Noah Strycker's World Big Year - SW Australia

To: Frank O'Connor <>
Subject: Noah Strycker's World Big Year - SW Australia
From: Helen Larson <>
Date: Mon, 28 Dec 2015 05:19:12 +0000
Thank you Frank, for your story! It filled in many details. Have been following 
Noah's blog since he started and am hoping he succeeds above expectations. What 
a very nice chap he seems too.

Sent from my iPhone

> On 27 Dec 2015, at 11:45 AM, Frank O'Connor <> wrote:
> A very different Christmas as I showed Noah Strycker around for 2.5 days. For 
> those who don't know, Noah has been doing a big year and has been birding 
> every day since January 1st. See his blog at His goal 
> was for 5,000 species for the year, but he was on 5,949 and heading towards 
> 6,000!! I had met Noah earlier in the year as he was part of the Rockjumper 
> Bird Tours extension to Shiripuno Lodge in the Amazonian rainforest in SE 
> Ecuador (where it rained, and rained, and rained and the river rose 9 feet 
> and trees were falling over!!!).
> I had hoped that I could show him 60 or more species. But he did 
> exceptionally well in Queensland (Cairns, Brisbane), Melbourne and Tasmania. 
> And he changed from the original 3.5 days to 2.5 days. So the final list of 
> possibles were 53, but many of these would need exceptional luck. I made a 
> guess on the percentages and came out with 31.6 (call it 32). His flight from 
> NZ was 40 minutes early, which then raised Western (still Rufous in Clements 
> terminology) Fieldwren to almost a certainty so 33 would be par.
> So on Christmas Eve I picked him up at the Perth International Airport and we 
> were away at 13:30. We had 400+ kms to go to Payne's Find on the Great 
> Northern Highway. It was windy, and we saw very little. At New Norcia the 
> Western Corellas were in force posing for photographs, and shortly after an 
> Australian Ringneck (Port Lincoln Parrot in Clements terminology) flew across 
> the road, and then we drove past some Black-faced Woodswallows (how did he 
> miss that in the east?). With the extra time available I went up the southern 
> entrance towards Charles Darwin Reserve to bird in the Unallocated Crown Land 
> south of CDR. Western (Rufous) Fieldwren was quite easy as expected and 
> Redthroat responded to give good views. But no Black-eared Cuckoo, 
> Black-breasted Buzzard, Malleefowl, Southern Scrubrobin, Southern Whiteface, 
> White-fronted Honeyeater, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater that could have been 
> possible. The wind! We continued to Payne's Find arriving at 20:30. No 
> Spotted Nightjar in the dark.
> Christmas Day. The first I have spent birding. We were off at 05:00. Windy! 
> We stopped at the grid at the 7km mark on the Sandstone Road. Nothing 
> calling!!!  But we did track down the White-browed Treecreeper and a bonus of 
> a group of Slaty-backed Thornbills. No Southern Whiteface!!! No Black-eared 
> Cuckoo. We continued to the Warne River crossing 50km east of Payne's Find. 
> Again silence along the river. No water there at all. It looked like it 
> hasn't rained here for a long time. Chiming Wedgebill eventually called and 
> we had very poor views. No White-fronted Honeyeater (or any of the nomadic 
> honeyeaters). Little Crow was a bonus. I have seen them there in the past, 
> but I missed them in May when I was last there, so I thought we might miss 
> this. And Splendid Fairywren was there. Things were going very poorly. Then 
> some birds flew and bingo! Fantastic views of Bourke's Parrots and Mulga 
> Parrots and Noah spotted a female Crimson Chat walking on the ground. No 
> Southern Whiteface, Black
 -eared Cuckoo or Red-backed Kingfisher.
> We headed back towards Payne's Find. A single eucalypt was flowering so I did 
> a quick U turn. Nothing in the tree. But then the magic call of White-fronted 
> Honeyeater. I thought that had got away. Several more stops along the way but 
> still no Black-eared Cuckoo or Southern Whiteface. Got some more Slaty-backed 
> Thornbills! SBTs but no SWs? Crazy. We then visited the old mine next to 
> Payne's Find to look for White-backed Swallow. Stewart Ford said his team had 
> them there on the Twitchathon in mid November. Little Woodswallows (but he 
> had seen one outside Brisbane) were nice to see in the pit, and there were 
> some Fairy Martins flying around (but he had seen those). But no White-backed 
> Swallows. But we did get one Southern Whiteface in a mixed flock of 
> thornbills.
> We then headed south on Maranalgo Road to my Grey Honeyeater site.Terry Witt 
> (from the US) had been there there in the past fortnight and had seen Grey 
> Honeyeater and Major MItchell's Cockatoos along the road. I have seen Ground 
> Cuckooshrike, Budgerigar, Red-backed Kingfisher, Orange Chat, Black 
> Honeyeater, Pied Honeyeater, etc along this road in the past. But we struck 
> out. Yes, the wind! And the exceptionally dry conditions. So we added 13 
> species we wouldn't get out of Perth. I had expected 15+ and I was hoping for 
> 20+.
