Sunday, 13 January 2013


On Sunday (yesterday) I sat down and prepared a schedule for the week.  I was definitely going to start work on my new book on Monday, no more procrastinating.  So this morning, I arose at 5.30 and went to the gym.  Driving home at around 7 a.m. (feeling virtuous) I noticed what a beautiful day it was.  A great day for birding.  I told myself that I really should grab this chance of a pleasant not-too-hot January day.  I owed it to myself to go birding.  And so I did.

I could resist the temptation of Banyule no longer.  I arrived just before 8 and was greeted by a Grey Butcherbird in the car park.  A Mistletoebird serenaded me as I walked to the swamp.  The first thing I saw was three Yellow-billed Spoonbills.  I couldn't remember seeing them here before.  Then I scanned the muddy verges, looking for snipe and crakes.  Immediately I saw Latham's Snipe.  I counted seven, some feeding in the shallows, some loafing on the edge.  Now I felt justified in taking time off work to visit Banyule.  I had time for just a cursory look at the ducks in the water when I was joined by a fellow birder.

"Look at all those snipe!" I enthused.

"Yes," he said.  "There were nine here yesterday."

Well, I thought, seven was good enough for me.

"Have you seen any crakes?" I asked.

He told me that he'd just come from the grotty pool, and that he'd seen Australian Spotted chasing Spotless Crakes and two Buff-banded Rails.  I didn't bother to examine the ducks on the swamp.  I thanked my nameless friend and hurried off to admire his crakes.  The path to the grotty pool looks down on the large swamp, where I had just been admiring snipe.  I paused briefly to check the verges, and there were several Australian Spotted Crakes!  They were on the far edge from where I'd been sitting, and a little small for good viewing from such a distance. 

When I arrived at the grotty pool, two Common Bronzewings were cooing to each other above the water.  There were Grey Teal and Dusky Moorhen in the pool, and yes! there with them was an Australian Spotted Crake.  I drank him in.  In a very short while, a Spotless Crake appeared, and, right on cue, the spotty fellow chased him.  I watched for a while, the spotted bird gave me excellent views, but only allowed quick glimpses of his spotless cousin before chasing him away each time he appeared.  Then a Buff-banded Rail (huge by comparison) strutted past and I congratulated myself on my magnificent birding.  How clever was I, to see all these birds.  I didn't consider that all I'd done was to follow other people's directions and note what appeared in front of me.  I thought I'd done a great job.

On the way back to the swamp, I paused again to look at the Australian Spotted Crakes along the edge of the water.  There were at least four of them.  I could see that there was another birder by the water, where I'd met my anonymous adviser half an hour before.  I thought I'd have another quick look at the swamp to see if anything else had arrived.

The new birder revealed himself to be Richard Loyn, and he told me that there were Pink-eared Ducks on the water, an unusual species for Banyule.  I shouldn't have rushed off without examining all the waterfowl properly.  At least I'd had the good sense to return.  Together we admired the pinkies, another first for me at this spot.  Then Richard mentioned in passing, no doubt confident that I'd already seen them, that there were also Baillon's Crakes amongst the spotted ones.  I confessed that I'd missed them and very generously he pointed one out.  It was on the far side of the water, and I would never have identified it without Richard's help.  Thank you, Richard!

I hurried home, vindicated by my decision to go birding.  I was at my desk working by 9 a.m. so there was absolutely no room for guilt.  And I'd added three crakes, a rail and a snipe to my annual list.

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