The Ruff Knights 2010 WA Twitchathon Campaign Recap

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: The Ruff Knights 2010 WA Twitchathon Campaign Recap
From: Nigel Jackett <>
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2010 22:13:44 +0800
Hi everyone,

The following summarises the efforts of The Ruff Knights (Nathan Waugh,
Bruce Greatwich, Elizabeth Fox and myself), who entered this years BAWA
Twitchathon. All members of the team were on Twitchathon debut, and we chose
an epic route that saw us start in Dryandra (in the wheatbelt), drive
through the night to Cheynes Beach (on the WA south coast), and head back up
to Perth where we finished at Herdsman Lake. We hoped we could cover enough
habitats to get the greatest number of species in the 24hrs, but in the end
time caught up with us, and we fell 11 birds short of the eventual winners,
The Big Twits.

*1. Dryandra*
We found ourselves in Dryandra an hour before starting time, after a 2 hour
drive south-east of Perth. We pulled into the Old Mill Dam, where we were
spotted with binoculars by the four members of Wayne's World. After a quick
chat, it was time to get serious, and into position. Half an hour before
start time, we were onto some tough birds including Painted Button-quail,
Blue-breasted Fairy-wren, and best of all Crested (Western) Shrike-tit! We
split apart to keep track of the birds, but with just 30 seconds til
starting time, the Shrike-tits had gone quiet! However luck was with us, and
one started up again a minute into the race. Nathan, over the hand-held
radios (that we all carried), said he was still tracking a lone
button-quail. He gave us his position and we managed to all track it down.
Crested Shrike-tit and Painted Button-quail in the first 2 minutes, an
unbelievable start we thought. We kept knocking off Dryandra's specialties,
with a group of 5 Bush Stone-curlews in the village, and 20 Carnaby's
Black-cockatoos coming in for an afternoon drink topping the list. Then the
sun went down, and with it came a very long night (we ended the day on 37

*2. Cheynes Beach*
The long night yielded us only one night bird, Tawny Frogmouth. We saw 4 in
the end. Our only owl came in the form of a Southern Boobook, which flew
across the road. Liz and Bruce were sleeping in the back seats of our
landcruiser, and couldn't awake fast enough to see it, and hence add it to
the list (>50% of the team have to see the bird). We ended up setting up
camp in the parking lot at the end of Cheyne Road around 2am, with a
scheduled 4am start for those birds this area is famous for. Up came the
sun, and the birds were calling. Noisy Scrub-bird and Western Whipbird were
found quickly, as well as Brush Bronzewing, White-breasted Robin, and our
Twitchathon highlight, Kelp Gull! Amazingly missed Western Bristlebird, but
picked up some Southern Emu-wrens, a Swamp Harrier and a Black-shouldered
Kite before heading to Albany.

*3. Albany*
We found the Albany area extremely productive, and our list sky-rocketed to
104 by 8am, and thought we were well on track for a big score. Out at 'The
Gap', a 20 minute seawatch got us Arctic Jaeger, Yellow-nosed Albatross,
Australasian Gannet, Flesh-footed Shearwater and Great-winged
Petrel...everything we hoped for (apart from Little Shearwater).

*4. The Stirling Ranges*
We wasted too much time by visiting here. It was getting too late in the day
(after 9am), and the birding was quiet. We didn't pick up any Mallee
species, but did get some good ones on the drive out there, including Banded
Lapwing, White-fronted Chat and our only Square-tailed Kite. A second run-in
with S.W.A.T along a road we hadn't birded before was encouraging, but it
seemed they had got to the 'birdy' spots before us, and in honest
twitchathon tradition, we carried on not to disturb them. At 10:30 we were
on 117.

*5. The drive to the coast*
Missed Regent Parrot and Spotted Harrier. Got to Rockingham at 2:30pm still
on 117, but we new we were going to finish in a flurry.

*6. Perth*
I think it was a Laughing Dove (or maybe a Little Corella) that finally got
past the much too familiar number of 117. Some Bridled Terns at Point Peron
were very welcome. At Bibra Lake (3:30pm) we added 11 including Red Knot,
Curlew Sandpiper, White-winged Black Tern, Glossy Ibis, Eastern Great Egret,
Spotted Dove, and Rainbow Lorikeet! 1.5hrs to go. Alfred Cove was a great
quick stop, and we grabbed another 5 or so birds, including Black-tailed
Godwit and Australasian Darter, but missed a crucial Chestnut Teal. Our
finishing point was Herdsman Lake, and I figured if we could get some
reliable birds, this would be the spot, as I'd birded the site with a
passion all year. The ever-reliable Australian Hobby was our number 140,
which was a content milestone to have reached, but with 30 seconds left we
tried for Buff-banded Rail, failing, but snagged a Little Egret instead, a
great bird to finish on...although we would have taken the flyover Collared
Sparrowhawk at 5:01pm. Finished our debut run on 141.

Like The Big Twits, we tried to keep up-to-date on twitter ( I think its a great idea, and
hopefully next year we can stay on top of it, and see other teams on board
to spur us on!

Next year we just have to cement some spots for all the 'easy' birds we
missed, and maybe cut down our 1300km route.

Thanks again to everyone who was involved in organising the event, and
thanks to each Ruff Knight for staying tough during hard times, and finding
a lot of great birds!


Nigel Jackett

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