Sunday, 3 December 2017


I had looked forward to my trip to the Coral Sea for years.  As it approached, I felt more and more anxious about it, but at the same time I was still very excited and keen to see what rare seabirds we might encounter.  Few birders visit the Coral Sea and we really didn't know what might be there.  My anxiety was due to the fact that we were leaving from Port Moresby.  We were due to arrive there on 31 October, the very day that the detention centre on Manus Island was scheduled to close.  I thought there might be some anti-Australian feeling overflowing from Manus to Port Moresby.  There was also some doubt about the procedure for obtaining an entry visa.  Different websites had different information.  It was hard to know what to believe.  Recent news reports told of people being refused a visa on arrival, and returned home.

There were twelve of us travelling with Richard Baxter's Birding Tours Australia, including his son Damien.  More than half of us were in the 800 club.  I knew it would be an absolute privilege to spend eleven days with some of Australia's top birders.

Eight of us were from Victoria.  We met at Melbourne airport early in the morning.  We were to fly to Brisbane, then on to Port Moresby.  Our plan was to apply for our visas together, and, if necessary, assist each other through the bureaucracy.

I'm told it is unwise to go grocery shopping when you are hungry.  You buy more food than you need.  I think I should probably not write a posting here when I am feeling particularly pleased with myself, as I am right now.  This morning I saw a Pacific Koel on my morning walk:  a new bird for my annual list.  You could expect that anything I wrote at the moment would be seen through rose-coloured glasses.  Please bear this in mind:  my report is more positive than I felt at the time.  There was nothing positive about my trip to the Coral Sea.

Our flights to Brisbane, then Port Moresby, were uneventful.  Our trepidation about our entry visas proved quite unnecessary.  Our passports were stamped in routine fashion, and together we boarded the courtesy bus to the Ela Beach hotel.  

My room overlooked a building site.  We were informed that this was our taxes at work.  A future APEC meeting in Port Moresby required that Australia construct a venue.  Naturally.  Where else but Ela Beach?

That afternoon we visited the local supermarket to purchase alcohol and snacks for the trip.  Richard had ordered taxis.  When they didn't arrive, we took the hotel's courtesy bus.  I didn't take any local currency, but I had no trouble buying alcohol with my credit card.  In my ignorance, I thought I would not need any snacks.

The boat we were to sail on had been changed four times.  It didn't make much difference to us.  We hadn't seen any of these proposed vessels.  In the end we sailed on M. V. Surveyor.  Remarkably, the next morning, we boarded on time, and sailed at 7 a.m.  

When we arrived at the dock, the first issue that confronted me was how to board the vessel.  I always have trouble getting on and off boats.  Usually I rely on help from strong men.  On this occasion I was horrified to see the shaky gangplank with no handrails.  I might have met my match.  Others skipped across the gangplank quite happily.  Clearly, any trepidation was my fault.  I soon figured that the only way to board the boat was to hang on to Damien and not look down.  I let Irena go first.  That's me, standing in front of the bus, looking anxious and wondering whether I was capable of getting onto the boat.

Boarding M.V. Surveyor, photo by Jenny Spry

Of course I did manage to get onto the boat.  Thanks to Damien.  I don't think I could have done it without him.

The boat was not comfortable.  Accommodation was not great.  We sat on plastic chairs, which walked across the deck as the boat moved.  Between us, we managed to ruin at least three during the trip.  There were 13 of us.  Even before we'd broken any, there were not 13 chairs.  The upper deck gave great views, but was far too mobile for me.  And there was nothing to hang on to.  I spent most time on the main deck, where there was some shade, at some hours of the day.

And I should mention the food.  The boat had been informed (twice) that I was vegetarian.  Instead of saying that they could not cater for vegetarians, they simply ignored this advice.  For meat eaters, I don't suppose the food was all that bad.  True, there was no orange juice for breakfast and the only coffee looked like International Roast.  The only fruit was one pineapple we were given for breakfast on about day seven.  Three times we were not fed lunch.  Once, the cook was seasick.  The other times he simply couldn't be bothered.  The crew (eight of them, no less!) were fed out the back, while we went hungry.  For me, the lowlight was being given a toasted beetroot and lettuce sandwich for lunch.  This happened twice.

