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Tuesday, 27 December 2016

2016 the year that was!!!

2016 started a little slowly, after the big end to 2015 with chasing the Hudsonian Godwit at Lake Wollumboola after Christmas. The first real excitement came when a group of the Filthy Flockers decided to head down to Portland to chase a possible 2 new birds, a Beach Stone-curlew (dip) had turned up on a beach down there and the Cape Gannet was still nesting at Point Danger. So we headed off down there meeting up with Bill Twiss where we were able to nab 1 new bird. The Cape Gannet was pretty easy to locate after a little searching on the nesting point! 
Lifer 1- Cape Gannet 16th January 2016

    Cape Gannet


Lifer two came about when John Harris was doing some field work down at Western Treatment Plant in Werribee. He located and took some awesome photos of  a Red-necked Phalarope in the T-section lagoons. It was a Wednesday and i wasn't working so i packed the boys up and we headed down. We arrived down there pretty quickly and were one of the first on the scene..... We searched the ponds without luck and after a good 30-40 mins a few more birders arrived to help. Still no bird and by this stage at least 15 birders were searching. Eventually the bird was located and everyone that was there got great views. Funnily enough i was expecting this bird to disappear into the night but the bird stayed around all summer and migrated with the waders in March. We had lucky views for a few months! And then another Red-necked Phalarope arrived back with the waders this spring with Dez Hughes finding it late October! Still present now.
Lifer 2-Red-necked Phalarope 20th January 2016


    Red-necked Phalarope


Lifer 3 was a few months later, Richard and Catarina Gregson had been reporting flocks of Superb Parrots in Wunghnu and the Filthy Flockers decided it was worth a drive up. 8 of the 9 Filthy Flockers attended this awesome event.


   Filthy Flockers: Tim Nickholds, Philip Peel, Brad White, Matt McCrae, Jack Parrington, Owen Lishmund,

   Robin Rider (aka Pete) and the unforgettable Bill Twiss

We arrived on the 13th March 2016 late in the afternoon and as we walked the roads i flushed a pair from the roadside and after chasing them into the bush, we then found at least 30 birds. They were truly stunning and well worth the drive, even though we would see them only a few weeks later on the Plains-wanderer trip in Deniliquin. Lifer 3- Superb Parrot 13th March 2016


    Superb Parrot

Lifer 4 was on the trip of the year to Bowra Station. We started the trip at Deniliquin on the Philip Maher Plains-wanderer tour, we however did miss the Plains-wanderer we were about 1 month too late! We did however find a pair of Inland Dotterels! 9th April 2016
We arrived at the farm where we would be searching for the Inland Dotterel, Plains Wanderer and anything else we could find, not much around before dark, we searched the paddocks where the Inland Dotterels had been seen but missed on them. We arrived to a beautiful bush dinner organised by Patricia Maher and after a filling dinner, a few drinks ( beer, wine and coffee), we split up into 4 cars all driven by Phil Maher and his friends from the station we were on. Pretty quickly we had located the Inland Dotterel, 1 car had flushed them but had lost sight, but luckily we had Matt McCrae in our car as he spotted the birds about 1 metre from the car as we drove. A quick stop and a very excited few minutes ensued as we snapped photos through windows, crap shots but we were sure how long they would stay around, after all the cars arrived we got out ( leaving Brad White locked in the back on the 7 seater! OOPS!!
We were able to view these beautiful stunning most memorable birds for nearly 15 minutes, allowing closer than i thought approach. It was a lifer bird for all 17 of us and i reckon that is bloody awesome! It will always be a bird that everyone will remember and remember the trip we had! A truly special moment!
Lifer 4- Inland Dotterel 9th April 2016


