Fascinating read Frank and enormously helpful to those like me who don't
have a vast history of birding. Regards Ken
On Sunday, December 27, 2015 at 9:30:21 AM UTC+8, 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
> http://audubon.org/noah 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 Wongan 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 area, 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 where 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. It
> 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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