VicTwitch Record Broken (long)

To: <>
Subject: VicTwitch Record Broken (long)
From: "Tim Dolby" <>
Date: Mon, 30 Nov 2009 11:59:27 +1100
Hi everyone (particularly sponsors),

As part of a fund raising event to raise money for Australian Wildlife Health 
Centre at Healesville Sanctuary this year I've attempted to break the VicTwitch 
record. Here's a rundown on where VicTwitch09 currently stands. The good news 
is that the VicTwitch record is broken! My current standing is 340, 5 more than 
the previous record!

For a full report with images see Special thanks 
Jonathon Thornton for the use of some of excellent photographs (the good ones), 
all taken at the wonderful Goschen Flora and Fauna Reserve.

This report deals with the period from late September to November. It's rather 
long, it is spring after all! It begins with brief reports on Anakie Gorge, 
Royal Park and the You Yangs. Then covers the reconnaissance of northern 
Victoria for the Twitchathon, and then THE big race itself! Finally I discuss 
the book launch of Where to See Birds in Victoria and a trip to the Australian 
Birdfair in Leeton. On the way up and back from Leeton I stopped to bird near 
Barmah and Rutherglen. In the process I've beaten the VicTwitch record! As 
mentioned my current standing is 340, which is 5 more than the previous record. 
To cap it all off my team won the 2009 Victorian Twitchathon. Aside from the 
birding being great fun I'm seriously starting to question my sanity!

Royal Park!
Who'd have believed it! On my ride to work I saw 2 new species for the 
VicTwitch. The first was Rufous Songlark (17/09/09) and the second White-winged 
Triller (18/09/09). There's a wonderful little wetland at Royal Park called 
Trin Warren Tam-boore (Bellbird waterhole). Previously five hectares of 
little-used land in the north-western area of Royal Park, it was opened 
officially in 2006 as part of the Commonwealth Games Village. The transition of 
the area has been remarkable, from wasteland to seriously good bird habiatat. 
Next to the wetland is an area of scrubby open woodland (a site maintained as 
protected habitat for White's Skink) that attracts good numbers of birds. This 
is where the Rufous Songlank and White-winged Triller were seen. Spring 2009 is 
proving to be very good year for Victorian summer migrants, with large influxes 
of Rufous Songlark, White-winged Triller, Black-tailed Native-hen, rare 
migratory honeyeaters (mentioned below) and woodswallows.

Anakie Gorge
A day trip to Anakie Gorge, part of Brisbane Ranges NP, and the bird life was 
very active (11/10/2009). Spring was well and truly here. Of note were large 
numbers cuckoo, including no less than 4 Black-eared Cuckoo. This was a new 
bird for my Victorian year list, and a bird that can be devilishly tricky to 
track down particularly when you're specifically looking for it. Other cuckoos 
included Pallid Cuckoo (1), Fan-tailed Cuckoo (1), Shining Bronze-Cuckoo 
(numerous) and Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo (numerous). They were feeding on large 
hairy caterpillars that seemed to be plague proportions. The caterpillars in 
turn were feeding on Silver Wattle which, due to recent rains in the area, was 
covered in new shoot growth. Honeyeater were also numerous at Anakie (perfect 
hosts for young cuckoos) with large numbers of White-naped, Yellow-faced, 
Yellow-tufted, Brown-headed Honeyeater and White-eared Honeyeater. The best 
spot for cuckoo was about 3/4 of the way up the 3 km walk, towards the Stony 
Creek Picnic Area end of the walk. Also seen flying over the gorge was a single 
Blue-winged Parrot.

You Yangs
A day trip to the You Yangs showing around the CEOs of Birdlife International 
organisations (Birds Australia is an affiliate on Birdlife International) was 
rewarding. I finally caught up with Masked Woodswallow, an inland species that 
had eluded me up until now. There were also White-winged Triller, Rufous 
Songlark, Diamond Firetail, Restless Flycatcher, Brown Treecreeper, Rainbow 
Bee-eater, Little Eagle and Purple-crowned Lorikeet. After the You Yangs I took 
the group to The Spit Nature Conservation Reserve (part of the Western 
Treatment Plant complex). Good numbers of waders were seen, the most 
interesting was Pectoral Sandpiper, another new species for the year.