   Inland Doterel

Lifer 5 was the day after the Plains-wanderer as we drove towards Round Hill NP. So the morning was relatively crappy, not much excitement at all, we then travelled towards Euabalong, driving at 100kms Bill said to me i think that bird was a cuckoo-shrike, a quick radio call to cars behind us who hadn't heard me but had stopped, then the shout of Ground Cuckoo-shrike filtered through the walkie-talkies a quick u-turn from Bill and I had us speeding down the road to see the Ground Cuckoo-shrike, perched atop of a dead gum, it was flushed from the roadside fence and up about 50 metres where it sat for us, luckily it stopped so all got a good look! Another bird I was lucky enough to see in December on a return trip to Phil Maher tour. 
Lifer 5- Ground Cuckoo-shrike 10th April 2016


   Ground Cuckoo-shrike

Lifer 6 came the following day at Nombinnie Nature Reserve where Tanya Hattingh and i found a family party of Grey-fronted Honeyeaters.We had planned on heading to Tim Dolby spot for the Red-lored Whistler, no one had seen them there for many years and i knew of many people that had been there and missed but we were there so was worth a look! We pulled in Nombinnie Nature Reserve, its another mallee area that abuts the Round Hill NP, so a quick drive had us driving down the road into the reserve. We stopped at any sound of bird action, we pulled up and all got out and went for a stroll at one point, again everyone walking in there own direction, this time however i came home with the biccies! Tanya and I located a small group of Grey-fronted Honeyeaters. Such a tough bird i had to send them to Jeff Davies, Kevin Bartram and Rohan Clarke to confirm while i was away.... I know it mightily pissed off Tim Nickholds as it was one of his main targets!
Lifer 6- Grey-fronted Honeyeater 11th April 2016


    Grey-fronted Honeyeater

Lifer 7 was the same day with Spotted Bowerbird. We came across these at Newey Reservoir in NSW and then had a heap at Bowra Station. Bowra Station was easiest to see these birds and are a camp ground birds. 
Lifer 7- Spotted Bowerbird 11th April 2016


     Spotted Bowerbird

Lifer 8 was Little Crow. On the road out of Gundabooka to Bourke Tanya and Alison did manage to get our first Major Mitchell Cockatoos that were visible on Kidmans Way.In my excitement on getting a photo of these beautiful birds, I dropped my phone, which delayed Bill and I as i had to search for it, as the 4 other cars headed into Bourke, its always the way, we came into town and we saw the 4 cars pulled up in a little carpark, getting out of the car they told us they had both Little Crow and Red-tailed Black Cockatoo fly over. At that point though the Little Crows flew over calling loudly so was able to get some dodgy photos.
Lifer 8- Little Crow 12th April 2016



























Little Crow
Lifer 9-14 were all at Bowra Station. A beautifully established station with incredible bird diversity. We arrived early afternoon. We quickly introduced ourselves to the caretakers and then quickly set up camp. I was first finished so i went for a quick walk to the bore drain. Red-winged Parrots, Chestnut-crowned Babbler and Emus abundant.The view from the campground.


   Bowra waterhole 

Once everyone was set up we headed out to the Gravelpits, looking for Hall's Babbler and Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush, we dipped on all the targets and was a little concerning, we did get Major Mitchell Cockatoo and Spotted Nightjar from its daytime roost. A quick call to Scott Baker, who had just been to Bowra settled my nerves as he had no luck in the afternoon but birds very active in the morning, so we headed back towards camp. We went down the Gumholes road where Tim and I found Little Woodswallow. Lifer 9.
Lifer 9- Little Woodswallow 12th April 2016


   Little Woodswallow

This morning we awoke and wanted to be on the road at 6.30am and too my utter surprise we actually were! We pulled up to the Sawpits and started to have a look around, Tanya instantly found a group of babblers, i looked at the habitat and totally wrote off them being Hall's Babbler, but the call come out, they are Hall's a quick walk over and after some consulting the photos and fields guides there was no doubt!
Lifer 10- Hall's Babbler 13th April 2016


   Hall's Babbler

While at the Sawpits i think Pete and Alison saw the Red-browed Pardalote, and after a short time the bird flew straight into a tree in front of us, a beautiful little bird.
Lifer 11- Red-browed Pardalote 13th April 2016


