Victorian Twitchathon - 8 Hour race Norwegian Blues report

To: "Birding-aus" <>
Subject: Victorian Twitchathon - 8 Hour race Norwegian Blues report
From: "Jack Krohn" <>
Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2005 22:41:02 +1100
Following on from Tim's excellent report of the & Year Twitchers' race, just a 
brief summary of the Norwegian Blues' day for anyone who might be interested.

My son Andrew and I left home a little before 6 am on Sunday to collect our 
passenger, Lorna Edwards, the journalist from The Age who wrote the article a 
few people have commented on that appeared in the following day's issue.  We 
then picked up our third team member, my brother in law Anthony Phelan, and 
headed for our starting point, the Western Water treatment plant at Melton 
South.  When we pulled up there was a Crested Pigeon sitting on the wires, so 
we quickly hit the start button on the stop watch, ticked him and picked up a 
few other open country and wetland species including New Holland and 
White-plumed Honeyeater, Hoary-headed Grebe, Hardhead and Black Swan.  Next 
stop was the grey box woodland on Eynesbury Station, which I'd obtained 
permission to enter (great habitat but private property, so most important to 
observe the courtesies!)  Always a good site for Brown Treecreeper, Red-rumped 
Parrot, Rufous Whistler and Tree Martin, and this time we also got onto 
Weebill, Yellow Thornbill (although we couldn't get the usually prolific 
Buff-rumped) and a couple of pairs of Jacky Winters.  The homestead dam gave us 
Greenfinch and Goldfinch, Australasian Grebe and Wood Duck, and a solitary 
Black-fronted Dotterel, and a scan of the outbuildings' roofs found our only 
Rock Doves for the day.  Lorna was flatteringly impressed by our identification 
of several species by their calls, but many more expert birders than us would 
probably have picked up a couple of other species that we overlooked 

We then headed for the Brisbane Ranges National Park, picking up a few things 
like Red Wattlebird, Masked Lapwing, Little Pied Cormorant, Richard's Pipit and 
Straw-necked Ibis en route, along with Nankeen Kestrel and Whistling Kite (that 
Lorna saw first but heroically refrained from pointing out).  A good travelling 
twitch came when we saw a small flock of white cockatoos next to the road and, 
barely stopping, confirmed that one bird in the middle of all the 
Sulphur-cresteds was a very obvious Long-billed Corella - we'd already got 
Little Corellas back at Eynesbury.

In the National Park we stopped in a burnt area crowded with flowering 
grass-trees mysteriously bereft of all the lorikeets and honeyeaters I'd 
expected to be festooning them, but we were compensated (in quality if not in 
quantity) by three Spotted Quail-thrushes that were obliging enough to give us 
good looks, a most uncommon privilege in my experience.  We also collected 
Red-capped Robin and the previously elusive Buff-rumped thornbills, but not 
much else.  A brief listening stop at Mac's Track gave us a quick clang from a 
Grey Currawong - I think he must be tied to a tree there, I've never missed on 
hearing Grey Currawong in that one location in the Brisbane Ranges.  Once down 
the scarp, we hurried towards Anakie Gorge, dipping on Diamond Firetail at both 
places that I'd got them on reconnaisance a few weeks earlier, but picking up 
our only Blackbird of the trip in one of those locations.

Anakie Gorge at 9:20 am is delightful - not another car or person in sight.  
Among several highlights were great views of Yellow-tufted, White-naped and 
Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and a Fan-tailed Cuckoo trilling so hard even his 
perch was vibrating.  Calls of Olive-backed Oriole and Crested Shriketit were 
easy to pick up, and we also got Golden Whistler, Grey Fantail and our only 
White-browed Scrub-wrens for the day.  Striated and Brown Thornbills and 
Eastern Yellow Robin were also welcome as this was probably our last chance for 
those species.  We picked up our heels and sprinted for the You Yangs.

We rendezvoused with the photographer, Sandy, who fired off shot after shot as 
we poked around near the information centre.  Jacky Winter wasn't a new tick 
but the nest we found was a gem, made of material so fine it was translucent, 
and the whole construction lucky to be 40 mm in diameter.  We got 
Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Rainbow Bee-eater and our 
only Black-faced cuckoo-shrikes for the race - I'll always wonder about the 
Trillers I reckon I heard but we couldn't see and the others couldn't be sure 
of from the calls.  A Little Eagle overhead was a nice bonus.  Lorna abandoned 
ship to head back into town with Sandy and file her story, and we headed south 
for Serendip.

