Although I find a few hours to go looking for wildlife most weeks I rarely spend an entire day in the field. Last Sunday was an exception, a full day’s bird watching in the southern edge of the Blue Mountains.
The trip was part of the biannual Swift Parrot and Regent Honeyeater census. Both of these threatened birds are wide ranging species that spend the winter wandering the landscape in search of flowering eucalypts. The surveys are conducted on the same day across eastern Australia, minimising the chance of ‘double counting’ the same birds and providing important information about their preferred habitats. Most participants in the census visit several sites to maximise the chances of finding the rare birds. We surveyed a dozen spots spread over fifty kilometres of dirt road.
Our sum total of Swift Parrot and Regent Honeyeater was zero. Disappointing, but they are two of Australia’s rarest birds and unless you stumble onto a concentration of flowering trees it is a bit of a ‘needle in a haystack’ situation. What was more perplexing was the virtual absence of any other woodland birds. I fully expected to see around a hundred species over the course of the day, yet we barely found a feather at most of the survey sites. The only site of note was a shallow gully with a mixed flock of woodland birds including Speckled Warblers, Turquoise Parrots, Brown Treecreepers and Brown Headed Honeyeaters. Not a huge result from a lot of searching.
The conditions weren’t great for bird watching, dull overcast and strong winds rattling the treetops. It was only in the last 30 minutes of daylight that the sun emerged and wind dropped. Driving across an open paddock one of the group spotted a Hooded Robin sitting on a fence line. We all hopped out for a look, at which time the robin flew up into a tall dead tree or stag.
The stag was reduced to a trunk with just a couple of bare branches. It stood in the middle of the paddock, glowing in the last of the daylight.
I was too slow to photograph the Hooded Robin before it flew off, but almost immediately three Jacky Winters landed on the stag. They were joined by a Brown Treecreeper, then a flock of Diamond Firetails. The flock included several juveniles, a really encouraging sight for a threatened woodland bird.
Five minutes and that dead tree in the middle of a paddock made my day.
A couple of days later I was planning to take a short walk along Lady Carrington Drive before dark, but arrived too late. I was about to leave for home when I remembered a friend’s comment that Dwarf Tree Frogs like the rank vegetation along creek banks. A moment’s search through a big clump of reeds revealed a couple of dozen of the tiny frogs. Most retreated into the thickest part of the clump, however a few stayed put trusting to their camouflage. Ten minutes and half a dozen photographs later the light gave out and I headed home.
Great wildlife, highly concentrated. Not a bad combination, irrespective of how long it takes to stumble into the right place at the right moment.
Odds and sods