As I say, we left at 7 a.m. on Wednesday.  We arrived in Australian waters at 6.39 a.m. on Thursday.  We saw our first Australian bird at 9.45 a.m.  Appropriately, it was a Wedge-tailed Shearwater.

This is the route we took.

Thanks to Graham Barwell for this image.

Sunday, 20 August 2017


Sherry was running low, so it was time for a trip to Rutherglen, my third this year.  Of course that meant I'd have a day birding around Chiltern - always a thrill.  A friend says 'there's no such thing as a bad day at Werribee.'  He's right of course, but I'd like to add that there's no such thing as a bad day at Chiltern either.

Because my annual total is quite good this year (452) there weren't many new birds I could realistically hope to add in Chiltern.  I compiled a list nevertheless (naturally) and we started the day on McGuiness Road in the Mt Pilot section of the national park, hoping for a Spotted Quail-thrush.  The rain was intermittent but the cold was constant, as was the unfriendly grey sky.  Birds were few, but I managed to see both Brown and White-throated Treecreepers and both Brown and Buff-rumped Thornbills.  I walked along the road until the rain drove me back to the car.  I removed a couple of saplings that had fallen across the road and wondered how often rangers visited the park.  When we encountered an enormous tree across the road, we were forced back.  Rog did a fair bit of reversing before we found a suitable spot to turn around.  My list was destined to remain quail-thrush free.
Yellow-footed Antechinus, an old photo from my archive

We drove to Cyanide dam in Honeyeater Picnic Area.  I walked around the dam.  It only takes ten minutes, so I reckoned I could fit it in between showers.  The resident Australasian Grebe was in superb breeding plumage, but I could find neither his mate nor his nest.  The best thing I saw on my walk wasn't a bird at all.  It was a Yellow-footed Antechinus.  She was lining her nest in a hollow in a gum tree.  She paused and looked at me.  I stood statue still.  She really was the cutest thing.  Eventually she decided I was no threat and continued to take gum leaves into her nest hole.  Reluctantly, I left her to her duties.

I looked for Diamond Firetails at No 1 dam and dreamt of Grey-headed Lapwings at No 2. Of course I saw neither.

In Rutherflen I looked for crakes at the ephemeral water near the tip.  There were dotterels and darters, cormorants and stilts and one splendid male Flame Robin, but there were no crakes.

We drove to Black Swamp where there was lots of water but few birds.  I was pleased to see a significant roadside area sign alerting me to the presence of Grey-crowned Babblers.  Unfortunately the only babbler I saw was the one on the sign.  

We stopped briefly at the entrance to Lake Moodemere.  I've seen Diamond Firetails here in the past.  But not today.  Today I saw Jacky Winters, Grey Fantails and Little and Yellow-rumped Thornbills. (The roads were so wet and slippery I was not inclined to ask Rog to take me to the river, where I often see White-backed Swallows.)

I ended up with a birdlist of 62 for the day, which, given the awful conditions wasn't too bad.  Sadly there was nothing new for the year.  But I can confirm:  there's no such thing as a bad day at Chiltern.

Sunday, 6 August 2017


Of course I was delighted to see a Red Boobook, but that was only a potential future armchair tick.  As we moved on to Iron Range, I was expecting two lifers:  a Spotted Whistling Duck and a Black-eared Catbird.  The whistling ducks were at Archer River and the catbirds were in Iron Range.
Sign at Musgrave Roadhouse

The day we drove from Kingfisher Park to Musgrave Roadhouse, without doubt the highlight was the black form of Brown Treecreeper (race melanotus).  It was darker, but the most noticeable feature was the distinct cream coloured eyebrow.

The next day we met Sue Shepherd and admired Golden-shouldered Parrots.  Phil pulled his car off the road and parked under a gum tree which was full of parrots, including at least two striking males.  Later we saw Little Woodswallows on our way to the Red Goshawk's nest.  We could see the goshawk on the nest, tail poking out one end, head the other.