Most of the water-birds we got at Serendip we backed up at the Western 
Treatment Plant, but we got fantastic close views and easy IDs of things like 
Blue-billed and Musk Duck.  Reluctantly we left the Magpie-Geese unticked, but 
added White Ibis (nesting), Royal Spoonbill, Purple Swamphen, Musk Lorikeet, 
Silvereye and Brown Goshawk.  The Tawny Frogmouths and Bush Stone-curlews would 
have been handy if they'd been outside the walk-through aviary, but we resisted 
the temptation to prop the door open.

At the Treatment Plant, having dipped as always on the Banded Lapwings that 
other people seem to get along Beach Road near the airport but I've never seen, 
we got Pelicans at the T section but precious little else, which I put down to 
a combination of high water levels in the ponds and low tide.  The Spit gave us 
both Gulls, Pied Oystercatcher and our first waders, including a few 
Curlew-Sandpipers that proved to be the only ones we found all day, and a lone 
Glossy Ibis flying over.  At Kirk Point there were plenty of Crested Terns and 
assorted Cormorants, as well as lots of Stints and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, but 
neither there nor on any of the other reefs along the shore could we find a 
Turnstone.  No Golden Plovers either, but at least one Blue-winged Parrot 
flying out over Corio Bay.  Lake Borrie South gave us our first Whiskered 
Terns, but the Freckled Ducks were absent from their customary rock and I don't 
know which one they move to as a second choice, so that was that for them.  We 
got a few Pink-ears on Lake Borrie North, but far fewer than usual - we 
actually had to search for them!  A solitary, hunched Great Egret on one of the 
nesting platforms was a plus, and finally we started to find Swamp Harriers.  A 
Peregrine belting over at speed was a good twitch, as one sponsor was paying 
only for that species.

We crossed Little River at the ford and headed downstream.  A lagoon to the 
east gave us both Godwits (considerately stretching their wings to show off the 
different patterns - maybe should have stayed to see if there was a Hudsonian 
as well: that would have knocked off the Painted Honeyeaters, nest or no 
nest!).  Beyond the Godwits were our first Shovelers for the day.  With the 
tide still low (but rising) I was confident of finding Greenshanks at 
Greenshank Corner, and there they were, but almost hiding - they gave us a few 
anxious moments first.  I thought the dull conditions might have brought out a 
Crake or two along the river, but no such luck.  Never mind, keep heading east 
for the Conservations Pond and the Borrow Pits.  Another locked gate.  At this 
point we discovered that the key we'd been using all day had vanished.  We'd 
unlocked the gate near the Little River ford and dutifully locked it behind us, 
but now the key was nowhere to be found.

Mobile telephones are wonderful things.  I hunted out Tim Dolby's number, since 
we'd passed the 7 Year Twitchers heading in the opposite direction only a few 
minutes previously, and Tim kindly agreed to wait for us at the ford and help 
us out.  So we sprinted back, borrowed a spare key and tore off eastwards 
again.  However, the Conservation Pond was disappointing, probably too full, 
and there wasn't much exciting at the Borrow Pits either, although we did enjoy 
the Hobby on a gate that sat and stared at us from about five metres away for 
several seconds.  We got another Glossy Ibis, or maybe the same one, and lots 
of Black-winged Stilts, but none of the other targets, and time was now getting 
short for us to sprint back to Paradise Road.

As usual, the challenge at Paradise Road was not finding birds so much as 
separating the interesting ones from the hundreds of others.  The Avocets 
weren't too hard, but we scanned and scanned for other possibilities, conscious 
of the time ticking away faster than we were.  At last, among a small party of 
Greenshanks, a couple of smaller, paler Greenshanks - Marsh Sandpipers.  Any 
Banded Stilts, Red-kneed Dotterels, even a Black-shouldered Kite?  Beep beep 
beep went my watch alarm and that was that.

After a disconsolate search of the ground near the gate where the key had 
vanished, we made our way towards the You Yangs, adding up our score wrong 
about three times before we settled confidently on the final total of 126, just 
one short of the Norwegian Blues' PB.  The BBQ and the chats about good 
twitches and frustrating dips made as good a conclusion to the day as ever - 
thanks to Roger for the cooking and whoever put the beer on ice - and it was a 
pleasant surprise to find we'd actually provisionally won the 8 Hour race.  
Along with Tim we shared some more details with Lorna by phone, gave Tim back 
his key with heartfelt thanks, carefully ignored the Common Bronzewings in the 
bush the other side of the car-park and made our somewhat weary but contented 
way homewards.

And if anyone should have come across a lonely G2 key anywhere near that gate 
between Paradise Road and the Little River ford, I'd be most pleased to hear 
from you!


    Jack Krohn
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