Victorian Twitchathon 05 - 7 Year Twitchers Report

Subject: Victorian Twitchathon 05 - 7 Year Twitchers Report
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Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2005 00:08:11 +1100
Over the weekend of November 6 & 7 the Seven Year Twitchers (Tim Dolby, 
John Harris, Greg Oakley and Fiona Parkin) raced and won the 24 hr 
section of the Birds Australia 2005 Victorian Twitchathon.

Day One. 

We chose to start our race in a patch of isolated mallee near Swan 
Hill, a site that usually contains spring flowering Eremophila 
longifolia. We were keen catch up with the elusive Black Honeyeater, 
which loves the stuff. A member of our team had not seen or heard Black 
Honeyeater before, so during our reconnaissance of the site I 
demonstrated my marvellous (not) impersonation of this bird. To 
everyone's surprise Fiona immediately said, "There?s one, right behind 
you!" Of course this was the only Black Honeyeater we saw, a good two 
hours before the race had began.

30 minutes before the start of the race we came across a pair of 
Variegated Fairy-Wren, which can prove to be a notoriously tricky bird 
to get onto, especially when you are in a hurry. We were not going to 
make the same mistake twice, so we surrounded the wrens in a bush, 
stood around for half an hour, and tick it as our first bird for the 
thon at 4:00 pm sharp. After a mad dash we also ticked White-browed 
Woodswallow, Hooded Robin, Rufous Songlark, White-winged Triller, 
Yellow-throated Miner, White-browed Babbler, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, 
Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Brown Treecreeper, Striated Pardalote, Black-
faced Cuckoo-shrike and Rufous Whistler. 

Next stop was Lake Boga. On our way to the lake we were fortunate to 
pick up Blue Bonnet, Pied Butcherbird and White-breasted Woodswallow, 
and we also stopped briefly at a nearby dam, ticking Greenshank, 
Whiskered Tern, Pink-eared Duck, Shoveler, Australian Reed-Warbler, and 
Little Grassbird. 

Lake Boga sometimes has a few hawking Gull-billed Tern, being one of 
the only sites in Victoria that you can reliably expect to see this 
bird. This year the gulls were in good numbers and we also added Great 
Crested Grebe, Black-fronted Dotterel and Blue-faced Honeyeater.

Nearby Lake Tutchewop produced glorious full plumaged White-winged 
Fairy-Wren, as well as Pipit, Brown Songlark and Fairy Martin. Sadly we 
dipped on both Zebra Finch and Great Egret, two birds we had recorded 
at this site before the race. Also earlier in the day we had seen a 
pair of Brolga along the roadside between Bendigo and Kerang. Of course 
they had moved on. We did however catch up with some good raptors: 
Black Kite, Nankeen Kestrel, Brown Falcon, Whistling Kite and Swamp 

We had a site for White-backed Swallow, at a quarry near Terrick 
Terrick, however we somehow managed to take a wrong turn. (I'm sure the 
map is wrong!) Fortunately this mistake produced a couple of bonus 
birds, Masked Woodswallow and Long-billed Corella.

Terrick Terrick can run hot or cold. Luckily today is was a hot. On the 
drive into the picnic area we immediately picked up Diamond Firetail, 
Mistletoebird, Jacky Winter, Peaceful Dove and White-winged Chough, and 
then at base of the rock we also ticked Gilbert's Whistler, Red-capped 
Robin and Mallee Ringneck (a bird which had been noticeably absent a 
month earlier). The piece de resistance was a nesting pair of Painted 
Honeyeater. After forcing ourselves to move on (and not grab the 
camera), we added Southern Whiteface, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Restless 
Flycatcher, Common Bronzewing and Little Eagle. Great birding.

It was getting late and we had to hurry to make sure that we could add 
some ironbark and Whipstick birds to our list. At Kamarooka we got onto 
Black-chinned, Fuscous, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater and also heard a 
distant Crested Bellbird. In the Whipstick we ticked our target 
species, Shy Hylacola, but also got onto both White-eared and Tawny-
crowned Honeyeater.

The sun was setting and we had two options: either go immediately to 
our next destination, the Otways, giving us time to try for some night 
birds and get some sleep, OR, hang around for an hour or so and try and 
pick up Spotted Nightjar. Of course we hung around, and thankfully we 
spotlighted the nightjar, also ticking a night calling Pallid Cuckoo. 
We then drove to the Otways, arriving around 2:00pm, immediately 
hearing Boobook, Owlet Nightjar and surprisingly Fantailed Cuckoo - the 
second cuckoo we?d ticked during that night.

Day Two. 

