Thursday, 13 November 2014


Lake Tutchewop - no dowitcher in sight
Australian birders were very excited to learn that an American Dowitcher had been seen on Lake Tutchewop in northern Victoria.  People who hadn't seen the bird formed opinions about whether it was Short-billed or Long-billed.  I think in the end, Long-billed Dowitcher won out.  A first for Australia!

Last Monday evening I received a text from Mick Roderick telling me about the bird.  I found the lake on the map between Kerang and Swan Hill.  It didn't look too far to drive.  Roger, my husband, (not a birder) was not in the least bit interested.  I spent a sleepless night wondering if I really wanted to drive there alone in my little low car.  If we had to drive around a salt lake, it would be much more comfortable in Roger's 4WD.  On Tuesday morning, as usual, Roger slept in.  I pottered about the house, telling myself that there were other things in life than rare birds, and that I should concentrate on next week's trip to Christmas Island.

A trip to Christmas Island is a very exciting event, yet I refused to be consoled.  This year I'd already missed out on the Yellow Bittern in Brisbane and the Citrine Wagtail in Mudgee, surely I was entitled to tick this Victorian bird.

Rog finally emerged about noon, went to his computer, then announced that we could leave immediately, but he was only prepared to drive as far as Bendigo today.  That's how it happened that I did not arrive at Lake Tutchewop until about 9.30 on Wednesday morning.

A friendly group of birders stood on the north of the lake, and another on the south.  I learnt that the bird had not been seen since 6 p.m. on Tuesday.  There were quite a few waders and ducks on the lake, but nothing that vaguely resembled a dowitcher.  Most impressive were the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of avocets and stilts, loafing in the water.  There were more Black-winged than Banded, but plenty of both.  I caught up with old birding friends, and made some new ones.

At lunch time Rog and I drove into Swan Hill, had a quick bite, then found a motel for the night.  Then Rog took me back to the lake to wait some more for the dowitcher to return.  This time I was on the south side of the lake, and again I made some new birding friends.  Paul had come from Brisbane, Phillip from Melbourne.  Scott, who I'd met on a pelagic earlier this year, had driven down from Canberra.  Scott drove me around the lake very slowly and we examined every bird.  I am confident that the dowitcher was not there.

The next morning, on our way back to Melbourne, Rog and I again called in at the lake.  This time there was just one car present, and I didn't speak to anyone.  We visited both north and south of the lake and I do not believe that the bird was present.

So it was home to Melbourne, without my tick.  I was disappointed, of course.  But I was very pleased that I'd at least tried to see the bird.  If the options are staying at home and not looking, and going out and being disappointed, give me disappointment every time.  I had an enjoyable time at the lake.  I met some great people.  And those Banded Stilts alone were worth the trip.

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