On Tuesday, we visited a place called Water Tanks, with large native palms, pretty water lilies and lots of Star Finches.  We drove through Coen, with its Sexchange Hotel, and on along dreadful roads to Archer River.  It was dark when we arrived and I couldn't see my long awaited whistling ducks.  The next morning, I was up before dawn, eager to get a look at my 803rd Australian bird.
Me looking at Spotted Whistling Ducks, photo by David Landon

On Wednesday we drove to Lockhart River.  We saw our first Palm Cockatoos for the trip, as well as White-streaked Honeyeaters, Grey Whistlers, White-faced Robins and Eclectus Parrots.  Birds were wonderful, but I was still missing catbirds from my list.

We went spotlighting several times and saw Large-tailed Nightjars, Marbled, Papuan and Tawny Frogmouths, a Barking Owl and a Barn Owl.  We also saw a Striped Possum and a Southern Common Cuscus.  We saw a Grassland Melomys with two babies and a Common Spotted Cucus in daylight.  We also saw several Bare-backed Fruit Bats during the day - they were huge.

On Thursday we had great views of Green-backed Honeyeaters, Yellow-billed Kingfishers and Magnificent Riflebirds.  On Friday morning, when at last I thought we might look for catbirds, five Fawn-breasted Bowerbirds turned up on our lawn and demanded our attention.  Then we were entertained by a hobby attacking a pair of Grey Goshawks.  The rainforest echoed with the rich, fluty call of Green Orioles and the attention-grabbing whistle of Magnificent Riflebirds.  Sadly, there was no mewing of catbirds.  We saw Frilled Monarchs and Wompoo Fruit-Doves and breathtaking views of Chestnut-breasted Cuckoos.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017


We did a walk in Lake Eacham National Park where we saw a Wompoo Fruit-Dove on its nest and a Victoria's Riflebird displaying to a female, who, unimpressed, rejected him.  A Pied Monarch displayed his spectacular frill and a very angry Northern Dwarf Crowned Snake threatened us.  It was only about 40 centimetres long, but half of this was reared up, perpendicular to the ground, quite intimidating enough for me.  Had he been a little larger, he would have been truly terrifying.  In the afternoon we drove to Lake Barrine, where we saw a beautiful Shining Bronze-Cuckoo and a magnificent male Superb Fruit-Dove.  After tea we went spotlighting and saw nothing but a bandicoot and brush-turkeys roosting absurdly high in the canopy.  We heard Lesser Sooty Owls and Southern Boobooks, but, most frustratingly, they refused to show themselves.  Back at Chambers, we saw Sugar Gliders and a pretty Striped Possum.

The next morning, at a small park outside Malanda, we saw a Tooth-billed Bowerbird.  We paused at Bromfield Swamp on our way to Mt Hypipamee.  Here we admired the Golden Bowerbird's bower, then saw the bird as well as Mountain Thornbill.  We had great views of a bird I'd once thought I'd never see, and have now seen really well on three separate occasions - the Fernwren.
Common Brushtail Possum

The next day in Dinden National Park we saw White-browed Robins and Northern Fantails, and, most excitingly, a Red Boobook!  Robert Nevinson, our other guide, rubbed a stick against the trunk of a likely tree, and, to our delight, the boobook flew out.  It sat glaring at us, demanding to know why we'd disturbed its rest.
Looking at a Red Boobook, the northern race of the Southern Boobook

We had lunch in Kuranda where we saw the second thrilling snake of the trip - a Green Tree Snake.  It wasn't green and it wasn't in a tree.  It was beside the track, black with a yellow belly, with white flecks on its back.  It was thin and about a metre long.  It slithered away and suddenly all the white flecks disappeared and its back became a uniform dark colour.

Spotlighting that night gave us one Green Ringtail Possum and one Barn Owl.  My bird count was 178.  We then moved on to part two of the tour:  Iron Range.


