Rapidly approaching the half way stage of the year and my goal of seeing 400 Australian bird species in the 2015 calendar year is looking very shaky! My secondary goal of adding 50 new Australian species to my life list looking even more in trouble, but I was hopeful that a trip up the north coast, with a visit to Byron Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant, could dig me out of the … preverbial!
January was a great start with 79 species, February added a further 43, March only 7 more and April only slightly better with another 17. This still leaves me 254 species short of my goal. I have also only added 8 species to my life list, which leaves me a whopping 42 short of that target. I was hopeful that a trip up the New South Wales north coast and a weekend in the rainforest west of Brisbane might get me back on track.
I had booked a weekend masterclass photography weekend course with Steve Parish, at a rainforest retreat called Cedar Creek Falls, which is located around 40 minutes north-west of Brisbane. Given my dislike for flying, it seemed a perfect opportunity for me to drive up the north coast of NSW and visit some of my favourite birding spots along the way. I was very hopeful of adding at least 50 species to my list, if I was able to spend some quality time in the rainforest at Dorrigo and the Wastewater treatment plant in Byron Bay. The Clarence River is always good for Eastern Ospreys, and Moonee Beach, to the north of Coffs Harbour, is normally a safe bet for Brahminy Kites and Scaly-breasted Lorikeets. My first stop, however, was to be in Newcastle. I have good friends that live a short drive for the Shortland Wetlands, which are normally teeming with birdlife.
I spent the first morning at Hexham Swamp, where I saw some Red-necked Avocets and a pair of Brown Quail. This was a good start. Then I moved on to Shortland Wetlands. I got there around lunchtime and had a cup of tea and a sandwich on the balcony of the cafe that overlooks the main lagoons. Magpie Geese are always resident on these, but a group of Wandering Whistling-Ducks was an unexpected bonus. After finishing my lunch, I went for a walk along the extensive trails that wind around the lagoons. Only thing wrong is that still water is also home to thousands of mosquitos, and stopping in any single spot for too long means getting bitten in any area that is not saturated with repellant. Many nice birds were still seen though: Striped Honeyeater, Spangled Drongo and Rose Robin to name a few. Managed to get some great images of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos, as well, as they fed in the Casuarinas in one section of the wetlands.
Next day I was off to Byron Bay (via Dorrigo) and hopeful of some more new bird sightings. The road into Dorrigo had been badly affected by land slides and the rain and wind had driven most birds into hiding. Once again my hopes were dashed by wet weather. As I travelled north, I was praying that Byron Bay might be spared the awful weather and that I might be able to get into the wastewater treatment plant there. You actually need a permit to get into the treatment plant, but, last time I was there, I was lucky enough to be let in by one of the staff members. I was hoping that this might be the case again this time.
Well my luck was in, for when I woke up on Friday morning, the sun was shining. I bolted down some breakfast and drove up to the plant. Again my luck was in, and I was let in by the staff for a couple of hours. Fingers crossed for some new birds. Byron Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant is a series of ponds with some grassy paths in between. Comb-crested Jacanas are generally easy to spot, as are various egrets, ibis and a variety of passerines. I was really hoping for a Black-necked Stork as well, which are occasionally seen here. There were no Black-necked Storks on that day, however, but I was fortunate enough to see some great birds. I only managed to see 6 new species for my 2015 list, but I was not complaining, as I had only seen a grand total of 7 in the whole of March.
A Pacific Baza
The remainder of the trip I spent on the photography course, which gave me hardly any time for birding. The course was great though, and you can read about it in one of my other posts. The highlight of the trip back from the course was getting my first images of a Pacific Baza. It was only the second time I had seen the species and I was very pleased to be able to get some good images of it as well.
The 7 days I spent travelling up the coast and back gave me quite a few more species for my list, and I also bagged a couple more at Centennial Park at Homebush in Sydney. I ended up with a total of 23 for the month, but sadly, again, no new species for my life list. I have now inched up to a total of 169 for the year, but still only 8 additions to my life list.
May’s New Hatchlings for my (Little) Big Year List: