2009 Victorian Thon Report

To: <>
Subject: 2009 Victorian Thon Report
From: "Tim Dolby" <>
Date: Tue, 24 Nov 2009 14:08:16 +1100
Hi everyone,

See below a report of the 2009 Victoria Twitchathon for the 7 Year Twitchers. 
The team members were Tim Dolby, Greg Oakley and Fiona Parkin. We started at 
Goschen, moved down through central Victoria, and then headed to coastal 
Victoria, including the Otways and the Bellarine Peninsular. For a report with 
photos see

Goschen and Lake Boga
Arrived at Goschen at around midday, so had a good 4 hrs to look around. We 
tracked down all the birds we wanted to see, planning to return to each spot 
(quickly) when we started racing. Our plan was to do a circuit of the site. The 
Twitchathon began at 4:00pm. It was 38 degrees (and had been 40 degrees an hour 
or so earlier), but things were starting to cool down. We'd done our 
reconnaissance of the site and knew exactly where to find all the magical birds 
at the Goschen. The race started - Black Honeyeater, Budgerigar, Crimson Chat, 
a Peregrine Falcon on the communication tour feasting on woodswallows by the 
thousands, Pied Honeyeater - and we hadn't even started to move about! Then 
Red-capped Robin, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, White-browed Babbler, Rufous 
Songlark, White-winged Triller, Hooded Robin, Cockatiel, Rainbow Bee-eater, 
Yellow-throated Miner, Jacky Winter and a few others. Dipped on Little 
Button-quail and Variegated Fairy-wren (which we ended up seeing later) - and 
picked up Pied Butcherbird and Blue Bonnet on the way into Lake Boga. At Round 
Lake (just west of Lake Boga) we saw Whiskered Tern, Great Crested Grebe and 
Blue-billed and Pink-eared Duck, Hardhead, amongst other waterbirds - these 
were waterbirds we'd see later in the thon (at the WTP), but nice to get out 
them of the way. At Lake Boga (the township, not the lake, which is completely 
dry) we saw White-breasted Woodswallow and Blue-faced Honeyeater.

Lake Tutchewop
Triple fairy-wrens - what a great place - White-winged, Variegated and Superb 
Fairy. We then got onto Orange Chat, Zebra Finch, Brown Songlark, Horsfield's 
Bushlark and Black-tailed Native-Hen. On the drive to Terrick Terrick we saw a 
few of the common raptors (such as Black Kite), and a few more Cockatiel and 
Budgies, and picked up Little Friarbird at Kerang and Little Corella while on 
the road.

Terrick Terrick NP
At Terricks we got onto most of the targets relatively easily, such as Mallee 
Ringneck, Gilbert's Whistler, Southern Whiteface, Peaceful Dove, Yellow 
Thornbill, Restless Flycatcher plus a few other. Next stop the Whipstick, 
picking up White-necked Heron on the way.

Greater Bendigo NP
We drove into the Whipstick section of the Greater Bendigo National Park via 
the Eaglehawk-Neilborough Rd. This is a good option because it got us into the 
main eucalypt heathland quickly and easily. The other option is to drive in via 
Kamarooka, which can take an extra half and hour or so. At this stage of the 
race we are desperate for time, so any savings is really worthwhile. The 
birding was pretty good. In terms of honeyeaters we picked up Yellow-tufted, 
Fuscous, Yellow-plumed as well as Dusky Woodswallow, Inland Thornbill, Shy 
Heathwren, Golden Whistler, Australian Hobby and Brush Bronzewing. A couple of 
bonus birds at the Flagstaff Hill, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Grey Butcherbird 
(perhaps surprisingly we usually don't see any on the thon) and Scarlet Robin 
(which saves use having to have a look for this near Anglesea). Dipped on 
Crested Bellbird and Spotted Nightjar and a few honeyeaters such as 
White-fronted, Purple-gaped and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, but we weren't 

Great Otway NP & the Great Ocean Rd
>From Bendigo we headed to Lorne and bush camped. During the night we heard 
>Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Owlet Nightjar and Boobook. (Interestingly Yellow-bellied 
>Glider was quiet during the night, as was Koala.) In the morning almost the 
>first bird we heard was Brush Cuckoo, which was then followed by Satin 
>Bowerbird, Pied Currawong, Spotted Pardalote, White-throated Treecreeper, 
>Striated Thornbill, Rose Robin, Rufous Fantail, Crescent (surprisingly few 
>calling), Yellow-faced, Brown-headed, and White-naped Honeyeater and Forest 
>Raven on the road out. We dipped on Gang-gang Cockatoo (perhaps our biggest 
>dip for the thon) and Bassian Thrush although we usually don't get this bird 
>anyway. On the Ocean Rd picked up Rufous Bristlebird, Little Wattlebird, 
>Wedge-tailed Eagle, New Holland Honeyeater, and stopping at a wetland near 
>Aireys Inlet got onto Latham's Snipe. Anglesea Heath was good as usual, 
>getting onto Blue-winged Parrot, Southern Emu-wren, and Pallid Cuckoo (we'd 
>dipped on this in the north). Hooded Plovers at Pt Roadknight - as well as a 
>White-browed Albatross (the only albatross we saw for the entire race), which 
>was sitting the water only few hundred metres out to sea. Point Addis was a 
>real disappointment! We dipped on Shy Albatross, but did get onto Short-tailed 
>Shearwater, Crested Tern, Australasian Gannet and Pacific Gull. Nearby The 
>Ironbark Basin walk was good; Buff-rumped Thornbill, Satin Flycatcher, Varied 
>Sittella were the highlights.

