When my father died, in an attempt at self-improvement, I joined the local gym. I took it seriously, and three days a week, I was waiting for the doors to open at 6 a.m. However, it didn't take many months for me to realize that my gym membership was of more benefit to the gym than it was me, so I extracted myself from the contract and began my morning walks instead. From home, I walk north, south, east and west in turn each morning. Each walk takes half an hour, and each incorporates a park, all small local reserves, except the north walk, which has a larger park with more trees and a couple of ovals. To make my walks more interesting, I list the birds I see and hear each day.
Most lists are totally predictable. I know I will see magpies, Rainbow Lorikeets, Red Wattlebirds, Noisy Miners, Spotted Doves and Common Mynas. I will usually see Little Ravens and hear (and sometimes see) Grey Butcherbirds. Common Starlings and Rock Doves are becoming more common. Brown Thornbills are resident, but I record them on about 50% of my walks. Sometimes I see Little Wattlebirds and Magpie-larks, but I can't rely on either of them. Sulphur-crested Cockatoos sometimes put in an appearance and Little Corellas are more common in autumn. Spotted Pardalotes are never common, but perhaps I see them more in autumn. On a west walk, near the school oval, I hope for a Masked Lapwing. On a south walk, I look for Crested Pigeons. Silvereyes, once common, are now rare. Alas, the Willie Wagtails are now gone and the Red-rumped Parrots, which used to be reliable, are now rare. Welcome Swallows have arrived since I've been walking and they don't seem to migrate. I see them every season. In fact, I saw one yesterday.
My best ever total is 17 species, which I have achieved twice: once on a west walk in September 2015 and once on an east walk in June 2017. This is interesting, as my best regular totals are on north walks: I've achieved 16 species here many times. My worst ever total is 8, which I've achieved several times, always on a west walk.
I rarely see rosellas (either eastern or crimson), Galahs, Musk Lorikeets and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes. Silver Gulls, common not far away, are rare here. Pacific Koels now appear each summer, more often heard than seen. Twice, I've seen Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos, literally breath-taking. I wish they'd take up residence. Last month, for the first time, I saw Gang-gang Cockatoos. They stayed around for a fortnight or so, but I couldn't find them this week. Occasionally, cormorants, ducks or ibis fly over, although I seem to see fewer ducks today than I did in the past. It's always exciting to see an Eastern Spinebill. They are unpredictable and rare. So, too, are White-plumed Honeyeaters, which were common here before the Noisy Miners took over. Long-billed Corellas appear to be rarer now that the Little Corellas have put in an appearance, although I'm sure that mixed flocks are a possibility.
Of most interest are the birds I've seen just once. I remember an Australian Hobby (which, before I started my walks, used to be common here). I saw Goldfinches just once on a north walk, and Australian King Parrots once on an east walk. Once I saw a Little Button-quail on a west walk and a Collared Sparrowhawk on a south walk. Before I started my walks, I once had a male Australian Golden Whistler in my yard and a Rufous Fantail in the next street. I'd love to get them onto my walk list.
Each day, as I set off, I wonder if I'm going to break any records. I didn't see anything unusual this morning, or see a record number of species, but I made my 1000th walk. Surely cause for celebration.