> I considered heading back to Perth via Beacon and Wongan Hills, but being 
> Christmas Day I was worried about whether we could get fuel. My turbo diesel 
> Subaru Forester has exceptional range (900km+), but it would be marginal to 
> make it back to Perth especially with the wind reducing the fuel efficiency. 
> So we headed back to Wubin. No Black-breasted Buzzard, Regent Parrot, Major 
> Mitchell's Cockatoo, Red-backed Kingfisher or Black-eared Cuckoo. No fuel in 
> Wubin, but relief with fuel in Dalwallinu. So we headed for Wongan Hills. The 
> birdswa email list had given me information  about sites there for 
> White-backed Swallow and Southern Scrubrobin and I have seen Purple-gaped 
> Honeyeater at Ballidu in the past. Just north of Ballidu Noah spotted some 
> swallows. A quick U turn and yes there was a pair of White-backed Swallows. I 
> always think these are wonderful when I see them. No Purple-gaped Honeyeaters 
> in the mallee across the road from Ballidu. And then we visited several sites 
> around Wong
 an Hills. Reynoldson Reserve had a flock of White-backed Swallows (20+!!). I 
have never seen them in a flock before. But no matter where we looked there was 
no Southern Scrubrobin. Fabulous habitat for them in many places, with the 
poorest habitat at Mount Matilda which was a site given to me where they would 
be near the car park. We finally admitted defeat and headed for Perth via 
Goomalling and Toodyay arriving after 20:30. So the total was 17 species, but 
this included some we would see around Perth.
> Boxing Day and we left before 05:00. First stop was the Anstey Keane reserve 
> off Armadale Road. A good site I was told for Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, and 
> Robyn Pickering gave me an excellent mud map. The wind! No TCHEs. But a pair 
> of Elegant Parrots flew overhead, and as I was getting into the car I heard 
> what sounded like Regent Parrot. We walked back along the road, and yes there 
> were two Regent Parrots in the trees. I missed this on my recce the previous 
> weekend, so a bonus. I checked out the heath on Stirling Road but it had been 
> burnt, and the banksia woodland at the NE of Forrestdale Lake. No 
> Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters. But as we started off, Noah spotted some 
> cockatoos. We tracked them down at the end of Moore Street and a group of 
> Carnaby's Black Cockatoos were feeding busily in a couple of pine trees.
> Next was Admiral Road. No Western Wattlebird (but they would be easy later) 
> and no Baudin's Black Cockatoos which I had heard the previous week. Did I 
> mention the wind? A quick stop in Bungendore SF to lock in Western Yellow 
> Robin and Western Spinebill. The latter proved difficult. It called but 
> didn't give us any views. Varied Sittella was good to see, but Noah had seen 
> this in PNG (Clements doesn't split Papuan Sittella). So we stopped next at 
> the Gleneagle Rest Area to see the spinebill. I had struck out there on the 
> recce. But a different story this time with Western Spinebill and Gilbert's 
> Honeyeater very easy. And Western Whistler, but Clements has yet to split 
> this. And then we heard Baudin's Black Cockatoos fly past. Heard is good 
> enough for the twitch. Next stop was Wearne Road off the Albany Highway just 
> north of North Bannister. I had never birded here, but I know that several 
> teams start here for the Twitchathon. So Robyn Pickering gave me an excellent 
> mud map for the a
 rea, and I visited here on the recce the week before. An excellent site that I 
will continue to visit. Western Thornbill was fairly easy on the drive in. 
Scarlet Robin is a potential split so one for Noah's bank. The birding was 
harder than the recce (and no not because of the wind!) but we did get the 
target Rufous Treecreeper, Yellow-plumed Honeyeater, Red-capped Parrot, 
Blue-breasted Fairywren and Western Rosella. We also saw Gilbert's Honeyeater, 
Hooded Robin, Rufous Songlark, Carnaby's Black Cockatoo. But we missed Crested 
(Western) Shriketit and Painted Buttonquail. I had seen the CST on the recce.
> Next we drove to Dwellingup to my Twitchathon site on River Road. Very quiet 
> for the first few minutes. Where were the Western Wattlebirds that were 
> abundant the week before? And the Red-winged Fairywren and White-breasted 
> Robin that had been waiting for me the week before on the recce? And then it 
> happened in quick succession. Red-eared Firetail flew across the road. 
> Western Wattlebird flew into a tree just up the road. A party of Red-winged 
> Fairywrens worked their way along the side of the road for Noah to 
> photograph. And two White-breasted Robins stayed inside the vegetation but 
> gave good views and Noah got a photo. And then two Red-eared Firetails flew 
> up onto the power line for Noah to photograph.