In July 2017, I saw more species of birds than I have in any other July since I've been keeping records:  323.  That's because, as well as crossing the Nullarbor in search of Naretha Bluebonnets, I travelled to Cape York with Philip Maher. The tour was in two parts: Atherton Tablelands and Iron Range. For the first part of the tour, we started in Cairns, then went on to Lake Eacham and Kingfisher Lodge.
We started with an early morning wander along Cairns Esplanade, giving my birdlist a healthy kick-start with 30 species.  Highlights were a Great-billed Heron and a Beach Stone-Curlew.  Also worthy of mention were the Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, the Torresian Kingfisher and a most obliging Mangrove Robin that allowed us to admire it without actually going into the mangroves and exposing ourselves to Cairns' veracious sandflies.  We saw the only Tree Martins for the trip and the only Scaly-breasted Munias, about fifty of them.  Then we paid our compliments to a sleepy Rufous Owl roosting in a huge fig tree at Les Davie Park, before visiting Machons Beach at Redden Island, near the mouth of the Barron River.  Here we added 14 species to our list, most notably Black-necked Stork, Lovely Fairywren and both Black-faced and White-eared Monarchs.  We had lunch at Centenary Lakes, where we added Black Butcherbird, Papuan Frogmouth and a stunning Little Kingfisher.  There was also the only Striated Heron of the trip.

Magpie Geese at Centenary Park

Birding with Phil is always hard work.  Participants are simply expected to keep up, whether it's bush-bashing through impenetrable rainforest, climbing through vicious barbed wire fences or crossing preposterous creeks wider than my largest practicable long-jump.  The upside is, that when you go birding with Phil, not only do you see great birds, you also enjoy Trisha's unsurpassed cuisine.  Every meal was a delight.  Thank you, Trish!

We spent the night at Chambers Rainforest Lodge, where Spotted Catbirds and Victoria's Riflebirds came delightfully close to eat fruit strategically placed to entice them in.  Here, while we were admiring Double-eyed Fig-Parrots (race macleayana), Topknot Pigeons flew over, and I didn't know where to look.  To feast on the fig-parrots or forego them for the pigeons?
Track at Lake Eacham

ng.  In the afternoon we drove to Lake Barrine, where we saw a beautiful 

Sunday, 9 July 2017


After my first unsuccessful attempt to see Naretha Bluebonnets in May 2016, I knew I'd have to try again.  Now, July 2017, I've just returned from my second attempt.  This time I went with Bellbird Birding Tours and my guide was Steve Potter.  In my opinion it was the perfect sized tour:  one carload.  There were three of us:  Don, Dave and me.

We left from Adelaide on Sunday 2 July 2017 and returned the following Saturday, having travelled a very comfortable 4,000 kilometres in our brand new Toyota Prado.

The first stop on that first Sunday morning was coffee by a roadside dam at Port Wakefield.  We clocked up quite a good birdlist here, including Australian Shoveler, Freckled Duck and Peregrine Falcon.  The others saw a Black Falcon, but somehow I managed to miss it.  I soon realized I was in the company of very good birders and hoped I wasn't going to miss out on too much during the rest of the week.  What if they saw Naretha Bluebonnets and I didn't?  

We drove on for lunch at Wild Dog Hill in the Whyalla Conservation Park.  Some Eastern Bluebonnets flew towards us and settled, so we could see their red bellies, yellow vents and dark blue faces.  We looked for grasswren but could only manage fairywren (Blue-breasted).  
We spent the night at Port Lincoln and I went to bed with a birdlist of 55 species.  We all agreed that the bird of the day was one cooperative Black-eared Cuckoo that sat up in the top of a dead tree so we could admire him properly.

On Monday it rained on and off all day.  We started the morning looking for Western Whipbirds in Lincoln National Park.  Last time I'd looked for these birds (with Phil Maher in October 2011) it had been uncomfortably hot.  This morning, by contrast, was uncomfortably cold.  We heard the bird.  It was very close, but quite impossible to see in the dense undergrowth.  I glimpsed a whipbird flitting fast and low, but no one had a tickable view.  We also heard Southern Scrub-robin, but couldn't see them either.  Disappointed with our failure, we walked to the coast, hoping for Rock Parrots.  We dipped there too.  This was not an auspicious start!  To cap it off, I was cold.