Northern Victoria & Twitchathon Reconnaissance
As part of the reconnaissance for the 2009 Victorian Twitchathon (with Greg 
Oakley and Fiona Parkin) I headed up to northern Victoria. On this trip I 
thought that I might get close to the VicTwitch record but didn't think I would 
break it. I was sitting on 329, still needing another 7 new species. To my 
surprise I broke it on the first day! After camping over night at Lake Boga, 
the first stop was at Goschen Fauna & Flora Reserve. It's located about 15 km 
west of Lake Boga, at the intersection of the Ultima-Lake Boga Rd and the 
Donald Swan Hill Rd. The place was running hot! Really HOT. I saw my first 
Black Honeyeater for 2009 near the communication tower in the north east 
section of Goschen. At the time I had a feeling of great delight, and I wasn't 
sure if I'd see Black Honeyeater again. Moving further through the reserve it 
turned out that they were the common honeyeater! The second new bird at Goschen 
was Pied Honeyeater, a flock of 15 birds seen in the area between the old club 
house and the communication tower! This was a great bird and a real bonus for 
the VicTwitch! To give you an example of its rarity I'd never seen them in 
Victoria before. The last 2 times I'd seen them was in the Simpson Desert in 
South Australia (2008) and Erldunda in the Northern Territory (2007), but both 
were nearly 2 thousand km away. It seemed that in terms of honeyeaters in 
Victoria there was a reversal of status - common honeyeaters were scarce and 
rare honeyeaters common. In the same area as the Pied Honeyeater, were several 
scattered flocks of Crimson Chat, another tricky bird to find, looking 
brilliant in the bright morning sun!

I also added two more birds to the VicTwitch list at Goschen, Budgerigar and 
Cockatiel. Despite both species being icons of Australia, they're quite 
uncommon in Victoria. They only seem to turn up (in any number) during "good 
years", when there's been just the right amount of rain. I ended up seeing 
Budgerigar and Cockatiel with some regularity during this trip north, most 
flying in small flocks along roadsides. Also seen at Goschen were hundreds of 
woodswallows, mostly White-browed and Masked Woodswallow, but also the odd 
Black-faced Woodswallow. A Peregrine feasted on the woodswallows, attacking 
them from a vantage point on the communication tower. [Note: there was also 
large numbers of woodswallows drinking on an irrigation channel just west of 
Round Lake on Long Lake Road. Black Honeyeater was also seen here.] Put simply 
Goschen was amazing! Considering the heat, during the day the temperature was 
38 degrees, the activity of birds was really high. By contrast when we visited 
other sites in the area, such as Tresco West Reserve, they were very quiet. At 
Goschen I had added five new species to my 2009 Victorian list (Black and Pied 
HE, Crimson Chat, Budgerigar, Cockatiel) and it only took 15 minutes! This was 
about the same as the number of new bird species I had added in the last 3 
months! At Goschen I'd hope to get at least one new tick, maybe a Black 
Honeyeater, but to get five was outstanding. I was also within touching 
distance of breaking the record (335). I was suddenly and unexpectedly sitting 
on 334 species and I knew exactly where I could find at least 2 and maybe 3 new 
species - and I would see them today! It was turning into Super VicTwitch 

Lake Tyrrell
The next new species for the day was Orange Chat, a small flock of 6 at Lake 
Tyrrell (a large salt lake south of Ouyen). Entering via Bailey's Rd, and then 
birding along Lake Tyrrell Road, I also saw Rufous Fieldwren, Banded Lapwing, 
White-winged Fairy-wren (all previously seen at Lake Tyrrell when I'd birded 
there earlier in the year), and good numbers of Blue Bonnet. The Orange Chat 
was my 335 Victorian bird species, equalling the previous acclaimed record. 
Just one more species to beat the record!