> 11:30 and we had seen all the certainties. So where to now? Out of the way 
> but the decision was Collins Road off the Brookton Highway. This was a site I 
> regularly visit, but it had been quiet the two times I visited this year, 
> except for Crested Shriketit which I got both times, and Painted Buttonquail 
> had been common back in April. We headed down the escarpment to Pinjarra and 
> headed north on the South West Highway to Armadale. I hoped to jag a 
> Square-tailed Kite along the way but no such luck. Then out along Brookton 
> Highway. Again no luck with STK. We got to Collins Road at 13:00. For the 
> first 40 minutes we did well with Western Yellow Robin, Rufous Treecreeper, 
> Yellow-plumed Honeyeater, Rufous Songlark, Blue-breasted Fairywren etc but 
> none of these were new. We had just found some fresh buttonquail platelets 
> when a Crested Shriketit did something they very seldom do. It gave a single 
> call. This lack of calling is part of what makes them so hard to locate. We 
> moved to roughly w
 here we thought it had called, played the call and bingo!! There it was. And a 
second bird called in the mid distance. And this was the middle of a warm day 
(32C)! We returned to the area of platelets and it wasn't long before Noah 
flushed a Painted Buttonquail.
> 14:00 and what to do now? We could stake out Victoria Dam and hope a 
> Square-tailed Kite flew over, and at dusk we could go to Lake Joondalup and 
> hope for a Black-backed Bittern to call. Both a long way from being 
> certainties. We could revisit Anstey Keane for a second try at the 
> Tawny-crowned Honeyeater. But this is a Twitch!!  So let's head east to look 
> for Southern Scrubrobin, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Purple-gaped Honeyeater 
> and maybe even a Malleefowl. In retrospect not the best decision, given the 
> very dry conditions and the stiff breeze.  We made it to Corrigin where we 
> stopped in many places that looked excellent for Southern Scrubrobin, and 
> where I have seen that and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater in the past, and one site 
> that had potential for Purple-gaped Honeyeater, and one site with some 
> flowering poker grevilleas (White-cheeked Honeyeater but no Tawny-crowned). 
> But it was to not to be.  Fuel could again be an issue returning to Perth, 
> but we managed to refuel at Corrigin. I
 t was after 17:00 and it would have been 18:30 by the time we made it to Hyden 
so we turned around and tried several more excellent sites for Southern 
Scrubrobin without success. We returned to Perth. Still no success with 
Square-tailed Kite along Brookton Highway, but we did see three Baudin's Black 
Cockatoos at Roleystone. It was last light as we went along Armadale Road. I 
have done Western Ground Parrot surveys and heard Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters 
calling until the very last light, so we revisited the Anstey Keane Reserve. 
Excellent conditions with no wind. But no Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters.
> So the total was 35 species. Not bad and better than par, but I was hoping 
> for 40+. But wait. I checked my email at 22:00 last night just before heading 
> for bed and with many thanks to Ross Jones he reported Tawny-crowned 
> Honeyeater at Kensington Reserve. Noah had an 08:30 departure, so plenty of 
> time to have a look on the way to the airport. Bingo. There it was sitting on 
> top of a flowering banksia. So the final total was 36 bringing his year total 
> to 5,985. With a 7 hour lay over in Singapore (where Con Foley will show him 
> around), and then 3 days in north east India near the Burma border, he should 
> comfortably make the 6,000.
> If we had the extra day that he had planned, I would have stayed an extra 
> night at Payne's Find and spent a day birding north to Mt Magnet and Cue, or 
> maybe we could have visited Kirkalocka Station. Hopefully we would have got 
> Western Quailthrush, Orange Chat, Banded Whiteface, Western Bowerbird, 
> Red-backed Kingfisher and we would have had chances for Budgerigar, Diamond 
> Dove, Slender-billed Thornbill, Spotted Nightjar, Black-breasted Buzzard, 
> Black-eared Cuckoo, Grey Honeyeater, Little Buttonquail. But he needed to 
> average 13.7 a day for 5,000 and 16.5 a day for 6,000 so he almost certainly 
> made the right decision.
> A different time of year would have helped. In May I had Black Honeyeater, 
> Black-eared Cuckoo, Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, Ground Cuckooshrike, 
> Black-breasted Buzzard and Budgerigar in the area. And I would have contacted 
> Charles Darwin Reserve for permission and we might have seen Regent Parrot, 
> Southern Scrubrobin, Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, Black-eared Cuckoo, 
> Budgerigar, Crimson Chat and Malleefowl could also have been a chance.
> The biggest difference would be to have had a good season. It has been a very 
> bad season and conditions were very dry. A good season would almost certainly 
> have added 3 to 6 species.
> But on the plus side we had reasonable temperatures. The three days before 
> had been 39C in Perth, and today is forecast to be 36C. We had high twenties 
> and low thirties which were pleasant. Although lighter winds would have made 
> it easier. Boxing Day morning was cool early on and we needed light sweaters.
> It was fun and a very different way to spend Christmas. We travelled over 
> 2,000kms in the 2.5 days!! Good luck to Noah for his final few days.  I look 
> forward to the book.
> _________________________________________________________________
> Frank O'Connor                          Birding WA 
> Phone : (08) 9386 5694               Email : 
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