Hunter Big Year - one month in

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Hunter Big Year - one month in
From: Mick Roderick <>
Date: Mon, 1 Feb 2010 02:23:10 -0800 (PST)
Hi all,
Inspired by Tim Dolby's VicTwitch in 2009, Dan Williams and I decided to see 
just how many species we could see within the Hunter Region of NSW in a 
calendar year. See my earlier posting for details:
The key difference between our big year and Tim's is that we are including 
pelagic trips (with the definition of the Hunter Region being seaward to 100km 
from the shoreline). The other difference is that it is not a fundraiser, but 
we will be submitting a lot of data from our sightings (to BA and NSW DECCW 
Atlases) and are hoping to add to the knowledge of our region. The idea has 
caught on up here and it appears that there are a few people out there doing 
something similar. This generally equates to a fountain of good oil being 
available for all to draw on. 
Straight up, the year got off to a very slow start. I had been attending a 
music festival at Gulgong on New Year’s Eve and my intention was to enter the 
Hunter Region from the west and spend my first day and night for 2010 in 
Goulburn River NP. Torrential rain and 3 non-birding companions quickly put pay 
to that plan, but I was still a show for achieving my other early goal, which 
was to record Emu as the very first bird of the year. As I entered the region 
near Ulan my passerine-blinkers were well and truly on. The driving rain was 
actually helping me with this mission, until a Magpie flew across the road in 
front of me! Literally 30 seconds later we passed by a pair of Emus in a nearby 
paddock so I had to be content with them as #2. 
As the rains extended have into western NSW, it seems to have caused an exodus 
from the region by particular species. For example, during mid-January I 
decided to go check out the Lesser Sand Plover that had been reported at 
Stockton Sandspit. Finding the Plover was easy, but there was definitely 
something missing that day...3000+ Red-necked Avocets to be precise! 
Collectively they all had left the Hunter Estuary since those rains started. 
Fortunately there were 5 birds present on Kooragang Island during a routine 
wader survey I do there once a month.
Other birds to have scarpered west are Black-tailed Native Hens and Pink-eared 
Ducks, both of which appeared to have left the region in late December last 
year (I'd be glad to hear otherwise). Conditions west of the hill must be great 
for species like these and it will be interesting to see if they return to the 
Hunter this year. 
The first targeted site was in the north of the region at Harrington. Here I 
went to Figtree Camp to investigate the status of the White-eared Monarch that 
had been found there in previous years. Unfortunately I came away empty-handed, 
leaving me in some doubt that this species actually persists within the region 
(it was the southernmost known pair anywhere). However, some good birds were 
added around Harrington including Fork-tailed Swift, Glossy Ibis, Sanderling, 
Regent Bowerbird, Forest Raven and Cicadabird. 
A couple of days later Dan texted me to tell me he was looking at a pair of 
Powerful Owls in Blackbutt Reserve in suburban Newcastle. Twenty three minutes 
later I was alongside him looking at the said birds. The next day I decided to 
bag a few birds that I was worried would also leave because of the rain. I was 
relieved to see a lone Blue-billed Duck at Walka Water Works and as equally 
pleased to see a pair of Banded Lapwings near Morpeth. Good numbers of 
Horsfield’s Bushlarks and a lone Brown Songlark were also nearby. On the same 
day I made the effort to head to John Brown’s Lagoon to see Comb-crested 
Jacanas and was rewarded with a Square-tailed Kite en-route. 
Soon after, we headed out to Goulburn River NP (GRNP) where there is 
essentially a gap in the Great Dividing Range. At Ulan, where the catchment of 
the Hunter meets the catchment of the Macquarie, the elevation is only about 
250m ASL. You hardly even notice that you are "crossing the divide" there as it 
is still quite flat. This essentially means that typically western birds occur 
in the area and even the vegetation within GRNP is reminiscent of more inland 
flora. In GRNP we added species such as Black-eared Cuckoo, White-backed 
Swallow, Turquoise Parrot, White-browed Babbler and White-throated Nightjar. 
Other niceties included Hooded Robin, Diamond Firetail and Chestnut-rumped 
Heathwren. A little further west we got onto some Southern Whitefaces that had 
been seen a few days earlier – a great western bird to see on a coastal 
Next it was up to Gloucester Tops – though we never had any intention of 
locating Rufous Scrub-birds, which seem to be generally quiet by late January. 
Rather, we were looking for other specialties such as Satin Flycatcher, 
Crescent Honeyeater, Flame Robin and Olive Whistler. We found the first 3 
without too much hassle although we did not see or even hear an Olive Whistler 
all day. We also added Red-browed Treecreeper and Logrunner. Little Ravens were 
seen near Gloucester, rounding out the 4 Hunter Corvids for the year.
Our final "trip" in January was to Copeland Tops, on the eastern side of the 
Barrington Tops spur and home to some great rainforest birds. Here we were able 
to add things like Pale Yellow Robin, Spectacled Monarch and Russet-tailed 
Thrush. But the real highlight of the trip was on our way back from seeing 
Red-backed Fairy-Wrens on the West Barrington Road. It was about 30 minutes 
before dusk and we were driving through the grazing country when we noticed a 
rail standing on the edge of the road near a culvert, vegetated completely by 
weeds and pasture grasses. We stopped and got out of the car as the bird 
disappeared into the Purple Top, only to see a Lewin's Rail run across the road 
in front of us - a most unexpected find a new bird for me in the Hunter. 
A lone Wompoo Fruit-Dove west of Cobark was the last "January bird" for me and 
was bird number 251 for the year (Dan is trailing just slightly). The next 49 
birds will be a bit of a slog, relying heavily on the weather so that planned 
pelagic trips make it to the shelf. Beyond that it will be a matter of filling 
in as many gaps as possible, finding a few cripplers and hoping that spring 
does herald the return of several species that have made themselves scarce for 
On a Big Year, it's really only those unusual or "bonus" birds that make for a 
good tally. Such birds now comprise about 80% of my "to get" list! 
Mick Roderick
Newcastle, NSW

Yahoo!7: Catch-up on your favourite Channel 7 TV shows easily, legally, and for 
free at PLUS7.

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>
  • Hunter Big Year - one month in, Mick Roderick <=

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