The next stop was Venus Bay caravan park, on the agenda because of the vagrant Laughing Gull that has taken up residence there.  I'd twitched this bird in June 2016, but I was interested to see it again, to see how its plumage had changed.  When I saw it last year, it turned up early in the morning.  We arrived at the caravan park in the middle of the day and there was no sign of the gull.  We watched pelicans holding their bills open in the rain, getting an easy drink.  We walked up and down the foreshore.  There were Pacific and Silver Gulls, Sooty and Pied Oystercatchers, about a hundred Greater Crested Terns, some Singing Honeyeaters and a couple of Red-necked Stints, but no Laughing Gull.  We had many miles to travel and could not really afford to wait around.  We were told that a woman (Joy was her name) fed the Laughing Gull (Chuckles is his name) each day at 4 p.m.  If we waited until then, how could we possibly reach our destination, the Nullarbor Roadhouse, by tonight?  It was about 500 kilometres from Venus Bay.  Steve was adamant.  He wasn't leaving without seeing Chuckles.  So we had lunch and walked around some more.  Then at 3 o'clock, an hour early, we saw Joy feeding gulls.  Sure enough, there was Chuckles flying in for his free fish.  Delighted, we all admired him appreciatively, then resumed our journey in a much more positive frame of mind.

Instead of driving 500 kilometres, we changed plans and spent the night at Ceduna.  Simple.  The next morning, we set off early to make up some distance and get back on schedule.  At the Nullarbor Roadhouse, we drove up the track beside the fence and very soon saw three Nullarbor Quailthrush.  One male sat on the track ahead of us and posed, showing us left profile, head on, then right profile.  This made me feel a little inadequate as it had taken me several attempts before I'd seen my first Nullarbor Quailthrush.  Here was Steve driving up and ticking them within minutes.  I felt a little better when we met some other birders who'd been driving up and down without a hint of quailthrush.  I'm sure they were envious of our success.

All I really cared about was seeing Naretha Bluebonnet, so I wasn't deeply upset at missing out on Western Whipbird and Rock Parrots (birds I'd seen before).  Missing the Black Falcon was entirely my own fault.  Steve told us that Naretha Bluebonnets had been seen in the Nullarbor National Park, 100 kilometres west of the roadhouse.  I wanted them on my lifelist, I didn't care which state I saw them in - South Australia was just as good as Western Australia as far as I was concerned.  If we did see them in South Australia, it would save some 1200 kilometres of driving.  So we drove into Nullarbor National Park, and travelled 13 kilometres up Koonalda Track to the old homestead.  We checked every tree, but there was no sign of bluebonnets.  We had lunch and looked again.  We had great views of Ground Cuckoo-shrikes and Crested Bellbirds, but sadly no bluebonnets.  There was nothing for it but to drive on to Western Australia.
Paul Taylor's photo of Naretha Bluebonnets on the Koonalda Track in Nullarbor National Park, May 2017.

We saw a flock of Major Mitchell Cockatoos at Madura.  Otherwise, it was a long, uneventful drive to Cocklebiddy.  We arrived at 7 p.m. South Australian time.  Our phones all automatically registered Western Australian time but, confusingly, Cocklebiddy enjoys its own time zone called 'Central Time.'  Steve summed the day up:  we had driven 800 kilometres, seen the Nullarbor Quailthrush and spent some time looking for Naretha Bluebonnet in South Australia.  We went to bed, optimistic that tomorrow we would finally crack it.  Wednesday was to be the day of the Naretha Bluebonnet.

