RFI December birding NSW

To: Jim Rowoth <>
Subject: RFI December birding NSW
From: David Adams <>
Date: Sun, 28 Sep 2014 07:37:32 +1000
On Fri, Sep 26, 2014 at 12:15 PM, Jim Rowoth <> wrote:

> I'm new to this list, so I hope this is an appropriate post.  Can anyone
> recommend any "must-see" birding locations between Sydney and Orange in
> early December?  I will be in NSW for one week--first time ever in Oz--then
> and looking for tips on how to maximize my birding time, while visiting
> family in the Orange area.  You can respond off-list at
>   Thanks!

Hello, I'll leave it to others to give you specifics on Sydney to Orange
but thought I'd write with some general orientation points.

I grew up in the US and used to live in Santa Cruz county, so I can
remember what it's like to encounter the birds of Australia for the first
time. Wow! The birds here are fantastic and apart from raptors, owls, and
shorebirds are pretty much *entirely* different to the birds of North
America. There are lots and lots of families here that you don't have there
and vice versa. Some names look the same, like "robins" and "babblers", but
they're not the same. There are more affinities between here and Asia than
anywhere else, but even there, the families are pretty different a lot of
the time.

There's a lot of good news about your first week of birding in Aus:

* Parrots! Best place on earth for parrots. There are more kinds in South
America, but good luck seeing them. Here they're everywhere, in huge
varieties and are often visible.

* Honeyeaters. Another huge, lovely and highly variable family - one of our
dominant groups.

* Abundance and variety. Birds here are pretty much everywhere - they're
just in the landscape. People in the countryside with no interest in birds
can still rattle off detailed observations and life histories for dozens of
species. Just because they see the birds all of the time.

Yeah, you should have a great time. Fair warning: Heading inland in high
season summertime is likely to be stinking hot. Coming from Stockton, you
should already know how to deal with that: dawn and dusk, sheltered places
and riverine habitats. Ah, here in Aus flowering trees are a much, much,
much bigger deal for birders than in the US. There are many species
(perhaps particularly the inland species) that are entirely nomadic. They
can be anywhere in a huge range, depending on where resources are to be
found. So, you'll have a thousand birds of one kind because the right gum
(eucalypt) tree is in blossom, and then not see them again for a year.
Australia does not have the same regular series of seasons as the countries
of the northern hemisphere. Backing up for a second, be wary of range maps
in field guides as they often depict where a species *might* be found.
There may be a fairly small population somewhere in a huge territory,
rather than "these birds are distributed within this area evenly." With
only a week, you'll probably have your hands full just figuring out all of
the "common" birds you see. (I love "common" birds. They're only common
when you're in the right place!)

Hey, keep your eyes peeled for Apostlebirds, one of the all-time great
Aussie birds. They're pretty exclusively inland/dry-country birds and
travel around in little gangs. They works as a team to take care of the
nest and raise the young. Very playful, very smart. Their in a tiny family
with only one other Australian member, the White-winged Chough (no relation
to the Choughs of Europe and Asia, they're in with the Crows/Ravens.) Out
in that country I think you should also get Babblers (the Aussie ones are
great!) good parrots (they're all good, to be fair) and one of the more
cryptic Bowerbirds....but I don't know Orange....and bird distributions can
be remarkably variable over short distances here.

If you're looking in to field guides, a few suggestions:

* There are four major general paper guides and people seem to recommend
the one they start out with. With that said, this one is the best ;-)

Nothing is as good as, say, your Sibley guides but Pizzey is probably about
as good as your Nat Geo...although bigger. For an entirely new local with
new families, I think paper guides are great as they give you something to
flip through to try and narrow down what you're seeing. If you like digital
guides, there are two available:



I gave you the iTunes links as these are the versions I use (and because
you seem to be writing from a Mac), but both apps have Android versions.
The apps are both good but I end up using Pizzey more often. Still, the
sound collections are different and either guide is decent. I've never been
in love with Morcombe's illustrations (others like them fine) and Pizzey
has decent photos as well as good I guess that's why I use it
more. In any case with only a week, you may be just as happy with a paper
guide. Oh, books, etc. are far cheaper in the US than here. For example,
that Pizzey paper guide that's around $US 25 at Amazon retails here for $AU
45 + shipping. Lucky for you, the $A is slipping down, making Australia
cheaper to travel in with $US. It's anyone's guess, but the pundits say the
$A has a lot more room to fall. (I've seen the $US buy from .48 $A up to
2.02 in 12 years. That's pretty extreme! The $A is something like the
world's 4th most traded currency as speculators love it. Makes things a bit
tough at times when you live here.)

Anyway, there's some background and good wishes. I think Australia is a
wonderful country for visiting birders and hope that you have a great time.
Enjoy the Kookaburras! Another communal/nest-helping species with the most
wonderful call. They're also the world's largest Kingfishers, so you have
to love them.

Let me know if you have follow-up questions or want any info on mammal
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