    Red-browed Pardalote 

A great start to the morning with 2 lifers, we then headed to the Gravelpits where Scott Baker had said he had found the Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush, we searched for a good hour, coming across White-browed Treecreeper and Black-faced Woodswallow. At some point i wandered off track, as i was told to stay on pebbly rocks, luckily for the group Alison followed instruction, and we had the call that we had all hoped for..... " I got it ". We all walked over to Alison who had seen 2 birds, now to relocate, i was the last to see it but i think i may have been the only one to get any shots. 
Lifer 12- Chestnut-backed Quail-thrush 13th April 2016


    Chestnut-backed Quail-thrush 

The next on the list was Bourke's Parrot, all the people at Birdcall last night had said they had only seen them around 4pm, but as we were on such a roll we decided to give it at a crack, so we headed back towards airport track, as we got to the location the birds had been seen, we pulled up. Instantly Tim;s ears pricked up, he heard something so we split up, within about 5 minutes Tim called to say he had the Bourke's Parrots. A quick run ( yes i ran for this one) , we got to the birds, a quick view before they flushed and flew away into surrounding trees, we waited for everyone to arrive before searching. They were very flighty in the trees, but eventually we were able to get the to settle down and allowed for prolonged and unbelievable views.
Lifer 13-Bourke's Parrot 13th April 2016


    Bourke's Parrot

it had been an Unbelievable morning of birding, we weren't sure if we should head back to camp or continue, but as we were on such a roll we decided to continue down the Airport Track, where we flushed my 5th lifer of the day with a large flock of Crimson Chat. At first i saw the red rump and thought Mistletoebird, but they seemed different, another look through the binoculars and i realised they were Crimson Chats! WoW
Lifer 14- Crimson Chat 13th April 2016


   Crimson Chat

The following day we headed out of Bowra Station to the Chirruping Wedgebill spot which was found by Marie Tarrant, we pulled up to a Lignum patch off the highway, if i had not of known about the birds you definitely wouldn't have stopped here as it was rather drab, but we got out of the car and about 10 minutes in Tim heard them call, we followed where the call was from and they were quiet, eventually Alison saw a group pop up in the lingnum between herself and Tim and I, 14 Chirruping Wedgebills were seen flitting around and feeding on the floor!
Lifer 15- Chirruping Wedgebill 14th April 2016


   Chirruping Wedgebill

The next lifer was a few days after and we travelled some kms between them. We checked out Moree and meet a local birder but were unable to locate the target being Plum-headed Finch. We searched and searched without luck and had to leave, Curtis Haynes had said that we should check out Narranbri Lake on the way home as he had seen Plum-headed Finch here recently.
We bid farewell to Curtis and Tim ( who had continued onto eastern QLD) while the 7 of us remaining headed to Narrabri. We had a message from Tim at 12.20pm saying he had found Plum-headed Finch at Goondiwindi which was awesome and 3 minutes later Greg and Janice who were about an hour in from of Bill and I had found them at the Narrabri Lake. We rushed there hoping we could get lucky as well, the gps took us too the opposite side of the lake but was still worth a check, we picked up Western Gerygone, Blue-faced Honeyeater.  Alison, Tanya and Pete located the Plum-headed Finches on the opposite side, so we quickly jumped into the car and drove around, only 5 or so minutes later Bill and I relocated them feeding on the grass seeds! This would have not been a place i would have ever looked for them so i was glad for Curtis tip off!
Lifer 16- Plum-headed Finch 15th April 2016


   Plum-headed Finch

The next group of lifers was probably the greatest birding weekends one could ever imagine. With the sightings of the Orange-bellied Parrots at the borrow pits in the Western Treatment Plant and with the frequency of sightings it was a given that we would try and locate these little aussie battlers before heading to Port Fairy for a Pelagic. We arrive at the borrow pits and searched without luck, then Steve Davidson arrived and checked as well, no luck but as Steve headed to his car 3 birds circled overhead and landed on the spit. I may have shed a tear as it had been one of the most sort after species i have wanted and to see the brightness as they circled above us for a minute was breathtaking. I didn't think this sighting could have gotten any better but the pelagic held some truly awesome birds!
Lifer 17- Orange-bellied Parrot 28th May 2016