We left the roadhouse at 7.15 a.m. and took the Rawlinna Road through Arubiddy Station.  Last time I'd done this journey the road had been impassable.  We'd made it to the station, but could go no further.  Luckily, the rain we'd had at Port Lincoln had not come this far west.  We could see that after rain the track would be extremely difficult.  In fact it was much better than I'd expected.  At Arubiddy Station, we spoke to some men, who told us the road was 'pretty bad.'  I was anxious that we'd have to turn back, but Steve negotiated the wheel ruts perfectly, and we found that the road wasn't bad at all.  We saw pipits, Grey Butcherbirds and magpies.  There were kestrels, Wedge-tailed Eagles and Brown Falcons and both Rufous and Brown Songlarks.  I felt like a child on Christmas Eve:  very soon good things were going to happen.  Altogether, we passed through 13 gates, each with its own confusing mechanism.  The twelfth gate was on the dingo fence, the boundary to Rawlinna Station.  At the thirteenth gate, a sheep was entangled in the wire, still alive, just.  The ravens were beginning to peck it.  We tried to free it.  We attempted to undo the wire at the gatepost, but it was firmly fixed in place.  There was nothing we could do.  Reluctantly, we left the poor sheep to the ravens and its inevitable painful death.

Soon afterwards, on the left, we saw a couple of windmills and a tank, and a little after that, another tank and a large stand of western myalls.  This was the spot.  We turned left and parked beside the tank.  It was 10.45 a.m.  Eagerly, we jumped out of the car and looked around for parrots.  Steve led us around the myalls, circling the tank and inspecting every tree.  After we'd looked in every direction, our optimism began to fade.  We had lunch, trying to pretend that the birds could fly in at any minute.  I had thought that the difficulty in seeing Naretha Bluebonnets was in getting to this spot.  People who dipped on the bird, could not negotiate the track.  I had thought that everyone who made it through, saw the birds.  Now I began to wonder.  Did people not report failed attempts?  We drove from the tank to the windmills and the silence in the car was palpable.  We each nurtured our own private thoughts of failure.  At 2.45, we'd been looking for the birds for four hours, and I began calculating what time we'd have to leave to get back to the roadhouse in daylight.  I wasn't very happy.
The spot to look for Naretha Bluebonnets, a tank surrounded by western myalls.

Steve suggested we try one more walk.  Sitting in the car was downright miserable, so I jumped at the suggestion of something to do.  Steve and I set off, while Dave and Don remained at the car.  We were attempting to retain a positive outlook, while gloom was descending inevitably.  Then a Rawlinna Station ute turned up and we were pleased at the opportunity to tell them about the distressed sheep caught in the fence.  Unfortunately, they had no local knowledge about where to find bluebonnets.

The ute left and Steve and I continued on our walk.  I tried hard to think positive thoughts.  How lucky we were that it hadn't rained.  Perhaps we wouldn't have made it here, if there'd been a downpour.  But what did it matter if we had made it to the tank, if there were no bluebonnets?  Suddenly, Steve whistled.  He'd seen Don in the distance, looking for us.  Dave was looking at a pair of Naretha Bluebonnets, and Don had come to get us!  Funny how one minute, you're tired and lethargic, and the next you're full of energy.  We ran all the way back.

They weren't just another tick.  They were beautiful birds.  I stood apart from the others so they couldn't see me crying.  We all admired those bluebonnets, then it was high fives all round.  No one had mentioned the turquoise face to me.  It is quite different from Eastern Bluebonnets.  The birds were much brighter and prettier than I'd thought they'd be.  But perhaps my vision was tempered by relief.

We were all delighted and set off back to the roadhouse at 3.20 p.m.  But the day wasn't over yet.  The first drama was a flat tyre.  I was accompanied by three very competent fellows who could change a tyre blindfolded.  Except that the spare was secured by a locknut.  Eventually (using the cunning device of reading the manual) we discovered the key, and those three competent fellows took precisely 14 minutes to change the tyre.  By now the sun had set.  The second drama was a kangaroo that jumped in front of the car.  Luckily, it jumped off and I hope it recovered fully.  We arrived back at the roadhouse, triumphant, at 6.30.  I needed a drink.
It took just 14 minutes for 3 competent blokes to change a tyre.

The damaged tyre was mended overnight, and we faced Thursday with four objectives:  (1) to see the Naretha Bluebonnet in South Australia; (2) to see whales at the Head of the Bight; (3) to photograph the Nullarbor Quailthrush; and (4) to see a Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat.  We achieved none.  Both the bluebonnets and the quailthrushes were a no show.  We arrived too late to see the whales (the gate closed at 5 p.m.).  And, when we went looking for wombats in the dark after tea, all we saw were a couple of Tawny Frogmouths.