After 3 hours sleep (deep sleep in my case) dawn broke in the wet 
sclerophyll forests of Otway Ranges. The area we birded was in a deep 
valley bordered by towering Blue Gum, Mountain Ash and Messmate. This 
is a great spot. In spring the sounds of the dawn chorus can be almost 
deafening. This is precisely why it is such a good place to race a 
Twitchathon. Not only can you tick twenty species standing in the one 
place, you can add half a dozen birds to your list before you have got 
out of your sleeping bag! We added Crescent Honeyeater, Satin 
Bowerbird, Rose Robin, Gang Gang Cockatoo, Golden Whistler, White-
throated Treecreeper, Australian King-Parrot, Pied Currawong, Eastern 
Spinebill, White-browed Scrubwren, Brown Thornbill and Eastern Yellow 

After packing up our tents, we drove down the coast along the Great 
Ocean Road to Aireys Inlet and Anglesea heath, ticking Yellow-tailed 
Black Cockatoo, Latham's Snipe, Southern Emu-wren and Rufous 
Bristlebird along the way. At Point Addis Blue-winged Parrot flew above 
our heads as we scoped for Shy Albatross and Short-tailed Shearwater. 
We were also particularly interested in catching up Painted Button-
quail, and at the Ironbark Reserve their platelets were everywhere. A 
member of our team had been kicking Painted Button-quail out of the way 
several weeks earlier; of course on the thon we got none. We did 
however tick Satin Flycatcher and Red-browed Finch, but also tipped on 
Buff-rumped Thornbill, which can be usually found around the car park.

Breamlea is a place that always seems to throw up major surprises. Last 
year, during the 8 hr race, we ticked Greater Sand Plover. This year we 
ticked both Common Sandpiper, bobbing on the rocks, and a Whimbrel - 
two bonus birds that we had not considered for our final tally. After 
Breamlea we drove around the Bellarine Peninsular, seeing Eastern 
Curlew, (more Whimbrel), Pied Oystercatcher, Royal Spoonbill, Black-
tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Caspian Tern, Freckled Duck and Blue-
billed Duck, and in Geelong Nankeen Night Heron and Crested Shrike-tit. 
(Thanks Russ for the tip on the heron!)

Next stop Western Treatment Plant. Just a few weeks earlier I'd done 
some reconnaissance and the WTP was teaming with good birds. Today it 
was quiet. We dipped on Curlew Sandpiper (possibly our biggest dip), 
egrets (possibly our other biggest dip/s). We did however see Red-kneed 
Dotterel, Black-tailed Native-hen, Australian Gannet, Striated 
Calamanthus, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Musk Duck, large numbers of Cape-
barren Geese, and we also came across an albino Shelduck, which, take 
away the colour, looks surprisingly like a farm or domestic duck.

At this stage we did a quick analysis of our race total. Somehow, 
somewhere, we had miscalculated. We had initially thought we were 
around 190, and well on the way to 200 plus. After a quick recount we 
found our total was 10 birds down, just over 180! We were stumped. We 
could not retrace our steps and pick up any birds we had missed, and we 
were going to have to hurry just to get to 190. 

The You Yangs always surprise me. One of the best birding spots is a 
dry creek bed that suffers dreadful erosion. To get to there you have 
to walk a kilometre or so down a track bordered by plantation 
eucalypts, climb over a tricky barbwire fence and hopefully avoid 
tetanus and injury to the nether regions. Fortunately what is more 
surprising is that you tend to pick up many of the woodland birds that 
you have previously missed including Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-
eater, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Musk Lorikeet, Olive-backed Oriole (and 
Black-chinned Honeyeater, a bird we had ticked earlier, but good for 
the You Yangs). 

It was 3:15 pm, the race was scheduled finish at 4:00 pm, and we had 
miss-timed our run home. What do we do for the next three quarters of 
an hour? Basically we had recorded all the birds that we were likely to 
see in the You Yangs, and as an organiser of the race I needed to be at 
the BBQ at Big Rock Picnic Area. Basically we had to hang around. There 
was however one target bird we had not seen at the You Yangs (well, 
heaps actually!), Wedge-tailed Eagle. If you are lucky you can see a 
Wedgie or two circling one of the You Yang hilltops, so we quickly 
drove to the highest point that we could reach and, with 10 minutes to 
spare, ticked a single Wedge-tailed Eagle disappearing over a hillside 

For me, one of the great puzzles of participating in a Twitchathon is, 
what do you do with in the last 10 minutes? Usually you have no time to 
go anywhere, you are unlikely to add any new birds to your list, and 
you are also totally zonked! So what do you do?  Of course, we sat down 
and pished! You never know, we still had a chance of adding Scarlet or 
Flame Robin. (One of the great ironies of our Twitchathon route was we 
were far more likely to see Hooded, Red-capped and Rose Robin than we 
where of seeing Scarlet or Flame Robin.) Maybe even a Speckled Warbler 
might pop up. 

Needless to say our last bird was Wedge-tailed Eagle, and quite rightly 



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