Saturday, 5 May 2018

Big Day Birding

Each year eBird declares a Saturday as the Worldwide Big Day in which their members try to record as many species as possible.  I suspect the date is selected to be as close as possible to peak migration season in the USA, from where most eBird reports emanate.  However the most species on the day typically come from a country in South America (which isn't surprising as those countries typically have the greatest diversity).

In the past two years I have managed to get a couple of "world's biggest flocks".  In one year it was 150 Australian Magpies and the other a similar number of Little Ravens.  So I will be heading for the Plain later in the day.

By 6am AET there were 50 species reported with NZ leading the way with 21 species (again not surprising as it has been daylight there for about 2 hours, while still early evening of Friday in the Eastern US).  India, which can only just have got into the 5th, has 14 species, of which 7 are Owls or Nightjars.   Australia has 5 species - all nightbirds or species which make a ruckus at night such as Bush Stone Curlew.

I began my efforts with three checklists on our morning dog walk.  Between them they amounted to 17species (all pretty common).  When I checked the Big Day site at 0815 the sighting of 4 Yellow-rumped Thornbills was the first sighting of that species!  (That didn't last someone else submitted a sheet for an earlier time.)  However as at 14:25 my report of 36 Little Ravens was still holding up: that may not last as I have seen several flocks of over 100 in the past. (Still the record at 0547 on 6 May.)

Here is the track along Whiskers Creek Rd which we did once in each direction.  The reason for the little hook at the start is because I start at the edge of my Garden Bird Survey site.
Here is a view of Whiskers Creek Rd.  You may be able to pick out 2 'roos at the bottom of the slope!
 I recorded 10 species (best bird a Scarlet Robin) on the way out and 10 species on the way back, with as expected, a fair bit of overlap.  Best bird coming back was Grey Butcherbird.

This is the Widgiewa out and back.  Both directions on one list which was surprisingly short at 6 species.
It is always good to look down from the high point across the Plain  to the hills of Yanununbeyan to the South and the Great Dividing Range to the East.  Surprisingly the two 'roos here didn't get a verbal serve from Tammy.
After some more food and a couple of chores I took myself off to the Plain.  My first list was for a bit of Briars-Sharrow Rd and then the start of Plains Rd. 8 species along here with 39 Magpies and 36 Little Ravens.  However bird of the list was Eurasian Skylark, with 3 birds calling from various paddocks.
 A group of Crested Pigeons were obliging (both in posing and showing the bronze iridescence) ....
 .. as was this Laughing Kookaburra.
10 species were logged on the second half of Plains Rd.
 The most surprising bird was a White-faced Heron feeding in a pasture.  It wasn't so surprising to see Masked Lapwings in a similar position.
I then headed off to look down into Foxlow Lagoon.  Before I got there I noticed a Brown Falcon perched in a tree.  I thought the image looking into the sun was OK, and obviously the bird thought so too because it took off before I could get a more detailed view from the other direction.
 Further on down the road a flock of 25 Red Wattlebirds flew over, heading towards Tallaganda and the Coast,  On first looking at the Lagoon there didn't seem to be much around so I amused myself looking at the sheep chasing a trailer load of food around.

 This White-bellied Sea-Eagle wasn't too impressed with the 4x4 etc and took off.  A naff image but it proves the sighting!
 I have seen this species here several times and am faintly curious where they come from.  Possibly they are flying between Lake George and Googong Dam and see the Lagoon as the biggest water body between them?

Here is the state of the Lagoon.  Given the miserable amount of rain we have had in the last 5 months I am surprised there is still any water in it.
Looking closely you might see a cluster of waders beyond the mud bank.  This is a flock of 17 Red-necked Avocets which have been resident here for about 2 months.  Until this event I had only seen one Avocet in the Carwoola area.  Again naff image, taken on phone through telescope at 500m range.
 There were also 5 Black-winged Stilts which are more common in the area.  Good numbers (43 counted) of Pink-eared ducks which I presume were feeding on midge larvae, as reported a few months ago from the drying up dam on Lake Rd.  A Red-kneed Dotterel was just identifiable on the closest shore of the Lagoon.

Flame Robins were all over this site.  They were very mobile so difficult to count, but at one point I had 9 in one tree.  Here is a male ...
 .. and this a brown bird which could be a female or possibly an immature male.
 Back through Hoskinstown and head North on the road to Bungendore.
 Another Flame Robin was the highlight among the 6 species recorded. I was surprised that there was no activity in the Hawthorns although here they seemed to have shed their berries. I usually find a few species of duck on this dam, but not on the mini-desert  today.
The second half of this stretch goes past the Mills Cross radio telescope - see arrows to two arms of the array.
 6 more Flame Robins and the only Willie Wagtail of the day  among 6 species.

The final list was 10 species recorded along Briars-Sharrow Road with a small clan of 4 White-winged Choughs seen at the Briars.
 Along here there were still lots of haws on the bushes but no Gang-gangs (nor even Starlings) feeding on them.
In total I recorded 48 species.

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