My (Little) Big Year got off to a flying start in January, (sorry about the pun!), with 79 species recorded, including a Sandpiper that ended up in Australia instead of South America.
The 1st of January (recovery day from bringing in the new year) was a casual bird watching day – from the verandah while drinking several cups of tea!. Easy to spot a few species by just scanning the yard [Spotted Dove, Little Wattlebird, New Holland Honeyeater, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Common Starling, Common Myna and House Sparrow]. At least there were two native species for the first day!
Trips done in the month mostly involved going to the beach and trying to grab as many waders as I could. Shoalhaven Heads/7 Mile Beach was good for a few species, as was Culburra Beach/Lake Wollumboola and the shores of Lake Illawarra. I also made a point of stopping in at the Wollonging Botanic Gardens a few times on my way home from work. Four new species sightings were made in the month, with the most exciting being a very confused, and way off course, White-rumped Sandpiper. The bird was supposed to be flying from the Arctic to South America, but ended up in Australia instead. I got to see it on my second trip to Lake Wollumboola and was very fortunate to get a few nice pictures on my third trip as well.
My White-rumped Sandpiper experience:
After a failed attempt, on the 14th January 2015, to see a bird that had only been recorded in Australia around 5 or 6 times; which was, on that particular day, busy doing its thing at Lake Wollumboola, just 15 minutes away from where I was having breakfast with my parents, I decided to revisit the site on 24th January for another try. Although the weather was somewhat yucky, I decided to get up early and drive the 100km from my house to the Lake, as it had been hanging around for 3 weeks now (the bird that is; as far as I know the lake has been there a lot longer than that). The story was initially somewhat similar to the 14th in that, when I arrived and asked a couple of birdos, who were already at the beach, if they had seen the Sandpiper, I was told that it had just flown off 5 minutes before I got there!!! Not again!. I stood and looked at a few other nice waders and some terns on the beach and was resigning myself to be contented enough with them, when one of the other birdos spotted the Sandpiper just 20 metres in front of us. It was a wonderful experience. We both took turns at getting a few distant shots of the bird, being careful not to disturb it. After 2 or 3 minutes it again flew off and, this time, landing in a fenced off Little Tern breeding area; showing off it’s beautiful white bum as it flew. Mission accomplished, apart from only managing to get a few distant shots of the bird in crappy light. I should mention also, that people have travelled from all over Australia to see this bird. When I was there on the 14th, I was talking to a birdo who had just flown down from Brisbane (1000 km to the north) and driven the last 200 km in a hire car to see it, and the other two birdos I was chatting to on the 24th, had driven 1000 km, over night, from Melbourne (south) to see this bird. – Wow! Could be the beginning of a Big Year!
The third trip to Lake Wollumboola (Culburra Beach, NSW) was very rewarding. Just to recap – first time missed the bird by 5 minutes and 2nd time saw the bird, but distant and yucky, overcast day. This time I took my wife and children to the site on the way home from visiting my mother for her birthday. No crowds, great late afternoon light and a very contended Sandpiper, sheltering in a scrape in the sand. Was great to share the moment with the family.
The other three newbies were Common Sandpiper (Lake Illawarra), Fairy Tern (Lake Wollumboola) and Red Knot (also at Lake Wollumboola).
January’s New Hatchlings for my (Little) Big Year List:
Pacific Black Duck
Little Black Cormorant
Easter Great Egret
Australian White Ibis
Australian Pied Oystercatcher
Pacific Golden Plover
Lesser Sand Plover
Common Sandpiper (New)
Red Knot (New)
White-rumped Sandpiper (New)
Fairy Tern (New)
White-winged Black Tern
New Holland Honeyeater