Twitching the Jerseyville Yellowlegs

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Twitching the Jerseyville Yellowlegs
From: L&L Knight <>
Date: Sun, 20 Jan 2008 15:39:58 +1000
Andrew Walter and I left the southern suburbs of Brisbane at 4 am EST yesterday. We had a reasonable run down the Pacific Hwy, slowing to the obligatory 10 clicks below the speed limit every time we went past one of the dozen or so fixed speed cameras. There were ~ a dozen Needletails just to the north of Ballina.

After six hours of steady driving, we arrived at Boyter's Lane at 11.02 am EDST, two minutes after our arranged rendezvous time with Ken Singleton. We walked over to the tidal pond with Ken (who knows the Yellowlegs' and its habits well). Ken found the bird straight away - it was the first bird he looked at.

The bird was in the middle of the "stump forest" - hard to get good slight lines and a bit far for the camera. We trooped round the other side and had good but distant views of the bird, which by this time had taken up station beside its favourite stump.

Ken mentioned that the Yellowlegs was moulting. It certainly spent a lot of time preening itself. Interestingly, it frequently dipped its bill into the water - a bit like a person wetting their comb, or a cat licking its paw as it washed its face.

After we had all had good views and Ken assured me that no-one else was due to view the bird that day, I circled round and slowly passed through the mangroves to a point about 15 metres from the bird. It was between a pair of Marshies, but I was able to locate it on the basis of its speckled plumage and preening behaviour. Eventually the Marsh Sand blocking my view moved and I was able to get some reasonable shots. I could probably have moved closer, but I figured I shouldn't overly hassle a bird that others will come to see.

In summary, the Yellowlegs was similar in size and height to the Marsh Sandpipers, but its plumage was darker grey and its bill was less needle-like. It also had a darker breast, notched edges on its wing coverts and extensive barring on its tail and uppertail-coverts. Because it was standing in water, its yellow legs were less notable than might be expected.

We had lunch and a cup of tea with Ken, then drove home, following the cricket on the radio. We stopped for fuel at the first cheap station [Shell] about 50 km north of Coffs Harbour [7 cents cheaper per litre than the stations to the south]. I dropped Andrew off at 7 pm EST, shortly after the end of the cricket.

In all, our birding day involved 1000 km of driving [~ 80 litres of fuel] and a couple of hours of wader watching. Although the drive along the Pacific Hwy was less attractive than the corresponding drive to Burren Junction, I found the Yellowlegs was a more enjoyable twitch than the Grey-headed Lapwing. Being able to view the bird and discuss its recent history with Ken, and to watch it associating with other birds was definitely better than looking at a lone bird in a paddock through a car window.

Although Ken tells me that ~150 people so far have been to Jerseyville to view the Yellowlegs, there are few pictures of the bird in circulation. I've submitted a couple of pictures to the Australian Bird Image Database and will forward some to Ken to include with his BARC submission.

If you haven't seen the Yellowlegs yet and would like to twitch it, I think there is a fair chance that the bird will hang around for another month [particularly since it is mounting and Ken notes that it is well fed]. The important thing to remember is that the bird will be scarce if there is extended heavy rain, so check the weather reports and call Ken (02) 6566 7846 before setting off.

Once again, thanks to Ken for both finding and monitoring the Yellowlegs, and for being a helpful guide for visiting twitchers.

Regards, Laurie.

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