Sunday, 3 January 2016

Now that is a twitch!

I posted late last year (OK, 4 days ago) about driving down to Culburra Beach to try to tick a Hudsonian Godwit.  The next day some other birders - presumably going to tick the Hudwit went a little further around the lake and found a Paradise Shelduck.  That species is endemic to New Zealand: this is the first record in eBird (by 31 observers so far) outside New Zealand ...
...  although it was already on a Birds Australia list of Australian Birds so must have been seen somewhere this side of the ditch in earlier times.  From reading HANZAB it seems the species was recorded on Lord Howe Island in 1950, and although that is in the middle of the ditch rather than this side, it has got it on the list!  (From comments via birding-aus that view seems to be correct.)

So another drive, with an English friend visiting Canberra for company, was in order.

This snip of Wollumboola Lake (or Lake Wollumboola - the words seem to change order a bit) shows the Hudwit site as 1 and the Shelduck site as 2. It is about a mile between them.
To not waste your time (in case you have a meeting to go to) I will include a slightly modified shot of the road sign that appeared in my previous  post. 
On arrival the first thing we saw was a pair of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers engaged in an interesting bit of behaviour.  This matches one of the forms of display behaviour described in HANZAB - but I would be surprised it it resulted in a fertile consummation.
Apart from anything else I cannot imagine the female would wish to be laden with a developing egg when about to fly off to Siberia!

After that interesting start to the day a modest sized flock of Godwits flew in to site 1.  One of the showed a distinct black armpit.  Wooo-hooo!  Once landed it was clearly darker than all the Bar-tailed Godwits and had a black tail and an upturned bill.   One down, one to go!

Following the directions provided by various folk (a big bouquet to all involved for helpfulness, friendliness and conviviality) we ambled in the direction of site 2.  It wasn't hard to spot the Black Swans, with which the Shelduck was hanging out.  Wishing to write down a number and scanning the lake I concluded that 2,000 birds was a conservative guess at the number of Swans present.  Here are some of them, with a somewhat smaller bird grazing off to one side.
Here is a closer view of the smaller bird.  May I repeat, Wooo-hooo!  Tick.
As one of the other birders advised, the Shelduck was relatively unfussed about humanity as such, but the Swans were very twitchy and when they had got agitated so had the Shelduck.  Thus we didn't like to get too close, so as not to disturb the birds (nor to stuff things up for other birders who were still coming along).

Ticking various other interesting birds (such as Red Knot and Grey Plover) as we returned I took a photo which I hoped would be a good one of the Fairy Terns among the Little Terns.  (I'd point that trying to look at detail on a camera viewfinder in brilliant sunlight isn't easy: photos that look fine turn out to be Impressionist - heading towards Cubist - at best while what looks dodgy in the field might be sharp on the computer!)  This was one of the latter: on the beach I thought it showed the blunt patch of black like a Fairy but I have now decided this was a Little Tern.  That thought is confirmed by the birds 'knees' - really ankles - are well below the plumage.
There were still a good bunch of punters checking out the Hudwit.
So a very successful twitch all round.

On the way home we tried for Rockwarbler on some sandstone but couldn't get it to appear.  We also went to the wrong dam to locate the Plumed Whistling Ducks of Bungendore, but both of them are ongoing!

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