    Orange-bellied Parrot

The following 4 Lifers 18-21 were on the Pelagic of a lifetime! I was not booked on this pelagic but had a call from Neil Macumber that he had 4 spots available and that it wouldn't be running if he couldn't find numbers. A quick call to Owen and Tim and a ring in with Simon Starr we filled the boat. Thankfully i was on the boat or i would have been mightily pissed off! It started off quiet but gee did it pick up! First lifer was Arcitc Tern followed closely by Grey-headed Albatross, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and Blue Petrel. Also of note were Sooty Albatross..... 3 ridiculously hard Victorian albatross in one trip was truly something! The weekend could not have been better!
Lifer 18- Arctic Tern 29th May 2016


    Arctic Tern 

Lifer 19- Grey-headed Albatross 29th May 2016


    Grey-headed Albatross

Lifer 20- Light-mantled Sooty Albatross


    Light-mantled Sooty Albatross

Lifer 21- Blue Petrel


   Blue Petrel

It was an unbelievable 2 days of birding with so many highlights and some many memories of a great weekend! 
Lifer 22 was only a few weeks later again on another Port Fairy Pelagic where we got great views of Antarctic Prion as well as many Slender-billed Prions around the boat. No crazy albatross action this trip but a nice bird to add to the life list!
Lifer 22- Antarctic Prion 12th June 2016


    Antarctic Prion

It was a long stint of no new birds between June and September, we had organised another Mallee Trip and the weather before we left was chaotic, flash flooding and road closures and we were so close to pulling the pin on the trip but was so glad that we didn't! Our first stop was Little Desert NP where my target for the trip was Slender-billed Thronbill. We had thought we had this bird the previous year at the same location but it turned out to be a Buff-rumped Thornbill so the annoyance and frustration was showing and i was destined to try my hardest for this little skulker. Adam and Dan had turned up the previous day and when we arrived they had seen a party of Slender-billed Thornbills down Salt lake track but the road was unsuitable and was risky. We decided to try again at the known spot on Maher's Hut Track. We searched in the heat for a good hour without luck, no birds calling or moving about. Owen and I weren't ready to give up and as the others headed to the cars we continued. We heard the very quiet contact calls of a thornbill and as we followed for 15 minutes finally we had enough photos and comfortable on the identification we called the others who came in and found them too. A tough little bugger but was so pleased to finally have the bogey off my back!
Life 23- Slender-billed Thornbill 21st September 2016


    Slender-billed Thornbill


Lifer 24 came a few days later, we continued onto Hattah-kulkyne NP where we searched for anything but my main target was Striated Grasswren. Dan got a visual on a bird on Nowingi Track but we were unable to refind it. Frustrating it was too search in vain for this bird. We eventually gave up and tried Konardin Track where again we failed. We had all intentions of staying at Hattah but i decided we should move off and try Pink Lakes. It was a risk but it certainly paid off. We tried that night but failed i was confident i heard a bird but couldn't locate so set camp and tried again the following morning! We arrived at the spot on Mt Crozier Track from Intel from Tim Dolby and Tim Bawden and we had success instantly however the birds always stayed out of sight. We eventually split up and after about 20 minutes i stumbled between 2 contact calls, i was literally standing in the middle of the two and for the next 20 minutes the birds continued to circle me but i couldn't see a bird. At that point i actually started to doubt if i was actually a birdwatcher, i couldn't see or get any movement of any kind and it was frustrating. Finally one of the birds jumped up onto a branch and finally i got my first view. The next 5 minutes i tried to photograph them to be certain and when i got a ridiculously shite shot i called the others. We stood and watched them for another 20 minutes as they continued to circle. Another incredible birding moment! 
Lifer 24- Striated Grasswren 24 September 2016


