Tuesday, 30 December 2014


What a great year it has been!  I started with 735 Australian birds on my lifelist, had to remove the Variable Goshawk (as it was deemed to be just a race of the Brown Goshawk and no longer a species in its own right), yet finished the year with 755 birds.  I am quite delighted.  Some years ago, I thought I may never reach 600 birds, then I feared I'd never get to 700.  I was quite sure I'd never achieve 750.  Yet here I am at 755.  It's wonderful.

My hopes for 2014 were quite modest:  I wanted to see my 3 bogey birds:  the White-necked Petrel, the Slender-billed Prion and the Rufous Scrub-bird.  I tried unsuccessfully for the petrel in Wollongong in January and Port Stephens in April.  Both pelagics were cancelled.  I tried for the prion off Port Fairy in July.  It was not to be.  However, thanks to Mick Roderick, I did have great views of the Rufous Scrub-bird in Gloucester Tops in October.  I'd been looking for this bogey bird since 1984, so you can imagine how pleased I was to finally add it to my lifelist.

Other contenders for the 2014 Bird of the Year were the Common Redshank (which I had once flown to Broome to try to see and come home sadly redshank-free; but which George Swann finally showed me last March); the Yellow-browed Warbler (I saw on Ashmore Reef in March, perhaps the third record for Australia); the Long-billed Dowitcher (which took two trips to Kerang to see); the Saunders' Tern (that I'd dipped on in 2007 and had desperately wanted to see ever since); the Javan Pond Heron (which was my 750th Australian bird); or the Chinese Pond Heron (which involved a scary long wade through shark-infested waters).  There are others too.  Vagrants such as Red-throated Pipit and Red-rumped Swallow.  Birds I had dreamed of seeing such as Pin-tailed Snipe (what views we had!) and House Swifts.  Then there was that cooperative Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo sitting quietly showing us his beautifully barred tail.  What a year!

I have so much to choose from when selecting my Bird of the Year.  But I think it has to be the Rufous Scrub-bird.  I have put so much time and effort into trying to see this bird over so many years and finally, thanks to Mick Roderick, I had fantastic views of a male singing.  It really was the treat of a lifetime.  And certainly my best bird of 2014.

Now for 2015.  Again, I have modest desires.  Two bogey birds remain:  that wretched White-necked Petrel and Slender-billed Prion.  I'm also hoping that Richard Baxter will get me a Herald Petrel next September and that Rog will find time to drive me across the Nullabor to see the Quail-thrush some time in winter.  And I also hope to squeeze in a trip to Tasmania for the Morepork.  That's not too much to hope for, is it?

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