Monday, 14 April 2014


White-necked Heron - more common than usual?
I have just returned from an aborted trip to Nelson Bay.  Rog and I got as far as Dubbo, when the call came that last Sunday's pelagic out of Port Stephens had been cancelled.  It won't take too much longer for trip organizers to realize that as soon as I book on a pelagic, the trip is doomed!

We left home on Wednesday and drove for three wet days to get to Dubbo.  As soon as we turned for home, the sun came out and we had a delightful drive home.

The only bird of note on the first day was a paddock full of Cattle Egrets - my first for the year.  The next day, notwithstanding the almost constant rain, I birded at The Rock (south of Wagga) and Migurra Walk (outside Cootamundra).  When my book 'Best 100 Birdwatching Sites in Australia' first came out, there was some discussion on Birding-Aus about my site selection.  Someone said that The Rock should not have been included.  I thought at the time that whoever made that comment should revisit the place with an open mind.  The birds there can be terrific.  They can be.  But they weren't last week.  The only bird I saw was a White-throated Treecreeper.  But then it was raining.  It had stopped briefly when I arrived at Migurra Walk.  I saw some honeyeaters and thornbills, some thickheads, several Striated Pardalotes and the ubiquitous Grey Fantail.  Nice birding, but nothing special.  

On Friday, we drove to Dubbo in the rain.  Not many birds, but I did notice that there seemed to be lots of White-necked Herons.  More than I'm used to anyway.  Some years ago, we had an irruption of White-necked Herons at Werribee.  They are not rare birds, but they are not usually quite so common.

As soon as the call came through that the pelagic was cancelled, Roger turned for home and the sun shone.  Without the rain, I expected to see many more birds.  Alas, it was not so.  We actually saw fewer birds on the return trip.

On Sunday, the day I was supposed to be out at sea, notching up rare seabirds, I was birding in perfect conditions around Cootamundra, back at The Rock, then at Wonga Wetlands in Albury - three of my top 100 sites.  There was little of note.  I managed a Musk Duck and an Australasian Shoveler on Bethungra Dam and a Western Gerygone at The Rock, but that was about it.

On Monday, we drove back to Melbourne from Wodonga, stopping at two of my favourite spots:  Chiltern Park and Cyanide Dam.  The sun was shining and the birds were singing.  I saw my first robin for the trip at Chiltern Park:  an Eastern Yellow.  Then a family of Scarlet Robins greeted me at Cyanide Dam.  There was also a mixed flock of thornbills and Superb Fairywrens including at least one Speckled Warbler.  I hadn't seen Speckled Warblers at Cyanide before, so that was special.

It is always enjoyable to go birding - even when it is raining and the birdlist disappoints, I remain hopeful that something exciting will appear around the next corner.  Conversely, it is always most irritating when a pelagic is cancelled.  Hopes for that rare seabird are dashed.  I tell myself 'next time,' but somehow it doesn't quite work.  My Pollyanna attitude only goes so far.  After all, a missed tick is a missed tick.

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