Tuesday, 30 September 2014


Exercise is boring.  Anything that makes it more interesting is to be welcomed warmly. Each day, I walk for 15 minutes as fast as I can (birds willing), then 15 minutes return.  My daily walk can be routine, uninteresting and monotonous.  I have found a cure for this monotony.

Of course I am always aware of the birdlife around me, but I have recently started keeping records of what I see and hear.  In the past I always walked to the east, but now I have been varying my walks to go north, south, and west as well.  I wanted to see where the birds were best, and how they varied in each direction.

Grey Butcherbird - perhaps my favourite local bird

Now that I have completed ten walks in each direction, it is time to look at the results.  There have been a few surprises.

Before I began, I compiled a list of 30 common birds I expected to see in my suburb.  Of these 30 birds, I saw 26 on my 40 walks.  The birds on my list that I did not see were:  Australian Hobby, Little Corella, Silvereye and House Sparrow.  Frustratingly, on one west walk, I thought I saw an Australian Hobby, but it flew away so fast I could not be sure.  Perhaps I would have seen Silvereyes had there been fruiting trees around at the time.  I may yet get them onto my list on future walks.

Birds I saw that were not on my list were:  Australian Raven (seen once on a north walk); Pacific Black Duck (three birds flew overhead just once, again on a north walk); Eastern Rosella (that I saw twice on south walks and once on an east walk); Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike (seen once on a west walk) and one White Ibis (flying high on a north walk).

The birds I recorded on every one of my 40 walks were not surprising.  They were:  Spotted Dove; Rainbow Lorikeet; Red Wattlebird and Australian Magpie.  I dipped on the Common Myna just once, and Little Raven scored 38, that is to say, I missed seeing him just twice.  Noisy Miners had perfect scores walking north and south, but I missed them once walking east and four times walking west.  I saw Pied Currawongs while I was walking in every direction, but more often walking east (7/10).  I only saw Silver Gulls twice, which surprised me.  Once was north and once west.  Again, I only saw Galahs twice, which was not very surprising:  they are not that common in my part of Kew.  Once was north and once was south.  I saw Long-billed Corellas just once, as I was walking south.

The best walk was north.  This walk crosses a major road and ends in a large park, which has two sporting ovals.  My best score for this walk was 16 species, the worst 11, and average 14.  The best bird on this walk was a Willie Wagtail, which I recorded on every north walk (but not on any walk in any other direction).  I also saw Magpie-larks on every north walk, but they were uncommon on other walks (scoring 2 on south  and west walks, and 4 on east walks).  I recorded Spotted Pardalotes three times (once seen, twice heard) on north walks (and heard them just once on an east walk).

The next best walk was south.  This walk starts in a small playground which has several river red gums, crosses a major road, then meanders through suburbia.  Needless to say, the best birds were always in the small playground.  This is where I saw Eastern Rosella.  My best score walking south was 14, the worst 10 and the average 12.  This is the only walk when I saw Crested Pigeons, which I recorded 7 times.  

The third best walk was my old favourite, east, the walk I've been doing for twenty years.  It is the most obvious walk from my house:  straight up the road.  It is all just houses; no parks or reserves.  My best score was 13, worst 8 and average 10.  After I'd done 5 walks, and upstart north looked like beating my old friend east, I decided to tweak the walk a little.  I deviated to include a small park, just off the road I was walking in.  Here I saw Eastern Rosellas just once, and Welcome Swallows every time I visited the park.

The worst walk was west.  It is a boring walk towards the city, with no parks and two schools along the way.  After I saw a Masked Lapwing flying over one school, I tweaked the walk to include looking over the school oval, which I assumed to be the lapwing's destination. However, I did not see the bird again.  My best score walking west was 12, worst 8 and average 10.  As well as the Masked Lapwing, other good birds on the west walk were my only sighting of a Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike and my only sighting of a White-plumed Honeyeater (as well as the frustrating possible sighting of an Australian Hobby).  West was the only walk when I did not record Little Wattlebirds.  This did surprise me.  I even saw them once on an east walk, where I did not think they were present.  In fact they are present about half the time on both north and south walks.

I was surprised at how few records there were of Grey Butcherbirds.  If I'd been asked before I started this endeavour, I'd have said that I'd see butcherbirds about 75% of the time.  In fact, my records show that they were not that common at all:  north: 3;  south:  3; east:  5; and west:  4.  It was sometimes irritating to be enjoying a butcherbird singing in my backyard, then step out the front door to do a walk and not hear him again until my walk was over.

The other surprising thing was just how common Brown Thornbills were.  I'd have guessed I'd see or hear them about 10% of the time.  In fact, scores were:  north:  7; south: 6; east:  3 and west:  6.  They were more often heard than seen, but that was down to the fact that I was out exercising, not birdwatching.

I am delighted to have found a way to make my daily constitutional more interesting.  I will tweak the west walk and try to avoid the schools.  As spring progresses, I hope to add a few more species to my list.

I have always admitted to being a twitcher.  Now my true colours are out there for everyone to see:  I am also a lister.

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