Trip Report - Hunter Wetlands NSW 10-11March 2007

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Subject: Trip Report - Hunter Wetlands NSW 10-11March 2007
From: "alan morris" <>
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2007 09:00:56 +1100


Follow That Bird Tours made their annual pilgrimage to the Hunter Wetlands,
primarily to see the migratory waders in their breeding plumages before they
depart for the sub-artic and arctic regions of the north, on the weekend of
the 10-11 March 2007. The forecasted weather was for sunny, very warm days
and slight seas and that was exactly how things proceeded. We had perfect
birdwatching weather, perhaps too perfect when it came to our boat trip out
to the Newcastle Harbour entrance, where the sea was totally flat and there
were no seabirds to be seen! However, overall we had a great two days

Our first stop was at the Pambalong Nature Reserve Swamp near Minmi, where
the wetlands had again filled with water following good rains in the past
three weeks. Plenty of Swans feeding in the wetlands and plenty of
White-breasted Woodswallows feeding overhead. In the reed beds, Little
Grassbirds were calling and great views were had of up to 26+
Chestnut-breasted Mannikins together with some Red-browed Finches. The
Mannikins were feeding on both Cumbungi seeds and Pampass Grass seed heads!
This is a great place for raptors and we were not disappointed as a pair of
Grey Goshawks flew close above us, then 2 Whistling Kites circled overhead
for most of the time and a Hobby flew low over the reeds & wetlands
scattering many birds. Our next stop was Ash Island, where the tide was
starting its run out! Plenty of Common Greenshanks and Black-winged Stilts &
several Swamp Harriers were seen, Whistling Kites and Sea-eagles were soon
located and another Hobby whizzed past us! Good views were had of the
Pipits, White-fronted Chats and Mangrove Gerygones that occur on the Island.
We also managed to find a few Red-capped Plovers and a flock of Goldfinches.

We lunched as usual at the Stockton Cricket Ground where the birds were
harder to find than usual and alas this time, there was no cricket to watch
as we ate our lunch! Onto Stockton Sand Spit to check the waders as the tide
was receding. Here we met up with some local birders who were following up
on a report of a Large Sand Plover at the site the day before. Alas, it was
not there during our stay but we were rewarded with 4 Lesser Sand Plovers, a
Double-banded Plover, plenty of Red-necked Stints, Bar-tailed & Black-tailed
Godwits, Eastern Curlews, Whimbrels and Grey-tailed Tattlers! There was also
2 Red Knots, at least one Terek Sandpipers amongst the Tattlers, and plenty
of Red-capped Plovers for comparison with the other two Plovers. Also
present were 20+ Avocets, 28 Gull-billed Terns, Caspian Terns while an
Osprey fished continuously and often flushed the smaller waders, a Little
Egret, Sacred Kingfisher, Sooty Oystercatcher and Brown Honeyeaters in the
wattles near the car park. Stops at the Stockton Wreck and other sites
provided no special birds. So we departed for Fern Bay where we spent the

Our early morning bird walk along the north bank of the Hunter River
produced a Rufous Whistler, Yellow Thornbill, Grey Fantail and a Sacred
Kingfisher in the mangroves, and good views of Whimbrels and Eastern Curlews
out on some of the mud banks. Scaly-breasted Lorikeets, Striped Honeyeaters
and Figbirds were some of species seen in the grounds of the motel & golf
course. At 9am we boarded the “Sandy Bottom” for our boat charter for the
next 4 hours. First we went down to the Harbour mouth but there was little
to see but on the various buoys in the Harbour we counted 30+ Common Terns
while 18 Sooty Oystercatchers flew past us to roost on the Kooragang Dykes
(a subsequent count at the Dykes yielded 21 Sooties!). Darters and Little
Black Cormorants were the more common species seen in the Harbour. We made
two trips along the Dykes close to high tide and had great viewing of
breeding plumage Pacific Golden Plover (c.200), Black-tailed & Bar-tailed
Godwits, while a few Curlew Sandpipers in full breeding plumage stood out
amongst the rest who were still brownish-grey! Whistling Kites and
Sea-eagles were seen around the Dykes, a lone Common Sandpiper was spotted
by Gordon and there were a few more Knots, 30+ Greenshanks, Whimbrels, 100s
of Eastern Curlews, Pied Oystercatchers and plenty of Stilts and Avocets. A
Striated Heron and 12 Golden plovers were seen near the Stockton Wreck as we
headed back to the boat car-park.

We lunched at the wetland Centre, Shortland where we were up close to Magpie
Geese and about 20 Shovelers, while Great, Intermediate & Little Egrets were
busy feeding and  White-cheeked & Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were active in
the Banksias and Grevilleas. We reluctantly headed for home, making a short
stop at Leneghan Road Swamp, Mimmi, where there were large numbers of Black
Swan and Straw-necked Ibis. We had hoped for a Glossy Ibis or two but no
luck! However all participants had a pleasant two days, everyone had close
views of many species of waterbirds and became familiar with the summer
plumages of a number of migratory waders. Janine provided excellent morning
tea cakes and lunches, driver Chris did a great job navigating the back
streets of Newcastle and Stockton, the accommodation was good and the
company was very special. (Alan Morris)


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