Tuesday, 10 July 2018


This morning I did my thousandth walk. There was nothing remarkable about it.  It was a cold grey winter morning.  Luckily there was no rain and little wind.  It was an east walk.  One house was being demolished, one fence reconstructed and two building sites housed noisy radios.  I saw ten species of birds.  As usual, I saw more dogs than birds, but all except three mad golden retrievers at the park, were legally on leashes.  The magpies are nesting in Sackville Street, and one spectacular male swooped low over my head.  I ducked involuntarily, but I don't think he meant me any harm.  He could easily have done so, if that had been his aim.
Australian Magpie

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.
Sulphur-crested Cockatoos

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.
Gang-gang Cockatoo

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.