Monday, 9 November 2015

Report on 2015 'Black-necked Stalkers' Twitchathon trip

The local Clarence Valley Twitchathon team, the Black-necked Stalkers, supported by the Clarence Valley Birdos, once again competed in the NSW Twitchathon.  The aim of the Twitchathon is for teams to see or hear as many bird species as they can in a twenty four hour period.  Teams also gather sponsorship money to assist with bird research and conservation.  The funds raised this year will be going towards the Powerful Owl project in the Sydney area.
The Black-necked Stalkers (Greg Clancy, Gary Eggins and Russell Jago) started their 2015 attempt at Warialda, as they have done in the past two years.   Unlike the past two years the weather was cooler and cloudy.  Before leaving Warialda the team had notched up 60 species, including such gems as the Plum-headed Finch, Spotted Bowerbird and Pale-headed Rosella.

 By the time the team reached the Gibraltar Range and had a four hour break the tally was 107 including the nocturnal Barking Owl, Sooty Owl, Barn Owl, Southern Boobook and Tawny Frogmouth.

Barking Owl photographed during the 2014 twitchathon

The next morning the rainforest and granite country species were searched for and most were found, including the Superb Lyrebird, Paradise Riflebird, Green Catbird and Southern Emu-wren making the tally 148 by the time the team reached the bottom of the Gibraltar Range, where a Grey Goshawk flew across the road and perched in a roadside tree. 

Gibraltar Range Waratah Telopea aspera seen during the twitchathon weekend
Grey Goshawk - grey morph

The team moved on to Grafton where they saw the recently fledged Brahminy Kite and then headed out to Coutts Crossing.  The Marsh Sandpipers were still present and a number of other waterbirds were ticked off.  Driving through Southgate and down to Lawrence interesting species such as the Azure Kingfisher, Eastern Osprey and Brolga were added.  The expected Freckled Ducks at Lawrence were nowhere to be seen and the terns on the local sandbar were also absent.  After all is was a Twitchathon day when species regularly occurring in an area play hard to get.

Recently fledged Brahminy Kite, South Grafton

The coastal areas at Brooms Head and Sandon provided sightings of migratory shorebirds and the rainforest at Iluka was expected to add a number of species.  The rainforest was disappointing only allowing the Regent Bowerbird and Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove to be ticked while other regular species were sheltering from the wind and heat.  

Adult male Regent Bowerbird, Iluka Nature Reserve

The Twitchathon ended at 4 pm on Sunday at which time the team had recorded 218 different species, 4 more than in 2014 and 3 less than in 2013.  The team members all agreed that it was a very enjoyable 24 hours and that they had observed a great array of beautiful and in some cases, rare birds.

Eastern Osprey

Eighteen threatened species were recorded (Black-necked Stork, Eastern Osprey, Brolga, Comb-crested Jacana, Australian Pied Oystercatcher, Sooty Oystercatcher, Greater Sand Plover, Little Tern, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Little Lorikeet, Barking Owl, Sooty Owl, Rufous Scrub-bird, Brown Treecreeper, Hooded Robin, Grey-crowned Babbler, Paradise Riflebird).  

Adult pair of Black-necked Storks, Waterview

The team won the award (a variety of prizes) for the most species recorded per kilometre travelled.

Five Little Egrets and one Eastern Great Egret photographed at Iluka immediately after the twitchathon ended

Lost in action

I have been 'lost in action' since my last post in January.  I wasn't beamed up to a spacecraft or taken hostage by rebels in some far flung jungle but just extremely busy with work and field trips.  From the end of February to the end of May I was working as a team leader with the National Parks & Wildlife Service's Wild Count project.  This was a very demanding, but rewarding position.  I have worked on the project as a field support officer for the past three years with short bouts as team leader but this was the first time that I was team leader for the whole period.  At the same time I was carrying out surveys of the Coastal Emu and the Common Myna on alternate weekends with Russell Jago.  I have also conducted a few tours including a spotlighting tour of the Clarence Valley lowlands and have been on a few trips 'down river' to check on the local Black-necked Storks.  Val, Russel and I had some time off and visited some of the parks that I had worked in for Wild Count over a 12 day period.  I am also assisting a Griffith University student studying the birdlife of privet regrowth on the Dorrigo Plateau and working as a ranger with the National Parks & Wildlife Service.  Val and I also travelled to Booroorban, near Hay, for the Gould League Bird Study Camp.  I organise these camps at different locations throughout the state each year.  The 'Black-necked Stalkers' twitchathon team competed again this year in the NSW Twitchathon.  I will post a report on that activity today.

I will publish reports on the trips, tours and other work in the coming weeks.  During this period I have taken many photographs and will use them in future blog posts.

Gibraltar Range Waratah Telopea aspera, photographed during the recent Twitchathon