Murray Sunset NP
A quick drop into the Honeymoon Hut Track in Murray Sunset to try once again 
for Red-lored Whistler. It was disappointing mainly because when we were there 
it was the middle of the day and extremely hot. It was therefore a bit of a 
waste of time searching for this rare and cryptic whistler, it would have been 
much better to be there early in the morning. Red-lored Whistler was going to 
be a dip for 2009, a real pity because I've usually seen (or heard) them easily 
them at this site previously. While in the Murray Sunset I also stopped at 
Wymlet Tank, quiet during the midday heat, as well as a small water bore on the 
Trinita Rd (really just a track). This site was buzzing, being one of the most 
active birding spots in the Mallee. The list of birds seen here reads like a 
rare bird list for northern Victoria - Black Honeyeater, Crimson Chat, 
White-backed Swallow, Chestnut Quail-thrush, White-browed and Masked 
Woodswallow, most of the inland Victoria parrots including Budgies and 
Cockatiel. I would really like to have spent more time along Trinita Rd. I 
reckon this is one of the best open woodlands in northern Victoria, 
particularly the open grassy woodland areas.

Mildura and a NEW VicTwitch Record!
After leaving the Murray Sunset I headed to Mildura. There were two good 
reasons to go to Mildura. One was to pick up the 3rd member of our Twitchathon 
team Fiona Parkin, who was flying into Mildura from Adelaide. The other was to 
track down a Little Crow. Mildura is considered the best site in Victoria to 
see Little Crow, or more particularly the Mildura Tip is the best is Victoria. 
A quick stop at the tip and within seconds I heard and then saw Little Crow. 
THE VICTWITCH record was mine!!! 336 species of birds in Victoria in one year! 
Hurray. Sparklers lit. Streamers flew!! French champagne popped. Well actually 
none of that happened. I simply gave five to Greg and then suggested we leave 
as it was kind of smelly. It seems a great irony that instead of breaking the 
record with a bird such as Pied Honeyeater or Crimson Chat (i.e. something 
interesting or colourful) I broke it with a crow at a rubbish tip! It's 
probably good thing too. It is reflective of birding in general. For example 
how often do you see new species of birds in places such as a treatment plant 
or dusty dry paddocks in the middle of no where? Birding as a past time is 
fantastic; almost by definition it takes you to great environments, great 
habitats and great places. It also takes you to some fairly crummy ones also. 
So breaking the Victorian record at an unattractive, highly worked over rubbish 
tip was poetic justice. An ironic outcome in a moment of triumph, fantastic!

Victorian Twitchathon
Not discussed here, for a full report on the 2009 Victorian Twitchathon follow 
this link. For 
the record, our team [7 Year Twitchers] won the Twitchthon with a score of 215 
bird species in 24 hrs. Out of interest if I had maintain the standard set on 
the Twitchathon for the VicTwitch (i.e. 215 bird species x 365 days) I would 
have seen 78, 475 species in a calander year!