On Friday, we drove to Kimba, changing our itinerary to visit Yumbarra Conservation Park to look for Scarlet-chested Parrots.  I'd seen them here with Phil Maher in October 2011.  Alas, I was not to see them in July 2017.

Saturday saw us looking for Copperback Quailthrush in Lake Gilles Conservation Park.  We had an early start and it was extremely cold.  The spinifex was covered in frost.  Steve knew several spots for quailthrush, and we checked out each one.  We saw Rufous Treecreepers and Western Yellow Robins, but not a hint of quailthrush.
The spinifex was covered in frost.

We had lunch at Arid Lands Botanic Gardens in Port Augusta, one of my very favourite places in South Australia.  I enjoyed a glass of wine to celebrate a very successful trip.  We hadn't seen everything we'd set out to see, but I'd seen my Naretha Bluebonnets and I was perfectly satisfied.

Singing Honeyeaters

Sunday, 25 June 2017


I'm reading a book called Birders, Tales of a Tribe by Mark Cocker (lent to me by my birding mate, Philip Jackson).  It's crammed full of birdy anecdotes (all of which would mean more, I'm sure, if I knew either the people or the places).  Cocker mentions the first Collared Doves seen in Britain on 3 July 1956 at Overstrand in north Norfolk, discovered by a chap called Michael Seago.  At the time, Cocker tells us, this was a very exciting discovery.  But, very soon, the doves had invaded the country and colonised everywhere from Cornwall to Shetland.  The bird became the tenth most common bird in English gardens.  Spare a thought for Michael Seago.  His once momentous discovery has evaporated into no more than a distant memory.

That's how I feel about my SIPO.  Yes, my South Island Pied Oystercatcher.  This species used to be rare in Australia.  In 1994, Christidis and Boles did not mention it.  It simply was not on the Australian list.  In 2008, Christidis and Boles included it as a vagrant.  A vagrant used to be defined as a bird that had been recorded fewer than ten times. Today, you can see my SIPO about an hour's drive from Melbourne.

It's not as if Christidis and Boles left it out in 1994 because the bird had not been discovered.  It is not a recent split.  It was named in 1897 by Martens.  The type specimen came from Saltwater Creek on the South Island of New Zealand.  And it kept itself mainly to New Zealand.  Occasionally one would visit Australia.  I remember looking for one on the Gold Coast with Tom Tarrant in 2001.

In January this year, Philip and I flew to the Gold Coast, hired a car, and with a little effort, admired a handsome SIPO.  It was my 800th Australian bird.  It felt very special.
This is my SIPO, not at Stockyard Point in Victoria, but at Broadwater Beach in NSW in January 2017, alongside the taller Australian Pied Oystercatcher for comparison.

Yesterday, Philip and I drove not much more than an hour from Melbourne to Stockyard Point, where, with twenty or so miscellaneous birders, we watched the very same bird, on the beach amongst two dozen Australian Pied Oystercatchers.  It didn't seem special at all. (I know it's the same bird as it has an identifying tag on its leg.) 

We noted both races of Gull-billed Tern and one very beautiful Double-banded Plover in breeding plumage, then I persuaded Philip that we must rush back to the car before the tide came in completely and we had to swim back.  I found walking back difficult.  The beach is strewn with fallen trees.  Clambering over these slippery limbs with the waves constantly mocking me, hurrying to beat the tide back to the car, is not my idea of a fun day out.

Of course we made it to the car without falling into the sea, and had an uneventful drive home.  I settled down with a drink to contemplate SIPOs and the world's injustices.  I sent empathetic vibes to MIchael Seago.  The phone rang.  It was James Mustafa, telling me that there was a Little Stint at Stockyard Point!  Thank goodness the Little Stint is already safely on my lifelist (Werribee, 2008).  I don't fancy returning to do battle with those fallen trees and taunting waves.  Of course, if the Little Stint was not on my list, I'd have no choice.