usual Buff-rumped Thornbill spot failed to produce the goods.  We continued picking up new birds - Long-billed Corella, House Sparrow etc - as we drove through the rain.  Another forest stop and Brown-headed Honeyeater, Little Lorikeet and Striated Pardalote were added.  Rainbow and Scaly-breasted Lorikeets were sourced from flowering Silky Oaks.

After an hour and a half of rain it stops just in time for a change of habitat. The Hunter Valley floodplain wetlands yield Tawny Grassbird, Red-kneed Dotterel, Black-winged Stilt, Lathams Snipe and Marsh Sandpiper while Caspian Tern was located on the Hunter River.  Lunch time and the birds are still coming - Musk Duck, Great-crested and Hoary-headed Grebe, Sea-eagle and two species of black cormorant.  You know things are working when very stop yields three or more new species.  We try a new location which, while still giving us four new birds, we decide to cut from the route in the future as it didn't live up to it's promise.

We have three hours to go and it's time to move onto the estuary for our shorebirds.  Low tide can be problematic but we find a good assortment waders birds at Stockton Bridge as well as Mangrove Gerygone.  On the way to Newcastle Beach we hear Figbird while at the beach itself we, reassuringly, find Crested and Common Tern, Turnstone and Sooty Ostercatcher while offshore are Wedge-tailed Shearwaters with a scattering of Short-tailed and Fluttering Shearwater.  A Gannet further out to sea was a great bonus.

Under an hour to go and it is clear that we haven't the time to go to both locations we had planned to visit.  We do some calculations and decide that going directly to the finish, the Shortland Wetlands Centre, is our best option.  Our target of 230 was under real threat but could we get there without visiting Ash Island?  Weather-wise this was a good option as at 3.30PM the rain sets in again.  Darter, Little Grebe and Magpie Goose have the list steadily climbing.  228.  Where were those whistle-duck?  Clive excitedly directs our attention to some long grass on the other side of a wetland.  Yes, well hidden (completely hidden from the other teams it seems!) were a pair of Wandering Whistle-duck! 229 and 15 minutes to go.  Southern Emu-wren?  Chestnut-breasted Mannikin? Buff-banded Rail?  Teaming rain but no new birds.  4.00PM and 229 it is.  

We know it's a new record.  Surely no other team is going to get close to it.  The tension mounts as the results are rung through.  Central Coast Champions 185, Dodgy Drongos 196, Hunter Thickheads 201, Black-necked Stalkers 201, a long pause  ..............  Hunter Home Brewers 227.  

WOW regain the trophy by a margin of two species after last years two species loss to the Brewers.  It is clear that a great Brewer - Woodswallow rivalry has become established.  Is 230 the new 200?  Just what are the limits for a 24 hour race in NSW?  No room for complacency.  I'm sure the other teams are looking at these totals and planning for next year.

Well, the twitchthon is over for another year, it's now a matter of letting sponsors know how much they are up for.  Oh, and starting planning for next years title defence.


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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