The Australian Bird Fair and North Central Victoria
As part of the promotion of the new bird book, I drove up to the Australian 
Birdfair in Leeton NSW. On the way up I stopped of at Yielima just north of 
Nathalia (near the intersection of Picola North Rd and Murray Valley Hwy) 
hoping to see Superb Parrot in Victoria. Disappointingly there were no Superbs 
- I was kicking them out of the way just across the border in NSW. Near Leeton 
I saw a flock of 15, and totalling 30 in the great area (3.7 km east of Yanco 
on the Irrigation Way). At Yielima I did see Western Gerygone, another new bird 
for the year, and on a small wetland between Yielima and Nathalia (east side of 
Murray Valley Hwy) there were large numbers of waterbirds including my first 
Intermediate Egret for the year, another VicTwitch tick. My 2009 VicTwitch 
total was now 338. The area around Nathalia and the Barmah State Forest was 
looking golden - it was obviously a bumper year for the wheat farmers. The 
Australian Birdfair was fun; catching up with a few people. A couple of dramas 
on the trip (of course) - I was locked into the grounds of the Yanco 
Agricultural Secondary College for several hours (when I first arrived in 
Leeton) after mistakenly thinking it was the Yanco Agricultural Institute. As I 
drove in someone else drove out, and they locked the gate behind them! I was 
eventually bailed out by a woman in a bikini! It's a long story! The school was 
actially a good birding spot, for example Superb Parrot was a school ground 
bird, and Yellow Rosella, Wood Duck, Blue-faced Honeyeater and Little Friarbird 
feed together on the school lawn. I also locked myself out of my room and 
fortunately Vic Hurley came to the rescue with a few cold beers. And then I 
lost my wallet... but that's another story. Birds in the area included Pectoral 
and Wood Sandpipers, Black-tailed Godwits and Freckled Duck, Brown Quail and 
Glossy Ibis Fivebough Wetlands, Leeton. There was good numbers of Black 
Honeyeater and Painted Honeyeater in the Mia State Forest near Yanco, and a 
single Pied Honeyeater was seen. As mentioned Superb Parrot were common in the 
area, with birds regularly seen flying over the fair itself. A flock of 40 
Superb Parrot was seen 3.7 km east of Yanco on the Irrigation Way.

Then back into Victoria via Howlong on the Murray River. I still hadn't seen 
Dollarbird, so was hoping to track it along the Murray. This part of Victoria 
is a hot spot for them in summer. Dools suggested Lake Moodemere just west of 
Rutherglen, however just after crossing over the bridge and entering Victoria 
there was a Dollarbird flying down on Barnarwartha Rd, near Brown Plains. The 
next stop was the DSI Research Station near Rutherglen for Bush Stone-curlew. 
Following up on a tip, I found a pair next the public car park. Bird number 
340! Bush Stone-curlew is such an interesting species; due to foxes they're 
under increasing threat, particularly in Australia's southern states where 
foxes are common. I visited a couple of other sites around Chiltern hoping for 
Painted Honeyeater. Bartley's Block was quiet except for Turquoise Parrot, 
Western Gerygone, Rufous Whistler and Yellow-tufted Honeyeater. There were some 
nice birds at the Chiltern dams including Hardhead, Great and Intermediate 
Egret, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, White-winged Triller, Dollarbird, Masked 
and White-browed Woodswallow and Rainbow Bee-eater.

Birds Not Seen in Northern Victoria
To sum up, in the north I'd dipped on a number of key species I was seeking. 
These included Red-lored Whistler, Red-backed Kingfisher, Regent Honeyeater and 
Superb Parrot and Spotted Harrier. (There are a few others, but I may still 
catch up with them.) I've got sites for all of the above species, but I'm not 
sure I will be able to get back up north this year to pick them up. In terms of 
the Spotted Harrier I've seen this nearly every year with ease, but despite 
being in the appropriate places many times I dipped. In terms of the Superb 
Parrot, dipping around Yielima and Nathalia was disappointing because I was 
kicking them out of the way just across the border in NSW.

There is one still one month to go, so I have plenty of time to add birds to 
the list. If anybody has any tips or would like to sponsor VicTwitch09 please 
don't hesitate to contact me.


Tim Dolby

This email, including any attachment, is intended solely for the use of the 
intended recipient. It is confidential and may contain personal information or 
be subject to legal professional privilege. If you are not the intended 
recipient any use, disclosure, reproduction or storage of it is unauthorised. 
If you have received this email in error, please advise the sender via return 
email and delete it from your system immediately. Victoria University does not 
warrant that this email is free from viruses or defects and accepts no 
liability for any damage caused by such viruses or defects.

To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)
<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU