2007 Twitchathon report - Black-necked Stalkers
In recent years the 'Stalkers' have confined their twitching to the Clarence
Valley which has limited the number of species that could 'potentially' be
ticked as there are many species that rarely, if ever, travel east of the Great
Divide and into the Valley. Maybe, if we started out west we could do the
'double twitch' by ticking the inland species on the first day and ticking the
coastal species on the second day. The only way to find out if this was true
was to trial it. So this trial saw our group of Russell Jago, Bev Morgan,
Maureen O'Shea and me heading to Moree on the Friday morning. The need to
replace a fuel filter slowed us down a little but no twitching time was lost so
no big deal. We arrived at the base camp near Moree in the afternoon and we
did some scouting around. It was very dry there despite the heavy rainfall
that we had driven through to the east earlier in the day .
Saturday morning saw us further checking the area and although some good birds
were located, it was still very dry and was getting hotter. One paddock was
particularly rich in bird life and we managed to see a Painted Honeyeater with
only two hours to go before the start of the twitchathon. Would it stay
around? Time would tell. A male Red-capped Robin, a species very rarely seen
in the Clarence Valley, was also present.
We returned to the Painted Honeyeater site and at 1500 hrs began the twitch.
The first bird was a juvenile Red-capped Robin being fed by its father. Also
at this site were Red-rumped Parrot, Weebill, Western Gerygone, Apostlebird,
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Australian Ring-necked Parrot and White-winged
Fairy-wren, all species difficult or impossible to get in the Clarence Valley.
Also locally we picked up Red-wing Parrot, Blue Bonnet, Rufous Songlark,
Pale-headed Rosella, White-plumed Honeyeater, Yellow-throated Miner, Diamond
Dove, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, White-winged Chough and Zebra Finch. We had
done well with the western birds and had a tally of close to 40 birds by 1600
hrs. Off towards Moree we drove, feeling very positive and confident, a
confidence soon shattered when we had our first unscheduled delay. When
turning the vehicle in a driveway to check out a possible Spotted Bowerbird I
managed to run over a sharp bone, presumably left by Fido from his last meal.
The hissing sound from the back nearside tyre wasn't welcome and the removal of
the gear from the back of the vehicle to allow the tools and jack to be
extracted was rather a pain. The spare tyre, which sits neatly under the rear
of the vehicle is always a joy to extract but eventually the job was done. We
had lost the best part of an hour and for what - a Common Myna impersonating a
Spotted Bowerbird! There was no way that the tyre could be repaired that
night so we had to hope that no more Fido's would be leaving us unwanted gifts
The second blow came as we drove into Inverell and realised that the Sapphire
Festival was being held that night. Our spotlighting at the Inverell Lake, to
add such important species as Great Crested Grebe, Musk Duck and Hoary-headed
Grebe, was dealt a savage blow by the noise and fireworks that had every self
respecting bird hiding at the far edge of the lake. Only three Nankeen Night
Herons, a lone Eurasian Coot and a calling Little Grassbird braved the sight
and sound of the festival.
On towards Glen Innes and a car accident that could have slowed us down greatly
was luckily only minor and we were waved through without delay by the SES and
Things improved when we arrived at Raspberry Lookout in the Gibraltar Range
National Park. We heard three separate Southern Boobooks, a Common Koel, a
Noisy Pitta, an Australian Owlet-nightjar and a male Koala. A distant noise
was probably a White-throated Nightjar but it was too far away to confirm. We
went to bed with a tally of 78 species, not counting the Koala. Not a great
start as we usually get about 120 before bed.
After two hours sleep we arose to the sound of a Fan-tailed Cuckoo calling
incessantly, which was joined by a variety of common species such as the Grey
Fantail and Eastern Yellow Robin. Unlike the WOWs we did get Red-browed
Treecreeper as well as the White-throated species. In a favourite gully we
heard a Logrunner and then a Rufous Scrub-bird. We didn't call Logrunner as we
think that it was the Scrub-bird mimicking its call. Nice birds here were
Scarlet Robin, Crested Shrike-tit and New Holland Honeyeater.
We left the Gibraltar Range after ticking Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Olive-backed
Oriole and Scarlet Honeyeater, bringing our tally to 120.
On the trip to Grafton we recorded the usual suspects including Pheasant
Coucal, Red-backed Fairy-wren and Plumed Whistling-Duck. Black-necked Stork
was observed on the nest at Southgate and a lone Brolga was in a paddock near
A Pacific Baza on the nest started our list for Woody Head and a walk to Back
Beach added Greater and Lesser Sand Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Sooty
Oystercatcher, Red-necked Stint, Red Knot, Gull-billed Tern, Common Tern and
Australasian Gannet. The Iluka rainforest yielded Spectacled Monarch, Varied
Triller, Little Shrike-thrush and others but our next unscheduled delay awaited
us as we returned to the vehicle. A strong gas smell indicated that one of our
gas cylinders was leaking. We thought that the team members on the back seat
were just tired from having only two hours sleep. Anyway we had to expel the
gas from the cylinder - another delay not really needed.
We added a number of needed shorebirds at Brooms Head and Sandon, including a
Beach Stone-Curlew, but as the clock approached 1600 hrs I called
"Tawny-crowned Honeyeater", checked by another team member but by the time the
third member had heard the bird it was too late. So we ended up with 205
At 1602 hours a Horsfield Bronze-Cuckoo flew overhead and called and at 1610
hrs a Common Bronzewing flew from the roadside. We should have seen this
species a dozen times on the trip but it somehow eluded us.
So with about 1.5 hours lost due to a flat tyre and a gas leak we wondered how
many species we could have added in that time.
The weather was perfect, if not a little hot at Moree on the first afternoon so
no complaints there.
The team has decided to remain in the Clarence Valley next year with a few
minor changes to previous timetables. We did very well with the coastal birds
and we concluded that the trip to Moree, while being very enjoyable and
exciting, did not produce the numbers required to give the Brewers and the
Woodswallows a run for their money, even allowing for the unscheduled delays.
Bring on 2008!
The threatened species that we recorded this year were: Osprey, Black-necked
Stork, Brolga, Beach Stone-Curlew, Pied Oystercatcher, Sooty Oystercatcher,
Comb-crested Jacana, Little Tern, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Grey-crowned Babbler,
Coastal Emu (endangered population), Rufous Scrub-bird.
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