    Striated Grasswren 

Lifer 25 again was a few months apart, this time it was for the elusive and nomadic Budgerigar. We had missed this on the trip to Bowra, having heard it at Gunderbooka NP but unable to track down. The report from Tim Nickholds of Budgerigars back at Goschen stirred a massive desire to find them. Tim, Brad, Jack, Pete and myself had arranged for a follow up trip to Deniliquin to again search for the Plains' wanderer so what better option was there to head to Goschen and try our luck at the Budgerigars. We arrived late on the Friday night to Tim telling us that he had Budgerigar just before dusk. The excitement was insane and i hardly slept hoping and wishing too see one. We had a productive night with Little Button-quail and with that success it was too sleep.  We awoke at first light and we were off, we walked to the old hall where Tim and I again heard the call of a Budgerigar but this time we were able to track it down! Again i keep saying this but another highlight! I think its every birders dream to see these in the wild and this was no different! I few swear words and fist pumps ensued. We watched  for a few minutes before he flew away. We searched for the next 3 hours to relocate as Jack and Pete were on there way. We did not find them again but when the boys arrived we headed back to where we saw them. Tim and I had grave fears that Jack and Pete had missed them but to our surprise a flock of 8 Budgerigars were now there! Exceptional!!!
Lifer 25- Budgerigar 3rd December 2016


   Budgerigar

From here we headed to Deniliquin, on a high with just seeing Budgie we had high hopes to see a Plains-wanderer. Phil Maher and consistently seen them over the last 6 weeks and we all thought it was our best chance! We got picked up at 4pm where we drove out too a farm where there were many birds. On the drive Phil had made mention of a pair of Ground Cuckoo-shrike which we found relatively easy. Also in passing conversation he had seen Diamond Dove. My ears pricked up and i was keen for this bird! We all got excited ( bar Tim) and said can we try. We drove to the native Pine Forest and pretty quickly we had Lifer 26 under my belt. It was so small and call so quiet i was totally surprised! Just Beautiful.
Lifer 26- Diamond Dove 3rd December 2016


    Diamond Dove

The last but not the least special Lifer 27 was the nomadic and ridiculously endangered Plains-wanderer. It took us nearly 3 hours of searching the paddock that they had been seen in before finally Pete got a glimpse of a beautiful female Plains-wanderer. We spent only a few minutes with it but it felt like forever, such a small dainty looking bird that you really have no idea of the size until you witness it! A great lifer to finish 2016 off with! 27 lifers pushing me up to 483 for my lifer list!
Lifer 27- Plains-wanderer 3rd December 2016


    Plains-wanderer

A huge thanks to all those people that have been out and explored this wonderful and beautiful country of ours. A big thanks to Alison Nisbett, Bill Twiss, Brad White, Jack Parrington, Tim Nickholds, Matt McCrae and Pete Gardiner for allowing me to tag along with them on there adventures as i wouldn't be able to explore the country without the willingness of these people to drive me around. Also a big thanks to those people that came along for the ride, Bowra Trip, Tanya Hattingh, Greg and Janice Mckay. Mallee Trip Adam Fry, Owen Lishmund, Dan Ashdown, David Adam, Deb Oliver and Nina Tsilikas. Also to all those people that have attended the Birdlife Outings i lead it has been a great year meeting and growing new friendships!



 I can't wait to start 2017 off with a bang! Wishing everyone a happy and safe end of 2016 and i hope to see you all out in the field in 2017..... P.s also would like to thank all those people that have shared there wisdom and knowledge over the year so a big shout out to Tim Bawden, Tim Dolby, Steve Davidson, Dez Hughes, Kevin Bartram, Scott Baker, Bernie O'keefe and Jeff Davies. Without your assistance and offering your endless support and drive i wouldn't be able to help others... Cheers too all!

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