Bellarine Peninsular
A female Flame Robin was a bonus species as we rarely see them thon. We also 
saw Shinning Bronze-cuckoo and Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo in a wheat paddock. 
At Barwon Heads the tide was high, so not good for waders; however we did see 
Eastern Curlew, Little Egret, Caspian Tern, Musk and Rainbow Lorikeet. Pt 
Lonsdale was really disappointing, our worst site for the race. I don't think 
we got a single species? We'd normally get Black-faced Cormorant, clean up Shy 
Albatross if we hadn't seen it already, and bonus species such as Artic Jaeger 
and Fluttering Shearwater. But nothing. An inpromptu stop at Reedy Lake (Lake 
Connewarre) making up for the dry Lake Lorne in Drysdale (our normal site 
Freckled Duck), was good for Magpie Goose. We also dipped on Banded Stilt ay 
Moolap salt works, so we had a bit of work to do to keep up our excellent 
total. We were however doing really well in terms of our time. Our next 
targeted stop was the You Yangs.

You Yangs
Hovell Creek, as the name suggested, is not the most attractive birding 
destination. It suffers erosion and in some parts seems more like a rubbish 
tip. It is however a great place to go birding watching. Here we picked up 
Little Eagle, Long-billed Corella, Diamond Firetail (fortunately because we'd 
missed seeing them at Terrick Terrick), Red-browed Finch, Sacred Kingfisher 
(surprisingly not seen or heard prior to this), Purple-crowned and Little 
Lorikeet, and we got onto the resident pair of Tawny Frogmouth near the parks 

Western Treatment Plant
The plant is always good for birding and great for racing a Twitchathon. It 
just depends on how good it would be. First stop was the Brolga site, but no 
Brolga. At the Spit we ran into Fred Smith. If there's a true legend in birding 
it is Fred Smith. I remember reading his reports when I was 10 years old. In 
1989 he also won the Twitchathon! It was really nice to see him while racing an 
event that he'd won 20 years earlier almost to the day! At the Spit had a nice 
selection of waders including Pectoral, Curlew, Marsh and Sharp-tailed 
Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red-necked Stint, Greenshank, Spotted Crake, Pied 
Oystercatcher and Yellow-billed Spoonbill, and at sea we saw Fairy Tern. From 
The Spit we headed to Kirke's Point. Nothing special, more Fairy Tern. On the 
way through WTP we picked up species such as White-winged Black Tern, Striated 
Fieldwren and Australasian Shoveler. A stop over at the Burrow Pits produced 
Red-necked Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Glossy Ibis and Royal Spoonbill.

We were running very close to time, and we weren't quite what to do. Do we head 
along the coast and hope to see some of our missing seabirds (such Black 
Oystercatcher, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Artic Jaeger, Shy Albatross and 
Fluttering Shearwater). Then we realised that we hadn't seen Cape Barren Goose, 
so we headed to the only major area we hadn't covered at the WTP, the 
T-section. Sure enough we soon got onto about 6 geese. A minute or 2 to go, may 
as well see if we can find the Brolgas again. No Brolga, but a pair of 
White-bellied Sea-Eagle being mobbed in the distance! If we hadn't scanned the 
horizon for the Brolga we would never have seen the eagles. Great finish, a 
tick just before the end of the race.

Our final total was 215, and we had won! A big win, the 3rd highest winning 
total in Victorian thon history. We beat the 2nd placed team by 7 birds; they'd 
apparently had a disastrous last few hours, being caught in northern Victoria 
during a hot 40 degree day.

In summary it was a good but very hard Twitchathon. Goschen was brilliant 
(despite the 38 degree heat), putting us about 7 birds up (on our previous 
best) in the first 15 minutes! From there we actually went backwards. By my 
calculations if we hadn't have done so well at Goschen we would have scored 
208, the exact same score as the team that came 2nd.

Also (due to family circumstances with one of our team members) we were forced 
to race a week earlier than the other 24 hr teams. An unavoidable situation, 
and if we hadn't done this we would have had to abandon the race altogether. As 
the Twitchathon is about raising money and awareness for bird conservation I've 
always allowed the option to race on an alternative weekend. Did this change 
the circumstance of the race? Yes, it would have altered race conditions. Did 
it give us an unfair advantage? My personal feeling is that it didn't. As 
mentioned, when we started our race in northern Victoria it was 38 degrees, 
similar temperatures to the following weekend. We were also lucky to start the 
race in northern Victoria at 4:00pm on the 1st day, as the temperature started 
to cool almost as soon as we began. If we'd raced in northern Victoria during 
the heat of the day we would have been racing in 40 degree heat, and our score 
would have dropped significantly. In the end I found it the hardest race that 
I've raced.


Tim Dolby

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