Monday, 9 January 2017


Yesterday, I saw a South Island Oystercatcher, which was my 800th Australian bird.  Yippee!  This has taken 26 years, as (although I've been birding all my life) I started twitching seriously in 1989.  I know John Weigel can do it in 12 months (and I dips me lid to him) but for me, it took 26 years.

I flew to Coolangatta (in Queensland) with my birding mate, Philip Jackson.  We hired a car and drove to Broadwater in New South Wales, which took about an hour.  At Broadwater, there was no obvious access to the beach.  Other birders had referred to Broadwater Beach Road, but we could not find it.  We went into the only handy shop in Broadwater, at the BP service station, spent some money to be polite, and asked about access to the beach.  The friendly fellow behind the counter said he did not know (!) and summoned an assistant.  She arrived, smiled, and confessed total ignorance.  How could you live in Broadwater and not know how to get to the beach?  The man then took pity on us, and said he thought we should drive past the power station and take the road to Evans Head.  After a couple of kilometres, we should turn left, and that would take us to the beach.

We followed his instructions.  After a few minutes driving on the road to Evans Head, a road on the left was clearly signposted 'Broadwater Beach Road.'  That was it.  Other birders had talked about a picnic area, but we did not see such a thing.  At the end of Broadwater Beach Road, we parked the car.  There was a sign informing us that 'This reserve is a refuge for native animals' and, somewhat reassuringly, it featured an illustration of two oystercatchers.  We took the track to the beach.  No one had mentioned steep sand hills.  

It was getting warm as we arrived on the beach in full sun at 5 to 10.  An Australian Pied Oystercatcher was foraging in the waves.  Without hesitation, we turned left, that is to say, north.  A few people were swimming, we could see some fishermen and three 4WDs driving along the beach.  Some dogs barked on the cliffs above.
Philip on Broadwater Beach

Immediately we saw more oystercatchers.  They were all long-legged.  Our quarry, the New Zealand bird, has short, pinkish legs.  It is a smaller bird and looks dumpy beside Australian Pied Oystercatchers.  We walked on.  Through our binoculars, we could see more oystercatchers in the distance.  One certainly looked dumpy.

After another five minutes walking, at 5 past 10, precisely ten minutes after we'd arrived on the beach, we saw our bird!  Certainly smaller, with obviously shorter legs.  Two of the Australian birds wore yellow flags on their legs.  The New Zealand bird wore a red flag, but it was very high on his tibia, often covered by feathers.

We were delighted.  Sparkling pinot noir on the plane on the way home was nice, but bigger celebrations are definitely called for.

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